“What are you thinking?”
The words didn’t fully register for Melanie as she drew the hairbrush slowly through her hair in long strokes, seemingly hypnotized. She saw her own reflection in the mirror, but she wasn’t really looking at herself, nor was she paying attention to the tugs at her scalp as she brushed. Finally, the clasping of a hand over hers pulled her back to the present, and she heard the voice again.
“Melanie! Where are you?”
“Sorry, Mum, I suppose I am a bit…off tonight.”
“I’ve never seen you so distracted. And believe me dearie, that’s saying something.” Beatrice gave Melanie’s hand a little squeeze and they both laughed. It was true. Melanie was easily distracted; there seemed to be dozen of thoughts in her head at all times, along with at least a handful of daydreams. Once, when they had visited an aviary with birds of various kinds and colors flying and lighting everywhere, Melanie’s father had joked that he imagined the inside of Melanie’s head to be a bit like those birds.
“You are alright, aren’t you Melanie? You gave your parents a scare today.”
“Yes, Mum. I am fine, just tired. I did a lot of walking today.”
“I imagine so,” Beatrice sniffed. “Though why you didn’t feel the need to tell anyone you needed a stroll is anyone’s guess. It isn’t safe to just disappear. Where did you have to go that was so important?”
Melanie looked in the mirror and pretended to be scrutinizing her nose carefully. How could she tell Beatrice where she had been and why. Melanie was tired of walking around the grounds, meeting only the stuff people whom her parents invited for dinner or tea? How could she know….what kind of woman she was growing into if she couldn’t see other….REAL people? But Beatrice wasn’t leaving without an answer, so she told a half truth. “Oh, Mum. sometimes I just need to see past the wall.”
Beatrice smiled and helped Melanie get into bed. Suddenly, after she was ticked in, Melanie grasped Beatrice’s hand and squeezed it lovingly. Beatrice smiled in surprise and then let go and walked toward the door. She paused before leaving the room and remarked, “Oh, and Melanie, the next time you decide to walk through town in disguise, you might want to hide the braid. Red hair isn’t very common.”