Irina

Irina and the room share a private moment, a collective loneliness – she rounds the room, policing it. It is her wedding day, but she hasn’t been able to visualize herself in the dress, last she put it on her mind immediately went dark and her mind failed to shove its way out into the present. She felt the cuff of the dress on her belly, a metal strain that conjured inner waves of impolite red, and the cold whispers on the back of her knees – the caress of a dancing cotton that beckons flight. But it fails to come together, all these separate sensations.

Now an hour ahead of dawn she attempts once more to own the dress, strip it of its hostility – and in it she is pacing barefoot, gliding and hoping and once lying on the floor and rolling sideways. She still felt like a captive in this sun-strong white – so she head for the door to greet the morning air – the smell of grass, the thought of its caterpillers and their prickly arms do a number on her belly, which sings along to this gentle hum of an earth that has never attempted to swallow her little, helpless self.

She steps out and feels her feet settle into the mud, it folds to fit her toes. The circle tip of the dress begins to stain, then scrapes mounds of dirt as she walks. Irina looks back, peering over her shoulder shyly – like a girl who has just seen people kissing for the first time, and sneaks a second look – she takes in the white house and its shut windows, then looks forward where the trees begin with a mild slope. The dress seems to have tightened its clutch, as if warning her to go back.

She starts to run, past trees and stomping on the ground, which sends her down a steep hill – she slips and lands steadily, like a huntress or a queen – now she looks straight into the trail of her pursuit, sprinting again. The place is dense with unkind flora, oak and thorns and she is climbing over giant roots, at times considerate enough to hold up the dress, though it has disintegrated into frills and strands which wrap themselves around the twigs and branches.

There is a long tear at the back of the dress that reveals her spine, which rises and falls like a restless sea, as she moves faster – negotiating a path for herself, once screaming “Please! Please, let me pass!”. Rocks press into her sole like claws, threatening to pierce the grapeskin crust of her feet. The dress is surrendering itself to damage, like a flower shedding petals.

Irina reaches the end of the forest, where a lake of baby-blue vastness stands. She looks around, nearly naked save for bits of the dress that survived. It covered her breasts, and parts of her thigh – though even these had collected dirt and foliage, the forest had left its mark.

Irina searched the water and the sky, breathless and struck by a blunt, severe panic. “Daniel,” she whispered, to the sand and its connecting earth, looking up she says again “Daniel, where are you?”. And she suddenly felt him call back, something in the ground rose and surged into her – a reply, an answer, a reassurance – her bones strengthened and her feet took in the weight of her body, which now lengthened towards the sun.

It was now aware of the bruises and scratches,a sting that resonated in her outer flesh, she felt the dust pooled in the corner of her eyes and the taste of the wild in her mouth. She turned around and began to walk into the forest, back towards her Daniel.

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