The Spaces Between the Lines

The Spaces Between the Lines

A Story by Tom Aubin

The story of a woman observing life from her bedroom's window

She loved to watch the life outside her window in the late afternoon. The light was the best around that time than any other time of the day. It had something soothing, warm to the soul. Colors that seemed to be out of this world. 
Looking at the people walking on her street, coming home from work, the kids playing on the sidewalks, the occasional squirrel jumping from tree to tree and the inevitable cat on its tracks. 
Standing behind her window and watching it all happen made her feel like a spectator of the best show on Earth. The room where she stood would stop being just a room to become one of these fancy balconies where fancy people wore fancy clothes and sat on fancy chairs to watch fancy shows. 
Most people did not like being looked at, and she could understand the reaction. However, they did not get it. She was not looking at them. Not really. She was trying to look through them, like reading the empty spaces between the lines of a book and make a story out of it. 
Their life was not something of interest to her. But what lay beyond it, this thing that could only be seen in rare occasions when it slipped away behind a look or a smile. This thing that was different depending on the pair of eyes looking at it. That was what she looked for. 
Something that mattered. 
It was not always easy to read the spaces between the lines. Sometimes there was nothing, or something barely existent, which made it even harder to dig out. Most of the time it was not a good story, but she kept hoping that one day she would be surprised when she would be less expecting it.
Lately she felt strange. The world seemed to have become a neighborhood where all the benches were full. She had trouble to find a spot, and on grim days she had the impression that the only world she truly knew was inside the frame her window offered. 
There had been a time where she did not spend all her afternoons there, a time where she had been one of these people, just walking straight, no time to look at the sky or to stop and observe the funny shape that this tree projected on the concrete over there.
This time had lasted for quite a while, almost her entire life, but sometimes she felt as if it had never been there at all. As if she had just stolen the eyes of the people she observed and then carried on with their vision of life, momentarily abandoning hers in her bedroom. 
It was strange, and she did not like the feeling, so she just looked outside now, and hoped. 
Hoped for what? That was a good question, and she asked it to herself quite often. Hope was volatile. It could take many shapes and mean a thousand different things. To this day she had not been able to define what hope meant to her. 
Was it to one day find a look that would cross hers and make her feel something? She considered it for a second, but no, it was not. Was it to finally find something outside her window that would change her life? 
She wondered less and less these days, and often thought of giving up. She just watched, and that was it. Perhaps some questions were not destined to be answered. 
The streets were empty now, and the crimson sky was announcing the upcoming darkness. Last chance before the end of the today’s show. Surprise me, she thought.
A boy suddenly appeared in the frame, head down, walking slowly on the sidewalk. He seemed really young. Too young to be walking these streets alone. 
She came closer to the window. 
What now? Would that boy also just pass away, disappear out of the frame like the others? Or would it be different. 
The boy did something she did not expect. He sat on the curve facing her apartment, put his backpack on the ground in front of him, and took from it a white sheet of paper and a pencil. He started using it, fully focused on the paper.
Her eyes did not leave him. Her thirst for a tea tempted her to leave to the kitchen but she was afraid that her entertainment would be gone by the time she cooked the water.
The boy stopped moving, eyes staring at his paper, and for a brief second he looked in her direction. 
It was a furtive look, and she recognized it. It was not innocent. He did not just look at the sky because one of the clouds had a funny shape, he did not look at the apartment next to hers. He had looked straight at her, a look so powerful she had felt it piercing the window. 
She knew exactly how to describe it. It was the same look painters would give to the landscape they wished to immortalize on a canvas. 
For one moment she thought the roles had been exchanged. She was not the spectator anymore but had become the show. It was a strange thought, and it gave birth to other strange thoughts that she feared to believe. 
But no, it was ridiculous…
Still, now that she thought about it, she could not remember the last time she had looked away from the window. She could not remember how her apartment looked like from the inside. How comfortable her bed was. And this thirst for tea she had… She could not even recall the taste of tea. She knew she liked it, it made no doubt in her mind, but how did tea taste like? 
Eyes still on the boy, she searched her memories and felt a growing and unknown feeling as nothing came out of it.
She tried to move her head away from the window. That would prove it. But at the second she wished to move, she thought: “What if the boy goes away while I am looking elsewhere?”, and this thought kept her head straight. 
She had moved, a little bit, and it was enough to keep her worries away. 
The boy had stopped moving, and he was looking at her again. This time he looked confused, disappointed, and he stayed like that for a while.
Had he seen her move? 
Something impossible happened. Although he was far away, she heard him sigh, as if he was standing right next to her.
He looked at the paper again with disappointed eyes, and took something from his bag. Then his hand started to move frantically from side to side.
She was afraid to know what was happening.
He was erasing her. Her place in the big picture was in the end not so important. 
It was painless, but it still hurt. She looked at her legs, and half her body down the waist was already gone. In a short moment there would be nothing left of her. 
During the last seconds of her life she did not look for a purpose, to make sense out of it. She did not wonder if it had been real at all. 
She just thought of the things she was going to miss. The life on her street, even if it had all been a dream. She would miss the ever blue sky, the tall trees, the people walking and occasionally glancing at her window, making her feel alive. 
She would even miss the boy. Even after his decision. Perhaps it had been her fault after all. She was not supposed to notice. But was the realization of her fate so bad that she deserved to be cast away? 
She just hoped that the boy would bring her back, one day, even if the view was different. She just hoped that she would once more be able to read the spaces between the lines. 

© 2018 Tom Aubin

Author's Note

Tom Aubin
Please let me know if you spotted grammar problems or things that can be improved. I hope you will enjoy it. Thank you for reading.

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Added on June 29, 2018
Last Updated on June 29, 2018
Tags: short story space between lines