The Girl Next Door

She wasn’t overly mysterious and unique, nor was she a wondrous being of intelligence and originality. She was just a regular human, like you or I (assuming you are a regular human, that is).

I didn’t know much about her because she didn’t like to talk about herself and her doings too much. She listened more and asked questions, nodding like she understood when we spoke to her.

People told me they could confide in Amelia, for that was her name. She had an open mind, they said, she didn’t ‘judge’.

What does that even mean, she didn’t ‘judge’?

Everybody ‘judges’. First impressions are judgements.

But apparently Amelia didn’t. Amelia with her short curly hair and her massive brown eyes which she kept hidden behind rectangular glasses. They were rickety and old; I’d seen her wearing them since we moved to this house eight years ago. Her style was regular. She wore dresses sometimes and sometimes she wore long maxi dresses to get the post; wildly patterned. I think she did the paint herself. Reds and blues and turquoises and oranges and yellows and pinks all spattered on sometimes in wild patterns which I knew were created by folding the dress in sections and dipping the folds in dye.

That told me she did art.

Sometimes she wore jeans and a white T-shirt. Or a girl shirt.

Once she came out with purple hair and when she noticed me gawking she laughed and touched her curls, not self-consciously, mind.

“Paint.” she said, grinning back at me as she walked down the path and out of her gate. I noticed her red ballet shoes.

“You going dancing?” I shouted after her.

“No.”

I do art. Well, I try to anyway. I try to copy those realistic portraits they used to paint of people back in the day when they didn’t have cameras. It was such a palaver to have your likeness captured that they didn’t just pose in any old thing, they wore their best clothes and looked nice for the occasion. Now you can take photographs in your pyjamas and it’s alright because you have plenty of other photographs where you look nice enough to want to show to your grandkids.

So if Amelia does art, then I might have something in common with her. We’ve never properly spoken, Amelia and I. We are just friends; not even that, though. I think we are acquaintances. We don’t pass pleasantries, except by way of a smile here and a passing joke.

I don’t think we’ve ever actually been properly introduced. The first time I saw Amelia was the day after I moved in. She was hanging on her gate and swinging in and out.

Neither of us said hello. We looked at each other for a long time, and Amelia carried on swinging.

“I have three kittens,” Amelia said, after a while of staring.

“I have a dog,” I told her, “and a goldfish.”

We were ten.

Since that day we only spoke on passing.

Our mums were friends.

“Amelia’s mum is coming round for a cup of tea. Tidy up the lounge, will you?” my mum said a week after we’d moved in.

“Who’s Amelia?” I said.

“The girl next door? Didn’t you know? I saw you talking to her yesterday.”

We talked. We just didn’t introduce ourselves.

“Nice dog.” she’d said.

“Thanks.”

“You know, my dad’s allergic.”

“To what?”

“Dogs.”

Then we played I Spy, and then her mum called her in for tea.

The years after that we saw each other frequently, and spent a lot of time in each other’s company, but we never spoke. I don’t know why we never spoke.

She would come around and we’d watch after school cartoons, and then mum would give us both our snack and then off she’d go. Then as we got older she’d come around and we’d play video games. We communicated in grunts and signals. It was comfortable companionship.

Once she knocked on my bedroom window late at night. My room is on the ground floor of my house, so its pretty accessible. It was raining outside, so she was slightly damp. Her face was forlorn as she climbed in through my open window and closed the catch. she went and sat on the chair in the corner of my room, took the crocheted colourful blanket knitted by my mum, and snuggled up in it.

“You okay?” I ventured.

Her big brown eyes behind the rectangle glasses only stared sadly at me; she said nothing.

I carried on reading my book, and she fell asleep. In the morning she was gone, the blanket folded neatly on the chair.

Like I said, she was nothing special. Or different. She was a human. I was a human, and although we never spoke, we had a connection.

I don’t know if she knew we had a connection, but I felt it. Strongly.

 

 

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