New Year

High above, 2017 flew, looking down. Christmas decorations still fluttered in the breeze in some places, while in others, Christmas seemed long-forgotten, people again accustomed to their monotonous routines.

A new year had begun.

 

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Maleficent’s Trap

Dear readers,

This piece was written for a competition. It is supposed to be a children’s tale in not more than 1000 words. Please read through carefully, and please take some time to respond and provide feedback. I would really appreciate responses and feedback. The link to the competition is-

https://writetheworld.com/competitions/23

Maleficent’s Trap

“The thorny green brambles grew and grew, till they pricked her fingers and her feet. And among them, the blood-red buds were slowly spiralling open too, into scarlet roses, that brushed her hands with thorns, when she tried to touch them. She felt a sudden pull from behind. When she looked back, her her long golden hair was twisted and braided neatly- not tangled at all- with the thorny green vines. She gasped in surprise as the brambles slid round and looped around her hands and her legs. But they didn’t hurt anymore. She only watched her magical transformation, while the world around her was engulfed in silvery magical sparkles. So she never saw the changing world, spiralling slowly into another realm around her. Slowly, and mysteriously, the world around her vanished. It all merged into a silvery blur, and she gasped when she saw it happening around her. This was such magic as she had never seen before.
 
She still had a long way to go before the curse took it’s effect. She wasn’t sixteen yet, only thirteen. Her aunts had told her about the curse, only she knew that they weren’t supposed to reveal it to her. She wasn’t supposed to know her own fate. Her aunts just now had been with her now, and now the whole green forest had changed into this blur. She shouted for her aunts. They had magic, of course they could do something.
 
“Aunt Flora! Where are you?”
 
No answer. Silence. The world still kept spinning. 
 
“Aunt Merryweather? What’s happening?”
 
Silence.
 
“What is happening? Oh, I’m scared! Just answer me, please!”
 
There was silence yet again. The world of the green forest and the brown squirrels with the tall trees had all vanished into this unfamiliar silver spinning magic engulfing her. She wasn’t on the forest floor anymore. She was sitting on the same silvery sparkles, and there was nothing. But the brambles with the roses kept growing, and growing. And growing and growing, until it was spinning endlessly. Or was she spinning? The world seemed nothing but silver magic, and she closed her eyes.
 
She was aware of the fact that she was on the floor, lying on her back. Her vision was still too vague to make up her mind fully. Her sight sharpened, and focused onto a face. A face, beautiful, but yet evil, with a cruel thin-lipped smile, and magic filling every other deformity. Her eyes widened. This was that face, which she had seen once as an infant, but still remembered. By the word of her aunts, this was the evil fairy, the cause of her curse. This was Maleficent. She sat up hurriedly, and then remembered the brambles, the sparkles. But the brambles were no more, not on her hands and feet, not braided in with her hair. Her dress was resplendent, with no tears or marks of brambles. Her hair was braided into a long, long braid of purest gold, and pink shoes were on her feet. This was not how she had been in the forest. Then where was she now? She looked around herself, still aware of Maleficent’s piercing gaze. There were stone walls. Candles and lanterns hanging. There were only two other persons in the room besides herself. Maleficent, who was noticeable everywhere, despite the questions clouding Aurora’s mind. And the other . . her gaze fell on a young boy beside her, on the floor like she was. But he hadn’t woken up yet, like she had. He was dressed in a prince’s clothes, and a sword hung at his waist. His brown hair seemed tangled. Maybe Maleficent had the same intentions for both of them. That was when Maleficent stepped closer.
 
Maleficent’s horned black headdress looked menacing. Her thin red lips curved into a dangerous smile. Her long black robe reached the ground in an elegant fashion. She stepped forward, and put a sharp-nailed finger to Aurora’s chin, and lifted her head to her own face.
 
“Aurora, finally. Or should I call you Rose?” Danger and powerful, evil magic was even in her voice.
 
Aurora wasn’t daunted. She looked back at Maleficent, and shouted- “Get away from me!”
Maleficent laughed, a vicious and mocking laugh. She then raised her staff in her other hand. The same silver sparkles swirled in it’s glass orb. With panic rising in her heart, Aurora swiftly grabbed at the prince’s sword. She raised it high, and before Maleficent could stop her, Aurora drove the blade of the sword right through Maleficent’s heart. Relief washed over her momentarily, before she saw Maleficent rise up again. She was smiling no more. Bloodthirsty hatred shone out of her black eyes.
 
“You didn’t think that would kill me, did you now?” said Maleficent, her voice soft and rippling with danger.
 
“Why not?” said another handsome and deep voice from the room. Aurora looked around. The boy was awake.
 
Maleficent’s smile was back.
“Well, Phillip. Or Prince Phillip? Obstacles like you, are not worth my time.”
 
Suddenly, Aurora was blinded by three very glowing balls of red, blue, and green. They slowly expanded, till Aurora’s aunts were there. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Maleficent looked disturbed. Flora suddenly shot out a beam of light that blinded Maleficent. Fauna placed a magic shield in front of Maleficent’s crystal orb. And Merryweather directed a beam of blue magic at Phillip and Aurora. In a swirl of silver sparkles, Aurora was back in the forest. A squirrel bounded up. She put out her hand to touch the little creature, but it went to something else beside Aurora. She looked around. Phillip was there too. But no Maleficent. “

Matilda

La fille marchent le long de la route ensoleille. Les fleurs fleurirent, et les oiseaux chantent. La fille s’appelle Matilda. Elle a une enfance tres triste. Les parents de Matilda etaient morts. Depuis, elle ne parle pas.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Matilda, Matilda! Ou est tu? Viens, viens!” le maman de Matilda crie. “Oui, oui, Maman!” parle Matilda. “Quelle?”
“Matilda, ma chere, nous allons a la magasin. “Tu es une bonne fille, ne casses pas n’importe quoi.”
“Oui, Maman. Au revoir!”
“Ciao, ma chere!”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

LES NOUVELLES

“UNE FEMME ET UN HOMME MOURIENT. DANS UNE ACCIDENT DU VOITURE.”

Matilda crie. Elle etait seul.

Tortured

I was staring into the eyes of the girl who sat before me, with swollen red eyes, and a sad expression. In her ocean-blue eyes, I could see her incomplete story.

“See, this is my story. This is what my life has been. And I didn’t enjoy it.” she said, in soft, remorseful tones.
I couldn’t find a word to comfort her. I could almost feel the pain, the mental and physical torture she had gone through since I left her. Unable to do anything else, I hugged her close. Felt the warmth of a best friend returning from hell. The fabric of her t-shirt clung to me, enveloping me in her loving essence. It had been years since I loved her this much. The love came out in a sudden blast, and I felt as if I could never let go.
“I know, dear, I know.” And I silently confessed that I was sorry. I didn’t care if she heard it or not. Because I knew she knew it already.

Her soft voice penetrated my ears like my own heart with scars and wounds of injustice etched on it.
“I can understand.” I knew she could. “I know you’ll not leave me again.”
I could only but nod my head, to affirm that I’d not break her heart twice.

I felt nothing but hate for the person who had made her go through all this. He was not human, he was a devil. She was innocent, but he took advantage of the fact. I had only one thing in mind- ruthless revenge. He deserved it. But I didn’t tell her. She had suffered enough.

The thick and dusty telephone directory lay open, while my tired eyes scanned each page before moving to the next. Finally, after all my futile efforts, I found it- ‘Miranda Turfill.’

This house they lived in, portrayed the look of a murderous drug hideout. A fire of fury and hatred burned hot inside me, and I ceased to think of the fact that I would no longer remain innocent. But I had to do it. I walked up the front stairs made of grey granite, every stone suggesting revenge due to the love of an innocent life destroyed. I would soon have blood on my hands, but I didn’t care. I pushed open the door, and I walked inside. I never stopped to think why the door was unlocked.

And out of the dark shadows, emerged a stately figure. The inhumane devil who had benefitted from this whole ugly and heartrending plot. It was devious. But she didn’t seem to think so. After all, she was his sister. And he had put my love through all this torture. His blood ran in her veins. His blood and flesh stood before me.

The flying strands of her lustrous black hair showed evil, and nothing else. She had been guilty of a crime, and it had cost an innocent life to live in misery and fear. Her face, as the red-hot coals of her eyes bored into mine, was the very picture of triumph and of illicit victory. My hand reached the knife in my back pocket, but as I held it up, she held up her hand, and radiated a shock so strong that my knife stopped midway.

“It wasn’t me.” she whispered in demeaning tones, yet evidently shocked that I had the courage to do what I had been about to.
I flashed an equally hateful grin, which turned into an angry glare.
“Yes, but it was for you.”

“I never asked him to. Go kill him.” She turned, and walked away, her stately figure still held high and proud, even though she had proved herself so low, that she would live at the cost of her family’s death.

I struggled to get it all clear in my mind. My love, my friend, had been framed and tortured unfeelingly by a monster. But that monster had done it for his own sister. But his own sister, the witch as she was, she was not grateful, instead, she wanted to live while her brother, who had become a criminal for her, died! What limits could human envy and human hatred reach?
Yet another painful doubt stabbed my brain again and again, urging it for an answer. Why had she thought that I wouldn’t kill her? She was my sister.

As I stood there, clutching the knife, sweating with all the thoughts that mixed up in hate in my mind, I suddenly became aware of a hand resting on my shoulder. I whipped round, and saw a fairy in hell. It was Mia, the girl, who had suffered, I had left her, and then she came to save me, to find me, when I was falling through the tunnel that eventually ended at death.

“Don’t . . . try . . . to . . . do . . . it . . .” She worded deeply, understandingly. I instantly knew why. He would get back at me, or Miranda would. She didn’t care for her brother, but she cared for he rich life he provided her with. If he didn’t remain alive, neither would Mia, and nor would I.

I held Mia’s hand tenderly, and walked away from the place that represented hell on the earth. You see, revenge can kill love. But love can kill the fire of revenge too. But when love and revenge merged, you only saw hate blind your eyes. He was nothing but an illusion within me. I stood before Mia, and hence, the devil stood before her. Love for Miranda had blinded me momentarily, but Mia was more to me. He no longer reigned over my mind. And as Mia spoke comfortingly to me, I knew she had finally committed the insane deed of forgiving me.

The Revenge

The gondola glided through the blue canal. By the peaceful looks on the faces of the occupants of the gondola, none would have guessed the nature of this last journey- a journey to death. The gondola was headed to the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
The two wrongdoers would not have been in their sane minds to do such a thing. Because who goes to the jail themselves to turn themselves in, just overcome with remorse for the sin committed by them?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

“I fear to leave my Maria alone at home even for a minute. After all, she’s never been alone till now,” said Linnie to Mark as they headed to the square to see the parade. “Don’t worry; she’s four years old already. Besides, what can happen?”

Mark never knew, that as he consoled his wife, the knife was being stabbed into his daughter’s heart at the very moment. Their rich house, and valuable belongings, and the expensive jewellery on the little girl’s neck and hands could not but fail to attract a pair of greedy thieves, lurking in the neighbourhood for quite some days. Daniel and Harriet; as were named the murderers, gathered all the valuable luxuries of the house, and stepped out into the world, which now held them in silence for treason. The world had changed for them with one great sin- murder for greed.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

“Oh, Daniel, my heart beats so, with fear and remorse. How could we; she . . . she was a tiny one after all. Innocent. With her whole life ahead of her.” said Harriet, prostrating in reverence in front of the house which was to be forever shadowed with sorrow for their sin. The money, the jewellery, the silk, the gold- all dropped out of Daniel’s limp arms. His next words were all for leaving both of their hearts shocked.

“We will turn ourselves in.”

However great a sin may be, it is unthinkable for a person to persuade himself to hand his life over to the authorities. And so it was for both Daniel and Harriet, but somehow they both were convinced by the righteousness of the decision and the weight of the sin on their conscience.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Daniel and Harriet stepped out of the Basilica- alive- as they had never thought they would. The complaint room had been empty, as it never had been before, for centuries. But this seemed to be a silent sign that the Lord was willing to bestow upon them a second chance to start their lives anew. And so they did.

And years later, Daniel and Harriet died in a car accident. They had to jam the brakes suddenly, when they noticed a little girl in front of their car. About four years old.

And the same night, some people reported seeing the phantom of a little girl.

Defeating Unfairness

A silent tear rolled down her cheek, and she wiped it away with a strong hand. Why had the words made her cry? She was left wondering.  .  .  .
Practice had been her one and only occupation of time. As her trained hand flew lightly over the strings of her old and dusty guitar, she thought, that what difference does the age of the guitar make? Even if it’s old, I find that it can still produce as melodious tunes as ever. She had not attended any guitar classes. It was all self training. But that became a weakness during the most important time of her career.
She sent her recording to the guitar contest audition of the World Music Festival 2016. And her joy knew no bounds when she was shortlisted to audition. But she still had the audition to get through. She drove to the auditorium, her heart beating fast. She nervously anticipated what was to come.
When her turn came, she gave it her best. To the audience it seemed as if she, the guitar, and the music were one. Even the judges gaped- what a performance! The judges looked down her name in the list- Nora Johnson. Then they found that she had not attended any music academy, unlike the other contestants who had all attended prestigious music institutes. “I am sorry, but her name cannot be shortlisted as she is self-trained and has earned no certificate from any academy,” said the first judge in low tones to the second judge.
Nora sat biting her nails nervously. It was time for the judges to announce the results of the audition. Three names were to be called out, and Nora desperately hoped that she would be amongst those three lucky names. The first name was called out- Ronald Harrison, Academy of Arts, Wilsonville. Then the second name- Ariana Camille Johanne, Brigham Institute of Music. And then the final name- Nora Johnson- “We are really sorry Nora, we cannot select you as though your performance was brilliant, you have not received any certificate from any institute.”, said the judges. Instead, the third name was- Brett Gordon, Fremont School of Music.
That was what made Nora cry. The judge’s words. This was unfair! She thought, “ A lot is unfair in the world. Let me start afresh. I won’t cry. I’m brave. I’ll show the world what I can do.”
Nora now runs a prestigious music institute in Cornwall. From her institute, she makes sure that three children are chosen each year for the World Music Festival- and she makes sure that each and every student earns a certificate.

Fictional Cartography

Well, do you believe in heaven? Over the years, though people have continued to question the decision whether such a place really exists above our earth, but I don’t have a firm answer. So let me introduce you to the Hayanak Civilisation- a fictional place in the blue skies above us.

The white clouds surround the breathtaking scene. Looking up will reveal a hazy, yet sparkling scenery. In front of you, you see a massive bronze gate, carved with figures of lions and snakes and the sun, akin to the ancient Mayan Civilization. To the far, far left, you see a small stagnant pond, with blue water, as blue as cornflowers, and pink water-lilies floating on the surface, their bright green leaves contrasting strongly with the barren land outside the pond. You walk towards it, mesmerized. You bend down to touch the water, but instead, your hand grips an iron handle embedded in the soil. Your eyes flash back- the pond was an illusion. But the bronze gate and the iron handle are reality, because as you pull on the handle, the golden dial on the bronze gate spins, and the gates swing open, to reveal a whole new world.

You step inside, as you are engulfed by the sweet scent of freshly picked apples and oranges. There are hundreds of green trees, laden with apples and oranges. Thousands of people  buzz around, but no one notices you. It is as if you are invisible. You can see them, but they cannot see you. The dark-skinned women, clad in heavy black robes with golden lace borders, and with golden feathers in their long black hair- carry huge baskets of red apples and big oranges on their head, with small jugs of water in their slim, beautiful hands.
The men, wearing black trousers and shirts with golden collars, some carrying small shears in their hands, and others carrying empty baskets to fill.
Small girls and boys run around, tasting the apples, peeling the oranges, or washing in the clear water of the innumerable fountains. The girls wear long black skirts with black tops, and the boys wear some kind of straight black robes.
They all shout to one another in a strange foreign language, that you don’t understand, but one phrase is very clear, and every person seems to be shouting it: “The Apple Picking Season!”

To your right, you see a widespread cluster of white mansions with floral patterns, small huts with pretty bamboo thatches, and a towering silver palace with deep blue pavilions and golden-framed windows. In front of all the buildings, there is a large patchwork of green garden, separated into squares with hedges. There are tall Gulmohar trees with flowering blossoms, and red creepers with yellow vines. At the extreme left of the gardens, there is a low but big white marble platform, with bamboos holding up a hay roof over it. There is a circle of benches on the platform, and a copper table in the middle.

To your left, is a barren piece of land, with wooden poles sticking out from the soil.Long ropes are tied between the poles. Some children are swinging on the ropes, while others try to make them fall off. In the corner of the empty land, there is a square of fertile-looking soil. Two women are scattering seeds on the soil, and there are sprinklers put up to water the plants.
Suddenly, you hear a creaking and groaning sound, you look back, and you see the gates closing! You run towards it, and squeeze out, just as the gates  lock with a resounding bang. You rush to the iron handle, but it has disappeared. In it’s place, there is a blue pond, with pink water lilies on the surface. The pond is no longer an illusion. You feel yourself falling .   .   .

A Bond Broken by Kindness

She stood there, speechless.The words had given her such a great shock.She had never expected such words,that too,from the one to whom she had given so much. . . . . . .

Their happy voices indicated the fun they were having in playing together.They shouted and yelled as they ran,and finally sat down on the grass,panting.Then the late afternoon saw them sitting together,playing the piano.No matter what-they were always by each other’s side.But-little did they know that something was going to crash down on their happiness.Something that would separate them forever. . . . .

It was a rainy day in the month of July.Susan was walking home from the bakery with some bread through the streets,when her eyes fell on a huddled up figure wrapped up in a shabby shawl.The sight of the hungry and dirty face truly wrung her heart.She was full of pity for the poor girl,so she went up to her and held out the packet of bread to her.This kind gesture cost Susan a lot.

Now Rebecca,the poor girl,was a part of Susan’s life.Gradually,a friendship grew between them.But Susan had not forgotten Beth,her childhood friend and benefactor,yet.Rebecca liked Susan immensely and wanted to be her best friend.But as time passed,she too witnessed this strong friendship between Susan and Beth.Rebecca was quite jealous by nature,and instead of feeling grateful to Susan for her kindness,she set out to put a strain on her and Beth’s friendship.

Rebecca sent a letter to Beth.The letter was such that Beth would think it had been sent by Susan herself.Beth received the incriminating letter,and was shocked at its contents.It said that Susan didn’t want to be her friend anymore. . . . .Beth stood speechless.She had never,ever expected such words from the one to whom she had given so much.Beth felt hurt and angry at Susan.

On the other hand,Susan just could not understand why Beth would not talk to her.It caused her much sorrow to think of losing Beth as a friend.And she could not be friends wholeheartedly with Rebecca,for the fear of hurting Beth’s feelings and losing her entirely.She still believed that Beth was her friend.Susan did not think that such an old friendship could be broken so abruptly. . . . .

 

An Orphan Experiences Prejudice

I lived with my Grandmother in a stately old mansion, since the day my parents were no more. But I couldn’t remember that day. Neither could any of my friends, or anyone else I knew. I thought, perhaps, that my very, very old Grandmother was about the only person who knew how I was left an orphan. Even after the hundreds of times that I had asked her, not once had she even given me a clue. So I was completely in the dark. Not only that, she would tell me absolutely nothing about my parents. How they looked, how they were, how much they loved me, were they rich-I knew nothing, not even their names. My Grandmother was a strict old person, and that’s the reason that everyone who met me, always said, “What a nice mannered granddaughter you have, Mrs. So and So (I don’t know my Grandmother’s name, and I had not heard it from anyone).” It made me sick to hear people say that. What would have made me happy was- “You must be more sensible and disciplined, Vanessa.”

 

I certainly did not like living with Grandmother in her dusty, old, antique, quaint, beautiful, precious, big, and rich house. In other words, I was treated like a little princess, and so I was supposed to know my manners. There were about six servants in our house- Phyllis, Nancy, Harriet, Hailey, Simon, and Edward. I did not like any of them except Harriet. The others were all nuisances, and they were all young, probably just a few years older than me. Harriet was pretty, with a mass of tangled red curls hanging about her pink, rosy face. What amused me the most were her eyes. They were green, and yet startlingly blue. A vivid black dot danced in the middle of each eye. They were friendly, laughing eyes, which could betray the constant fun and excitement inside the heart. Harriet was the youngest, and even then, Grandmother made her clean and sweep like anything. When Harriet was free at night, the two of us would slip away to the back garden to play and talk, while Grandmother slept. But we had to be careful. If Grandmother caught us playing together, then she would send both me and Harriet to bed without any supper. And there was a very sad and cruel reason behind this.

 

I was Grandmother’s granddaughter. Even if she did not like my manners, still she knew that I was her family; I had her blood running in my veins, and that I was rich because she was too. Grandmother knew that Harriet, however nice and understanding she may be, she was still a servant after all. She was from a poor family, and was not from a very respectable background. This was the reason I was not permitted to play with Harriet, but I did not mind her low-caste and family position. However, these were the only obstacles in our long-standing friendship. I liked and respected Harriet all the same, and I never told her what Grandmother thought. I knew that if I told her, then she would be deeply hurt and wounded, even if she did not show it.

 

And then one day, as fate would have it, I was caught playing cards with Harriet. Harriet was whipped, and sent back to the house. And Grandmother grasped my arm, and pulled me upstairs to my room. She locked the door, and faced me with a disgusted face. “ I do love you, Vanessa,” said my Grandmother. “ You are like my own little girl, and I should be proud of you. But you make that very difficult. Listen Vanessa. I know Harriet is your friend, but don’t you understand, she’s from a very low status, my dear!’

“ So what? Is she ill-mannered or rude? Why do you care so much about her being poor?”

“ Vanessa, you  are a respectable girl. If she plays with you, then . . .then . . she’s untouchable!” I did not know what “untouchable” was. And I thought that if Harriet was untouchable, then untouchable would mean something nice, surely. So that night I went up to Janet, our cook. “Janet, what does ‘untouchable’ mean?”I asked her. Janet turned, and looked at me gravely. Then she asked whether I really wanted to know. When I nodded, she said in her broken english, “Ye shun’ be knowin’ about such thin’s, Miss Vanessa. But ye still insist, I tell ye. Untuch’ble means a persen ye no wan’ting to know, be’cos of that persen be’ng poor.” I was deeply hurt when I understood why Grandmother had referred to Harriet as “untouchable.” I wept the whole day.

 

That evening, Grandmother again fell to talking about Harriet, and why I should not play with her. I completely refused to listen, while Grandmother persisted in vain to make me agree with her. Little did we know, that Harriet was outside the door, listening. She had come up to give Grandmother her tea, when she had heard her own name mentioned by us. She heard every word, and realised things that she had not even known till then. “Harriet is not fit to play with, Vanessa. She is low-caste, and you are rich. If she plays with you, people will start despising you too. Harriet is the one to be despised.” I really hated Grandmother from that day. As if I cared whether people thought me rich or poor, untouchable or respectable. I would have been shocked to know that Harriet was hearing all of it. These hurtful words about her, spoken behind her back. Just then, the door swung open, and I nearly fell over in dismay, when I realised what Harriet had heard. Grandmother didn’t seem to care. “Do you good, Harriet. You must know that you are not to play with Vanessa anymore.”she said. Harriet nearly choked. She burst into sobs, put the teacup on the nearest table, and ran out of the room, wiping her face with her worn-out and grimy hand.

Harriet would not talk to me anymore. Whenever I waved or smiled at her in the hallway, she would turn away. When I tried to say something to her, or even say “Good morning,” she would not even look at me. I had no one to play with, and felt most lonely. And I’m sure Harriet felt the same way.

 

The next day, a terrible thing happened. I was walking in the garden with Grandmother, when her leg slipped into a small hole. She wasn’t injured, but she had a twisted ankle. She was in bed the whole day. I did not pity Grandmother, when I remembered the harsh words she had said about Harriet. But the next day, Grandmother asked the servants one by one to come upstairs and massage her ankle. But they were all busy except Harriet. I didn’t know what she was doing. I made sure to get out of Grandmother’s way the whole day. At night, I just went to say goodnight to Grandmother. What I saw made me stare. I saw Harriet massaging Grandmother’s ankle, and they were talking. But then Grandmother said in a severe tone- “You certainly work well, Harriet. But I would like you to stay away from Vanessa.” I went to my own room, sobbing. I had thought that Grandmother had been sorry. But she had only been using Harriet for her own comfort. Harriet was still the “untouchable” girl.
Even today, when I’m twenty three years old, I still think what Grandmother thinks of Harriet and other poor, but nice people. I work for a designing company now, and I have my own little cottage. A few months before I had left Grandmother, Harriet had packed her bags, and left, to build up her fortune herself. I don’t know how she is now. And I will think the same of Grandmother, till she finds Harriet, and apologises to her. There are many other people in the world, who still have certain opinions about low caste people, like my Grandmother had. But these poor people are actually very rich at heart. People like Grandmother may be from wealthy backgrounds, but they are the ones who are really poor and low caste at heart. And I know about myself. Harriet was my friend. But after being separated from her for so many years, I do not know what I should think of her, unless I see her again. Maybe we’ll be the old Vanessa and Harriet, happy in each other’s company. Or will I also have formed prejudices against her? Had my Grandmother really succeeded in putting her ideas into my head? Had I accepted her opinions, and agreed with her? I don’t still know, and I don’t particularly wish to, either.

Not her daughter . . . after all

Today, Anna was too angry. Early in the morning, before school, she had asked her aunt whether she could go for the school picnic. Anna’s parents were both dead, and she lived with her aunt, Mrs. Lynn Laurence, her uncle, Mr. Harry Laurence, and her cousin, Marie. Marie and Anna studied in the same school. Anna was in the eighth standard, while Marie was in the fourth standard. About two days ago, Marie had fallen off her bicycle, and bruised her legs and hands badly. She had also suffered a big cut on her forehead. Now Mrs. Laurence was convinced that Marie could not go for the picnic with her class. So she was determined not to allow Anna to go too, as then Marie would feel bad. This was certainly unfair of Mrs.Laurence, but she favored her own daughter, Marie, over Anna. After Anna’s parents had died due to diarrhea and cancer, she had been adopted by her aunt. Her aunt did not like her, but as Anna had no other relation, she only let Anna live with her so that people didn’t think her unkind.

 

Apparently, Anna was ill-treated. She knew that her aunt did not like her to stay with Marie and her. She was furious now, as she sat fuming in her room. “It’s Marie’s fault if she can’t ride her bicycle carefully. Why am I being punished for it?” Anna related her problem to her uncle, who pretended to sympathize with her, but after all, Marie was his daughter, and not Anna. And he knew this.

 

On Tuesday morning, Anna and Marie sat down to breakfast. Even though it was Anna’s favorite meal, pancakes and honey, still she didn’t notice it. She was in a very bad mood. The picnic was on Thursday, and all her friends were going. In school, Janice, Emily, Sara, and Mia, her classmates had all teased her. A tear of hatred and rage rolled down her cheek. “What’s the matter, Anna?” said Marie, who actually liked Anna. Marie had meant the words lovingly, but all Anna remembered then, was that she was not allowed to go for the picnic because of Marie. “Don’t pry into my business. It’s you who is the main problem behind my troubles.” snapped back Anna. Marie was offended.She really hadn’t meant to be irritating, or even cause problems for her cousin, who she loved with a deep, sisterly love.

 

Mrs. Laurence, too, heard Anna’s harsh words addressed to her daughter, and was angry. She always believed that Anna had no right or freedom to say anything she felt, or any offending words to anyone in the house. She thought that she was doing a great favor by letting Anna live with them.

And now she shouted- “Oh, you ungrateful girl! Dear Marie is kind enough to have made friends with you. And is this how you thank us all for our great kindness?” “What great kindness?” screamed Anna at Mrs. Laurence. “Do you mean to say that this is kindness? You don’t permit me to even have a little fun with my friends on the picnic, just because your daughter rides a bicycle like a baby! You care too much about her silly feelings! Do you think I don’t know the difference between kindness and cruelty?” And sobbing, Anna ran upstairs to her room.

 

Marie had not known this. She hadn’t even thought that Anna would be punished because of her. She felt bad, even more than she would have felt on seeing Anna going to the picnic leaving her at home. “Why did you do this, Mamma?” said Marie to her mother. “Do you know how Anna feels, and how jealous she thinks we are? Please let Anna go, Mamma, and don’t worry about me.” Marie smiled, and something struck Mrs. Laurence’s heart. She smiled too.
On Thursday, Anna went to the picnic with her friends. More than the fun, she enjoyed a certain feeling in her heart. When she returned from school that day, she hugged her uncle, her aunt, and Marie, which little act silently wove a thread of love, which bound their hearts together forever.