I knew a girl who never went out in the daylight. As soon as a sunray touched her skin, it started to burn. I’d never heard of that before and, as she told me, doctors neither. From the age of 17 poor thing spent most of her time at home in the nice company of curtains, silent granny, and a fat indifferent cat.
Best friends of lonely hours are always books which provided her with engrossing stories to live through, the whole world to discover and plenty of fascinating people to meet. Having read another book, sunless girl let the narration grip her and hold for some more time refeeling and reliving the events, thinking along with its characters, listening to and even arguing with them. Oh, no, she wasn’t crazy, just lucky to have an incredible imagination. With proper respect to each book, my friend (and now yours) took each story for real and played its roles to conceive and learn more about life. Our heroine occasionally left her castle to wander around the city in the twilight, to look at people and guess what stories they might have.
Here is an ordinary guy carrying a big easel. Next to him walks a laughing girl, bright, red-haired in a colourful hat and a yellow coat. He may well love her for her energy and cheerfulness, for being a source of light for him, for helping to understand what he needs in life.
Behind them goes a stodgy man talking on the phone with a disgruntled face. Looks like he’s a boss who relishes his power and takes pleasure in controlling people and bringing them down a peg or two.
Watching passers-by our girl chose to stay unnoticed and avoided any attention by building a wall of a scarf around her head right up to her eyes which shone, piercing and clear, and looked like they were constantly searching for something in you, in strangers, in streets, and in the city.
I met the blue-eyed when we were working together. Although she had never appeared in the office, I had a chance to see her just a couple of times when I brought her some papers. By that time we had been talking a lot besides work – a book made us friends. I remember how much I wanted to see her in person and how strikingly beautiful she appeared to be when I did. Her pale skin looked like porcelain which made her eyes so vivid and filled with deep blue to the brim. Her calmness and restraint chained me so that I hurried to leave not to disturb her loneliness accentuated by the tick of the clock.
This long-case clock, a bit crooked, caught my eye the second I entered. Its wooden frame was too simple and totally undistinguished but the clock face! It was of ivory colour and looked like made of a stone, marble, perhaps. There was nothing but Roman numbers and tiny arrows. The tick stuck firm in my head and I couldn’t shake it out. Sometimes it scared me as if the arrow was counting down last minutes, sometimes calmed me down and plunged in drowse. In a state like that, it’s hard to notice time passing and you have a feeling of watching life from the sidelines.
Bits by bits I got to know some other facts of the heroine’s life. It turned out she hasn’t been a recluse all her life. Hard to believe, but she once went to a drama class. Despite her living different book characters’ lives, she didn’t look like a stage person. I also knew she loved jasmine tea which somebody got her from China.
One winter morning I came to work and noticed that my mysterious colleague had already finished whole her part of work. People do that when they get ready for a holiday but, as I knew, she had never taken one and this time it wasn’t the case. Next days I actually didn’t hear a word from her. What could I suppose? First, I thought she was tired and took a break but I discarded this idea as an improbable one. Then I found relief imagining some relatives coming to see her or some incredible book which gripped her and kept her on her toes. Time wore on but no news from the porcelain girl. As soon as my anxiety grew into a complete panic, I left work early and headed to her house.
Finding myself at her door I caught some critical change but couldn’t grasp what it was. Meanwhile, nobody was answering the door. My nerves got frayed. I was looking right at the centre of the door. Looking very tensely. Like piercing it. Knocked again. Waited. Waited. Steps! Only hearing them did I realise that I stopped breathing like a minute ago. And the next moment my breath stopped again. The steps, slow and heavy, were not hers but her granny’s. It was she who opened the door. Her broad face, all covered with tiny wrinkles was smiling and the smile was in her blue eyes too. She was holding the wet cat wrapped in a towel.
Thinking escaped my brain. This smile and the cat didn’t go along with my grim guesses. As it turned out, this was not the last shock in store for me. Putting all my scattered thoughts together took me some effort and when I finally was able to come up with an articulate question, the answer happened to be the least expected one. The old lady informed me that her granddaughter had just left to get the clock repaired because it was already two weeks since they stopped.