Anonymity: a Short Story (the Final Day)

Be sure to read Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, and Day Six.

Day Seven

Something soft whispered like the rustling of bird wings or the building of a nest. I nearly answered but waited in silence, my breath caught and tangled in my throat. My Angela.

Thursday grew impatient and in a rare, desperate attempt at touch, she grabbed me. Her hand clutched in mine and before she dug her nails in, I could have sworn she was finger-spelling into my palm.

Too fast.

Too fast to be coherent.

Angela watched, an amused smirk on her face. I could sense her condescension, and though I loved her with all my might, in that moment, I hated her. Shuddering, I wondered what that meant for me. Thursday stared at me and for the first time since I met her, she was unguarded.

Vulnerable.

Soft.

Her star-eyes enchanted me, and I had forgotten the dripping mess she had made of my heart when she hurtled it across the room. I wanted to sketch her, but I was not an artist. I wanted to capture her essence, but it was not perfume, it could not be bottled and stoppered. I thought of my clipboard.

Had it really been a week?

Had it really been seven days?

If you believed the Old Testament, God had created the world in seven days and included a day of rest. I wondered when the last time I rested was because abruptly, as my gaze fell over each of them, each with their vices, I felt fatigued.

Beaten up by exhaustion.

My Angela stood, an expectant look on her face. Freedom awaited me on the other side of that door, but I knew I’d never be free. Thursday’s fingers slid away from my hand as though she rejected me. I tasted the metallic sting of regret on my tongue.

This ward, these people, had become home. Had it really been seven days?

I wanted so badly to understand what I felt. To put a name to it. Perhaps diagnose it. These people fit neatly into categories, yet I felt unquantifiable. Inexplicable.

I knew I could escape – not as a fugitive but as a free man. I knew I could run. But Thursday’s amber eyes bled honey, and I knew I’d never be free.

“Ready to go, Doctor Hansen?” Angela’s voice was soft. A lilt.

Doctor? Her voice was light, teasing. Her voice soft whispered like the rustling of bird wings. And the memories came back. All those years of schooling. Trying to make Papa proud. Walking across that stage. Staying up late, Latin words on my tongue. Shaping psychological illnesses around in my mouth.

The way Angela’s eyes fell on me when I told her I had gotten the job. Her taste unfolding like honeysuckle as I made love to her the night I graduated.

A bunch of letters scrawled after my name. Listening. Listening. Listening. I thought people shared with me perhaps because they saw the compassion in my stance, the gentleness in my pose.

Doctor?

“Adelaide,” Thursday whispered, her voice hoarse with urgency, “my name is Adelaide.”

I had forgotten the beauty of leaving it all behind. I had forgotten the beauty of the separation. I had a home to return to.

This wasn’t forever.

This was just a job. I was a doctor, and I meant to mend minds.

But I could walk away from it all.

And here I stood, goodbye on my tongue. Ready to leave. Ready to return tomorrow because every day could be a Thursday. And though Angela was my rock, sometimes, a man needed to be untethered.

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