The drive to the cottage was a beautiful one .Tall pine trees on both the sides, sloping valley, like a green carpet dotted with flowers, on the left side and rugged cliffs jutting out of the mountainside on the right .The road was smooth and well maintained.
The Rathor family had bought the cottage at a cheap price .It was a two story cottage with a huge garden and a servant’s quarter on one side .When Tarun saw the add in the local newspaper, he just could not believe his eyes .immediately Tara and he decided to grab the deal .They were sick of the pigeon hole they currently lived in.
He smiled at his lovely eight year old girl, who was jumping on the front seat of the car, excited about the new place.
The cottage was well painted; furnished and carpeted .They moved in and loved to explore areas around it. Both, Tarun and Tara, worked in a add agency and had busy shift duties .They called Tara’s younger sister to stay with them. Tanvi was delighted; she loved the company of her aunt, who was a fun person to be with .A college graduate looking for job.
Karan and Raul noticed that the cottage had new occupants. Every day on their way to the convent school at the next turn, they would stop to pluck apples from the tree near the boundary of the cottage .Today, their hopes dashed when they saw the little girl and her parents moving around the gardens .Raul liked the girl and would always find a way to catch a glimpse of her, through some large glass window of the cottage .She too had noticed him and sometimes smiled or waved at them.
Tanvi spent most of her time in her room, near the terrace, sketching beautiful pictures. She was a good artist for her age.
She would collect all her drawing in the evening and happily show them to the family, chatting continuously about the Jim Jam cookie party, she and this ravishing girl friend of hers had .She would narrate in detail all that they did together. According to her ,the girl spoke excellent English ,which was difficult for her to comprehend at times and made conversation difficult but they managed to convey their thoughts always .she spoke a few words of Hindi in a way that made Tanvi roar with laughter .She would imitate and say those words ,which puzzled her parents . She also mentioned that the girl lived in her toy closet and could come out through the closed door.
The parents were concerned, because the pictures showed a girl of about ten years of age, wearing frilled, high collar, full sleeved frock, very old fashioned boots and her hair fell over her shoulders, in curls and curls of golden waves.
It was surprising; the way Tanvi drew the details of her friend’s clothing and accessories.
Surely, the friend Tanvi talked about and drew so accurately, was not of their times .She seemed British and Tanvi had never seen any pictures or read anything about the British times .The child looked absolutely at ease and happy with her imaginary friend .
Life went on and every day some new story about the friend would come up in the evening .Tara asked her sister to keep a watch on the little girl.
One afternoon, as Tara was tending to her rose garden ,her sister came rushing through the glass doors ,her face white as a chalk .Tara dropped everything ,as Jahnvi dragged her through the lawns ,into the house ,on to the second floor terrace room of her daughter .
There ,in full view of them ,sat Tanvi surrounded by her toys ,dolls and other stuff ,The place in front of her ,in that circle of toys ,was empty .Enough for a small child to sit .Tanvi was happily chatting to someone sitting opposite to her .She offered her imaginary cookies and giggled at some joke .
Tara squeezed her sister’s hand, both the women were frozen at the doorstep of the room .Tanvi did not notice their presence and kept playing .Tara listened hard, she was terrified when she heard a soft musical voice of a girl speaking in perfect British English .She couldn’t trust her ears .She watched her daughter, with eyes filled with unknown fear .Her mouth was shut, but the voice of the girl kept ringing in Tara’s ears.
She turned to look at her sister, who had gone white in the face and looked sick .She did not have to ask, to know that she was not the only one who was witnessing this strange presence of the spirit in her house.
She brought herself to reality and rushed inside the room .Picking Tanvi up in her arms, she rushed out, followed by her sister, who by now was sobbing uncontrollably .Tanvi kept kicking and protesting that she wanted to spend some more time with her friend, but Tara threw her in the car and drove off to her mother’s place along with her sister.
They never returned to the house again .No one bought it after them.
It stood there, majestic as always.
Tanvi walked about in the gardens around the home, where she played and danced and spent some memorable moments as a child .After so many years, the place still looked breathtaking as usual.
The room, where she held her Jim Jam parties, was dusty and full of cobwebs, but exactly the way it was left that day.
She was happy and loved her home.
The convent was celebrating its annual X-mas festival and had invited old students too.
Raul, now a painter by profession and Karan, a photographer, were also invited.
Walking down the familiar path, Raul felt a pang of nostalgia hit him.
The cottage looked unattended but as lovely as ever.
He glanced through the gardens and windows and there he saw her .For a moment he thought he was imagining things .She was beautiful and was smiling .With her was another small girl with long golden hair .He stared at the window in disbelief .
Nah, he thought, it was just a hallucination .But then she waved at him.
He turned to Karan, who was clicking some pictures.”Did you see her? How beautiful she has grown?”
“Who?” said Karan.
“The girl who lived in this cottage .She is back. There she is at the west window.
Karan looked at his friend .He could see nothing except an empty cottage and an unkept garden.