- Excuse me, do you mind sharing your umbrella with me? - the owner of the latter shook his head and moved the umbrella. - Thanks. I'm Penelope by the way.
The young man seemed a bit confused. He pointed at his throat and shook his head again.
- Oh, sorry, - now Penelope looked confused.
The guy took his mp3-player out of his pocket, quickly clicked something and gave it to Penelope pointing at something.
- James Blunt? Um, you mean your name is James? - he nodded. - Well, nice to meet you, James. I noticed we take the same bus, so I figured you live nearby. And it's nice to know people who live close to you, - James nodded again. - I'm sorry, am I too pushy? I don't mean to bother you. - James shook his head. - Then do you mind becoming friends? - James smiled.
* * *
James and Penelope were riding on the bus. They were talking. Well, not in the strict meaning of the word. It was more Penelope talking and James answering by showing her the titles of songs.
- So, you communicate via your player? - James nodded. - But is it convenient? I mean, wouldn't it be easier to use a cell phone? Just text what you want to say?
- Hard-fi - unnecessary trouble.
- Well, it's your choice, of course. I just think it would be easier. You could text your friends, stuff like that. I guess your friends have already told you all this. I'll just mind my own business now, - Penelope looked away embarrassed, James smiled.
- F.I. Island - Live like musical.
- Well, I rather like it too. It's like your words are music. It's really nice.
* * *
Next day they met at the bus stop as usually. They had the same sort of conversation as yesterday. Penelope was getting used to this kind of communication.
- Alright, I'll see you tomorrow then, - Penelope was going to get off the bus, but James grasped her hand.
- Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To, Cinema Bizarre - Escape To The Stars? - Penelope looked at him surprised.
- You mean to the cinema? - James nodded. - Oh, sure. When do you want to go?
- Tim Myers - Today is the day.
- Alrighty then, - Penelope smiled. - Let's meet at 8 at the bus stop? - James nodded.
- Adele - I'll be waiting.
* * *
Penelope rushed out of a bus and rushed across the street. James had been waiting for her for quite some time.
- I'm sorry, I got held up. I would have called you, but, well, nowhere to call really.
- Ashley Tisdale - It's all right, it's okay.
- Let's go then, shall we?
* * *
- Am I boring you? I talk all the time, it must be tiring.
- Jamiroquai - Feels like it should.
- Well, I sort of feel like I need to speak for you too. It isn't so, but I can't help it.
- Rosey - Love, Third Day - Sound of your voice.
- That's really sweet of you, - Penelope blushed. - I wish could hear your voice. I have a feeling it's really beautiful. Too bad it's impossible.
- Van Canto - My voice, Breathe Electric - The average.
- What do you mean? I thought you're mute since birth.
James shook his head.
- Was it some disease? - James shook his head. - Um, you're confusing me. What is it then?
James pointed to his head.
- You mean it's psychological? - James nodded. - But what can make a person lose his voice?
- Dakray - Long story.
- Well, I'm your friend, so I'm always ready to listen... or read.
* * *
- Oh, by the way, didn't you want to see this film? - Penelope asked without turning to James.
He came up to her and nodded.
- Oh, right. I forgot, sorry. So, when shall we go?
* * *
Penelope and James met up at `CafИ Diem' which has been a part of their morning ritual for almost a year now.
- Do you know what day it is today? - Penelope looked cunningly at James, he looked puzzled. - Oh, come on, try and guess, - James made a helpless gesture. - Alright. It's exactly a year since I first talked to you.
- Robert Miles - Celebration?
- That's what I was waiting for, my friend. Although, I thought more like `Madonna - Celebration'.
* * *
It was just another day at `CafИ Diem'. Penelope was thoughtfully looking out of the window. Then she shook her head her turned back to James who was sitting opposite of her.
- How about a little experiment?
- Hilary Duff - Why not?
- I want to know how it feels walking in your shoes, so I thought I could be silent for a day and only use my player.
- Darrel Higham - That sounds like fun.
- Black Dub - Surely.
* * *
The silent day ended. Penelope was at James's place picking up the CDs he had borrowed.
- Wow, that was hard. I can't imagine how you do it every day. But, `The Veronicas - I could get used to this', I think.
- We are!! - You can do everything you want.
- By the way, you still haven't told me, why you are silent. I want to know the reason.
- Supergrass - Alright.
James turned his laptop on, typed something in the search column and opened a newspaper article.
"Horrible crime... mother cruelly murdered... 7 year-old son... hiding in the closet... witnessed... the child can't speak... psychological shock..."
Penelope was dumbfounded. She couldn't find a word to say.
- ...I'm so sorry.
James opened a notepad and typed: "She said: `Don't make a sound, sweetie. It's going to be alright.' But it wasn't. Since then I can't speak." James frowned and looked away.
Tears ran down Penelope's cheeks. She wanted to hug James, but couldn't move. James turned back to her and looked her straight in the eye. Penelope came up to James and hugged him. No words were needed.
* * *
It's been a month since James told Penelope about his mother. Everything was just the way it was before. Almost.
- Um, James, you said it's psychological that you can't speak. Then, why didn't you get help from a shrink? I'm sure he can help you.
- Nero Argento - Helpless.
- But... this just can't be true. I mean, it's in your head. You can control it if you want to. Don't you think your life would be better if you could speak?
- Aerosmith - F.I.N.E. The Prodigy - the way it is.
- I know that people with ... disabilities can be as happy as any other person, but if you have the chance to improve your life, why don't you want to take it? - Penelope gave him a look of incomprehension.
- Rob Stewart - Don't want to talk about it.
- But... You're just running away! - she sighed in exasperation.
- Bon Jovi - It's my life.
- I know! But I am trying to help you.
- The Beatles - Honey don't.
- Why are you shutting me out? I'm your friend! - Penelope rubbed her forehead as if giving herself a moment to pick the right words. - You're building a wall around you, hiding from everyone. You think being silent you can ignore the world around you? Well, guess what? You can't ignore me, I won't let you.
* * *
- Why won't you listen to me? - Penelope raised her voice.
- El Perro Del Mar - I can't talk about it.
- But you can! You have a voice! Don't you want to talk to me without your player? Don't you want to call my name? -Penelope's voice faltered. She looked at James. - You can't even nod to that, can you? - Tears welled up in her eyes. - I can't take this, - James grabbed Penelope by the hand stopping her from leaving.
- The Beatles - Wait...
- I don't want to read what you have to say! - she pushed James away, but he didn't let go of her hand. - Why can't you understand? I don't want to talk to your player. I don't want to listen to words that other people say as if those are your words. I want you, - a flash of desperation ran across Penelope's face. - Don't you understand how lonely it feels? Don't you feel lonely when you can't call my name in a crowd? When I stand with my back to you it's like I'm all alone, you're not even there. I know it's not easy, but you don't even want to try... You don't want to try for me, - Penelope stopped. No response from James. He was frozen. - I'm going now James. I can't do this. I'm sorry, but right now I'm turning my back on you. I... I'm just not that strong, - Penelope shook James's hand off of hers and turned to the door.
James gasped for air. He couldn't breathe. He didn't want Penelope to go, but the only thing that could stop her was his voice. Penelope stopped before the door, drew a deep breath and opened it.
The air was pierce with a silent cry - James was screaming, but no sound was coming out of his mouth. He fell on his knees. He couldn't stop Penelope. She left.
* * *
Penelope's life didn't change much. It was more like before. Except every morning she went to a different bus stop and took a different bus. Almost nothing reminded her of James, only the nagging painful feeling in her chest.
Penelope knew she had done the right thing. At least she chose to believe so. Sometimes she started doubting her decision. On such days she couldn't sleep.