‘What are you doing?’ I turned around expecting a stranger, a passer-by, but it was her. I was shocked to hear her voice. I had known her since we were four but had never heard her speak. Twelve long years later here she was talking to me and I was the one left speechless. In some respects her voice matched her face. It was beautiful, musical in tone, like a sentimental love song but also somehow commanding. It conjured up images of mermaids luring sailors to their death, immensely captivating.
She had always been an enigma, we had been told many years ago never to approach her, like she was a wild animal to be feared, only she wasn’t free to roam the wilderness. She was trapped in a cage, a cage that didn’t allow her to speak. I always wondered what she was thinking, how she managed to go on day after day without uttering a word. We were told she couldn’t speak at school, none of us really understood, it was just something we accepted. No one ever expected her to talk. They said she spoke at home and I was desperate to hear her voice. I had imagined countless conversations with her in my head over the years. So many questions I wanted to ask her, so much I wanted to know about her, so much I wanted to tell her about how I felt about her. I would lay awake at night thinking about her night after night, there was never anyone else, just her, no one ever came close. I wanted to take a glimpse into her world, a world where she let down her barriers. This is why I was there, crouching in the foliage, my dignity in shatters, this late autumn afternoon. The sun was setting and I had hoped to be hidden from passers-by. I was looking through the living room window of her parents’ cluttered 1930s house, desperate to catch a glimpse of her and hoped I might hear her speak. I had walked passed her house a thousand times. Every day on route to school I prayed for a chance meeting. Occasionally I was lucky enough to be walking past at the perfect moment, the moment she opened her front door. The thrill was immense, without knowing it she would make my day. Just being in her presence, without the distraction of others that was all it took.
I was drawn to her from the very beginning, she didn’t speak but she had a strange confidence, perhaps that was to do with her beauty. She was a breath-taking sight, her face was striking, the true definition of perfection. Standing out amongst all the other girls at school, not because she towered above them, she was always very petite, the smallest in our class, but there was something about her that always made her special. You couldn’t help but look at her, which of course she despised. Her hair was long and blonde, almost white, her skin was flawless and her cool blue eyes stared right through you, if she looked at you at all. Mostly she looked down or away, anywhere but into your eyes. I felt she wasn’t aware of my existence most of the time but occasionally, when she stood close to me (not by necessity I should add, usually in the que for lunch or assembly, or some other forced school activity), I felt we shared a connection, nothing tangible, nothing I would ever try to explain to anyone else, just a feeling. Those moments were few and far between but they kept me hooked, they gave me a glimmer of hope.
Today, right this very second, I felt nothing but fear. I had been caught by her of all people and I will never forget the look of disgust on her face. I had waited all these years for her to notice me and now she finally had, but it was so far from how I had planned. I didn’t want her to think I was a stalker, except it seemed that is exactly what I was, a stalker. When you imagine a stalker you think of a psychopath, a loner. I am not a psychopath, I am not a loner. I have plenty of friends, but even they don’t know how I feel about her. This was a secret I kept, not through embarrassment, I just didn’t want their opinions or interference. I wondered if my fascination of her and my desire to get to know her was what all stalkers felt. I suddenly felt very ashamed of my behaviour and regretted the impulsive decision I had made that day.
It was almost as if she could read my mind because suddenly her face softened, the look of disgust turned to a smile and she let out a little laugh. Not the kind of laugh that bullies intimidate their victims with. It was a kind laugh, the laugh of a friend. Her smile grew bigger, it lit up her entire face. I had never had the privilege of even witnessing her smile before but this was so much more than just a smile, so contagious I could feel the corners of my mouth turn upwards involuntary. Then she stretched out her arm and offered me her hand to help me up.
That day in her front garden was the beginning, the beginning of our friendship, our courtship and our long life together.