Her hands brushed in a soft rhythm against the warm curves of the plate. She closed her eyes, listening to the soft clink of the crockery, the light lap of the water on her forearms and the scrape of the cutlery against the bottom of the sink.
Everything was quiet, this afternoon.
The sun entered the room lazily as a cloud passed, like a sleep-wrinkled dog nosing around the door, tired eyes gazing. The rays lit upon the open books on the table, the old paper turning yellow in the golden light. Prisms of light danced on the wall, reflected from the water’s soapy surface. She could hear the drone of a lawn mower a few paddocks over, hear the quiet laugh of the TV in the second room, muted but for a few decibels.
Everything warm, calm and low.
Her eyes were irresistibly drawn again and she lifted them, almost reluctantly, to gaze straight out of the window, at the forest beyond the back garden. The dark tree trunks faded into blackness, and a chill emanated from their depths. She never knew whether the chill she felt was real or imagined, fact, or sparked by the many fairy-tales she read to the girls.
But she knew that the forest swallowed all sound. The hum of the bees and cicadas dropped when she went too close to the foot of the trees. Familiar, quotidian sounds were wiped out by a huge silence, something bigger, a blanket of white noise.
Shivering, she lowered her eyes to the dishes once more, and felt her awareness slip back into the room, to the warm bubbles alighting on her wrists, the spreading warmth from the water beneath her hands.
She tried not to look at the forest.