Short Fiction – The El Pino Ruins


“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.

They were sitting on the steps of an old church overlooking the cemetery.

“No, I don’t.” He replied. “Why? Do you?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do, but not like those described in books. They don’t exist. It’s just fiction.”

“Are there any other kind of ghosts than those we read about in books, Pia?”

“Of course there are. Real ghosts, they’re everywhere. Just because you don’t see them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people can’t see certain colours but that doesn’t mean those colours don’t exist.” She smiled. “Ghosts don’t haunt graveyards or deserted old buildings. They aren’t transparent and don’t evaporate into the mist. That’s all bullshit.”

Federico looked into her big, hazel eyes and forgot the conversation they were having. He wondered how anyone could be so beautiful that they were able to stop time at will. He remembered the day she’d breezed into his book café wearing a bright floral dress, her hair cascading in lazy spirals down her slim shoulders. She’d stopped near the vine of wild roses at the door and gazed at them for a moment before entering the shop and Federico was certain she carried the fragrance of the flowers with her. For twenty minutes she stayed in the shop, and Federico forgot what straight thinking was like. She seemed friendly and had bought a little basket of cookies and empanadas from the counter. He gave two complimentary slices of fruit cake, something he’d never done before. She thanked him for the gesture. The memory of her voice kept ringing in his ears for days afterwards. He knew she didn’t live there but he’d seen her around town sometimes, walking along the river bank where he went fishing. He’d even spotted her on Sundays among the church goers.

It was the last Sunday of the month in which she’d first visited his café and he was standing outside the church trying to spot her as the congregation emerged. He was watching the sea of people so intently that a tap on his shoulder made him jump.

“Dios mio! You scared the wits out of me.”

“Were you looking for someone?” Her gaze lingered on his face which had turned the colour of beetroot. She giggled like a little girl.

“Oh… no not really. I was just…”

“I’m Pia.” She extended her hand. For a moment Federico stood transfixed by her presence but then, somehow, he managed to speak.

“Federico, but friends call me Rico.” He shook her hand and wished he could hold it forever. Pia also seemed to enjoy the moment.

“Let’s go sit on those steps,” she said, pointing at the secluded stone steps at the side of the church.

Rico allowed himself to be led. He heard his heart beating loudly, and was sure Pia would hear it.

 

Captivated by the natural power of the sierras and the dark brooding woods they’d sat quietly on the stairs watching the sun melt on the hauntingly beautiful mountain peaks.

The loud ringing of the church bells and the musical sound of her voice then brought him out of his reverie. He realized that Pia was talking to him.

“Lo siento. I didn’t hear what you said?”

“I was saying we’re all haunted. Haunted by the things we see, feel and by those that we can’t. Do you know what ghosts are? They are our unmet desires, our fears and longings, unfinished businesses.”

“Unsaid words, deeds not done, our struggles in the intolerant world, they are the pangs of unrequited love, betrayals, unfulfilled dreams,” he added.

“Yes, and also the echoes of the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ among other things. We arrive too late everywhere and we live with heartache. Then we die,” she said.

Rico watched one side of her face glow in the sun’s rays. “You seem to know a lot about these things, and if you are right, then we are all living dead carrying our ghosts on our backs,” he laughed.

“Yes, I do. We all do but seldom find courage to speak about them. Fear and guilt, two things that keep us from doing so,” she smiled even though he could sense a tinge of sadness and annoyance.

“I saw you at the cemetery the other day,” she turned to face him.

“Yes, I go there sometimes to visit my grandfather’s grave.”

“I don’t like these goddamn cemeteries. Fake people laying fake flowers every Sunday on coffins placed in straight lines six feet under. People make sure the dead don’t escape by placing heavy stones on the graves as if they would stop anything from escaping if it wished to.”

He saw the corner of her mouth twitch into a little smile that faded at once.

“But the dead need to be buried somewhere, Pia.” Rico said amused by the girl’s statement. He wasn’t a religious person but the discussion was stimulating and also he didn’t want to let her go… not just yet.

“Yes, in the graveyards. Those open places among the ruins.” She stood up and looked beyond the building. Her gaze stretching on the weathered cliff faces rising dramatically, red poppies, yellow mimosa and wild orchids tempered by the soothing green of ancient olive groves, an occasional splash of pale pink almond blossoms and remnants of  some old buildings that lay scattered on a distant hill. Rico also got up and put his arm around her. She didn’t object.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I become calm in roaming among those ruins. I didn’t know you loved them too. I often visit the stream that runs beyond it. What a spectacular vintage point,” he said.

“It is surreal to be surrounded by death. I love the footpaths crisscrossing the mountains,” Pia said. Her eyes glinted with joy.

Rico lived for these moments.

“Have you been to the ruins and the old graveyard?” He asked.

“Yes, I have. It’s closer to my pueblo than yours.”

“Yes, I hear your pueblo is very picturesque. I haven’t been there.”

“No? You must come visit us sometime.” She said gathering her packages. “I live with my little brother.”

“And your parents?” Federico asked.

“Let’s not talk about them please.” She shifted uncomfortably and almost stumbled as she climbed down the old broken steps. Rico caught hold of her arm.

“I’m fine.” She said, her voice almost a whisper.

Federico walked her up to the town square from where she boarded the bus to her pueblo. It wasn’t far and usually people walked through the fields during the day. She too did but the darkness had wrapped the mountainside in her shroud early today. He insisted that she take the bus.

The streets were nearly empty. Federico went to the cafe which still had a few customers. He decided to stay there for a while. There wasn’t anyone waiting for him at home and he loved the warm cheerfulness of the place. He made himself a strong brew of coffee and relaxed on his usual chair behind the counter.

Later at home, Rico’s thoughts wandered to Pia. Why hadn’t she wished to talk about her parents? There was a certain sadness, Rico had always felt, behind her gleeful self. He hardly knew anything about her. The few hours he got with her were usually spent talking about books, travels and other things. She was a well informed, intelligent and beautiful woman, someone Rico would have thought of marrying. He wondered how it would be to live with her under the same roof every day, make love to her, do things together. The thought excited him. He decided to go visit her the next day and meet the brother too.

Early in the morning, he left his apprentice in charge of the cafe, packed a basket of cookies, cakes and rolls and set off. It was a bright day so he decided to walk. On the way he plucked some wild flowers knowing how much Pia loved them.

 

It took him more than an hour to reach Pueblo Blanco which appeared to tumble haphazardly from the hillside. Swathes of orange and lemon trees, bougainvillea and jasmine spread cheer all around the farmsteads dotted over the hillsides. The pueblo consisted of a mosaic of old houses, a square, a market with a bar named Alfredo’s, numerous fuentes and a school building which stood out like an eyesore amidst a cubist’s dream. Rico walked down the mossy trail waving at children who waved back at him. Any outsider to them was a tourist visiting the ruins. They smiled and posed for photographs but Rico had no camera so he did not get much attention.

 

After a little search in the pueblo with its whitewashed flat roofed houses, characteristic chimney pots and narrow cobbled streets he spotted the stone cottage with slanted red roof and a cobbled path leading to the front door.  It was at the end of the street and stood out among the terraced clusters of other houses.

 

The tinao was strewn with colourful potted plants overflowing from the edges making a stark contrast. He scanned the place for some activity but the house was quiet. He knocked at the door then knocked again. This time he heard heavy footsteps inside and the door swung open. The young man who stood there could have been written off as Pia’s twin. Slightly confused Rico fumbled for the right words while he peered into the dimly lit interior of house.

 

“What do you want? I don’t have the time to stand here.”

 

“I am looking for Pia. I am a friend from El Pino.”

 

The man had the similar hazel eyes to Pia and they were fixed on him. Rico saw the man’s pupils dilate.

 

Suddenly he pushed Rico back and shouted angrily, “Pia is dead, you hear me?” He was about to shut the door when a female voice interrupted him.

 

“Don’t be rude, Eduardo. He is a friend. Let him in.” Rico heaved a sigh of relief on seeing Pia pull the man aside to make way for him to enter.

 

“What a pleasant surprise, Rico. Welcome to Casa Luna. I am sorry about Eduardo. He is always upset with the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she laughed. Federico felt relieved on seeing her and entered the house.

 

“I have brought this cookie basket and flowers for you.”

 

“They’re lovely. Thank you. Please make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.”

 

Rico nodded and settled on a sofa feeling slightly uncomfortable at the fixed gaze of Eduardo who was leaning against the fireplace and staring at him. He looked around the room; it was sparsely furnished and unkempt but certainly looked well lived in. There was a book case along one wall and a side table with a chair near the big window. The heavy curtains blocked the view and he could smell a musty smell coming from them, like wet leaves. A large portrait of two children in their pre-teens hung on one of the walls. He recognised Pia immediately and guessed that the boy must be the brother. “Yeah, that’s us,” Eduardo said in a bored voice. Rico looked at him. He certainly did not look like Pia’s “little brother”. She looked much younger than him.

 

He was about to ask Eduardo about this when Pia entered with a trolley of tea and cookies from the basket he had brought.

 

“We just had almuerzo, Rico. Wish we’d known you were coming. It gets a little boring to eat alone every day. No, Eduardo? “She smiled at him as she made the tea and handed him the cup.

 

“I don’t like strangers especially those who come unannounced.” He said in an angry voice as he walked towards the staircase. For a brief moment he stopped, turned and stared at them then began to climb the stairs which creaked from his weight.

 

“Please don’t mind him. He is unwell, I’m sorry about his behaviour.” Her face seemed to have suddenly aged, Rico thought as he looked into her vacant eyes. He hated to see her sad.

“No problema Pia. I understand. Is he your brother? I thought you said you had a little brother?” Rico asked as he sipped his tea. He noticed that Pia’s cup lay untouched.

“Yes, he’s my brother. He’s a grown up child. His mind is still that of a little boy. That’s the reason he is so flustered and unfriendly most of the time.” Her voice was a whisper as if she was afraid someone would hear. She seemed totally opposite to her useful cheerful self. He felt sorry for her. He shouldn’t have come unannounced and put her in a fix. He took Pia’s hand, pressed it in his. It was cold as ice.

 

“I understand.” He said in a reassuring tone. “Don’t feel bad. I will catch up with you some other time. Need to get back to the cafe. I just visited on a whim.”

 

She lowered her head and nodded.

 

Federico got up and they walked out to the street where they stood facing each other for what seemed like ages. There was a moment of stillness between them. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her but the thought of her brother watching from somewhere in the house kept him away. He gave her a quick kiss and left.  When he looked back she was still standing under the cool shadowed Tinao. Rico blew her a kiss, waved and walked out. The door slowly closed behind him as if gently nudged by the wind. He stood looking at the old stone house. The tiles above the windows were chipped and the iron grills looked rusted. The mid day sun threw strange shadows on the walls. Rico stared at them wondering if he saw them move with the passing wind. It all seemed so out of place.

 

He hadn’t gone far on the narrow unpaved path surrounded by hundreds of flowering pots and pillars when a man lazily drinking the local Costa wine with a vendor selling hand woven baskets and Jarapas stopped him.

 

“Hola Señor! Interested in buying the casa. I can get you a good price.” He said chewing on a blade of grass that fluttered at the side of his mouth. The basket-seller didn’t seem to be interested and busied himself rummaging inside his shop.

 

“I am not here to buy the house. The lady who stays there is a friend. She never mentioned that they are selling the place.” Rico was surprised that Pia never told her they were looking for a buyer for the house.

 

The man looked at him for a moment and laughed, “Are you coming straight from Alfredo’s? You don’t look drunk.” He said scanning Rico from head to toe.

 

“The lady of the house is your friend? Hahaha…you got to be kidding. No one lives in that house. It has been vacant for many years maybe from even before we were born. People say the owner, a doctor, was a brute. His wife ran away and left their retarded son and his elder sister in his care. He took to drinking and constantly beat the children. The girl took most of the beating in order to protect the brother and one day the idiota smashed her head on the wall and killed her. The cops took him away and he never returned. The son, a loco, was left to his own devices and some years later they found him dead in the garden…You seem unwell… Are you alright, Señor? You don’t look good. Can I get you something?”

Rico could hear the man’s voice but was struggling to understand. It was a hot day and the sun was bright. A day when tourists and those from nearby cities came to picnic in those parts. The weekly market was abuzz with activity on the other side of pueblo. Without replying Rico rushed back towards the house. He knocked. Once. Twice. And then he started banging the door. And finally his eyes fell on the lock hanging on the door. Rico almost fell back but soon recovered. He got down with a sense of disbelief not really knowing where he was headed, resisting the urge to look back. Lost in the surreal world he dragged his way to the scattered fort ruins and stood there staring at the graves, stone columns and large piles of stones. The remains of a paved floor of a circular hut seemed like a site for prayer rituals for the dead. He felt an unmistakable and unbearable presence of Pia. He sank to the wet mossy ground that smelled of spring flowers and death.

 

*

I ordered another cup of coffee as I listened to Dr. Alejandro. We were sitting inside a small cafe across the city square where the old doctor had asked me to meet him. He’d seen my advertisement in the newspaper for renting a traditional home.

 

“Federico came to me a week after the incident. He was disturbed and needed help. After a few sessions of treatment and a visit to the Casa Luna he slowly began to recover and even started going to the cafe which was run by his apprentice at that time. We met a few times but then both of us became busy with life. A few days ago Rico called me to inform that he was moving to the city and needed my help to find a tenant for the old casa where he had lived after selling off the cafe to his apprentice. Memories of Pia had drawn him to Pueblo Blanco but he’d become very ill soon after moving in and needed to be admitted to a hospital for treatment. He wants someone trustworthy to look after the house in his absence. His house would be ideal for you.”

 

He handed me a slip of paper with a name and address and a frayed business card with his phone number. He added that I could call him at anytime.

 

“Thank you Doctor. I’ll talk to you soon.”

 

“Go safe.”

 

“I will.” With that I picked up my things and left him with his thoughts.

 

It was late in the noon when I reached El Pino. I parked the car near the church and went looking for Rico’s book cafe. No one could give me directions so I decided to walk to Pueblo Blanco to meet him.

 

It was an early winter day but the sun was still warm. There weren’t many people around, just the locals going about their daily business. The mountains, the air, and the wilderness filled me with such contentment I could live here, surely for the rest of my life.

I was in no hurry and reached the pueblo as the afternoon shadows began to lengthen with the onset of evening.

 

Pueblo Blanco was a tapestry of traditional houses and a dilapidated building which looked more modern than the rest of them. A white village as the doctor had said. I looked around for Eduardo’s house but couldn’t spot it. None of the buildings had a red roof. I checked the slip to see if I had lost my way but the dusty signboard near the solitary shop confirmed that I was in the right place.

 

I walked to the shop and looked around. An old man sat slumped on a chair smoking a cigarillo.

 

“We are out of stock.” He said before I could speak.

 

“I don’t need to buy anything. I am looking for Mr. Federico who stays at Casa Luna. It is an old stone building which was owned previously by Señor Eduardo if I am right.”

 

“You are wrong. There isn’t any house by that name nor do I know of any Federico or Eduardo living in this pueblo. You have got the wrong address. The only stone buildings the pueblo has are the ruins over there.” He said, pointing towards the distant hilltop.

 

“That’s strange. My doctor friend gave me this address. He is a friend of the owner and spoke to him a few days back about renting the property.” I handed the slip of paper to the man.

 

“You’ve come to the right place, Señor but I’ve never heard of anyone called Federico or Eduardo and I’ve lived here all my life. Did you say he moved here from El Pino? Maybe you should check with the priest there. He would certainly know. That’s the last bus over there. Don’t miss it.” With that he touched his cap, nodded and went behind the colourful curtain that separated the house from the shop, but he emerged again before I could turn and leave.

 

“I remember my abuelo telling me about an old decaying cottage at the other end of the pueblo. Children called it casa embrujada but that was years ago when I was a child. It is just a pile of stones now.”

 

I muttered a few words of thanks and ran towards the bus. Maybe the man was right about asking the priest. He would certainly know. When I reached the bus I stopped and glanced around the lazy streets of the pueblo. There was no one in sight.

 

When I reached El Pino, the church bore a deserted look and the door to the priest’s home was locked. I decided not to wait and to drive back home. It was getting late and I had to return to the city that very night. While I drove down the winding road my thoughts kept going back to the old doctor, the picture perfect pueblo, the house that did not exist and Federico whom no one seemed to know even in his own town. I hadn’t even able to find the cafe.

It was late when I reached home, but I decided to call Dr. Alejandro- all I got was a busy tone.

 

I was tired so went straight to bed. The strange events of the day were spinning in my head and I wanted it to stop.

 

Next morning I got dressed and decided to call Alejandro again before leaving for work. The phone finally rang after a few tries.

 

“Hola! Alejandro Hospital, how can I help?”

 

“Hello! I am Jim Adams and I need to speak with Doctor Alejandro urgently. I got this number from him.”

 

“You need to speak to whom?”

 

“Doctor Alejandro. I met him yesterday and he told me to contact on this number.”

 

“Estás loco o qué? Doctor Alejandro died years and years ago.”

 

The line went dead.

-*-

Note – The El Pino Ruins first got published in the final edition of Le Zaporogue XVIII by various authors. The short fiction was well received by the readers so I thought of sharing it here too. Thank you for reading. Please leave your views in the comments.

 

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Time To Rejoice- Six Poems And A Story In Le Zaporogue XVI


The sun is shining bright and Delhi is jubilant.

This is how I am celebrating. With HOT CRISPY JALEBEES. I have more than one reseon to rejoice.

The much acclaimed Le Zaporouge XVI, the latest edition of Seb Doubinsky’s annual of literature, art, photography and illustration has been published and for the fourth time I have my work included in the magazine along with some fantastic writers/artists. It is a great feeling to be recognised as a writer and I thank Seb Doubinsky ( a great storyteller and fantastic poet) for this honor.

This special edition of 289 pages include Jerry Wilson– Tara Lennart – Celina Osuna – Jonas Lautrop- Laurent Maindon – Anne Krautwald – Franck-Olivier Laferrère – Manu Rich – Marcia Marques Rambourg – Justin Grimbol – Carole Cohen-Wolf – Tikuli – Valérie Debieux – Philippe Tertrais – Simone Rinzler – David Royal – Virgil Petite-Vallée – James Goddard – Alicia Young – Olga Theuriet – Dominic Albanese- Benoît Jeantet – Donna-Lee Phillips – Jacques Sicard – Mark and Janice Van Aken Williams – Stéphane Prat – Jean-Philippe Dreillard – Agathe Elieva – Serge Muscat – Yan Kouton – Maya Byss – ShaneZooee – Matt Bialer – Andréas Becker

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It is a must have impressive collection and  you can get Le Zaporogue XVI ( ebook PDF) as a FREE download here : ZAPOROGUE XVI

Or  for the FIRST TIME buy it in print too ( the back editions will also be available in print soon.) : Zaporogue (Paperback) 

So proud to be a part of this.  The good trend has continued from 2014 for my writing and I am hoping for more as the year ’15 progresses.

Here is an excerpt from one of my poems –

My Mother 

“Clasping your infant body
like a broken doll and a
picture of your mother in my pocket,
I took refuge at a patchwork of shelters
that had sprouted on the smoldering land.
A few of us sat under a small covering
of rags, tarpaulin and sheet metal,
holding whatever was left of our
precious belongings, somewhere
a man sharpened the knife on a stone,
click clack, click clack,
the blade glistened in the dark.”

Do read the rest of the poem and many more poems and stories that I enjoyed reading in this edition. Do give us your feedback.

Follow the FB PAGE by clicking on this link.

To know about more of my online and print publication click HERE 

My Debut Poetry Collection turned ONE this January you can read about it HERE 

Once more Thank You Sebastian Doubinsky for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

GBE 2 Week#67 Peace


Danny watched the enthusiastic joggers and wondered if he would ever be able to catch up with the pace of the park which moved with its younger regulars sweating it out profusely before returning to their air-conditioned lives. A lot of elderly too visited the park to exercise, walk or just enjoy the lighter side of the city, meet friends, inhale the fresh morning breeze from the sea and reminisce about the past to avoid the present. Children usually came on holidays or in the evenings. He had seen the way this beautiful Park had changed over the last decade.

He noticed that today also the elderly gentleman was sitting alone at his usual place aptly named “Garden of Peace” away from the hustle bustle of the main park. This section was designed in the style of a Japanese Zen garden overlooking the sea. He and his companion had spent many a glorious mornings in these tranquil surroundings laughing, talking or just sitting quietly watching the sun break through the clouds just above the eastern horizon. It was almost a fortnight now since his companion had not shown up but he was always there. Oblivious to the surroundings he watched the water lilies float in the pond or gazed at the deepening rosy glow of the sky.

Today, in his freshly ironed lavender shirt the old man had sat there for more than his usual time.

Danny wondered what had happened to the old lady. Unable to stop himself he collected his sketchbook and pencils and walked up to him.

The old man was busy observing the little yellow butterflies flirting above a row of colourful flowers.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” He said looking up. His face was that of the Buddha, calm and peaceful. “She would have loved them. I have been coming to this garden since its inception and why not, it is I who planned and designed it.” He added.

Danny saw the riot of colours in front of him and the little winged beauties fluttering over them.

“You designed this garden? How wonderful. It is beautiful” Danny looked around the serene ambience that had attracted him to this place years ago and since then he came here every morning to sketch.

“May I see your sketchbook?” He nodded and gestured Danny to sit beside him.

“Sure”.  Danny noticed that the old man’s hands trembled as he took the sketchbook.

“I used to paint at one time, now it is difficult to keep the brush steady”, he smiled at Danny.

“Really, I would love to see some of your work”. There was something about the old man that drew Danny to him.

The old man did not reply. Engrossed in the sketches he turned page after page as if looking for something and then he stopped. His slender fingers traced the patterns on the lines and curves on the paper.

Danny leaned forward to see what had caught his attention.

It was a sketch of the old couple he had made just before the lady stopped coming. They were standing next to the lily pond holding hands. Her face shaded by the summer hat and his beaming with love.

“They have sent her to an old age home. I could do nothing.” His face betrayed a glimpse of the emotional storm that was swirling inside and then seeing the puzzled look on his face he placed his soft wrinkled hand on Danny’s and winked, “She isn’t my wife. She is my first love.” A faint hue from the sun-kissed sky spread across his face.

Surprised by this sudden revelation Danny didn’t know how to react so he simply smiled.

I saw her one winter morning strolling here, talking to the birds and flowers. The morning mist had just begun to clear. I recognised her instantly but did not approach. After all these years I wondered if she would remember me.” His face shone like the sun which was now shinning in all its glory. “For some days I lingered around avoiding her eyes, quietly enjoying her presence. She evoked memories that were long since buried in some crevice of my heart.

Then one day as I bent over struggling to tie my wayward shoelace I heard a voice, “you still can’t tie shoelaces properly, can’t you?”  I looked up and there she was with a mischievous smile on her face. She held me by the shoulders and helped me stand. For a moment it seemed like a scene from a fairytale.

“You thought I may have forgotten you, didn’t you? I was wondering how long we would play hide and seek,” She laughed.

“I remember, he continued, I had laughed sheepishly and muttered something silly. Since that day we met here every day, spent some time reminiscing the good old days and then parted with a heart full of hope to meet again. We found peace and solace in each other’s being and not being. Life had been a roller coaster ride for both of us and these hours of togetherness were in which we truly lived.

We often noticed your presence and she was the first to realize that you were making a sketch of us. “

Danny’s face flushed a deep shade of pink. “You knew I was sketching both of you?” “I am sorry I did not ask for permission. Both of you looked so much a part of this garden of peace that I could not stop myself.”

“I am glad you made it.” He glanced lovingly at the sketchbook in his lap.

Danny took the sketchbook slowly pulled the page from the spiral binding and handed it to the old man.

“She will always be with you.” He smiled and he gently pressed the two trembling warm hands.

For the first time the old man’s face really showed the pain of longing and separation. A tear escaped the soft brown eyes.

“Thank you.” He said softly.

Both men sat there in solitude under the shade of the fragrant Frangipani connected only by the warmth of their hands. The ‘Garden of Peace’ watched quiescent.

This post is written for GBE 2 week #67 Peace 

Moonbeams and Sunshine : Chapter 4 Prelude to the psalm of life


Continued from Chapter 3. Tara  

Orgasmic, that’s the first word that came to Tara’s mind when she saw the spectacular view of Pattaya for the first time. The gauzy cloud curtain had lifted and the long stretches of curvy beaches along the bay on the Gulf of Thailand’s east coast took her breath away.

The flight landed on time and a taxi was waiting to take her to Naklua Beach where the 10 writers were given accommodation. She had got an invite from a friend who worked with Luna e Sol Literary Society. The workshop was part of a reading and writing festival. Tara was mainly lured by the star attraction of the fest. Asma Khan the literary diva was going to do a reading and question session on her new novel.  She was one of the most celebrated and controversial authors of her time and Tara worshiped her.

Ron met her at the reception and introduced to two other visiting writers. She was the youngest member of the group. After a sumptuous dinner she retired to her luxurious room facing the picturesque beach. For a long time she stood in the balcony mesmerized by the moonbeams floating upon the waves letting the Zen moment seep into her.

The romantic couples enjoying the night on the beach sent a flush of memories through her. Neither Keshav nor she had called since she left. She wondered if at all this physical separation would ultimately bridge the distances of the hearts.

Mine is the night with all its stars” she whispered and closed her eyes. Sleep was a bridge between despair and hope and she had a long day ahead.

Tara woke up as the first glow of the dawn lit the sky.  Mornings were the best time to commune with the ocean. She witnessed the most electrifying sunrise streaked with colors she never associated with sunrises or sunsets. Wrapped in timeless serenity she stood at the beach in complete silence. Everything ceased to exist around her.

“Every moment is an irreplaceable miracle here. Exquisite and unforgettable” Ron’s voice brought her back to reality.

“The Fest begins at nine. I hate to call it a workshop. Takes all the romance out of it.” He winked.

“I’ll be there.” She gave him a bright smile.

She had attended literary festivals before but never on an international level and the excitement was making her nervous. Sitting under the shades of emerald-green palms writers joined together to celebrate creativity, to encourage new talents and to discuss their works. There was a different kind of intensity and devotion and a special kind of bonding. It almost felt like a spiritual quest to her. These fests provided insights that she couldn’t have found elsewhere. ‘An open platform for all to share their work’ was a fantastic idea and Ron had done a wonderful job.

Asma arrived late in the evening. Tara was in the lobby gazing at the intricate design on the walls when she saw her walk in, elegant, graceful and extremely attractive in her simplicity. Completely unfazed by the turbulence her latest book had caused. Her life was drenched with rumors, hoaxes and that’s what made her real. Asma was a strong woman and the only one who had mastered the art of writing crime noir, cult fiction and her bold take on sexuality always kept her in headlines. Beneath Asma’s sensuous exterior burned a fire that flowed like molten lava in her works. She led a bizarre life. Lived on her terms and strongly voiced her thoughts about social evils that were eating the very foundation of humanity. You could draw life from her words. Awed by her presence Tara watched her till she vanished in the dimly lit corridor. She took a deep breath to calm her unruly heart.

They met at dinner. Ron introduced Asma to the group. Many had met her before and it seemed like a little reunion. She sure was an enigma. Tara kicked herself for being an introvert. Stupefied she watched the animated group from a distance. They were all hustling for attention something she still hadn’t learned. Dinner was a chatty affair and it was only during the coffee session that Asma came to her.

“You are Tara, right? Angel of the evening,”

Tara felt the blood rush to her cheeks. “I admire you a lot, rather worship you.” She finally found her voice.

“I am no goddess sweetheart, it’s women like you who need to be worshiped for their relentless desire to learn and excel. Your passion for writing is very evident in your work. “She smiled warmly.

“No one ever said that to me. Thank you, I would love to be your student.”

“We are all students Tara, learning is an eternal process. We are all here to communicate, to express. Relax, enjoy your stay here. I am around if you need me.”  The warmth brought tears in Tara’s eyes but she managed to keep them buried. Asma patted her cheek and said a quick goodnight.

Brimming with respect and gratitude Tara turned to get another coffee and saw Ron watching her.

“I see, so it was you? What have you told her Ron?” She asked.

“Nothing much but enough to make sure that you get what you came for.” His deep voice tugged at her heart. Ron was around fifty. He had helped her get many assignments in the past and treated her like a daughter. She hugged him gently. Her dark liquid eyes said all that her lips couldn’t

“Sleep well; we have two hectic days ahead. Work by day play by night “, he gave a mischievous smile. She laughed and wished him ‘night.

Tara felt a thousand different sensations as she watched the night sky’s reflection in the ocean.

Asma had called her an evening star. She remembered Blake’s lines.

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,

Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light

Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown

Put on, and smile upon our evening bed

Her eyes caught her own reflection in the mirror and she realized how long it had been since she had seen what her body looked like. She dropped the gown and stood gazing at herself as the cool breeze flirted with her raven hair. She was young, good-looking, intelligent and had an open heart and mind. She had a whole new world to explore. Picking up her gown she went to take a shower. Under the jets of cold water she let all the stress, all the pain wash away. Water always healed her, sort of renewal for her to start afresh. It was the first time in many years she felt complete. Guess it was a good sign. Saturated with prayers and dreams she closed her eyes and murmured

“And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.”

-D.H. Lawrence

 It was a prelude to the psalm of life. A time for the heart’s petals to open, time to blossom, to let the breeze carry her fragrance and she was ready.



Moonbeams and Sunshine : Chapter 3.Tara


Continued from 2:  Kite strings  

Chapter 3. TARA  

She gazed at the wine spilled western sky. The soft breeze played with her curls and occasionally a stray curl rested briefly on her face. She loved these summer pool side parties, the colorful people who fluttered like butterflies, the wine, gorgeous variety of food, the music and most of all the man behind all this fun. He had met Keshav during his Piano performance at the rest o bar he owned.  He wasn’t a looker by the society’s beauty standards but he was certainly a charmer.  He still remembered their first meeting and the deep voice that almost made her swoon.

“You must get close to him Tara. I know he has his eyes on you for some time. Go get him babes”. Shona whispered from behind her smoke rings.

“Oh stop it. He is good but not my kind and I am just twenty-six.” She did not sound convincing.

“Really”, Shona winked and drifted away to get another drink.

At the other side of the pool Keshav was entertaining a group of women with his unending supply of jokes.  She wanted to know more about this fascinating young man. A warm flush rushed inside her body and suddenly she was conscious of Shona staring at her.

“Not your kind, eh? “, she smiled.

The bird orchestra on the trees was getting louder and the strains of clarinet were barely audible. She loved his taste in music.  She knew he was an art connoisseur . She had seen some exquisite art pieces collected from across the globe.

“Are you a loner or is it that I haven’t been a gracious host?” His voice made her jump.

Turning a deep shade of red she mumbled some alien words while her eyes searched urgently for Shona. She was buried in the arms of one of her producers. Liquor, food, gossip, favors, deals and sex, these made the base line for all such parties. Everyone fake till the very core.

“ Shonali seems to be enjoying herself. Would you like to see the library?  He was standing so close that she could smell the faint fragrance of aftershave. Her body turned liquid.

“Are you alright? Come let’s go.” He held her hand and she sailed like a breeze along with him. Her heart was beating like the red Ferrari which was parked in the porch.

He held her hand firmly and she was aware of the warmth seeping through. The library and study were the most beautiful areas of the house.  The fireplace,  collection of books and music CDs, piano and the lovely rugs thrown around the room were simply breathtaking. Suddenly she was filled with life.

“Wow, this is amazing. Do you ever find time to read these?” she asked.

“That’s one thing I don’t do but I aim to please especially writers like you.”  His gaze held her captive. She smiled when all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him.

“Feel at home Tara, come over anytime even if I am not there. “ He said warmly.” I know you are more passionate about the books than the men”.

“I will and I think you should change your source of information about me.” Now she loved the teasing and wished they could spend the entire night together.

They met regularly and slowly Keshav became a part of her.  She married him within a year.  The private wedding at Mukteshwar, a long leisurely honeymoon and then life was back to normal.

Within a year the rainbow began to fade. She was alone most of the time as he toured and ran his business. The parties became less and slowly the laughter and fun faded like the colors of evening sky.  She became a recluse. Shonali married her producer lover and went abroad so there was no one except the silence and the books to give her company during the endlessly long days. The nights were even worse.  Keshav came home in the wee hours of the morning and love-making became just another ritual. Sometimes for days or months she burned and hungered for him while he traveled for business.

She burned night after night for that passion, that warmth, that touch.  The very house that had earlier bewitched her now became her prison. She had everything but still there was a vacuüm.  Keshav too felt it and compensated it with all that he thought she would love but that made things worse. She wanted him and he had no time. Business had increased many folds and he ran two more clubs now.

He went for parties just as a compulsion. She had stopped accompanying him long back.

It was their fourth wedding anniversary and opening of his Piano night when she told him about the Writer’s workshop in Pattaya. A friend had emailed her and she desperately wanted to go. It was a lifetime opportunity for her as a writer.

“When do you leave?” He asked without a trace of emotion.

“Day after tomorrow“, she had replied without giving any more information. These days they spoke only what was essential.

“Alright, whatever makes you happy.” Start packing I will arrange the other things. “He left early for the opening while she cleared the kitchen and trashed all the food she had cooked for their anniversary dinner.

This time tears stayed buried in her deep black eyes.  She was thrilled about the workshop not just because it was important to her as an aspiring writer but also because it was her passport to freedom.  An escape from this museum she called home.  It would give time to both of them to reflect upon their lives, she thought. She loved him and longed for those good old days.

Keshav stayed home on the day of her leaving. They had a candle light dinner and sat huddled on the rug in front of the fireplace, together still far away. Each had million things to say but  silence stood between them like a sentinel.

“One of the deepest truths about the cry of the human heart is that it is so often muted, so often a cry that is never uttered. To be sure there are needs and feelings that we express quite openly; lying deeper are emotions we share only with loved ones, and deeper still the things we tell no one….It is strange that members of a species renowned for communicative gifts should leave unexpressed some of their deepest yearnings”

The flight took off on time. They had hugged awkwardly and Keshav had left for a meeting immediately.  With mixed emotions she bid farewell to him wondering where their fate with take them.

Beneath her in were soft fluffy cloud castles and right outside her window was God’s illuminated promise, a magnificent rainbow. She remembered the lines by Byron;

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.

Her life was about to change forever. Air borne she felt an ethereal feeling sweep through her. A whole new world lay in front of her and she was ready to take it on.

to be continued ….

Moonbeams and Sunshine


Continued from I. Like a river flowing 

Chapter 2.  Kite strings 

Rejection had been a constant companion to her.  ” This isn’t love,  this is business”, someone had told her.

The package had arrived by morning mail. The editor, a silver-haired man she admired, had said in his letter that she had potential but not ripe enough to be published with them as yet. “You are emerging. I’m proud to be a part of your blossoming. No limits. Just stay with it. Endurance is 90% of the art. I sense a good heart–and I know a good mind. Keep your faith and your discipline. I really hope for your success–and your happiness. An ally here.”  She admired the man. At least he has not discarded her like many.

She sighed and looked at the autumn sky full of kites. Her perspective about kites had changed over the years. She was more balanced now. The swing swayed slowly with the breeze and she closed her eyes.

She had a love hate relationship with kites as a girl. Her heart took a leap and sailed with the kites as she sat enviously watching the boys flying them. It seemed like a long time back but the sting of humiliation still made her cringe. She was determined to learn kite flying despite of all the hooting from boys but could never get it up in the sky. Her brother had taken pity on her plight and allowed her to manage his favorite kite for  a little while . She had been ecstatic to have the control in her hands but controlling was not instilled in her and the kite went wild with the shifting winds sending the boy hysteric. Before he could do anything it released itself from the string and vanished in the vastness of the gray-blue sky. Fuming with rage he jumped on her and slapped, pulled her hair ,abused in full view of friends and neighbors until their father separated them.

She never forgot the insult and the very next day shredded and set fire to all his trophy kites which he had chased and collected. The reels were given away to friends and it marked the end of kite flying in her house. The siblings never spoke to each other after that. Ever.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back .” It was 25 years since someone mentioned kites to her. She looked in the eyes of her beloved. She smiled.

“Have you ever known what it is like to be on the brink of freedom and not taste it? Like a kite that flies in the blue skies but cannot escape because of the string that tugs it down? To be held down? To be controlled?  To be cut down by another ruthless kite before you  fall to the ground gracelessly?  I do. ”

He loved her but never understood her eccentricities, the fire that burned inside her and her disquiet. She was talented, had potential but was extremely unpredictable. Playful and child like on one hand wistful and dejected on the other. Full of contradiction and yet  balanced in her unique way.

He understood her viewpoint, felt for her , wanted to escape his own prejudices and  limitations and soar with her dreams but  could not for various reasons.

They were like two parallel rivers flowing but in different directions.  It was fate that had thrown them together.  In his interaction with her a vein had slit open and he wasn’t able to control the gush that poured out of him. It left him weak at times, he wasn’t ready for it. She was a string-less kite wandering aimlessly in merciless sky. He wanted to catch her, give her direction,  the flight of freedom she needed and yet hold the strings in his hands if she began to lose herself or is caught in a ruthless battle for survival.

There was a conflict. Inner as well as outer.  In her heart and his .

The cacophony of birds on the flaming Gulmohar tree woke her up. A tear had silently escaped her eye and ended on her lips. The sky was saturated with colors. She collected the fluttering papers , the empty coffee mug , her new spectacles and reluctantly went indoors.

The fridge held  remnant of yesterday. She was too listless to eat. The events of last two days had drained her.  With a bowl full of ice-cream she tugged herself in bed and began to read.

The new spectacles had helped her look at the world and herself in a different light.

Somewhere a nightingale sang a soulful song.

to be continued ……

Moonbeams and Sunshine – A Lost and Found Love Story


I. Like a river flowing 

“Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over.”

Summer longings and a listless heart who gets into trouble by falling in love with  strangers.

Strangers like You,  a mirage, a distant dream untouchable & beyond reach. From your dusk to my dawn I wait for the sign but the rainbow dissolves in thin air.

Staring spaces hold me captive as I sit at the edge of desire. Silent vacant spaces where your thoughts like evening shadows slowly draw close and tug at my heart.

The mind is amused. It rejoices in the heart’s agony coaxing the heart to have conversation.  Mind is a patient listener, logical, practical like you but is crafty. It wanders off ignoring the mind trap.

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.”Neil Gaiman

“Go with the flow, don’t ask rhetorical question for I have no answers. Why should you seek answers? Where will it get you? Will it change the way you feel? what are you seeking? Why are you seeking? where are we going? Why? what? I don’t know. Just be there.”

Questions and counter questions.

I look at you in silence, feel the pang .  I see a child like soul trapped in a tired over worked body wanting to escape. You deny. It’s a conscious choice – good bad whatever. ” Is it all worth it?” , I ask. you don’t want to go there.

I watch tears, smiles, frowns, happy, sad faces  pop up. Emoticon expressions. You share and I share and we move on.

A million thoughts leading nowhere ..I search and search and search .. more questions and more answers leading to more questions. Life has suddenly become a mathematical technical problem or maybe a philosophical one, I don’t know.

We just go with the flow. Dreaming, yearning, passionately longing . Sometimes like a magical mysterious placid underwater river with no source  no destination and at others like a mountain brook revealing itself and all its magnificence as it turns into a gorgeous river unmindful of where its going.

The laid back underwater river sometimes losing its sense of time and it loses the will and strength to cut its way through the obstructions. You have become like that.

One day the hidden river discovered light through a gap. It saw  the way to freedom but the effort to cut through the formidable stone walls was too taxing. It waited, craving to be free, looking for some lift and found me. love happens at strange places in stranger circumstances.  We took a dive . I to explore the unknown deep mystery and you to reach out and escape to freedom.

Being dormant for years creates conflict and the mind thrives on it. It loves to throw the heart in whirlpools and watch it burn and gasp.

It creates disillusionment, spins you, makes you dive deep and resurface breathless and baffled.

Enchanted and enamored  you went headlong and landed in a whirlpool of emotional upheavals conflicting with your chosen placid life. You began to  see and the light blinded you. You began to retreat. Courage doesn’t come easy.

I stood watching , helpless .

Happens when you fall in love with an image, wanting to own, to possess an illusion. Wanting a hostage for a season and then the pretensions fall to the ground. The fairy tale ends. The rainbow dissolves.

It happened too quickly. The want, the need all there but there  also a void.

The feeling of Having it all having nothing

Something you got to experience and explore to make the change that you desire and that has found its way to you.

You placed a boulder and shut out the light .  You shut me out but I have watched to peeping through those chinks and it gladden my heart.  I see another rainbow beginning to form. You are a wizard . You saw through it and cemented the opening firmly.

I smiled. Nothing can hold a surging river especially a dormant one.

I have an insatiable urge to grasp the unknown treasures, to taste things that are so wondrous when teasingly obscure, to get lost in the pathless dreamland away from the madding crowd.

Being in love gives meaning to life. It complete the circle of life. Even if it is a dream.  Luminous, delicate, ethereal dream arising out of a smoky mist an image slowly defining itself and me I love the shadow of the moon staring hungrily, ravenously longingly. I love the rich night sky with all its hues and changing patterns, I love wild daisies, the butterflies and furry bunnies , I love the fragrant roses , the rain shower, the cherry trees .

Reminds me of the poem by Pablo Neruda what spring does to a cherry tree 

I love to share it all with you knowing my footsteps don’t echo with mine. I still want to walk along just in case you terribly feel the need to open your heart and embrace life. The walls are too high to scale but I try with skinned knees and bleeding heart. Distance, time engulfs me in a misty robe turning me into water .. I flow.

Seduced by your songs, your laughter, your whiskey voice, your warmth. It fills me crosses all barriers of universe. I wanted to be wanted and universe fulfilled my wish. So I go with the flow. Sometimes like a gurgling stream or an untamed passionate mountain river at others serene silently flowing at leisure. Unpredictable yet contained.

Sometimes I get the feeling that all this is lost to you.

Beneath the quiet calm flow I burn.

My heart flies to you while my soul awaits. I, a thing of rags and patches, with twigs and flowers in my ruffled hair. I, with dreams in my eyes and fire in my heart. I, whom creator made and threw the mold. Who needs such romantic fools anyway.

And you, with a shell around you , a king with in the four walls of your self-created  kingdom. Shutting out all that would create an upheaval it your nicely manicured space. Taming the river that flows in you. How can who tell me to flow with you when you have created dams at every curves?

You forgot that over a period barriers begin to develop chinks and when they do you won’t be able to control the surge of a captive river.

Try, keep blocking.

Fill those chinks, those cracks but hey will widen with time crumbling to dust in front of the passion called life. I saw a gap and with quivering heart I stepped into the realms unseen unknown. The universe awaits.

You scorn and laugh. You moved into my mind space and now it leaves you troubled and yet strangely contended and me too in that process.

You close your eyes , bury your head in the sand  pretend it doesn’t exists but love moves in mysterious ways, in silence. So do thoughts.

Watch me burn in my own flames but remember I’m  a phoenix  I will rise again but your eyes will just see the ashes of love . They will search for something in those smoky remnants as the scent of jasmine riding on air-back  will flood your heart. Your grief will bleed inwardly for your soul has no rainbow and your eyes no tears.

You either enrich a life or you don’t.  There is no middle path.

to be continues …….

55 Word Fiction : Drug Abuse 2


She desperately tried to find a vein to inject into.

Her life ebbing away.

She had lost the battle to keep her head above water.

One final lethal dose.

Peace

Her father had missed the signs of her secret life.

He found her floating in the bath tub along with the syringe

 

Flash Fiction : With love


I set him free today.

My husband, you know.

He had been reading my emails, text messages. He even scanned my phone bills.

He had found out my feelings for you and our burning desire to be with together.

He knew how you completed me as a woman and as a human being.

He was trying to be extra loving and caring in a way that disturbed me.

I could see him suffer as he saw my ever-growing unconditional love for you.

It pained him that it was fully reciprocated in a way he never could.

He had lost a real me to a virtual you.

I wanted to put an end to his suffering.

FOREVER.

He was passionate about his drinks and loved Alcohol more than anything else.

Tonight I made him a very special  drink.

WITH LOVE

I am sure he could not make out the difference in the way it tasted.

Slow poison… very effective…. Leaves no trace

Escape


This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 10; the tenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

He loved the rain and the cool breeze. Lying down on his back he watched the drama unfold in the sky.

The silence was uncanny.

Murky mist seeps through the very core of his being.

His thoughts  frozen in time.

Memories closed in like a blizzard of snow.

He shivered.

The trees, their heads bowed, cried ceaselessly.

The railway track was bone chilling.

How long?  He wondered.

Suddenly the tracks hummed.

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