Whew. So here we are. I’ve been avoiding this thus far. This is the last place I want to be, but the exact place I need to. I’ve closed my eyes and again I’m back in the dark. There she is, I see her in the distance on a spotlight of her own. She’s clasped her hands around her legs, clutching them tightly to her chest. Her hair is long, and unkempt. She sits in a flowing white dress, drenched in sweat. Her head is down. She’s blocked herself off from all that lays around her, barricading herself in her own invisible bubble. I slowly take the steps to walk up towards her, careful not to startle and gently place my hand on the back of her left shoulder. She jolts forward with a terrified yelp, twisting her body to face me. She’s trembling all over and her eyes mirror my own, which are filled with fear. It’s just me. She takes a deep breath in and out, before positioning herself back into the block of a ball she was in before my arrival. This time, she faces me. She starts to cry. I notice now the scratches on her arms and legs. The tinge of blood on the tips of her dress. I’m so sorry. I slump down on my knees before her and gently lift her head to face mine. I move her hair out of her eyes and see that they’re welling with tears. No doubt they’re bloodshot from a lack of sleep. My body aches with grief. I pull her close to me and embrace her. We’ll be alright. We’ll get through this. We will. I hold her tightly, trying to convince myself as much as her that I won’t lose her. As we touch, flashes of what happened the night before come to me. Attack after attack came for her. She wailed, she screamed, she struggled against the hidden enemy. Even as I watched it happen just then before me, I could hear her cries for it to PLEASE MAKE IT STOP! at the top of her lungs despite these memories carrying no sound with them, for we are one and the same. And so as this happened, I was experiencing it right then and there again with, and as her. As me. I writhed and wiggled in pain, jolted upright, and then back against the ground again, under the immense pain before I screamed back up to the black sky for relief. I was left panting and breathless from the violent brawl. My entire being cried in agony. It seemed to go on for hours until I crashed forward onto the floor before me, exhausted and drained. I felt the heaviness of the knives that dug into my back and the little bit of strength that had remained wither away as the blood trickled down and emptied my body. I came back to the present and saw her then closed eyes open to fixate on me. She smiled. You’ve got a sick sense of humor. She laughed, almost as if to say – how do you think I get us through this? Let me see. Her smile dropped and she turned her back to me, as she gently lifted her hair up and over the back of her dress before unzipping it to reveal the scars to me. I reached my hand forward to touch the holes in her back. I flinched as I felt the sting of the pain the knives had left in us. I hung my head. I am so sorry. I choked. I could barely manage to get it out of me. She zipped her dress back up and now it was her turn to lift my face up to meet hers, ironically. She didn’t open her mouth, but I already knew what she wanted to say – Stop. Let it be. Your faults are just as much mine. But I should have listened to you. I shouldn’t have neglected you. Maybe then you, we, wouldn’t be in this right now. She smiled again. Let’s just get through this and learn from it. Her words floated through the air. It’s funny. I had always previously believed that I was the stronger one of us. Even now, as I had come to comfort her, she had instead reassured me. I used to judge her harshly for the unfailing love and naivety she offered up to the world, denouncing those qualities as weaknesses and regarding her as a liability. I realize now that she’s far braver than me for to open yourself up again and again for whatever hurt may come your way takes far more courage than to stand back and shut off the rest of the world. I’m nothing without her. She teaches me to love even when I’m in pain. To forgive even when I’ve been forgotten. To believe when all seems hopeless. To be kind when mistreated. To give when all others do is take. Still, we need to strike a balance. There must be some boundaries. She tilted her head and again, smiled. You’re awfully smiley today. She let out a feeble laugh. I’ll leave that up to you, to take of me, of us. You’re the wall that keeps us protected. But you’re the foundation that holds us up. So listen, and listen closely next time. Don’t push me away, ignore, or try to numb me. Don’t be afraid, and follow me. Trust me. That’s a tall order. It’s the only way we’ll survive. We need to strike a balance, no? Now, it’s my turn to smile. You’re right. A light shines down behind her in the vast darkness that surrounds us. She looks over her shoulder towards it and takes a stand before me. She reaches down to help me up. It’s time for you to go. Will you be alright? She nods her head in turn. Come back when you can, and take care of all the affairs of the outside for us diligently. We embrace one another and now under the shine of the new light, I can clearly see through the dress the bruises that mark her battered body. But before I can say another word, she pushes me with such a force that propels me straight into the light. Go. I’ll be fine. She puts on a smile. And then as I begin to fade and come back to the world I inhabit outside of my soul, I sense the upcoming onslaught and watch her smile fade as she does too. Then, as I come to, the last things I hear are a whisper. You do your job, and I’ll do mine. Have faith. I take a deep breath of my own and prepare to face the demons of the day.