I am very cold, sitting in a vast hall, some sort of chamber with high ceilings, drafts, and parquet floors. And I am clutching a toddler in my arms.

I can't say whether this is my son, or a child I raised, not of my own flesh. But I love him and they are making me give him up.

A man approaches, David. (Husband? Friend? Brother? Who knows.) He tells me it's time, I must go with him. I follow him across the echoing vault of a room into the ballroom adjacent. (What is that music? Why are they waltzing?)

The lights are bright, yellow, painful. And everyone is dressed in bright swishing ballgowns. Stout women have their hair piled in stiff, coiffed curls on top of pasty faces, heavy with makeup. I shiver, squeeze the child who squirms. I can't swallow. The lady in the hideous purple dress looks at me, smiles with something my feverish mind calls pure evil. I place the boy on the floor and tell him:
Go on, kiss the pretty lady. Kiss the lady in the purple dress.
He toddles over on his tree stump legs and attempts to reach her cheek, which she has turned in aversion.
Kiss the pretty lady, I urge. He fingers her gown with chubby fingers and runs back to me.

I don't know what kind of circumstances these are, not sure why this scary woman is going to be taking my baby away. (Is he my baby? I don't know.) It hurts to breathe and David has to pry the child out of my arms.
Kiss the pretty lady, honey.
I collapse on the floor and the band keeps playing the damn waltz, I'm cold, cold, cold.

And then I wake up and it still hurts to breathe and I wonder about this child, and I have the chills. All day; through chemistry, trig, Lit, computer science; I have these words running through my head, my notes are full of them:
Kiss the pretty lady.

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