A few precious moments during late afternoons, as Gloria learned, were the only time some warming rays actually found their way into the Sun Room.
Incidentally, this was also the best time to paint and write, as most other patients were busy preparing dinner or seeking their beds early.
However, today there was another person in the room.
Gloria stood and watched the woman for a while, unnoticed. It wasn't difficult to understand the situation. The ancient gramophone, which usually produced noise incessantly, was silent. It had to be broken, which deeply distressed the woman.
Something about the woman's pitiful demeanor made Gloria feel compelled to help, but she had no idea how to approach her. She didn't even know what to call her, and though all the other patients seemed to have settled for Cathy, that name obviously only served to annoy her.
As Gloria was pondering this, the woman turned to face her. She was silent, as usual, but her face spoke volumes. A general wariness fought with a desperate plea for help.
Gloria, still not sure what to say, made a decision. She simply walked past the woman and up to the gramophone to inspect it. She didn't have any experience with these things, but the mechanism didn't look too complicated.
Rubbing her chin thoughtfully, she said, "I guess I could fix it. I was in shop club in high school... but I'd need some tools..."
At this, Cathy's face lit up. She grabbed Gloria's arm, pulling and tugging at her in silent excitement.
At first, Gloria tensed. But when she saw Cathy's beaming smile, she asked, "Hm? What...? Oh, you know where I can get tools?" The woman nodded vigorously and continued to pull on Gloria's arm, urging her to follow.
As soon as Cathy was confident that Gloria was following her, she dashed off with a measure of speed it was hard to imagine she was capable of.
Gloria followed her up the stairs, taking two steps at a time in an attempt to keep pace, but when she reached the hallway on the second floor, she could only catch a glimpse of a figure slipping through a door.
The closed off door to the south wing.
Trying to move as silently as she could, Gloria followed.
"Hey," she whispered. Gloria winced at the muffled clicking noise the closing door made behind her. She found herself in near complete darkness. Only a faint glow of light from the door illuminated her path.
"Hey," she whisper-called again. "We're not supposed to be in here." Slowly, keeping her hand touching the wall, she made her way forward. "Hey, are you in here?" Not knowing the woman's true name made it difficult to call for her, so Gloria had resigned herself to using 'hey'. Just when she was about to try again, she saw.
"There you are," she gasped. "Listen, we're not suppo-- wow."
Bricks, pieces of wood and other debris littered the floor around a gaping hole in the wall. It was a jarring contrast to the rest of the room, which seemed to be much more richly built than the other parts of the asylum. Silken wall covering hang in tatters, exposing dusty brick that had been broken and chipped in a way that could only be described as destructive.
"Wow. Some renovating that is," Gloria mused. "Looks more like someone tried to break through that wall..."
Slowly, to avoid stepping on any possible rusty nails or sharp pieces of debris, she moved closer. The scene before her now very obviously seemed to be a haphazard attempt at tearing down a massive wall.
Gloria chewed on her chapped lower lip thoughtfully. Could this be someone's attempt at an escape? But no, they were on the second floor, and as far as she could tell, this was not an outside wall. No, if Gloria was familiar enough with the building's layout by now, the room behind this wall should be just above the therapy room downstairs.
She furrowed her brows. "Now that I think about it, I've never seen any workers coming or going... I wonder..."
She was torn from her reverie by another tug at her sleeve. Cathy was looking up at her, excitedly pulling with one hand and pointing with the other. "Oh yes, tools!" Gloria bent to take a closer look at the toolbox Cathy had indicated. It was one of many different ones that were strewn all over the floor. It didn't take Gloria long to select a few tools she'd need to repair the gramophone. Well, at least shop club had been good for something.
"Okay, better get going now," she said, smiling at Cathy, who nodded happily.
As they moved toward the door, a familiar figure blocked their path.
"The south wing is closed off for renovations," the nurse said shrilly. "Off limits for patients!"
Gloria froze. "S-sorry," she stammered. "But the gramophone broke and we needed--" she glanced over to Cathy in a useless plea for help, but was shocked to see her gone. She really was quick, that one! Straightening up and willing herself to meet the nurse's glare, Gloria began again, "I needed tools to fix it so I came--"
"Off limits!" the nurse's shriek interrupted. "Off limits for patients! I believe you were told on your first day here."
"Only here for a few days and already causing trouble! You're supposed to be working in your therapy goals, not sneaking around, stealing--"
"I wasn't! I just--"
"The doctor is going to be very disappointed to hear this. Very disappointed indeed! Solitary confinement, yes. This is protocol for this kind of behavior..."
"No buts!" The tools clattered to the floor when the nurse seized Gloria's arm roughly and began to drag her towards the door, scolding her all the way.
Her wiry muscles held an unyielding strength, making all of Gloria's attempts at escaping futile.
"You're hurting me," she whined, but the nurse's iron grip only tightened.
As the nurse had shoved her roughly into the padded cell and slammed the door shut behind her, Gloria had called, "Can I at least take a shower?"
The nurse, who had already begun to walk away, had stopped. Gazing through the small window in the metal door she had said in her usual chipper voice, "Do you see one in there?"
"A shower? ... No?"
"Well then," the nurse had replied, "I guess you can't take a shower." And she'd walked away.
After banging on the door and calling for the nurse to no avail, Gloria had resigned herself to sitting on the floor and waiting. She had no idea how much time had passed already.
She avoided looking at the writing on the wall. 5 Days it read, in a deep scarlet.
"Blood", had been Gloria's first thought and then, "five days in here?!" her second. Thinking about either one of these did her no good at all, so she kept her eyes down, deliberately studying the knitted fabric of her sweater.
But as the white room was completely bare otherwise, it was impossible to keep her eyes - and her thoughts - from straying back to the writing on the wall.