On: 09 Aug 2020
Category: Weird story
The drive to Ebony Hills was usually a pristine one. Marked with luscious pines with the sunlight peeping through the branches, the birds chirping a melody announcing your arrival, and of course, Chachu and Chachi’s sweet, warm smiles greeting me whenever I came to the Hills. But this time, the pines weren’t green enough, sunshine bright enough, I couldn’t hear the birds, and Chacha and Chachi’s smile changed into a frown with one look at me.
Chacha asked Papa, “What’s the champ sulking about?”
“Sir was denied a new Guitar,” Papa replied while taking our luggage out of the car.
As we were entering the house, Chacha pulled me aside. He turned to Chachi, “You go ahead and set the table, Anita, I and Kabir will have a chat first.” Mom shook her head in disappointment.
I protested, but Chacha already had me seated on the bench in the front porch. We sat there in silence for a moment, then turning towards me he asked, “But you don’t even play the Guitar, Kabir, you want to learn?
“Yes,” I replied sullenly.
“You can have mine then. I will also throw in some lessons for free”, Cacha said with an assuring smile.
“It’s not that Chacha,” I said, slightly embarrassed.
Chacha looked at me with a probing look. I finally gave in and said, “Guitars are in vogue among my friends these days, and I feel left out of their conversations. Then I stumbled upon this limited edition electric guitar on the net, and I thought if I had it, I would feel more included. “
“You know me, this is the first time I have pestered Dad about buying me something, why can he just indulge me?” I quickly added.
Chacha said with a smile, “He doesn’t want you to fall in the habit of chasing whatever is in vogue.”
“Okay, let me tell you a story your grandfather told me. He said it happened to him, but I doubt that it’s true. Anyway, the story did its job in my life, maybe it will do the same for you.”
He quickly noticed my shoulders dropping and added, “Oh, it’s not a typical moral story, I promise,” I reluctantly agreed, “Okay, Chacha, go ahead.”
Chacha began, “So this is what allegedly happened with Dad, word for word.”
I was in high school then. There was a new admission in our class, she was stunningly pretty. Pretty enough to make all the boys in the class go into crazy shenanigans to impress her.
I, while aware of her undeniable beauty, never took a liking for her for some reason unknown to me. Soon, the unreasonable distance turned into justified dislike.
She was a snobbish loner, a typical teacher’s pet. She would tell on her classmates that any requests for help with the syllabus’s understanding would be met with an “I am sorry I am busy right now,” and in a group task, it would always be her who must be making the presentation. But she remained high on the school popularity charts solely due to her looks.
But nothing would be the same for me, ever, after our monthly exam in October that year. You see, she had topped every monthly exam before that, she had topped the quarterly and the half-yearly. But this time, I who always came second had come first, and that too by a margin of a mark.
That day I was walking home from school when to my surprise and equal parts horror, I saw her walking up to me.
“Congratulations, Mr. Mehta looks like there’s a new topper in town,” she said chirpily. It was the first time I had listened to her voice in close that I saw her freckled cheeks, and the first time I saw her smile. I felt warm inside.
“Well, er… it was just one mark, you have been doing much better than me for the rest of the year. You are the real topper,” I said, surprising myself.
” Anyway, nice talking to you”, I added and quickly turned away, resuming my walk home.
“You don’t like me, do you?” her voice followed me from behind.
“Sorry?” I asked, puzzled.
“Well, nobody does. And they are not wrong either. I am sure they think I am some snobbish teacher’s pet.”
“No, we don’t,” I lied.
“You wouldn’t be wrong if you did. But I can’t help it, I can’t afford to fail, at anything, at any cost”.
“We all fail sometimes, it’s only human, ” I remarked.
“I can’t, I just can’t,” she parroted.
“That’s a conversation for some other time,” and with this, she got on her bike and peddled away.
In the following days, our friendship grew, and she told me her story. She had had an elder sister, Rupa. Rupa was the apple of the eyes of her parents, she was God’s handiwork.
From an early age, Rupa soared high in academics and in sports. Her speeches were riveting, her debates fiery, her heart kind, and looks serene.
But as fate would have it, this blessing wasn’t meant to last long. Rupa was driving home from her graduation ceremony with her Mom when they both perished in an accident.
It was to live up to Rupa’s image and to bring joy to her father that she toiled so hard and behaved so coldly towards anything that would distract her from success.
I saw myself soften up to her. So did Tollie. Tollie was our White Spaniel pup.
One day I couldn’t find Tollie anywhere, I searched for him everywhere. I had almost given up for the day when it struck me. Tollie had taken quite a liking for her, maybe he was at her house. Fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves across the table to each other at her home.
“I don’t know where this dog could have gone,” I muttered to myself.
“I am sure he will come around. Here, have some juice,” she offered.
“Thank you,” I said,” You have a lovely house.”
“I am glad you like it. Who would have thought we would be sitting in my house, sipping orange juice together one day?”, she said beaming.
“I did. Well, at least in a way,” I confessed.
She looked at me, inquiringly.
“The truth is I didn’t like you much in the beginning. I, in fact, resented your presence. But the boys kept blabbering about you, they kept saying that I was just upset because you were way out of my league.
I decided to prove them wrong. I thought to myself, the one thing that you hold very dear are your marks, so if I beat you, you will take notice of me, and then it will blossom into a friendship, and then I could boast about it to my friends”, I added sheepishly.
“But now it’s different’, I continued, now confidently, “I genuinely adore you.”
She just smiled silently. Then got up.
“You cannot leave without having lunch, I have made chicken curry, and I know how much you like chicken curry,” she declared.
I accepted smilingly. She set the table for the two of us and went back to the kitchen to fetch the knives and forks. The bowl of curry sitting in front of me looked delicious.
My eyes followed her to the kitchen, then froze and then bulged in horror. There on the kitchen slab, beside a bloody blade lay a blood-stained blue dog collar with the word TOLLIE printed on it…
I stared at the bowl of meat in front of me, my vision began to tunnel, my hands sweat profusely, I couldn’t find my breath. She turned towards me and then towards the blood-stained collar. Then with a knife in her hand and a crooked smile on her face, she walked towards me.
“What did you do to Tollie? Please! Please! Let me go! Why me?! Why? Please stop!” I shouted as she inched towards me, loud enough to burst my lungs, but my muscles wouldn’t move. That orange juice, I thought to myself.
“I told you I couldn’t fail, and yet I did. Because of you! Because of one bloody mark. Oh! What will father think of me?! Won’t he be sad? Won’t he be upset? Wouldn’t I have fallen short of Rupa didi again? And all of this because of you, oh you must pay”
With this, she swung the blade. My wrist splattered the table with blood. The lights started to fade away.
“One scar as a symbol of the one mark” were the last words I heard before everything became dark.
I woke up in my bed with a start. Was it a dream? It couldn’t be because my wrist was bandaged. So, it was real. I got out of bed and fell back with a jolt. There panting by the door, was Tollie.
I could never explain what had happened to Mom.
A week later, I mustered enough courage to take a peek at her house, but, to my horror, there was no sign of a structure there. She had left our school.
Confused, I walked home.
But that day I thought to myself, I got this scar only because I chased something because it was something that most others liked. After all, it was something that would bring me popularity, and I chased it despite my heart not wanting me to. When my instincts disliked her from the beginning. I overlooked my inner voice to chase something popular, and it left me with this scar.
I shall never make this mistake again.
We sat in silence. Then Chachu wrapped his arm around my shoulder assuringly,” Your Grandpa told me this story when I was eleven, so it scared the hell out of me. So much so that when engineering or medicine were the only fields considered worth pursuing, I took up architecture, because that’s what my heart wanted. Your grandpa took up writing stories when his family wanted him to become a civil servant, as that was the job in vogue those days.”
“This story has mended the lives of two generations in this family Kabir, I hope it will do the same for the third,” he added smilingly.
“Lunch is ready!” declared Chachi’s voice. Soon she appeared out of the door with a packet and handed it over to Chacha.
Chacha turned towards me,” Look at the irony champ! We have chicken for dinner today. But don’t worry, Chachi loves you too much to harm a hair on you”.
“Oh come on, Chachu,” I laughed.
Suddenly, Chachu whistled and turned to me, “But first we need to feed my hungry boy.”
It was then that I saw old Elliot running towards us at full speed. I stepped back. I was always afraid of that old Spaniel for some reason.
“Oh, don’t worry, my little boy is just hungry. He loves chicken more than me. Look at him, gobble it down. Easy boy! You will make Kabir think we never feed you. That’s a good boy”, continued Chachu, but I wasn’t listening anymore.
As the Spaniel gobbled down the meat, his blue-collar got stained with blood. Chachu rolled up his sleeves and bent down to set the bowl straight for the dog to eat, and his rolled-up sleeves revealed a long scar on his wrist.
Chachu looked at me, wondering why I had gone so quiet and then traced my eyes to his scar. He then turned to me. Our eyes met. Chachu smiled. Time froze.