It took some effort for the young girl to push the heavy wooden desk towards the freshly painted wall. She looked at the place around her. No, something was not right. The large orange lamp should be moved again. She took it and placed it between the library and the colorful armchair. Perfect! Now everything was where it should be. Happy that she finally finished moving in she jumped on her big light green couch. She stretched, smiled and turned on the TV. The news were on. Pfff, who wants to watch the news nowadays? They would be talking again about the economy, about suicides, wars, refugees. A whole world in crisis. A world that does nothing to change anything. A world in absolute inertia. She started getting sad again. Not today, she thought. She turned off the TV and turned on the radio. Depeche Mode.
–Oh yeah! she yelled enthusiastically and almost immediately she got up and started dancing and singing in her new little living room. People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully…
She danced on this song and the next one and the next one, until she lost her breath. She sank inside her couch again. Despite being tired she was truly very satisfied. It was the first time that she would live alone. She had moved in the city just a month ago and even though the university courses had already started, she hadn’t found a permanent residence. Until the day before yesterday she was sleeping on her colleague’s couch but then she found this flatlet in a reasonable price and she decided to move in within the week. Her parents of course told her to wait for the weekend when they would come to help her with everything but she wasn’t feeling comfortable anymore to be a burden to her friend. And anyway she couldn’t wait to finally have her own place. To be alone and be able to do whatever she wants. She looked at her watch. It was half past eight. She got up quickly and grabbed her coat. She should reach the supermarket before closing if she wanted to eat anything for dinner. She came down the stairs in a hurry and got out in the street. She passed by right in front of the big playground where the neighborhood kids would play until late night. It was the same today, they were running, yelling, laughing. What a beautiful neighborhood, she thought, full of joy. She reached the store and the automatic doors opened welcoming her. She had to spend quite some time wandering through the corridors since it was her first time in there and had no idea where was what. While she was watching the big chips department she changed her mind, stepped back and suddenly turned around to go. So she didn’t see the woman passing right behind her at that moment and fell on her with force. The basket dropped from the hands of the woman and all of her stuff were now on the floor.
–Oh Jesus! said the girl, I am so sorry, I didn’t see you, and immediately she kneeled to help the woman gather everything.
–It’s ok, the woman replied, nothing bad happened.
When everything was back into the basket again, the woman got up, smiled to the girl and left. They met again at the cashier. The woman had just paid and the girl was waiting for her turn, two clients back. The woman saw her waiting, smiled again and waved at her. The girl waved her back. What a nice lady, she thought. She must have been something around 35, with black hair and sweet face, big black eyes and pretty clothes. She was not the kind of woman that you would pay attention to because of her beauty but rather because of the way she looks at you, the way she moves and speaks. The girl liked this kind of people. She would find them more… interesting. She got back home, ate and slept almost immediately being so tired. The next day she was coming back home from the university when she passed in front of the playground again. The kids were playing so she stopped and watched them for a while. She remembered the days when she was a child, she would stay all day and night outside with her friends playing in the narrow streets of her neighborhood. Suddenly a couple of boys ran, climbed up the fence of the playground and started shouting:
–The crazy lady! Here she is, the crazy lady! Where are you going? To feed the stray dogs? Or listen to your sad music? Crazy, crazy lady! they went on making fun and laughing loudly.
The girl turned around and looked at the person that the kids were shouting and pointing at. It was the woman from the supermarket. She was walking fast at the sidewalk across the street without paying any attention to the children. She stopped after a while, opened her bag and took a can with dogfood out. She filled a plate that was on the pavement and left again in a hurry. Soon after, a big black dog came close to the plate and started eating.
–Here is the Potato Dog too, said the boys. The crazy lady’s favorite dog.
–Hey, the rest of the boys shouted at them. Leave the crazy lady alone and come to play, we need someone as a goalkeeper. Come on, John has to go home at nine o’clock and he will take the ball with him.
The boys went back to their friends and continued their game. The girl also went on her way shocked. She felt so bad for the poor lady. How could these boys be so cruel with her? They were kids of course and kids are always cruel when it comes to their reactions to things or people that they don’t like, towards anything that they find weirdly different. She wandered why they would call the lady crazy. She looked like a normal woman. The girl took the keys out of her bag and unlocked the door. She had to start working on the project that their Molecular Biology teacher had assigned them for Monday but she could not concentrate to it, her mind was stuck at the scene in the playground. In the end she fell asleep on her couch while the TV was still on. The weekend arrived soon and with it her parents as well. The girl was happy to see them, she had missed them quite a bit, not enough though to want them to stay more than a couple of days.
–Oh my, well look at that, her mother complained as always. She moved in alone. Oh my dear girl, why didn’t you wait for us, it was only two days. You carried all these stuff by yourself.
-Oh mum, come on, it was not a big deal, I don’t have a lot of stuff anyway. Only my clothes and some pots and pans.
Her mother hugged her and kissed her on her forehead.
-Oh well, she said. How about the neighborhood? Did you have a look around? How is it like?
-Yes, I did, it looks fine, safe. There is a lady though… I don’t know…
-What about that lady? her father asked.
-I don’t know, she looks normal to me but the kids from the neighborhood call her crazy.
-Who knows why, wandered her mother.
–Hmmm, replied her father and the girl knew already that he was going to try to find out everything about that lady.
And so it happened. The very next day her father went around the neighborhood and asked everyone about … the “crazy” lady. Based on what they told him, the woman had lost her entire family in a car accident three years ago. They were on their way to surprise her for her birthday when unfortunately a young man, who had drunk a bit more than he should have, lost the control of his car and the celebration day turned into a day of tragedy. After that the woman isolated herself in her apartment for about a year. She was coming out only if she really had to. She wouldn’t speak to anyone. Nobody believed that they would hear her voice again. But in the half of the second year after the accident she started getting out again. Something had happened, people were saying that a man showed up in her life and she started going out again, talking, smiling. Unfortunately it didn’t last for long. No one knows what happened exactly but the woman isolated herself again. Since then she only takes care the stray dogs, which she feeds but also talks to them quite often. And that’s how the neighborhood kids started calling her crazy. When she is not outside with the dogs, she locks herself in her apartment and listens to her music. The neighbors say she plays the same sad songs everyday, again and again. Sometimes they might hear something different but almost never nothing at all. This was her story. When the girl heard about it she felt sorrow but fear too. For some reason he wished she wouldn’t meet the woman again. Maybe deep inside her she also believed, just like the boys, that the woman has lost her mind and gone crazy. But they met again. Two weeks later the girl was in the local bookstore, looking for a good fantasy book, to get away from all the university books about cells and genes. In the fantasy literature section was where the woman found her.
-Hello, she said.
The girl turned and faced her almost horrified. She tried to hide it though as best she could.
–Do you remember me? the woman asked her. You fell on me one day in the supermarket.
-Y-yes, the girl stuttered, I remember. I am sorry, she said awkwardly.
–Ha ha, oh don’t be silly, no reason to be sorry. She looked at the shelves with the books. So, you like fantasy books?
–Yes, a lot. I am looking for a good one but I have no idea which one to choose.
–I like fantasy books too. I have a bunch of them at home. And I can assure you they are all very good. If you want, you can come by some day, have a look and borrow whichever you like. It is a pity for them to just sit there, no one is reading them, she said and smiled. I stay at the light blue flat, a bit further than yours, on the third floor.
-Um, of course. Why not? I will come by one day, the girl answered mechanically.
–Perfect! I will wait for you! I make the best cocoa in the neighborhood, just right to go with a good book, she said happily and touched the girl softly on her shoulder before she goes.
The girl felt relieved that the talk came to an end so soon. She didn’t intend to go to the woman’s place of course, for no reason whatsoever. For the next month she took good care not to pass outside the light blue flat and she also avoided the supermarket and the bookstore and any other store of the neighborhood in fact. So for about a month she did not see the woman again. Until that morning, when the girl got out of her flat and found her waiting for her right outside the door. The woman was holding a book and a small box in her hands.
–Good morning, she said smiling as always. I won’t bother you for too long. You never came as you said you would, I guess you were too busy with your school or maybe you forgot about it.
-Umm, well yes, the girl tried to find an excuse.
–It doesn’t matter, the woman interrupted her. I thought to come though, to give you my favorite book since I will leave soon, so you probably won’t be able to find me when you will desire to. Here you go.
The woman gave to the girl a thick book that on its front cover was written “Unfinished Tales” by J.R.R.Tolkien.
–A, Tolkien! said with admiration the girl.
-Yes. These are some of his tales that he never finished…obviously, said and laughed. And this is an extra gift for you, she said and gave her the little box.
–But, what is it? the girl asked while she was examining it.
–It’s a music box. It is kind of stupid maybe but it is one of my favorite objects. Someone gave it to me one day. Someone who probably doesn’t remember me anymore. So I now give it to you and I beg you when you play its music to remember me, don’t you forget me too, said the woman sadly.
–No, of course not. I will remember you. But where are you going? Are you sure you don’t want the box? It looks so pretty.
-It is pretty. And its music is wonderful, despite melancholic. It’s the love theme from Romeo and Juliet by Mancini. I am going for a trip and it will probably take a while before I get back. I don’t need the box anymore. Maybe not even the book. You can keep them both. Remember me when I am not here, said the woman running her fingers through the girl’s hair, smiled for the last time and walked away.
The girl read the book and played the music box several times. Its music was indeed beautiful. One night she decided to go to the woman’s place, to thank her. She should have returned from her trip for sure, it has been quite some time. And anyway the girl decided that there was no reason to be afraid of her anymore. She was not crazy like the kids believed, she was just a sad lady that life has been rough for. Maybe in the end they would become friends. Besides, it seemed like they had so much in common. And for sure that would make the woman happy. She wouldn’t have to talk only to the dogs anymore, she would have a person to talk to. That thought made the girl feel nice and she got up quickly to get to the light blue flat, on the third floor. She had left all these rumors, the stories and the fear influence her judgement. You fool, she thought, you were such a child, just like the neighborhood kids. It is good that at least you didn’t climb with them up the fence and started yelling “Crazy lady, crazy lady”. You are awfully stupid! Thinking of these she reached right outside the light blue flat. There was a crowd gathered. Suddenly a siren sounded. It was a police car. It stopped next to her, the policemen got out and started pushing the people away from the flat’s entrance. The girl grasped the arm of a boy passing her by running in that moment.
–What happened? she asked him. Why are there so many people? What is the police doing here?
–The crazy lady, he answered.
-The crazy lady what? she asked anxiously.
–The crazy lady is gone. We won’t see her again. My mum says it is better that way. They found her swinging on a rope hanging from the ceiling. My friend saw her. He saw her from the window. She was swinging. Like a clock, he told me. Swinging like a clock.
The girl terrified let the boy go. Her whole body was shaking. Her eyes filled with tears. She left running and got back to her place where she burst into tears. She fell asleep crying. In the morning she woke up and as soon as she opened her eyes her mind filled with everything that happened the night before. She grabbed her cell phone.
–Hello? the voice from the other end of the line answered.
–Mum? said the girl.
–Yes, my sweet girl, what happened?
-Are you coming in the weekend?
-We will come if you want to. We will come on Saturday morning and leave on Sunday night, as always.
-No, don’t leave. Stay, mum, please stay a bit more this time. And every other time.