The Inside YouthMature

In a world meant for the Adult unhealthy, a child lives.

Renyold saw the sun only once a day, when it took to falling beneath the ocean line.  In those few hours, it haunted the windows, projecting long shadows from the chicken-wire embedded in the glass, from the few who walked the halls and from everything that caught the glow.  On clear days, it filled rooms with fire:  an orange that was soothing as touch and as warm as comfort. 

Today was one of those days.  Reynold sat on the far end of the nurses' station loveseat, feet bobbing and back slouched.  With eyes half-mast he watched the big picture window that dressed the end of the first hall.  Tall shadows chased down the corridor and some, namely the shadows cast from the tell-tale room signs, reached to Reynolds’s feet and lost themselves amongst his own shadow and that of the loveseat. 

Nurses walked seemingly aimless around him, shooing this patient and assisting another, all the while dressing their words with sugar and salt.  It was quiet, however, despite all their movement.  It was a silent bell ringing, noticeable only to those who weren't already used to it.  The floor was usually alive with noise, from patients calling home, Nurses talking loudly to the deaf, the doctors proclaiming either observation or announcement (though that was usually the scheduler and not the doctors) or even just the radio, playing softly from the ceiling, old music with nothing offensive to be heard. 

The silence embraced Reynold.  It took him as tightly as the sun.  He ran with it, holding back the smile at the corners of his mouth but remembering the days when he would let it free.  The days of long summer nights, of setting suns and charcoal fires, of friends sleeping over and stories told by the pale moonlight in bedrooms now hardly remembered.  He lost himself in these memories, creating a maze away from where he was. 

The walls came down a little when he heard the elevator hub start to open.  His eyes rolled to the left and he watched as the head nurse keyed the glass doors open.  Probably another set-up, maybe a sister or brother, daughter or son to come and visit their whatever instituted away.  Visiting hours ended with the sunlight, so now was a perfect time for such a thing.  Reynold looked away from the doors and was back to the sun, rebuilding his maze just as fast as it had fallen.

Then the company came around.  It was a meek family of three, one father, one mother and in their hands were those of a child, a little girl no older then Reynold himself.  Ten, at maximum.  Reynold perked up a little, not much, but enough with his back to straighten his vision, at least.  She was with golden hair that stung the orange sun and her skin was tight with natural tan, all a stark contrast to her ice-blue eyes.  She kept a vicious tightness about her and it struck familiar with Reynold. 

He watched her intently as her parents talked to the head nurse.  It was a scene replayed.  The bad part of the maze, the center with the beasts, suddenly revealed to Reynold and he felt compassion for the girl, compassion through understanding and empathy.  As she was the lead now, he had taken that center before and...and...

The snap was eminent.  It was the next thought through Reynolds’s head.  When the adults came and went, Reynold didn't care, didn't analyze, didn't bat an eye towards their plight, they were adults and worlds apart from him.  But here was a child, a girl just as small as he, so what else could he focus on but the sharp contrast between the two?  The scene was so plainly copycat that Reynold knew what was next and it was all he could think of--the snap.  That moment when the immediacy of now cuts the taught wires of tension, releasing the faults of worry and the bloat of fear.  Reynold watched as the mother hugged the girl, the father pat her head. 

It was much longer than what Reynold remembered.  The goodbye here was dragging on, between the paperwork and the farewell and the talking, a strong hour must have passed between the elevator glass penning and now.  It was all relative, of course.  To Reynold, this was the shortest he'd waited in a long while and it fluttered by.  To the girl, he was sure it was an unwatchable opera, sung twice in bravado. 

The mother took the girl's hand and squeezed it once before trading it to the nurses'.  Reynold watched the girl's face.  The snap had happened, quietly, but it had occurred.  Her eyes started to melt as if the sun had finally claimed them and her hand was limp in the nurses' palm.  She was led away and her parents marched funeral to the elevator, talking in gestures, a sway here and a hand on the shoulder there.  Nobody was coming out the victor. 

Reynold pulled himself up to his knees on the seat to watch as the girl traversed around the station, following the nurses' lead.  She looked over her shoulder once, and only once, before she turned herself with the nurse and they both slipped into one of the doors at the end of the third hall.  Reynold sat for a moment more and then slid from the loveseat and started to his room, following the trail of the girl he had become so suddenly interested in.

The End

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