"Listen, you must remember, in her world, he's still alive. For her, time stands still."
Dianna barely heard Dr. Sedah as she watched her younger sister, Lydie, walking on the garden path, chatting away to someone who wasn't really there. She was still striking in her middle age - long, red hair streaked with white, long, purple dress draping her curvy figure - but a glaze of madness caused by grief clouded her once bright blue eyes so they appeared almost navy, fine lines creasing her brow and the side of her mouth. Dianna choked back a sob when Lydie spotted her and waved, brilliant smile accentuating her crow's feet. Dr. Sedah, Lydie's psychiatrist, put a comforting hand on her shoulder as she skipped up to meet them.
"Dianna!" she squealed, almost childlike, holding out a single rose. It was dark grey in the center, fading to light grey and almost white at the rim of the petals. "Look what Henri brought me!"
"Lydie...." Dianna could barely take seeing her this way, wanted to shake her out of this madness, but Dr. Sedah said it was best to play along for now, lest her psychosis deepened. So she took the grey rose Lydie offered and smiled. She turned it slowly in her hand, careful of the thorns, appreciating its unusual beauty, the perfect symmetry of the petals, before handing it back to Lydie.
"Lydie, there are no roses in the garden." Dr. Sedah frowned. Roses were forbidden in the asylum - thorns could be used to inflict pain on oneself or fellow patients, so even beauty was restricted in this place. "Where did you get -"
"I told you Henri brought it to me," Lydie pouted, then chuckled, sniffing the bloom's heady perfume. "Oh! I keep forgetting you're blind."
"Honey, we see perfectly clear," Dianna said, taking Lydie's shoulders gently. "What's there before you isn't real. He's gone, baby."
Lydie jerked back, eyes flashing angrily as she held out the rose. "Then what's this, huh? A figment of both our imaginations? Just because you can't see doesn't mean it's not real!"
Dianna took a step forward, trying hard not to throttle some sense into her. "Now, Lydie...."
"Don't you now Lydie me!" Angry sobs wracked her body, face flushing to match her hair. "You keep saying nothing's real, that Henri is gone, but I see him, feel him every day!"
"That's because your grief cannot yet comprehend -"
"You want to know what I can't comprehend, Dianna?" Lydie was shaking now, thorns of the rose piercing her palm so blood ran freely. "That my Henri was murdered and nothing is being done! They took him from me and they are walking free to do as they please while I'm behind these gilded bars being treated like I'm the criminal!"
"So, you acknowledge he's gone?" Dianna said carefully.
"His vessel is gone, yes," Lydie rolled her eyes in frustration, "but the essence remains, stronger than before. He knows what happened, but not how. He speaks to me of such sadness, such horror that he tried to come back, but it was as if he was bound in chains."
Lydie's eyes glazed over, lost again in her reverie. "He says he's sorry you can't see him, but trust your sister. Trust her as much as you refused to trust me."
Dianna shook her head, not recognizing the broken spirit in front her, eyes pooling with tears. "He wasn't murdered, Lydie. It was an accident. A horrible, tragic accident."
"Oh, she's not broken." Lydie's voice took on a strange timbre, deeper, richer, almost male. "She's not quite whole, but she's not broken, not by a long shot."
"Henri?" Dianna trembled, the voice of her sister's lover coming out of the mouth of the woman she swaddled and fed too much to bear.
"Dr. Sedah, what's happening?"
"This is what I was talking about," Dr. Sedah replied. "The dissociation giving way to another personality altogether. It's really quite fascinating."
"Quit talking about my sister like she's some sort of lab rat and fix her!" Dianna raged.
"There's no fixing this, I'm afraid," Dr. Sedah mused. "You cannot repair what was already damaged. You cannot fill cracks that run deeper than seas."
"Then what do we do?" Dianna snapped. "I want my sister back!"
"She wants to come with me," Lydie replied, her voice suddenly a lower timbre, half-grin putting a twinkle in her eye. "She'll be happier there and you can visit all you like."
"I don't want to visit, I want her here, Henri!" Dianna's eyes widened, seeing, but not quite believing the all too familiar mannerisms of her sister's intended.
"So, you do believe," Lydie sighed, shaking her head. "All that denial and she sees after all. You know she needs to come home."
"Absolutely not!" Dianna growled. "You let go of her, Henri! Let go of her now!"
Dr. Sedah held Dianna back as she struggled to reach her sister, grasping her waist to keep her from rushing forward.
"Don't blame her, Henri."
Dianna's breath caught in her throat as Lydie's voice was again her own, her clouded eyes fever bright.
"She's been conditioned to the mundane, blinded herself for so long she no longer knows what she sees. Now, take me home, love. If only for a little while."
"No...." Dianna whimpered, breaking away from Dr. Sedah's grasp, catching Lydie's hands in her own.
"Don't worry, Dianna, I'll be back soon enough." Lydie smiled a sad, wistful smile as she put her hand over Dianna's heart. "Until then, I'll be right here."
In a blink of an eye, Lydie was gone, leaving Dianna with great, heaving sobs that brought her to her knees upon the lush green grass.
"No! No! NO!" She screamed. "BRING HER BACK!"
"We can't bring her back, Dianna - she perished with Henri in the fire - we've discussed that before in our sessions." Dr. Sedah crouched down to Dianna, picking up a grey rose laying on the grass beside her.
He turned it slowly in his hand, careful of the thorns, appreciating its unusual beauty, the perfect symmetry of the petals. "Now, tell me Dianna, where did this come from? You know there are no roses in the garden."