Jonas was casually speeding on the two-lane road he was driving on. He cruises through the sketchy traffic on the road like he practiced on his video games. He was never a fan of the brake pedal either. “It’s too much work”, that would be his justification. He was having a great time till he heard some ruffling. The carefree smile turned into an ugly scowl when he looked at his sister.

             ‘What are you looking for Avi?’ The ruffling stopped. Jonas slammed his hand on the dashboard which shook Avi out of terror. ‘Don’t go through my stuff you runt. Hands off!’

              Avi took her hand out of the glove compartment and closed it shut. The tear drop that lingered in her eyes all this while finally slid down. She didn’t want him to see her cry so she turned left to see the moving traffic beside her. The light streaks left behind by the moving cars and the city lights looked wondrous through her wet eyes. She felt like a lost child in a giant oil painting like the one in her hall. Her thoughts sank in the beautiful imagery till she caught her reflection on the window glass. When reality kicked back in, she unfolded the visor and looked at her face in the mirror. She touched the swollen lump on her left cheek which shot a jolt of pain. It was less bluish than last night but was just as painful. She turned to her brother with her large pearly eyes wide open.

              Jonas looked back at her. ‘What do you want now?’, he asked her in a tone of revulsion.

             ‘Can you make this go? Please? I don’t want to look like this. Not today. Please?’ she pleaded desperately.

             ‘What I can do, is put another one of those on your ugly little face if you don’t shut up’. He got back to driving wondering how cool it would be if he could say stuff like that to his girlfriend and getting away with it.

              Avi’s lips quivered in anguish. The thought of looking like that on her birthday almost made her break down. She looked back outside to forget the pains of life. They had entered the suburbs now and they were moving slower than they were. The displays on the stores on the road caught her attention. She looked at them as they kept moving along. Suddenly, she saw something that had her absolute attention. When they drove through, she saw a bright red dress on display in a store named threads. It was just her size and it was beautiful. She felt like time had slowed down when she saw it.

                She had had enough after getting an eyeful of that. Her street gazing endeavours had come to an end. With her head tilting down, she imagined herself wearing that. Her mom, complimenting how good it looked and giving her a kiss on the cheek. The thought made her smile till the car reached a screeching halt. Jonas had stopped in a dark alley. He got out and went off to talk to a few shady people in the corner. He walked back with a tall, slender girl wearing a tiny leather skirt that hugged her skin tight and a low-cut red blouse. Every step she took with those heels could be heard so clearly even inside the car.

                  The stench of the alley had just kicked in. Her eyes got used to the gloomy environment after a sudden shift from the bright lights of the main road. The darkness here didn’t scare her anymore. She was leading a much darker life. She looked at the hobos scavenging through dumpsters and camping around fires, rubbing their hands. She wondered if her life was any better than theirs.

                  Jonas and the strange lady reached the car. He got into the backseat and she followed suite. She made herself comfortable but then spotted Avi sitting on the passenger seat.

                ‘Hey, we’re not doing it with the kid here, are we?’ she questioned in a strange accent that Avi had never heard before. ‘It’s happening right here and right now’ he told her straight in the face. The woman looked out the window and saw her two friends waiting outside near the phone booth and gazing at both sides of the street. Business was slow today and she didn’t want to forego one good client. ‘Fine!’, she said with total disgust ‘but I’m not moaning for you’.

                ‘That’s fine by me. Just get on with it already.’ He was in a hurry too. Avi was staring at her knees while they spoke. She looked at the fresh scar on her knee and rubbed it hard hoping that it would disappear. Jonas then patted on her shoulder. She didn’t turn back but he had her attention. ‘You know the drill’. She nodded and clasped her palms on her ears. She shut her eyes closed and felt her heart race even faster. When she felt the car shaking, she squeezed her hands even tighter, turning her face red. Her mind was going crazy. She wanted to cry but that wasn’t the best idea at the moment. After a minute of struggle, she found herself in total darkness. She stood in an abyss with a spotlight beaming down on where she stood. Nothing was in sight as she looked around. After running around and struggling to find an exit, she spotted something in the distance. The spotlight followed her as she moved towards the object. As she got closer, she realised that it was a mirror, just about as large as her. She stood in front of it and was shocked to see herself wearing the same red dress she saw earlier at the store. She was in awe and looked at every tiny detail in the mirror. It was beautiful, she looked beautiful.

                All that joy was sapped out when she saw someone standing behind her. Her eyes opened wide in absolute horror when she was a pale blue skinned boy with totally black eyes standing behind her. She turned towards him and a spotlight fell on him too. He was frail and just wore a pair of shoddy black shorts. His skin was dry and his bones popped out. He looked like he has been suffering for a while but he had life. Ignoring the empty black eyes, he looked cheerful and friendly. He looked like he was full of life. When the terror started fading as they faced each other, she felt like she had known this boy for years. The sense of familiarity was comforting and put her at ease. Even the claustrophobia was dying. He opened his lips to say something but then stopped in his tracks. He paused and then put on a genuine smile which was reciprocated by her.

              ‘Avi. Do you want to be happy?’ He asked her in a very caring and mature tone. Avi had never seen a smile as genuine and pure aside from her mother’s. She was still trying to reconcile and understand the meaning of what he had said and why he said it. She nodded doubtfully and smiled back forcefully. She wasn’t good at smiling, she didn’t have much practice. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled. She couldn’t remember the last time she was happy.

                ‘Close your eyes when you need me’ he said in a very concerned fashion. The spotlight that revealed him just disappeared with a loud thud. She shook her head here and there wildly looking for him and she heard another loud thud making her spotlight disappear too. She opened her eyes and unclamped her hands. Jonas was putting on his seatbelt. He was sweating profusely and had a proud smile on his face. He turned the rear-view mirror towards him and kempt his hair right. He cleansed his face with a handkerchief and wiped the lipstick off his nose.

                    He checked his watch and drove off. Avi’s mind was still boggled by her strange vision. It didn’t feel like a vision. She kept repeating what he said. “Close your eyes when you need me.” What would she need him for. She randomly closed her eyes shut, hoping to see him again and talk to him. She had so much to talk about. But nothing happened. She tried it again, and again, but nothing ever happened. She wanted to believe that it was just a silly dream but that was just her conscious mind speaking. Deep down, she wanted it to be real. She cleared her head and stared at the most awful place from the car. She was home.

-Rohit

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8 thoughts on “The Helping Hand :Chapter – 1

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