Chapter 6 - The Question
Khushi tossed and turned in her bed but couldn't sleep. There was a ghost in her living room - a ghost with whom she'd just made living arrangements. It couldn't get crazier than this. How was she so nonchalant about this?
She knew that he wouldn't hurt her. If he wanted to, he could have done that, days ago. In fact he had ended up helping her the other night, albeit he was the one who made her unconscious. But still... he was a ghost; for crying out loud!
If she decided to leave, where would she go? This flat was cheap, near her office saving a lot of time and money on commute and she had paid a huge amount upfront, also the equipment and electronics that she'd bought while shifting. She had already been on a house-hunt earlier in the month and had failed miserably.
Though did the benefits outweigh the cost the main cost being having to share an apartment with a spirit?
Khushi sat on the bed and put her head in her hands and grumbled in frustration at her dilemma, at her inability to think straight through it. The choice was simple stay with a ghost or leave, like a rational person would.
He didn't seem like an evil spirit. He was so taken aback when he realized that she could hear him. Being trapped in this place for months at end without having anyone else to even acknowledge you could be so lonely.
Great! Now she was defending a ghost.
She lied on her bed again. Maybe she could take it one day at a time. Decide what she wanted to do depending on how each day unfolded. That seemed like a good strategy.
This human, Arnav deduced, was the busiest one he had come across ever since he got stuck here. Just like the past week, every morning she would jump out of her bed at the sound of the alarm and rush to the bathroom to get ready and then rush out of the door with a fruit in her hand.
It was almost as if she had never discovered that she was sharing a house with him. In the evenings when she came back, she'd be a bit more cautious.
She would clear her throat and ask, "Are you there?" Everyday. Like it had become a routine.
On hearing him say "yes", she would reply with an "okay" and head to her bedroom - her shelter from the madness, Arnav assumed.
Life for him didn't change much. The girl hardly ever spoke to him. Though he wasn't on edge since he didn't have to scare humans away. His days were peaceful.
A couple of days had passed in the exact same way till, one evening Arnav made an effort to lengthen their conversation.
After the usual question, before Khushi could head in her room, Arnav asked, "How was your day?"
Khushi seemed surprised. "You want to know about my day?" She spoke, looking straight at the source of his voice. She always tried to do that - think that she is looking at him while talking. For some reason, it made him smile.
He was almost a feet taller than her. Her eyes would be below his neck, at his chest level. He wondered how she imagined him.
She sat on one of the chairs in the dining table and gestured Arnav to sit on the one opposite her. Arnav acquiesced - if it made her feel normal, it wasn't a big deal.
She eventually started speaking about her day. The more she spoke, the more relaxed she became. It was hectic, which Arnav had already assumed. It began with how her boss was over working her, that her job didn't pay well, to missing her home in Lucknow, though she was more or less alone over there too.
The positive aura that she had around her, started to fade and Arnav could sense that she was lonely. It was at these times like this, when her guard was down, he would catch a glimpse of what she tried to hide, underneath the smile.
Without thinking, he put his hand on her right hand that was placed on the table. Her hand twitched and she removed it from under his touch.
"Did you... feel something?"
Khushi nodded, "It was cold," she said rubbing the skin of her hand, where he had touched her, with the palm of her left hand, "It still is."
"Did you..." Khushi bit her lower lip, "...touch my hand?"
Khushi looked from her hand, to his face, rather searching for his face. He had never noticed her eyes before - they were brown and big, adding a naive look to her face. Her lips, she was still biting her lower lip, were small and pink. He raised his hand toward her face, fingers just inches from her skin.
Abruptly, he was jerked out of his trance. What was he doing? He withdrew his hand and stood up.
The chair was pushed back, suddenly. The ghost had stood up, Khushi realized. Like it was a cue, she got up, heading to her room. She bade him the usual "goodnight" but tonight he didn't reply.
Her left hand was still over her right. She could still feel a remnant of that tingling sensation, which was much more pronounced when he had touched her hand. It was accompanied by a sharp cold feeling.
The ghost did react weirdly after that. He was the one who initiated the conversation and then he abruptly ended it.
Maybe he was sad, at the lack of contact, Khushi reasoned. He was invisible for so long, still was... but at least now someone could communicate with him. Maybe he hoped for more to be seen; to be felt. It was human to crave for company be it in the form of a friend or in their case, a stranger. Only, he was not human.
It was Saturday and Khushi had woken up by noon. Walking into the drawing room, still rubbing her eyes, she announced, "I am going to invite Payal and her mother for lunch tomorrow."
"Because the last lunch was such a success?" the ghost's voice replied, deadpan.
"They saved me that night when I was unconscious, I owe them at least 1 thank you meal," she reasoned.
"I am not happy about it," Arnav stated, sulking.
"Well, seeing that I pay the rent and the lease agreement has my name on it, I get to decide who I want to invite in my house," she asserted. She was taking charge and letting her unwanted housemate know who'd have the final say.
Although she was now certain that Arnav was not an evil spirit who'd harm her, she did feel a bit hesitant to talk that way to him. She was sure he wouldn't react in an adverse manner. And she was right. He replied with a timid "okay." She could sense his sulk. It was strange how comfortable she was getting with idea of living with a ghost in a span of a week.
"So," she came to the point, "I want you to promise me that you'll not engage in any of your haunting episodes - no throwing of utensils, no breaking glass or windows or anything, basically no movement from your side."
There was a pause after which he responded, "okay."
"No," Khushi shook her head, "promise me."
She imagined Arnav rolling his eyes.
"I promise." He replied grumpily. "Although, good luck trying to get them to come here."
She could feel the smirk on his face.
Khushi, as it turned out, did need a lot of luck and effort to convince Payal to come to her flat. After the disaster of a lunch, last Sunday, Payal was horrified that Khushi would even ask her that.
Khushi thought Payal's eyes would bulge out of her sockets. "You remember right? How the ceiling fan crashed that day?"
"You are being paranoid," Khushi protested, standing in the balcony of their ground-floor house. "Look at me. I have been living there for 2 weeks now. I am telling you there is no problem. You and Garima Aunty helped me and I want to treat you to something nice."
"We can't. My relatives are here," Payal replied, satisfied at the excuse. Khushi could hear chatter of people in the house. She had never known how a house full with people and laugh and noise felt like. Maybe her parents had guests visiting over, if so, she couldn't remember.
3 girls, Khushi assumed of her age, came to the balcony. Payal introduced them as her cousins. She saw this as an opportunity to coax Payal further. "Why don't you get your cousins too? It'll be fun the more, the merrier."
Khushi continued to plead till Payal gave in. Before leaving Payal called Khushi aside and whispered, "1 thing... if even 1 abnormal thing happens-."
"-You can run for the hills," Khushi concluded with a smile, "I will too."
Sunday's lunch would be Khushi's time to shine. She'd make a nice meal, entertain her guest and most importantly make Payal comfortable in her house. Poor girl was right her house was haunted. Payal was one of those few people who had been outright honest with Khushi and tried to help her. Khushi felt a sense of gratitude for Payal.
There was a spring in her step as she carried 2 grocery bags in each hand, while returning from the market, later that day. She had gone a little over her estimated expenditure though she promised it was just this one time. It was a redo of her special occasion a meal in her new house with, hopefully by day's end, a new friend.
She was a block away from her house, deep in her reverie of what she'd make for dessert when, out of nowhere, a leather ball hit one of her bags. The force of the ball startled her and she dropped the bag on the road, the vegetables scattered on the ground.
She turned to scold the kids with whose ball, she assumed, she was hit. There were no kids. Instead she found Shyam walking toward her, a sneer plastered on his face, followed by 2 of his lackeys.
Khushi was seething with anger. She ignored the three guys and started picking up her stuff and placing them in the bag, one by one.
Shyam snickered, "Sorry, didn't see you there." It was the same thing he had said to Payal the first day Khushi had met her.
"I don't have time to deal with the tantrums of a man-child," Khushi retorted.
Shyam seemed to enjoy her feistiness. He laughed in response.
Khushi arched an eyebrow, "Are you so daft that you can't even grasp an insult? Being a man-child is nothing to be proud of. Did working out in the gym make you soft in the head?"
"Woah!" one of Shyam's lackeys exclaimed, "She has got a mouth on her."
Shyam gave Khushi a look that disgusted her. In his equally despicable voice he said, "Maybe we can show her how to use it."
Khushi rolled her fingers into a fist. Shyam was caught off guard as her fist made contact with his cheek. He stepped back in shock.
Some of the neighbors started gathering around them, seeing the commotion. Shyam's notoriety was not uncommon among them. Seeing Khushi single handedly attempt to tackle the boys, emboldened a couple of other people too.
Sensing the tide of angry people, Shyam and his lackeys ran, with their tail between their legs like the cowards that they were.
Khushi ran the cold tap water over her knuckles. Hitting Shyam was not a well thought out idea. He was muscular and had taken the punch like nothing. He had only recoiled at the shock of her hitting him, not by the actual punch. Khushi's hand, however, was paining.
"I saw the commotion down there," came the ghost's frantic voice, "Are you all right?"
Khushi nodded, "Those guys are such jerks. Someone needed to stand up to them."
"I know," the voice replied, "I have been observing everyone here, given that I have nothing but time. I despise those people."
"Like you despise everyone?" Khushi tried to stifle a smile.
"No," he responded, "There is a difference. I hate humans in general, yes, but those guys, they really tick me off. It's just that I am trapped and I didn't really care then."
"And now you do?" Khushi asked straightaway. She hadn't meant to. The words just came out. "You care now?" she repeated, turning off the tap and wiping the water from her skin.
"Why?" Khushi prodded. She waited for a while but there was no reply. The ghost had decided to end the conversation. In the past too, a few times she felt like he wanted to say something but stopped himself.
Sometimes she wished she could see him, so that he had no way of avoiding her.
At times like this, Arnav was grateful that she couldn't see him. His face all flustered. He couldn't answer the questions that she'd ask sometimes.
Like today, when she asked him why did he care now?
Why did he? Why now?
Why was he angry and frustrated all these months but now he felt somewhat at peace and relieved? Why, as much as he'd hate to admit it, he looked forward to her coming back home each evening? Why did the thought of her in peril made him anxious?
Was it only because she was the first human who could talk to him? Was that the only reason?
How could he tell her when he himself didn't know?
Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2 years ago
Topic started by ErisedWitch45
Last replied by Eccentrica