Green Curtains

Submitted into Contest #232 in response to: Set your story during polar night.... view prompt

2 comments

Fiction Romance Contemporary

Adelyn Pepper didn’t open her curtains anymore. It was a cautious step, and one she had thought about carefully. Her ultimate goal in life, as in all our lives, was pure and total happiness. Things just kept getting in the way. 

She had left Vancouver because it was too wet. No one can be happy when the sky is grey. Salt Lake City was too busy. Santa Monica was too hot. She moved to Svalbard in the summer and the sun didn’t set for 99 days. It was perfectly dry and peaceful. Happiness was close, but the work was not done yet. 

She just needed a few adjustments. She bought a new kettle and warm clothes. She needed new curtains (the current, green, were faded to olive). And she would need them before the winter, when the sun would set and not rise again for 84 days.

There was no trick to it, one just had to keep working at it. Happiness isn’t easy to come by but Adelyn was sure her hard work and sacrifice were the key.

She was not satisfied with any curtains she could buy, so she ordered several bolts of heavy emerald velvet, strong thread, and sewing needles. It was hard work and she made several mistakes, always throwing out the whole project and beginning anew. She would never be happy with something close to perfect, after all. She worked through the scarce daylight hours and found the sun reflected off the snow provided excellent light to create perfect things. 

But, the days were growing shorter and she hated to see the dark. So, she pulled her curtains tight each and every night before the sun had set. 

Then Nic moved in next door. 

He came over the day he arrived, before his boxes were even unpacked. There was still light yet, and Adelyn watched him approach through a narrow gap made by flipping up the edge of her old olive curtains.

It was close to dark, and still he knocked. When she answered, he came in without asking and closed the door behind him. 

“Hullo!” he said. Shouted, really. “I wanted to introduce myself before it was too late. You must be cold here and I have a great heater if you’re ever looking for a warm spot and a chat” His manners were rough and his sense for the interest of others, even worse. 

Adelyn grimaced as he rambled about his move, his love of the polar nights in Svalbard (he was a researcher of some kind, she gathered), his penchant for hot toddies, and… well, she stopped listening right about then. Her mind went back to her curtain design as he spilled his stories, noticing with very little interest when he began walking around the room picking up her belongings with delight while he spoke.

It was only when he grasped the curtains that her focus shifted. 

“Leave them!” she cried. She might not have her perfect happiness yet but she would not backslide by letting the dark into her home now. He looked skeptical, but dropped the handful of fabric and launched back into his explanation of solar wind, as if she’d never spoken. 

Nic would come over every evening that first week. At first, she was annoyed by the disruption. But, as the days passed she found the routine soothing. As the sun approached the horizon, she set the water to boil and pulled out her sewing. His constant presence and familiar voice kept her hands steady enough to work by lamplight, and the extra hours of stitching got her closer and closer to her perfect every day. 

Nic would arrive with the whiskey and get to pouring while he told her of his day and waxed poetic about the sights he had seen. She would listen with one part of herself and let the other focus on her stitches and the happiness she would finally achieve. 

“I couldn’t be happier” Nic said one day, as if reading her mind. He had been talking about magnetic fields, hadn’t he? What about magnetic fields made him so happy? She knew better.

“You could be,” she said. He stopped mid-breath, about to launch back into talk of his research before she had spoken up. Adelyn usually didn’t contribute much to their conversations and definitely didn’t contradict. Contradiction was conflict and happiness was not conflict. Yet, he only smiled.

“Alright then, Addie, how could I be happier?” 

“You could be warmer, for one”

“I prefer the cold. It gives me license to warm up with sweet drinks and sweeter company”

“It could be quieter”

“But, there’s so much to hear”

“You could be somewhere with longer days and sunshine”

“The nights are my favourite time. But, you’re right - I do love the light” he smiled at her and looked wistfully at the curtained windows. He clearly recognized the poor state of her curtains.

Satisfied, Adelyn nodded to signal she was done. Nic knew her well by now and understood he should go back to speaking about his research. When their drinks were done, he let himself out. 

When Nic came to the door the next evening, he found it locked. She hoped he would understand.

She covered her ears as he called her name. She didn’t answer. He wouldn’t return for many days. Though, days were hard to measure as the long night had come and sun no longer shone in Svalbard. In the face of the constant darkness, Adelyn had resolved to keep her curtains and doors closed for the 84 days it would take for the sun to rise again.

Sometimes she thought she heard him outside her window or at her door, and she wished he would go away. Other times, the house was so quiet she wished she could open the door wide and call for him. But, letting him back in meant letting the dark in too. 

After 12 days of night, a knock came at the door once again.

“Addie?” she recognized his voice. “It’s a clear sky, won't you open up for just a moment?” When no answer came, she heard the crunch of his footsteps receding. She stared at the door frame, and almost missed it. 

A fluttering against the curtains. Undulating and colourful. Light.

She pulled the curtain away to find Nic, standing outside her window. He was adjusting a large set of solar panels, he had told her about them once. And bouncing off the panels came the light, shimmering violet, gold, and so much green. It was bright and filled her with wonder. It was coming from the night sky, and made that much more beautiful for the darkness it suffused.

Dropping the curtain, Adelyn bundled herself in her warmest clothing and opened her door to let it all in.

January 13, 2024 02:53

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2 comments

Angela M
14:03 Jan 16, 2024

Your descriptions of scenery are so vivid and Adelyn is a deeply relatable character, coming from someone who is constantly desperately searching for happiness in the world.

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Mary Bendickson
20:35 Jan 13, 2024

Excellent polar night. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute 'series

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