Short Story (Fiction)
The narrator is Mrs. Suruchi Narang.
“… My heart missed a beat and my blood ran cold”
It’s been a year since we shifted to New Delhi from Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand. My husband is Divisional Forest Officer and we came here on deputation after spending few years in remote places for field work.
So, talking about Pithoragarh, we (my husband and two children) lived there for about 8 months and let me tell you it is a beautiful place and those 8 months were really the most beautiful days of my life.
The forest guesthouse was under renovation and the place they were providing us was not good enough to live in, so we decided to live on rent as we found one astounding pristine house located not too far off from my husband’s place of work. We also got a small primary school not far off from this place, so we were sorted. Though on little outskirts, it was a serene place with vivid and delightful woodlands. We lived on the ground floor as we wanted one and on the first floor there lived one family of four. My kids were 5years and 3 years and with time they got mingled with the kids upstairs (7and 3.5 years old) quite much. In the evening, these four children used to play in our garden and I used to sit there watching them with a cup of tea and waiting for my husband to come. Their mother, Bhawna was a little bit reserved but very elegant and composed. Quite often I asked her to join me for a cup of tea in the evening and we talked while the kids played. Her husband was a wildlife photographer and rarely did we get to see him. Sometimes, both of us ladies also went for an evening walk around our premises and I was the one mostly talking while she smiled and listened. Our 8 months stay there went by very fast but beautifully.
Two days back, I came to know that our Pithoragarh’s house landlord welcomed a baby boy. Our landlord belonged to quite an affluent family and lived in New Jersey, US.
So, I called her to congratulate. It was really kind of her to receive my call though a welcome party was going on in her house. She talked to me very nicely and I told her how pleasant time we spent at her place in Pithoragarh. I asked her about our upstairs neighbors there as how were they or were they still there or moved somewhere else. She answered me, Neighbors, who neighbors? I told her the ones who used to live in her house upstairs, she answered again, you were the only ones living there, and nobody lived upstairs. My heart missed a beat and my blood ran cold. My lips went blue as I sat on my sofa speechless, hello she said. Are you hearing me? I could hear her voice and the voices of the guests in her house but I just froze and words didn’t came out of my mouth and thinking a network problem she disconnected the call. If nobody was there all that while, who were actually those 4 people. I trembled like a leaf. Bhawna’s voice, her face, her children started to engulf my whole mind and sent chills over my spine as I relived every instance I met them in those 8 months.
I called my landlords wife again, she did not received. I called her again after few hours, she picked the call and after enquiring a bit she told me that the last time somebody had lived upstairs was 5 years back. But unfortunately, the whole family died in a car crash. And since then the house was vacant until we moved in. At once I recalled Bhawna once telling me that they had a very bad accident once. I had asked her you must have been really injured, to which she had just smiled. Her infectious smile scares the daylights out of me. It’s been two days now and I haven’t slept and I don’t know when will I be able to. I am just waiting for my husband to come. He is off to Almora for some official trip for a week and am here with my kids and house maid.
Bhawna and her mystery will always haunt me. I still remember our last day there, she hugged me to say goodbye. I can still feel her cold touch. I also asked her to stay in touch and she told me she had to change her phone number and as she has my contact she will call. She never did. And am highly thankful for that and I pray she never will. Her last view was waving her hand along with her kids and then fading off. But will she really fade my memories? She never will. Neither will I get the answers nor do I truly want them to be answered. Some things are better if not unraveled. I have to live with this fear of the unknown which is really the fear of the known my whole life.