That Stupid Smile

10, 9, 8, 7, 6… The river of time seemed to have shrunk its customary speed today, giving way for agonizing hours of pure boredom. Diya, her pretty black hair crusted with grime and sweat, and her smooth, shiny braid coming undone in sticky curls, gazed at the dial of her little pink watch in impatience. The needle seemed to be travelling tortuously slowly. She bit her lip, sighing.

“Diya Mehta!” came a loud hiss, and she jerked up in response. She’d have known that sound in a sea of voices. It was him.

Her limbs seemed to be paralysed, her heart pounding in her chest. “Diya?” the voice enquired. A tall, wiry boy with messy black hair was sauntering to her, irritation staring at her fiercely through his hazy exterior. “Are you deaf?”

She straightened up, brushing the hair from her eyes. “Uh, no, Rahul, I’m coming. Give me a sec.” She jerked out of her chair, watching it twirl a little to the left, the dark dent where she’d been sitting springing back into place.

He frowned at her. “Come ON!”

“Yeah.” Her breathing was heavy, her throat dry. This should’ve been the night of her life. She, Diya, was participating in the MUN, something she only could’ve dreamt of before. Her parents had sniffed in disdain. Social night? Boys coming? Ah, no dear, NO! She’d tried reasoning. It was an educational experience! It was- was a place to develop her speaking skills! But they’d always stood firm.

Until today. Her heart was dancing in her chest. She was going, finally going… with him.

He seized her hand and dragged her along. Diya thought she would faint. Rahul, the boy she’d had a crush on her entire life, was holding her hand! She was breathing heavily again. “Rahul…” she whispered to herself dreamily. She could see it in her head. Rahul kissing her, their marriage, the cute kids they’d have-

“Something wrong?” queried Rahul sharply, halting.

“What?” Diya feigned ignorance.

“You were whispering something.”

Diya was saved from answering by a sharp sound. They lurched back together. “What was that?” Shock was written across his face. “Diya!”

She was still staring at him dreamily. “What?”

“I love you” was what she was fantasizing she’d hear. What she really did, however, was a fierce shout “WE’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!”

She was jolted back to reality. The door had crashed shut, darkness falling over them. They were struggling to breathe, pushed together in a rough heap. “Rahul!” she managed, resisting the urge to clutch his shirt and sink into it forever, caressing his messy hair. “The door-” he thrust it open with his leg, sitting up jerkily. Light spilled over the room, making them squint. Diya tried to sit up, but she crashed on top of him instead. He tilted his chin up to gaze at her.

“Diya?” he looked a little distracted. “I-I think we should go…”

For once, he seemed to be a loss of words. Diya was faring no better. Staring into his brown eyes was doing crazy things to her mind.

“What are you idiots doing here?” A stern admonition sounded from the hallway. Diya pulled herself together, peeking through the door. A short girl in a bright pink, sparkly frock, enveloped by a dark grey coat, was glaring angrily at them. Her silver badge read ‘coordinator’.

Diya stood up, embarrassed, dusting her clothes. “You are late.” The girl pursed her lips. “You’ve missed nearly half the MUN!”

“Nobody called us.” protested Rahul, his tone cool. “But anyway, who cares. Come on, Diya.” He strolled out, his hands in his pockets, beckoning for her to come join him.

“As a result, you will not be eligible for any prizes.” The girl smirked. “You care now, don’t you?”

“Whatevs. Diya?” he called again, his eyes searching for her.

“Coming.” she muttered.

She should’ve been grieving, but for the rest of the MUN, she couldn’t wipe that stupid smile off her face.

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Heartbroken

Her eyes were brimming with hot tears, as she sank slowly to the floor, her heart shattered to pieces. He’d left her, left her all alone. She bit back a cry. She couldn’t control herself anymore – a droplet of sadness traced her cheek softly.

Along with each tear, a memory was resurfacing. The way he’d held her as they snuggled up together, watching movies. Dancing in the rain, watching his hair plastering to his skin, as water trailed down his chin. Passionate kissing while they were supposed to be doing their homework. She struggled to control her emotions, but in vain.

She was straining to peel away those painful splinters of time, those stupid moments that teased her, refusing to leave her memories and instead, playing them in her head, again and again.

Her fingers trembling, she seized her phone and tapped on her gallery. There he was, his idiotic yet incredibly handsome face tugging at her heartstrings. Arms around someone extremely pretty, her hair in a messy ponytail, her eyes bright with happiness.

She snapped the phone shut, her fists clenched. Absolutely heartbroken.

Death’s clutches

Fragrant strings of jasmine were draped loosely on her shimmering black ringlets, outlining her lovely face. Her glistening brown eyes gazed desperately at the doctor, clinging to fragile hopes, her tender pink lips shaping the words, “Is he… dead?”

The doctor looked up at her, wearing an agonized look, and muttered slowly, in a strained voice, “I am afraid, he is, my dear. He…”

My ears blocked out his dull voice, my gaze shifting to her. Slender wrists, adorned with intricate swirls of dark red mehendi slacked lifelessly to a side. Tears traced their way down her pale cheeks. Bedecked in jewels from head to toe, in all the splendour of a newlywed bride, my sister-in-law leaned on the frame of the door, and slunk to a side, her tears giving way to full-blown weeping.

Beautiful and just as graceful as a newly-blossomed flower, she always managed to hold me spellbound, no matter what mood she happened to be in.

I remember her remarking to me, once, that she could have gone for a career in films. She wasn’t great at acting, she said, but well, she was very pretty. I couldn’t have agreed more… her charm certainly rivals those of today’s leading actresses.

Being the youngest in the family, my opinions were always deemed immature, even when they weren’t. I remember one rainy evening, when my brother announced, abruptly, that he was engaged to her. Everyone in the hall roared and shrieked that he had been too hasty, my elder sister even throwing a water bottle at him in her rage. Our old ancient house in the old ancient village seemed to be the refuge of only hopelessly old-fashioned people. I was his lone supporter all the way through, as he battled with everyone, who insisted that he was a thorough fool for doing such a thing without consulting anyone.

But I remember the way the same family’s attitude underwent a drastic change, the day she came to meet us. I saw their hearts melt on the spot. They went into a trance and absentmindedly agreed that yes, he had done the right thing. She was an angel, earning everybody’s praises with her pleasant manners and dazzling smiles. She had the sort of charm that could twist you from absolutely infuriated to happy and good-natured, just with her sweet voice.

Before I knew it, wedding preparations had begun in full swing. Invitations were being sent out by the dozen as my father barked out orders regarding food and beverages for the Big Day. My mother fussed about the new silk saris needed while my sister picked out the venue decorations with her son perched on her hip.

The wedding was surely the grandest one our family had seen. The hall was lit by numerous multi-coloured lights and ornamented by flowers of every possible hue. The lunch was delicious. Dev and Rhea sat at the altar, sweating profusely and chanting mantras tiredly. And then, they were bride and groom.

No one could tell that they wouldn’t be, for long, though…

I woke up late today, my calm, peaceful sleep shattered by ear-splitting wails. I ran blindly to my brother’s room to see Rhea on the verge of tears, shaking him frantically; He was sprawled on the floor lifelessly, just outside the shower-room, a red towel around his waist.

I tried to find out something from Rhea, but she was so distraught that she couldn’t even speak clearly. I grabbed a phone from the nightstand, my trembling fingers dialling the number of our family doctor, my frightened tone echoing through the speaker…

Now, I tried to stifle a sob as the doctor’s voice disoriented my thoughts. “-died as a result of a fracture at the rear end of his skull. My dear, don’t weep… you are so pretty, don’t you deserve someone better looking?”

This horrified me. I’d always thought of my brother as handsome… but then again, Rhea was just too beautiful for her own good.

I smiled sickly at the doctor. “We don’t want your advice, thank you very much.”

The doctor bowed politely and left, shutting the door behind him.

I turned back to Rhea, my grin immediately curving into a distressed frown. Rhea coughed and murmured sadly in a strangled voice. “Mahita…” She was on the verge of a breakdown again. I patted her shoulder and began gently, “Calm down, Rhea. What… exactly happened?”

“Dev was-” struggling to control her tears, she panted slowly. “Dev was taking a shower… I was braiding my hair, in front of the mirror…” She took a deep breath. “Suddenly I heard a loud thud, and I turned around-” She choked, unable to continue.

“It’s okay. Shh.” My voice couldn’t even soothe me, but I tried not to cry, for her sake. She wiped her tears with the end of her sari, pulling herself together. “Dev s-slipped on that soap-” She pointed to a light pink object with a faded streak behind it. “And f-fell down.”

She looked ready to cry again, so I didn’t push her further. I placed a hand on her head reassuringly. “Go get some sleep.” She looked at me sadly and collapsed on the bed, hugging and crying into her pillow.

I entered the kitchen and emerged with a hot bowl of soup, handing it to her. “Here you go, Rhea.” She gazed at me through tear-stained eyes and gave me a heartfelt hug. “Thanks, Mahita…”

I then walked tiredly to the room of the tragedy, my heart clenched with sorrow. My poor, dear, brother… deprived mercilessly of a contented life he could have led with Rhea.

I surveyed the room keenly. It was a large room, with an adjoining small bathroom, holding a shower, on the opposite wall. Next to the door where I was standing was a steel sink with a violet cup full of colourful toothbrushes, and above it, a round mirror with a traditional wooden frame. In a corner of the room lay our old cream-and-orange weighing machine. It was an otherwise empty room, the only other article being an unwashed pink-turned-grey mat. My eyes travelled to my brother, lying motionless, one wrist behind his back, and another curled up on the floor.

I stared at Dev. His posture worried me. Suspicion was darkening my thoughts. No, it can’t be!!! my innocent heart screamed, but I knew better. My doubts were confirmed when I glanced at the weighing machine.

The bell rang suddenly and I jumped, startled. “Dev! Open the door! It’s us!” My father rattled impatiently at the door. Drained of all my energy, I slowly opened it. My father beamed at me. “Mahita!” He hugged me and smiled fondly. “We’ve got the jewellery. Where are Dev and Rhea?”

My heart sank.

“Rhea is sleeping.” I told him silently. “And Dev… is… dead.”

“What??” My sister clutched my shoulders, alarmed. “Y-You’re joking, right?”

“Stop scaring us, idiot.” My grandfather playfully punched my arm.

“No!” I lost control. “Go look for yourself! In the bathroom! Dev…”

My mother didn’t let me complete my sentence. She ran as fast as she could, and froze at the entrance.

“Dev!!!” She took one look at him, and let out a terrified scream. She panted across the room and hugged him, tears streaming down her eyes.

I stood transfixed as the whole family raced after my mother and halted at the door of the room, eyes watering.

“How did… he die?” My father looked at me questioningly, trying hard to control his tears.

“You won’t believe this… but…”

“But what?” My sister squeezed her eyelids, sorrow-stricken. “But what, Mahita?”

“R-Rhea murdered him.”

————————————————————————————————-

Dear Mahita,

I didn’t plan on telling anyone, but you’ve been like a sister to me, so I thought you’ll feel better knowing the truth.

I was pretending to be asleep, preparing to come out, rubbing my teary eyes, but then I heard your accusation. And I was scared, Mahita. What was going to happen to me? I ran out the open door, hoping you all wouldn’t notice me. You were so wrapped up in your grief that you didn’t turn back and spot me, thank god. I know I’m such a coward, but…

I never thought that you’d figure it out. You and your family were so naive. Everyone thought I liked Dev… but I didn’t. In fact, I thought he was ugly. But my parents forced me to get married to him, tempted by the jewels your family was offering, and the lavish wedding you agreed to host. We could never have afforded it. I had no choice. I plastered a fake smile on my face and pretended that everything was all right. But it wasn’t. And that’s when I realised how much I hated the sight of him.

So I plotted to kill him, which, I know, is a little bit extreme, but to me, it was the only way out. I would be with your family, living a happy life, being cherished by all of you, but without that repulsive creature. So when he emerged from the bathroom and stood at the mirror, brushing, I began to hit the weighing scale repeatedly on his head. He screamed in pain and collapsed. Terrified that you’d wake up, I hurriedly dragged him near the bathroom and placed the weighing scale back in its place, though it showed fifteen instead of zero, malfunctioning because of the impact. But I had no time. I quickly grabbed some soap from the soap dish and wetted it, dragging a little line across. I then wailed, and began to shake him frantically. And you rushed in, and got fooled straight away. I lied to you that day – I am a brilliant actress.

I don’t know what gave me away – was it the scale or the toothbrush in his hand?

Whatever it was, I’m running away. And never coming back. I’m sorry for what I did… although I know you will never forgive me, how many ever times I might beg you to. He’s your brother, after all.

Rhea

 

Lady Night

She sweeps her long, dark cloak

It glides gracefully across the horizon

It spreads out softly, and flowers blossom on it

Little pearls of light on an inky black

 

And the loveliest of them all, a  soft, almost circular disc

Glowing with a gentle, faint, whiteness

Pulsating with a pale light

Lighting up the darkness of the starry sky

 

She sprinkles dust all over

In every nook and corner

People find their eyelids drooping

Silence envelops the streets

Earlier alight with life

Now still, and cold, in loneliness

 

She caresses her cloak

Tracing patterns on its eternal surface

Wishing

Why can’t I cross this barrier

What magic imprisons me here?

 

Suddenly

A gentle breeze wakes her out of her reverie

She tilts her head, with a sigh

And is soon at her heels

As Lady Light takes over with a dreamy smile

She hides behind the curtains of the world

Waiting, with a wearied impatience, for her next turn

To caress the skies of this earth,

Staring forlornly, at its motionless beauty

At life in the clutches of sleep

Through the transparent swathes of her cloak

 

She is alerted by a sharp sound

Light yawns, her grip wavering

And drifts slowly, serenely to the background

Night smiles to herself, lifting her cloak………..

A Whispered Secret

Why can’t I sense love???

Is it only me? Why is it that I am always the last to know of any secret crushes my friends have? And even that, I only get to know when she tells me herself! Just how dense am I?

The thin veil
Of suspended fabric
Tore away to reveal
A horrifying truth
Something that takes
Concentrated hours of observation
To understand on first sight
But to me it proved
Itself to be incomprehensible
I’m not experienced
Yet I should have
Foreseen this
It’s not the first time
Yet nothing penetrated
This deep into my mind
Or destroyed my peace
Of mind this much
I never expected this
And I know I’d have to
Get better at this mind game
Of identification
Or my life will soon
Be destroyed beyond recognition

Sing before breakfast, you’ll cry before night

Her gorgeous, soulful melodies

Conceal shades no one can see

Though her face is lit by delight,

Her heart is streaked with misery

 

Plastering a fake smile on her face,

Has allowed her to remain alive

But the pure music that once drove her

Has vanished with the passage of time

 

Long ago, in the distant past,

When musical notes clouded her brain

She thought that to her future,

Only she held the reins

 

The natural, untouched passion she possessed

Slowly morphed into raging fire

Hunger for money, riches and fame,

Became her sole desire

 

Music refused to quench her thirst,

As enticing renown

Stained her, in more ways,

Than anyone could count

 

The music, once her life and soul

Squeezed out her very existence

The fire burned bright and blindingly

Till she realised her reluctance

 

The truth struck her painfully

Music, she now despised

What was she doing to herself??

Her soul desperately cried.

 

Confined to time’s carousel,

Her heart had journeyed astray

Lost forever in the passing time,

Flaking shattered pieces along the way

 

The flames now flickered uncertainly

But the past she couldn’t delete

The initial zeal of her early years

Was no longer icing her melodies

 

She quit the world of tunes forever

Though the occasional one still runs in her head,

She thinks of an earnest oath she made

And stifles the urge, till its dead.

 

Now she sits in desolate lanes,

Not a single hum escapes her lips

It’s tearing her apart inside

But she knows, it was right to quit…

Heartbreak from Another Angle

His dark brown eyes glitter with the beginnings of tears, yet he’s still glued to his phone, as he grasps it as if what he is seeing is his death sentence. I watch uncomfortably as my brother’s lashes grow wet and heavy, till a single tear traces its way down his cheek.

“Trishna!” he whispers desperately, his gaze not wavering from the object he’s clutching so tenderly. “Yes, brother?” I stare sadly at his his yellow framed glasses that mirror, in a soft, clear, reflection, the tragic news he’s just been delivered, via his phone.

It’s hard to believe he’s not my little devil anymore. Our once legendary fights and wrestling matches that always seemed to be the subject of any family discussion have paved way for more civilized interactions… I fondly recall the biting, kicking, screaming and yelling we carried out, the entertaining scenes we provided our relatives with. But with age comes wisdom, and more importantly, shame… Mature we were, in many ways, and love stepped out from behind the curtains, where it’d been hidden all those years.

But now, its agonizing to watch his teenage travails. How many heartbreaks the poor boy has had to go through! He’s given up on love completely…

 

 

 

Thinking of you

In response to the daily prompt today: Fish

Do you remember those days? Our eyes bright with unshed tears, as we sat on the gurgling riverbank, glistening in the moonlight, whispering to each other. How our strict parents never let us do anything, or ever venture outside! Truly, the paths ahead seemed to be a series of dusty, broken roads, painted in different shades of blue; shades of frustration and sorrow.

Fishing, oh fishing! A tide of dark brown hair, tinted with a silver light, leaning sadly on a comforting shoulder, in front of a glittering belt of water… Fishing might a boring pastime for many, but I relished those times because of the hours I got to spend with you. Childhood friends we might have been, but you’d fluttered away from me, in pursuit of your education, while I toiled away at home, looking after my siblings, poor and hungry. And you were finally back home! But I sensed that distance, something that had developed with the passage of time. And I was working to erase that…

Young and free, our hearts beat with a fresh energy. Rebellion stirred inside us. You had all the big plans, I just sat and watched you, a forlorn smile tugging at the corners of my lips. I was ready to accompany you, wherever you went; trustingly… and slowly, I saw your gaze change, and your eyes fill with a tender, loving light as well. We were united, sworn to each other…

But then greed  seized control of your heart; you paid no heed to our affections. You left me hanging, hanging between uncertainty and disbelief. I remember the countless nights I spent with hot tears pricking my lashes, sometimes spilling down onto cheeks, wondering why, oh why, you had chosen to leave me.

Then I found out. The sweet allure of money had coaxed you out of our little village. Despite all  your promises, you had gone. Gone, scattered away, to some distant city! And then, carrying my little fish-basket home, all alone, my parents informed me of a more disturbing truth…

Money, money, everywhere! You were swimming in cash, yet you never seemed to have enough – and now you’d married the daughter of a rich businessman! I was left heartbroken. There could be nothing more painful. I was drowning in agony. Why hadn’t you just shot me instead?

But the clock ticked on. Life, after all, has to continue… I had to fish, fish but with an empty loneliness packing my soul. I learnt to get used to the silence and pain, and the gushing memories.

Yet sometimes, it’s too much, and as I haul a fresh catch, shining, still bathed in the river water, nostalgia trickles through me, tugging forlornly at my heart, and I’m left in tears, thinking of you…

Realizing

I scoffed at shattered love

And tears shed by those left devastated

“Why, if I had a dollar for every time you broke

I’d be a millionaire!” I stated

 

My heartless and cruel taunts

To many an unrequited lover;

I never questioned my logic

Puppy love! Horror, oh horror!

 

I never realized, never thought

About the truth, its power;

The inside of a broken heart

Is like a grove full of withering flowers

 

As life went on, as teenage ensnared me

Only then did I realize painfully

That not far along my timeline

Love would creep into me

 

And slowly, I would truly start living.

 

 

 

Disparities of the Heart and Mind

Concentrate, my dear, don’t stare!

Everyone’ll realize love is in the air!

I can’t help it, brain, all I want to do is gaze

Forever, and ever, watching him, in a sleepy daze…

He’s started his lame comedy again!

Strangely, I feel like chuckling, surely I can-

Don’t you laugh at his stupid joke!

Hey, he said your name, but don’t choke!

What?! Maybe he loves me, and he’s going to confess…

Oh, shut up, that won’t happen unless-

He’s calling me! My name, god, can you believe that?

Be quiet for a second, and listen, quietly, you lump of duck-fat!

Turn around casually, like you just heard him

It’s the fourth time he’s calling, look super-grim!

And answer his stupid question! Science, was it?

I was gazing at him, let me quit!

He’s asking you again! You’ll look like a fool!

Hey, stop fidgeting, try to seem cool!

Wait a minute! What did he just say?

Oh, shut up, heart, you’re a hopeless case!

Pull yourself together! Good, you’re still glaring!

Ah, I think he’s asking THAT… do I know the answer?

Hey, it must be this! A triple-speed-enhancer!

Excellent! Now say it in an irritated, bold voice.

Glare straight at him – sit up! Maintain perfect poise!

Yay! He seems so happy! Brain, I’m going to explode!

Turn around, you fool, and get straight back to work.

And, oh, control yourself, you soft lump of paste

Ignore your heartbeat when you look at his thankful face