I don’t particularly want to recount every single time that I saw her from then on, though I could. For a long time it was always just moments; walking in the street with my mother to buy groceries, or to pick up that week’s allotted books, or walking home from school, or on a Tuesday night when I would go into town with my father for tea, and every time I would get that feeling in my gut. I swear every time it happened, every time she was lost from my sight again, the hole didn’t shrink all the way back. And then, one night, during the silent reading hour, she spoke to me. Something (and I still couldn’t explain what) made me rise from my desk chair and cross the room to the window and look out across the snow covered streets, and there she was, standing across the road as if watching the house. Startled, I withdrew. I stood for maybe fifteen seconds in the middle of the room, my heart beating faster, the hole in my stomach pulsating, and when I cautiously went back to the window she was there, smiling a smile that made my fingers quiver.
“Hello,” she said, as I opened the window almost involuntarily with robotic limbs, and in her eyes I saw every emotion that I could feel squirming within me. My breath escaped in clouds before me, and I shivered, but she stood tall and unflinching as always, looking up at me intently.
“Hello,” I responded, and I knew she could tell the tremble in my voice was from worry rather than the cold.
“Don’t worry,” she said, in a voice that was low and reassuring, “We’re going to be friends.” She smiled, and I nodded. “I’m Zephyr,” she tried again, and this time her voice sounded softer, friendlier, more like a normal introduction, as if I hadn’t been seeing glimpses of her for the past several months, as if she hadn’t been the cause of the great crater of feeling now throbbing inside me. “Marja.” It wasn’t a question, and I didn’t ask how she knew my name. It didn’t seem worth it. I realised that my jaw and both fists were clenched in response to the cold and the discomfort I was feeling from within.
“Who are you?” I managed, my voice sounding strained and hoarse. She just smiled.
“I’m Zephyr,” she repeated, “We’re going to be friends.” I felt tears spring to my eyes, which alarmed me, and I tried to blink them away. “Does it hurt?” she asked, and I managed to nod my answer, a strange sense of relief washing over me just in the knowledge that she knew what was happening, what she was doing to me.
“Can you make it stop?” I asked, knowing that I sounded horribly embarrassed, as I should be, asking anything of a stranger. Her smile softened as she shook her head just once. “I can make it better,” She said, and I waited, “If you let me in,” she finished eventually, her eyes flicking to the front door below me. The reality of the situation hit me then, and I knew my eyes had widened just slightly to reveal my fear at her words.
“I… I don’t think… I don’t know if-”
“Not to worry,” she cut me off, raising a hand delicately, and I watched the snowflakes swirl between her long, elegant fingers. “Another time, perhaps; we’re going to be friends, after all,” she said, and the corners of her eyes crinkled like an old woman’s as she smiled at me with more affection than my mother had ever shown me.
I only paused for a moment, not even waiting for her to turn to leave before I shut the window and closed the curtains. It took a while for the aching in my stomach to fade, and to myself I hoped that it was because Zephyr had not left immediately, and then I felt guilty for thinking that, and then felt guilty for feeling guilty. It is much more difficult than I had been led to believe, keeping your feelings in check, and I found it especially difficult after I had felt the effects of whatever it was Zephyr did to me. And so, that night, I indulged in something that would be considered a terrible disgrace if anyone found out; later that night, when everyone was asleep, I pushed my face into my pillow to muffle the sounds and I let myself cry. Years of pent up frustration and feeling I had spent my life being conditioned to repress rolled out of my tear ducts like waves onto the shore, and with them came angry sobs that seemed to tear at my throat on their way out, and moans and screams and loud, animalistic noises I can’t describe. I cried until I was exhausted, and slept better than I ever had before.