It was dark, the halls smelling of pine polish and disinfectant along the windows where the glass formed diamonds against metal shutters. It was her favourite place, and she'd stand there for hours until her feet ached or someone found her there, listening to the rain drum like fingernails against the glass as it did then. The rooms along the hall were silent, and she swayed on her toes, her nightdress twirling around her like a summer dress in the breeze.
Her hair was unclean.
She didn't mind that so much, but her feet were dirty too, because they'd taken her shoes away. They'd been a soft brown felt, and she'd thrown them at the man who spent his days staring blankly out the window. She'd wanted to see if she could make him move, and to her joy, he did. He'd folded his arms defensively across his head as he started screaming, long and loud. It had echoed around the recreation room, and she'd liked the sounds it made. She'd joined in, and the others had too, until the room filled with noise and chaos and panic from the wardens.
She'd loved to shout as a girl- running and screaming with laughter until her throat felt raw, but then something inside her had changed, and she broke inside.
Her cries had eased into laughter as fat nurses in blue suits came in and quietened them all, soothing the man by the window with a needle and settling the others back in their seats. Puzzle pieces had been scattered and cups of water tipped onto the carpet, and two nurses tidied the mess. And then they'd noticed her shoes beside the man, and her feet, bare and by the door where she stood giggling. A short, hard faced nurse with a mottled complexion had warned her against making such a nuisance of herself, and ordered her to her room.
She looked down at her filthy toes against the stone floor and wriggled them, listening to the rain die against the windows. They'd promised she would get the shoes back so long as she was quiet for the rest of the night.
The rain eased, and the radiators woke to heat the hall, their pipes chugging violently and rattling like metal snakes against the walls. She spun on her heels, a giggle bubbling up in her chest as the sounds grew louder, the ancient heating struggling against itself and shaking to fits that echoed along the hall. A whistle of wind seeped through a crack in the glass, and the clamour filled the space around her as she lifted her arms high, spinning euphorically. She inhaled until her lungs ached, and prepared to add its crescendo.
Her feet were cold against the stone floors, but she didn't mind so much. Looking up to the ceiling where the paint ran thin and the light bulbs flickered, she let out a yell. She'd loved to shout as a girl, and nuisance or not she was used to her dirty hair; she'd get used to dirty feet too.