One bright Saturday afternoon, as Tilly sat in the sitting room darkened by the closed curtains, there was a knock on the door. It had been weeks since that young man had invaded her private hell and she had nearly forgotten about it. Nearly. She didn’t even admit to herself that in her more lonely moments, she remembered his face and the smile he had suddenly shared. Then she would shake off the thought and remember herself.
But now, there was another knock. Tilly’s heart beat so hard it actually hurt. She moved slowly toward the door unsure what she would do once she arrived. She was contemplating putting her hand on the handle when the knock sounded once again. She lost her breath and began to shake. No one could see her inside her self created shelter, but she shook just the same.
“Miss Bledsoe?” Tilly fell to her knees. It was that young man. She recognized his voice. Why? Why had her returned? She opened her mouth but her throat was closed. She tried to control her breathing but her chest hurt. Her hands shook so that she couldn’t raise them to her face. She wanted to hide her face even from herself.
“Miss Bledsoe? Are you there? Please open the door. I just want to talk with you. I swear, it isn’t anything more than that.”
He lied! She knew he lied. Why would he just want to talk to her? They had nothing to talk about.
“Go away!” She croaked. “Leave me alone.”
“Look, I know you don’t see anyone, usually and I know you don’t talk to anyone, but I just want to talk with you. I don’t know about you, but everyone needs a friend, right?” He had a voice that reminded her of the syrup she used on her waffles. She was as attracted to that voice as she was to the sweet syrup.
“I…can’t.” She barely spoke above a whisper.
“Sure you can. Just open the door a bit so we can talk. You don’t have to come out. I won’t come in, I promise. Please?” He was pulling her into something she knew would destroy them both. She knew it was a mistake and she knew that opening that door would end every sort of dream or hope she had ever held in her heart.
But Tilly could not help herself. She turned the handle and opened the door no more than an inch or two.
“See?” the young man smiled through the words. “That isn’t so bad, is it?”
“I guess not. What do you want?” Tilly accused him of deceit with her tone.
“I want to be your friend, that’s all. Your name is Tilly? Is that short for something or is that your name?” She was sure no one was that casual talking to a stranger.
“Just Tilly. That’s all.” She whispered.
“Very nice to meet you, Tilly. My name is Steven. My friends call me Steve, though. You can call me Steve, if you like.”
“Nice to meet you…. Steven. I prefer Steven.” She shocked herself.
“I like the way you say it. Steven it is, then. Just for you. So, do you work from home?”
“I- work? no, I don’t- I mean I have and-inheritance.” Tilly continued to shake. He was invading her life.
“That’s fortunate, then. I work for the delivery company, but I guess you know that. I have worked for them for 5 years. It’s a good job, but I’m back in college, too. I am studying to be a teacher. Where did you go to school?” He was so casual. How could he do that?
“I-didn’t, I mean, I studied at home, I…guess.”
“Home schooled. That’s cool. It cuts out on all the garbage you deal with at regular school, that’s for sure. What was your favorite subject?” He talk to her like they were friends. Tilly’s head hurt.
“I- I like to read.”
“That’s great! I plan to teach English so I understand that. What is your favorite book?” Why did he keep talking? Why was she still allowing it?
“I just- I- it’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Are you done with this talking yet?” She ventured.
“I love that book, too. It’s classic. and finished? Am I boring you?” He laughed. He actually laughed as though he was happy. Then he did it.
“Wouldn’t you rather we talk face to face? Isn’t talking through the door a bit awkward?” He asked her.
Tilly’s heart threatened to stop beating. She suddenly slammed the door shut. She didn’t realize she hadn’t locked it. She simply sank to the floor.
“Tilly? Are you ok? Listen, I didn’t mean anything by it. Really. I would just like to sit and talk together. What’s wrong with that?” Why didn’t he leave?
“Why?! You saw me. Why do you want to look at me? I’m revolting!” She screamed. She scared herself with her sudden anger.
“Revolting? You? How can you say that? You aren’t revolting. Please, Tilly, let me prove it to you. Please?” He spoke in such a calm voice, Tilly was nearly tempted.
“NO! Go away!”
Tilly turned and raced up the stairs to her room. She slammed the door closed and curled into a ball in the corner. She cried until she fell asleep.
When Tilly woke, it was dark. It took a moment, as it normally does after a deep sleep, for her to realize where she was. Slowly, the young woman stood and made her way down the stairs.
Once in the kitchen, she put the tea kettle on the stove. She sat carefully to wait. That was when she heard it.
Behind her, Tilly heard someone clear their throat. She began to shake visibly. She began to whimper. She was unable to move.
From the corner of her eye, Tilly saw someone move from behind her around to face her. She looked up to see the young man from the door.
“Tilly, I am so sorry. I never meant to frighten you, but I was really worried about you. I had to come back and check on you. I knocked and knocked and called out but you never answered. You didn’t lock your door so I came in to check on you. I really hope you understand. Are you ok?” He was kneeling in front of her. He was looking straight at her. He was just looking at her. He wasn’t reacting to her ugliness. What was going on here?
Tilly couldn’t respond at all. She couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t speak. This young man, Steven, reached out and took her hand.
“Tilly. Are you ok?” He repeated. He was looking into her eyes.
“How…how can you stand to look at me?” She croaked.
“How can I…? Are you serious? Tilly, you are beautiful! Your eyes are the color of the ocean. I saw it once. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, until now. Don’t you realize how beautiful you are?” Steven was holding her hand.
Tilly could only shake her head.
“No.” She finally breathed. “I’m not. My Father told me a long time ago. I’m not. He told me.”
Steven sat with Tilly for a long evening not saying anything. He held her hand. He poured her tea and found her tin of cookies. He just sat with her.
Finally, Steven asked if she had a mirror. Tilly could only shake her head.
“I am going to go and bring back a mirror, Tilly. You have to see the real you. Your father was SO wrong. You wait right here and I will be back in just a few minutes, ok? Ok?”
Tilly nodded her agreement.
Steven was out the door and Tilly felt the silence begin to smother her. She had fallen for his voice. She had let him in. How could she have done that? He was coming back. No.
Tilly never thought to simply lock the door. Instead, she went up the stairs and pulled the small bottle of sleeping pills from the medicine chest. She drew a glass of water and emptied the pills into her hand.
One by one, Tilly began to swallow the pills.
She remembered hearing the front door close and she heard Steven’s voice call her name. She heard him coming up the stairs. She felt so sleepy.
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