Arushi finally stood there, in front of her 'home' after twenty long years. There she could sense the presence of her childhood, her memories still alive and breathing in every flower of the garden, all her mischief still being recalled by those bricks, the ladder lying against the wall still waiting for her to climb to the rooftop once again. Her grandma would call her at any moment, and then come out and embrace her with an affectionate warmth which would provide her the comfort she had long awaited.
She seated herself against the boundary wall of the garden, and hurriedly wiped off every tear that peeped out from her eyes. But then she heard a voice: "Aru, is that you?" Arushi turned to the person in surprise. "Oh, it's you indeed! Aren't you so grown up now, and my eyesight very weak already? It's been so long, but yet, your vibe is the same altogether..... Oh! See how old age has made me so forgetful and silly already!! Shouldn't I ask this tired soul to have some rest before making her tired of my worthless talks? Come Aru, come in your home; it has been waiting to feel your presence for so long."
Arushi could remember nothing of this old lady with a bent back, a little face with a distinct charm and bright sparkling eyes from her appearance alone, but her long talks and indirect addressal of herself every now and then she spoke very clearly identified her of being Mrs. Ramanna, Arushi's mom's very close friend who lived with Grandma in the house after her in-laws had abandoned her for having received the fate of becoming a widow, and she had continued to stay in the house even after Grandma's death, for she had no one else, and nor could the house find a better caretaker.
The true fact was, no one, not even Grandma or Arushi would have ever been able to keep themselves in a house with such a lonely neighbourhood if it had not been for Mrs. Ramanna, for she would always build up a story in midst of her pointless lengthy talks, and then have those tales gulfed up slowly into her talks again, and this behaviour of hers left the listener with a brain-investing task of figuring out what she meant to say, which could be picked up whenever one felt bored.
Arushi would very often take her mind into the extreme depths of her thoughts, recalling past events most of the time, and when she would be at the brink of disconnecting herself from her surroundings completely was the exact time when Mrs. Ramanna arrived, and dragged Arushi from her ocean of thoughts to her own whirlpool of talks. The other day, when Arushi was recollecting her childhood in her mind, a certain image frequently flashing in her mind alongside her childhood self had left her confused. Who was that little girl? She could remember nothing - but she just couldn't help that image, of a little girl with elbow-lengh brown hair and eyes with two distinct colours, from flashing into her mind again and again.... She was thinking and thinking beyond the limits she could take her mind to.... and then she heard a voice from a little distance: "Oh Aru, you know what? I have a problem right now. I've kept tea on the stove. But no, the tea is not my problem. I could actually survive and live the happiest life ever if I had nothing but tea with me, but it's just that Amma(Arushi's grandma) isn't here anymore. You know... your grandma had the deepest faith in me, for we shared the strongest of bonds that ever existed. I was Akruti's friend as you know, but we never got to know each other the way your grandma and I knew each other; that's the great strength of the connection we shared. Amma would listen to my talks and I would listen to hers: It's obvious for two ladies who experienced early widowhood in their lives to understand each other much better than the rest of the world. So, you see, she trusted me with everything. In fact, even when I was very new to this house, she had given me the job of taking care of her jewellery........ but she never trusted me when it came to tea. She could take a bottle labelled as containing poison and drink its contents right away if I gave it to her, but she just couldn't drink the tea I made at any cost. She just told me to go and switch off the gas when tea was done, but because I was never told nor did I get to know when the kettle had been kept on the stove, I don't actually know when I should off it. So, would you please tell this silly, forgetful old lady when she should do so?" By the time Mrs. Ramanna finished asking for the favour, the tea had already spoilt completely.
The next day Mrs. Ramanna said not a word. Arushi felt she might need company, so she approached her and for the first time picked up a conversation herself.
"Hasn't the weather been strange lately?"
"I guess so."
"Is the tea done?"
"Umm... so.... well, yesterday you were telling me about you and Grandma... the things you told me made me wonder how you managed to live all alone in a place like this after Grandma's demise."
An awkward silence followed. Arushi then proceeded with a sense of hesitation in her voice:
"So, will you not tell me?"
"Ruchi's aunt provided me company."
"Don't you remember? Ruchi was the only friend you had all the years you lived here."
It then started raining heavily, though there had been no sign of rain. Mrs. Ramanna stepped out to bring in the clothes, but Arushi couldn't - for she was in deep thoughts already - and to make that worse, Mrs. Ramanna had lately lost her perfect timing and wasn't forming any whirlpools of her talks.
Who's Ruchi? Why wasn't Arushi able to recall her? The name seemed very familiar to her, but strangely enough, she could recall no person of the name. She again began recollecting everything about her childhood, her memories flashed by, and then came an image from where she couldn't move her mind to anything else. This was that very image of Arushi's childhood self and a little girl of her age alongside her. Then Arushi couldn't hold on anymore. She hurried and ran into the rain when Mrs. Ramanna was just about to get into the house.
"What's the matter, Aru? Don't you know you catch high fever if you step into rain? Come, hurry, get....."
"Did Ruchi have brown hair?"
"Yes, she did, but...."
"Were both her eyes of distinct colours?"
"Yes.. her left eye was blue and her right eye appeared brown."
"What else do you know about her? I want to know every single thing."
"I'll tell you everything alright, but you first have to get in and dry yourself with a towel quickly."
"But I wanna know right now."
"But... I won't tell you if you don't dry yourself right now."
Since Arushi was now left with no other choice, she went in, grabbed a towel, and wiped herself dry as quickly as possible. By this while, Ruchi's image had become clear in her mind. Suddenly she recalled something strange - Ruchi and her family, who lived in a very old mansion nearby, had suddenly gone missing. Ruchi used to live with her aunt and uncle, for she had no parents, and she was Arushi's only childhood friend, but all three members of her family had 'disappeared' one day without telling anyone where they were going to. They had left behind all their belongings in the house, and there was also left a 'On Sale' board on the gate. No one saw them again, and two years later Arushi went away to another city with her parents. But... why did Mrs. Ramanna say that Ruchi's aunt was her company after Grandma's demise? Had they... come back??
The rain stopped all of a sudden. A strange-coloured light filled the atmosphere, and there was a kind of stillness all around. Arushi slowly sat down on the couch beside the window and stared outside. It was now that her mind became completely blank. She wasn't recollecting any memories. She gradually closed her eyes, and then a little tear very secretely ran out from her eye down her cheek and fell on her hand. Just then she felt a hand gently patting on her head. She opened her eyes a bit, saw her grandma sitting beside her, and then closed her eyes again.
The sky yet again filled with a yellowish-green colour. All the clouds had disappeared, but there was still no trace of the sun. Birds had been chirping loudly, but they suddenly stopped; Arushi's eyes opened at that very moment. She was lying against the boundary wall of the garden, and the very first thing she saw was a big 'On Sale' board on her house.