It was 11.37 and Emily had resolved that, in precisely three minutes’ time, she would, for the first time in one year and 100 days, go outside.
Shyness is a quiet tragedy. It is an affliction desperate not to call attention to itself, even though it worsens in doing so. “Leave me alone, I’ll be okay,” it lies. “Don’t make a fuss.”
Well, today she was going to make a fuss. She had been a prisoner of her own awkwardness for too long; her own gaoler, subjecting herself to this life sentence in some inverted panopticon.
How long had she hoped that someone would see the real Emily and invite her out of her ridiculous cell? But even if they had, would she have been brave enough to cross the threshold? There is safety inside prison walls. One small step for man; an impossible leap of faith from the top of a tower block for Emilykind, she reflected.
Reflected – that was all she bloody well did. Day after day, she sat and thought; with her back to the window she watched the shadows of the world mirrored on her television, painting pictures no one would see.
Not any longer. She was wholly sick of shadows; fed up of staring at a reflection of a silhouette of life go by, unable to taste the real thing, like some unseen, pale face looking in at a restaurant window, watching couples laugh.
Couples laugh. She pictured her heart as a walled garden, one whose walls she had raised and fortified – but why hadn’t he noticed that she’d left the door open for him to come inside?
But enough. No more. Her elderly television had finally died that morning, the screen cracked from side to side. Today, for the first time in a year and 100 days, she was going to go outside.
She checked her watch. It was 11.41 am. Maybe she should wait until 11.45.