The delicate shafts of moonlight flowed through the gaps on the blinds, illuminating the cold linoleum floor in an unearthly pattern. She sighed and eased herself off the coarse mattress, wincing at the slight creak the bedsprings gave. The other girls did not hear her. Their barely audible breaths remained steady.

She rummaged through the drawers of long woolen underwear and bodices until she found what she was looking for. The blood red nail polish bottle caught shafts of moonlight, glittering like an exotic jewel. It beckoned her, taunting and alluring simultaneously.

She heaved a quiet sigh and was about to plunge it back into it's abyss of heavy undergarments when she hesitated. She was about to be married in a week to Horace, a pasty old accountant. His 4th wife. She hated every aspect of him, from his yellowed teeth, to the strong smell of cheap cologne reeking off his person. She had no say in the matter, of course. The elders had wanted it so.

Then she would bear one child after another, each of them doomed to lead the life she was leading. Did she really want to become his wife? Another silent victim? Was this what she wanted to do with her life?

She brought the bottle closer, and gently twisted the lid. It opened with a delicate pop. Ignoring the chemical smell of the polish. She poised the brush over her her delicate thumb, tentative at first. Gradually, her strokes got faster and thicker. Once she was done, she grabbed her coat, hands shaking as she did the small buttons, not caring that they were now covered with smears of red.

She gave a bittersweet smile. How fitting that it should be red. The color of Passion. The Devil. Evil. All the things she had been brought up to fear. The elders would have a field day with this.

And then she walked out Her footsteps deliberate and tinted with guilt at first, and lighter as she neared the wrought iron gate. It was open, as it always was. She swung it open and ran, not out of fear, but out of emancipation.