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Dark places

The house on the top of the hill awakens. The large central window (its mouth) opens and its tongue unfurls (it's actually the old lady who lives there putting her bedding out to air).

As she makes her way through the house the two upper windows are flung open ( the eyes of the house) to meet the brand new day.

And what a glorious morning it is!

Bathed as it is in shimmery morning light and surrounded by birdsong one cannot help but stop to take it in. Idyllic, one might think.

The house sits high atop the ridge, proudly, even if a little worse for wear: adorned with florals on its sills and with fragrant climbers hugging the old stone walls. It has seen a lot and been through a lot from its privileged position. Five generations of the Tommassi family have lived there.

Deep inside the house on the third floor, there is a room that is always in shadow. It is damp and chilly even in summer. The silence within this space is thick and dense, the air having absorbed the tremendous amounts of sadness, anger, humiliation and fear therein.

Within this deplorable penumbra there is a young girl who will not speak or go outside.

Her only companion is inside her head. Although terrible and horrible, he was the last person she had communicated with, the last person that had touched her and the violent toxic connection was there. Everything else before that, no longer existed.

This new reality with its shifting borders and fluctuating images had become her daily companion. At times the thoughts and images were turbulent and at times they were so still that she felt numbness setting in. She could jump from devastation to apathy many times in a day and the days had no set time. She noticed light and she noticed darkness. That was all. Then it all repeated and replayed in her mind once more.

She had been like this for almost 1 month now. Her grandmother didn't know what to do anymore. She had taken Clara in when she was eleven, after the death of her parents, but now at fourteen the girl had become an enigma. Nonna was sure that it had to do with hormones and changes but one month of staying locked in her room and only coming out to go to the bathroom and hardly even speaking to her; staring blankly into space and only picking or disinterestedly playing with her food had started to scare the old lady.

She called Doctor Presti and explained the situation to him as best she could; the long silences and the pallor, the loss of appetite and the desire to remain locked in the darkened room.

Clara's grandmother trusted Doctor Presti to make things right. He had taken over the original Doctor Presti's practice (his dad) when the elder retired. That had been almost a decade ago and the transition had gone smoothly. The young doctor was as respected as his father had been and had added a modern touch whilst still maintaining traditional values that the older generation appreciated and admired.

The doctor asked Clara's grandmother many questions and in his usual soothing professional manner promised to drop by that evening for a house call, surmising it would be best to not agitate Clara further by forcing her outdoors.

Nonna felt much better after having hung up the phone and started to fuss with with the coffee tray and some cookies.

Shortly after, the familiar sound of tires on gravel announced the doctor's arrival and the old lady went out to greet him.

She is upstairs in mamma's' old room said the old lady.

Don't worry, he reassured her. Let me talk to her first and then if she agrees I will examine her. I will call you if she asks for you, but it would be better if I meet with her alone at first.

He climbed the stairs and quietly turned the doorknob to Clara's door. Once his eyes had adjusted to the dark interior, he spotted her lying on the bed. He thought she was asleep. which would actually make things much easier, but at the snap of his satchel, Clara stirred and turned towards the sound.

Her grey eyes locked onto his brown ones.

Recognition.

Then...all hell broke loose!.

Photo by Engin Akyurt

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