I meant to write something completely different. But that’s how it goes. I start with an idea and almost never end up where I planned. I do not take this as a sign I should outline. I take it to mean my original idea wasn’t right. Not that this is right. Well, anyway. I’m getting chemo treatments and my hair is falling out. And it seems to me that if you’re going to have a fairy tale asylum while getting chemo, a version of Rapunzel must show up.
In one room, slept Zelia. She was young and slept most of the time. Nothing in her room revealed her reflection because if she saw her reflection, she would drop to the floor in a pool of grief. They had taken her hair. They said she was vain and wayward. They said her mother was afraid for her safety, and so until she learned to do better, they would keep her safe and away from the world.
Before coming to the Asylum, she had beautiful hair. She wore her hair long and she liked to see the sunlight shine on the loops that fell over her shoulders. She liked the way heads turned to watch her walk down the street on a bright day. Her hair captivated everyone and got her many things she wanted.
When she was nine, she learned people would pay her for locks of her hair to make good luck charms. She’d sell a few curls for spending money. Sometimes she’d buy her mother a gift, but the gifts only made her mother angry. “You can’t sell bits of yourself, girl,” her mother said, slapping the gift away.
Her mother was the one who called the Asylum. She’d seen her daughter let a boy touch her hair in front of God and everybody. “I can’t control her at all,” her mother told the head nurse. “She’s grandiose and charming. She lies and manipulates. She won’t responsibility for her actions.” Zelia was fourteen.
Zelia had thought her mother would come get her after a few days,a nd those first few days no one bothered her. They left her alone with her shimmering hair with only the instructions to think about the consequences of her actions. She thought and thought and paced and paced until she stopped looking at the clock expectantly and her hair fell limp.
They found her curled up, her arms and hair entwined. “You’ll hurt yourself,” the nurses said and brought the scissors.
That night Zelia opened her eyes in spite of the sleeping medication. She could do that if she wanted to. It was her one secret from the nurses. And she heard footsteps in the hall. They were the wrong sort of footsteps. Zelia knew the steps of all the nurses, the security guards, and the orderlies. These were the wrong footsteps and at the wrong time.
Getting out of bed was risky. She didn’t want a nurse to see her up, but she’d never heard these footsteps before. Zelia peered through the keyhole and caught a glimpse of Hannah making her way down the hall. For the first time since she’d been locked away, hope leapt in her heart. Someone had finally come to save them. She knew it as surely as she knew she’d see the sun shine again on her hair.