-NINE-Mature

The sunshine of the following day warranted a slight escape for Brida. Rarely was she ever allowed to leave the confines of her cell, but as she had behaved well among other humans the day before, she was led, albeit tentatively, from her cell and into the brisk breezes of the garden.

All around, the garden was filled to the brim with colors of every shade. The cobblestone paths, the wrought-iron benches, the gentle grass, the majestic trees, the picturesque flowerbeds - the garden, no doubt, received hours of attention.

Almost immediately, Shale appeared, eyes delighted at the sight of Brida. "Hello," Brida's fellow sufferer called, voice lighthearted. "Fancy seeing you here!"

Brida accepted a warm embrace from her friend, then stood back and grasped Shale's hands, not caring that the action was childish. "I'm glad you're here. Beauty is always better, when you're with someone else who appreciates it."

Shale let out a giggle, an equally childish behavior. "I know. Isn't it lovely? I just can't believe we get to be out here, where we can talk, instead of desperately trying to figure out ways to let one another know we're still alive."

The way Shale spoke, with bubbly confidence, warmed Brida's heart. Her companion gave her hope that perhaps, she would one day be allowed the indulgence of a true friendship. Releasing Shale's hands, she spread out her arms and basked in the sunlight. Too soon, she would be forced to return to her cell, but she was determined to catch as many rays of sun as possible, to take back with her.

"Sometimes," Shale said, voice dropping to a whisper, "I imagine leaving this place. You know - coming up with some plot to escape and never, ever come back."

Brida, too, had considered the idea. The only ideas she had come up with so far were ones involving her ability to cause fires, and she wasn't sure she could execute her escape plans without setting the whole place on fire, thereby inflicting harm to innocent asylum residents.

"Don't you ever think about that, Brida?"

A hummingbird sipped the nectar of a flower Brida couldn't identify.

Brida drew in a long, deep breath. "Yes," she admitted, "but we're naive, far more naive than anyone else our ages. How could our minds ever concoct a plan for freedom?"

Shale considered Brida's words. "I'll think about it - " and attendants appeared, no doubt to usher Brida and Shale back to their cells. "I'll think about it, and I'll let you know what I come up with."

Taking in one last glance of the sun-drenched surroundings, Brida followed her attendant back to the lonely corridor.

The End

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