Knock Knock!!

There was a knock at the door. At sharp 1 AM. Everyday, without fail. Like someone awfully aggressive to come inside. I was rejoicing in the perks of living alone but few hair-raising moments petrified me.

Sometimes I felt I kept a certain object at a different place but it turned out to be in another room and astonishingly I had a hazy memory of going there. I couldn’t recall as if it was wiped out of my memory. But I always had been too busy to indulge in this. So, tried brushing it off before retiring at night.
Then always at the same time I hear the knock and my eyes would flutter open in shock. Afterwards, the knocks would just fade away. I concluded it to be our new neighbor pulling pranks at the midnight. Dimwits!

Terror occupied me when on the next night the sound awoke me ruthlessly. That’s when I realized someone was touching my back while I was lying on my bed. I usually slept on my side keeping a folded left arm below my head. I could feel how the fingers contorted inwardly, moving in a gesture to poke someone. The way one knocks. I gulped. It was never the door. It always had been my back where someone kept poking their fingers at me. I bolted up in fright.
It repeated for few days. Seemed like I was dreaming about it but was too vivid to be a dream.

I called my friend to stay with me. At night when we were discussing and I told where I felt the touch she saw there were bruises all over my back. We both had mini heart attack and were trembling in fear. That’s when she proposed to pack my bags and leave this place tomorrow itself. Not remember when we both drifted off. Then it happened again and it was only 10 o clock. The knocking started.
I scolded my friend not to joke around and nearly yelled after it happened for 4 times. She answered me back from the bathroom saying she will back in a minute and can’t hear me properly.

I froze. I couldn’t turn. I never felt the touch while being wide awake. Suddenly the touch was replaced by a warm breath on my back. Someone was too close. And then it snarled at me like it carried a lot of hatred towards me. I started crying and yelling for help. Suddenly I sensed warm breaths covering my back to the ankles. THERE IS MORE THAN ONE.
I turned around and



(I love your imagination, Guys!)


I bumped into him in front of a coffee house. Nothing has changed since I last saw him. He still looks the same.But his boyish charm that used to carry the responsibility of so many smiles,now had an edge of ripening maturity. And seeing that I smiled
“Hi, how are you? So long?”

I think I gave away the glimpse of my sudden cheeriness with my ear to ear smile. Thankfully, he returned my answer with an equal measured curve of his lips. Is he really that happy to see me??
“I’m good, Tina. How have you been? Do you wanna grab some coffee? I heard this coffee house serves the best Flirting-Coffee.”
I saw him getting embarrassed the moment he ended his sentence. And I laughed out loud.
“Flirting-coffee? I’m very sure I’ve never heard of this before. How could this cafe be the best in that?”
“I mean that’s the name of their special coffee”, he added sheepishly. “So do you want to go inside and taste it?”

No, I shouldn’t. At all. Too little of time is left for wedding preparations and my evil friend Priyanka would kill me if I’m late. I wanted to say No and to my utter surprise, this is what came out of my mouth.

“Yes, Ofcourse. I can join you for a couple of minutes” I said with a radiant smile. What is it about him? Why can’t I stop smiling? What would he think of me? That I’m that kid hopping on her feet elated over receiving her favorite present. I tried to compose myself.
We entered and ordered the special coffee. I was noticing how nicely he tucks in his shirt now, how uniformly he folds his sleeves. No unbuttoned, disheveled gawky outfit. His hair nicely coiled and dignified mannerisms screaming of a friendly and approachable Gentleman demeanor. His face didn’t change but the eyes seem to have aged in a responsible way that you now feel you are heard. A person who has mentally grown over the years and now is much more attentive while you talk.
And his smile. Oh!! He’s smiling at whatever I’m saying. Please I need to stop else at this rate, I’ll document each second of my life spent after we parted. He looks so interested in listening to how much my cat troubles me, or if I’m still that scared girl who sleeps with lights on, if I am enjoying my new job, or how many times I re-read Harry Potter. All those trivial details in our dreamy encounter made me lose track of time.

I suddenly ask him so what’s the story behind flirting-coffee. His laugh is a bit shy again. He continues,
“Actually, according to this Coffee-House they let their coffee do all the flirting. So even if you are naive at this, you are covered” And then I jokingly add,
“So you wanted to flirt with me but didn’t know how to, right?”

And we both laughed out so hard. Like the old times. Good old times. I don’t want to remember the bad parts with or about him. It’s only about a couple of minutes so I don’t need to ruin it.

“Hey, you there?” He asks. I didn’t know when did I space out. “You still carry a lot of things on your mind, don’t you?” He winks.
“Oh, well…” My phone buzzed and it was Priyanka. Oh God!!
I picked up!!

“Hi sweetie, I’m sorry I’m coming. I’m on my way” She’s yelling, of course!! I didn’t realize it’s been more than an hour sitting and chatting with him. She anyway gets paranoid over the wedding stuff esp when it’s around the corner.
I continued “Yes yes, the wedding. There is nothing more important to me at this point in time” trying to tease and calm her down.

I hung up. And tell him I’ve to rush.
He says okay but something is off. He asks if I’m okay and I assure him but had to shop for the wedding and I’m late.
I picked my things and left. I walk fast but suddenly had this urge to bid him bye. I turn around and there he is. Standing in front of the coffee house, like he was waiting for me to turn. He looks sad. Something wore off his pretty smile. What happened to him??

But I don’t have time for this. I wave him bye and walk faster. In few minutes my feet comes to a sudden halt.
Oh, is this what?? Did it bother him?? After all this time? Was he heartbroken about this news? Doesn’t it mean he still ….?
I don’t know why but I run back towards the coffee house. And I run fast. I wanted to confront him. I needed to hear something. Maybe some sort of closure that I failed to get all these years.
I reach there and he is gone. He has left.
What made me think that he would still be waiting for me?
He is gone. Like before.

(Part 1 ends)

Under the Umbrella

We got off the last bus when it suddenly started raining heavily. I recalled carrying a single umbrella & instantly knew it’s going to be the most awkward night. We, under the same umbrella within the vicinity of unmasked emotions; both grown-ups, both hesitant who had to scooched down under the crowning shelter with embarrassing electricity passing through us whenever our bodies touched; the thought already made me fidgety. It was a lonely street and we didn’t talk much. The disappointed silence was snowballing to make us more uncomfortable. With few more steps, we were half drenched from each side and thought to stop over a local bar.

Sitting in front I gingerly poured the drink with a faint smile wondering why Mom asked us to come together. While passing the side-dish I saw his brightest smile. With few drinks, we started opening like old buddies. Father still made that snorting sound while laughing which I found extremely hilarious in childhood. I examined his face. Sunken eyes, grey hair, saggy skin along the jawline; when did he grow this old. It’s been a long time I have had a good look at him even after sharing the same roof for years.

We chatted and reminisced about the games we used to play. The prince who’d fight off the enemy who invaded his land with the wooden swords carved by father. My make-believe game of winning the queen & confidently disregarding his explanations that the game is Chess and not Carrom. The way he used to nicely fold my ‘I love you, Papa’ scribblings and keep it safe in his tiny box as if some kind of treasure it is. How I knew the only way to enjoy fairs and festive carnivals was by sitting on his shoulders while mom fed us those tasty rolls. When my latest geometry box and all sorts of stationery supplies were more important than the shirt he had been trying to buy for years. “My office is boring so why do I need a new shirt for a boring place”, he consoled me when I refused.

The way I always used to kiss him back sleepily after he was back from the office trying to nudge me awake for one minute. I think it was his way of saying ‘I missed you today, Son’. When I thought I was able to deceive father because mom didn’t tell my low scored marks to him and I got a new bicycle anyway. Papa knew it all along. I got to know it later which truly made me serious towards studies without being reprimanded. When he’d spent ungodly hours after office in fixing my toys so that at the end he could hear ‘You’re my Hero, Papa”. When I used to laugh hysterically while he dropped me off at school wearing unmatched slippers. When at any family function he so innocently pleaded and bribed me to be with him because he was so bad at expressing with others. But we always ended up having fun together.

Then a single thought crossed my mind ‘What happened to us’? Well, I grew up. Life happened and we started spending from lesser hours to almost nil. He stopped asking for games because those were embarrassing now and that’s what I said once. His only words I remember lately were ‘Is everything okay? Is there anything you need?’ I now think he meant he is still available to fix anything, he can still be my Hero again even after I have grown up.

Yes, I grew up and became like him, who couldn’t express the pain or about the heartbreaks, who failed to talk about the pressures of life and repeated failures, who was not so conniving to lead an easy life and had to work hard diligently wherever went, who always looked for some reason or someone’s help or the crevices in any conversation to be a part of it. He must have felt the same. He must have been in pain too.
He said over the drinks that he missed me, he missed the chirpy boy in me, he missed his old buddy. He was so happy I wasn’t like him in yesteryears, who made him forget the hostile world and took him to a grand kingdom where they both ruled together and laughed till they choked.

I realized, I forgot expressing. Just like him. And that day made a promise to not be a little like him and make sure to steal an extra amount of hugs and ‘I love you(s)’ because Love isn’t a gender-based emotion but the hearts. I am going to cherish him now before it’s too late.

Under that umbrella, Not our bodies but were the hearts that moved closer. I thanked mom secretly while listening to his funny snorting sound again and laughing uncontrollably.

Where are you??

“I have got a new idea. Want to hear about it?” Those bright eyes insisted. My weirdest, eccentric but the cutest friend who always came up with the bizarre games. My parents usually worked in longer shifts and weren’t home till late night and I, being a teenager at that time, told them I could take pretty much care of myself so we’d have the whole house to ourselves.
That day, as usual, we met at my place after school and she entered all giggling with some old rusty board. Before I could ask she started on her own. Being the blabber she was, I let her.

“Okay! This is an Ouija board. And I have got this voodoo doll with me and we will summon ghosts today”, in her super excited voice she expected a great reaction but none came.
Seeing my impassive face she continued “Oh C’mon, It’s been 3 years I am trying to convince you and you always say NO!”

“Exactly! And you still want to pursue it” I questioned.

In my defense, it was very hard to turn down an endearing person like her, that too when she looked at me with those puppy eyes. Hence, we started. We had one storage room that no one was using and we established our business there. I knew nothing of how this thing works but looking at her I felt she was a pro. Lighting candles, mumbling something, eyeing around the room. Honestly, I kept rolling my eyes at her.

We were holding hands, with eyes closed and she was chanting something from the book which she said got free with this stuff and suddenly there was a loud thud at the window. I freed my hands in panic. I opened my eyes and caught her laughing hard.

“It was the neighbor’s kid. You know how he keeps throwing something or the other. OMG! Look at your face,” she snorted.
“Shut up, Stupid! I don’t want to play this game anymore. I don’t like it.” Frightened as I was, I asked her to go back home that day. Convincing me it’s all fine, she left.

I couldn’t sleep that night. Some uneasy feeling kept crawling up in my veins which I couldn’t figure out. Finally, after trying multiple distractions I fell asleep.  
The next day after school, I tried contacting her, went to the park we used to meet but she was nowhere. This happened consecutively for the next 3 days.

She was nowhere to be found. She always said she lived across the street but we always met at the same place so I never bothered asking her postal address. I started feeling jittery.
Panic-stricken, I decided to visit her neighborhood. I tried talking to people, told her name, and explained her features if they have seen her but all in vain.  I walked some more steps and fortunately, was able to find the house as she had described once and swiftly ran towards to ring the doorbell. A pretty lady opened it for me and I asked for her.

“Is Karen home? She didn’t meet me for the last 3 days. I am her friend, Venka. “ Perplexed, she answered “No, I am afraid she is not. Who are you looking for?”
I again explained to the lady how did Karen look. She was taken aback for a moment. I am sure I read something on her face.
She dismissed me without saying a word. She was about to close the door when I insisted.
“You know something, don’t you? What happened to her? Please tell me.”

With a heavy sigh, the lady tried forming the words “She met with an accident”.
I couldn’t believe her words. The surroundings went numb. I could hear nothing, at all!
I was too shocked to cry and upon finding my voice I asked, “When?”

“20 years ago.”

“This is some kind of a dream. This is a dream” I kept mumbling.
“This is true, My dear. I am, well I was, her younger sister. My mother lives in the backyard and still awaits her. Many people around claimed that they spotted her in a school uniform at times but even that was a long time ago.”

She was always in school uniform. I never knew which school she went to. For 3 years I never knew anything except her name. She was so playful, so bubbly, always mischievous with giddy excitement in her that the only thing we talked about was of my problems.
I felt a part of me got ripped apart and ejected out of my body from this confounded revelation whereas my heart plummeted down to the ground. My body paralyzed.

“Are you okay, dear?” She asked. 
“I suggest you should go home and rest”. The words didn’t enter my ears but I started marching back with baby steps, still absorbing the shock.
I had walked a few steps when I see her, in her freaking school uniform; waving gleefully at me. I stopped. She came running towards me. Gasping for air she asked,
“How come you’re here? How did you find me? Never mind, I am glad you did. ”

“Why do you always wear a school uniform? Why don’t I know anything about you except your name?” Words were out before I realized. “Are you the same girl who died 20 years ago by a car accident?”

She froze. Her eyes widened as if I caught her red-handed. “Answer me!”
To my utter shock, I found her laughing hard. Again! “I hate her when she does it”, I thought.

“Would you stop laughing while I am asking you something” She being herself ignored what I said and that day I witnessed the literal display of ROFL. This made me livid.
Gauging my reaction she controlled herself and continued, “No, No I am not her. Yes, the girl died many years ago but that wasn’t me. Moreover, you know nothing about me because you, stupid fellow never ask me anything. You are always wallowing in your own problems and every time we meet I try to keep you happy.”

“Then where were you these days? Especially after our Ouija board encounter. Do you know how shaken I was after your disappearance?”

She apologized and said her parents had been thinking of getting a divorce, there had been regular fights & that she was quite worried and didn’t even go to school.  I realized how less I had heard from her, about her issues. But I was so relieved to see her doing fine, though going through a rough time but at least she isn’t dead or had been dead for years.

Out of the blue, I heard someone screaming from behind. I looked at her. She was so calm.
“That happens here. It’s normal. There’s an old lady. She has frequent seizures. Do you want an ice-cream? Don’t worry, I will get you one. Wait here!”
My words were almost out that how could she change the subject so easily, that how could she leave me here all alone but she was already gone.

The high-pitched voice became clearer as if approaching me. I turned around and saw a lady with unruly hair and almost as old as my grandma running frantically towards me. She grabbed my arm and started asking “Where is she? Where is my daughter?.”

I could see she was howling in pain. She had a foul smell and the darkest eye baggage I had ever seen. Someone who hasn’t slept for years or taken a bath either.
Crying she asked again.

I was petrified.
“I don’t know, I don’t know who you are talking ab….” My eyes fell to the picture frame she was holding in her other hand. It was her. It was Karen. Is she really dead? What game is she playing with me? The quota of swallowing the number of shocks on that day reached its limit. I was flabbergasted. Judging from my reaction she continued weeping and confessed,
“It was my fault. She was a wonderful & playful child. I should never have thought of getting a divorce. Hearing this news she ran away from my arms and bolted out of the door to the main road. She met with an accident here, where you are standing right now. “
OKAY! This has to stop. Somebody, please wake me up!!

Unfortunately, it was all true.

The Old lady begged, “If you ever see her again please, please tell her to meet Mama. She appears in front of so many people but never before me. She is still angry with me. Tell her, her Mama is still waiting. She will wait for 20 more years. Tell her, to come to Mama. Tell her, to meet me one time. Tell her to come to me” saying she collapsed.
The pretty lady, allegedly Karen’s sister finally found her mother and helped her get up. I watched everything as if it was airing on Television. I collected myself somehow and walked back home.
I never heard from Karen again!