**** The sequences that are italicized and in quotations are Alex's memories.****
Alex's eyes suddenly narrowed at the girl's question, and his entire body bristled; an intense memory was playing only in his mind. Cora longed to reach out and touch him, to massage the visible knots out of his shoulders, to erase the years of mistreatment in the deep tissue. She wanted to kiss his eyelids and banish the ever-present fear in them with love, but Alex had the far-away look in his eyes that made her keep her distance.
Or was she afraid of something else?
“Alex?” Cora felt her stomach clench in remorse for him. There was nothing she could do to ease his suffering, as she watched him – helplessly – succumb to his own inner Hell.
“I am three years old, waiting in line during the time when I knew I should be eating lunch, or playing like the other kids. Everyone around me was much older, bustling around with a certain hurriedness that I couldn’t quite place my finger on. Being young and frivolous, I fiddled anxiously with the loose thread on my scratchy red sweater, while the line-up of people bumped along steadily. I was perfectly content, lost in my own world, until I peeked around the shoulder of the other young boy in front of me. I saw the glass vials filled with the sparkly silver fluid and my first instinct was to run. I was three years old, with a great understanding of how cruel the world was, even more so than the average human being. I say this as if I am not human, and it's because I'm the farthest thing from. So I did the next best thing to playing or eating lunch, like any normal three year old: I ran.”