I remember when the door opened and the girls walked in, truly and undeniably beautiful at only five years, twin treasures that almost penetrated the bleakness. They shivered unclothed and I held them next to my skin, hopeless and terrified, them and me. I didn’t sleep for the three days I held them, singing to them every moment that they slept until my voice rasped, and when they woke and cried and screamed I told them lies about my father, king of some unknown land who was coming for us, and since they were such good and pretty little girls they could come with me to our castle and be princesses too. When our time was up they didn’t even move them from the cell before they started. Each lay there on opposite sides of the room, staring at me, the tiny lights in their eyes slowly dying and asking me why I had lied to them. In that moment I started to sing because it was all I could do, and as I looked over at them again I saw something even worse than their judgment. Understanding. They knew why I had lied to them and even so young, they understood. They forgave me. In too much pain to speak, they hummed the tune of the song along with me, the resonance still going as their eyes closed and their toes stopped clenching. I refused to stop singing for long after they stopped. It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me in that place.
They Live in Black and White
art by Laura Jackson