I was seven years old when I first saw her. Through the peeking gap in her white, flower-printed window curtains, I saw her swaying to a song that only she could hear. I smiled and grinned until my cheeks ached with happiness, I thought she was crazy. She was our new neighbour, the one that momma told me not to speak to because they looked like bad business. I had watched from our side of the sidewalk as a lorry, bigger than any car that I had ever seen roll up to stop on their part of the side walk. I stood on the very edge of it, watching as big men unloaded the truck full of boxes and furniture, until momma grabbed me inside, scolding me for being nosy.
Later, I found out that my bedroom window directly faced hers. Between our houses was an old tree with its branches stretched out towards both our houses, past the leaves I had a direct line of sight to her window. However, unlike my bare window, hers were decorated with curtains, which was why I hadn’t seen her until a week after our new neighbours had moved in, because they were always drawn closed. By chance, I had been playing with my toys in my room when I looked out my window to see light peeking from between her curtains. I scrambled up, pushing my plastic chair to the window so I could stick my head out to see why momma didn’t want me in their business. She was not what I expected. A little girl who looked no bigger than I am, twirling and dancing in her bright-lit room like no one is watching. Of course, she probably didn’t think anyone would be watching, but I was. I did and I couldn’t stop watching the girl next door through her window curtains.
For the next five years I watched her in silence. Everyday after school, I would look to her window to see if there was light seeping into her curtains, there usually was. Then I would run upstairs to look out my window, hoping that she would have left the curtains peeking open or the window slightly ajar so that I could hear her footsteps in her room. Most days I would not be able to see past her curtains, but when I did, I seemed like I was looking at her for the first time. The length of her hair would have changed, her face would have matured or she may have gotten taller. I no longer needed a chair to look out my window, but as I stood at my full height, I found myself wondering if I were to stand next to her, would I be able to see the top of her head, or would she see mine?
I realized that I had never seen her without having to look past those flowery white curtains. I didn’t see her at my school. Maybe she went to a different school. If so, where? It ate away at me, the desire to meet her in person grew heavier and heavier with each passing day. It grew more painful when a longer set of days stretched by and I would not see her. I had just turned fourteen when I stood at my window, leaned onto the ledge with a pebble in hand. I rolled it around between my fingers, wondering if I should throw it at her window, wondering if she was on the other side of her damn flower-printed curtains at that very moment. Frustration boiled at my fingertips, I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, the curtains that not much as shifted and I hadn’t quite as much patience as I did when I was a child. Now, with my raging hormones and pubescent temper, it seemed every little thing bothered me. Everyday that went by without me having glimpsed at her was a day lived in darkness. I didn’t know when did she start becoming so dear to me, or when my innocent boyhood curiousity of her had morphed into longing, but now I wished she had never moved here. Damn her stupid, flowery curtains!
As I reared my arm back to fling the pebble in my hand at her window in blind rage, at the smiley flowers that seemed to taunt me. I lost my grip when I heard a door slam shut with a gunshot-like bang. The pebble bounced off my shoulder and fell down, down, down into my mother’s dying rose bushes. ‘Damn.’ I cursed under my breath as my arms dangled limply on the ledge of my window. I felt pathetic.
Just I was about to give up, I was blasted by a holy light in darkness. My eyes squinted immediately, struggling to get used to the sudden change of brightness. Through the filter of leaves and branches, I caught sight of what I was looking for. Standing in the light with her window pushed open and her curtains drawn apart all the way, was my girl. Yes, mine.
Something was wrong. Her eyes were tinted red and her nose as well. It was then I managed to hear past the rapid thumping of heart to realized that was a sniffling sound between us. She was crying. With her chest-length chestnut hair flopped limply around her and her palms wiping furiously at her eyes, it was obvious that she was distraught. For the longest time, I simply stared at her, my mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. She didn’t seem to have noticed me, which was good because I didn’t know what to say to her, yet. I had gone from trying to smash through her window with a small rock to wishing I had the right words to comfort her.
Then, without warning she looked up at me. The biggest, brightest whisky-coloured eyes speared my heart and I did what any pubescent kid would do when encountered with love at first sight. I straightened immediately, gracefully slamming the back of my head on the top of the window before I pulled myself back into the safety of my home and slamming the window shut.
I laid on my belly on the floor just under the window, my heart was trying to beat a dent into the floor. I heaved air into my lungs as if I had been suffocated, and I refused to move. I normally had no problems talking to girls. Some might even go so far as to say I was quite good at that. Girls thought I was good-looking and my friends would make fun of me for that, but it was the truth. I was a good-looking kid. But she-- she was heavenly. The very Angel of Mercy. The Goddess of all things good-looking. Prettier than Holly Winsome, and she was the prettiest girl in our school. I wasn’t talking to her. I can’t talk to her. I had just rolled away from the window when her voice sought me out.
‘Hello?’ Damn, even her voice is pretty. ‘Is anyone there?’
No. No one is here. Please close your curtains and never open them again. Thank you.
A single word uttered with such heartbreak made it such that I could not ignore her.
I slowly clambered to my feet and peeked my head up to see her still looking into my window, looking helpless and hopeful. I sighed and drew the windows up before leaning my upper body onto the ledge, hoping that I looked nonchalant and not just like I had been rolling on the floor. ‘Hi.’
She blinked and the happiest smile I had ever seen on someone lit up her face. That was how our story began. She was the sheltered daughter of an ex-convict. Being raised by a man without a wife was not easy. She was not allowed to leave the house and that means she wasn’t allowed to go to school. She had no other friends aside from me, but I was more that her friend. We both knew that.
At sixteen, I stared out my window and into hers only to find her curtains, now pink after I teased her about the smiley faced flowers. I opened my window and looked to see if anyone was watching before I climbed out onto the branch of the tree that was now resting sturdily against the side of our wall. I clambered over to her side of the tree and listened in to see if her father was in the room, when I deemed it safe, I knocked on the glass and the curtains were drawn apart immediately. Her face lit up in a smile as I stood in front of her window, perfectly balanced, as if I had done it a hundred times. I might as well have.
‘You can’t come in here, my dad’s home.’ she said, her voice always a breathy whisper. Her hands clutching her pink curtains as she looked back at the door, uneasy. She wasn’t as okay with breaking the rules as I was, but it only made it more satisfying when she did. Every step I took towards her was a new thrill, a rule that was meant to be broken. Stay away only meant so when you can. And I can’t stay away from her.
I crouched down, leaned in real close to her and her cheeks flushed as if we had never done this before. I rested my forearms against the ledge of her window and got comfortable. I leaned in until our noses bumped and she was still looking at me with her doe-eyes. Fucking bambi eyes. ‘Kiss me.’ I told her. When she turned away to look at her room door, I reached in to grab her hand. ‘Kiss me.’ Her other hand was still tangled in the curtains as she leaned in to kiss me on the mouth. I smiled into the kiss for I had won tonight.
Her tongue came out to play and my chest puffed out proudly at how fast she was learning. ‘Thats it, like how I showed you.’ My voice husky with desire. She had just ran her tongue over my lower lip when we heard footsteps approaching. With a gasp, she drew her curtains shut in my face just before the door to her room opened.
Her dad’s voice filtered through the curtains as he asked her what she wanted for dinner, I was grinning so hard, my cheeks were beginning to ache. Because whilst her father remained unaware, our hands remained joined tightly behind the pink curtains.
When I was eighteen, her curtains were a bright, sexy red colour but I barely ever saw them because she never closed them for me. It was her mother’s. She had changed it when she spilled paint on her old pink one. On the eve of her eighteenth birthday, we were found out. How? Because her dad came into her room whilst we laid naked and sated on her bed. To say her father had been furious was an understatement. I was alright, for the most part. He had merely yelled at me to get out and I did as he asked. However, for days I had stayed awake, listening to him yell at her. I had half a mind to go over there but she had asked that I stay away. I shouldn’t have.
Because a week later, as I was walking home from school, I found out that she had ran away from home. When the yelling had stopped, I thought her father had finally accepted the fact that his daughter was no longer a virgin and that she needed her own damn life. But ice speared my heart when I found out from her neighbours that she had disappeared. I had ran up to my room, intending to climb over to her window to see if I could find any clues about where she went. Afterall, I knew her best and if there was anyone who would find her, it was me.
However, as I stepped through the doors of my room, I knew immediately where she was. There, curled up in my closet was her weeping form. She’d hidden herself away in my house and I couldn’t be more happier. I hid her for a few days, she promised she was going to return once her father calmed down and was more willing to listen to reason and I thought it was a great idea. At least I did, until we saw the newspaper. ‘Ex-con Killed in Gang Fight.’ In front of it, was a picture of her father. He had been out looking for her and his past made him an immediate target by local gangs. He was gone.
And so was she.
Today as I looked out my window, I saw her red, velvet curtains drawn shut. She had left it there when she moved away with her maternal grandparents. The final curtain call, I supposed. Sometimes when I looked at them, I kept believing that at any moment now, she would draw those curtains open in a sudden, just like she had so many years ago. The very first time I fell in love. The last time.
She hadn’t so much as breathed a word to me when she left. She just did. I had no choice but to let her go. She wouldn’t tell me where she was going, she didn’t want me to follow her. Perhaps she blamed me for her father’s death. Perhaps she hated me for showing her what she was missing while she sat trapped in her room. Perhaps she hated me for corrupting her with the filth of the outside world. Perhaps…
But I couldn’t find it in me to regret anything we did.
Braving myself for the hurt, I climbed the tree one last time. I reached for her curtains through the open window. Feeling its silkiness, reminding me of her skin against mine and I had to stop myself from crying. I drew the curtains apart and climbed into her room. Everything remained intact except her closets were now bare and her paintings were gone. I stood in the middle of the room, feeling nostalgia come at me from all directions and I was suddenly on my knees. I missed her. I missed her smile, her laugh, her goodness and her heart. I missed looking out the window, wondering what laid beyond her curtains. I miss her dainty fingers I would see before the curtains came apart. I miss her pink, paint-stained curtains. I missed her fucking smiley flower curtains. I missed her. I turned around, determined to climb out the window and never look back again, when I saw a piece of paper peeking out from between the folds of the red curtains. I approached the curtains slowly but snagged the paper quickly. There was but a line of words scribbled in her horrible handwriting.