My Window: A Story by Helen Lee

I love the scene outside my window: in the morning, birds are flying gaily in the sky and jumping between the tree branches; a beam of sunlight and a gentle breeze makes your whole day fresh. In the afternoon, girls play basketball happily at the far end of the playground. Their screams always make my heart jump. Night is the calmest time. All you can hear is the lullaby sung by the grasshoppers. A few bright stars blink their eyes and watch you sleep.

However, I could only enjoy these lovely scenes and share the happiness of the birds and the girls from behind the window in my room.

There was a knock at my door. Clare’s face appeared through the gap between the door and the wall.

“Hi! How do you feel today?” said Clare.

I gave her a big smile. “I’m very good. What story you want me to tell you tonight?”

Clare is my dorm-mate. She is a year younger than me and has just entered the college this year. She was allocated to this dormitory and lives in the next room. The first time I saw her, she was sobbing in the little garden at the rear of the dormitory. I came up to her and asked her what had made her so upset. She rubbed her eyes and whispered, “I miss my mom”. Then she threw herself toward me. I patted her shaking shoulders and led her to my room. I told her a story of a little girl who had lost her mother when she was born. She struggled to make a living and she encountered many hardships. Finally, her talent was discovered and she started a new meaningful life. Clare loved the story and asked if she could be the same as the girl. I said: “Of course you can. Besides, you are luckier than her as you have a mother who loves you so much.” Clare grinned at me and the sadness in her face vanished. Since then, when she feels unhappy or can’t sleep, she comes and asks me to tell her a story.

“No. But I’m very happy today. Do you know why? Let me tell you Sarah, our team won the basketball competition today! I made four baskets! Do you know how exciting the competition was….”

I can’t remember what Clare said afterward. At that moment, the picture I had seen in the afternoon floating in my mind: through the window, I heard the sound from the playground. A group of girls were running behind the ball. Some were jumping, some were chasing behind the ball. They were all shouting, like soldiers fighting at the front-line of the battlefield. A girl with a red ribbon in her ponytail caught my eye; her movements were full of energy. Every time she leapt, the ball was fully in her control. No one could get near her, or the ball. She ran with ease, like a snake, so fast, without leaving a mark on the ground.

My fingers were clinging to the window frame tightly and I hadn’t noticed that half of my body was exposed to the cool air outside. I screamed loudly. Why couldn’t I play like those girls? Why couldn’t I lead a life like them, or the birds? Why could I only feel their happiness but not experience it myself? Why should I suffer all these?

I kept shouting and shouting until I was pulled down by a pair of hands and forced to lie in bed. I can’t remember what happened next. I must have lost consciousness.

When I was sleeping, I made a dream. Through the window, a girl was dancing on the colourful butterflies flying around her. With the birds singing with her, she sang as though she were talking to herself:

“I don’t have to put on the thick clothes, I don’t need to take those pills. What’s more is that I don’t have to stay in bed anymore!”

The girl continued to sing and dance without a pause. Though she was slim, there was a brush of pink in her cheeks. She looked like someone I knew. I tried to open the window to see clearly, but I couldn’t. I used my fists to hit it harder and hoped the girl would notice me. She didn’t. She kept dancing and gradually disappeared into the forest.

Some noises woke me up. I opened my eyes and saw a woman wandering around. My body was weak and I coughed. The woman turned and came to me.

“Are you okay, Sarah? You almost made me crazy! How could you be so silly- not putting on a coat? You should know how weak you are!”

I recognised the voice. She was my mother. I couldn’t figure out why she was here.

“Miss Norma phoned me last night and said that you were very ill and she saw you climbing out of the window. What’s wrong with you? And have you been taking the pills regularly? Can’t you remember what Dr. Watson said?” my mother said, almost shouting at me.

I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t give a thought to her questions. I just stared at the dark sky through my little gate to the outside world, and I saw the happy girl dancing with the stars.

~by Helen Lee. “I’ve loved watching cartoons since I was a little girl. I still do, though I’m no longer a child. The cartoons I like to watch are those girlish, according to the boys, ones. These stories are very touching and always leave something for me to think about. Sarah in this story is an image I created a long time ago. She is a character who has bad luck and who likes to soothe herself by dreaming. I would like her to be much stronger to be able to turn her fate. “Besides, the reason I constructed the story with a window is because I love to look out from my window at home. I always have some strange ideas when looking through the window and I wanted to write a story linked with a window before. This time, I had a chance to turn my idea into reality. Being curious and observing your surroundings is a good method to collect ideas and stimulate your mind to build a creative story. Would you like to try today?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Sarah love the scene outside the window so much?
  2. What is the function served by the appearance of Sarah’s friend, Clare, in the story?
  3. Who is that girl singing and dancing in her dream?
  4. What is Sarah’s “window”? What does it refer to?
  5. Do you have your own “window”? What does it mean to you?
  6. What are there any differences between your “window” and Sarah’s?
  7. Read the comments by the writer, Helen Lee. Why hasn’t the writer made Sarah stronger? Can a fictional character have a “fate” that is beyond the power of a writer to change.
    The writer has intentionally left out a considerable amount of information. She doesn’t tell us, for example, what Sarah is suffering from or whether her condition is curable or terminal? How important is this information to the story?

Writing Task

Can you think of some routine aspect of your daily life (in Helen’s case it was looking out the window) that could lead to a story idea?

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