by L.J. Bosela
All she had ever wanted was to live quietly, simply, away from noise and crowds, in a safe cocoon of her own making. Over the years, that dream-haven changed in her imagination–sometimes resembling a monastic cell with stacks of books and little else, and other times a eclectic and bohemian den with overstuffed armchairs with mismatching cushions and funky crocheted afghans and hand-dyed curtains. There, she would be happy in a paper-filled, ink-scented life of words and writing, including others only when she wanted, and only those whom she really liked and who understood her.
Now, however, she questioned that completely solitary life and wondered at how lonely and cold it could be when she had found that there were other kinds of people. People other than those of the many homes she’d known as a child, or the shelters between those homes, or the girls who lived around her in college dorms, the ones whose lives seemed to exist in another reality from the one she’d always known. Could she be happy in what her counselor called social circles and her Priest called community, and leave her happiness safely with other people?
Debating all this in her mind, she walked aimlessly down the golden-leafed street, kicking up little flurries of crackling leaves with each step and smiling unconsciously at each one that stuck to her hand-knit socks.
Even now, she felt removed from herself; the girl she was around these new people would have seemed a stranger to her only a few years ago, when she’d shut herself away in her dingy flat, never speaking to another person for days, or weeks, sometimes even months.
For now, she was happy with the new her–the one that went to concerts, and met friends for coffee (or even had friends to meet for coffee), and who gave readings at bookstores and sometimes sang when those same friends begged her to. Getting used to saying friends had been difficult though, and when she first heard May introduce her to the rest of the Chai and Books Crowd (as Adam had dubbed them) as her friend, she realized then how much she had always wanted that word but never used it after twenty years of rejection.
How could she give up the work of so many years in guarding herself from attachment, her cocooning abilities that kept her from getting hurt by–yet again–people like the foster families who didn’t want her, like her mother who would show up and then disappear again like the east wind–when she knew very well it might end horribly and leave her alone in a dark room with only writing and books to mark out her days?
It might not be like that now, she told herself. Just maybe.
Keeping her thoughts in a continuous loop, she put her hands to her temples and pressed down hard, closing her eyes and mentally screaming for all the cacophony of conflicting emotion and thought to leave her alone.
Long moments passed, just standing there and breathing deeply, while the autumn air bit crisply at her nose and she buried her chin into her sweater. Maybe it was enough for her this time, and she flung her head back, her hair catching on falling leaves and whipping about her in the brisk wind that teased her with scents of promise and new life. Never having liked spring, she had always been fond of autumn, reversing the common idea that autumn was the dying of the season, and seen as the time of reinvention, of the grace for new beginnings. Of course, she tried to put that in writing once, and an editor told her it was weird and no one else would get it and she’d never tried to share her real thoughts on things in her columns again.
Perhaps that is why she had liked Simon so much, so immediately; because he had said things that she’d always thought and others had always laughed at her for, and because he took her completely serious when she opened up her mind to him.
Quietly reveling in her moment of peripeteia, she smiled and realized that her answer lie within that finding of a kindred spirit, the reason she wanted to break out of her cocoon. Running through the leaves, she felt the wind ripping out of her lungs, but rather than stopping, she kept on, laughing and feeling the sudden freeness surge through her body as it broke free from fear.
Simon didn’t seem upset when she bowled him over, laughing at the wild expression on her face and brushing her hair back from her eyes, but he left the leaves in. They walked together, her eyes staring around with surprise at colors she hadn’t noticed before.
Unspeaking, they turned the corner and he ushered her into the teashop, where she blinked at the sudden dimness. Violently shaking her head, she shook loose the leaves that drifted lazily out the still open door and hesitantly moved towards their usual table. While they waited for their tea, she glanced about, looking at the faces of strangers who were oblivious to her gaze, for the first time since her childhood, without fear of their judgment. Xenophobia is what her counselor had called it, but she knew it wasn’t really dislike, let alone hatred, on her part, but simply an unspoken and strangling terror, and now even that fear, the all-encompassing anthropophobia, was rapidly diminishing.
“Yes,” she smiled, whispering the word so that he leaned forward to be sure he’d heard her. Zipping her jacket up and down, she watched as his face slowly changed with understanding, a slow smile taking over his expression and she took her first sip of tea and began to read.
About the Author: L.J. Bosela was raised in Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula. She writes mostly fiction, with a special interest in fantasy in the style of Tolkien, Lewis, and McKillip. Outside of writing, she also enjoys reading, drinking tea, listening to classical and folk music, and spending time walking through woods, bookstores, and antique shops.