Silence had been her companion for a while now – weeks, years, ages perhaps. Inside the house with its courtyard and cobwebs, time stood perfectly still, eternal and silent. Days passed because of the morning’s milk and the newspapers, months and years because of the calendars.
Once a month she would go Outside – beyond the safe high walls of her house. Even for someone like her it was a necessary ritual – existence. It required food and clothes and all kinds of things. Sometimes, if she felt light or unburdened she’d bake a cake or buy some ice cream. Mostly she got her regular things – rice, flour and the like.
At home, with the silence as audience she told stories of a girl she once knew. She would reminiscence at length about the lithe, olive skinned girl she called Storm. She would tell the flowers of how Storm lived with her large family, of their laughter and tears. When she baked she always told the kitchen of what Storm did as a young girl at the University. She told a grand tale of friendship. And when she felt particularly lonely she would tell her favourite story about Storm – a story of how a young man fell in love with her, and how their love had lived up to her name. She would cry, sometimes, when she ended the tale – how the thunder and lightning was fierce and how the rains flooded their lives, and how when it had cleared it had taken much away from them.
She had gone Outside just three days back, but today she felt restless. Even her favourite books seemed to have exhausted their charms. With nothing else to do, she decided to once more step Outside.
She pulled on a pair of jeans and her favourite blue shirt. It had begun to hang on her, she noted, taking an unaccustomed glance in the mirror. She decided to go to the coffee shop five blocks away. She would have the coffee flavoured with cocoa and her favourite cinnamon rolls. As she walked down the once-familiar road, she noticed how it had changed. Many of the old things she remembered had gone. Would the coffee shop still be there, she wondered.
As she turned the corner she heaved a sigh of relief. There it was – the vintage wooden signboard and the large poster on the door announcing the country’s best coffee and rolls. Opening the door, she headed straight to her favourite seat. She sat down, commanding an exotic view of the kitchen and whenever the door opened, the smells spilled out in a welcoming warmth. She gave her order to the smiling waitress and waited…
As she took another sip from her second coffee she heard a voice behind her she heard a voice, “I was in the city and I just knew that I would find you here today.” Her eyes met a vaguely familiar face. There was something about the smile, and the way he looked at her. She smiled…
Later, she could never remember how much later, she woke up with the rain on her face. Lightning flashed and she could still see those eyes smiling in that disconcerting manner. Thunder rolled menacingly, promising more rain. She got up and walked to the door. The rain had made a little lake out of her courtyard. The lightning lit it up beautifully. She stood entranced, unaware of the cold winds that whipped her hair.
And suddenly warmth wrapped around her. It whispered into her hair, “It’s the perfect night. Remember what I used to call you?... Storm…” A light laugh and the warmth now held her a little closer. “You’ve lived with this silence and solitude far too long.”
She turned, those eyes were still smiling down at her…