Sanctuary

Mina stood in the field, looking across at the flowers. There were flowers of all kinds here, more than she had ever seen in one place. She started to run across the field, but a thorn from a red rose caught her leg, and pain tore through her.

“No,” she thought, “No, this place mustn’t turn against me too. If it does…”

Reality started to come back to her, but it was too much to bear. Her father was holding her down, doing unspeakable things to her. That was the source of her pain. She kept her eyes closed, delving deeper into her mind, desperately searching for the flower field. It came back into view, but something was wrong. The flowers were all dying. Everything had a grayish hue to it. Mina was terrified. She knew that the fantasy had been her shield against the abuse, but now her mind was so tired, her soul so worn down that she could not even hold the image straight.

She sat down in the field of dying flowers, the pain and misery of her physical body breaking through the fantasy. It was falling apart, the flowers were fading from view now. Soon there would only be the darkness behind her eyelids, the shadow of her father, his grunts of pleasure and she would have to experience it all.

“Please help me,” she cried, “if there is somebody out there, please help me. I’m so tired and scared. Please… don’t make me go back there. Help me…”

But her world was slipping away, dark reality tearing at it now. She could feel her father’s calloused hand across her mouth holding in her scream. Had she started to scream? She didn’t know, didn’t remember screaming, but his hand relaxed after a moment and she gasped for breath. She wished her body would not insist on breathing, she wished she could slip quietly into sleep, but it was not to be. She had to relive this nightmare once, twice a week, ever since her mother died and she had been left alone with her father. She thought the grief would bond them together, but not like this. Never could she have envisioned this nightmare. He had cuddled her at first and she had felt loved and wanted, but then he wanted more from her, dark things that repulsed her senses. She tried to pull away, to say no, but he was too insistent.

That was how the fantasies had begun. She tried to blot him out, get away in her mind to a place of sanctuary. There, none of the real life horror ever took place and she was able to get away, to be in a nice place, a pleasant world. There was an old country house, that had worked for a while, there was food on the table, all her favorite foods. But after a couple of months, there started to be holes in the house, the food started to look unappealing and in the end was rotten. It was as if the horror of the real world had corrupted her fantasy and it could protect her no longer. So she spun a new world, and another one, and then another, each time finding something new to envision when the old fantasy started to crumble away. But she was running out of ideas. She read voraciously, trying to assimilate all the ideas she could, but she found she couldn’t use other people’s worlds as shields in the same way she could her own. They were not personal enough to her to absorb her pain, so although she could see them, they did not remove her from the scene. The flower field had been a last ditch effort, something inspired by her thoughts of a perfect place. But even that was crumbling now, and she had no more ideas. She would have to face the darkness on her own, have to take in the lurid and frightening details unfolding before her.

He left, and Mina lie naked on the blanket, feeling dirty, feeling scared. The bedroom door creaked shut and she was left in the dark. She wanted to go and have a shower, to wash away all the filth, but she could not find the mental will to get up. She just wanted to hide, assimilate into the darkness and hoped she could disappear into it forever.

She was slipping into sleep when in her mind a hand came out from the darkness. It was not her father’s large, calloused hand but instead the gentle hand of a young woman with soft skin and perfectly shaped nails. She reached out in her mind for the hand and took it, and felt herself being pulled forward. She was frightened for a second, but then she rolled over and found herself in the flower field, the young woman standing over her. She couldn’t have been any older than sixteen, but she had long brown hair that feel down her back to her waist. She was wearing a long, satin blue dress that fell all the way to her feet. Her face was soft and kind, and Mina immediately felt safe with this woman.

“Who are you?” Mina asked, “What is this?”

“I’m a part of your mind, of course,” the woman smiled, “I’m… Farisa. There, you just named me.” She giggled kindly.

“This feels… more real than before,” Mina said, “But you’re still just a part of my mind.”

“I suppose,” Farisa said, “But I didn’t come here for that. I came here because I wanted to help you.”

“How can you help me?” Mina asked, “You are me. You’re just another figment of my imagination that will crumble and die once you’ve taken on too much of my pain, just like all the others.”

“If that is true, then I am happy to serve,” Farisa said, “If I can take away your pain for just a little while, calm your fears, soothe your spirit, then I’m worth imagining, right?”

“I suppose,” Mina said, “But you’re not real. You can’t save me.”

“Perhaps not,” Farisa said, “but I can hold the demons off until you menstruate for the first time. How old are you, nearly thirteen now? You should be starting soon. Then your father will be so terrified of getting you pregnant, he’ll stay away from you for sure.”

Mina sighed upon hearing of her only hope. Ever since she had heard about periods from older girls at school, she had been desperate to start them, even though the girls said that they hurt. Once she could potentially become pregnant, and was bleeding every month, perhaps he would stay away, she hoped. At the very least, he might stay away for one week every month, which would be an improvement on the current situation. She had tried to lie to her father, to tell him that she had in fact started, but he had angrily demanded proof, and so she had had to admit that she hadn’t after all.

Of course, this went both ways, and Mina was also terrified that her father wouldn’t stay away, that she would be worrying constantly about pregnancy and dealing with him while she was bleeding. The thought terrified her and she curled up in a little ball, ready to cry. She didn’t want to think about it, and here was this stranger, this figment of her imagination, bringing it all back to her.

“I’m so sorry,” Farisa said, seeing Mina’s internal horror, “I didn’t mean to bring it back to you. I just wanted to help. Everybody needs hope, right?” She crouched down next to Mina and embraced her tightly. Mina shrank from Farisa’s touch but Farisa soothed her in a way that was so unlike her father’s lustful touches that she felt safe and relaxed. She started to cry, all her fear and sadness welling up inside her. Farisa held her gently, stroking her hair until the sobs subsided.

“Thanks,” Mina sniffed, “I…I just…”

“It’s all right,” Farisa said, “I know. You don’t have to tell me, I can see inside your mind. I’m here for you, all right? Any time you need me, I just want you to call my name, Mina, and I’ll protect you. I’ll show you around this world and we’ll take care of each other.”

“OK,” Mina said. She was tired then, and Farisa knew it. Taking Mina by the hand, Farisa took her to a garden. The sun was shining and there was a hammock in one corner.

“Get some sleep, Mina,” Farisa said, leading her to the hammock and lifting her into it, “I’ll be watching over you, so relax and rest well.”

For the first time in over a year, Mina slept well.

~

Mina was distracted in school, but the teachers never took much notice. They left her alone, wrongly thinking that her withdrawn nature was due to her mother’s untimely death in a road accident. She had loved her mother, of course, and had wept when she died, but time had mostly healed that wound. She had always thought she was closer to her father than her mother, until her father decided to exploit her. Now, she mostly missed her mother because she knew her mother would never have let this happen, she would have protected her daughter, but she tried not to think about it. Her mother was dead, and so Mina knew she would not be coming back to rescue her.

She took the long way home after staying for extra study at school. Mina wished she had friends she could hang out with after school, but she hadn’t bonded well with her peers, and so was forced to go home. She had slept on a park bench once after trying to run away, but her father had found her and scolded her badly, saying she was trying to break his heart by running away, trying to take away the last piece of her mother that he had. Mina had hardened her heart against his emotional blackmail, but she had been picked up directly after school for the next week, making her unable to stay at school longer and so she didn’t try running away again.

When she got home, she was relieved to find her father wasn’t yet home from work. She made herself some dinner, then cooked for her father in hopes that a big meal would make him sleepy. He came in in a raging mood, and left half of the meal, coming to her room for a rough session which left her hurting and afraid. Farisa was there though, holding her hand. They left the garden and went for a walk across the desert. However, this was no ordinary desert as there was no unbearable heat or unquenchable thirst. They came to a mountain, which they climbed on well-worn paths to the top. The view was spectacular.

“Wow,” Mina said, “Farisa, this is beautiful.”

“This is your handiwork,” Farisa said, “I just brought you here. You have a beautiful mind, if you put it to work. I’m sure that you will be a great writer or artist someday. Perhaps both.”

“I’m scared to think about the future,” Mina admitted, “I think that I might escape him, but then, what if I can’t? What if he finds me everywhere I go and decides to move in?”

“It won’t happen,” Farisa said, “As soon as you’re old enough, you’re going to get a job, save money and take driving lessons after school. Then you’ll buy a car, load it up, and drive away. You can rent some cheap place, it doesn’t matter if it’s a hovel, it’ll be a sanctuary if he’s not there. Then you’ll work up the ladder. You’ll work in better places, and get a better place to live, until you’re happy with your standard of living. You can get your name changed, so he won’t be able to find you so easily. You can change your hair color, appearance. You’ll be free, Mina. You have to hold onto that hope.”

“I want to,” Mina said. She cuddled Farisa, “There’s just… so much I have to do. I’m worried that I’ll never be able to get a job, that nobody will want to employ me.”

“You can’t worry about that yet,” Farisa said, “There’s still a few years before you have to think about it. Right now, you need to think about how to get out of the house more often. Tonight was bad. Trying to appease him isn’t going to work. Don’t cook for him or try to improve his life. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“I know,” Mina said, bursting into tears, “I don’t know what to do. I thought it might work. I’ve tried everything, Farisa. I even tried encouraging him to date again, but he’s not interested. It seems he has everything he wants, and that’s me.”

“Don’t cry,” Farisa said, “It’s all right. I know you’re trying your best, and you’re not to blame in any of this. He shouldn’t be using you like this, Mina. You should tell somebody about it.”

“I can’t do that,” Mina said, “They would never believe me. They think that we’re both grieving, and they’ll use that to discredit me and excuse him.”

“You don’t know unless you try, Mina,” Farisa said.

“Even if they did listen,” Mina cried, “I would just end up in foster care. Maybe it would be better, but maybe it would be worse, too. Who knows what could happen out there?”

“The world is a frightening place,” Farisa said, “I wish life was better for you, Mina. I really care about you.”

“Of course you do, you’re me!” Mina said.

“No, I mean, I really care. I want you to get out of this terrible life, Mina. I want you to be able to have a normal life, with people who truly love you. Whether I’m a figment of your imagination or not, it doesn’t really matter. I still care about you.” Farisa sighed, “Perhaps I am just a creation of your mind, but I love you, Mina. I want to protect you. That’s the reason I’m here.”

Mina curled up to Farisa, “It’s getting cold up here,” Mina said, “I want to go to a nice warm house, with a cozy fire, and sleep close to you where I’ll be safe.”

Farisa clicked her fingers, and they were transported to a house just like Mina had described. The floor was wooden, covered with a rich red rug. A fire crackled in the hearth.

“You should sleep,” Farisa said, “Come to the bed. I’ll hold you while you sleep.”

“No,” Mina said, “I don’t want to sleep in the bed. It reminds me of him.”

“You have to sleep, Mina, or you’ll get sick. I’m worried about you,” Farisa sighed.

“Stop it!” Mina said, “You’re not my mother! You’re just some stupid figment of my imagination because I can’t get anybody real to protect me!”

“I’m not…” Farisa began, “Look, please. You have to believe me, Mina. I care about you. If you don’t want to sleep in the bed, sleep on the sofa instead.”

Mina sighed sadly and curled up on the sofa. Farisa lovingly put a blanket over her.

“I’m sorry,” Mina said, tears filling up her eyes, “I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just scared, Farisa. I wish you were a real person so you could help me, so you could get my father to go away.”

“If I could get rid of that wicked man,” Farisa said, “I would do it, no matter what it cost me.”

“Thank you, Farisa,” Mina said, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Farisa said, and leaned down over Mina, leaving a gentle, tender kiss on her forehead.

~

Mina wondered if she was going crazy. Farisa seemed almost real to her, although she knew the girl was only a figment of her imagination. Still, that kiss had been so tender, so loving that Mina felt refreshed when she woke. She went to school and for the first time in a while was able to really engage and take on board what the teachers were saying.

Still, she dreaded going home and when the bell rang, she went up to the library as usual. She opened the door and nearly turned tail and fled when she saw her father standing there.

“Dad!” she said, “What are you doing here?” She was frozen to the spot, filled with terror. How did he know she came here after school?

“You’re coming home,” Mina’s father said, “There’s no need for you to be spending extra time here at school when there’s a nice, quiet house for you to study in. Extra school is for people who aren’t clever enough to complete their classes and need extra assistance, or for people who have no family to go home to. You don’t need to stay here.” His voice was firm, his face set.

Mina wanted to protest, wanted to fight back, but people were starting to look. If she made too much fuss, people would want to know why she didn’t want to go home. They might look through the library records and see that she had loaned and read an exorbitant amount of books and sat there reading them in order to avoid going home. Teachers would start nosing into her personal life and asking questions. Perhaps they would find out, and they would believe it was all her fault. They would say she was a dirty girl, that she invited her father’s advances because she was a slut, that she had taken advantage of her mother’s death to seduce her father. It hadn’t been like that, of course, she had never wanted any of it to happen, but she didn’t want their eyes looking into her soul, analyzing the grisly details and every time they looked at her, seeing a girl having sex with her father.

She went quietly and with her head held high, “Sorry Dad,” she said, “I forgot the dentist appointment was tonight.” All eyes turned away, disappointed at the total lack of scandal, and they left without incident.

Her father didn’t talk at all in the car on the way home, which filled Mina with dread. She knew that her father was in a terrible mood, and feared what he would do to her when they got home. She made a hasty exit from the car and went inside. She wanted to go upstairs to her room, to run and hide, or to sit down and watch TV, but she knew wherever she went he would sidle up to her. There wasn’t even any preamble any more, no chatter about how much he missed her mother, or about how he needed her. She wondered if she had become merely an object in his eyes. The dialog in the library had been the most they had talked in weeks.

Mina decided to stand in the kitchen and try and make something to eat, hoping to get some food before she lost her appetite entirely. Her father soon followed her in.

“Why have you been avoiding me?” he asked, as if he didn’t know.

“Why do you think!” Mina cried angrily, “I don’t want you to touch me! I want you to stay the hell away from me!”

“You’re being unreasonable, Mina,” her father said, “It’s not fair to expect me to carry all the burden of your mother’s death on my own. What do you expect me to do?”

“Get a date, do the things that other normal people do!” Mina yelled, “Not rape your daughter on a near daily basis!” It hurt her to scream the truth out in public, as if giving it words made it all the more real, but if she was hiding away from the truth, she assumed he was, too. How else would her father, a man who had once been even-tempered and kind, turn into this monster?

“I’m not raping you,” he managed to say with a straight face. Mina could not believe it. How could he stand here and say that, after all the nights of torment she had suffered. Was this denial the way he managed to shut himself off from what he did?

“I love you,” he said, “You look just like your mother… the long brown hair, the green eyes.” He moved over to her, and she backed away.

“I’m not my mother!” Mina cried, “I’m your daughter! I’m thirteen years old and I don’t want this! Every day I live my life, frightened of you and what you might do. This isn’t how it used to be. This isn’t right!”

“Be quiet!” her father snapped, “You are living under my roof and you will do what I say! You’ve spun all these tales, all these allegations against me, you may have even told people! But did you tell them that you enjoy it, that you like it when I touch you? If they knew, they would think you are such a slut!”

“It’s not true!” Mina cried, in tears now, “I stay away from you because I want you to leave me alone!”

In her mind, Farisa held her while she was crumbling. She wanted to cry, wanted to crumple to the ground and punch the floor, but Farisa held her steady. She wanted to drop into Farisa’s world, but she hadn’t finished, she hadn’t said enough yet. She wanted to make him see what he was doing, to destroy him with it as he had destroyed her. Farisa tried to grab her and pull her back, but she emerged into the real world to find herself being pinned down on the sofa. She struggled and fought with her father, desperate angry punches that used all of her strength, but she was no match for him. Her punches did nothing.

“Farisa,” Mina said in her mind, “Take me away from here… please.”

“Gladly,” Farisa replied, a mixture of anger, bitterness and sorrow in her voice, and then they disappeared into Mina’s mind, back to the cottage and the living room with the warm fire. Mina could feel pain, but it was distant and far away, like it was happening to another person. She wanted to care, but she told herself that was just a bad dream, and this was reality; the warm, quiet house, with Farisa holding her tightly, stroking her hair. But there was something wrong, too; something angry and discordant. The mood reflected in the house, which seemed at times to twist and shimmer before her eyes, before coming back.

“Tell me this fantasy isn’t disintegrating,” Mina said.

“No,” Farisa said, “It’s because of me. I’m angry, and I’m struggling to hold everything still. I’m sorry.”

“Why are you angry?” Mina asked, but Farisa was silent, and changed the subject.

~

When she came back, she was on the floor of the living room, discarded like a tool. Her arms and legs hurt, and she felt bruised. She sat up. Everything spun around her, and everything felt surreal, as if this were the dream and the reality was the house. There was something warm and wet on her lip, she moved her hand up distractedly to wipe at it, and her hand came back red.

“What… happened?” she asked Farisa.

“That blood? You bit your lip against the pain. You’re covered in bruises, Mina. He was really angry at you, and he beat you as well as… the usual.” Farisa tried to be tactful.

“I see,” Mina said, pulling herself up, “Well, I suppose I should have just been quiet.”

“Don’t say that!” Farisa said angrily, “You stood up to him, and should be proud of yourself for that. Now you need to tell somebody what’s happening to you, and get out of this life! You have bruises to show them, after all.”

“And what do you think he’ll do when Child Protection comes here?” Mina said, “He’ll be sweet and play the tortured man, and they’ll believe his story that I fell over in the garden and made up lies to get attention because I miss my mother.”

“I think sometimes you don’t want to tell anybody! You just want to protect your father, who doesn’t deserve protecting!” Farisa fumed.

“You’re right,” Mina said, “I don’t want to tell anybody. I don’t want people to know, Farisa. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me and pretend they understand, because they don’t. In a few years I’ll get out of here under my own steam, and start over again.”

Farisa wanted to talk, but she stayed silent. She was fuming with anger and wanted to scold Mina for her attitude. She disappeared, leaving Mina to face the real world for a while.

~

Mina made it up to her room. Her father had gone out, and she was grateful for that, as she didn’t want him to see her inspecting her bruises in the bathroom. Her knee hurt, and her lip was cut badly, but most of the bruises were in places that wouldn’t be seen when she was clothed.

She felt empty. She didn’t want to call Farisa, didn’t want to escape, didn’t want to do anything, so she sat in the corner and just stared at the walls aimlessly. Nothing came to her mind, as Farisa had retreated somewhere and taken all of Mina’s imagination with her. She just stared at the wallpaper, studying the stripes, counting the dots in between them to pass the time.

She heard the creak of the door as her father came home, but didn’t have the will to move. There was nowhere to go, anyway. She just sat there as he climbed the stairs, not even feeling fear. Let him do what he wanted. She was too tired, too lost to even care.

He stood there at the door, towering over her small form in the corner, watching her tracing the lines down the wallpaper and counting the dots.

“I’m sorry,” Mina’s father said, “I didn’t mean to hit you, Mina. It’s just… you’re such an unruly child sometimes.”

If Mina wanted to say something, she showed no sign of it.

“I’m sure that you’re probably angry at me,” her father said, “But I’m all alone bringing you up. I have no rulebook to work from. I know I’ve done things that aren’t right, but Mina, I can’t help it. I need you to understand that.”

Mina still did not say a word. Before she might have retorted at him, but now she just didn’t care. She didn’t even turn her head to look at him, and in the end he gave up and went away to sleep. She knew she should sleep too, but she didn’t feel tired. She just sat there and stared at the wall.

“Mina,” Farisa’s voice came, after a few hours, “Mina, I know you’re there. Please, talk to me.”

Nothing.

Farisa took Mina’s hand in her mind, “Please Mina,” she said, “I’m sorry. Please come with me, I want to show you something.”

Mina went with her, but still said nothing. Farisa took her hand and led her to the edge of a beautiful moonlit lake, where she sat Mina down before seating herself.

“Mina…” Farisa began, but Mina noticed something. She saw gray at the edges of the scene, and that did eventually cause her to feel fear.

“Why is everything gray?” Mina asked.

“Your mind…” Farisa said, “He is damaging you more and more. This place – all of these places – are parts of your psyche. You’ve been using them to cushion against the reality of what is happening to you, but as you do that, they are dying. You sat and stared at the wall for six hours this afternoon, Mina, because so much of you has become damaged that the parts of you that control your emotions are starting to become unpredictable. If this carries on, eventually all you will do is stare at the wall, like somebody who has been tortured for a long period of time. Because this is torture, Mina, and it shouldn’t be happening to you.”

“Perhaps it’s easier this way,” Mina said in a monotone, “If my emotions just die away, I won’t have to worry about any of this any more. Perhaps then I’ll even be able to kill myself and end this. I almost tried it once, but I was too afraid to go through with it.”

“That will inevitably be the end result,” Farisa said, “But it would be a shame. You wanted to get out of here, to escape, to go out into the real world. But you can’t wait any longer, Mina. If you wait until you’re eighteen, there will be nothing left of you. All this, this beautiful mind, it will all be gone. You might be able to act like you are a living person, but inside the best of you will be dead. In time it might grow again and you might heal, if you survive, but the world doesn’t wait for anybody. You’re missing out on an education, on a social life, on everything that you should be having, Mina.”

“That’s not my fault,” Mina said, “I didn’t ask for this to happen to me.”

“I know you didn’t,” Farisa replied, “But you, and only you, can do something about it. You have to tell someone, Mina. Somebody in authority that you trust, like a teacher. They’ll deal with it from there. But you have to take the first step.”

“I… I can’t,” said Mina, “He’s my father! If I tell them, they’ll lock him up.”

“Perhaps,” Farisa said, “Maybe that’s for the best. He may or may not finally get the help he needs, but regardless, Mina, he doesn’t deserve to be out here in the world. Who knows, after you leave, who else he might pose a threat to?”

“I guess,” said Mina, “But I don’t know who to tell.”

“You have to find somebody. It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll be there with you, Mina. This has to end.”

“Why am I listening to a figment of my imagination, anyway?” Mina said, but there seemed to be life, almost laughter, in the question.

“You and I both know I’m more than that,” Farisa replied, and she put her arm around Mina and held her, the moonlight shining down upon them.

~

Mina woke, afraid. She told herself that being afraid was a good sign, that it meant she was still herself, that she had not been irrevocably damaged. She dressed modestly to hide all the bruises, and walked normally even though her knee hurt, to convince her father that she was perfectly able to go to school. She was afraid he would insist she stayed at home until the bruises were healed, since they were her best proof yet, but he left early for work and she slipped out of the house with relief.

She expected to see him as she walked down the street, watching her from somewhere, knowing what she was going to do, that she was finally going to tell somebody today. He was not following her however, and she reached school without incident, apart from the pain in her leg.

The lessons went by quickly, and Mina was assessing the situation, trying to consider which teacher would be best to tell. Not a man, no; only a woman would really be able to understand. She didn’t like the school nurse and the counselor might think she wanted to keep it to herself and not get any help. The principal was a nice woman, but she was always busy and Mina was afraid she would arouse suspicion among the other students if she went up to the principal’s office without being called.

Finally, they came to the last lesson of the day, and it was there that Mina finally decided that she would tell her English teacher what had been happening to her. Once her mind was made up, though, her stomach flooded with fear and she had to excuse herself and rush to the bathroom. She didn’t make it back until the end of the lesson, when everybody else had gone home. She picked up her books, her stomach churning, her mouth dry. Would her teacher really believe her if she told her? She started to have doubts and made for the exit.

“Mina,” Farisa said, “This is your best chance. It might be your only chance for a while to get a teacher on her own.”

“But I’m so scared,” Mina admitted, “I can’t do it, Farisa.”

“Yes you can,” Farisa assured her, “I believe in you.”

With that she turned, and made towards the teacher’s desk, no longer trying to walk properly, but limping hastily.

“Whatever is the matter?” Mrs. Morris asked.

“Would it be all right… if I talked to you?” Mina asked.

“Of course, dear,” the kindly teacher replied, “What is troubling you, Mina? You always look so distant.”

Mina wanted to say something, but the words stuck in her throat. She didn’t want to cry, because she knew when she did, she wouldn’t be able to stop to tell the teacher what was happening to her. So she pulled up the leg of her pants and showed Mrs. Morris her swollen knee and said, in a near whisper:

“My father did this… and he… he rapes me.”

Once she had said it, she knew she could not keep the tears in any longer, and she collapsed on the desk, crying.

~

The next few hours went by in a blur for Mina. Mrs. Morris took her straight up to the principal, who called the police and child protection services. Mina showed them her other bruises, and the police arrived and took a report. Mina had to ask several times what was going on.

“You’ll never have to go back to that house,” the woman from the child protection agency said, “The police are going to question your father, meanwhile you will be taken into protective custody and given to a foster family. Depending on what happens, you may be adopted. A doctor will have to have a look at you, and then we’ll take you to a safe place to sleep.”

“Thanks,” Mina said. Farisa was in her mind, holding her hand down by the moonlit lake, and Mina didn’t want to let go. She had been afraid, but deep down in her heart she knew she had done the right thing.

“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Mina said to Farisa.

~

It wasn’t long at all before they found her a foster placement; a kindly middle-aged couple with a seventeen year old daughter of their own. Mina didn’t feel she had much in common with the daughter, but she was grateful just to be safe, to sleep in her bed knowing that the door wasn’t going to creak open, that her father wasn’t going to come in. The police had charged him with several counts of rape and assault, and were sure that he was going to go to prison, but Mina found that now she was away from him, she didn’t much care anymore. He wasn’t the same father she had grown up with, that man was dead, much like she would have been if she had continued to live with him. A different person in the same body.

“Mina,” Farisa called, but this time with urgency. Mina retreated into her mind, where Farisa was waiting for her down by the lake.

“What’s the matter?” Mina asked.

“It’s time for me to go,” Farisa said sadly.

“To go? But… you’re a part of me, aren’t you?” Mina asked.

“No,” Farisa replied, “I told you that to make my presence easier for you to handle. The day you first saw me… was the day I died, ran down by a car when I crossed the street on my way to school. My spirit was leaving this world when I heard a soul screaming for help. That soul was you. But to stay in this world and help you, my spirit had to merge with your body and mind. However, I found out that although I can live in your mind, it causes you damage. My will is stronger, and is fighting for control of you, even now. Didn’t you feel sometimes like this world was more real than reality? That was because my psyche was taking control. Eventually, I would take you over completely, and you would be a prisoner in my world. I can’t do that to you, Mina, and it was never my intention. I just wanted to help you get out of your situation, and have a life of your own. Now that that is done, I must leave your mind and go on.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Mina said, crying, “You were suffering too… You lost your life, and everybody you knew… but you stayed to help me. Why?”

“I always had a happy life, while everybody around me suffered,” Farisa said, “I always felt like I didn’t deserve my luck. I had wonderful parents, lots of friends, but still I felt something was missing. When I heard your cry for help, I knew I had to come here and help you… to give thanks for my life. Even though it was only a short life, I was happy. I wanted somebody else to be happy too. In coming here, I found what it was that was missing in my life. I had a lot of friends, but I had never fallen in love. But you… you’re special. You have a beautiful mind, with all the colors of the universe. I was captivated by it, and fell in love with it. You’re just thirteen though. You’re still finding yourself, and I’m dead. I know it can never be, Mina, but I love you. I wanted you to know that when I looked in your mind, I saw only beauty. I know that someday, you will find somebody who can love you, and you will be happy. I am complete now, and can go on.”

“You can’t leave me,” Mina said, “I need you!”

“You’ll be fine,” Farisa said, “I must go, Mina. I’ve become too entwined with you. I know that if I stay, I will never be able to leave you, and my mind will consume yours. I didn’t free you to make you a slave again.”

“Farisa,” Mina said, “I’ll never forget what you did for me. I…”

“I’ll never forget our time together,” Farisa said. She started to walk into the lake, sinking into the water. Mina wanted to grab her and haul her out, save her from the rising water, but she knew Farisa had to go.

“Wait,” Mina said, “I’m not done yet! Farisa, come back!”

Mina felt something separate from her body and mind, felt a great sense of loss inside herself. She sank to the floor and cried.

She felt a hand under her chin, ghostly, faint, but definitely there. She looked carefully and saw the faint features of Farisa. She went to grab her, to hold her, but her hand went right through. She kissed the older girl’s specter on the lips, not able to touch her, but Farisa’s eyes closed and Mina felt that gentle feeling, almost a whisper on her lips as they met, kissing but not kissing. She savored it as Farisa disappeared before her.

“I love you, Farisa,” she said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

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