Chapter ThirteenMature

Marcus Judd

"How is she?"

"She's just fine, Marc. She's just fine."

"Good . . . can I see her?"

"Of course. Right this way."

I followed her. I didn't want to, but I did. I hated seeing her - my wife, I mean. It did nothing but fill me with grief and guilt. I hated myself for allowing her to become this way . . . I would never be able to forgive myself.

"Okay, just through this door."

"Can I go in alone?"

"No, I'm afraid not. It wouldn't be safe."

"I'm not concerned about my safety."

"I know you're not, Marc, but regardless --"

"Please . . . I need to go in there alone."

" . . . okay, Marc. Okay. Be careful."

She opened the door.

I stepped in and sighed a long sigh as the door closed behind me. It was just my wife and me. The way it should have always been . . .

My heart stopped when I saw her, curled up in a ball in the corner, muttering to herself, shaking even though it wasn't cold, her eyes searching for answers - for love. When her eyes found me, they rejected me. Her eyes shifted away from me as if I wasn't there, and she continued to mutter, to murmur, to cry . . .

I felt my heart sink deep into my stomach, but I did not allow myself to cry.

"Anna," I began, but I stopped. I tried to force the words out, but none came. I lowered myself to the ground and sat. I waited for her to say something, to acknowledge my presence, but she didn't. All she did was weep.

"Anna, please," I said, but I stopped when I choked on my own words. I composed myself. "Please, Anna, look at me. I'm here . . . I want to be with you right now. Please just . . ."

I lowered my gaze to the ground. She still did not even look at me. I never knew if she hated me, or if she just didn't remember me. It didn't matter either way, or maybe it did, I wasn't sure.

I took a deep breath, and used the silence as a distraction. I focused on it, soaked in every breath she made, and then stood. I approached her cautiously, and wrapped my arms around her in a hug. The minute I made contact, she lashed out and hit me in the face, sending me stumbling back to the ground. I went in again, but this time she kicked and squirmed. She screamed at me - not words, but sounds . . . angry sounds . . .

"Anna, just let me--" I tried, but I couldn't. I tried desperately to get my arms around her, but she always found a way out.

I gave up.

I turned and went for the door. I grabbed the knob and turned it. Opening the door, I went out.

"How did it go?"

"The same as always."

"Oh . . ."

I took a deep breath. "No. . . not this time . . ."

I spun around and opened the door again.

"Marc, wait!"

I slammed the door behind me, and Anna reared back her head and roared at the sound. She started to writhe on the ground like a snake, as if her heart was giving out, but I knew better. I took one last breath before jumping on top of her. My arms wrapped around her neck as I pulled her head up to my chest and clutched her tightly. She squirmed and kicked and roared, but I did not let up. I held her as tightly as I could, pleading with God to make her stop, begging Him to give her back to me . . .

"Anna, shh  . . . shh . . . it's going to be okay . . . it's me Anna . . . it's me . . ."

She still lashed out in every direction, desperately trying to escape. She gave out one last scream before collapsing. She became weak, and did not move. I held her motionless body for what seemed like hours . . . and I just stared at her. Not a tear fell from my eye. I held in every emotion and tried to stay calm.

Suddenly, Anna's hand lifted and grasped my arm. Not forcefully . . . but gently. Then she spoke. To this day I do not know what she said, but it didn't matter. She spoke words.

And then, when I kissed her forehead and began to leave, she spoke again. But this time, I knew what she said. She said:

"Don't leave."

So I didn't. I stayed with her, embracing her for over six hours, but every moment was precious. They were my finest hours . . .

When she had fallen asleep, I left.

And as I left the asylum . . . I cried . . .

And cried . . .

The End

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