The Enchanting Midnight

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Her World Goes Upside Down

CHAPTER 16

Her World Goes Upside Down

On my way back home, I wondered if I was going to do the right thing. Actually I was wondering if I was doing something sensible, I was sure that it was right. That was what I had always believed in, and I knew justice always had the brighter side. I just needed some more support for what I had thought.

It was early afternoon by the time I reached home. My parents were waiting for me. I looked at their curious faces and at Timothy. I wondered whether it was the right time to tell them and all my reasons. When I look back, I find that wondering about it was my biggest mistake, and I will never forgive myself for that. I wish I had told them at that time.

“Is everything alright?”, my mother asked me anxiously,” You looked worried”.

“Yeah it is mom. Just some information…about him”, I lied, promising myself to let her know everything very soon.

“Oh, don’t think too much about it. Let’s go. We have much more important things to be involved with”, she said. True, we had much more important things to be involved with. Though I wanted them to know what I had just been told, I did not want to spoil it all for them, at least not that day.

I decided to tell them in the evening that it was Ratna’s father whom we had saved that day, but I did not intend to inform them about what I had thought of doing, until I had done that. I didn’t know if it was a wise thought, but I did not want things to take hype before I actually did something.

We proceeded with our outing for that day. A very beautiful day as I remember. It seemed as if a very long time had elapsed since we hadn’t been together much. It seemed after so many days that we were smiling together. I wished that things would remain the same. After all, they had been that way much before anybody else had entered my world.

Here, I had forgotten that things never went the way I had thought, but I never knew that I would have to pay a big price for my foolishness. I should’ve thought about it. I wish I had.

That evening, as we sat together in our lawn, I looked at my father, “Dad , do you remember our first outing in the city?”

“When we had come across that injured man?”, he asked me. I nodded. “Yes, I do. I also remember that he was a social worker who had got trapped into all that. What about it but?”

He had known that much, I wondered why I‘d never talked to him about it.

“Well, do you know who he is?”, I asked again.

“Do we know him?”

“Yes. He is Ratna’s father, dad”, I replied.

“What a coincidence! I had tried to find him after that day, but we never came to know in these three years that we were so close to him”.

“Exactly! I got to know that today when things have become thus”, I tried to sound normal.

“How is he? Is everything alright?”, he enquired.

“He is fine dad, trying to recover”, I said. I wanted to add ‘though he is in trouble again’ but I kept that for later.

“I would like to visit him soon”, he said.

“Oh yes dad. Really! I would like that too. It would be so great!”, I couldn’t hide my eagerness.

“Tell me one thing Mishti. Are you hiding something from me?”, dad looked Into my eyes.

I could not lie. “Yes dad, but it is to be told to you and I will soon tell you. I just need sometime please”.

“As long as it is not very troublesome”, he said in a serious tone.

“It won’t be dad, trust me”, I assured him.

“Better late than never”, he smiled. I smiled back at him. Yeah, better late than never.

“Mishti, what have you thought of, will you please tell me?” Ratna asked me two days later, worried.

“How can we help ourselves in the absence of evidences, have you ever thought of that Ratna?”

She looked at me confused.

I continued, “This should remain between you and me only for the time being. After it is done, we won’t need to hide it anymore. It is time to make use of something that we already have. The journal, Ratna. Do you know this local journal for which I bring up petty social issues every month is read by some of the prominent judicial authorities as well? That is why it is so important, isn’t it?”

“You want to bring the story in that?”

I nodded in agreement.

“But Mishti, do you think it is possible? Bringing up petty issues and a story where things are led by somebody in power are two different things. Very different. Are you sure it will be published?”

“That’s what I was trying to say. We do not have the evidences with us so I will not say anything about anybody in person. It will be an indirect story where the focus will be around the issue and uncle, without mentioning his identity. I am sure it will be read by many important people and when we have everything with us, we can approach them instead of going to people who might not support us. Moreover, we should have some support from the media too”.

Ratna looked at me, still confused, “Do you think it will work? Are we trying to take a very big step on our own?”

“Do we have another option? We cannot do anything as such without being in a stronger position”.

She remained silent.

“I take that as a yes from you, if you do not want to step back Ratna.”

She looked at me, “I am scared Mishti. I hope nothing goes wrong”.

“It won’t. I am there for you”, I replied in assurance, “And once this is done, I will inform dad too. I haven’t told him anything because I wanted to do something on my own in the absence of strong points. I know it sounds crazy, but he would have taken it in his way”.

“Take care dear”, she hugged me tightly.

“You too take care”.

Ten days later, I was in the college, reading the story I had brought up in the journal, five days ago. It hadn’t been easy, being a controversial issue, but it wasn’t objectionable because I hadn’t written about any person.

It seemed like a possible issue in our whereabouts, trying to speak for the common people, revealing the hidden facets of responsible citizens who hadn’t done their duty of being answerable to the people who elected them. Though it didn’t defame anyone, it did seem alarming to many, who were concerned.

Ratna met me outside the college as I was going back home to tell my father what I was upto. She looked happy and contented as well.

“Mishti, oh dear. You won’t believe what happened. Do you know there is somebody who can help us further?”

“Really! Who is that angel?”

Her smile faded. She hesitated, “Mishti, actually three days back, Aryan had called me. He wanted to know how we all were doing. I told him about what I was facing. He has read your story Mishti. He still reads all of what you write. No I haven’t yet told him about anybody in person except about my father”, she looked at me.

I was trying to believe as well as take the words inside. It did not seem soothing, yet I could not stop myself from getting to hear about him. I tried to control the intense wave of tears and pain that had started forming a lump inside.

She continued,” He said he can bring it up, owing to his position. He said he will come over here to help us. He has got such a good heart Mishti! He would be our friend”.

“Oh yes Ratna. That’s so great. A good heart and our helpful friend”, I replied in a monotonous tone, emphasizing on the last few words in a sarcastic tone, “Well, I need to inform dad about it. I shall see you tomorrow dear”.

I left from there. I was happy that we had help, yet I wasn’t excited about where it would come from. Why in life are we made to face those points which we are trying to leave far behind? Why was I being made to face him when I did not want to feel hurt anymore? Why was it that I was made to wonder about him just when I was trying not to remember anything that was related to him?

I tried not to think about him, and decided to face him when he came. Though I did not want to be with him, I still wanted to get some answers from him, keeping my self-respect aside for those few minutes.

I reached home to update my parents about what I was doing. Only when I reached there, I remembered that my parents had gone to attend a party by one of my father’s colleagues and would return late at night. I sat in silence for some time with Timothy.

I hoped I had done the right thing and that things would be alright, that this was going to be as I had thought, as she had thought. I was wondering about it when I got a call. I answered it, wondering to get anothernews from Ratna.

“Is that Mishti Sengupta?” it was a rude voice from the other side.

“Yes, may I know who is this?”

“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you better stay out of something that’s not your business, and you know very well what I am speaking about.”

“Are you trying to threaten me Mr. Whosoever?” I asked defiantly.

“Right now, it is only a threatening. If you don’t stop, you won’t be given a chance to get another threatening.”

“I don’t care”.

“Then you better watch out now”.

The caller hung up. I wondered if it was a prank call or something serious. I had a tinge of fear at the back of my mind too, but I knew that would not have stopped me from doing what I had thought of. I anxiously waited for my parents to return. I had to tell them everything now.

It was evening and they hadn’t returned. I stopped walking back and forth as soon as I heard the screeching of the gate. Timothy barked and ran outside. I followed it to the entrance, eager to narrate everything to my father. But there was nobody outside.

I wondered where had the screeching sound come from. I checked the premises, but there was nobody in sight. Confused and cautious, I came back to my room. In between, Timothy often ran to the gate and then returned. It kept barking.

Though I never felt scared, I had something at the back of my mind that made me shiver. What if I was being followed by not-so-good people. That thought gave me jitters in my head and I knew that it was necessary to inform my parents about it. I was eager to talk to my father.

It was 7 in the evening when I heard his voice from outside. Timothy ran out again. I saw him with my mother, laughing about something. As they looked at my scared expressions, they stopped, looking at me, then at Timothy, then back to me.

“Are you two okay?” he asked me.

“I need to talk to you dad, right now”, I did not have to say anything more. He could see my expressions. I told him everything, all from the day I visited Ratna’s place till that day. He listened silently till I finished.

“So, now we are in trouble”, he said softly. Something about his voice made me wonder if things had gone wrong.

“It seems so dad”, I said, “I am sorry. I should have told you earlier, but I did not know it would turn out this way. I really did not know”.

He stayed silent. I wanted him to speak. I looked for that assurance from him.

“Will everything be alright dad?”, I asked him.

“I really do not know what to say. I will not ask you to step back because you are not wrong, but this is not easy either. There is so much to be done, but before that, I will go and report about this call. Even if it is a prank, it should be reported. And then, I will have to talk to Ratna’s father and do something”, he sighed, “You should have told me a little earlier dear”.

“I know. I wanted to, but…I..we’ll make it through dad, isn’t it?” I asked out of my hope, that had always made me witness how everything was alright when he was with me.

He looked at me, “Yes we will, we just have to take care”.

“We are not wrong dad, isn’t it?”, I asked trying to stop my tears.

“No dear, we are not wrong in any way. Be assured of that. I am with you”, he smiled at me.

I felt better to see my father as I had always seen him; determined, strong, confident, all that made me feel secure, when I was with him. As he got up to leave, I asked him, “Where are you going now dad?”

“To report about it. This shouldn’t get late any more”.

“I will come with you”, I said. ‘I have put you into this’ I wanted to say.

“No!” I felt scared. He noticed my expressions and said slowly,” You have to stay at home and take care of your mom. She will need you”.

I looked at him with the light of hope in my eyes, trying to find it in his eyes too. Sometimes when we are worried about our own fears, we try to find a shelter outside our hearts, to console the anxiety that remains.

Two days later, Ratna called me. I hadn’t gone anywhere after that. I had been instructed by my father not to do anything further without consulting him. I knew it was necessary by then. He had visited Ratna’s father in these two days and was going to take the issue to responsible and trustworthy people whom he knew.

“Mishti, uncle has been a great help you know. I am sure everything would be fine in a few days. Things would be seen by his acquaintances who have talked to him.”

“That’s a great news, Ratna”, I had forgotten the conversation of our previous meeting.

“You know Mishti, Aryan is coming over here! He will also help us. You know he can”.

My heart sank. Probably he could but I didn’t want any help from him. Yet, I could not object if she wanted that.

“Oh great”.

“I think everything will be okay now. Like before, like we all used to be”.

“May be. I will call you later Ratna. Take care”, I hung up.

‘Like before’ how easily said. I had come way too far from where I had been before. Now, I did not want myself to go through everything once again. I did not have the courage to feel that again. I wished I did not have to face him. I never knew that would be the only wish which would come true.

That evening, my father returned earlier than usual. I could see that hopeful smile once again on his face. He was murmuring one of his favourite songs as he entered. It was so peaceful to see him that way once again.

Owing to the happiness that prevailed in our house that day, we decided to celebrate. Sometimes, there are no reasons to celebrate other than seeing your loved ones smile at you. I had planned to prepare chilly chicken for my father. He loved it and the gravy was always prepared by my mother.

“Hey dad, do you want some brown bread along with chilly chicken?”, I asked him. “I’ll bring it right now”, I replied without waiting for his answer.

“Mom, do you want anything else?”

“No dear, that would be enough”, she smiled at me. We were all smiling after many days.

Timothy barked in between. “Ah, probably you want ice cream now”, I laughed, “I’ll be back in 20 minutes mom, you get everything ready and then we’ll celebrate”, I said as I left for the nearby market.

“Take care Mishti”, the last words from my parents, unfortunately.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine”, I had replied.

As I walked to the main street, there was a blackout. I had brought a torch with me thankfully. It was an odd time for a blackout and I wondered what had happened. Never, though I had thought that it was something peculiar, ominous until…

It took me ten minutes to get everything and I hurried towards home, not because of fear or anxiety, but out of excitement to be the same way as I used to be. As I walked towards my place, from where our house came into view, I saw it as still as an untouched rock for years in the darkness.

And then, it happened in a few seconds as I kept walking, I saw the power supply coming back because our house seemed to have been lit up again, and then it got too lit up. For a few seconds, I couldn’t realize what had happened, but the sound of an explosion confirmed what I saw. There, our house was on fire, no it had exploded!

I couldn’t believe what I saw. This could not be true. This was a nightmare for sure! I saw people running towards me as I tried to gather my breath and run towards it. No, no, this could not be reality. My parents, my Timothy, our house. No! I kept running till the extreme heat stopped me. I thought for a second. If I could do something…

I looked around. I did not know what to do. I kept shouting and crying for help, “My parents are inside. I have to save them. Please help me!!”. I looked for something that could help me, but there was nothing. Probably, my mind had become numb because of the thought of my parents and Timothy being inside.

I did not know what to do. I was helpless. I wanted to save them. I could not see it happening. I felt weak in my knees, lumps inside my heart, I was crying to the top of my voice and running from her e to there. I don’t remember what I thought at that moment, but I just wanted to save them and I ran towards the fire. If something happened to them, I did not have to live anymore.

I kept running to the place where there had once been the entrance to our house, where the blazing house remained where they were inside. I tried to jump into it. I remember that I felt myself getting caught in fire. I remember that somebody had pulled me out. I remember that I could no longer see anything. Everything turned dark with a terrifying reality in my mind.

I opened my eyes in a hospital. I felt weak. I wanted to get up. No, I did not want to get up any more. I knew what I would come to know. I closed my eyes and saw them smiling at me, and tears flew down. I suddenly felt a gentle touch on my head. I opened my eyes.

It was Ratna. She had tears in her eyes. I looked at her with a hope. I tried to speak. I couldn’t but I had to.

“My mom…dad….Timothy…”, I burst into tears, “Ratna, I wish I was with them. I want to die. I do not want to live any more”.

“Mishti, I am sorry to see you this way. And now, I know you are alone Mishti, but I am there”, she said crying with me.

“Ratna, I want to know how it happened. I know this is my fault. It happened because of me. I was the one who should have died”, I spoke amidst my tears.

“No Mishti, it is not your fault. The police have investigated over there. It was an accident they say.”

“No! That’s not possible. It cannot be an accident! It was planned…”I shouted at the top of my voice.

“Mishti please calm down. It happened due to the leakage of LPG container in the kitchen they said. It was unattended possibly. And when the power supply came, the spark from the switches ignited it, and it exploded.”

“I will not believe it Ratna! Never. I know it was not an accident…” I continued, but nobody listened to me.

I stayed at Ratna’s place for the rest of the days. There was nothing left for me now. I wished I could end up myself. My heart said it happened because of me. But I was helpless. I had already tried to speak to so many people I knew, but we had no evidences, and there my world had come to an end.

I will never forgive myself for what happened that night. I had never been able to give them anything, but this…!! Not even in my worst nightmares, had I imagined I could make any such thing happen to the ones I loved the most. If the world had come to an end, why was I still alive!

I was like a body which had no soul. In the end, there was nobody whom I loved, left with me. I did not want to live any more. Ratna kept encouraging me to start doing something, but I felt like killing everybody, me being on top of the list. I felt guilty, full of ingratitude, the biggest enemy to those who cared for me, yes, I was that!

Two weeks later, I got an invitation letter from the ministry of Home Affairs. I had cleared my examination and received the prestigious Prabha Dutt Scholarship for continuing fellowship in ‘The Times of India’ in any place I chose.

It was a matter of pride, but had it been earlier, I would have felt happy. But then, I wished I wasn’t alive to see it. I wanted to escape from there. My parents would have been so happy to know this. I could not control my tears.

Ratna held me close to her, “Mishti, you have to live. You know why, because you are alive for some reason. You have to fulfill your dreams. And you know, if you really feel this was not an accident, this is the place where you should go on. Reach the place where you would be able to do something about it. Be the one who can fight against so much injustice that people like us have suffered. One day you will do it, I know that. I have faith in you. And you know, uncle, aunty, Timothy everyone would have been proud of you”, she said, tears flowing down her cheeks.

“I wish..”

“There are many things that you wish for. Don’t you think you should do something about your wishes?”, Ratna looked into my eyes.

I took the form and randomly ordered my preferences, the first one being the farthest from Hyderabad, Bhopal. I wished that my destiny took me to what I had promised myself for. That light which I used to see in the eyes of my parents, remained in my heart.

“But Ratna, you all…”

“We will be fine Mishti, I know that. We cannot do anything much now. And when you are back, we will be glad to see you again, the girl I admire the most.”

The last time I saw them was when Ratna and her brother had come to see me off at the station. I didn’t let go of her , crying back.

“My strong girl cannot cry. I love you Mishti. I will always be your best friend, your sister. Just go and blossom. God will bless you. Take care”, she could not stop her tears too.

“Take care”, I replied amidst my tears, as my train left for Bhopal, the city that awaited me.

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