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Whisper from the heart


It was a cold, rainy evening, with thunder rumbling outside. I was sitting slumped at the desk in the library, frustrated because I was having a hard time with my novel. The main character was trying to come up with the best way of approaching the woman of his dreams, and I was battling to find a creative solution to his problem.

I’d been staring blankly at the blinking cursor on my laptop when a muffled sound gradually filtered through my absent-minded state. Glancing up, I saw a woman sitting at a desk next to the window, just a short distance away from me. Her hands were on the desk and there was a book in front of her, but her eyes was focused on the rain outside the window. She was dressed in jeans and trainers, brown hair pulled back in a short ponytail. There was a black leather jacket hanging on the chair next to her. I had initially taken her for a teenager, but a second glance told me that she was probably in her thirties.

She must have sensed my scrutiny, for she turned away from the window and looked in my direction. A little embarrassed about being caught, I turned back to my laptop, but couldn’t help wondering about the forlorn expression I’d seen on her face, or the reason for the tears that were running down her cheeks.

I had no intention of interfering though as I am a firm believer in minding my own business. You never know what kind of Pandora’s box you may open if you get involved in a stranger’s private woes.

Forcing myself to return to my novel, I tried again to think how the main character could achieve his heart’s desire, but my concentration was broken. I ended up staring at the blinking cursor, thinking about the woman at the window.

My mind came up with all sorts of explanations for her tears, but I resolutely kept my eyes locked on the screen in front of me.

About five minutes must have gone by when I heard the choking noise again. Before I could help myself, I glanced up. This time she was wiping her eyes with a small handkerchief. I forced myself to look away, but felt strangely drawn to her, and to her need, whatever it was.

I got up and went over to her desk, my heart beating a little faster, still not sure if I should be getting involved.

“Excuse me for disturbing you. Are you all right?”

She looked up at me through her tears. “I’m fine, thanks,” she said abruptly, before turning back into her book that was in front of her. Perhaps I should just leave her alone, but I was concerned about her obvious distress. I didn’t know if I could make her feel any better, but I could at least try.

“Would it help to talk?” I asked.

She didn’t even look up, but said coldly, angrily, “Please, just leave me alone.”

“If that is what you want.” I turned away, embarrassed about making such a fool of myself.

I walked back to my desk, but this time sat down at the opposite side, facing away from the woman and her tears. I turned the laptop towards me, trying once again to get into my story. I had been an idiot for getting involved in the first place. But my mind was on her story, not mine. I realized that I had just typed words that certainly didn’t belong to my fictitious hero.

‘I wish I was a tear that had rolled down your cheek and landed softly on your lips, but I would never want you to be a tear in my eyes because I would lose you every time I cry.’

I couldn’t think of anything else but the woman in tears. What was I doing? I didn’t even know her.

Finally, with an effort, I pulled myself together. I managed to think of the best way for my character to introduce himself to the woman of his dreams, but I still wasn’t happy. I had to make the story more romantic, make it difficult to put down, so my next challenge was to hook the reader. I had a picture in my mind of the whole world wanting to read my book.

My concentration was broken by a slight noise behind me, and glancing up, I saw the woman who had been crying passing my table. The black leather jacket was pulled tightly around her, and she stared straight ahead as she walked quickly towards the exit.

“Good luck,” I murmured as she disappeared into the rain. I returned to the laptop, but all at once had an urge to pray for her. It was only a short prayer, but the words I used were simple but sincere. When I finished I felt a sense of relief, almost as if I’d done what I was supposed to do.

I went back to work, and this time I was determined to concentrate. Before too long the lead character managed to win his dream woman’s heart, even though there were still a lot of questions to clear up. It was a good place to stop for the night.

I had just started to pack up my things when a shadow fell across my notebook. I was taken aback to see the woman had returned to the library and was standing next to me. Her eyes were still red from crying, but she didn’t look quite as forlorn as she had earlier.

“Oh, hello,” I said, somewhat at a loss for words. “Can I help you?”

“I, um,” she said, twisting the handkerchief in front of her. “I just wanted to apologise for being rude to you earlier. I’m so tired of men trying to pick me up. I thought you were just another chancer.”

“I could see that you were upset,” I replied, not too sure what else to say.

“I…” she began. “I…Do you mind if I sit down for a moment?”

“Help yourself,” I replied, gesturing to the seat across mine.

I quickly closed the laptop and pushed it aside, curious as to why she had come back.
I had a good look at her face for the first time. She was not wearing any jewellery or make-up, and her hair was wet from the rain. Even so, she still looked attractive, and when the hint of a smile touched her mouth I sensed that there was a nice person behind all the tears.

“I realised that leaving without any apology wasn’t going to help me heal,” she said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, surprised by her words.

“I had only gone a short distance down the road when all of a sudden I had this strong urge to go back and talk to you.”

I smiled. “Well, after you left, I prayed for you.”

Her eyes widened. “You did?”

I nodded. “That’s right. I guess He heard my prayer.”

“It was the strangest thing; I’ve never felt that way before,” she added.

It was only then that I started to realise just how much pain she was in. I could see it in her eyes; hear it in her voice. “Would you like to tell me why you were crying?”

Her tiny little smile disappeared, and she fell silent. Her mind wasn’t though, it must have been breaking speed records.

“No,” she said finally, looking down at the table. “I don’t want to talk about it. It hurts too much.”

Then she took a deep breath before she spoke ahead. “But I need to tell someone, or else I’ll go crazy.” She glanced back up; “You seem like someone I can trust. Can I? Can I trust you?”

Her face was now filled with fear, as if the world depended on my answer.

“Yes you can,” I replied.

She looked down at her hands, falling silent for a couple of moments.

“I lost my husband and my twins in a car accident. They were killed by a drunk driver, on a rainy night like this. They had gone out to do some shopping; the drunken driver went through a red light, hitting them broadside on.” She looked back up, tears streaming down her face. “It happened one year ago, tonight.”

I stared at her, my heart torn by her words and her grief. What could I say that would have the slightest chance of helping her?

“That’s tragic. But…” I was not sure of what to say next. I thought of various words but nothing came. I thought of holding her, comforting her, but I was scared. I was not sure why, but I was.

At that moment I saw her as an author, telling her story to the world. I saw the pages she was writing. And yet she was not aware of her talent as an author and no one else was either. Only my heart knew. As I tried to think of the right words to say, I heard myself saying forcefully, “New memories will save your life.”

She nodded, wiping her cheeks with a sodden handkerchief.

“Frank and I had only been married for four years. I loved him so much, and we did everything together.”

She took a deep, ragged breath. “Nic and Nikki brought us so much joy – they were so bright-eyed, so eager about everything. They loved picnics, and we had such good times, the four of us. When Frank came home from work the twins would drag him onto the floor and wrestle with him. I loved the way he played with them, every bit the father I hoped he would be.”

The words poured from her, like water rushing over dam walls. I couldn’t help but be touched, not just at her words, but also at the love I heard in them. To have that love snuffed out so suddenly, to wake every morning without the sound of young laughter, to lie in an empty bed at night…

I caught a glimpse of the agony she had been going through.

“Until tonight, I was doing a little better,” she continued. “Frank and I had some money saved. It was to go towards our first home, and it helped us settle most of our bills. Our families helped, too.”

“Don’t ever forget that everything happens for a reason,” I offered. “We might not know it, but God does. Getting on with life helps you to heal.”

She took another deep breath. “I know. I’ve gone back to work, and I’m taking a class two nights a week.”

“Sounds like you’re doing better.”

“I was, until tonight, when I saw some words that Frank used to read to me. They were in one of the books I had taken out tonight. The same words he typed out for me that night, before they left.”

She took out the piece of paper, unfolded it, and placed it in front of me. I read the words silently:

You taught me how to laugh again and gave me back my smile. You were like the sun coming up in my bitter night bidding the darkness bring some joyful morning light.

And inexplicably my heart rose up and whirled me around, so sudden in its magic I hardly touched the ground. With you I am still filled with light and all my feelings dance. You are my song, my wings, my flight, my truth and my romance.

While I was looking at them, there was a crack of thunder and the lights flickered.

“Exactly the same thing happened the night my family was killed. I was reading this piece of paper,” she added.”

She looked at me, tears in her eyes. “I was alone at home, smiling at the words, when there was a clap of thunder and the lights went out for a few seconds. It wasn’t even five minutes later when the police called. I had to drive through the rain to get to the accident, and I found our car crumpled up like a tin can. I watched them lift out my children, then my husband. It was horrible. When it was over, I drove home to an empty apartment, wishing that I had died with them.”

We sat together in silence; each lost in our own thoughts. A flash of distant lightning flickered on the horizon. Not long after, I heard the faint sound of thunder. The storm was moving on, a reminder that our lives lay in the future, not in the past.

“You may have wanted to die that night,” I said quietly, “but you didn’t. You lived, and although it’s been hard, you’ve made it work, one day at a time. And now is your time to build new memories.”

She looked at me, a fleeting expression of hope in her eyes.

“Tonight you had a small setback,” I continued, “but answer me this: other than tonight, how would you compare your life in the last few weeks with how you felt right after the accident?”

“It’s better,” she replied, thinking about it. Then the corners of her mouth turned up a little. “Well, a lot better, actually.”

“You see what I mean? You have a long road stretching ahead of you. You’ll have some bumps along the way, but you’ve made a really good start. The key to healing your spirit lies in looking ahead. When you have something to look forward to, life is worth living.” I shrugged and smiled, to make the statement a bit less profound. “At least, that’s the way it works for me.”

“You must be a philosopher,” she said, smiling. This time it was a real smile, lighting up her face.

I laughed. “Not really. Just a guy who’s putting one foot in front of the other as he goes through life.” I pointed at her. “Same as you.”

“You may be right,” she replied, “but I appreciate what you said. It wasn’t until just a short while ago that I realised that I was getting better.”

“When is your next class?”

She blinked in surprise at the unexpected question. “My next class? Why? It’s tomorrow.”

I laughed. “Then you’ve got something to look forward to, don’t you?”

“You’re right,” she agreed. “And that reminds me, we have a test, too. I forgot all about it.” She slid to the end of her seat. “I had better get going. I still need to check something before my test.”

“I wish you the best,” I said with a smile as she rose to her feet.

“I hope so,” she replied, doing up her coat. Then she offered her hand. “Thank you so much for helping me.”

I took it. “You’re welcome.”

I watched her as she stepped into the darkness, then went out to the car, my own heart feeling lighter after giving something of myself to a stranger. That was when I realised that I had not asked her for her name.

A year had passed since that day, and once again I was sitting at the desk in the library, again on a wet rainy night. My novel was complete, and I was doing some final editing before submitting it to publishers. It seemed as though there was always something to change, to squeeze that last 10 percent from the words I’d written.

I leaned back and stretched in an attempt to ease my aching back. That’s when a pretty woman in the glassed-in area between the two entrance doors caught my eye. She was wearing a long overcoat and was busy shaking the water off of her umbrella.

The door opened again, and a man joined her. They made a good-looking couple. I returned to my laptop, hoping to complete the proofing by my self-imposed deadline.

I’d only been working for a moment, however, when a shadow fell across the keyboard. The man and woman I had just seen were standing next to me, her hand through his arm.

“Hello,” the woman said, smiling at me. “Do you remember me? My name is Wendy. You helped me one rainy night when I needed someone to talk to. And you were right, new memories really saved my life.”

I stared at her, amazed by the transformation. The despair I had seen on her face had gone, replaced by a glow that could only come from health and happiness.

“Oh, yes,” I replied, recovering from my surprise. “It’s good to see you again.”

She gestured to the man next to her. “This is Andrew, my fiancé. We met not long after you had spoken to me. Could we sit down for a moment?”

They did, and we started talking, laughing. It occurred to me that where there is life, there is hope. And where there is hope, we are responsible for the road ahead.

Published: 2007-03-23
Author: Skeelo Khumalo

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