I was sound asleep when I heard a knock on my window. Well it might have been a knock a few minutes ago which advanced into banging because a knock couldn’t wake me up. I sat on my bed, waking up, and then looked at the shadow of a man on the curtains drawn over the window. My heart started to beat faster because I got scared. I picked up my decorated empty coffee-mug-turned-pencil-stand as it was the only weapon I had, and advanced towards the window. My hands started to shiver and my breathing became faster. My hands reached the curtain and I peeked through the little space between them, and then exhaled. My brother. I drew the curtains away in one jerk and looked at him.
“Open it!” he said.
I opened the sliding window and led him inside. I looked at the idle digital watch which has forever been sitting on my desk. “God, Rishi. It’s 3:13 in the morning. Where were you?” I asked.
“I. Had the most. Amazing,” he paused as he deeply inhaled, “night of my life.” He smiled and landed on his face on my bed. He comfortably cuddled in my bed, drawing my pillow under his arm.
“You met someone?”
He closed his eyes and slowly nodded with a smile maintained on his face.
“So, who is he?” I asked.
“Someone,” he turned his back at me. “I’ll tell you about it later. Good night”
“Actually, this is my bed. So…” I looked at him- long asleep with his peaceful smile crept across his face. I am not bragging but my brother looks really hot and I am shamelessly confessing that if I wasn’t his sister, I would have had a crush on him. But that smile makes his face look better. Better than any time before. I hadn’t seen that smile on his face since mom’s death, so I decided to sleep in his room for the night without disturbing him.
The next day, I woke up very early, earlier than my dad and, sadly, Priya. I quietly dressed up to go out for a walk in the pleasant morning glee. The sun was just breaking out from behind the clouds and the trees woke up with the rustling of leaves, covering the silence. This is the only time which I like during the whole day. Everything goes according to the way I like, early in the morning: the roads are empty, the way I want them to be, and invisible birds chirped from a secret place only they know about. No people were walking by, and, the best, I could run as fast as I could without anyone staring at me because I run funnily.
My mornings are not as “happening” as some layperson’s mornings but I’m sure I enjoy it more than they do. They have to get up with their friends’ pressure, at the same timing as them while I get up at any time I want to and there's no friend to scold me if I don’t invite them with me. I can have some quality time to myself and time to know about myself. This can be called a “happening” morning. “Peace is ‘the happening’,” my dad say. I know about a layperson’s life because once, I also used to be a layperson. I had friends and I had a mother and our family was complete.
Priya used to only visit us long before my mom’s death. She was the one who cooked food for us after mom died and I used to like her, I used to, until my dad and she broke the news of their marriage. I was very upset because it hadn’t been a year after my mom’s death when they decided to marry. They had a court marriage because it wasn’t a time for celebration, as if they even cared. Dad told us he married Priya because he needed someone to take care of us and I had no idea why Priya married dad. I forgave him for the sake of my brother’s request but my heart still has the feeling of hatred for dad.
When I came back breathless after a two-kilometre run, I saw a truck standing at the gate in front of the house below mine. It must be the new neighbours. I’ve heard that most of the people who lived in that house had their own reasons, other than a transfer, to shift. The last family living at this house had to leave because the officer was court martialed for some reason, but it was also because of a mistake the officer made. Other than that, there were some tragic reasons because of which people had to leave and I got to know about it from my brother. So I instinctively walked towards the house to see the unlucky person’s face.
I might make a mistake, I thought. What if they are a group of serial killers? I tried to shut my mind from thinking about weird stuff and made it think about much more weirder stuff like: What if they are serial killers and I’m the first one to find out. I might have a big adventure. No, all you would be, after sneaking inside some strangers’ house, is a creepy stalker in their eyes; I told myself but didn’t stop.
I peeked inside the house through the window and saw a middle-aged woman taking some stuff out of a carton box. She wore a checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbow and her hair was tied in a short pony tail with a bandana on her. It is rare to see a middle aged woman wearing all this cool stuff. People call middle-aged people like her “modern” here. Just when I turned back, a tall body- not much taller than me- stood a little bit away in front of me, a guy. He wasn’t that tall but was taller than the people I’ve known in my class. He looked a bit older and had the same long face as the woman. I can’t really judge a person by his face but he looked like one of those hot and popular guys you have in high school. He had this unique face which is beautifully indescribable and he had those dark and mysterious sunk-in-deep eyes and a square jaw, and I knew he wasn’t perfect. But I ignored his looks as I knew that a person at a distance always looks great at a distance. I stood there, stunned, and tried to find a way out but just when I tried to seek out of the scene (even though I knew that I was caught), he walked towards me.
“Hey, you must be my neighbour,” he said in a deep-dead-hot-crystal-clear voice.
I felt stupid for trying to leave so I extended my hand, trying to improve my impression. “Um, hi… I just came here… for- out of curiousness.” Curiousness? Didn’t you have anything more stupid to say?
He smiled, but looked quite confused by my reply so I added, “I live right upstairs.”
His mouth turned up and he vigorously started to shake my hand. “So you would be the “big guy” upstairs, huh? It’s nice to meet you-”
“-Ruby –nice name, I’m Divij.”
“Welcome to Subroto Park,” I regret those words the moment said it. I felt kind of awkward to be so welcoming to someone but he didn’t seem to notice the wave of awkwardness. I think it’s just me who takes everything negatively.
I soon offered to help them but the guy, Divij, was too shy to give me some work. “I don’t like it when I make someone work for my benefit,” he said, but I still insisted. When I entered the house, the woman, who Divij referred to as his mom, was still taking out some stuff from the cartons and was placing them in a beautifully carved showcase which houses of defence officials are not provided with. Her eyes sparkled just when she saw me. “So you’ve made a friend,” she said quite delightfully, “I am Divij’s mother, Mrs. Alia Kapoor, and you are?”
“Um-Ruby. I live right upstairs,” I said, pointing the ceiling. I felt kind of weird in between these strange perfect people with perfect lives but after some time, I imagined how my life would have been with mom: perfect and complete.
Divij and I didn't talk much. We completed setting the dining room. Mrs. Kapoor didn’t let me help much but she still gave me refreshments which was actually breakfast. There was orange juice and some sandwiches which were really delicious and, of course, healthy, unlike Priya’s poisonous food.
When I got back home, Priya and dad were awake, drinking coffee at the terrace. Even though they know, I didn’t want anyone to think that I woke up early to run so I silently sneaked into my room to find my brother sleeping with his mouth wide open. His drools made wet circles on my pillow and his feet acted as a room-rottener which made me gag. His room is always clean, not-matter-what, but when it comes to someone else’s room, I think he just intentionally tries to ruin it to make his room look better, just like Shah Jahan cut all his worker’s hands so that they couldn’t build anything better than Taj Mahal. I wished I could go back to the previous night and kick him out of my bed for the sake of maintaining cleanliness and odour inside my room. So now, I don’t hesitate at all and literally kick him out of my bed. He dropped down on the floor and then lifted his head up suddenly with shock.
“Is that a way to treat anyone?” he asked in his sleepy voice with a trace of smile on his face.
“No, but if he pools the bed with drools and makes the whole room refreshing with his fragrant feet -yep, should be treated like that.”
He frowned and lazily crawled out of the room.
I pulled off the dirty bed-sheet and pillow covers from my bed and dumped it inside Rishi’s crystal-like clean room.
“Hey! Don’t dump those dirty things in my room,” Rishi ordered, snapping his fingers.
“Those dirty things are yours from now,” I said, “I’m not going to sleep on your drools. Clean your shit yourself.”
He stamped his foot hardly on the ground like a girl and went past me, taking away the sheets. He came back after a few seconds and closed the door. He hopped on his bed and with a big grin on his face. He looked at me with his gleaming eyes and that smile still on his face. I waited for him to speak but he kept on staring at me with a creepy-smiley expression.
“What?” I asked, irritably as his smile bugged me a lot.
He laughed goofily and shook his head, looking down at his palms. He bit his lip and looked up at my frowning face.
“Okay, weirdo, tell me or get lost ‘cause you are creeping me out,” I said.
“Why do you have to be so rude? Did I say anything?” he asked, like a kid.
“You not saying anything and instead making that creepy shy, blush-y expression is bugging me.”
He lifted his chin and narrowed his eyes at me. “Don’t guys have the right to be shy?”
“Whatever, now get to the point and tell me what happened yesterday.”
I sat down on his couch. He took a deep breath and said, “I met someone yesterday.”
“Oh, you know? How come? - Whatever, he’s gay, like me and he is extremely amazing!” And this went on for an hour. He told me that he’s a college student in his third year and he was his blind-date his friend – a girl - had set up for him. I could see the happiness on his face. That happiness is so transparent that I could feel it but it couldn’t reach my heart.
Suddenly, Priya came rushing to our room with the box of cookies Rishi bought me a few weeks back. Her frizzy red-hair was perfectly tied into a bun, which is rare, and it meant that she was going to visit someone. “Ruby, we have new neighbours! Will you come visit them with me?” she said, enthusiastically like a teenage girl. I looked at my brother and his eyes were pleading me to go with her. I had no idea why my brother wanted me to have a mother-daughter bonding with Priya even when he knew Priya was not my mother. But I am really stubborn on making decisions.
“Actually I’ve already met them, so I think you should go and meet them on your own,” I said. I know it was a bit rude but Priya should know, no matter what happens; we can’t have a bonding.
“But that’s much better! You should introduce them to me and then it won’t be awkward, bombing in front of someone’s gate. Please, Ruby. Pleeeease! Or else it would be quite awkward going to someone’s home just like that,” she begged, hanging on the door handle. Without looking at my pleading brother’s eyes, I simply refused, “I already met them. Now I don’t feel like going.”
She inhaled deeply and looked down at the floor. “Alright, it’s alright. I’ll meet them on my own,” she said, leaving the room. I saw the disappointment on her face but I didn’t feel like stopping her. I have some kind of grudge against her and no polite word can extinguish that grudge.
I looked at Rishi and his mouth was open. “This is the limit of sweetness!” he said. “I mean how can you refuse some person asking you in such a sweet manner?”
“I don’t like her, you know that. Don’t expect me to be polite with her,” I said, taking my Rishi-drooled pillow under Rishi’s elbow and hugging it.
“Didn’t you see? You made her sad. Ruby, I am just asking you to be good to her and that’s all she needs. She’s trying to be as good as she could be.” He grabbed my hand and tightened his brows together. “Please, Ruby.” But my stubbornness always comes in my way and just like that, I got up and left the room.
Outside, at the dining room, Priya was preparing a basket of fruits with the box of cookies lying on the top of the fruits. I looked at her face, stoic at that moment. I felt really bad for a moment for refusing to go with her. Don’t you melt away for her, Ruby, my conscious mind spoke up. She just tries to be innocent. But I can’t ignore someone’s request even if I don’t like her. I wasn’t able to look at her struggling to lift the heavy basket on her own.
“Here, I’ll take that,” I said, taking the basket from her hands. Her face brightened up cheerfully and she wildly smiled.
“You’re coming?” she happily crowed. I nodded without smiling, making a this-ain’t-gonna-change-anything face. She happily clapped her hands, hopping on her toes and then hugged me. “Thank you so much. By the way are you sure you can hold that up?” she asked, pointing the basket with her long, pointy red-painted nails.
“Okay, so let’s go.”