Set in AU Relationships of characters have been changed, which will be explained in the story. Please do read and review! Any kind of feedback would be greatly appreciated. Hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 1 - House Hunting (post below)
Chapter 2 - Intruder (on Page 5)
Chapter 3 - Guest (on Page 9)
Chapter 4 - Decision (on Page 15)
Chapter 5 - Talk (on Page 19)
Chapter 6 - Question (on Page 25)
Chapter 7 - Memory (on Page 30)
Chapter 8 - Curious (on Page 36)
Chapter 9 - His and Her (on Page 41)
Chapter 10 - Ties (on Page 48)
Chapter 11 - Aftermath (on Page 55)
Chapter 12 - Rain (on Page 62)
Chapter 13 - Payback (on Page 68)
Chapter 14 - Dream (on Page 74)
Chapter 15 - Details (on Page 80)
Chapter 16 - Theory (on Page 86)
Chapter 17 - Interview (on Page 94)
Chapter 18 - What If (on Page 100)
Chapter 18 - What If (contd) (on Page 101)Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2 years ago
Chapter 1 - House-Hunting
Khushi Kumari Gupta wiped the sweat off her brow and double-checked the name of the street. It was a little after noon and the May sun of Delhi was scorching. She had come from Lucknow a couple of weeks ago when she got a new job at a small publishing house. At 24, she would've imagined her life going a little differently but given the state of the economy, she was happy to land any decent paying job she could. The only catch - the rents were sky-high near her office. Luckily, one of her colleagues had told her about his relative's flat, a few minutes drive from her office, which was within her budget.
The few minutes cab ride had become almost an hour long (since she couldn't locate the area) till Khushi stumbled upon a small suburb. The neighborhood was much sparsely populated. Some of the houses, were battered and in bad condition, others somewhat maintained. They had a small front and backyard adding the much needed greenery in the midst of concrete.
She was currently staying in a guest-house and her bills were already piling up. Her previous house-hunting experiences were futile and she was on a string's end - she had to find a place to stay as soon as possible.
There were some young boys playing cricket on the wide street. Khushi skimmed to the barely existent sidewalk to avoid being hit by the ball. She heard a small scream and looking ahead she saw a girl had fallen on the ground with her bag and belongings strewn. There was a small maroon leather ball near the girl. She had been hit by it.
Khushi rushed over to help her. Wrapping her small palm around the girl's arm, she helped her stand. "Are you okay?"
The girl nodded, bending to pick her belongings. She was slightly taller than Khushi. Her pigtails bounced as she dusted off the dirt from her salwar kurta.
A group of boys sitting in a nearby tea-stall, mostly older than Khushi, started hooting at the girl, who became visibly uncomfortable. One of them walked over to the girl and spoke in a sweet but mocking way, "Did we hurt you?
The girl averted her eyes from the guy. This taunting must have been a daily occurrence, Khushi presumed, given the girl's growing discomfort at being in the vicinity of the guy.
Khushi interrupted, "Leave her alone." Her tone was firm.
The guy shifted his gaze to Khushi. He was taller than her, somewhat muscular and very intimidating but Khushi didn't budge. She had dealt with bullies like him her entire life. After her parents passed away when she was a toddler, Khushi had been living with an aunt but for most part of her life, Khushi had looked out for her own self.
"What did you say?" The guy paced each word, angrily.
"We don't want trouble," the girl spoke timidly, muttering a "sorry" and hurriedly walking away, pulling Khushi by the arm.
Khushi gave her a confused look as they stopped in an alley away from the group of boys.
"We don't argue with them. Those boys are not nice people," the girl whispered though there was no one around them.
"Thanks for helping me though. I am Payal," she extended her hand. Khushi took it and introduced herself.
"That guy," Payal spoke again, now in a less timid tone, "is Shyam. He is kind of the..." Payal searched for a word when Khushi added, "Goon of the 'hood?"
Payal nodded, "Kind of. It's better to stay away from him. Are you new here?"
Khushi replied, "I am actually looking for a house. 23 A. They have 1 bedroom house to rent."
"That's my house!" Payal mumbled. She eyed Khushi up and down. "You seem like a nice person and you did try to stand up for me, back there," Payal added after some thought, "My mother will probably kill me if she finds out I am driving away potential tenants but I feel like I shouldn't misguide you."
Payal's warning had caught Khushi's full attention.
"It's about the house more importantly about the 1st floor flat you're going to rent."
"Okay?" Khushi stiffened a little as Payal became more tensed. She wasn't expecting a luxurious apartment at her budget. A decent house was all she wanted. Khushi prepared herself mentally for what Payal would say about the house - bad plumbing, no electricity, rodent infested? Lay it on me; Khushi braced herself.
Payal hunched over, her voice back to a whisper, "The apartment that you want to rent-," Payal paused, as if for dramatic effect and Khushi's heartbeat increased, "is... haunted!"
Khushi stood still, for what felt like a few minutes. Payal's eyes were growing wider in anticipation for her response.
"Come again?" Khushi finally broke the silence.
Payal nodded vigorously, "It is haunted, I swear. The last tenants, a couple, said the same while leaving. They barely lasted a month. And before them, there were 2 college guys who said the same. It's one of the source of income for us but you were trying to help me and I would feel horrible if I let any harm come to you, knowing I could stop it."
"Err... Thanks?" Khushi muttered, growing wary of the conversation and of Payal.
"You don't believe me, do you?" Payal narrowed her eyes.
Khushi gave a nervous laugh, "It's not that... I just..." she looked around for a polite way to end the conversation and escape, growing a bit suspicious of the girl.
"Why would I lie?" Payal asked, "We'll get the rent, we don't have anything to lose yet here I am driving away a potential tenant."
She had a point. But how was Khushi supposed to believe a girl she just met that her house was, of all things, haunted! Khushi desperately started racking her brain for an excuse to get away from her when, like a divine interference, Khushi heard a woman shout, "Payal!"
Payal flipped around, jittery, "Yes, mother."
"Who are you talking to?" her mother yelled, despite of being a few feet away. She was peering through the window of her house.
23 A. The house Khushi was searching for. It was an old, grey bungalow. It must be decades old, she presumed. She craned her neck up to the 1st floor. She could see a small balcony. The railing of the balcony was rusty and clearly needed work. There were some vines growing around the metal, with small yellow flowers.
Khushi smiled. It was run down, but a good start. She needed to look inside to get a clearer picture. Above that was the terrace. From what Payal had said, Khushi gathered that she would be the only tenant; that was good, it meant no other source of disturbance.
"No one-" Payal began to reply to her mother when Khushi interrupted, "I am Khushi Gupta. We spoke on the phone in the morning about renting the flat on the 1st floor?"
Khushi walked past Payal, who was somewhere between angry and terrified, into the house.
The tour of the 1st floor was, much to Khushi's relief, given by Payal's mother Garima. Garima opened the door of the flat and stood at the entrance, urging Khushi to take a look inside. The apartment had 1 hall, 1 bedroom, 1 kitchen and a bathroom. She could see the entire layout from standing at the doorway.
The flat was much better from the inside. The past tenants, the couple, had left behind much of their furniture. They were clearly in a hurry to leave. Khushi bit her lip thinking about what Payal had said. Did they leave the flat in such a hurry because they were running away from something? Almost as if Garima could hear her thoughts, she clarified by saying that the husband got a job abroad, hence the rush. To Khushi, that sounded reasonable.
The paint was peeling off at some places; some of the doors and windows creaked, the railing of the balcony was rusty. She could fix it herself, Khushi decided. She was new to the city and didn't really know anyone. It was the best way to spend her weekends.
"It is a good deal," Garima shouted from the doorway as Khushi made her way to the balcony. The balcony had a view of a lawn below and the narrow streets where the kids were still playing cricket.
It is a good deal, Khushi reiterated in her mind. The rent was affordable, it was quite close to her place of work so the commute would be easier and cheap, and the previous tenants had left quite a few useful pieces of furniture and electronics. She would save on the initial cost of having to purchase all that.
"So, do you want it?" Garima asked, trying to sound casual, "There is another tenant who's interested."
Khushi wanted to roll her eyes at the classic excuse landlords and agents used to push the deal. She was about to reply in affirmative, that she wanted the flat, when she noticed that Garima had never entered the house. She was still standing at the doorway with the key and lock in her hand. Payal's words about the house being haunted echoed in her mind.
Khushi walked out of the house and Garima locked the door. "So?" Garima asked expectantly.
Khushi cleared her throat, "I have heard some... unsettling stories about the flat," she started walking down the stairs.
"What stories? From whom?" Khushi could feel Garima's voice was somewhat edgy.
"Just some kids," Khushi lied immediately, not wanting to drag Payal in it. "That the flat is... haunted?" She felt foolish saying it out loud.
Garima's laughter cemented her belief on how stupid she actually sounded. "Haunted?" she uttered in between her laugh.
"Never mind," Khushi muttered, embarrassed that she even contemplated it. She was an educated girl working in a city, who leaned on logic and science. Not on the existence of ghosts.
2 days later, Khushi arrived with a couple of boxes, holding everything that she owned - her clothes, some books, a few kitchen utensils, some bedcovers and toiletries. She would buy everything else on a need basis mainly because she was short on funds. She had to pay 3 months rent as security deposit and the 1st month rent in advance. This had already burned a hole in her savings. Just 2 weeks more and she would get her 1st salary. It wasn't much but at least she could replete her savings slowly and spend on her daily needs. Till then she would manage in whatever she was carrying and whatever was already in her new flat.
Her new flat... her flat. Those words gave her so much happiness. No longer was she dependent on her aunt who had been civil to her but never friendly. She had a job, her own rented apartment. Things would only get better from here on, Khushi hoped, with a huge grin.
By evening, Khushi was done with arranging her stuff. It was quite limited to begin with. She craned her neck and heard it creak. All she craved for now was a big meal. She was too tired to cook and she hadn't bought any vegetables or groceries yet. Making her own meal would take her a couple of hours at the least. She ordered a pizza for herself. She could splurge today. She had earned it. From tomorrow onwards, she'd have to keep her expenses in order.
She was exhausted by the time she hit the bed. Propping herself on one elbow, she turned off the switch situated over her bed's headboard. The yellow bulb on the other wall switched off, immersing the room in blackness.
Khushi was already dozing off in under a minute when something bright hit her eyes. She opened her eyes and saw the bulb had turned on. She reached for the switch and flicked it off again. The light went out but before she could hit the pillow, the bulb lit again.
Khushi sat up, eyeing the switch warily. It was in the off position, yet the bulb was on. She flicked it up and down again. The light went off and immediately in the next second, lit up.
"What the-" she muttered under her breath. She did the flicking on and off for a few times. Each time the bulb would turn off and in the next moment turn on. Khushi let out a curse word. After an entire day of physical labor, she just wanted to sleep. The last thing she needed was to deal with electrical problems this late at night.
Huffing, she laid down on the bed and put a scarf around her eyes. She couldn't sleep with the light on, it was too distracting. A moment later, she heard the bulb shatter and break, immersing the room in darkness.
She removed the scarf from her eyes. "Great! That works too," she mumbled, her eyelids heavy in sleep. She would clean up the mess tomorrow; tonight she needed her sleep.
Arnav's tall figure loomed over the girl sleeping on the bed. Another inconvenience, he sighed. After getting rid off the last tenants -the couple, he thought he would get some peace now, but no! Why would these humans not leave him alone?
And then they cursed him, called him a ghost. He wouldn't need to engage with these annoying humans if they just stopped invading his territory again and again.
He had seen the girl when she came to inspect the house 2 days earlier. He had seen her face lit up as she toured the house. He just didn't think she would rent the house. He didn't want to expend his energy trying to chase out each potential tenant who'd come to check out the house. That would drain him especially when most of them wouldn't even rent the place. In hindsight, he should've scared her away that day only. Now she was in the house, in his space and he'd have to resort to his old tactics again. It was getting monotonous.
He had tried to scare her by turning the light on, again and again and at last breaking it but the girl showed no sign of fear. She was too tired to take notice, he assumed.
It was just day 1, he smirked. He took his time with his victims, not wanting to draw unwanted attention but just enough to make them vacate.
This girl, he eyed her as she stirred in her sleep, wouldn't last more than a week.
---------Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2 years ago
Topic started by ErisedWitch45
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