Story – I [As yet untitled II]

Story continued from here

 

For a week, Ian didn’t venture out of his room. Lying there on his bed, sitting on the recliner in the corner, or standing by the window, he passed time without thought. Occasionally looking out to the street, and to Su Ae’s parents apartments across the street, he listened to all the sounds that were generated all around in the neighborhood. This was his favorite pastime. Listening to people all around him; how their lives were, why they were tired, frustrated, happy or sad. To him, humans were quite the riddle but they weren’t interesting enough to have piqued his curiosity totally. His sole existence from the beginning had yet to irk him. At the end of a long day, all he wanted was to be alone in his solitude. It reminded him of the reality of himself, his work, and the environment around him. It would do him no good to be friendly or involved with humans. In the end, he would always be alone.

On the last day of his voluntary exile, he caught a glimpse of Su Ae on the rooftop of her building. She carried a sleek bag on her shoulders and roamed the whole rooftop before settling down on a spot and started extracting stuff from her bag, colors, pages and pens. Hunching over the pages, her side visible to Ian, she started scribbling on the pages. For what seemed like a short while to him, she sat in the same place, scribbling and drawing. Finally her mother came out onto her porch and called Su Ae  to come down for dinner. The mention of dinner startled him. Looking around the horizon, he realized it was true; more than two hours had passed since he had started looking at Su Ae while she drew. How come in the two hours he kept watching her, time seemed to be at a standstill? What was it about her that influenced him so much? He wondered to himself. The next morning, he finally went to the coffee shop again.

 

Their first meeting was at the ice cream parlor two blocks down the street three weeks later. Ian had observed her and mothers routine for the past three weeks and knew they would walk into the ice cream parlor on way back from Su Ae’s school. When they walked in, he didn’t have to turn around to know it was them. He had easily smelled their scent ten minutes ago. He sat on one of the stools right by the counter so when they walked up to the counter, and Su Ae got her favorite dark chocolate ice cream while her mother opted for a blueberry flavor again, they sat besides him. In the thirty minutes they were there, Su Ae excitedly recounted stories of her day at school to her mother, and some of her stories made even Ian chuckle. Just during the five minute break that her mother went to use the restroom, did Su Ae turn to him.

“Why did you laugh?”

“Pardon?”

“When I told mama about the jellyfish, and the alphabets, you laughed, didn’t you?” Su Ae replied, “I heard you.”

It was impossible for Su Ae to have heard him. He had briefly snickered, and in a low tone so he wouldn’t alarm her mother. He figured she had probably heard someone else and was mistaking it for him, but she persisted.

“It was you, I heard it clearly!” She insisted.

“Okay, maybe you heard me.” He was simply humoring her, he told himself. “I laughed because your story was funny.”

“Really?” She asked with stars in her eyes.

“Yes.” He assured her.

That brought a bright smile to her lips and her face lightened up immediately.

“I’m glad you think so too! Only mum thinks my stories are funny. All the other kids think I’m weird.”

“Everyone’s weird when they’re a kid.”

“Mama says that too!” she told him happily. With that, she turned back to finish her ice cream, just as her mother walked out of the restroom door.

It won’t be until two years later that Ian would recall this conversation and realize he should have known something was different about her, something he had failed to realize at that moment.

 

Their second meeting didn’t happen for the months to come, particularly because of Ian’s busy days, and partially because of Su Ae’s school work, and the subsequent winter break holidays, though Ian would often sight her at the rooftop, scribbling away on her papers with all the colors and pens she could muster up.

When they did meet again, it was a chilly winter evening and as was usual, Ian was grumpy and a little cross-tempered. The winters usually got to him. Even though he hated the summers more, sometimes, winters brought back nauseous memories and this particular evening was no exception. The falling snow drops reminded him of a certain someone, and perhaps that was also the reason why he was unable to see what he originally would have. When he exited the bar that night, it was a little later than nine at night, and he could see the light still on at Su Ae’s place and she briefly appeared in the window, throwing him an eager glance and went away. With a sigh, and upturning of his collar against the chill, he turned to go towards his own home. He had to be prepared. Tomorrow, he had work to do, he thought to himself in neutral tones.

He had barely walked a few steps when his ears picked the sounds of Su Ae’s footsteps. She was running down the stairs of her apartment into the street. Before she had the chance to call him, he turned towards her, not irritated, yet not so eager for the meeting either.

“Mister!” She called out to him just once, but gestured as she ran even though he already faced her.

She was panting when she stopped a few steps from him, her breath coming in gasps, her eyes wide, and her smile bright and cheerful.

“I knew you were here. Mama said to make it quick so I have to run back up again.”

Ian didn’t have to look to know her mother stood in the apartment’s doorway, and her father watched from the window of their apartment. Knowing it would be good manners to do so, he turned and gestured a greeting to each of them with a pleasant smile. Their return smiles mirrored his.

“I wanted to give you these. Mama said it might be rude, but I thought you would like them.”

She held out the papers she held in her hand. They were sketches, Ian noted, and less than a dozen, but still more than he would credit a child for finishing. Perhaps she really liked art; he mused with another inward chuckle and took the sketches from her. He was duly surprised when he saw the sketches. They were all about him, a sketch of him standing in his apartment window, of him sipping coffee on the corner table in the café, of him standing on the sidewalk on a snowy night and there were some sketches of him that didn’t ring his memory as something he had done.

“They’re…. nice!” He exclaimed finally. And they were. She hadn’t drawn his face, but the silhouette was perfect and so were the details, not too much, but just enough. “You draw well!”

Her smile widened.

“I just drew what I saw. Mamas says that it’s the best way to remember too much and not hurt your mind!” She chuckled at that.

He could feel her mother getting anxious so told Su Ae to head back home with a thank you, and feeling glad at her cheerful response, again Ian missed what he should have seen.

Ian couldn’t say what it was, but for a moment, his mind read the tension and worry clouding Su Ae’s parents fading away, as if they trusted him after all.

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About hitomiakiko

Architect and Aspiring Writer

Posted on November 9, 2011, in Potpourri, Stories, Uncategorized, Written Excerpts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Your story is really good! I’m amazed how I can’t figure out what might happen next. :))

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