Friday, March 18, 2011

FICTION: One Day by Shetu Mitra

One Day

I looked at my watch. It was already 20 minutes past 4. I would only make it to the bus stop on time if I took the short cut through the Gillard Reserve. I was queasy about walking through the deserted reserve at dusk but I didn’t really have a choice today. I couldn’t afford to be late for Pundit Bhim Sen Joshi's recital. I had been his fan for ever and had managed to get the tickets with great difficulty. As I entered the denser
part of the reserve I heard footsteps behind me .I could hear my heart thump loudly as I turned around to look behind me. I mentally heaved a sigh of relief when I saw a man with a golden retriever. He smiled and nodded at me as I let him pass.

As I continued to walk I heard loud voices. I walked on faster, eager to reach the safety of the bus stop. Then there was a loud cry. I walked on with a pounding heart, glancing behind me to see if there was anybody behind me. As I walked further on and turned a corner I saw a man lying on the ground and a man standing over him holding a bloody knife. As I stood transfixed the man turned and looked directly into my eyes as if he'd known all along that I was there. He then smiled but his eyes were cold and I felt the blood drain out of me. I let out a loud scream and ran back as fast as I could. When I reached home I knocked on the door calling for my parents hysterically. Dad opened the door and I fell into his arms sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong, Bina?” Dad asked worriedly

“Geeta, come quickly “he called to Mum

"What is the ...." Mum let the sentence trail off as she noticed me and instead said “What’s wrong? Why is Bina crying? "

Dad shrugged his shoulders and they both looked at each other helplessly. After a while I quietened down enough to tell them what had happened and what I'd seen.

I started to shiver as I recalled the way he'd smiled at me. Mum quickly brought me a shawl.

“Don’t worry Bina. We are here. Don’t worry, love"

I felt sick and so said “I think I'll go and lie down for a while”

"I'll come with you” said Mum and I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to go to my room alone.

I went to my room and took a shower to help me to soothe my nerves. Then to take my mind of the traumatic incident I settled down in bed with a book. Mum also sat down to read a book. I couldn’t concentrate on the book and so decided to go up to my favourite haunt on the terrace with a cup of tea. After about an hour as I was coming down the stairs Mum said” Honey, could you please come down to the lounge. Dad wants to talk to you"


"Hey Dad, you wanted to talk to me?" I asked as I sat down on the sofa.

"Hi honey, feel better?”

" all seems to be a terrible nightmare now"

"But since it really happened we want you to report the incident to the police. Mum and I feel it will be the right thing to do"

"The police! But I don’t want to get myself involved in a case of this sort. I don’t think I'll be able to do it."

There was silence for a while and then Dad said," There's a way you could do the right thing"

"What do you mean?"

"You could report it to crime stoppers anonymously"

"Yes! That is something I can do. Dad you are a genius for thinking of it. I said giving him a hug." I would be doing the right thing but won't have to involve myself.

I'll go look up their number on Google and make the call straight away"

This is exactly what I did. I felt better after making the call knowing I'd done the right thing.

That night a distant cousin was supposed to come for dinner. He lived in Perth and was visiting Sydney for the first time. He was to stay with us for a couple of days. I helped Mum with the preparations while trying to put the horrible incident out of my mind.I was in the kitchen kneading dough when I heard the doorbell ring. Dad soon called out loudly " Bina, Geeta, Mahesh is here"

Mum, who was frying eggplants switched off the gas oven and went out to greet him and I washed my hands and followed suit. Mahesh was bending over to touch my Mum’s feet to ask for her blessings as is the tradition in India but as he straightened up all the blood drained away from my face. I could never forget those ice cold eyes. When Mahesh spotted me initially he looked equally taken aback and startled but he regained his composure almost immediately. All I could hear was the thudding of my heart. I muttered some excuse and sought temporary sanctuary in the kitchen. Was Mahesh the killer?

But how could it be? He'd just come from Perth? Or did he? Was he lying? How could I find out the truth? Was I making a mistake because I didn’t remember much excepting the eyes? Well I would have to find out...Just then Mum entered the kitchen.

“Bina, can you check if I put fresh towels in Mahesh's bathroom?"

"Yes, sure"

Just as I was leaving the room, Mahesh entered. The room suddenly felt claustrophobic. My legs felt weak. Mahesh smiled and I knew it was HIM there was no longer any doubt in my mind. I could never forget that smile and those eyes.

"You've really ......"His voice trailed off as I rushed out.

I was sure he realized that I'd recognized him. I was scared of what he might do now that he knew I'd recognized him. I would have to avoid being alone with him. I knew I could not confide in my parents as they would not believe me and I had no proof. I could think no longer. I looked at Mum sleeping peacefully beside me. I was happy Mum was there beside me tonight. I finally fell into a troubled sleep.

The next morning Dad woke me up with a somber look.“I’m afraid I have some terrible news, Bina"

"What is it?"

"Mr. Peter found Kitty dead in his backyard. Her throat had been slit. Don’t know who would do such a thing."

Just then Mahesh entered. "I'm sorry about your cat, Bina.Kitty was in the wrong place, at the wrong time" he said.

I knew the last part of his statement was directed towards me. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Had Mahesh killed Kitty? Kitty was not just my pet cat but my best friend. I contemplated going t the cops but I had no proof Was it some sort of a warning for me? What would he do next? I shuddered to think of spending the next couple days under the same roof with him. However I had to get ready for college and it was a real relief to get away from Mahesh.

When I returned home Mum was looking troubled. "Where have you been Bina, I've trying to call you all morning”

"Is anything wrong?" I asked feeling a little guilty about having deliberately switched off my mobile phone.

"The police came after you left and they've arrested Mahesh. They've taken him in for questioning. You’ve got to help Mahesh. You’ve got to tell the police you are an eyewitness. I heaved a sigh of relief

"No Mum. I couldn't tell you and Dad but Mahesh is the killer. I knew it the moment he arrived but couldn’t tell you guys because I thought you wouldn’t believe me"

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