June 12th, 1982
On the morning of the final day, Dana lays out the pieces of newly-bought white fabric, pearl and lace on the quilt. Assembled, they’re disjointed, fragments of a body split and limp. The antithesis of wholeness and practicality, of the moving tendons growing from her wrist to her elbow and her elbow to her back.
It is in silence that she puts them on, one by one. A stocking, rolled up past the knee, ready to tear against her strong thigh. The garters, slid up skin thick with gooseflesh. One elastic band, then another, settled onto the shoulders she keeps slender and pale. Small breasts nestled into rounded cups frayed with lace, eggshell fragments cool and dead against her skin.
She thinks in contrast of the soft, living palms of his hands, presses the heels of her own into her flesh in a weak imitation, and aches. Soon, she won’t have to ache any longer.
The gown she’s meant to wear hangs in the closet, beside the pencilled ladder of marks on the doorframe, one for each year with a matching date in her mother’s handwriting — 2/23/68, 2/23/69, 2/23/70, on and on and on, the extent of her whole life mapped out in five feet and two inches worth of space. The room has been hers since she was a child, and she grew out of it long before she finally turned eighteen, even though nobody but Mulder bothered to notice. The room where her parents would have her go would be smaller still, occupied with two bodies rather than one, and as she stares around at the four walls, she is positive that it would not hold the expanses he’s told her are beneath her skin.
Her figure is elegant in the mirror, but her body looks unfamiliar, too simple and slender to contain the wild thing she’s seen over her shoulder in the reflection on his dashboard, in the glow of his headlight eyes looking up at her when she turns back and cradles his head between her forearms. Blinking, she tries to identify with the girl in the wedding-night-negligee, in the cross and ring and untouched sanctity of skin. All she can see is a poor, pale imitation, a wraith of the real thing which still rides flushed with desire and laughter in his driver’s seat, in his nest of Mexican blankets, in his lap.
When she walks downstairs to feign resignation and virginal nervousness under the dead gazes of her family, her mother will pinch her cheeks in place of rouge, and her father will kiss them. She will not feel warm. She has not felt warm in this numb white house for a very long time.
But the bruise on her hip from last night is hot, flushed blue and red and full of promises from his beautiful mouth. When she covers it with her fingers, it’s a secret, a carefully sheltered candle flame to guide her way, a promise of escape into a world of animated color and endless sky, breaths gasped and released instead of held still and shameful.
The cross around her neck is a chill, gravestone weight, and she steps closer to the mirror as always to reassure herself that it is still gold, deceptively delicate as ever. She will leave it on her quilt, in lieu of a note. Her mother won’t understand, but by the time she finds it, Dana will be crossing the state line with the thrice-memorized map of Mulder’s hand under hers, the weight of her sins left behind to bleed out like roadkill over miles of Kansas highway.
She’ll leave the ring in the heaps of golden chain. Her not-future-husband can keep it as he’d wanted to keep her, in a pretty box next to the bible in his bedside table.
Slipping into her robe, she takes three deep breaths of stale air to prepare herself, counts them among the last that will not taste like freedom. Behind her, the wedding dress is white as a ghost. She will not wear it. She isn’t ready to die, and cannot imagine that she ever will be.