The next morning, I woke up fresh. It felt somewhat like I had been under a dark cloud for too long, and now I was out in the pleasant sunshine. I realized that while being in depression, my reflexes had slowed down greatly. I felt swift, and I felt like I was in my body for the first time.

All the way to school, I kept trying to decide how we could spend our time together. I was almost tripping my way to the class. Radhika hadn’t seen me yet, but I desperately wanted her to. Those people present in the class started grinning and giggling. Rahul was the only person for whom it was uncontrollably funny, and I wasn’t even annoyed about it.

Radhika still wasn’t looking; she was sitting on the last bench to the very corner of the classroom, concentrating on something with her head bent down. By the time I was halfway into the class, the broad smiled had captured many eyes, and finally, Rahul bellowed happily, “Looks as if someone just got clips on their cheeks!”

It was probably his voice, because of which she came out of her concentration, and she looked up at me and that smile struck across her face. My excessively stretched smile opened into a small laugh as I sat beside her.

“And finally the sorrowful finds their way out. What’s the matter?” she asked happily. I looked down on her lap, and noticed that she had been feverishly writing something. “Sis came home,” I chirped. “Oh wow! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” she exclaimed. She loved my sis as much as I did, and I didn’t need her to tell me that. “It was a surprise. Uncle was also going to come, but he got some work up his head, so he might visit sometime later,” I said. She smiled, and looked back at the notes she had been writing.

I peeked in enthusiastically, and my voice gave away my curiosity, “What is that?” “Ummm…” she looked at me wide-eyed, and said, “it’s just something I had been reading. It was so interesting that I wanted to write about it.” “Then what is it?” I could almost imagine myself looking at her with those curious eyes, as if she was hiding some brilliant secret with her, which I had to know, although it wasn’t really a secret.

She apparently found me cute because she pinched my cheeks and laughed. “Seriously, tell me”, I insisted. She finally started speaking- “Yesterday, a friend of dad’s visited us. He is a police officer, and my dad loves hearing about various cases from him. So, he was telling about one particular case where a woman had committed suicide in fear of punishment by the law and the neighbours. She had been killing kids and was rumoured to have been practicing black magic. Even after she died, people were experiencing strange stuff around. The children would sometimes be found in the house, unconscious and having high fever. The situation worsened when in some families, the children started butchering their own families unreasonably. People fled away from that place and the whole area was sealed, or at least left uninhabited. This story was so interesting that I wanted to know more about it and write about it. But that uncle didn’t elaborate anymore, saying that the details had to be confidential so as not to effect the business of that colony. That is why I am trying to sum up whatever I remember, before I start searching for other details of the place.” “Whoa!” my jaw dropped, “I want to help too. That is so awesome!” She smiled affirmatively, and went back into writing it.

In the excitement of this newfound information, I had completely forgotten about updating her with the details of the conversation I had had with Ramya. When I did remind myself about it, I became very restless and struggled to let her know, only to be caught by the teacher and be embarrassed. Somehow, it really didn’t affect me- I was too jolly to feel anything negative.

“You really are jumping with something and you look like you would burst if you couldn’t tell me,” she laughed during the break. I shifted impatiently, waiting for her to listen. When she was ready, I indeed burst, speaking about everything that my sis told me, and everything that I realized after that. When I had completed, I was laughing inaudibly as if the laugh was meant only for me. She watched me- half-giggling at my peculiarly silent laugh, and half trying to listen whatever else I had to say.

On my way back home, I resumed planning for the rest of my sister’s holidays. I wanted to create unlimited memories before she left for boarding school, to last until the next time she visited home.

It wasn’t until evening came, that I remembered Alisha. She had been away the whole day, and I had not even realize that. I dashed to her place in the evening.

“Where were you?” I asked. “Couldn’t come,” she replied. Her voice felt a little distant. “Why?” I asked, wondering what might have happened that she felt so far. “Don’t know,” she replied, still sounding a little away. I dropped the topic, deciding in my head that she wouldn’t tell me the reason.  “My sis came the day before yesterday. I thought of telling you that I couldn’t visit you yesterday, but you were nowhere around me. She put me out of my misery last night,” I explained. She listened silently. Despite her unusual silence, I continued with my talking, “Didi is really great, you know. She can see right through all my deeds. My mother had pulled me to the point where I was almost going to give away everything about you when Di stopped the discussion. I was saved, really. I love her so much!” Alisha was quiet. “When I showed her the colony yesterday, I was careful not to let her come here. If she sees this place, she would definitely follow me here every evening.” “She is here,” Alisha almost whispered. I stared at the spot where she might have been standing.

 “You are imagining stuff Alisha. It might be someone else just passing by. Why would she follow me here?” I knew, for sure, that Ramya couldn’t be following me. She was away visiting some of her  friends. But Alisha pressed upon me, “No, she is standing in the passageway and watching you… and me.” I felt a slight shock when she said that. Then I reconsidered, it was possible in no way.

I could almost feel Alisha getting desperate to convince me. I started getting uncomfortable with her idea, so I decided to call it a day and leave. I knew that Alisha was watching after me as I left.

When I reached home, Ramya had already changed into her nightgown, and was relaxing on the armchair in front of the television, munching chips, with her eyes glued on the food shown by the screen (she is a sucker for western cuisine).

“I thought you were out with your friends,” I asked her, trying to mask the tinge of suspicion. I was successful, because she answered me moodily (with her eyes still savouring the look of the food on the screen), “You can’t expect me to stay out all night.” I remembered that her gang had the tradition of exchanging gifts whenever they met, so I asked again, “Where are your gifts?” “In the room,” she said, licking the spice of the chips off her fingers. I went into the room with a steady pace. There were a few plastic bags scattered on her bed. Indeed, she had been away all the time. Alisha had been wrong, and I was surprisingly glad about that fact.

While we dined, Ramya spoke about her day- how some of her friends had changed astonishingly, and some of them had updated their relationship status (she mostly complained about that matter). I smiled and listened to her. Every word she uttered gave me the confidence to believe that she had been away.

That night, my thoughts didn’t let me sleep- if Ramya hadn’t followed me, why would Alisha lie? On the other hand, if Alisha were right, then why would sis follow me here? What could possibly be the motive if she had indeed been present there? Her actions had suggested in no way that she had seen Alisha, or even the fact that she could have been present anywhere around us.

The confusion began to grow more and more and I turned restlessly, finally facing the teddy bear seated on the chair beside my bed. As I looked into its eyes, my thoughts wandered, filling my head with some free space. The revolving thoughts emerged with a final, solid idea- everything around me had turned mysteriously story-like since the day I met Alisha. With that thought, I finally dozed off.


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