Sitting at the kitchen table, pretending to be going over his day writings, he glanced her way. Humming an old lullaby to herself, she was cleaning their dishes, like she always did. She didn’t seem unhappy, but how could he be sure?
Sometimes at night, when the darkness set, and the birds stopped singing, he had his doubts.
He was aware of his alienness. He had known for decades that he wasn’t fit for this world. Even as a child, he had been constantly mocked for not blending in. His early and odd height had soon made him bad at games and sports the other boys seemed to enjoy. His strange looks didn’t please the girls of his parish. He was doomed to loneliness from the start.
She put the last plate back in the cupboard, and disappeared into her bedroom. Soon, he would hear the water filling her bath and he would get troubled. It was always like that. Well, it hadn’t been at first, when she was just a child, but as the years had passed, she had grown into a quite voluptuous young woman.
As soon as the water started running just a wall away, so did his thoughts! Did she just throw her clothing on the bathroom’s wooden floor, or did she fold it neatly? He imagined her young beautiful naked body in the light of the lantern, forbidden fruit, in all its splendor…
He was meant to be a loner, but he had never feared loneliness. When others were learning to help on the family farm, or to go after their parents to become bakers or merchants, he had taken a path of his own.
He didn’t talk much, but he wasn’t a man of few words… At least not on paper. As soon as his parents reluctantly agreed to let him go, he had fled away to see the world. Country after country, he had studied foreignness with great interest. The smells, the sounds, the different sceneries. The people around him.
Soon, he realized that he could make good money writing about exotic places, for those who didn’t travel. So he kept writing…
He much preferred when she got in the tub before turning off the tap. That way, he didn’t have the secret pleasure of imagining her stepping in the large porcelain bath.
He felt guilty of having such indecent thoughts. During the day, he always kept his mind clear, reserving his frivolous ideas for his stories, which were just that, really. Stories… Right?
His traveling had come to an abrupt end one day. Not that he had seen it all, nor was he tired of his nomad ways… But he had met Love on his wandering path. Unrequited love that had sent him back home with his memories. But that was a whole other story.
He wrote frantically, scratching the paper violently to try to respect her privacy. He wasn’t her father, yet he knew she was never meant to become his. He could always give her away to another man, who would provide her a much more normal life. But she had never expressed the will to leave.
And he didn’t want her to go away.
He knew that as soon as he would retreat to his room, she would hastily grab his new work, and devour it, nestled in his favorite armchair. He heard her, every night, sighing and giggling by the fire. Her soft, clear chucklings lulling him to sleep. That pure laughter, strangely making him feel so old, yet so young… All at once.
Catching her silhouette coming out of the bedroom, braiding her long crow-black wet hair, his doubts won, again. He ruffled the papers and picked the letter he had hidden in the pile.
It would be better with what little of his writing he kept away from her.
He wished her a good night, mumbling coldly, and closed the door behind him.