The Branch

The Branch is a story about a young girl who has been completely overtaken my Synesthesia - a condition in which the senses are interconnected. Through her eyes, everything is spectacular, and her father would do anything to experience her world with her. Her mother on the other hand, is all too eager to pull her from her beautiful world and introduce her to reality. This is the story of a girl wise beyond her years, of a father juggling the light of his life and the love of his life, and of a mother who wants nothing more than watch her daughter grow into a beautiful woman who can understand life and live without her debilitating condition.


1. The Branch - tlgregory

© 2014 Tara Lesley Gregory All Rights Reserved

              She lived in a separate world, never fully grasping that which we call our own.  Hers was a world inside her head, one only she could visit; and sometimes, during those beautiful rare moments when she’d slip through she’d invite us in to see how she sees.  We could never understand these images she painted for us, pictures of smells, she said, that sang her to sleep.  Her words never seemed to be enough to describe what she wanted us to see so badly.  She was strung to our reality by a thread, a thread that she was constantly tugging at; one that we kept trying to pull her back down with.  She existed by herself, and the friends she made up to keep her company.  I used to always wonder whether she was truly happy living like this, living in a world she made up.  But then again, what could be better than living somewhere where you never have to worry about anything at all?  My wife disagrees with me though.  She believes that our daughter is trying to find her way home to us.  She always wanted to be a mother, but none of this is ever what she pictured.  She could never have braced herself for what the past eight years would be like.  She had no idea that being a mother would be this difficult.

            “Come on baby, look at me” I heard from the kitchen where my wife spoon fed my daughter.  I walked in to see our daughter lying sprawled on the floor like a star, staring at the rainbows reflected on the wall by some cut glass hanging in the window.  “I need you to eat, you’ll starve if you don’t” My wife tried, but to no use.  It was as if she couldn’t hear a word shesaid.  Her fingers seemed to float from the floor, drawing pictures in the sky.

            “Mommy” she whispered, to which my wife jumped off her seat to the floor beside her, grasping one of her hands tightly.

            “Yes baby?”

            “The numbers aren’t in order…” she whispered, pointing to the rainbows as a stream of tears slid down her face.

My wife’s face crumpled as she pulled herself off the ground and shuffled over to the fridge.  There was something different about her this morning.  Her hair, usually unkempt and tied in a loose knot at the top of her head, lay straight as a ruler on her back.  I didn’t even know her hair had gotten that long. 

            “You look nice” I murmured, sorting through my briefcase before heading to work.

            “Thanks” She hurriedly answered, perhaps a bit too sharp for my taste.

There wasn’t much use in pressing a conversation.  I closed my briefcase, which made a clicking sound that made our daughter hiccup a laugh on the floor, before tying my shoes and leaving. 

            My wife and I used to be so in love we could barely stand it.  It was obvious to anybody, and my parents adored her.  They were so proud that I had found someone to share my life with.  But this isn’t living.  My wife has changed, we both have, and we’re simply shells of the people that we used to be.  We have disintegrated before our very own eyes.  About four months ago when I was putting my daughter to sleep she asked me if mommy’s strings were loose.  I nodded to her in the darkness, unsure of how I should have answered her. 

            “Then why don’t you just put a band-aid on her?” She asked me, tapping her bed frame lightly.

            “Because band-aids only cover what’s hurt.  It doesn’t heal.”

            “Oh…” She whispered, as if she just had an epiphany.  The next day I came home to several band-aid boxes empty and wrappers everywhere.  When I asked her why she was covered in band-aids she drifted off into the distance and mumbled “I put one on my heart, but they have such nice voices I wanted them all to sing to me”

            She was always a bit odd, and the first time I really knew she’d never be like the other children was when my wife was cooking dinner when she was only two.  She was making this new dish that was absolutely bland and tasteless but when my daughter took a bite she started screaming.  She sounded like she had swallowed shards of glass, and the neighbours called the police.  At the hospital the doctors told us there was nothing wrong, but my wife and I both knew that was a lie, even if they didn’t know what was wrong.  We started researching and by some odd coincidence we found ourselves finally faced with the truth.  Our daughter, who had been praised by babysitters and teachers alike for her outstanding imagination, was a Synesthete.  Suddenly there were names for the delusions she wrapped herself in like a cloud that we couldn’t pronounce, there were logical explanations and books and specialists.  My wife took our daughter to any doctor she could find and tested different drugs and medications just hoping that her little girl would blink back to reality and become a whole new person.  I think that’s when she and I started growing apart.  We grew and grew into this lopsided tree that’s leaning so far in different directions that if we were to let go of the other we wouldn’t be able to stand by ourselves.  We’ve grown apart, almost becoming two separate trees, needing each other even more than we thought.  Falling from Grace, that’s what my mother called it when I cried to her one day over tea while my wife was at home with my daughter. 

Years ago my mother welcomed my wife into her arms, into our family without hesitation.  She accepted her with such a hopeful heart that I couldn’t bear to acknowledge any of the truths I knew lay beneath my fiancé’s skin.  My wife has always been beautiful, even the lines that sank into her face due to stress seemed to radiate with beauty.  It was an ability my mother had always hoped to master, and something she was keen to see in our daughter.  When my wife was pregnant my mother sang songs of the unyielding beauty and grace that our daughter would carry with her wherever she went.  However, when she found out about her condition she was taken back.  She and my wife cried to each other about how horrible it must be for my daughter to go through this.  My mother sided with my wife, refusing to see the girl that my beautiful, gifted daughter has become.  They see a vacant expression and messy hair where I see an adventure occurring just beyond our imagination.  Somewhere in the horizon of her eyes she is climbing the tallest mountains, flying with sounds and singing with the stars.  Somewhere, she is happy, and that somewhere is where I want her to stay. 

            Synesthesia is a relatively uncommon condition.  In the simplest way possible, it is a scenario within the mind in which the senses are all interconnected.  Depending on the strength and severity of the condition, the mind can associate letters, numbers and colours with one another and relate them to personalities.  They can smell sounds and taste feelings.  Nothing is truly impossible for them.  My daughter’s doctor, the specialist my wife pays thousands of dollars for, says he’s never seen a case quite like hers.  He says that with more research and studies done over time they could learn how to turn her Synesthesia on and off and possibly work on a medication to help countless others who may find themselves in a similar predicament.  I have overheard him and my wife many times talking about seminars and operations, CT Scans and tests and so many other expensive and ultimately useless ideas that never cause anything but discomfort for my daughter.  She hates the crunch on the floors of the Hospital and the colours that seep from everybody’s fingertips.  She whispers to her mother and I about how sad they all are. 

            “They’re crying from their hands” She whispered to me during one of her weekly visits.  “The colours are yelling at me, Daddy, they want to open me up and hurt me.”  My eyes widened as I realized that she knew what was happening during the numerous operations her doctor had done before.  She was never supposed to know about them, he had persuaded my wife to let him conduct experiments to help him and his colleagues learn more about the condition.  She clung to my leg, holding on to my pants with such terror that I had to pick her up and walk out of the hospital room right then and there. 

            I was almost out of the Hospital when I heard sharp clicking on the tiled floors behind me.  “What the HELL do you think YOU’RE doing??” My wife screeched, running after me and hauling my daughter from my arms and passing her to the doctor, shooing them back to the hospital room.

            “She’s scared, my God, she hates it here, you know that!  I will not allow these doctors who don’t even know her favourite colour take her from me for hours on end and run stupid tests on her that probably won’t benefit anybody.” I yelled back, unable to stop myself.  I was a pot of water.  I was a pot of water put over a burning stove for far too long.  I was boiling over, and nobody could stop me.  Nobody knew how to turn down the heat.

            My wife looked at me with a look of sudden fear when I realized that I had her arm in a tight grip.  I watched her take slow breaths and swallow her fear before she yanked her arm away and looked me straight in the eyes.  “You have no right to decide what is best for my baby girl.  You can’t judge a doctor’s quality by how well he knows his patients’ favourite colour, especially when nobody knows her favourite colour.” She took a step back and pulled her soft white cardigan’s sleeves up while folding her arms, staring at me with ice in her eyes.

            “You’re wrong.”  I said quietly, but surely, disarmed that she would think that nobody knows our daughter’s favourite colour.

            “What?”  She asked, playing on my silence. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.  Did you mean to say something?”  Her hair fell down her back in ringlets, perfect golden ringlets that I’d always loved.  But not today.  Today they fell down her back in hatred.  I had a sudden vision of her hair turning to snakes and reducing me to stone. 

            “I said that you’re wrong.”  Embarrassment flooding over, I changed my line of defence.  “She Is Not A Patient.” I took a deep breath before continuing.“She is a little girl.  She is our daughter.  And yes, I think I CAN judge a doctor by his ability to know his patients.  Even better, I can judge a mother for not knowing her own daughter.”

            “Don’t you even think of blaming me, she’s insane.”  She hissed, throwing her arms in the air.“She doesn’t know what way’s up and what direction is forwards.  She doesn’t understand the world, none of that is any of my fault.”  She took a step back, giving me a look made of daggers before turning around and clicking her way back into the Hospital room in the fancy high heels I can’t even remember her buying.  I didn’t even know how betrayed I could be until that moment.  She had never said anything like this before, never shown her true complete frustration like this, and I had to admit that it scared the shit out of me.

            White.White is her favourite colour, I thought that night as I lay sleeping in an empty house.  It’s her favourite because it’s all the colours put together, and she likes to imagine that she’s organizing a choir. My wife had taken my daughter to my mother’s house, I found out, and together I assumed they ranted about my callousness, teaching our daughter nasty lessons that ought not to be learned.  Quitting, being one of them.  Because all the colours sounded beautiful, but needed to be controlled.She never liked when I made decisions without her.  She says thatYellow and Blue fight a lot. She wanted me to see the girl that our daughter could have been.  She liked that it was bright, and tasted like butterscotch and felt like waves. She hated when I disagreed with her, and thought that she was wrong.  She loved that it was what she woke up to every morning, and was fascinated that we could capture it in a swirly container on the ceiling. She didn’t understand why I didn’t want our daughter to change.  She doesn’t understand why I don’t want the girl inside her to find her way home.  She doesn’t understand that the girl that she is is already home. 

            “Daddy” My daughter whispered through blowing bubbles the next morning when I woke to my wife sleeping on the couch downstairs and our daughter sitting on the floor wearing nothing but her bathing suit.  I smiled through the sleep in my eyes and opened my arms, capturing her in a tight bear hug that made her giggle and scream.  There was a slight rustle as my wife opened her eyes slowly and looked around, jumping slightly as my daughter quickly reached for her hand and rushed it into mine and slapped a band-aid where our skin met. She smiled her toothy grin before drifting back into her own imagination and drawing pictures in the sky.  There was a slight sigh as her breath left her and her glassy doe eyes returned and my eyes drifted back to the odd touch of my wife’s hand against mine.  She seemed to notice at the same time, pulling her hand away and hurrying up the stairs to our bedroom before I found my voice to apologize.  I lowered myself to the ground next to my daughter, leaning on one arm.

            “So how was your night with Granny?” I asked, taking the bottle of bubble liquid and giving it a tiny shake, alarmed when bubble juice splashed out onto my pants.  “God Damnit” I muttered, getting up to fetch some paper towel to rub my pants dry.  Just my luck, I thought, carefully rubbing my pants so the paper towel wouldn’t shred and leave wet paper behind.

            “-I just don’t know if I can handle this anymore… Well I’ve tried everything, nothing works.  He’s oblivious.  I don’t think he has a single clue.”  A voice drifted down the stairs.  I bent over, screwing the cap back on the bubble juice container, listening to the soft voice upstairs.  “No, you know how I feel.  It’s complicated.  I – I – Will you let me finish?  I don’t know.”  I took quiet steps forwards, stepping softly as to not make any noise.  There was a sharp cough behind me, followed by a heavy sucking sound.  “It seems almost impossible.  Well she’s pretty much insane.  I feel bad about saying it but – Exactly.  Exactly… Thank God you understand” A tiny squeak made me turn, and drop to the floor.  My daughter was lying on the hardwood floor holding her throat while a white-grey tinge seemed to soak into her body as if it were a sponge.  The bottle of bubble juice had been knocked over, the bubble wand securely lodged in my eight-year old’s throat. 

            My mind blanked, and black took over my vision.  There was a loud thud as my head hit the floor, and a scream as my wife ran down the stairs.  “GET OVER HERE NOW” She screamed into the phone, “YOU’RE A F*CKING DOCTOR, YOU HAVE TO SAVE HER!”



            It is very bright when I wake up.  The lights are singing a strange hollow song, and the waves are so cold and sloshy they barely seem awake.  Thorns poke at me from inside the bed sheets, and there are voices that tickle my feet coming from the Otherlands.  I hear them, but they speak in a foreign language that I do not understand.  They are strange.  I pick up one word from their babble, a word I have made friends with.  Insane is a soothing word.  It had no selfish K sounds and tasted like raspberries.  It was lucky.

There are numbers on my door, 704.  Seven smiles wickedly, relishing in its superiority.  He always liked to come first.  Zero seems quite content, but Four doesn’t like being at the end.  It makes her angry.  She doesn’t like feeling left behind.  That’s why she and I don’t get along.  She’s bright green.  I don’t like green.  Green is too mysterious and can’t sing very well.  Seven isn’t very nice, but at least he can get the lower notes.  Seven is royal, and very, very serious.  I frown.  The thorns poked into my back, sending magenta tinged shivers down my spine and into my toes.  They wiggle freely now, enjoying the taste of the sheets mixed with the smell of the food on a tray next to my bed.  It smelled like liquid trees.  The tickling feeling subsided and colours swirled into my vision, wrapping my mother and father in a thick bundle, barely letting me see them.  My mother leaned down and took my hand, squeezing it too tightly.  My father pulled a chair over beside me and lay a gently hand on my forehead.  He smelled like lollypops and popcorn, with a hint of peppermint stuck under his nails.

“Hey Beautiful...” He said, kissing my nose before continuing “I’m sorry.” I didn’t understand his words, but I know he is sad.  Grey jumped from his hair and crawled up his fingers. He leaned his head down on his arm, revealing a white patch on his head where hair must have been shaved off.  How Interesting I say to myself, I never knew there were white cloths under our skin.  My father stayed like that for a long time, even after my mother floated away from us, lost in the waves that rushed around me like wasps.



            She didn’t seem to acknowledge her mother or me.  Her eyes were open, allowing a flood of vacant emotion to toss and turn inside her.  Whoever said that the eyes were the windows to the soul must have known my daughter in a past life.  Through her eyes, I can see who she really is.  When she was younger my wife tried to convince me that the girl in front of us was only a shell of who our daughter could have been.  I was angry with her, but sat on our daughter’s bed, staring into her eyes, until the sun sank below the horizon, casting shadows on her face like war paint just to see if she was right.  It must have been hours that we sat in silence, beckoning each other with our eyes.  It was then that I discovered how wrong my wife was.  I tried to convince her to share a moment with her own baby girl, but she refused.  She accused me of trying to guilt her, of poisoning her mind and trying to change our daughter.  That was the night that I first heard her say she was losing faith, losing a battle she thought she could win.  She looked so tired and weathered that I just wanted to hold her together while she broke to pieces.  But she had been hiding parts of herself all throughout her life; there were parts of her that she lost years ago down a river of lost dreams and forgotten lullabies, parts of herself she thought she needed until they were gone.  I imagined her lost in the sea, flailing her arms to some unknown beast just pleading for help.  I thought that I could help her.  I thought that if I tried hard enough I would be able to wade into the water and pull her out, but I nearly drowned in her fear instead.  She tried to pull me down with her.  She didn’t understand, and I resented her for it. 

            “As you can see, she’s doing remarkably well after what she just went through.”  The Doctor said, turning to my wife “I would like to commend you on your actions today, you acted very quickly.  You should be very proud.”  He smiled to her and did not look surprised when she leapt into his arms, embracing him tightly.  Her hair had been straightened, and she was wearing those fancy shoes again.  I suddenly remembered the one-sided conversation I heard this morning, I had passed it off as a phone conversation, but I hadn’t been able to pin the person on the other line.  I could feel my eyebrows knitting together, sewing my face into a crumpled expression one could only assume was utter frustration were they not in my mind.

            “Excuse me” The doctor repeated,  looking at me strangely “I asked if you were alright” I nodded curtly, turning back to my daughter and resting most of my weight on her bed, causing it to sag in the middle.  My daughter’s eyes brightened as her eyes followed an imaginary trail in her mind back to the door.  I couldn’t be sure whether she was looking at her mother with the doctor, or the door itself.  The only thing I could be sure of was that she and she alone could tell me what the hell my wife was doing standing so close to her daughter’s doctor.

            That night I sat in my daughter’s room, watching her open and close her closet doors at different speeds, laughing softly to herself.  I sat in the small princess chair my wife had given to her for Christmas last year, hoping that some part of her would recognize that this is what all little girls want.  I bought her a laser pointer, something my mother looked down on me for.  She looked at me and asked “Do you not even know your own daughter?” I smiled to myself despite my frustration, my daughter hated pink.  She tried to push the chair out her window when she awoke to it suddenly in her room early in the morning, but the window was much too small.  I remember wanting to leave the suburbia containing us now.  Here we are nothing but the neighbours with the crazy daughter.  I want to move to the country, where my daughter can run around and smell the fresh air.  I want her to open her window when she’s older and live in a place equal to her imagination.  Maybe then she might be able to stay in our reality a little longer, if she couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

            I shook my head.  We don’t have nearly enough money. 

            “Daddy” came a whisper from inside the closet “Daddy come see”

            Excitement and adrenaline shot through my veins as I got down on my knees and opened the closet doors slowly.  I held my tongue, anxious to see what surprise was waiting for me.



            “Daddy” a voice whispered from down the hall.  “Daddy come see.”

            I nudged quietly down the hall, poking my head around just enough to see my husband leap to the floor, knocking over my baby’s princess chair.  I hate it when he does that, I sigh and turn down the hall to my room and plop down on the bed. 

            Deep Breaths I reminded myself, Breathe Easy.



None of this was ever supposed to happen.  When I was pregnant I thought that these would be the greatest years of my life.  I was so excited to be a mom.  Now I can’t even enjoy what little successes we make with her.  We used to think that she was just retarded, and that that was the reason why she didn’t react to my voice.  When we found out that it was a lifelong condition I locked myself in the bathroom for hours, sobbing into the bathtub.  I would never know my daughter.  I was so scared that I would never get to know the woman inside, that I’d never get to meet her.  It broke my heart.  Doesn’t she want me? I’m her mother.  I carried her for nine months, dreaming of the day I’d get to look in her eyes.  And what do I get?  I get a daughter that doesn’t hear a word I say, doesn’t see me even if I’m waving right in front of her.  She won’t even speak to me unless she has something to say about those delusions she carries with her.  And then even after that she won’t talk to me, it’s almost as if she’s refusing to be my daughter. 

            The phone rang, disturbing my silence, irritating me from my thoughts until I picked up and grumbled a confusing “Hello”

            “Hey” a refreshingly warm voice said, “How are you?”

            “I’m good, I’m good...”

            “Is he still there?”

            “Yeah, he’ll be back at work by tomorrow though”

            “Great, I’ll be over at 10, I have a few hours to spare tomorrow, my mates think my wife is mad at me and taking me to couples counselling” He laughed quietly, amused by his ideas.

            “Great” I said breathlessly, suddenly exhausted.  “I have to go make dinner, but I’ll see you tomorrow”

            I am so happy he understands me.

            I lie on the bed for what seems like hours, finding faces in the ceiling.  There is one that I found the night we moved into this house.  It is a woman’s face.  She has long curly hair and a pointed nose.  She is crying.  She looks like me.  I named her after my twin sister.  She died when I was a baby.  She would be sad to see me now.

            God, I need to get out of this house.



            “What do you mean you want to move?” She asked sharply, cutting through the silence with a voice like a bread knife. 

            “I mean” I repeat, “It’s time we get out of here.”  My wife bent over my daughter, shoving another spoonful of puréed corn in her mouth, much to my daughter’s chagrin.  “We’ve been here for ten years, I think it’s time we moved somewhere new.  Somewhere with trees and rivers and animals.” I held my breath, watching as she contemplated my suggestion.  Her eyebrows were sewn together, reminding me of caterpillars moving across her face.

            “Would it be near here?”

            “I was hoping to get away, a couple hours into the country.  It would be beautiful, she’d love it” I pointed out, putting my hand across the table, reaching for my daughter’s hand.  I barely brushed it before it swiped away, my daughter’s face contorted as a smile broke out across her face, flying across the table.  Her smile was so contagious when she was born.  She smiled at everything.  Now she barely smiled anymore.

            “What about the hospital?” She asked incredulously, eyebrows raising.

            “There’s a hospital near the house I’ve been looking at and-“

            “You’ve been looking for houses without me?” She interrupted slowly, with a calm and languid voice, flowing like honey.

            “uhm… Yes… Like I was saying, there’s a hospital near the house I’ve been looking at, it’s just 10 minutes away.  Closer than we are to this one.  It’s within our price range, honey, we can do this.”  As soon as I said honey I knew I had made a mistake.  Her face paled, and my daughter kicked under table, covering her ears. 

            My wife’s face became white, and she took a deep gulp as she swallowed her pride. “I think that moving would be a good idea.”

            My wife told me about Jessica one time.  She drank too much that night and cried in our room for what seemed like days and told me that her sister doesn’t like who she has become.  I know she doesn’t want to stay here.

            The joy on my face must have been obvious, because my daughter pushed the spoon of corn away from her mouth and shrieked with elation.  Her smile is so beautiful.



            Apparently, all I needed to say was that our daughter would love it.  She agreed to visit the house with me the very next morning with our daughter in tow.  She was skeptical at first, but she had an open mind.  It felt great to be able to make a conclusive decision with her again.  It had been far too long.  The house we ended up buying was a beautiful three bedroom house.  It only had two floors, but the backyard easily made up for that.  As soon as we stepped onto the property my daughter collapsed onto the grass, rolling and making grass-angels.  My wife and I smiled, and bought the house not even a day later.  Moving was difficult, we both got so distracted by everything we forgot we had.  It was good to see my wife smile.  The move was strange, but the new house was perfect.  Our daughter’s room was painted with trees and baby deer, made for a newborn baby, but absolutely perfect for her.  The master bedroom was large, and had a beautiful arch right over our bed when we hung picture frames of us when we are all happy together.

            We cancelled our appointments with the Doctor, and found an amazing new one at our new hospital.  Her name was long, so she told us just to call her Doc.  I already liked her more.  She didn’t know much about Synesthesia, but after a few weeks she sounded more professional than the old guy.  And she always had snacks for my daughter, catering to her senses.  She was fantastic.

            “We’re going to need to gate off those trees or do something about them.”  My wife said one afternoon, drinking wine from the kitchen and peering out the window to the yard outside.

            “Why?  She loves them, and you have to admit, those apples are pretty damn good.  We can make so many apple pies now.”  I replied, half-jokingly.  Not long after we moved our daughter became obsessed with these old apple trees in the backyard.  Every day she would come back inside with her shirt full of apples.  My wife says that she’ll fall out of the trees one day and break her neck, she’s so worried for her, but I’ve got faith that she knows to be safe.  She’s a smart kid.  We enrolled her in a school nearby, she only goes twice a week for a few hours, but now everybody knows her.  The other kids are great, and families are always inviting us over for dinner.  I almost forgot what it felt like to have someone to talk to, someone other than my daughter.

            Weeks passed, and it seemed as if my daughter’s condition was lessening.  She would make sounds more often, look at her mother and I rather than right through us.  She smiled more.  My wife was overjoyed, she could barely contain her ecstasy that her baby girl might be coming home.  Just recently in bed when I thought she was sleeping she rolled over to face me and told me how happy she was that we had moved.

            “I was worried you wouldn’t want to leave because of the doctor” I replied, still raw inside from the betrayal.  It had become easier to hide, but no matter how hard I tried it was still there.

            She took a deep breath, scrunching her face the way she used to do when she couldn’t find the right words.  It took almost a full minute before she found her voice.  “I don’t know how to apologize for that…” She said softly, without any trace of accusation.

            “You don’t know how to be sorry that you cheated on me?”  I said sharply, sitting straight up in bed with a look of incredibility on my face. 

            “I didn’t know that you knew…” Tears springing to her eyes.

            “That shouldn’t make a difference, don’t you even feel guilty?  At all?”

            My wife pulled herself up, red faced and bleary eyed.  “You weren’t there for me, you weren’t-“ 

            “I wasn’t there for you?” I interrupted, boiling over like I had at the hospital.  “I was there the whole time.  I was trying to be your husband and you wouldn’t let me.”  I could feel tears stabbing my eyes, fighting, trying to force their way out.  I will not show weakness.

            “You weren’t trying hard enough” She yelled back, hysteria sinking into her voice.  “Tell me right here, right now, tell me if you ever noticed a single haircut, a single new dinner made after hours in the kitchen.  Tell me if you ever noticed any of those.”  She was looking at me straight on, peering into my soul.  She was angry, yes, but she was also sad.  There was an underlying fear that permeated her skin, an absence in the way she spoke.  I searched my mind, wracked my brain for any hope but I knew in my heart before I knew it in my head.  I hadn’t noticed any of those.  I had shut down, stowed away and forgotten to see her.  I spent so much time devoted to my daughter, and my job that I had forgotten to fight for my wife.  Even when someone else had her I didn’t fight. 

            “Exactly.”  She said, crawling out of bed and thudding downstairs before falling asleep on the couch for the third night this week.



            I know mommy and daddy are fighting.  I don’t understand what they are saying, the Otherlands fills my ears with grains and sound, pounding my head like a jack rabbit.  They fight a lot.  I hear my name every so often coming from their room, and it makes my eyes sting like bees.  I am afraid to cry.  Tears are not nice to me anymore.  They laugh at me and call me weak.  They tell me my parents don’t love me, and that hurts more than the nails that hide in the grass.  They tell me my mommy and daddy are tired, and they fight over me.  They don’t want me.  I know what I have to do.  I have to save them.  I will protect them forever. 




The next day is quiet.  My wife spends the day outside, reading and writing.  My daughter is at school, learning about something she’ll never need to know. 

Well, perhaps not.  She’s making friends, getting human interaction, and her new Doctor says that’s going to help her in the long run. 

When I pick her up her mother doesn’t speak to her.  She gives her a hug and walks away, tired and lonely.  Her hair is messy, as if it hadn’t been taken care of in far too long. 

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know how to save us this time.



I am very tall.  My hair whips my face lightly, dancing in the waves swaying around us.  They speak to me, whispering that they say is the future.  They tell me that I’m beautiful, and that I am strong.  They tell me I can do this.  They tell me that I can save them.  Colours swirl around me, lifting me up and setting me down.  I can almost feel my soul leave me sometimes.  My soul is clear, and shimmering.  The girl inside is tired, but happy.  The girl inside smells like rainbows.  The colours sing to me, they sing songs of beauty that can only be sung by them.  They are here to comfort me. 

I am so happy they understand me.

I am so happy they are here with me.



I look up and see a tangle of golden brown high in a tree.  My mind races, doing loops on the racetrack.  There are shouting sounds that I assume must come from me, but it is almost as if they are coming from another voice, another person.  My voice is joined by another as my body runs to the trees, staring up at my daughter.

“Baby, g-g-get down from there!” My wife screamed, panic set in her face.  She grabbed my sweater and tossed me forwards, “You have to go up there an save her” she whispered fervently, as her face paled in comparison to the soft white cardigan she wore now.

“I can’t, the branches are too thin, I’ll snap them and not have a way of getting us down” The voice said again, and I am shocked that I can talk at a moment like this. 
            “Baby, please come down!” She yells again, and she yells until her voice wears away and her eyes don’t have anything left in them.

I wait for the jitters in my bones to go away, but I know that as long as my daughter is up in that tree I know they will not depart me.  I can feel my insides melting, knotting together and unraveling itself with every breath.  I can’t stand this.



I see them crying.  I know they are upset, but I cannot understand them.  They are trapped in bubbles, and their voices get caught in them.  I am scared, up here, because I have never had to climb down before.  I am scared of falling.  The colours promise me that they will carry me down.  They blow hot air in my face, and spray me with crashing waves the colour of lilacs.  The water is comforting, and I know that if I let go now it will drop me gently into my parents’ arms.  I trust them.

I let go and there are colours rushing around me, voices singing all too quickly.  I don’t understand what they are saying and as soon as I open my mouth to ask where they have gone, why they are going so quickly through their song, it all stops.

And I am with my mother and father.



There is a certain feeling of numbness that I got.  I don’t know how to understand, or explain this.  It was as if every part of me that mattered fell from a rooftop like a glass bowl.  I was delicate, and fragile, and broken.  I thought I could catch her, but she was too fast.

She is too small. 

Her eyes are too big for her body.

Her smile is slow across her face.

            And then disappears just as quickly.

            There is a frown on her face, a slight pain beneath her eyes.  “Daddy,” she says quietly, and I lean in to hear her.  “Daddy they’re all gone…” Her eyes are mixed with terror and loss, but I don’t understand what she is talking about.



            They have left me.  I trusted them and they have left me.

            I hear voices crying my name, searching for my hands and crying into my clothes.  They are asking me to stay, and I am surprised that the Otherlands hasn’t covered them too. I can hear their voices clearly, and when I open my eyes I see an absence of colour.  Everything is green here, but somehow the colours don’t bother me.  Somehow they are not whining and asking to be first. 

            Everything is quiet in this new pale world. 

            I don’t like this.

            They lied to me.

            “Daddy, please” I whispered, before colour faded away entirely, leaving me alone in the darkness, where there is still no sound.



The days after were like a dream.  A very bad dream.  I remember cleaning her room, and falling asleep in her bed just to smell her one last time.  The neighbourhood was sad, and at her funeral many children cried.  My wife sat motionless on a chair next to the tiny wooden casket, separated from reality.  My mother sat beside her, offering her water and patting her shoulders.  Doc, whose name I have been learning to pronounce ever since that day, stood beside me and gave me a stack of drawings my daughter had made during her hospital visits.  She speaks to me about her death whenever it becomes too much to handle. 

Her room is clean, and there is nothing in it anymore.  It’s almost as if nothing were ever there, as if my daughter had never lived in that room and slept under that ceiling.  It was almost as if she never existed at all.  It’s easier for my wife, to pretend that none of it ever happened.  She doesn’t know how to live without her.  My wife took an axe to the tree after our daughter fell.  She cursed and she cried and she tried to cut the tree down, but I stood in front of it, protecting it.  That tree was her final destination, her last memory.  It reminded me too much of her.

I often find myself alone in the house, sitting alone in the darkness of her old room or searching the house for some final remnant that she was here.  I imagined myself calling out to her, and at night when my body gave out and my emotions ran unabashed, she would come to me in my dreams.  It is there that I stayed when I woke up to a note on the fridge and an empty house.  It is there that I realize that the branch holding us from falling had been torn from us.  I waited at the door for hours, hoping she would come home.  But she never did.  The divorce paper came in the mail, and not long after it was finished.  Everything she needed she had taken with her. 

My wife was never coming home, so I did what any faithful father would do.  I put my daughter’s things back in her room, set it up exactly how she would have liked it.  The halls were covered with pictures, drawings she made for us, and photographs we had taken over time.  It’s easier to remember her like this.  Easier to remember what she loved so much about life. Easier to forget that she’s not here teaching me about smells and colours that sang and danced in the reflections.  Doc warned me that I might get too caught up living in this imaginary  world, but I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.  After all, what could be better than living somewhere where you never have to worry about anything at all?

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