Security: the feeling of being safe, and free of anxiety. It was a simple definition, but it was also one that held a lot of meaning. Many may not have given it a second glance, but for Ann it was something that forever remains special in her heart.
She stopped what she was doing, fingers resting just above the keys as she was left frozen in her seat. She had almost forgotten where she was, becoming absorbed into the work that was now happily displayed in front of her. Time must have flown by too, as she noticed the sun slowly set just behind her, shining through the large glass windows in order to wrap her up into its warm embrace. Of course she could do without the glare it caused on her computer screen, but other than silently complaining there wasn't much she could do about it.
Ann let out a low sigh, feeling as the tenseness in her muscles slowly melted away. It seemed as though life had refused to give her a break. Piling on task after task, and watching as she slowly crumbled from the sheer weight of it all. She was being crushed like a can at her own leisure, and there was nothing more she could do other than to keep working.
There was at least one thing that gave her clarity through the fog though.
She slowly fumbled with the phone that sat idly next to her, turning it on to reveal her own face smiling back at her. It was rare to see herself so happy, and even now Ann couldn't help but wonder if the girl staring back at her was just some clone taunting her with what she could be. But once she caught a glimpse of the other soul in the picture she had allowed all her woes to just wash away.
Security; the man who saved her from an almost inescapable nightmare, and showed her a kindness that she had never experienced before. Just taking in his expression, and familiar semblance brought back a wave of emotions she never knew she held deep within her.
She could feel his arms around her, the way his voice tickled her ear, and the butterflies that fluttered within her the moment he sent that gentle smile her way. The man pulled her out of a dark hole that she spent her entire life living within, and showed her a life that was worth living. Except now she couldn't thank him, she could never thank him, and that one realization alone left a dark seed of regret within her heart.
If she could turn back time then she would have grabbed his hand, and thanked him for all he had done for her in the short time they had spent together. He had deserved that at the least, but she had deprived him of it in favor of saving herself. She didn't deserve it; his kindness, her life, and she especially did not deserve to be saved from the terrible fate she was doomed towards. She should have died that day, become a permanent resident like Charles and Myra had, but Security had rescued her. He looked past all the flaws that others saw within her and decided she was worth it. Never had anyone done that before, and all she gave him in return was a lopsided smile.
Ann allowed her hands to fall back to her side, and slowly her expression grew lax as brown eyes glared into the screen in front of her. She decided then she wouldn't be getting any more work done today.
With all hope of finishing her assignment gone she abruptly stood from her seat, and quickly packed up the few things she had brought with her to the classroom. Thankfully, it wasn't much (if one saw a mountain of soda cans as “not much”).
Not a single soul in the digital arts department paid her any mind as she briskly shuffled out of the room. Most are too busy with their own respected projects to care, and with the 9 PM rule being thrown out the window it gave people incentive to crunch to their heart's content. Ann knew she shouldn't be disappointed, she spent her entire life being pushed to the side after all, but she had at least hoped for a simple “see you later” to quell the loneliness that stewed inside her.
There was one tiny piece of Ann that wished to go to the fashion or piano department in order to see Charles and Myra, but she resisted. They were probably busy playing catch up after all, and graduating was much more important than dealing with her. Yeah, she didn't want to be a nuisance. The last thing she wanted to do was annoy her new friends, especially when such an important time was vastly approaching.
That made her wonder though, were they really friends?
Such a thought made Ann pause, blank expression remaining on her face as she allowed her mind to trail off once more. She knew they never called each other friends, but they did all the things friends normally did. They sometimes got lunch together, or would say hi if they saw each other in the halls. Was that not how friends interacted? It was hard for her to say, but whatever it was she refused to screw it up by being needy.
Ann shook away the intrusive thoughts, doing whatever she could to rid herself of the darkness that clung to her like ticks; sucking her dry with each day that went by. None of it mattered though, and her body remained heavy as she continued down the stairs to where the exhibition hall sat. The ugly toucan statue was the first thing that greeted her, staring at her with its cold eyes as though it was picking apart her every move. She wondered if it also saw her as a failure?
What she was looking for didn't rest here though, and Ann couldn't help but let a swell of disappointment sour her mood further. It was silly, she knew that, but being so far away from her one source of hope just ate away at her.
She shuffled to the second campus building, rushing past all the other exhibits so she could make her way to a familiar face. The chattering voices around her melted together until they were nothing but white noise, a conglomerate of sounds that's only purpose was to fill the empty space around it. She just tuned it all out, letting it drone on as she slowly approached her bubble of safety. It was the one place where she felt she wasn't lost, or judged; her place of security.
Glee flowed through her veins and organs when she spotted the familiar gentle smile, and kind eyes of her favorite painting on display. Security; the traditional painting that lit up the entire room with the gentleness it oozed. Though it also remained the only physical form of her saviour.
Yes, she knew how that sounded. A painting could never come to life, nonetheless save someone. Though she also didn't think a school could become cursed with ghosts, but here she was with a slew of memories to say otherwise. Some days she wondered if her memories were even real, but she threw those thoughts out of the window the moment her mind wandered to the picture that now remained as her lock screen. That photo was her little fragment of proof; her treasure.
“Hey Security, it's been awhile.” Ann whispered to herself, allowing her tiny voice to get lost within the sea of commotion as she just stood motionless in place. Here they were, face to face, yet so far away. Separated by a thin rope that kept them from one another; the space past it became forever untrodden for the young student. She was calm on the outside, but inside she was boiling with emotions that were fighting for a way out of her tiny heart.
Without warning her hand shot forward, pulling itself towards the small framed painting with a vigor before it was forcibly stopped within its tracks. Ann wanted to scream! To push past the wall that dared to keep her from her one source of light! All she wanted was to feel his skin on hers, take in his musty scent of old books, and allow his voice to ring within her brain like chiming bells. She just wanted him, her security. Yet he was there, and she was left all alone in the world.
Once more in Ann’s life she was left behind by the ones she trusted.
“You really like this painting, don't you?” Everything flipped back into place then. Her emotions dragged back within the crevices of her mind, and locked tightly with a key. It didn't matter that tears were stinging behind her eyes, or that her jaw was locked tightly in place - she remained calm.
Deep brown eyes became set into a steel cold gaze, staring blankly at the intruder that had moved within her space. It was just a man, one that she had seen many times throughout the exhibition hall during her times visiting. A janitor? Or maybe he was one of the many gallery attendants that buzzed around keeping things in order? Either way, she relaxed just a smidge at his presence.
“Not much of a talker?” The attendant just shrugged, and continued with his one man conversation as though Ann was some willing participant. “You are here almost every single day, everyones noticed at this point. Can't say I blame you though, it's a very nice painting.” A blush coated her cheeks at that, and a part of her mind nipped at her with unkind thoughts at the mere idea that people had been watching her visits.
“He's more than a painting.” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop herself, shocking Ann herself as was left stunned. Of course she was thinking it, but she didn't intend to say it aloud.
Security just wasn't a painting, he was a person. He had morals, and feelings like any other person she had meant. Even looking at him now all she could see was the loving man who comforted her after nightmares, and pulled her to her feet during her time of plight. It was almost as if she could reach out and touch him, feel his warmth just like before.
“I suppose paintings can have that effect on people, we can all find something to relate to in a piece after all. Makes it seem more alive than it really is.” She despised how the man seemed to just blow her off, but she said nothing in retaliation. It wasn't like anyone would believe her story after all.
“Anyway, enjoy it while you can. Because the painting is going to be coming down tonight to make way for the next traditional art piece.” The moment she heard those words it felt as though her entire world came crashing down onto her. Limbs feeling heavier by the second as she was beat over and over again by the sentence that played on repeat within her mind. Security would be gone? Tossed away for something new as though he meant absolutely nothing?
“Y-You can't, I-” Ann paused, voice getting lost within her throat as she tried to find the words she wished to say. What was she supposed to say after all? That he was a hero that saved the school, and should be respected that way? God, everyone would think she was insane. Instead, she sighed, tucking away all the complicated emotions that threatened to spill out.
“What's going to happen to him?” She resigned to a more simple question, finding it easier than everything else she wished to scream out. Deep inside though she was praying for something - anything - that would allow her to see him again. Maybe he could be moved to another exhibit, or be hung up within DAA?
“Hmm? Oh, either the piece is given back to the alumni or it gets tossed out. We can't just keep every piece that gets abandoned here after the artist has moved on after all. Waste of space.” Ann wanted to scream, throttle the man for saying such a thing about the person who sacrificed everything to save someone like her! To save everyone! Yet, she stayed quiet. Standing there with wide eyes as she processed through the words. Security would be tossed out? Gone?
“And Security? Will he be taken or?” She allowed her mousy voice to trail off, fluttering away like petals lost in the wind. She was frightened of the answer she may receive after all, and her fears were proven correct when the attendant opened his mouth once more.
“The original painter hasn't responded to us so the painting will probably get tossed tonight. Nothing we can really do.” He shrugged to himself, seeming to not pick up on the panic and dread that clouded the area around them.
In that moment Ann’s heart had shattered, exploding loudly within her chest as the noise reverberated within her mind. She felt numb. Killed right where she stood as time seemingly stopped all around her. She wanted to cry, scream, and pound her fists on the ground like a toddler throwing a tantrum! She wanted the entire world to feel her pain! Unleash as much fury that she had built up within her! Why did the world hate her so much!? First her own parents abandon her, and now the one person that actually cared would be snatched away from her grasp.
She needed to compose herself.
She needed to breathe.
No one even turned a concerned eye her way as she silently imploded, and even the attendant seemed to forget her existence as he slowly turned away from her. It was like he was walking in slow motion right in front of her, spinning in a nauseating manner as she dangerously teetered on her feet. Ann felt sick, lightheaded even, and with her brain filled with fog she was left lost.
“Well, I gott-” The man was interrupted when all of a sudden Ann’s hand shot out, gripping the attendant’s wrist as though it was her last line to salvation. She barely even realized what she was doing, running on pure instinct as she struggled to even speak.
“W-Wait! Could I?” Everything after that was like a blur. Before she could even process through the feelings coursing through her body she was brought into the curator's office, handed a painting wrapped up in dull brown paper, and then sent on her way without even a cursory goodbye. The young woman was just left stunned outside the university building with a far off gaze, and an iron grip on the package held tightly against her chest. Fireflies, and street lights illuminating her vision as she slowly returned to reality.
“Wait, I…” She stumbled over her words, finding it difficult to find her footing as her panic slowly toned down out of existence. Her fingers still felt numb, but as she moved them she was able to pick up on the rough paper beneath them. It was as though her senses had been turned up to eleven.
Slowly, she breathed in; allowing cold air to fill her lungs as the world slowly rebuilt itself around her. She no longer felt as though she was floating, or that there was a fog all around her. She wasn't fully better per say, but she was grounded enough to at least be able to rush herself back home.
Feet hit the pavement with a sickening thud, carrying her away as though they had a mind of their own. All she knew was that she needed to be home, in her bed, and just forcing herself to forget this day ever happened. Ann wondered why it consistently ended up this way? Always starting her days off great only for it to fizzle out into a chaotic whirlwind inside her brain.
Ann just wished she wasn't such a mess.
In the past she would have taken her time getting home; enjoying the scenery for once without the rush of college students polluting the area. Except now she was flying past it all, rushing through like a blur as she made it to the safety of her rickety apartment.
The building was far from the best home in the city, but as a cheap place that provided a roof over her head it worked. Some days she dreamed of owning her own house, living happily with a family that loved her, and waking up each day to chirping birds basking in the sunlight. That dream was always crushed though when a loud horn broke through her sleep, and the familiar smell of smoke graced her nostrils.
With a screeching creek the door was flung open, slamming right behind her the moment she tossed herself inside. The door was a death trap, and Ann couldn't help the way she flinched as the snapping bang rang out throughout her little home. Home sweet home she supposed.
After unceremoniously dropping her bag by the door she rushed into her tiny bedroom. Ann knew she was fortunate to get a one bedroom with a kitchen area, and bathroom, but on many days it felt as though the walls would close in on her. Slowly crumbling around her as her body gave into exhaustion.
Once Ann was on her bed she slowly peeled away the wrapped package that had been pressed against her chest, taking in its simple exterior as she felt it between her fingers. Rough, but thin, and as she examined it the paper would tear with small little cuts. It was so fragile, just like her.
Gently she peeled back the paper, allowing the painting to bloom once more like a flower in spring. Though once the familiar smile was revealed once more she was left speechless, a gasp escaping Ann’s lips as she became paralyzed from the sheer beauty that was Security. Smooth pale skin, kind blue eyes, wispy dark hair; it was all as she remembered him.
Ann slowly raised her hand, and rested it on top of the canvas. All she felt though was brush strokes, and dried cold paint. He felt so static, lifeless even, and she could feel her heart drop the moment the realization hit her. He had no soul, and that hurt her to no end.
A single tear fell down like a droplet of rain, gracing Security’s painted cheek before Ann could quickly wipe it away. Crap! She didn't want to ruin him! What if she destroyed him, or if he was now in pain because of her actions!?
He had no soul. It was a thought that went against her very soul, and forced the world to stop around her.
The floodgates could no longer be held back, and Ann allowed herself to openly cry in the presence of her most trusted friend. Security was a painting, and he would forever be a painting! His existence was only possible because of the curse, and without that he was practically dead right before her very eyes. She allowed herself to mourn, burying her cheek into the painting's soft canvas; craving Security’s touch now more than ever.
She wanted to smell him, feel him, but instead all she got was a motionless smile in return. That smile that saved her from the darkest hour now did nothing but cause her pain. That scorching, stabbing agony burned through her soul until there was nothing left.
Tears continued to fall as she held the painting close, letting it soak up her heartbeat as she weeped. Ann cried herself to sleep that night, drifting away from sheer exhaustion alone. It was almost as if the world was forcing her to sleep away the torment afflicting her. Sucked into a black hole that consumed her very being.
Even her dreams were plagued with a torrential whirlwind that refused to cease. She was back in the school, running for her life from monsters that refused to let up. Ann could practically feel their limbs brushing against her ankles, and their voices tickling her ears as they cackled each time she struggled. She needed help, she needed someone by her side!
“Security!” Remembering the notes scattered across the school she yelled as loud as she could, begging for those comforting arms to pull her close once more. What she didn't expect was for her wish to be granted, and she was slowly overwhelmed by a feeling of solace. Warmth enveloping her as she allowed herself to fall into the safety net presented. She took in the smell of old books, and the sound of a soft heartbeat as she relaxed into its grasp.
“It's ok, Ann. You're safe.” She wanted to cry tears of joy the moment she heard that voice. Fears of forgetting what his voice sounds like was something that ate at her everyday, and she did whatever she could to keep his voice repeating in her mind. Now that she heard Security she couldn't help but weep in joy; she just couldn't believe it was him!
With soft whispers, and touches guiding her she snuggled closer to the warmth. Ann just felt so at home, safe even. Sweet dreams began to consume her; the image of the school slowly disappearing as it became replaced with soft sunlight. It almost was like the hand on her head was real, running its fingers through her hair as they soothed her to sleep. Was this lucid dreaming?
Except it felt as though it was more than lucid dreaming. She could feel the nails against her scalp, and how her long brown hair would part to make way for the inviting fingers. Could you feel such things in a dream? Did she just want to see Security again so badly that she was dreaming of him? Was this some strange way for her to comfort herself? She would have believed this, if not for the fact that the comforting hand remained even as she pulled herself out of sleep.
Deep brown eyes fluttered open, instantly becoming blinded by sunlight as day had graced her little apartment. She was awake, but the hand continued to gently stroke her head. What? Slowly she lifted her head, ignoring a wall of blue that her face had been buried within so she could stare up at the stranger that now occupied her bed. Ann’s mouth fell agape, fear coursing through her as she became face to face with an intruder. She was about to scream, but was cut off when she heard the voice from her dreams.
“Oh, good! You're awake!” She gasped, arms unfurling from where they were wrapped, and head snapping upward so she could face her suspicions head on. What she saw could only be described as a miracle, something that knocked her off her feet for the better as she was left in absolute awe.
“Security?” Her voice left her lips before she could stop it, and in response she got the kind smile she had been yearning to see for months. Security; he was here in front of her. No longer was he just a painting, but an actual physical person like he was on that day they met.
“Oh? You do remember me then. I was worried for a second.” His tone was soft, and filled with a warmth that only grew as Ann slowly pulled herself upright. A part of her felt numb, but for a reason she never would have expected. She was overwhelmed with joy! A feeling she never thought would ever cross her, and as seconds passed her heart began to ache from the sheer ferocity of the sensation that was taking her over.
Slowly, she raised her hand. Resting it upon the man’s cheek so she could feel his skin as though it was the first time; an electric shock running through her fingertips the moment she felt how smooth it was. No longer was he just a pile of paint on top of a canvas, he waa human. Security had returned for her.
“Of course I remembered. I couldn't just forget you.” Ann choked out the last words, tears streaming down her cheeks like tiny rivers as she began to cry. She just couldn't believe it, and despite her tears she continued to stare into those deep blue pools. They were still beautiful, and filled with a gentle love as they did before. Though in a moment they shifted to an expression of confusion.
“H-Hey, what's wrong? Did I do some-!?” She didn't give him a chance to finish, as all of the sudden her body left forward. Everything just felt so right as she wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled him close into a hug. Tears wet the same blue uniform that he wore when they met, and his familiar scent burned her nostrils in a pleasing way.
They were together once more, and Ann refused to let go. Not now, not ever. The floodgates deep within her had burst, and never again did she want them to close. Security had returned, and with that came the light in her life.