Hats that Women Wear – Hat # 3
I looked out of my window. The house across the park that was directly opposite mine, gleamed in the afternoon summer sun. The house looked like the houses around it, but in my eyes, it was different. I knew that if I opened the gate and walked along the southern wall of the house, I’d come across a window that was boarded-shut. I doubt if anyone else had noticed it. The honeysuckles that grow around the house are dense, and that particular window has a sandpaper-vine twisting diagonally over it – ensuring that even the board would be seen only by those with a lot of imagination.
Those others…their imagination was jaded, sucked dry by their daily rut. But I was different. I had seen strange things happening in houses that looked perfectly normal, so when I saw that boarded-up window, I knew something wasn’t right. I looked around. The streets, the park, the verandahs of the houses, all bore a deserted look. The hot sting of the summer wind kept everyone inside in the afternoons. I knew that a middle-aged man lived in that house. Every morning, five days a week, he’d open the gate, wheel out his motorcycle, shut the gate, and ride away. Every evening around 7, he returned. On weekends, he stayed home. At this hour, on a weekday, the house would be vacant.
All I had to do was go down, walk through the park, open that gate and walk in.
I locked the house, set my phone on Silent, and went down the steps of my house. Outside, I looked around. If anyone were looking they’d just see a housewife running an important errand. Satisfied, I walked through the park, crossed the street on the opposite side, slid the catch on the gate and got in. I was there. I could hear my heart thumping, beating against my rib. And then the enormity of my action dawned upon me. I was trespassing. I looked around again. Surreptitiously. The streets were still deserted. I looked up – to check the windows. A few were open, and I wondered whether those dark square holes contained a pair of watchful eyes.
I shrugged the thought aside. I could just be lady calling upon her neighbors. What was wrong with it? Nothing!
I turned around and walked into the house – right to that mysterious boarded-up window. I bowed a little to reach under the sandpaper vine and tried to find a hole from where I could peep in, but in vain. Someone had done a thorough job of sealing it up. Then I tip-toed around the house and stepped into the backyard. I was shocked to see how beautiful it looked. For a moment, I lost myself in admiring the beauty of the summer-flowers that grew there.
Then I heard a sound. The sound of a person moving, a few yards away, inside the house.
There was someone inside, and the door was cracked open. I turned around and climbed the two concrete steps that led to the door – battling the issue of propriety within, I opened the door some more and peeped inside. It looked pretty. This was their morning room, I thought. The the flower-vases, the floral curtains; they all suggested a woman’s touch.
“Anyone in there?” I called out, cold sweat breaking in my palms and my heart threatening to break my rib-cage; I was ready to run. The curtain moved, and I almost bolted, but the vision that materialized in front of my eyes stopped me dead.
I stood rooted to my spot; speechless, and shocked.
This is what I saw.
Why was the window boarded up?
Who kept the garden?
Why didn’t the woman leave?
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