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First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters. Mine broke Bale.
Bale burned down a house when he was six. He was a patient at the Whittaker Psychiatric Institute like me, and he was also my only friend. But there was—he was—something...more. I told him to meet me where we could be alone, at the one place where we couldn't see the iron gates that hemmed us in. Our kissing would have a time limit, though. The time it took for the White Coats to notice that we were gone.
Bale met me in the darkest crook of the hall, just as I knew he would. Bale would meet me anywhere.
We were clumsy at first. My eyes were open. He had not leaned down quite far enough. And then we weren't clumsy at all. His lips were warm, and the heat washed over me. I could hear my own heartbeat in my ears. I leaned into him and felt his body against mine. When we finally broke apart, I rocked back on my heels and looked up at him. I felt myself smiling. And I rarely smiled.
"I'm sorry, Snow," he said, looking down at me.
I blinked up at him, confused. He was kidding.
"It was perfect," I asserted. I was not the type to be mushy. But he was not allowed to joke about this. Not ever this.
I pushed his shoulder lightly.
"I see what you are now," he said, grabbing my hand and holding on a little too tight.
"Bale..." I felt something snap in my palm, and a sharp pain ran up my wrist and arm. I cried out, but Bale just looked at me with steady eyes, his grip and gaze suddenly cold and unyielding.
Not like a prince at all.
It took three orderlies to get him to let go of my wrist, which I later learned was broken in two places.
As they pulled him away, I noticed through the double-paned windows down the hall that it was snowing. It was too late for snow. It was May. But it was upstate New York, and weirder things had happened. The snow stuck to the glass and melted. I touched the cold pane. If things had played out differently, the snow would have been a perfect punctuation to a perfect moment. Instead it made it that much worse.
Bale went on the cocktail after that. I went on it, too, after they refused to let me see him. That was the usual procedure for Whittaker kids who never outgrew their imaginary friends, the dream catchers and time travelers, the cutters and kids who couldn't eat or couldn't sleep. And for me, who tried to walk through a mirror when I was five. I still have the scars on my face, neck, and arms from the shards of glass, though they've faded now to faint white lines. I assume Becky, the girl next door who I had dragged through the mirror with me, still has them, too.
Dr. Harris said they'd found pills under Bale's bed. He hadn't been taking his meds. He couldn't help what he did to me.
I wasn't sure that was the whole truth, and I didn't care. The broken bones were temporary. What stuck with me was that perfect first kiss. And the shock of what he had said.
That was a year ago. Bale hadn't spoken since.