Femina must accept that she still cannot leave this house. Not giving up hope, she decides, she is better off, not to spend time in frustration but rather fill it with things she is interested in. Being always thirsty for knowledge she enrolls into one of the highest educational centers of its kind that emphasizes on science and critical thought, in fact, encouraging it. The lecturers don’t care what private life their students have, as long as they take their subjects seriously and pass the rigorous exams. She can live with that as it allows her to let her mind fly, instead of being forced to press it into a certain mold.
She has not much money to live on. Pia supports her as well as she can. Dimitri stays true to his word, he does not want to have anything to do with her. She keeps it that way, even after she has been given the certificate of her independence. The time of brainwashing is thus confirmed, and its end officially approved. Now she has the permission to live openly independent from her friends.
Femina moves into a small unit close to the teaching center and picks up some occasional jobs to improve her finances. Due to her studies she is also allowed to travel abroad. They even give her an identification card and a log book for that matter. Soon it is filled with many foreign stamps for she travels a lot. It raises her spirit, and helps her to bear the fact so much better that she still has to live in the ‘cage’. But at present she cannot complain; despite little money, her life is interesting and good indeed.
There is also a reconciliation with Dimitri, thanks to Pia’s mediating activities. Pia is such a loving soul, she cannot tolerate their grievances. The reestablished connection does not make for a close relationship but, it is good enough. They avoid quarrels respecting the other’s opinion without attempting to change it. That she does not receive any help from him is of course advantageous as it gives him no control over her, of any kind. She is however grateful to him for letting her go when he did, without informing the officials as he could have, in fact, was even expected to do. It was quite a feat, because he was and still is a man of control. She knows now, that it is not easy for Pia to be with him, but regardless, Pia would never listen to her, nor be willing to change anything really. It is best left to them as a couple and Femina avoids to come between them. Of course, Pia has a special place in her heart, and their bonds are very strong, but Dimitri has one too, just not as close. However, it is best not to create problems for them, she has sure given them enough.
Femina has met many new people, but she remains distanced. There is nobody whom she really trusts. Besides, she loves to live on her own, no matter how much cheaper it would be to live in shared accommodation. Her independence, her autonomy are sacrosanct. That is until she meets a young man who changes her mind. What a gorgeous type! Tall, sporty physique and chiseled face, with a mane of blond hair and clear blue eyes; and above all, intelligent and of such a self-assured arrogance that sets him apart from his peers, and acts like a magnet on the other sex, including her.
They fall for each other in an instant and their love is hot and passionate. They decide to move in together to maximize their time because he is working and any minute apart, they believe, is time lost.
Well, the relationship turns out to be heaven and hell, and ends after all in disaster. He, unfortunately, suffers from jealousy. Worse, he takes the liberty to flirt with other women, quite openly, but reacts with rage, if she dares to do the same as innocently it may be. Though he wants her to be attractive by all means. He even goes shopping with her and buys her exquisite outfits and everything that goes with it, as he does for himself; even his jeans are designer labels. And she is never bored with him, whether being by themselves, or in company. Both have a wide circle of friends of various kinds, it does not matter in which they mingle, but going home from social outings too often ends in a fight, him accusing her of having been too interested in one or the other man. She sometimes wonders how he manages to observe her while enjoying himself.
It does not take long and she has enough of being his trophy, who is expected to tolerate his flirtatious attitude while having to endure his aggression. She does not even believe anymore that he actually loves her, and though she does not believe he has any affairs, she does not exclude it either. But more importantly, her feelings have changed. She cannot tolerate his double standards and his magnetism has gradually disappeared. She still values him for what he is, but it is not unconditional love. This is not possible, not while she lives with him.
The end is dramatic. She chooses a time to break the news, when she is not alone with him, having some premonition that he may lose control, or deal with the break-up poorly. A friend of his is staying with them for a few days. He may be a good support; just in case. But it comes worse than she would ever have thought.
Initially he does not believe her, but when he finally understands, he does not say a word. Instead he gets up, goes into the kitchen and comes back with a big knife. He is completely calm, does not look at her, looking right through her, but in his eyes lies an emptiness, an abyss, deep and dark, no light can penetrate. She shudders. His face is pale and motionless as if all life had drained away leaving an empty shell. The silence seizes her heart with a tight grip. She jumps off her chair out of his way as if struck by lightning, but he just sits down, puts the knife in front of him on the table, and looks at it as if he was calculating in cold blood, how best to use it.
She runs to the door, shouting, to get the attention of his friend who immediately appears. Alarmed, he rushes to his friend’s side, taking possession of the knife, and handing it to Femina, out of harm’s way. He tries to get his friend talking to bring him back to life.
Femina leaves them alone. She packs a bag with some essentials. She will move into a hotel, for now. She cannot think or feel, all her actions take place automatically. She too suffered a shock. Before she leaves she ensures that no help from her is warranted. The situations seems to be reasonably under control. Standing in the door she hears him sobbing. She does not see his face as his back is turned her way, but the friend has one arm around his shoulders and nods to Femina in agreement that the danger is over. She informs them of her intention, and says her goodbye, for now, - and for good.
It seems she has not much luck with men. Promising in the beginning but not in the long run. Happiness? Does it still exist? May be not. She sure was happy some when, long time ago and somewhere else, not here. May be there is a curse on her? But most likely it is the house. Everything connected with it is covered by its invisible net, binding all to its existence.
She decides to go abroad again. This time for longer, not just weeks. She has no commitments to keep. Her studies are more or less completed, the things she needs to do, do not require her presence at the center. Besides, she has no place to live.
The lamps in the hallway are always lit, no matter if it is night or day. In daylight, they are mere yellow glowing dots. Sitting in the corridor, as on occasion before, she wonders. She should know the passage by now, but it is not always the same and can bring unexpected surprises. Though it is always draughty and the stone floor cold, in the light of the day, as it is now, it looks quite pretty, and even friendly. All these doors, amazingly containing all these different worlds, or so it seems. Nothing, however, is a given. The doors change their appearance and their numbers also may vary. She is not sure about them, anything really. The exception is the exit door. That is always the same; big shiny steel wings, closed tightly. And also the windows with their frosted glass remain shut, without offering a glimpse to the outside. And unchanged is her longing to be able to leave this place. It does not matter that she actually has not explored the house, nor that the outside may not be as desirable as she hopes. She is driven to find her memory, which, she believes, she will never find in here; because, no matter where she goes, she ends up just where she is, - here in the hallway, on its stone cold floor.
What is it with her thick walled skull that locks away something she so urgently needs? Sitting on it like a dragon on its treasure. She needs this treasure, what good is it for the skull! There it allows to let her thoughts fly within like whirling snowflakes in a winter storm, but the most important is not amongst them. That is hidden away in the deepest dungeon of the castle.
What is it with men that give her false expectations? Men may be a box of sweet chocolates; you only can guess their filling, and you have to eat them before you know.
She puts her arms around her bent knees, lies the head down on them. Not being able to leave this building, she better starts to explore it after all. But not now. She is tired, too tired to get up and look for a door she wants to open. So far, the doors were offering some reason for her to enter, but doing it on her own initiative is different. Some doors might be better left closed, isn’t it? Who knows what they may hide? Ah, here it goes! What good does it do to let her skull be filled with fears? The same applies as before; she has nothing to lose but her life, and that is of little value, being imprisoned and without her memory.
Yes, she is tired. Why hurry? The doors won’t run away. She closes her eyes, takes her thoughts along a picture gallery of her travels. She sees mountains she walked on, she sees the turquoise sea. She sees meadows of flowers and snow flurries, sandstorms and rainforests. And she looks into smiling eyes and laughing faces, no matter what color they are. Slowly she glides into sleep. Why dreaming of loathsomeness, it is enough that it exists. She does not even have reason for unhappiness. She deceives herself. The dreams tell her what is true. Reality exposes itself by its illusion. The sleep prevents carefully everything that could disturb his reign. He holds her lovingly in his arms, dark and warm, and peacefully, and time loses all command.