Palace of Versailles, 1758
I had been dancing for hours. Although I always got extremely tired, I loved dancing in the Hall of Mirrors, my favourite place inside the magnificently luxurious palace. Afterwards, I went to my room to have a relaxing bubble bath. This time, unlike every Sunday evening, my fiancé wasn’t waiting for me sitting next to the enticing golden bathtub, which he would have filled with petals of roses.
Being part of the French aristocracy was fabulous: it allowed me to have everything I wanted, but why would I want anything if I couldn’t share it with the one I loved? I didn’t need sumptuous gowns anymore, because he covered me with warm dresses made of kisses; I didn’t need the service of any musician, since the combination of his voice, breath and beat was the most charming melody I could ever hear; I didn’t need a home either, as there was plenty of room in his comfortable, protective arms. I knew we were meant to be together from the very first moment: when he said his name, Jacques, it started spinning round my head, and I couldn’t stop staring at his beautiful eyes. The world was frozen and I didn’t want to be far from him anymore.
Wise men say life is like a mountain: you start climbing and it gets harder as you are approaching the top. But once you reach it, you realize the struggle is worth it. So when our romance started, I realized I had been immediately transported to the top, as my life couldn’t get any better. Now he was gone and I missed him to death. “Keep on dancing, my godlike ballerina, keep on dancing. I’ll be waiting for you… forever.” These were the last words I heard from him. I spent the days wondering what he had meant and how long it would take until I saw him again, so I just danced, as he wanted me to.
After the bath, I combed my hair and smartened up, as we had “ladies dinner” on Fridays. I never liked those reunions, but I could stand spending two hours with those boring women. Now, the situation was getting more and more unbearable, especially because Madame Dubois had a very particular personality, always telling everyone how to live their life and that pissed me off. That day I decided to be quiet. I would just nod my head, looking as though I was listening. However, my plan didn’t work as I had imagined. For some reason, I turned into the center of attention. Sentences like “Chloé, my dear, how are you dealing with… well, you know, your… “situation”?” or “Chloé, you are beautiful and young, you do not have to ruin your life like this… don’t you think it is time for you to move on? Word is there’s a handsome gentleman interested in you…” disconcerted me. What did they want to tell me? The way they talked… it sounded like if Jacques was dead! “Well ladies, I feel sorry for this handsome gentleman, but I am afraid he won’t ever meet me. I am going to marry Jacques very soon, so it is definitely not happening. He’d better forget me.” I replied. All of them gave me a sorrowfully gaze. I even heard Liz, a very shy and polite girl, whispering to the one sitting beside her: “poor Chloé, it must be so hard to get over something like this on your own…”
Though I never cared what people said or thought about me, that time their twisting words filled me with doubt. Out of the blue, I found myself having a frenzy. I was about to collapse. Letting my chair fall to the floor, I rushed to the garden. I needed some fresh air or, truth be told, I needed to fade away. I ran as fast as I could, without knowing where I was going. I just needed to find a place to hide from the world, a world that had turned into hell. I stopped to stare at the lovely, starry sky and acting utterly mad, I burst into tears and started speaking aloud: “Where the hell are you, Jacques? Why did you have to leave me? Why did you have to give me everything and then left me yearning for more? Why did you have to speak so cryptically? I am lost. I need some answers and I need them now!” Somehow, I clumsily tripped over a stone, falling to the muddy ground and getting my gown, skin and hair dirty. I felt something running through my veins, something unpleasant but relaxing at the same time.
Sunlight Mental Hospital, 2011.
It was my first day working as a nurse. Of course I knew that job meant dealing with very strange situations, but I would have never foreseen what I was facing: Right in front of a fountain in the middle of the yard, an old woman was lying on the grass, acting like if she was dying. Not to mention how weird her appearance was. I thought patients were supposed to wear white straitjackets and be locked in their rooms.
“Oh, this is your first day here, right? I’m Mandy. Nice to meet you.” Before I could introduce myself, she carried on telling me a very interesting story. “That woman you’re staring at is Kyla, better known as Chloé Rousseau. She’s very entertaining, I’m sure you’ll love her. Everybody here does. Well, except from “Madame Dubois”.” Mandy began to speak so damn fast that I couldn’t follow the whole story. She was that kind of gossip-but-innocent girl, so I assumed we would be great partners. “Who’s Madame Dubois?” “Well, that’s how Chloé calls Mrs. Campbell, our boss. And you’ll see why Chloé doesn’t like her soon, very soon. So, Chloé is the veteran here. She is now 62, but she was confined when she was only 18. Her story is very romantic, but pretty sad at the same time. She lives in her imaginary world. She was so obsessed with the baroque style that she got to the point of believing she was part of it. She thinks she’s an extremely talented and young ballerina living in Versailles. Kyla does the same routine day after day. She daydreams she dances really early in the morning, then she has a bubble bath before having “ladies dinner”. Finally, she runs to the garden to talk to her dead fiancé. In fact, the only thing that coincides with her reality is that part. Her fiancé died before they got married and she never got over it.” I couldn’t say a word, mainly because she wouldn’t stop talking. I didn’t know how she was able to speak so fast without suffocating. “You’re impressed, aren’t you? Anyway, don’t you think her story is amazing? I mean, being driven to insanity just because of love. This must be true love. Sometimes I wish I could get inside of her mind, just to see her fantasies. It’d be so freaking awesome!”
I got terrified. I didn’t know who was crazier, my mate or the patient herself. The only thing I was sure about was that if I kept on working there, I’d end up being even nuttier than them. “We’ll have to take her to her room. They’ve just given her a shot of morphine.”
by Alex Pascual, CAE Student, Winner of Fanzine Competition May 2011