Beauty and the Beast

“Here” she thrust the folded piece of paper hastily torn from a notebook into my hands. Her perfectly manicured nails, though the school didn’t allow us to wear polish, scratched my wrist and drew blood.

“Give it to him”. I watched her run away. Her lithe figure and grace made even the grey tunic of the school uniform look elegant. I remembered holding the skirt straight while she cut the extra inches of cloth away till it was high enough to ride dangerously above her thigh when she sat. Silver earrings dangled from her ears, hair tied in a messy ponytail and just a hint of eyeliner that was too subtle to break the ‘no make-up’ rule of our campus.

Plump, graceless and clumsy I was the antithesis of my best friend. Our friendship was the biggest mystery of our school. All I knew was that Parul had been my friend ever since I could remember. We had entered kindergarten holding hands and grown up together, sharing everything from toys to homework.

We lived next door, played together every evening, swore a blood oath to be best friends forever at eight, lost our first tooth on the same day, bled together for the first time and even received the same marks in all exams. Yet puberty decided to bestow on her a gift while all I got were pimples.

Suddenly she was the most popular girl in class and I was the fat nerd. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ our classmates called us. Parul would drag me along to birthday parties I hadn’t been invited to; shopping at stores where nothing ever fitted me and to lunches with the other girls….till I complained and refused to go along. Yet every night she comes over to my house, and over homework tell me stories of her life, as far from mine as possible.

Boys fell all over her but she would politely kept her distance from all of them…till Abhimanyu arrived. His family shifted from Dehradun and he was wonderful! Tall, smart and a wonderful sense of humour. Sparks flew from the moment Parul and Abhimanyu met. Abhimanyu wrote a poem for her and put it in a Nicholas Sparks novel that he lent to Parul.

I never expected to see my friend act like a lovestruck heroine from the movies, but she did. She would suddenly drift off into day dreams that would make her smile and blush, and behind her notebook she doodled hearts with ‘A+P ‘ written in them.

She penned down a reply to his poem but her courage wore off when it actually came to giving it to him.

He was sitting with a gang of friends in the garden. I walked over. The other boys sniggered at my audacity to approach them, but Abhimanyu smiled and shifted to make room for me to sit. He was always kind to me, and sometimes when Parul had other plans we would walk to the bus stop together. When we were alone like this he would tell me stories about his childhood in Dehradun, and cracked jokes that had me doubling over with laughter. I loved those afternoons.

“I have a message for you from Parul”.

He looked at me expectantly. The note fluttered in my pocket.

The words came out in a rush, “She doesn’t like what you wrote. She asked me to ask you to stay away from her”.

I ran as far from his disappointed face as I could. And once I was out of sight, I took out the folded note, tore it into as many pieces as I could and threw it in the nearest dustbin.

If this was a divine test of my loyalty I failed.

Cupid in Hell smirked.

 

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Melting Ice: Flash Fiction

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The chill hung in the room like an unwanted guest. He slammed the wardrobe shut, and rummaged through the chest-of-drawers. He peered under the bed and banged his head on the bottom drawer.

“Ow!”

She ran into the room. “What happened?” she asked in a breathless query.

“This damned drawer —”

She gently rubbed the sore spot “What’re you looking for?”

“My wallet”.

“You could’ve just asked me”.

“You weren’t talking to me” he said. Echos of bitter words resonated from the past.

Outside a drop of icy-water dripped from the point of the thawing icicle.

“I’ll find it” she said.

Inspired by Prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields 

The Storm Within: Flash Fiction

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The raindrops reeked of redemption.

He had deserved it, she thought bitterly.

From the moment he had first dragged her into the dark scullery, he should have known this day would come. Like dark clouds amassing on the horizon foreshadowing the storm.

At first she had been distraught. She knew no one else in this country, had nowhere to go. And he knew it. Her helplessness emboldened him, and when he was done filling his stomach with the food she had cooked, he would drag her to the bed with sheets she had cleaned and force himself on her. The detergent smelled of betrayal.

The kitchen had only one window. Tied to the chair, he had begged. From the safety of her mask, she had watched him flail, till his last breath dissipated in the gas.

She dropped the rope on the wet street; the mask dangled from her hand.

The clouds part. A new future on the horizon.

Inspired by Flash! Friday Prompt

An Unpaid Bill and The Pink Envelope

Letter boxes, Area 51. Public domain photo by MartinStr.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

Grumbling I drove up to Steve Medlin’s farm, 15 km away from town. At the post-office we had a joke – a postman goes everywhere the Sun does. This was the 3rd time I was coming here in the fortnight – the credit card company had been sending desperate reminders, and I was getting a little angry at this man for not paying his bills already.

The last envelope was still lying untouched, and the one before. Curiously I opened it and saw the list of billed items:

  1. Gold Eternity Ring – Diamnte Wedding-Jewellers
  2. 3-tier cake – Creme Patisserie
  3. 2 Business-Class Tickets to Paris – Air France

I picked up the pink envelope that had been lying here from day-one. Somehow I didn’t think I would be sued.

Dearest Robert,

Forgive me but I can’t go through with the wedding. I don’t think I love you. I don’t think I ever did. Ken wants to get back together. I wish you all the best in life.

Mary

(This post is in reply to the Flash! Friday Challenge by Rebekkah Postupak).

For Your Eyes Only : Flash Fiction

She sat in the corner, silently watching the party – watching the twirling skirts on the dance floor, and listening to the cheerful buzz of conversation she wasn’t a part of. The Eyes passed over her, the way they passed over the other empty chairs. She was INVISIBLE. 

She hadn’t wanted to come to the party, but her parents insisted. “You should go out more, meet people”. She hadn’t wanted to come to this town either, a place where she knew no one and no one knew her.

*

He was tired of these same old parties, of the same inane conversation and malicious gossip. His eyes roamed restlessly over the garden until they alighted on HER. In her white dress, she looked like a freshly-blossomed lily.  She had pulled her legs to her chest, and meditatively laid her head on her knees – deep in thought. He longed to know what lay behind those dark eyes.

Will you dance with me? 

She looked up to meet a pair of twinkling eyes that were fixed on her, and her only.

On the dance floor, in his arms, her eyes spoke at length with his. The rest of the world was now INVISIBLE. 

(This post was written in response to the photo prompt provided by Mia Madison. Word Count: 200)

Someone Special For Dinner….

Dinner-table1-728x546“Mom, I am getting a guest over for dinner” her son told her, as he left for work that morning. Her heart sang with joy.

As he ran down the stairs, she called after him, “Someone special?”

He paused for a moment, and seemed to ponder. Then without looking at her, said, “Maybe…yes”, and then with more conviction “Yes”.

She stood at the door, long after he was gone. Finally, finally her heart sang, and the very air seemed to echo the tender hopes of her heart. He was 32, long past the marriageable age of their community. She was tired of meeting the wives of his friends in the markets, often with little toddlers jumping beside them. Even the gossip had died down now. People had stopped halting her at family functions and weddings to tell her about that nice girl in their neighbourhood who would be just perfect for her bachelor son. She was tired of telling him to get married and settle down – first through subtle hints, and then outright arguments. He wasn’t interested, he wasn’t ready. What sort of answer was that! “I hadn’t been ready to marry your father. I had just finished my twelfth grade. No one asked me. In our time, your parents selected a match for you and you got married! That’s how it worked!”

That whole day she spent in preparation of the dinner. She sent the cook away, and prepared all the dishes on her own. As evening drew closer, she got out her cream chiffon sari she had last worn at her niece’s wedding, and the pearl earrings he had given her for her sixtieth birthday. She hummed as she stood in front of the mirror, straightening the creases in her sari, and combing her silver streaked hair. He was bringing someone special to dinner and all those ugly, vicious rumours would finally die down. When she first heard them she had wept and it was the first time they argued over ‘the marriage topic’. He had left without denying or accepting anything, and she had comforted herself with tears and fervent prayers, before finally realizing how unnecessary they were. Her son would never do something so sinful. The rumours were baseless, spread by jealousy and spite.

Just then the doorbell rang. A final look at the mirror, and she ran to open the door. Her son stood there…and beside him, there stood another man.

Generations collided, tradition and deeply-cherished knowledge clashed with motherly love – and change came knocking at her door, hand in hand with her son. 

Daily Prompt: Modern Family

The Sweater (A Short Story)

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The bell rang slowly as she walked into the shop. The assistant rushed forward her winning smile plastered over her face, and enquired how she might help. I want to see some balls of wool please. The lady smiled and led her through the many aisles to the furthest corner of the shop, beside the window, where they kept all sorts of sewing materials. She would get everything she wanted here, the assistant assured her.

Sarah looked at the different colour threads hanging as samples on the window, glittering in the winter sunlight. She stared at the various colours, mesmerized. It seemed to her as if someone had collected all the colours of the world and arranged them here for her perusal. And why not? Her Teddy deserved only the best. Again, she remembered his last letter. She had read it so many times, that she could by now recite it word to word. It is so cold here, darling. At night, when the snow falls, we feel as if we would freeze to death.

It was at that very moment that she had decided to knit a sweater for him. Now, again she glanced at the rainbow in front of her – the reds, the blues and the greens. All of them were so beautiful, which one should she buy. The dark red one, like the roses he used to give her everyday; the light blue one, which reminded her of the colour of the sky of the day when he proposed to her, the light yellow like the honeysuckles under which he had first kissed her, the dark emerald of her eyes in whose depths she could see the reflection of her face; the choices were endless like her memories, each a treasured jewel within her chest. Three months, was all that they had spent together. Three months of infinite joy, of tender love and wild passion. Three months before this infernal war started, before he left her. Her lips still tingled from his last kiss; his parting words echoed in her ear, Wait for me, my dear. I will come back soon.

In the end, she chose the white wool. White like the fluffy clouds they used to watch together, and imagine shapes in; white like her wedding dress; white like the rose he wore in his buttonhole on their wedding; white like his teeth, when he smiled; and white like the snow-flakes which fell around her, the day he left.

She knitted the sweater every day, patiently weaving all her love and care with the wool. If she made any blunder, she would go back, undo it and knit again, until the pattern was perfect. She would accept nothing but the best for him. At each stitch, she would imagine his face, his delight when he would see the sweater. He would swing her in his arms, so fast that the wind would race by her hair, and then they would fall down together on the lawn, laughing so loudly, that the sound would carry to the seven heavens.

Finally, after a fortnight, the sweater was ready. Only the last few stitches remained. In her enthusiasm, she pricked her hand with the knitting needle, and watched with growing dismay, as her blood seeped on the sweater, staining it a bright ugly red. Oh, she cried to herself aghast, Teddy’s sweater is spoiled. Unspeakable grief overwhelmed her heart. She could not help the tears running down her face, and she cried, burying her face in the sweater.

The doorbell rang, harshly, discordantly. Hastily, she wiped her face, and dusted down her skirt. She walked with composed steps to the door, and opened it. Two soldiers in uniform stood outside. Her heart fluttered wildly, like a trapped bird and even before they spoke, she knew, and the terrible knowledge, made her knees go weak. She collapsed on the floor, even as the soldier started to speak, We are sorry to inform you………….