This story belongs to the author, and although we share the same name, she will not be telling her story. She was born not of this world but up there, somewhere – I don't know where. In my days, she walked the earth. She lived a stone's throw away from me. Her parents weren't home often so, she spent most of her life in her bedroom. You could see her seated at her desk; overlooking out the window to roofs and chimney tops. I lived on the opposite side of the street and from my window, I could see her there. She only had a few friends that came and went from the house; A house that she eventually inherited, but I never saw her go out. I'm not saying she never went out since grocery shopping was essential.
When I turned 27, I gave birth to a baby girl so, a stay at home mom made sense and my husband agreed. Then a year later I gave birth to another baby girl. Four years later, I had triplets, all girls; to say the least, my life was busy. So many changes in such a short period of time and these kids grow like weeds. My eldest was entering her matric year, my second born had won a ballet national tour and the triplets were driving me nuts. During the ups and downs and divorce in between, a few lovers that did not stick, my neighbour remained as quiet as a door mouse and ageless. Her face was as clean and clear as the day we met over 20 odd years ago, which I must add was brief. Oh yes, she knew of me but nothing about me, and I suppose through the years of the neighbour's culmination of rumours and wild guesses, I assumed the same fault. I doubt she will remember meeting me. So at the window, where most of her days spent, I thought enough be enough - You only live once! My life was filled with children and runarounds, busy yes, but nothing different. While the triplets slept, one sunny afternoon, I decided to hop over the street and knock on her door.
No.29. It was a tall door and the only red door in our entire street and our street was vast. My front door was bleak, nothing that stood out as much, but her red door, in all its tallness, stood peering back down on me - nothing of that red door resembled what I assumed or anticipated her to be. I knock once, softly out of hesitation. Not entirely sure why I felt anxious, but I did which kept me from knocking twice, but I did anyway and then rolled my eyes at the crudeness of its deliverance. Nothing, as I stood waiting for a reply and what felt like over a minute I turned to leave and then, the red door opened and the tall of the door shrunk and there she stood. My neighbour. Longest blonde hair, dark though. Spectacles that seemed to fit quite comfortably. She herself was a lot shorter than I expected, considering the door that seemed so tall but that now appeared small or perhaps I simply felt small - I admired her for years, to confess. I would find myself debriefing my woes to her into thin air, like old friends do and once or twice, neighbourly friends confessed the same. She posed a certain sense of constancy amongst the ever encircling chaos. As for the others, I do not know.
My neighbour. Something so wonderful about her and there, by her window overlooking what must have been smog from chimney tops. I would imagine the view up there not too exciting but something up there must have caught her attention every day; perhaps I'll find out but not today. Today I introduce myself for the first time in over 20 years. I stepped forward up her porch to the door, extending my hand to greet her, but I slipped and before I could blink she had grabbed my hand and saved me from what could have become an open gashed knee.
"Are you alright?" She asked.
I stood up collecting myself and shyly replied, "Yes, thank you. My name is Melissa, and I live not far from you, over there actually" I gestured.
"Melissa", she introduced herself, "and yes, I know who you are and where you live."
Oh, I thought to myself with surprise. "You should come for coffee when you have time. From the looks of it, you seem quite busy so, I will extend the invite to any day of the week at any hour." I can't believe I just said that I thought. I wonder what she must be thinking; extending an invite for any day of the week at any time. Am I blushing? I must be blushing a bit, surely that was embarrassing. There she stood and smiled at me. Melissa. I stood staring back at her and before I could consciously decide what to say next, the words
"You are beautiful" fell out of my mouth. "Christ! I am sorry", I said.
Smiling back she replied, "Don't be sorry. Don't you ever apologize for honesty or sincerity...or love." Her eyes had fixed upon mine and then surrendered slowly to the rest of me and back up again to meet me. I liked it indeed - Am I into women? I thought. I do find her absolutely beautiful, in fact, I don't believe I've seen such a beautiful woman in my entire life.
"Coffee you say, anytime?" She asked.
"Yes, please, you are welcome. We've been neighbours since childhood."
"Indeed we have" she replied smiling. The wind picked up and her hair danced ever slightly to its reach and again I stood in awe.
"How old are you?" I asked. More words vomiting out before a conscious decision - what is the matter with me today?
"Does it matter?" she asked.
"No, I suppose not."
I shyly back off and said my goodbyes.
"Lovely to meet you, Mell," she said as I walked down the porch; this time with caution.
Upon my walk home, several nosey noses had been sticking out their windows. I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Their curiosity only baked on gossip, stemming from assumptions of Melissa and me; I felt I held something more important - a secret. "Coffee, sometime soon I hope," I whispered to myself as I unlocked my front door and curiously looked back to find that she still stood there in hers. We gazed at one another for a brief moment in the short distance that waved between our front doors and then she turned and closed hers as I did mine.
Reaching the triplets' bedroom, upstairs, who was still sound asleep, I had decided to read a book while the silence of the day still lingered. However, before I knew it, a knock on my front door stole the peace I was about to embark upon. The nosey noses time's three women my age had carried the same questioning expression,
"So? Are you going to tell us what happened?" They asked.
"No," I curtly replied. I didn't want to share something that felt invaluable, unlike the empty gossips. My moment with Melissa was mine to keep, at least for a short while. Their looks turned surprised at my reply and to save their hinnies,
"Looks like the smog is about to settle in, we best be going then."
"Yes, you best be" I replied. Smug and spoilt. I never liked them, I thought, as I watched them chitter chatter on their way out. "What bitches." I said softly to myself and closed my door. The serenity of the house seemed intact and so, that book finally turned a page in my hand.
The evening came swiftly. Everyone I loved under one roof, sound asleep, except me. I lay wide awake with thoughts of Melissa. The hour is eleven pm; "Don't be stupid Melissa, you can't go over there now" I mumbled to myself. I lay awake thinking about that red door and her, my rouged cheeks when she smiled at me – Christ, perhaps I am gay or gay for her. Shit! What if she's not gay? Shut up, Melissa! Good god, none of this matters. You made a friend today, I think. I lay awake a little while longer until eventually, I found sleep.
At exactly four am I shot up in bed. Wide awake with fright to be exact, and in pain – emotional pain, not the physical pain just yet; that came much later. My tears would not stop, they just kept flowing. I reached over to grab for tissues and upon my arrival, my eyes glanced up and out my bedroom window – Her porch light was out. I quickly looked up to her window; the curtains were wide open, the night light was off, the lamp she had on her desk was gone and so was the chair – its tip I could always see. I rubbed my eyes and wiped my tears and with the batted breath, I walked toward my window and there I stood. The door, I thought, the red door is no longer red. "How bazaar," I said quietly to myself. I wonder if she's out, that would be weird though. In all the years, not once have I seen her out except for the occasional shop, of course. Perhaps she goes out at night, but I'm asleep so I wouldn't know – This does not explain the empty eerie feel I'm absorbing from her house. SHIT! What if something bad has happened? I race out my room, down the stairs, grabbed my coat and across the street to hers I ran.
I knocked. Once.
I waited and listened.
While anticipating, I realized my feet were bare and my nighty was quite short.
"Fuck! I'm cold."
The wait seemed long and still no answer. I doubled back and looked up at her window. Nope, nothing has changed there, I thought. I went back up and knocked one last time; my fingers lingered ever slightly, touching the creases of the door.
"This door is old," I said. Confused entirely, I brazenly decided that I should go in, but the handle was missing; I swore I saw it just moments ago. I pushed the door, not a budge. I banged on it, not a peep. My heart, I thought as I clutched at my coat as though experiencing a heart attack - I feel so heartbroken.
Back onto the middle of the street I stood for a bit and looked around. The night was quiet and the moon seemed pale - everything seemed quite grey all of a sudden. I looked at hers one last time before heading back home,
"I don't understand" I whispered.
When I reached my front door, it stood open ajar. Perhaps I did not shut it while racing over, I thought. I shrugged it off and stepped inside my quaint little home; its warmth is always welcoming. Sleep is yawning and my kids will be up in a few hours for school, I must shut my eyes. I threw myself onto my bed and there I fell fast asleep.
The morning awoke long before I.
"Fuck me! It's midday!"
My kids, where are they? I bolted up and ran to their rooms; the triplets aren't there. I called out for my eldest two, they did not reply. Their rooms were empty too. Now panicked, I raced back into the triplet's room, whipped open their closest to investigate – their school uniforms are still here.
"Okay Melissa, now you calm down, they are likely downstairs," I said to myself.
Calling out for them, as I took my steps down the stairs.
"Come on you suckers! I can't believe you did not wake me...Now I know you don't like school, but this stunt you pulled." I stopped dead in my tracks. There it was.
"Bright red," I said underneath my breath with shock,
"My-front-door is bright red."
Surpassing this perplexion, I went to my kitchen and then running back past my front door to the living room. Nothing. Creeping past my own front door now red, I ran back upstairs - Their rooms weren't bedrooms, but library rooms. There I stood in the silence - Frozen moments had eventually passed, not that I had noticed; time had not stood still for me. Strangely calm, settled is a much better word I suppose.
"I must change my clothes," I said softly to myself.
In my bedroom at the window, a chair ajar befitting to surrender to, I sat down instead. My book, my pen before me. My laptop in the bin. Relaxed and ready, however not before I peered out my window with the hope of one glance of Melissa, but instead I saw myself noosed hanging from her window.