As he stood there before her, charming and bedraggled, time was passing one second at a time. No slower than it otherwise would, but with each passing moment the present was approaching an invisible line of uncomfort. To break the chain of inevitable silence, she put a hand into her bag slowly, and grasped her favourite blue and white lighter, tightly and in secret. Before she knew it the decision staring her in the face was already made without her actively deciding it, and with a bright flash, the quiet sizzle of the first inhale, the wave of satisfaction of its’ release and the sound of small stones crunching underfoot, he was away with little more than a nod of thanks.
She held her ragged paperback up to her face to hide the flush of emotion that felt as if it would foam out of her otherwise. She watched his form shrink down the narrow stone street, confidently striding along, with a power behind each step. Until finally it turned a corner into a small alleyway and disappeared from sight. She thought at that last moment she could see the soft long muss of hair turn and swish to the side revealing a cheeky grin in her direction, as if he knew something she didn’t, but at this distance she couldn’t be sure. The heat of the day might have been getting to her already parched and famished mind. She gathered herself and went back into her storm beaten, customerless shop and began fussing with the latest project in silence.
After a quarter of an hour she found she could not concentrate enough to manipulate the small strands of metal into something worth looking at, or pick up and string a glass bead without allowing it to slip and bounce along the warped, uneven floor. Productivity seemed futile at this point and she began to tidy up what she had began. She stared at her once beautiful blue walls, at the cracked bubbling paint along the waterline, permanently stained with mud and silt. She felt as if all the beauty she had created in her life was washed away in that flood, and was now unable to restore it to its’ former glory. She mulled over repainting and buying and installing new flooring, but with the frequency of customers lately, she would never be able to pay it off let alone feed herself in the process. There was only one thing to do, and her sudden flush of new found confidence that was the result of the chance meeting earlier in the day gave her the nod in the right direction.
She began collecting what valuables she had left in the shop into a large cloth bag, her wire cutters, pliers, finest beads and strands of silver and gold were wrapped in a swath of silk as a makeshift kit for the road. With the tourists out of the picture, added to the collective damage that needed repaired, there really seemed to be nothing left for her in that small village on the edge of nowhere. No future, no family, no hope left. It was time to leave. She tied her yellow shawl around her waist, grabbed her bag, donned her wide brimmed hat and cleared the threshold into the street. She said goodbye to her shop on the way out, but to no one else, as she let the Aghora fade into the distance behind her. She did not so much as receive a second glance from the others passing around her. To them nothing was out of the ordinary, but to her it was new and exciting day.
-Miss Hailey Jane.