Monday, October 03, 2011

A reader

He looked at her, his wife, with an air of faint resentment. She was sitting in her regular comfortable chair, in her regular spot in front of the fireplace. Their -or rather her, he never really liked it- black cat curled on her lap, a book opened at its stark in her hand, and a blank expression on her face.

She has always been a reader.

He couldn't remember at their old age, but there might have been a book in her hand when they met, long ago when they were still in the prime of their youth.

He was an avid reader himself, but not like her. He would get his face out of the books every once in a while. She wouldn't. She would never. Their library spilled over with the hundreds of books she compiled over the years of their marriage. They even had to allocate another room only for her books, which she refused to give away or let go. She considered them her property and her materialistic worth; the only thing she deemed worthy of possession.

He remembered how he was fascinated with her passion for reading when they first met, and the way she talked about her books with such affection. He thought it was endearing.

If only he knew!

When she read, she fell into some kind of a trance, of which no one can wake her. She would only get out of that trance when she had finished the amount of intended reading. He remembered the day of their son's birth. She was reading Milton's "Paradise Lost" at the time, and she was so intent on finishing it that she managed to ignore the contractions, and was not aware that her water broke except after she had read the last page of the book.

He imagined her reading through a fire. Everyone would be rushing to get out of the flaming building, and she would be in her chair, abandoned by her cat and her people, yet still consuming the words as if her life depended on it. He wondered if she would feel the fire eating at her own flesh.

Probably not!

Suddenly, something slammed. She finished her book, and enthusiastically jumped up, disregarding her aching hip, and screechy joints. The cat, who was lovingly sleeping on her belly, was as startled as her husband at the abrupt awakening. Yet, it remained next to her on the ground, circling her legs impatiently, rubbing its ears slowly against them, happy that its owner has come back to life. The cat knew that she would get some attention; it both expected it and looked forward to it. So, it followed its owner longingly into the kitchen, where sure enough, it received a treat and a few minutes of petting. It noted its owner's departure from the kitchen, back into the living room, but it was too engrossed in its tasty treat to care.

He noted her entrance, she was smiling; always happy to finish a book. She called it "her tiny accomplishment of the day". She looked at him, and her smile widened even more. His resentment was being nudged slowly away by a feeling of comfort that overwhelmed his aching heart. However, he wouldn't respond to it; he was too annoyed, too neglected, too proud to let go so easily. He pretended to read his paper, while trying to peak at her from the corner of his eyes.

She placed a cup of hot tea and biscuits in front of him, right before the opened newspaper. She planted a light kiss on his cheek, and then sat on the chair next to his, sipping her own tea.

He slowly put down the paper, while peaking at her. She held the cup in her hands, trying to warm up, still smiling and looking at him intently. He tried to avoid her gaze; she wouldn't get a response so easily, he promised himself that much. Yet, he reached for the tea and biscuits; homemade biscuits made with ginger and cinnamon- his favorite. He closed his eyes to appreciate the taste. She knew his weaknesses too well. He both hated and loved that fact.

She was still looking at him, still smiling.

She didn't understand that his world froze while she was in her daily reading trance; time didn't move, and everything came to a definite halt. The winter outside seeped into his world, and iced every aspect of it. He always felt the coldest during that time of the day. The cold seeped inside of his brain and heart, making it hard to feel warm towards anything or anyone. During that time, even her cat seemed annoying. She was the one responsible, the one to blame for his temporary misery, and she always seemed not to care. He hated that, but try as he might, even during such an icy time, he couldn't get himself to hate her. The best he could do was faint resentment.

During that time, she was the snow queen, and he knew he was supposed to hate her. However, the frozen splinter within his heart, which she had planted, prevented him from feeling that way towards her. The splinter remained lodged within his aching heart, and at times, it was the only thing keeping him alive.

She was a reader, a snow queen, but she was also his Persephone, the one who brought warmth back into his heart, and because of that, he would never banish her from it.  
 

8 comments:

ibhogs said...

so endearing .. :)

Sina said...

Thanks ibhog, glad you liked it :)

Brownie said...

It is a breathtaking post...I read it at work and did not want anybody to bother me till i finish...well done Sina =)

Sina said...

Thanks Brownie, this is quite a compliment :D

Ze2red said...

Ezay keda, this is one of the best pieces i've read for quite sometime. I should go to bed after reading this.

Well done, Bravo, Chapeau ... kolo kolo :D

Sina said...

Thanks Ze2red :D You flatter me :D

Maha said...

I write short stories -rather try to write them-myself. I cannot claim to be any good at it but I know how hard and unnerving it can be, which makes me all the more appreciate your story.

Sina said...

yeah, it's tough, especially if you're not inspired. Good luck :)

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