Orson was a man who kept late nights. It wasn’t good for his profession as a photographer—since some of the best works are captured in the light of the day—but he just couldn’t attune himself to the routine of ‘early to bed, early to rise’. When the insomnia set in, which was often, he would just leave his one-room studio apartment and go jogging on uncharted territories.
It was while he was on one such nocturnal jogging trip that he came across a woman that changed his life.
He saw her crying in the dark, seated on a bench on the beach, looking forlornly at the waves.
She did not see him instantly as he was behind her. But even from where he was, he found himself attracted to her. He had been with women before, some of them actresses and models, but this was the kind of beauty that was beyond description.
In his photographer’s mind, he began to see her the ravishingly fair complexion. It was white, whiter than white, and shone in the darkness of the night. Her silvery blonde hair flew with the breeze that came from the sea. She wore a long blue gown, but he could mentally undress her and visualize the fantastic form that lay underneath.
He was still admiring her when she abruptly turned and looked right at him.
Her expression rooted him on the spot. Even from that distance, even in the darkness of the night, he could clearly see the tears beneath her eyes. There was a sorrow in her face that obtusely contradicted her unearthly beauty. The tears flowed soundlessly, glistening in the moonlight.
And even though it was unspoken, even though all that was shared between them was an expression of sorrow, he understood that she wanted to share her grief with him. He found something pulling him towards her.
He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t resist. He walked up to her.
Somewhere in the distance, a soulful melancholy began to play.
+ + +
When he came to his senses in the morning, he was on the uncomfortable bed of his studio apartment back again, but he knew something was different.
Snatches of memories cropped up in his head. He remembered walking into a beautiful place—smelling the pleasant fragrances that it bore, seeing the enticing sights that it displayed—and then returning to his reality. But it wasn’t the same reality anymore; he realized it had been changed.
He turned his head, telling himself sternly that it had been just a dream—
—but if only it had been.
She was still there. Her naked form was next to him, sleeping, and in the daylight he could see that she was much more beautiful than he had seen her the previous night. Her eyes were closed, and the tears had dried up on the cheeks, leaving dry streaks as they had run along. Her lips, of a very dark pink hue, were just partly open in her sleep; and the lower lip twitched as though there were unsaid words that were begging to come out. Her breasts heaved rhythmically and he stared at them.
Unavoidably attracted to her once again, he placed his arm over her milk-white skin and crept closer to her. She stirred in her sleep. Her eyes opened, and he saw they were blue and deep, and they still bore the expression of undiluted sorrow.
“Thanks,” she said. And her voice was a mellow whisper, almost as if she were singing.
“Thanks for what?”
“For bringing me in,” she said.
He caressed her silver locks. “Do not think about that,” he said, his mind on other things. In response, she began to touch him, causing ripples of pleasure wherever her fingers came in contact with his skin, and he forgot what he had meant to ask.
+ + +
It was afternoon and he had to get down to his work. He faintly remembered an assignment—some photo shoot for some commercial brand.
With a huge sigh, he separated himself from her.
“What happened?” she said in her singsong voice.
“I have to go,” he said.
“What about me?”
He got up. He moved about the room, pulling on his clothes haphazardly. “You may stay here,” he said. “It is not much, the room is in a mess, but… if you wish…”
He pointed generally towards his room. His windowpane was broken, and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. The only piece of décor in that ramshackle apartment was a pot of lilies, but the lilies had long since died and shriveled up.
“You gave me shelter; that’s enough,” she said.
“I will be back soon,” he said. “By the way, what’s your name?”
He went out, almost drooling over the slight seductive hiss she produced when she pronounced the esses in her name.
+ + +
Orson was back in a few hours, but he found that she hadn’t stirred. She was still on bed, laying in almost the same pose as he had left her. And yet, there was something different about his apartment. It seemed livelier somehow; it seemed as though it was affected by a warm healing touch that he hadn’t been able to give it thus far. He could sense it, but he could not spot it.
He did not care about the room anyway. He immediately dropped whatever he had in hand and clambered into bed next to the bewitching woman.
“What is your sorrow?” he asked her, when he noticed that her blue eyes still bore the dullness that he had seen them with the first time.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t remember.”
“Where are you from?”
“A house. A green house with a big red roof.”
“If you know where this house is, I can take you there,” Orson offered.
“I don’t remember. Only thing I know… lots of children. Playing around. Laughing.”
“It is night, I remember. There are fires everywhere. People are crying, yelling, shouting. I have my hands over my ears. My mother comes to me.”
“I don’t know.”
Orson mulled for a while. “A green house with a red roof on the beach, you say? That shouldn’t be difficult to locate. Would you like to go there now?”
“I want to sleep now. Sleep… with you.”
“All right,” he said, “we’ll go there tomorrow morning. If you wish.”
And he turned off the lights.
He was slipping into the quagmire of seduction, and this seduction was lethal because it had no eyes. He could not see beyond the physical appearance of the woman, but then he had a young man’s heart—fanciful and footloose. A young man’s heart is not afraid of things it has not seen; mere conjecture of doom does not move it.
But even then, he had time to wrangle out of it. He should have kept the lights on. He should have looked around the room.
Then he would have seen—the cobwebs that had hung around his house had now all disappeared, its spiders lying dead in their vicious nets; and the shriveled lilies had sprung back up to life, resplendent in their white glory.
+ + +