Pilar and Elvira, two teachers in Spain during the waning years of the Franco era, become friends, then roommates, then ardent lovers. But their blissful time together ends abruptly because during this period in Spain,...展开their love is illegal. When Pilar's domineering mother discovers her daughter's Sapphic propensity, she institutionalizes her, despite her father's objections, telling the doctor to do whatever it takes to "cure" her daughter.
For years, Elvira searches for Pilar, writing letters to every asylum in Spain, and imploring Pilar's parents to tell her where she is. But Pilar's mother is resolute. When Elvira finally locates the asylum on her own, the guards refuse her entry, and the emotional anticlimax brings her to her knees.
She continues teaching, all the while pining in misery for her one true love. But her plight cannot compare with that of Pilar, who must endure drastic behavioral conditioning and isolation as part of her "therapy". Drained of all her will, and traumatized by the relentless, harsh treatment, Pilar finally convinces her doctor she has lost all attraction to women. Only then does the asylum release her. In the custody of her parents, who severely restrict her comings and goings, she functions as a shadow of her former self.
One fateful evening, Elvira shows up at her doorstep, and Pilar's mother turns her away once more. Watching from an upstairs window, Pilar's father witnesses the crestfallen Elvira. Incapable of allowing this injustice to continue any further, he sneaks Pilar some money and instructs her to escape and find the happiness she deserves.
Pilar at once finds Elvira, and for a time, they rejoice in their reunion, openly displaying their affection in public. "It's not like it used to be", Elvira tells her, explaining that times have fortunately changed. But the difficult years have taken their toll, both physically and mentally. Though Pilar loves Elvira deeply, the memories of her ordeal will not quickly fade, and the scars again test their bond.