It was the moment Sylvia Carmody opened her blinds that she knew she should step out of the confines of her dreary house. She placed her hands gently on the window pane and fixed her eyes on the sky. The morning sun was filled with opportunity and possibility, but there were already a few ash-grey tinged clouds evoking a subtle feeling within Sylvia that told her maybe she should actually stay at home.
No. Today could be her day.
She glided across the room to where her already thought-out outfit was hanging beside her mirror. She ruffled the bottom of the flowing dress and admired its suggestive beauty for a moment. Could she wear this today? She did not feel that today would be a day of beauty.
After carefully perusing her wardrobe of possible choices, she decided on a simple plaid skirt with a chiffon top. She could always purchase something much more exhilarating if the day required it.
The plaid skirt felt tighter to button up than it had in the past. Sylvia was adamant that she had been eating right and healthy and could not, for the life of her, understand why she had to breathe in to do up the skirt. It couldn't have been the delicious bagel she'd snuck in on her way home from the markets the other day. Could it?
Sylvia felt uncomfortable but she was ready to step into the day with a hopeful imagination. She bent down at the front door to stroke her cat's fur. It pressed its head against her hand, willing her to continue caressing its tiny face and buying time before she would be gone for the day.
'Goodbye, my darling.'
It meowed one single goodbye and knew there would be no point attempting an escape as Sylvia pulled the door closed.
She clicked her key into the lock and gave it a full turn to the right before securing it in a pocket in her Mariano handbag. She had no tolerance for thieves. She ensured she always carried a small rock in her bag in expectation of the event that someone might attempt to snatch her belongings. She practised many times a day swinging her bag wildly at a hopeful thief and with the rock for protection, knocking them out cold with a single blow.
Her clean cut shoes clicked on the pavement with every light footstep. She was extremely cautious when it came to walking on the footpath. Ever since she was a little girl, Sylvia had developed a complex that involved never stepping on the separation marks between the pavers. It irked her whenever she had to go walking outside as she had to always exercise so much caution and control in her footsteps.
It wasn't long before she reached the town centre. It was already bustling with activity. Sylvia just hoped and prayed that nobody she knew would stop her in the street and whisk her off to a coffee shop for a long-winded chat and discussion about world events. Today was supposed to be her day. For a moment she almost considered buying a mask to cover up any kind of identity she possessed but then decided against it. It might remove the opportunities that the day could still offer her.
The first place Sylvia entered was the humble little bookshop right on the edge of the town centre. She loved everything about the shop; its smell, its atmosphere, its comforting nature. She would live in it if she could.
She gave the salesman a smile that said, I don't require any help, thank you. I'm just happy to peruse your lovely books.
With the first row of shelves she found, she ran her hand along the spines of all the old and beautiful classics. They felt so intriguing to her fingertips and she paused as she pulled one out to admire its body. It was the most exuberating feeling for her, just standing amidst thousands of carefully thought-out and written books, holding one single book in her hand, someone's pride and joy, their own story, something that came from their heart and soul and having every inch of it scream out hard work and perseverance.
It was a perfect fit in her hands. Tender is the Night. The title just sounded so romantic and perfect. She thought about the countless nights this author must have sacrificed to ensure this beautiful novel was accepted into the world. The thought mesmerised her as she sunk into a leather-bound chair and opened the front cover. Every word that laced the pages together had once been a passing thought in the author's mind. Every word had been placed so carefully within each sentence to grant the novel a place on every bookshelf in every bookshop in the world.
Sylvia breathed in the scent of the shop. She could quite easily lie down amongst these books and revel in the glory of this place for the rest of her days.
The chair embraced her slender figure within its borders and she rested for a minute, just scanning her eyes along the shelves of beautifully bound books. It was hard to feel any negative emotions in this place; every inch of the shop exuded so much hope that there was still knowledge and determination left in the world. Sometimes Sylvia felt like the world was spinning on a different axis than she was.
There was suddenly a bustle of voices and footsteps and the bookshop bell gave its ding! as a hoard of excitable teenagers lumbered into the store. The place had been Sylvia's own for a moment; she was able to revel in the silence and soak up the beauty and atmosphere that surrounded her. Now it was like a zoo of young boys and girls, scouring the shelves for Harry Potter and Twilight.
Sylvia wanted to hand them How to Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye. Those books would always take her on a whirlwind journey and had been written with such conviction. She despised the books in the now and of this time.
She left the bookshop with not a moment to spare.
Soft, tuneful voices and the melodic pling of a guitar sailed down the street. Sylvia followed the sound and came to a young girl of about fifteen clutching her elbows nervously and opening her mouth to let angelic sounds escape. She was accompanied by an older man, maybe in his forties (Sylvia did not like to assume people's ages), who was strumming a beautiful hardwood guitar and providing the harmony of the song.
Sylvia stayed standing in front of the duet and closed her eyes, letting the music wash over her and take over her being. She loved music as much as she loved books. The girl's voice was a little shaky but Sylvia smiled; it created a unique style. Her hands folded in front of her and her body began to subconsciously sway to the tune. She wasn't aware of anyone around her; as far as she was concerned, it was just the three of them.
She was snapped from her trance however, when a group of joggers began to nudge her out of the way as they came storming through. Sylvia felt her blood boil. The nerve of some people! she thought, but moved aside anyway. She had thought once about taking up some form of exercise but it just seemed so mundane and fickle. She had no business running on a treadmill or riding a bike. It just seemed so unnatural to her. Her body was for walking, talking and creating.
As she decided to walk on, Sylvia threw a five dollar note into the duet's open guitar case and she received an appreciative nod from the man and a shy smile from the girl. Their talent deserved more but she had only brought with her ten dollars. She needed to buy some bits and pieces at the market so it was the most she felt she could part with at this point of time.
Maybe if they were there tomorrow she would come down again and give them some more. Only if the weather was good though. That reminded her; she looked to the sky and saw the ash-grey tinged clouds had now developed into charcoal-dark storm clouds. This day of possibility was turning into a day of disappointment.
The market was at the other end of town. She would have to reluctantly pass by Mrs Trenerry's florist store and knew she wouldn't be able to pass by without having to listen to all the gossip first.
Sylvia hated gossip. Most of what came out of Mrs Trenerry's mouth was usually untruthful slander anyway. They were poisonous and vile rumours about other people in the town. They didn't deserve the way this lonely old lady spoke about them and on numerous occasions Sylvia would wonder to herself whether Mrs Trenerry actually spoke about her in the same way.
Today though, as she was using as much tact as she could to make it past the store without a sighting, Sylvia was bombarded by Mrs Trenerry's ear-piercing voice. This time the gossip was about her and as much as Sylvia did not want to be talked about behind her back, she did not appreciate being talked about to her face either.
Questions regarding a marital partner were fired in her direction. Why wasn't she married? Why was she never taken out on a date? When was she going to resign herself to the fact that all women should have a partner to carry them through life, because God knows women cannot carry themselves through life on their own.
Or so Mrs Trenerry believed.
There was no respite for ten minutes. Sylvia did not wish to argue her case because she felt that her personal life had no business in Mrs Trenerry's.
Sylvia wished her a good day and moved on, only to hear the questions continue on with the florist apprentice. This confirmed Sylvia's question of whether her life was discussed without her knowledge but she shrugged it off and continued on towards the market.
It was now drizzling slightly so Sylvia picked up the pace. She arrived at the market, looking forward to purchasing some fresh vegetables for her dinner tonight. The grocer greeted her with a cheery 'hello' and relayed the specials he had in store today. She listened intently, hoping her desired vegetables were now half price. They weren't on his list. Sylvia didn't mind so much as the produce was always quite good value on any given day.
She found what she needed and it looked superbly crisp and fresh. The smell of the market was overwhelming but refreshing and it was cool inside. She wished she had brought a jacket and she shivered but soon she would be home again.
The grocer added up the price and Sylvia went to get the remainder of her cash from her pocket. To her surprise it was empty. She tried her other pocket but there was nothing there. She was sure she had brought ten dollars with her. Maybe it had slipped out at the bookshop while she was reclining in the leather chair, or perhaps she had given the singing duet ten dollars by mistake.
Maybe they would still be there and she could ask for it back.
No, she couldn't do that. They deserved that money.
Sylvia sighed and apologised to the grocer. There was nothing she could do. She took one last look at the beautifully grown vegetables and left the store.
It was misty outside and cold. The sun had been swallowed by the ominous looking clouds and big, teasing raindrops splashed on the pavement around her feet. She just wanted to get home and curl up with her cat. This had been a rotten day.
Her feet seemed to move freely from her body as they carried her quickly back through the town. The duet had packed up and moved to sheltered quarters, Mrs Trenerry had taken inside her display flowers and the bookshop was now full with people desiring to escape the storm that was about to erupt (and possibly even read a good book while they waited).
Sylvia had no intention of waiting in town for the rain to subside; it could last all day. She was now running, faster and faster as the raindrops became heavier and more frequent. So this was what they called exercise?
The mad dash back home left Sylvia doubled over trying to catch her breath when she reached her front door.
Her clothes were dripping and sticking to her like a relentless staticky satin dress and her carefully preened wavy hair was now hanging loosely around her face in sopping tendrils.
Her cat faithfully greeted her when she dragged her solemn self in through the front door. She made her way straight to the shower. She hated not feeling clean and dry and warm.
The shower brought back renewed energy and peace within herself. She revelled in this feeling and wrapped herself up in a woollen blanket and sat down on her pristine sofa with a cup of tea and her toasty warm cat snuggled into her lap.
Today had brought Sylvia nothing but stress and disappointment. Perhaps it was not her day. Perhaps she was not meant to step out of the front door yet. The sun did not open up any possibilities; instead it shied away behind big brooding clouds. She followed the sun and today was not the sun's day either.
There was still a comforting thought within her though; there was always going to be another day. Maybe tomorrow would be the day of opportunity.
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