Silence was the melody to Nancy’s life.
No doors were permitted to bang in their house – no radio played. The windows were locked tight even through summer’s moist, thundery days, in case a neighbour’s harsh bray or the sound of children clanking sticks along the railings should penetrate inside.
Her movements were always smooth, measured, design to be quiet – ballet with no accompaniment.
The routes from kitchen to hall, from hall to stairs and on, upward through their skewed box of a house, were well worn zigzags from mats to rugs to runner. Her weight would shift as she reached for the correct step, avoiding the loose boards and leaning newel posts that prised such distress from Mother.
Occasionally – years ago – Nancy would be in the middle of washing dishes or scrubbing clothes on the washboard, lost in the soothing, repetitive action and a melody would spring to her lips, escaping in a reedy whistle. But she’d soon learned that the tunes were safer kept inside where they couldn’t cause harm. Mother didn’t like music.
One day, the silence was broken.
A sound like air battling through water pipes, shuddering through the house, making the boards flex and newel posts creak, making the pictures shudder on their hooks, frames tapping on the walls like a hundred eager fingers. It came from upstairs, from the attic, where Mother paced and paced in stocking feet.
There was a thump, a tumble of heavy objects on the floor above, then nothing.
Nancy wasn’t sure exactly what had caused the noise but she knew one thing.
It heralded the end of silence.