The next morning was the first morning that Salma felt like sleeping in. The bed was comfortable, no cool morning draft assault her toes. She took comfort in the laziness for a half and hour before getting dressed. She made her way to the kitchen and, first things first, put the rest of the bread out on a tray on the windowsill for the birds.
After that, she made her own breakfast. More complex than her dinner, Salma enjoyed it more than any meal she had had in a long time. She opened up her luggage and put things back where she had wanted them. Her laundry had to be done again, but that was all right. More laundry detergent would be on her grocery list. This afternoon she would go into town. The cottage would let her, right?
Nothing stopped Salma from hanging her clothes to dry again, fairly certain nothing would get in her way. Nothing had happened at all this morning to upset her. She began to pin up her pants when the line hit the ground. Irritation welled up within her once more. Reaching for the line, birdsong caught her attention. Salma looked in that direction, not seeing the specific birds who chirped along in the sunlight caught branches, but definitely the sunlight which began to shine brightly at the other corner of the house.
An option, certainly. Salma moved her set up to that corner of the house, putting her wash upon the line once more. There was no problem and in a few hours it was dry.
Not the best way of letting her know, but Salma decided they both had a ways to go.
The sentence came to her eventually – her grandfather wrote about how he fed the birds every morning. He left the food out on the windowsill in the kitchen. They hopped inside, every morning. Things she had never considered… such as her grandfather’s interest in birds.
Salma hadn’t paid too much attention to everything on the shelves of the few bookshelves in the house. There were only three of them, two in the main room that reached from the floor near the top and a shorter one in a different room that only reached her hip, with figurines of dancers, a grass green twisted vase and an oil lantern on the top of it. Salma had removed the oil lantern very quickly when she saw it there – the danger to her apparent. She found the lantern returned to where it had been set after waking up the next day. It had taken her removing it to the shed to make sure that nothing would happen.
Her grandfather had a lot of books about aviation. She had never heard anything about him being an aviator, or of him having any interest in such things. She looked up at the tracks on the ceiling, trying to remember what had once been there.
The light from the window moved to stream into her eyes and Salma shifted to lower her face from the sight. She opened the book, still not certain if standing up might bring the cottage to attention once more.
It was a journal, she realized. Written by her grandfather. She recognized the handwriting, though she couldn’t remember why she knew it was his handwriting. Was there a card he had sent her that she had kept? There were not a lot of other options for her to have been exposed to it. It had been a long time since she had read cursive though and the lack of dots above the lowercase Is and Js was distinctive enough as it made the already hard to read small writing even more difficult to interpret.
Deciphering became easier when she reached the pages with the sketches on them. The pictures were of birds and what was written by them were explanations about the different species. Occasionally he had added in a background, where they stood perched. Never on a branch it seemed. The more and more Salma looked at it, the more familiar it became.
The cottage moving fast she had started to get used to, but the birds? It was as if they knew. She startled a couple into the house and there went the rest of her morning. She tried to direct them all back out the window. Even if wild animals hadn’t trekked all over her food, it was cold by the time she returned to it.
Salma let out a wordless sound of anger and slammed her fist into the wall. Nothing responded.
She had come here a month ago and as far as she was concerned, that was one month too long. Laundry couldn’t be ruined, could it? Salma hadn’t had a problem doing it before, the cottage and it’s limited electricity allowed for a washing machine and the cottage had yet to do anything terrible to the cycle.
Salma pulled her clothes out, wet yet clean. At the very least she had that. Salma left the miserable confines of the house and went to where she had set up the laundry line, hanging everything up to dry. Happy with that attempt, she went back inside and dared to eat a few granola bars. The cottage couldn’t ruin those.
Salma knew she had not left it open. Today she specifically remembered shutting it, locking it, right before she made breakfast. She had slept poorly, but at least her hunger remained. She had decided to have eggs on toast, garlic and jam, everything that would assuage her hunger when she had heard the sound in the other room.
It wasn’t the first time that a sound meant nothing. This house made a lot of sounds. Salma checked anyway, unable to stop herself. In her old place, an apartment in the city, one could assume that if a sound came from the other room something had actually moved, fallen over, for some reason. Here? Certainly something could have fallen, but it would have been replaced by the time she arrived. The cottage wanted her to move from the kitchen and had tricked her once more.
This time the house’s goal was to get her out of the way. In order to open the window and set her food on the sill for the birds, who picked the grains off her crust and out of her jam. Salma stared in horror, before rushing over to shoo them off.