The invisible woman likes to perch in people’s windows. She likes to sit on the other side of a pane of glass and watch the visible men and the visible women eating dinner with their visible children. She likes to listen to the muffled chatter, the pinging of cutlery against plates, the low rumble of the radio. She likes to press her nose to the cold glass and watch the visible fog formed by her invisible breath.

When there is a cat on the other side of a window, it inevitably meets the invisible woman’s gaze. Its sharp eyes narrow, its back ripples into a towering hump, and it shows its needle-sharp teeth. As she sulks away from its silent hisses, the invisible woman thinks that she can almost remember what it felt like, to be seen.

Sometimes the invisible woman sits in the picture window of the big red house on the corner. She presses her back to the brick frame, stretches her arms above her head until her fingertips graze the lintel, and points her feet into perfect arches. She feels every muscle in her body, taut and primed, and she imagines the thick coils of rippling fiber, the unseen landscape of herself.

Inside the big red house lives a couple with two teenaged children: a girl and a boy. Recently, the invisible woman has noticed that the girl is flickering. Every morning, the girl stands in front of her full-length mirror and runs her hands over the curves of her breasts, her hips, her thighs, as they waver in and out of clarity. The invisible woman watches, breath held painfully tight in her chest, afraid to exhale until the girl settles once again into solidity.

The invisible woman begins waking up early so she can follow the girl out of the big red house. She trails the girl down busy pavements, whispering encouraging words into her dark hair as it flutters in the invisible woman’s face. She tells the girl that she is stronger than she knows. She tells her that the world is a lonely place for an invisible woman. She tells her to be brave. These are all the things the invisible woman wishes someone had told her.

The invisible woman thinks it’s working. The girl’s footsteps are growing firmer, louder. She looks people in the eye as she passes them, and they look back. Not up or down, but straight back. Sometimes the invisible woman makes believe that these people are looking at her, too. Sometimes, she thinks they really are. Sometimes, she looks down at the place where her hand should be, and she’s sure she can see it, quivering in and out of her field of vision.

***

Rachel O’Cleary studied creative writing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and lives with her husband and three children in Ireland, squeezing her obsession for flash fiction into the spaces between school runs. You can find a list of her published work at https://rachelocleary.wordpress.com, and she occasionally tweets @RachelOCleary1.