Tired eyes peered up at me from beneath dark lashes. I regarded her in surprise, tilting my head slightly.
“I don't understand,” I repeated. “You're back again?” She shook her head, shadows falling across the sharp planes of her face.
“You don't understand. It's a cycle.” Her jaw clenched as I blinked in confusion. “It's… too hard. To get out.”
But I didn't understand. I squinted slightly, the yellow light from the window next to me glimmering off my skin.
“No, no… you did it, just now!”
She gritted her teeth, throwing her gaze to the stony floor.
“I know,” she breathed. “And now I'm here again.”
I leaned back, casting my gaze to the ceiling. My fingers clasped together in my lap, eyes soft. “Okay. Well, you can start over.”
She laughed, the vibrations strained and strangled, as though she had long ago forgotten the sound.
“No…” it was almost a plea. “I'm so tired…”
I leaned forward again and took her hand, and she jerked back as if trying to escape. My firm grip reminded her that I was always there, even if it had been a while since she'd seen me.
“That's okay, it takes time.” “How much time?” I was silent.
She pulled away again, but my fingers tightened once more.
“Once you do it, once you've done it, it'll seem like it took no time at all! I know it's like walking through a murky river, but… you do know how to swim!”
“The doggy paddle.”
I blinked in surprise, drawing back slightly. She smiled, a tiny shard of light, and I sighed in relief. Tired eyes peered up at me once more through dark lashes.
A smile illuminated those eyes.