They had recently moved in to the house next door. I overheard people say that she was a young widow. I was too young to understand what that meant. I was maybe 7 or 8. Too young to fathom heart breaks or the loss of a husband/lover. But I knew she cried a lot. I saw it in her eyes every time I ran into her. They were always red and puffy. She tried her best to smile at me, but somehow the smile never reached her eyes. Her smile always left me more uncomfortable than her teary eyes.
She was young. Too young to spend her days behind a shut door. She was lonely. I think she sensed my loneliness too. We had nothing in common. But she left her doors open for me. I would sit and sip the warm cup of milk she made for me, while she would be lost in her thoughts. She would reheat her cup of tea atleast 5 times, but before I left, I could see her pour down the still full cold cup of tea down the drain. I can count the number of words we had exchanged, but I think the presence of another living person in the room gave her a sense of comfort. A reassurance. Or maybe it is the innocence of my non-judgmental age that she preferred.
For a change, I saw her smile one evening. It was amazing how that one smile of hers managed to put an even brighter one on my face. Excited, I hurried to her house. She had laid out the table with quite a spread. She told me it was all his favorites. It was his birthday.
I was his favorite too, she said. He liked it that I didn't hurt his young wife. So he had wanted me to keep her company on his special day. His 2 special ladies, she told me. And ever so lightly, she gave a laugh. The first one in months. Or maybe years. I had no idea.
For the first time since I had known her, my little mind was curious to hear more about him. This person, who had been her life and whom she still missed so dearly. Or so I thought. She denied it. She still has conversations with him, she tells me. He is still around, she knows it. She hugs a sweater tightly. She can still smell him, she tells me.
She wants to tell me more, I know. But then she knew I was too young to understand. Now I wish she had told me more.