The room is dark. It’s always dark. Though there’s really no need to keep my bedroom this dark since there are no mirrors within these walls. I guess I do it to make it easier on my father’s eyes when he comes to check on me.
I can almost see my face reflected in the window, though. This is not good. Panic wells up in the back of my throat. I try to focus past the faint outline of myself and watch the tiny figure in the distance. She’s been out there in the open field all afternoon. Twirling around in the tall, vibrantly green grass. Singing with a kind of freedom a girl can only have if she’s been told her entire life that she’s someone special. By people who could actually look her in the eye while they said so.
I draw the dark, stiff curtain over the distorted reflection in the window.
Today is the day. Today is her test.
Beside me on the windowsill, a lone paradise fish swims in lazy circles around a plastic castle painted to look like stone.
I touch a finger to the glass bowl. “I know you’re bored in there, Colleen. Your tank will be ready soon.”
The fish swims up to my finger and peers out at me.
My lips twitch in an almost smile. “You’re the only one who can look at me.”
Colleen presses up close to the bowl, as if trying to rub against my finger.
“Do you want me to tell you your favorite story to pass the time?”
Of course, Colleen doesn’t understand a word I’m saying, but who else am I going to talk to?
“Once upon a time, there lived a kind and wealthy engineer, a builder of software for a large and prominent corporation. He was a thrifty man of thirty—responsible, an investor. While not the handsomest of men, he more than made up for it with his charitable nature, gentle will, and strength.
“One day, while on his daily run through a narrow pathway deep in the forest and high on the mountain, he stumbled across a young woman lying crumpled just off the worn path in a bed of golden leaves, her face buried in her arms, her shoulders shaking with tears. Deep ebony curls spilled out around her, long and winding like a river.
“Being the kind of man who cared about strangers, he stopped to see if she was hurt. He knelt down and touched her gently on her shoulder.
“When the woman raised her head, he found himself staring into the most clear and beautiful eyes he had ever seen, eyes the color of tanzanite—a rich dark blue, the kind you see in the ocean at dusk. They took his breath away.