Long Way Home

Luggage ready.

Laptop packed.

Everything was ready for the journey ahead.

She checked her list and sighed. She was packed and ready for her trip to France but was she ready? Since the last few weeks when she had decided to visit this country, she read every brochure, article and news piece written about Paris where she was going. Amber was sure she would be greeted well but her doubts remained there for the French people were not a hospitable lot. She worried more over the fact that she couldn’t speak French fluently. Moreover, she had read in one of the leaflets she had brought home from the market having information about French that said many dire consequences have been taken against tourists who were not fluent in French. The French were a rigid lot in her mind’s eye.

The pictures had been enticing enough for her to actually visit the place and get acquainted with them. As she sat, contemplating her visit to the place where she would fly to in a few hours, a thought crossed her mind. A few days back she had come across the French literature which has been a Nobel Prize winner for centuries. Being a student of Literature herself, Amber was sure that her visit to France was something that she should look forward to regardless of the difference in the culture and traditions.

Compared to the other parts of the Europe, the French were indeed more rigid and rule abiding than many other countries like the United Kingdom and Italy. Amber was aware of the customs and traditions of other parts of the Europe but in France, weddings were quite different. There were many old customs and traditions that were still followed, and this was an attraction that attracted Amber towards France. She picked up her novel, which she had been reading lately and turned her thoughts back towards the book.

Paris. Paris. Paris. The chant in her mind grew worse as she read on and she just blocked her ears.
Breathe slowly, Amber, she scolded herself.

She breathed in and out for some minutes, blinking incessantly. Her time for the flight was almost near. She picked up her bags and moved downstairs.

“Mother!” she called out to her who had tears in her eyes for they had never been apart for this long. Amber knew that she was special to belong to a protected family whereas she could have been the son or daughter of a European family where the children moved out of home as soon as they turned eighteen. Looking at her mom, she hugged her and kissed her cheek.

“I will talk to you every day. Technology has improved, mom, I will call you on Viber every day and show you all the places I visit.” She smiled at her.

Indeed, as compared to the olden times there was lack of globalization and distances meant no communications, no technology but lately with the advancements and the evolution of technology, this has changed. The contemporary society that we live in removing all kinds of distances and restrains those were there before. Therefore, Amber tried to explain all that to her mother who was quite simple minded and that was her culture. Women in the olden days were quite guarded and protected by their families whereas the Western women had stepped out of the world and became independent. This difference in the traditions attracted Amber for she wanted to experience first-hand what it felt to live in an independent society and become the master of one’s own self.

Hugging her mother, she said, “I will be there before you know it. Don’t worry about me, your daughter is strong enough.” She gave her a reassuring smile. She couldn’t share her thoughts about her trip as it was totally her decision but Amber was sure her mother wouldn’t let her leave.

Such a big price to pay for being born in a close knit family, she thought. She turned her thoughts towards the tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, where the Treaty was signed in 1919 as a peace offering at the end of World War I. She also wanted to visit Bastille since it was a popular fortress and had a strong history attached to it.

Making her mind to just clear all doubts and uncertainties and be on her way to France, she bid her family farewell and moved towards her car to leave for the airport.

Flash Fiction: The First Freeze

The navy blue Mercedes rounded a sharp bend, spilling rain water over the side-mirrors. The road was rougher than usual for this time of the year and splattered with rain which had been occurring for the last 72 hours. Despite the bad weather, Megan and Ryan weren’t deterred from their plan of spending the weekend in a hideaway cabin up the mountains. They were prepared for all causalities they could come up with but the weather had grown darker than their calculations.

Megan was fond of cold weather, rain, snow, blizzards and what not and Ryan, sweet, beautiful Ryan, he put up with her obsessions as his own. He couldn’t deny her this vacation as their first year wedding anniversary celebrations. He loved her too much. Ryan had known the weather wasn’t good enough for the drive up here, in the mountains of Colorado but making Megan happy was of more significance to him. He turned the car around another sharp bend, sighed with relief at the sight of the beautiful cabin sitting in the middle of nowhere with a single lamp burning inside. He turned to Megan.

“That’s our cabin out there. Doesn’t it have a fairy tale setting?” he asked her, smiling. Megan’s smile was definitely angelic, her eyes glittering with unshed tears and looked in thankful at her loving husband.

“Indeed it is.” She said, breathless at the beauty surrounding them. “I simply love this place, the idea, the setting, it’s all so perfect.”

“Happy Wedding Anniversary, sweetheart!” he smiled, took out a velvet-covered box out of his pocket and placed it in front of her. She released the latch and squealed with excitement. Instantly, the ground around them turned white, indicating the first snow.  Megan ran out of the car, pulling a thick coat over her and ran around the snow like a young girl, enjoying her first snow.  Ryan looked at her in amusement, and sooner a snowball hit him, square in the face and so the play started. In moments, the ground beside them turned into a fairy tale meadow, with two chipmunks throwing snow at each other. For two people who originated from the state of California, this snow and cold were heaven for them.

Ryan grabbed Megan from her waist, his hands frozen and nibbled on her ear.

“I love you, Megan!” he said, his voice raw with emotions.

“I love you too, my chipmunk!” she said playfully, pulling his reddened nose and ran away, towards the cabin to warm herself. They had a perfect first anniversary as they enjoyed the first freeze of the Colorado Mountains.

 

 

Short Story: Footsteps In The Attic

The sounds of footsteps in the attic registered slowly in her sleep drugged mind. She was wide awake in an instant but then she lay back on her pillow. She knew she could not do anything about this, she knew her family had made a mistake when they moved into this house. She turned on her and still could feel the footsteps in the attic. She was pretty sure there was something, human, animal or spiritual, locked up there but her father always forbids her to go there. She knew she will check it out eventually. Little did she know that her life would take a U-turn if she took one step towards that attic? Sometimes, when she was alone, she could hear voices. Great cries of agony, as if someone was in pain up there or sometimes she heard weird laughs. When she discussed this with her family, they laughed at her because no one else heard such voices. Positioning a pillow over her head to muffle the sounds, she went back to sleep.

The library was packed but still she managed to grab a chair. With her books in front of her, she sat down to study. Fifteen minutes of trying hard to study, she closed her books and leaned her head on her arms. Her mind kept going to the attic, the voices there, the vibes coming from there. She was certain that either it was haunted or someone was locked there. Her friend, Anne, came just then and dropped in beside her.

“What’s happening?” she asked, turning towards her. “Sarah, what’s the matter?”

“It’s the new house,” she told her, “I think it’s haunted. I hear all sorts of voices which no one else in the house can hear. The direction of the voices is from only one side and that is the attic. I want to go there and see but my dad, as you know how paranoid he is, has forbidden me to go there.”

“Hmm, so what kind of voices are these?” Anne, her friend inquired.

“It seems like someone is in pain. I want to go and check it out.”

“But, if you dad forbid you, then there must be some danger.” Anne looked at her, their eyes met and there were identical expressions on both the girls’ faces.

“When? How?” they both said in unison and smiled. Sarah lowered her voice.

“Tomorrow my family is going to a wedding.” Her grin was devilish. Anne nodded.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then!” she promised and left.

The clock chimed the hour of twelve and the excitement in both girls was growing. Their eyes kept drifting towards it, waiting for the exact moment. Their excitement heightened, hearts beating fast, their breath shallow. Anne looked at Sarah as her eyes widened in recognition. She signaled Anne to follow her. Holding a candle, Sarah inched up the stair with Anne following her, their heartbeat fast; cheeks flushed due to adrenaline their rush. The attic was darkened; the wooden boxes seemed like ghosts in the moonlight. Anne drew nearer to Sarah.

“There is no-one here, Sarah! Let’s go back home!” she said in a scared voice. Sarah turned to look at her.

“Are you being coward now?” she asked, and then she started to laugh. Anne, being afraid, was humorous to her. She laughed hard, tears of joy streaming down her face. She looked at her white face, her eyes wide with fear.

“Sarah!” she choked.

“Come on, Anne! How scary can it be?” Sarah mocked her, bent on teasing her. Anne was watching something beyond Sarah; she quickly grabbed Sarah’s hand and turned her around. Sarah’s eyed widened in shock. Both girls had identical expressions on their face, an expression of shock. Standing in front of them was Sarah’s uncle, whom they all thought had drowned two years before. Sarah stood watching him, speechless.

“Uncle! What are you doing here?” Anne asked the question since Sarah was in a shock paralysis. Two years ago, Sarah’s family and her father’s brother’s family went on a holiday together to the island near San Juan. Three days later, her father and uncle left for some surfing and her uncle never came back alive. All they knew was that he was lost in the tides and his body not found. So, when his body was lost in the tides, how was he alive? That question kept coming to Sarah’s mind.

“Uncle Sam?” Sarah said, disbelieving. “Uncle Sam, how come you are here?” He looked at her with a blank, glassy look. He didn’t recognize her, Sarah realized.

Sam knew this was the time and opportunity to act upon it. He would not get another chance like this again. He didn’t know who she was and why she called him Uncle Sam but his urge was uncontrollable. He took out the knife at his side, contemplating. He craved blood like a starving man craved food. He wanted to be strong but day by day he was weakening. The younger girl had inched out of the room, he noticed. She was nowhere to be seen. Holding his knife steady, he moved closer to Sarah. She was staring at him in bewilderment.

“Uncle, what’s wrong? Why won’t you speak to me? I am your little Sarah!” she wanted to stall, ask for answers and it was then she saw the knife in his hand. Her mind registered panic before she took a step back. He came slowly towards her, knife poised at her throat. Sarah knew she was going to die and tears burnt at the back of her eyes. Instantly, there was a boom as the door crashed on its hinges and her father strode in. He fired his gun, making her uncle drop the knife and rushed to her side. Behind him, he motioned two guards to lock his uncle back into his cell. Sarah became conscious sometime later, watching her dad sitting there with her.

“Daddy, how come Uncle Sam is locked up here?” this was the question he was dreading and one that he was supposed to answer.

“Daughter, he was found right after our surf expedition. He was unconscious with a big bruise on his head. The doctors were afraid that he had some damage and we couldn’t test him until he was awake, so we waited. A few hours later, when he came about, he lunged for the nurses, trying to kill them with a knife. He would repeatedly say that he wanted blood, he craved it and if we don’t give it to him, he will kill us all. The doctors suggested placing him in an asylum but I am mistrustful of them places so I brought him here with us, locked him up so that he couldn’t hurt anyone.” He finished.

“But daddy is he the one who makes those voices? Of someone being in pain, as if they are being tortured?” she asked, confused.

“Yes, when his urge is out of control he screams, breaks things, lashes out. Those are the noises you hear, and for your safety I had forbidden you to come up here.” Sarah was speechless.

“Come, let’s go back now. Your uncle has been taken care of.” Her father held her in his arms he descended the stairs. Anne was standing at the bottom, looking worried. Sarah gave her a small smile.

“If it wasn’t for Anne, I wouldn’t have been able to come there on time Sarah.” He told her, with anger.

“I am sorry, papa.” Sarah said. “I love you!” she hugged him.

Her father smiled and patted his only child.

 

 

 

The Novelist

He was a loner. We watched him sitting on the bench in the park every day, reading a newspaper or writing in his leather bound journal. He was too old to be alone, yet too robust and energetic for his age. He would just sit there like a statue, staring into space which sometimes made us think he was depressed. He was from the same neighborhood as I had seen him coming from the Old Age nursing home near my place. Today, as I passed the same bench, he was not there and it made me wonder about his whereabouts. It had been days since I hadn’t seen him there and it made me curious. I passed on the same old home on my way back, out of curiosity, I went inside. The old home was as gloomy and depressing as its inhabitants. The walls were painted cream, the furniture dark green and there was a musty smell of antiseptics. It made me gag. I looked around at the old men and women sitting around, some having an IV attached to their frail arms, some were sitting in the corner reading newspapers. I looked around for him, scrutinizing everyone carefully. A nursed walked out of the room, carrying a stack of journals that the old man always used to carry.
“Excuse me, Miss!” I called out to her. She turned around to look at me, one eyebrow raised in question.
“May I know where is that old man, who comes to the park down the street every day? I haven’t seen him for quite a few days now.” She looked at me like I was talking gibberish. I repeated my question.
“Sorry sir, but if you know the name of the patient, that would be more helpful and time saving.” She said impatiently.
“He hasn’t been there for one week and neither have I seen him around. He writes these kinds of journals, the ones you are holding. I have always seen them in his hands.”
“Oh, do you mean Mr. Watson? He has had a heart attack five days ago and has been in surveillance since then.” She said.
“Can I visit him?” I asked.
“Sure. Go straight and then the fourth door on your right. That’s his room.” She smiled at me and left. I walked down the corridor, the pungent smell getting to my brain. I paused outside the specified room, suddenly uncertain but then I gathered my courage and moved inside. He was lying in his bed, propped up on pillows, reading a book. He removed his glasses when he saw me and laid down the book.
“How may I help you?” He asked me, smiling slightly. He had recognized me, his smile was indication enough.
“I haven’t seen you around for a week now, just wanted to know if you are okay.” There was an awkward silence in which he scrutinized me with his keen, amber eyes. Minutes later, he smiled and signaled me towards a chair.
“Have a seat.” I sat down, uncertain as to what to talk about. I started on his health.
“The nurse outside told me you’ve had a heart attack. How have you been faring so far?”
“I am fine,” he chuckled, “these doctors and nurses are crazy.” He winked at me and I couldn’t help but laugh. We talked a lot, about every subject possible and I was impressed. He could talk about any topic that I chose and he had something to say on every matter. He told me he was a novelist before he had a heart attack when he was around fifty years of age. He was from a very rich and wealthy New York family and he completed his education at the age of 25. He started his writing career when he was just a teenager and then he wrote repeatedly. The world knew him as the author of humorous stories, his friends knew him as a sophisticated person and his family, and they ridiculed him. He left home when he graduated and never looked back. Wealth was not what he searched for; he wanted peace, tranquility and quiet. He sought that in nature and loneliness and found it out eventually. His novels had been a huge success and the world knew him as “The Great Novelist”. When I looked back at my childhood, I remembered hearing his name in the news and reviews. In one short visit, he became my inspiration. I felt inclined to write his biography, to tell the world what a great person he was. I started visiting him every day, as he was not allowed to walk to the park anymore; I sat days and nights with him. Reading him excerpts and stories made me feel good, his sense of humor was awesome when he pointed out some interesting facts to me. In this world, novelists and writers are not being read as much but there are people with exceptional talents out there somewhere, striving to be recognized.

Four months later, I walked into his room, carrying a beautiful bouquet of lilies to see him sitting in his bed, his journal open on his lap. I knew he hadn’t written because he had been telling me his stories.
“What’s up, old man?” I joked as I placed those flowers in a vase on his bedside table. He smiled grimly and closed his journal.
“The doctors say that my heart is not able to support me anymore. I may die anytime now.” His face was so serious; I was paralyzed for a moment.
“They can’t help me, they say. As if they will repair my heart.” He grinned. “Here, come sit with me.” I sat down near him, holding his hand.
“In my cupboard, there are journals about my life, my history, my achievements and I want you to keep them with you. One day, you will learn from my experiences and I will be recognized as the great author this part of the world has seen.” He squeezed my hand and two tears from my eyes dropped on them. I felt that day that I had lost him; I would never see him again, never hear that laugh of his again. I left there with a heavy heart, unaware that today was the last day I would see him with the light in his eyes and that grin on his face.
Next day, I got the call from the nursing home that he was no more. I couldn’t believe the fact that I had gotten close to him in such a short time. He was my idol and my mentor. I would miss him forever.

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The parking lot was swarming with reporters, pedestrians and curiosity seekers. There was traffic jam outside the town auditorium and loud honking of the cars could be heard. It was sight to behold as the large cars passed through the parking lot and parked here and there. It looked like the whole town was here to celebrate her success. This was a big day for the small town of Bancroft, where the people were lazy and lethargic, where talents weren’t recognized and where the people were careless and useless. For the first time in the history of Bancroft, a talented and endowed writer had taken birth here. She had strive hard to reach this threshold, to make a name for her in this wide, cruel world.
Standing behind the stage, Jenny was a mixture of emotions. This was her big day, her chance to outshine everyone out there. She breathed deeply and flicked her hair off her forehead as she went over tonight’s schedule again. She turned around at the sound of her name being called. Her best friends, Sarah and Cindy, were making their way towards the back, towards her. She straightened, pasted a smile on her face and moved forward to greet them.
“Hey, Jenny!” they called out in unison.
“Hey!” she called out and rushed over to them. They group hugged, laughing together.
“Everything looks so cool, Jenny!” Sarah exclaimed, exuberant at her friend’s success. Cindy smiled at both of them. Jenny, Sarah and Cindy were fast friends since kindergarten. They had grown-up together, played together, and studied together and even homework. Jenny’s mother was a schoolteacher who had tutored them when they were kids. Of the three of them, Sarah was the chatterbox; she loved talking about anything and everything. Cindy was the silent one, she used to observe and listen more than she had anything to say and Jenny, and she was the mastermind. Her dainty habits and politeness won everyone’s heart. Her iron strength and determination brought her to this position and she was the apple of everyone’s eyes in this small town of Bancroft. Her soft heart often landed her in trouble but she had everyone at her disposal to bail her out of her glitches.
Smiling, both Jenny and Cindy listened as Sarah went on and on about tonight’s plans and preparations. She knew, when Sarah set out to accomplish something, her iron resolve and determination could not be encountered and in this instance, she had both in her.
“Cindy, you have to take care of the opening ceremony, that is, the ribbon cutting ceremony and be there at jenny’s left side to hold out a pair of scissors to her. “ Sarah instructed her. Jenny positively beamed at her, thankful for having such caring friends.
As the time for the opening drew nearer, Jenny’s nerves were out of control. Perspiration stuck to her forehead as looked at her two best friends. They were her support, her encouragement and her defense.
“Jenny! It’s time to go!” Cindy said, cleaning the perspiration from her forehead. She squeezed her hand, giving her strength. Jenny smiled and hugged both of them.
“Stay close to me!” she said, checked her makeup and left.

All was in readiness;the chief guest had finally arrived, the guests waited behind them to witness the opening ceremony. Jenny stood with the chief guest, overlooking the red colored ribbon. The town people had decided to name this auditorium after her, to make her a symbol for future generations of Bancroft. She looked beside her, Cindy should have been here half an hour ago but she was nowhere to be found. Jenny looked at Sarah questioningly but she shook her head, indicating that she didn’t know. Jenny nodded, indicating that she understood and then nodded again for Sarah to bring the scissors. As soon as Sarah reached beside her elbow, there was a murmur in the crowd. Jenny turned around and at the same time she heard her name being bellowed.
“Jennifer!” The yell was getting closer. The crowd parted and between them stood Cindy, her hair askew.
“Cindy, what happened to you?” Jenny tried to go to her, unaware of the madness in her eyes.
“Don’t come near me,” she said loudly, “you think you can get famous, you are so talented almost everyone dotes on you. The town loves you, they let no harm come to you, your life is so perfect and ours, we have to strive for each and everything. How could I let it be perfect for you?” her voice was hoarse. “I am going to kill you.”
“What are you talking about Cindy? What is mine is yours and Sarah’s as well!” Jenny was confused. She tried to move closer to her but she took out a knife.
“Don’t you come near me! I hate you! “She screamed her eyes bloodshot.
”You wanted these scissors,” she held the pair of scissors Sarah had given her. “Here, take it!” She threw them in the air, right at Jenny. A security guard moved out of from behind the baluster and grabbed the scissor before it could hurt her. They hauled Cindy out of the auditorium in handcuffs, with Sarah and Jenny watching sadly. Jenny was stunned at her best friend’s behavior; she looked at Sarah, who was in the same condition as her. Jenny turned around, looked at the man beside her and decided to get on with the ceremony. She handed the scissor to him, to cut the ribbon and start tonight’s festivities. Applause rang out as the ribbon was cut and the guests moved inside.

Seated at the chaise lounge outside her home, Jenny looked at Sarah, their expressions troubled. She didn’t understand why Cindy had reacted like that and Sarah was thinking about the same.
“Jenny, she never even told me any of the things she was feeling. At least, I was more close to her.” Sarah’s voice was full of emotions. Jenny sighed.
“We can just hope for the best for her. Wherever she is, I hope she stays safe.” Jenny said and hugged Sarah. “We will always be with each other, never leave me alone!”
“I will never!” Sarah promised.