Short Fiction

The Girl and the Crowd by Rania Hellal

She wasn’t made for parties.

She hated crowded places as much as one hated death.

She just hated the idea of being surrounded by foreign bodies and stared at with a billion wandering pairs of eyes.

She could already hardly stand going to her work every morning and meeting her colleagues, who were far more talkative than she desired. She wished they weren’t.  She wasn’t one for small talk. She wished they had a clue. But of course, it wouldn’t be polite if she said something about it so she didn’t.

She usually got her way out of unnecessary conversations with brief smiles and nods until her interlocutors grew bored and let her be.

It was an effective method and did spare her lots of wasted breaths .

She doesn’t remember when it started exactly. When she started to fold down on herself like a piece of paper.

When did she become so impenetrable? So exiled from the world like a lonely island?

She used to have friends long time ago.  She used to enjoy being surrounded by people and saying clever jokes. 

She was silly on her own way and knew how to steal a laughter.

 But as she thought about it, it seemed to her  like it all was in a totally different life.

She wasn’t that girl anymore.

That silly, self unconscious girl was gone.

 Dead to the bone.

So when Alice, living in the apartment right across from hers decided oddly to invite her to go to a party she was throwing for the residents of the building, she automatically declined.

Alice didn’t insist too much, but she did leave the invitation leaflet, in case she changed her mind.

The colorful invitation lingered on the counter of her kitchen for a week or so, unacknowledged.

But that Friday when she got back from work, her eyes suddenly fell on the bright colors of the piece of paper and she decided to pick it up .

Her eyes travelled across it lazily and then fixed on the date.

It was tonight.

For some reason she felt restless even though she had no intention to attend.

 But she still had that feeling of urgency one has when one knows the food is going to expire soon without being eaten.

She put down the paper and dismissed the feeling.

She had a lot to do that Friday, she thought. It was laundry day and she had also to sweep the floor. So she couldn’t afford her mind lingering too much on the paper.

Little past 8 pm, after washing half of the batch of dirty clothes, her hands plunged deep in soaped water, she caught herself thinking about the invitation.

Maybe she would  wear her smooth green silk dress, if she was to go. It would look great paired with the white sneakers.

Chic but sporty.

Putting out a  statement that she can be both at the same time; beautiful and bold. Dazzling but  burning.

She liked the idea. It reminded her of the girl she was before.

It has been ages since she tried to fit the green dress on her body.

She wondered if it would look as good as it did a long time ago.

If  the curves of her body would fill the soft fabric just as nicely as they did before.

Well , it won’t harm if she tried it on. Only in the sake of getting answers to her questions.

And after all , if the dress didn’t fit anymore, there were no reason for it lingering in her wardrobe.

She dried her wet arms with a cloth and saw to it.

She slipped the dress over her head and it slithered with ease over her body. Almost like running water.

When she glanced at herself in the full length mirror in her bedroom she didn’t recognize the woman standing across from her.

The dress hugged her shapes ever so lightly before hanging short just below her knees.

There they were, the curves. Just as she remembered them.  Just as she liked them to be; present but not too imposing as if sculpted in marble.  

It’s been a long time since she cared about her looks. Or even indulged looking at herself in the mirror.

She turned around, checking herself from all angles . A little smile blossoming on her face and curling the corner of her lip.

She fitted the sneakers too, only to see how well they paired with the dress.

There she was!

The one who dazzled and burnt,  looking at her from the other side of the mirror.

She never thought the woman still existed in her, as close to the surface as to be summoned back with some fabric and a pair of shoes.

She smiled at her reflection and the reflection smiled back shyly.

That woman, beyond the slick surface of the  mirror, was quite the woman to attend parties.

Only she wasn’t sure about the one, standing  in front of it.

She dared give a thought on the blasting loud music there would be, all the unnecessary chatting about the little details of life in the building she certainly needn’t listen to.

Because that’s the only thing in common between the guests right?

What else would they talk about in such a gathering? She couldn’t think of anything.

What will she say, if she was ever addressed?

Did she like it here? Did she have small little details to complain about herself?

It would’ve been such a fuss preparing  her answers in advance. Thank God she wasn’t going.

She spared herself a headache.

But still she wondered what it would be like.

‘It’s quite alright living in the building, I do enjoy the number of stairs.’

No that would be weird, even though, she did indeed like the fair number of stairs that led to the second floor, where she lived. 

 32. She counted every time.

‘Oh, I personally don’t see that an elevator is necessary. Don’t you think that Miss. Patrick ?”

She knew that some of the residents complained about the necessity of an elevator installed. But elevators meant people gathering in them. Which meant unnecessary meetings and small talks. The idea didn’t appeal to her.

And the little comments. Oh it’s the comments, she always feared the most!

There was no right answer to them, she thought.

What would she say?

“Oh miss Johnoson , I know you haven’t seen me since a long time, well I’ve been making sure you didn’t that’s why”

“Oh yeah, I did cut my hair indeed. It just was too much weight to carry on my head”

“Oh the work is good…the people aren’t as much…they talk to me sometimes…I hate it”

The thing is, all these answers were true , but she knew they would feel weird in her mouth once spoken out loud.

And she didn’t know what else to say, if not the truth.

One should say the truth, shouldn’t he?

Oh that’s a lot of work, the business of socializing, definitely not for her, she thought.

Thank God she wasn’t going!

That was a clever decision. She was a clever girl.

She laughed at her reflection in the mirror and released a sigh of relief, pleased with herself.

Then she shed the dress as if it was another skin that didn’t quite belong to her, fitted her loose night gown  and got back to her laundry.

Rania Hellal

Image by cierzobrewing from Pixabay 

6 thoughts on “The Girl and the Crowd by Rania Hellal”

  1. Rania

    Although I haven’t a medical license, the girl has a whopper of a depression going. And it is brilliant that the word never appears. Having to prepare remarks ahead of time and folding in kike paper say it enough. Beautiful and spare.


  2. Hi Rania,
    There are a couple of clever tense changes and they give this another depth.
    Sometimes stories with unnamed characters can annoy but once again this enhances.
    The detail that was subtle but the main cause for her depression was given to us on the last page and the line, ‘One shouldn’t say the truth, shouldn’t he?’
    The understated and unsaid was done beautifully!
    Hope you have more for us soon.


  3. I liked this story because I could relate to the character’s introversion/ change in thinking, and the way the story is written from inside her perceptions, from the social anxiety to the curves to the stairs. The short clear paragraphs worked, seemed like each paragraph was one thought, and the spaces between the paragraphs were the spaces between her thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Rania,
    There comes a point where you can’t do small talk anymore. You can’t quite put into words what’s led you to that point, but you can’t be in the presence of people who demand superficiality from you. You captured that moment beautifully. Your story is so well crafted and memorable!

    Liked by 1 person

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