-ELEVEN-Mature

"I see you had a hard time sleeping last night," Shale said, choosing the seat across from Brida, as always.

Brida had attempted to finger-comb her hair, but she still felt like a mess. "Is it plain to see?" she asked, groaning as she picked up her spoon and began her ritual of testing out the consistency of the soup. It was frothier than usual, and its color was a bit less formidable. Bravely, Brida lifted a spoonful of the stuff to her nose and inhaled. There was hardly a scent, and when Brida dipped the tip of her tongue in the soup, it was tasteless, as well.

"Hearty stuff. Too bad it isn't easier to eat," Shale muttered, and Brida was surprised. Usually, Shale didn't complain about the food.

Somewhere across the room, a resident let out a most ear-piercing shriek.

"So, have you thought about it?" Shale asked, leaning in so close to Brida that their faces almost touched. "Have you thought about leaving?"

Brida glanced nervously at one of the nearby attendants. "Um, I don't think now's the time to talk about this."

"But we hardly ever are together. We ought to take advantage of this."

"In front of the attendants? Shale, I'm sorry, but you're crazy." Brida slurped some soup from her spoon, grimacing only a little at the taste. So, then, it did have some sort of flavor - a metallic one.

"They're not listening. I swear, Brida, if we don't talk about this now, you're never going to work up the courage to discuss it again."

Shocked at Shale's frank words, but knowing they were true, Brida shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Shale..." but no other words would come. She was helpless - desperate to escape the asylum, but unwilling to consider the means of how to go about it. If only, if only she had been born without her fiery gift...

The attendants gave their five-minute warning, signaling that the lunch hour was almost over. Brida looked down at her still-full tray, finding that her appetite had been stolen away, along with the time. "Do you want any of this?" she asked Shale.

"I'm not hungry, either."

Silence.

"Well, Brida, I guess we have to start cleaning up. Just promise me you'll think about it. Nothing's ever going to change, if we don't think about it."

"I don't know if - "

Shale's eyes were desperate. "Please, Brida, just think about it. Promise me you'll do that much."

Brida could not refuse her friend. "I'll think about it," she muttered, numb. "I promise."

The End

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