Lady in the Window

Lady in the Window

A Story by Lady Sothis
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. . . Some people just never change, no matter how many years pass.

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I suppose the whole thing began years ago when I was around eight years of age. Every morning I would pass by her home on my way to the bus stop. Of course, she did live in the house right next to mine, so I could generally see her most of the time. Every morning at six the light in her room upstairs would turn on, and then exactly a half-hour later the kitchen light would blink into action. At seven in the morning I always walked by and every time saw her standing at her bay window, watching all the school children walk by. She always stood holding the same mug, every once in awhile taking a sip. On the window seat next to her sat her cat, alway drinking out of a bowl. It struck me as I walked by how alone she looked; simply standing there and watching pensively.

I asked Mama about her but she said no one knew anything about the Lady in the Window, only that she had arrived two years ago and bought the old Jefferson’s place to live in. She didn’t have any sort of job that could be thought of, she rarely left her home and even then quickly returned after no more than a half-hour. Thus years passed with me simply walking by her window every morning. I always glanced over to see the lady sip from her mug; her long, carefully-brushed auburn hair hanging over her shoulder as she watched.

I passed my thirteenth year, and everyone else around me aged, Mama had a few strands of grey, my brother went to college, and yet the Lady in the Window stayed the same. She always watched with her mug, her cat always sitting beside her, always looking like a young twenty-something. Thanksgiving came that year and I walked across the street to Aunt Kelly’s in order to wish her a happy day and invite her over for a puzzle that afternoon. She accepted and sent me back home with a rather large pumpkin. I admired it, enjoying the soft, smooth, cool, yet textured touch that it held. I walked by the Lady in the Window as she stood in her usual position watching as I marched off home. Again it struck me how alone she looked . . . she didn’t even have any relatives who visited her or probably to visit. Without even thinking I walked up to her front door and knocked solidly on it. She came over and opened it with a blank, almost puzzled look on her face. I swallowed. I was in idiot . . . she was alone and liked it that way. Still though, I had to say something . . .

“Happy Thanksgiving . . .” I said quietly, trying to ignore how my voice cracked slightly on “Thanksgiving.” She looked at me, her brow furrowing somewhat. I held out the large pumpkin.

“I brought this for you . . . I thought you might like it since . . .” I tried to think of a reason why she might like it when I hadn’t even spoken to her before. I saw the cat rub itself against her legs and then look curiously up at me.

“Since . . . since it matches your cat!” I said, nodding at the reddish-orange cat. She smiled slightly.

“Thank you, that’s very considerate,” the lady in the window said. At that point I couldn’t help myself; I curiously peeked inside her home. No one had seen it since the Jeffersons had left . . . and with two year old triplets occupying it at that point it had been notorious for a rather unkempt look. She saw my look and sighed slightly.

“Why don’t you come in?” she asked. I smiled and took a nervous step inside. Everything looked completely spic and span, not a single thing was out of place. The first room was a sort of sitting room; the spinning-wheel in the corner caught my eye. It held wool or something of the sort on top of it and at the other end held yarn neatly wound.

“It . . . it was my grandmother’s,” the lady explained, quickly moving into the next room, the kitchen. It held black pots and pans as well as a lit fire-place. It also contained a very old feel to it, despite the dishwasher. As she set the pumpkin down at the center of the rustic wood table I noticed her white wool sweater, from the pair of knitting needles on a chair and the spinning wheel I guessed that she had made it. Also she wore a long, flowing plain blue skirt, even if she didn’t look that old, she certainly was old fashioned. She walked over to the counter and took something out of a jar, handing it to me. It was thin, hard, square and opaquely brown.

“It’s a candy made of molasses,” she explained. I nodded.

“Thank you,” I said, a little more surely then I had spoken to her before. I took a nibble and as the thick sweetness touched my tongue it sent a small shiver down my spine. I ate some of it and then noticed an odd tickle at my ankles as the cat sniffed them.

“Ah . . . that would be Marcus,” the lady explained. I nodded and took another bite out of the molasses candy. I looked around some more. The walls were very plain, only with the occasional picture here and there, some of flowers, others of scenic sights, but most were simply of Marcus. I liked the special effects on them, several had a sepia tone, a few were in very fuzzy-looking black and white, and then others had a rather old-fashioned color to them. I did notice the lack of pictures on the subject of people however; all of them were either of objects or Marcus. I turned to the lady.

“Are you having family coming over for Thanksgiving?” I asked. She shook her head.

“No, I don’t have any family,” she said. I nodded.

“We just have Aunt Kelly down the street,” I explained. She smiled slightly.

“Siblings?” she asked.

“Just one, John,” I responded. She sighed slightly.

“I see.”

“What do you do for a living?” I asked. It was one of the questions that the whole town was dying to know the answer to.

“I work at home,” she said rather vaguely. Her lips twisted slightly, she knew that she hadn’t given any of the answers I was hoping for. The old wooden clock on the wall chimed noon.

“Oh . . . I have to go . . .” I trailed off. She nodded.

“Of course. Come again if you want more of the molasses though.” I nodded.

“Thank you . . . I believe I shall.” She smiled slightly.

“Good, then I shall make more.”

A few more days passed and on the next Monday, when I was walking home from school I stopped at her home. She surprised me by opening the door as soon as I walked up the stairs. She stepped aside and I silently walked in. Still not saying a word, she handed me another square of the candy. I thanked her and sniffed the air. It held a wonderful spicy scent to it. After only a moment of thinking about it I realized what I was smelled.  Pumpkin pie. I glanced across the hall into the kitchen and saw on the table instead of the large pumpkin I had given her, a medium-sized pie.

“Oh, that . . .” she said, “it made a wonderful pie, thank you,” she finished with a small smile. I nodded back.

“Would you like a slice?” she asked.

“Umm . . . no, thank you.” I didn’t prefer pumpkin pie, especially warm.

“How about a slice of bread then?” without awaiting my reply she led me into the kitchen and sliced a piece of bread of a new loaf waiting on the counter. I took it in my hand and realized that it was warm.

“Do you buy anything pre-made?” I asked a little incredulously.

“When I need to,” she responded with a shrug. I took a bite of the bread, it was truly delicious. I watched Marcus jump up on her shoulder and she fondly stroked his cheek, taking a ladle-full of a brownish drink, putting it into a bowl and then placing it on the floor for him.

“Would you like to see upstairs?” she asked. I nodded a bit too fervently, my weakest point being a desperate curiosity. She took me upstairs and showed me around. Everything was extremely spartan; she couldn’t have had anything there that she didn’t need. Her room held a wooden bed and nightstand, not even a dresser or chair. Most of the other rooms were completely empty, simply dusted clean. One of the rooms held a large loom and stool.

“Do you weave?” I asked. She nodded.

“Yes, I find it relaxing.” I looked up at the tall woman and for the first time noticed how large and strong her hands looked.

After that visit she invited me over again the next day and the next after that, until it became almost a regular expectation that every day after school I would stop by the Lady in the Window’s home for an hour. Everyone in the town began asking me questions. What was her name? She never told me, I just called her “Ma’am.” What did she do for a living? Work at home. Did she have any family? Just her cat. How old was she? No idea, it wasn’t my place to know. They eventually satisfied themselves to knowing no more than before but in the meanwhile, the Lady in the Window and I became fast friends. She taught me to bake and cook pies, bread, molasses candy, and then even to spin, knit, and weave. I enjoyed it . . . even if the two of us barely ever held conversations longer than a few sentences.

Years passed like this, and while other friends changed, grew-up, left, moved, and what-not, she always stayed the same, never seeming to age a day, never changing her ways. Everyone commented on this facet of her, saying that “it isn’t natural,” and “everyone changes,” however I defended my friend steadfastly. I always felt safe around her; she would never desert me or suddenly change her mind about something. Marcus was remarkably similar to his mistress in this, never growing grey fur despite the fact that he was getting on in years. He still jumped as sprightly as ever onto the lady’s shoulder and raced over to drink his morning bowl of brownish liquid.

Finally the day came when it was time to leave for college. I was accepted and prepared to leave in August. My friend was quite congratulatory. She even went so far as to agree to go college shopping with me, which had never happened before. I asked her where she had gone to college, but she informed me that she had never managed to be able to go for various reasons. I shrugged it off as another of her numerous quirks and loved her all the more for it. When I went off to college I found that I missed her a great deal though. I missed our small conversations and even the comfortable silence held between us, only interrupted by the whirr of her spinning wheel or the click clack of the loom. While I was at college she and I wrote often however.  That was forced to suffice since she didn’t own a phone, in fact I had never seen her use any sort of electricity besides for light.  As the semester drifted on though the letters between us became more and more sparse.

I finally came back for my eagerly-awaited Thanksgiving break. I talked with my family, laughed with my Aunt, exchanged college jokes with my brother, and was very happy when finally released long enough to go visit my friend’s home. I eagerly raced up the steps and knocked and the door. Nothing. I knocked again. Still nothing. I tried the door and it opened.

“Ma’am? Marcus?” I asked worriedly. I heard no response and looked around. Everything was gone. The simple chairs, the spinning-wheel, in the kitchen her fire-place was cold and unlit, her table had disappeared, her old pictures of flowers and Marcus no longer decorated the walls. I walked upstairs. No loom, bed, or nightstand. Puzzled, I walked back to my home.

“Where is she?” I asked. Mama looked at me, not even needing an explanation as to who ‘she’ was.

“She left around a week ago, called in a moving truck and was simply up and gone. She hasn’t even put the house up for sale.” Mama responded quietly.

“Do you know where she went? And she didn’t even say goodbye . . . she has been here for years, why leave now?” Mama looked sympathetically back.

“I have no idea . . . and you were the only one to ever speak with her, thus if we ever were to know you would be our only chance.” I sighed. Perhaps she would come back one day.

She never did. I finished college and moved back to the town where I grew up. I looked at the small home my friend had once occupied, now filled with dust and dirt, a window pane broken by a rock thrown at it, cobwebs being the only thing decorating the fire-place now. An old “for sale” sign hung in the yard, however when calling the number it only took me to a reality company which owned the house, and they knew nothing about the previous owner. Still . . . it was a very cheap house; right next door to where my family lived . . . I saved for a full year, took out a loan, and managed to buy it with my parents’ help. I cleaned the place up, desperately trying to make it look like it had when I was growing up. After awhile I filled it with similar furniture, comfortable, useful, rustic, just how I remembered . . .

More years passed, I grew older, Aunt Kelly passed away, more years, Papa died, and then Mama joined them both. I stayed in my home much of the time, saving up for one-day retirement, almost forgetting about the Lady in the Window but not quite. I would occasionally make some of the molasses candy and the lady’s voice would flash in my head, giving me directions. Or I would look at the bay window and could see the woman standing there, Marcus right beside her.

One year a few friends managed to persuade me to go on a cross-country car trip with them; goodness knows why I went. We traveled all over the place and while I found the trip interesting, I missed my spinning wheel back home, the cat that I had taken in, and I began wishing that it would end soon. We were driving through a small town somewhere in Oregon during the afternoon, just when the children were walking home from school. As we were driving down a street I turned my head, staring at an auburn-haired twenty-something woman standing at her window with her cat, watching the children come home from school. As the women around me continued to chatter to each other, I gave a slight smile, not quite believing my eyes.

 

“Farewell, Lady in the Window.”

 

© 2008 Lady Sothis


Author's Note

Lady Sothis
I struggle quite a bit with both grammar (especially commas) and dialogue (thus my dreadful habit of attempting to avoid it). Any and all help in both these areas (and anything else, I might add) would be hugely appreciated. Thanks!

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Reviews

dialogue is tricky...i just try to get into the characters mind...i mean...i put away my own mind and allow the character to speak...not sure exactly how it works...it's almost like becoming a schizophrenic ... ....but yeah....i like this piece

Posted 10 Years Ago


A wonderful story, reallly enjoyed reading this, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, nice write.

Posted 11 Years Ago


I, too, enjoyed this story. It was a bit surreal in it's execution, and I wondered what genre you would put this to if you had to choose. The last part seemed just slightly disjointed, as if you weren't sure how to end it. The disjoint didn't detract from the story, though.

I didn't feel dialogue was appropriate to this story. Giving her too much of a voice would have removed some of the mystery around her. One more thing about the ending... It was disappointing to have her see the lady and not to have some sort of connection take place. I felt like the lady should have looked up and smiled at the protagonist or waved, even. Nothing more. Just an acknowledgment that she remembered.

Despite my picking at it, I think this was a wonderful story. Thanks for the pleasure of the read.
Susan S.

Posted 11 Years Ago


I can't help in the editing process, as I didn't notice anything glaring out at me along those lines. I do love this story. It was a very soothing read, almost like being in the presence of the Lady in the Window would be. It's sad she up and left without a trace, but I have been known to do that myself. This leaves me full of wonder, something I don't usually feel after reading a story, so it's a very welcomed treat. The Lady in the Window is a heroine to me. I long for the days when we were self sufficient, and can appreciate just having your own little place in the world with a pet for company. They do make great companions. I loved how you took us across all the years without it feeling rushed or vague. I also love that the little girl offered up the pumpkin and started a new friendship. This quite reminded me of your remarks in the review of my piece....about never knowing when you might make a new best friend. I hope the Lady in the Window is as serene as she sounds and not as lonely as she looks. Excellent write.

Posted 11 Years Ago


I like this story so much. It is, in its way, of the supernatural; the lack of ageing, the similarity in Oregon, the slightly unreal atmosphere you so ably construct in the house. It is also a happy story unlike so many of its ilk. Strange, but not wierd.
I have not examined your punctuation meticulously, but have read simply in a normal manner. I think your grammar, spelling and punctuation are very good - certainly above the average for the Writers' Cafe. I particularly enjoy your use of semi colons and the fact that dialogue is well written. All in all, a good piece.
John

Posted 11 Years Ago


wow! This is definitely an original idea, and you carried it out beautifully. I really like both the characters you have set up and the tone of the piece.
You did have some problems with commas, but a read-through/touch-up could fix all of those, and there were no problems at all in the actual meat of the story. Love it!

Posted 11 Years Ago


"I nodded, she nodded" a little over-used.

"I eagerly raced up the steps AND the door.." should be "on"

Ok, I spotted a lot of missing commas, a couple of spots where the wording could be improved, a missing semi-colon or two, but I'm reluctant to point them all out because I'm also weak in that area. I plan to eventually get a real expert on such things to go over my work, and you might consider that, too.

Overall, it's a marvelous story, and I loved every minute of it. You're a very, very good writer, Lady Sothis. Sam

Posted 11 Years Ago



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Added on June 5, 2008

Author

Lady Sothis
Lady Sothis

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About
I live in the middle of a forest, surrounded simply by a Bible, a dog, a piano, and a pen. Generally I specialize in short stories, although I've attempted a novel or two. more..

Writing
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A Story by Lady Sothis



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