Year in a Blink

#ShortStory

It’s eight o’clock in the morning and I get a notification that my order is ready for pick up. I’m already here, wearing a lavender-colored floral dress and an extra smile as I stand outside admiring my favorite place. I take a deep breath, push open the heavy oak doors, and re-enter The Willowvilla. The familiar aroma of freshly brewed tea and baked food makes me feel like I’m home once again.


I used to be a regular here but it has been almost a year since I visited this place, my place! I still remember the day on which I accidentally found Willowvilla eight years ago. I was feeling low and was walking around aimlessly without really thinking about where I was headed when I found a passage into a secret garden. I hadn’t noticed the hidden driveway before or the garden beside it. I was hesitant to enter at first but I decided to go in anyway.

I could hear busy murmurs at a distance, the pace of my steps increased. I curiously walked towards the noise and from behind the trees emerged this inconspicuous cafe. I don’t know what had gotten into me, I have never since been so brave — I walked straight in without thinking. Quite irregular for one as introverted as me.

I was immediately struck by its warmth and coziness; it felt almost magical. The enticing aroma of tea leaves, coffee beans, bread, and butter dragged me in. The wooden benches, wooden tables, and couches in the middle of the room encouraged open seating. Families shared benches with strangers in perfect harmony. Couples continued their love-smitten small talk without fear of eavesdroppers as another group of friends cackled loudly beside them.

I was so fascinated by this place that I ended up spending most of my free time at the cafe. For some, Willowvilla might be just another cafe, but to me, it felt like I had discovered a strangely unique place. The thing is I like blending in without attracting too much attention to myself and this homely place seemed perfect to me. I completed college assignments while munching on blueberry scones, read books late in the evening by the window, and worked on office presentations while drinking espresso shots to keep myself awake. I even made new friends here, it always started with a smile and the conversations just seemed to flow. It was easy to find like-minded people here.


Suddenly, my reverie breaks, and I find myself standing in front of a girl. Her eyes are smiling at me but this time everything feels different. She is wearing a mask and there’s a glass partition between us. I look around and my Willovilla looks rather dull and devoid of life. My heart drops and I feel as empty as the place. I quickly come back to my senses and say,

“I have an order for pick-up, my name’s Nina.”

“Sure, let me grab that for you. I will be right back!”, she replied.

Everything has changed, there are no benches, no couches, and no bar stools. This time, right at the front are sanitizers, brown paper bags, and take away orders which occupy most of the space. Posters on the walls read, “COVID-19 Safety measures: Please wear a mask for your safety and ours!”

There are only a handful of people in the cafe who are jumping between serving customers and preparing orders. The bakers are busily working in the kitchen wearing masks and gloves. I watch them work while waiting and a realization suddenly dawns upon me. They do not appear sad or overworked. In fact, they look like they are enjoying themselves, despite the added safety precautions. There are in-jokes between the bakers and the serving staff. My smile slowly returns. Yes, the place looks different but the hint of magic remains in the air.

We’re all trying to hold on to those good times even if things don’t feel the same anymore. So what, if I cannot spend time in the cafe I am grateful and relieved that it reopened after almost a year and did not shut down permanently. This time when I look around, I notice that the place is trying its best to still look inviting and beautiful. The space is filled with flower baskets and goodie bags. The bakers continue to dole out hand-crafted pastries and scrumptious cookies that look nothing less than pieces of art.

I walk out of Willowvilla with my parcel in hand feeling warm and fuzzy. In the end, it’s all about evoking emotions that help in building connections. This pandemic has taught me to support one another, to build a sense of community, to hold on, and to be patient. Things may or may not go back to how they were but together we can always make it better. I guess that’s how life is supposed to go.

Tell me a childhood story

#ShortStory

The other day at a story writing club somebody asked me this question, “Think of a weird, uncomfortable memory from your childhood. If it’s some kind of experience, make it sound fun.” I didn’t have to think for too long because this one in particular is the strongest memory that I have from my school days and this is the story that I told them:

I waited in line to use the restroom at school. I was always alone in school but I would act super cool and confident. Not that I chose to be alone, but I don’t know I never had any close friends in school. Now that I think about it, it’s pretty strange. None of the other girls came alone to the restroom, they would always bring along a friend or a group of friends. Like it was some kind of a fun group activity to go to the restroom.

For me the only reason was because I had to use it, given a chance I would never want to use the toilet in school. But I started looking at it differently. I started using that time to find peace. It became more like my happy place where nobody could see me. I would breathe out a sigh of relief, relieved to be away from all the noisy and wannabe kids. Here it was only me and my toilet seat.

I heard a lot of gossip and scandalous stories while doing my business inside. The girls would rush inside giggling and start sharing who was dating whom, who kissed the most popular guy in high school, or who found a secret love note hidden in their classwork. Well it was school, what else can you expect from girls at that age? Sometimes girls would enter crying and discuss subjects in which they failed, the remarks written by the teachers, or whose parents were treating their kids poorly.

You know the kind of things, none of the girls would ever tell me but I was a kid too. I liked stories. I spent all my childhood reading stories, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Chicken Soup, Tinkle, Archies. I would even gobble up my English text books before the school year started. But I wanted to know what real people talk about, I wanted to listen to some stories for a change, silly that it had to be this way with my bare bum on the throne. Once the restroom was empty, I would come out feeling accomplished, stretch like a cat, apply lip gloss and walk back to the class like I know-it-all, flipping my pony-tail in style.


Thank you for reading my fictional short story. If you have a story too, then use the below line as a writing prompt and share the story with us. “Think of a weird, uncomfortable memory from your childhood. If it’s some kind of experience, make it sound fun.

A Lost Friend

#Short story

When I saw her for the first time, it felt like I had never seen anyone who looked so angelic. I stayed away from her, I thought pretty girls like her would not want to talk to me. We sat on the same bench in class but we never spoke to each other. Sometimes, when the lecturer dictated notes I would peek into her notebook, she would push her book towards me and smile. Even her tiniest gesture of kindness would touch my heart.

One day at a friend’s place we ended up being alone in the corner of a room. That was the first time she spoke to me and when she did, I was surprised by the speed at which she spoke. I don’t remember the conversation, all I remember is that she spoke really fast. If I had to describe her looks, then umm..she has innocent honey brown eyes, super chubby cheeks, clear soft skin, long black hair, and a sweet naughty smile. She is a beautiful girl, my girl!

We got close after the bike accident. She had fallen off the bike while riding so our group of friends had rushed to the hospital. I ran straight towards her because she was crying the loudest. She was not injured, she was just scared, really scared, and she asked me to stay by her side. Instead of feeling sorry, I found the whole situation amusing. But, it was also the first time I felt protective about her. I wanted to take care of her and keep her safe. I did not see her in college after the accident for a week. And then she was back! Her beaming smile made me feel warm and happy. I sat next to her and that’s how our friendship began. We were inseparable.

She used to talk a lot and as I mentioned earlier she talked really fast. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by her. Every day I would look forward to seeing her. The level of comfort between us was unlike anything that I had with my other friends. We understood each other, cared for each other, and had fun like no one else. We could laugh for hours, we were silly, and we loved spending time together.

I remember she would always wait for me outside the college gate. I was always a few minutes late, but she would wait for me without ever complaining, and then we would run in together. When she missed her bus, it was my turn to wait for her. I would watch her walk hurriedly towards me, fixing her flying messy hair, holding onto her college bag clumsily, and fixing her clothes angrily. She always used to be annoyed, like she hated the world, but then she would end up laughing when she finally reached me. All her worries would fade away and we would get back to cracking silly jokes. Problems in life never got serious when we had each other.

After classes, we would spend a few extra hours hanging out in college and I would take the longest route so I could walk halfway with her. Sometimes I would even go all the way to her bus stop and wait with her until her bus arrived because I lived close to the college. Sometimes we would be lost so deep in conversations that she would deliberately miss her bus so we could talk a little while longer. After reaching home, we would send each other text messages and chat until late night. Friendship with her felt more like a relationship. I am not sure what we had, it was certainly more than love. I was scared that someday I would lose her, we had gotten too emotionally attached.

When college ended, we slowly started drifting apart. She got busy looking for jobs and I got busy doing my new job. We would meet once a week, soon it became once a month, and then once in six months. We even stopped talking to each other on the phone. I tried many times to maintain the friendship but she failed to reciprocate. It was difficult for me to understand the change in her nature. There was a period of time when I was angry with her, “How could she forget me so easily?” On days when I needed my friend, she wasn’t there and that would make me sad. I waited for her, with a hope that things will go back to being how they used to be before.

Soon, I fell in love with a guy, who is now my husband. She got married and moved to another country. We completely stopped talking, we had forgotten how to be there for each other. There was one time when our paths accidentally crossed, she was with her two kids. She spoke to me briefly and I realized she was nothing like the person that I knew before and our relationship will never be the same. I lost my dearest friend and losing a best friend is worse than a breakup.

I often think about her, wonder where she is, and how she is doing. I miss her, I miss laughing with her. But over the years I’ve realized that I need to be thankful for the time that I got to spend with her, people move on and I should learn to accept that. By trying to rekindle the relationship I might lose all the sweet memories that I have been holding onto. So, I guess it’s better this way.


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A Stream of Consciousness

There’s always a time limit on everything.

Gone are those days when I could spend hours sitting in my room doing anything I like without worrying about where’s the food coming from, is it the day to wash my laundry, who is going to clean the house, wash the dishes, or who’s going to clean the cat’s litter box.

Grown ups need to deal with a lot of things. In a few hours that I get for myself, I need to think of making the most of my time by doing something that I absolutely enjoy.

The problem here is that I enjoy doing a lot of things. In one hour, how am I supposed to write, sketch, listen to music, learn a language, or do a course in interior design? When I finally decide what I will be doing or when I am just about to get into that mood to write the story of my life, time’s over. Or oh, last one, I mindlessly spend time doing nothing, totally waste my precious hour, alas time’s up!

It’s either time to go for a walk or time to cook or time to spend time with your partner, or time to study, basically it’s time to get up and do the household chores which do not come under the “me time” category.

The thing is we all put ourselves under unnecessary pressure to be over productive, I don’t know why I do this to myself, why we all do this to ourselves but I guess it helps us to keep going. If there’s no pressure then I will never feel the need to perform.
So, probably pressure is good at times.
Who knows.
My time is up, need to stop writing and attend to other obligations.

Women Will Be Women

I am a woman, I am not really sure what to say. I have had ups and downs in my life, I have been asked to sacrifice. Sometimes I do it willing, sometimes forcefully.

I have not been allowed to wear clothes of my choice, I have been asked to dress appropriately for my safety, I obliged. Well, yes I am not physically strong, I cannot fight a gang of morons. So, I covered up and walked with my head down because who wants to be an object of illicit desire.

Growing up, I have been asked to dress well, wear make-up, act like a girl and look pretty to meet the standards of beauty, set by whom? I still wonder. I don’t want my skin to glitter and shine, I want to be in my PJs and read books of my choice.

I care for myself I know how things work in the male-dominated work places. I have a voice which is sometimes heard and often times ignored. But, I am not lame to scream and shout, I am wise I will find better ways to get things done the way I want.

I have been asked to come home early no later than 7 PM because the night is dark and full of terrors. Hungry men lurking around dark alleys ready to pounce on a girl who’s alone, who may or may not be dressed provocatively. I have heard stories, watched the news, I am scared too and so I do as I am asked to do.

Some women ask me, “Do you know how to cook? How will you feed your man?” When I replied no, they laughed at me, so I laughed too. I did learn cooking though, to feed myself and the ones in need. Nobody told me how rewarding and therapeutic cooking could be.

When men made their moves on me and I did not jive to their vibe, they called me names. But, it did not affect me as I knew already that they could never respect my standards and boundaries.

I am in my 30s, I am asked when I am having babies? I understand you are curious and these are questions for my well-being, but reproduction is not a role that every woman needs to play. In a world that’s populated and polluted by human beings, do we really need more babies?

There are some things that sometimes women need to do. Not because somebody has asked us to, but because we are smart enough to understand how the world works.
Sometimes the messages passed on to women are wrong. We have not been treated equally, but we know the right from wrong.
We are patient, we are relentless, we are fighters, we are strong. Living through life like everyone else, we do not ask for more or less, because we know that we are the best.

Mood on a Swing

I am just sad, a sad lad. My eyelids feel heavy, brain is foggy. I’m in that state where I can think of a hundred things and make myself sad. Like, ah the weather is so beautiful but I can’t go travelling. I want to go for a run but I’m feeling lazy and my legs are tired. I feel dirty, I need to shower but it’s too cold to get wet. I wish my friends lived next door. I wish people could understand my deep inner emotions. Stuff like that you know, but who wants to go down that lane.

What can I do instead?

Make a sandwich? Done. Drink a cup of hot coffee? Done. Watch a crazy TV show? Done. Wash my laundry? Done, I just need to remove them from the dryer. Read a book? Done. Play video games? Done.

I guess this is another problem, I’m too good, I’m too cool, I’m also a fool.

Okay, I think I am feeling better now!. Time to go and throw out the trash. Trash all the sadness and negativity that’s pulling me down.

That was easy, all I had to do was dwell on those feelings, write them down, shout them out, and understand what’s wrong. Now that I’ve given those emotions some attention I feel I am ready to take on the world. But hey, I am just a lad, not a sad one anymore, a normal lad.

With Love

Dearies,

These are not the best times, days can feel cold and lonely, but please know that you are not alone. Today is Valentine’s Day so let us embrace the precious things around. Look outside the window and see if anything brings a smile, a funny-shaped cloud in the sky, a cute lil pup, snow on the ground, a tree that is always around, a friendly familiar face, or bright sunny skies.

If not, light a candle, make yourself a hot cup of coffee, watch a movie that you like, and turn on some fairy lights. Let us not clutter the mind with too many thoughts and be thankful and grateful for the things around. Go out for a walk or spend a few calm moments with yourself, enjoying some deep breaths.

Including this video of Yoga with Adriene to make your day awesome!
Like Adriene always says, breathe lots of love in and breathe lots of love out. Life is all about loving yourself and being kind. ❤

Candle Girl

It was a silent dark night, the windows flew open and the candle flame quivered – an unexpected storm.

The grumpy old man had fallen asleep by the fireplace while reading a book and was disturbed by the storming wind. The wooden floor creaked in pain when he got up from his rocking chair. The dog lying beside his feet jolted up and whined in fear. The old man barked at him and asked the dog to shut up.

A bolt of lightning struck close followed by a loud thunderous, crackling sound. The dog howled and scampered around the house.

The power went off.

The old man cursed continually under his breath and began to walk slowly towards the kitchen to look for candles.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door.
“Who now?”, he thought.

It took him a good amount of time to reach the door. He opened it and saw a little girl with two braid plaits smiling at him.

“Who are you?”, croaked the old man.
The girl replied, “I live down the road. We moved-in yesterday. I.. uh, we need candles. Can I please borrow a few candles? One will also do.”
“You are soaked to the skin, girl! Come in.” said the old man and started walking, “There’s a dog inside, don’t get frightened. He will bark but he is a fool, never bites.”

The girl followed him, “Thank you sir, you are very kind. I am not scared of dogs, you see I have grown up playing with two massive hounds at my grandma’s place. Do you live alone? Where are your children? Why don’t you sit, it seems like you are finding it difficult to walk. I can help you light the candles. Point me to where they are and I will get them.”

“Chatty little prick, I am not kind. The candles are somewhere in the kitchen, go find them. Take one for yourself, light one for me and leave!”, said the old man and went back to his chair.
“Yes sir, I will be quick. Is there anything the matter with your back?”, asked the girl with a worried look.
“I slipped in my backyard and landed on my back. I was taken to the hospital for a surgery, those damned doctors placed two metal plates in my spine.” said the old man with great effort.
“Oh I am sorry to hear that, can I be of any help? My mother’s making vegetable broth I can quickly fetch some for you. Specially in this weather sir, I am sure the hot broth and some toasted slices of baguette will do you good.”, she said hopefully.
“Like I said earlier, there is no need for you to get pally with me. Take the candles and leave, girl”, he said dismissively.

The girl found the candles in a wooden box beside a pair of oven mitts. While in the kitchen she noticed its messy state, “Clearly he is finding it difficult to do things by himself, silly ol’ grandpa!

She lit a candle and placed it on a table next to him. While the rest of the house was still in darkness, she sneaked out quietly, leaving the door slightly open and ran out.

The girl returned in a few minutes and noticed that the old man had fallen asleep. She placed the hot food on the dining table and lit another candle next to the food. She also left behind a huge basket in the kitchen filled with bread, butter, strawberry jam, and some fruits.

A few days had passed. The old man woke up early in the morning and decided to go on a walk to look for the girl. He had recovered and was neither grumpy or hungry anymore. He searched long and hard but there was no sign of the girl. He asked the neighbours and nearby stores but none had heard or seen a little girl with two braid plaits around. He went back home feeling disheartened.

One night, there was an unexpected storm again, rain pelted on the roof, windows rattled, winds howled, lightning flashed and crackled in the sky. The dog whimpered and hid underneath the old man’s chair. The power went off and he heard a soft knock on the door again.

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Happily Alone Together

In this cold and miserable weather, all she wants to do is curl up inside a blanket and read books all day long. She makes a warm bowl of cream and mushroom soup and cups her palms around it. She dreads the winter.

Every year she feels she will get used to the cold, but every year she ends up saying, “I can’t do this anymore!” The uncomfortable feeling of cold hands and feet make her sad. At present, she is wearing three layers of clothing inside her home. A pink slip with a black T-shirt and a striped sweatshirt. A pair of unicorn printed fleece pants, a beanie, thermal socks, and yet her nose is cold as snow.

Sometimes, she looks at her neighbours, diligently taking their dogs for walks in the snow and feels sad. She feels sad for not being active like the others, for not having the courage to step out every single day. Sometimes with great effort, she goes out once in a week to shop for groceries. Due to COVID-19, she has to work from home and hardly meets any of her family and friends. So, she always ends up feeling lonely and low.

One day, an unexpected visitor shows up at her door. She fixes her curly hair, straightens her glasses and opens the door. At first, she finds nobody but when she looks down, there is a Mr. Pussycat looking up at her.
“Where did you come from?”, she asks surprisedly.
She steps outside and looks around but finds nobody on the street. Since, she cannot not leave him alone in the bone-chilling cold, she picks him up and brings Mr. Pussycat inside. She opens a can of tuna and watches him lick it all clean. “Poor lil one must have been really hungry!”

Mr. Pussycat turns out to have a friendly and cuddly soul. He jumps onto her lap, snuggles cozily and falls asleep, all the while purring. Stupefied by the cat’s behaviour, the girl wonders if she has a new companion. Both turn out to have similar personalities so it does not take them long to get along with each other. She plays with him, cooks for him, snuggles and watches movies with him. Mr.Pussycat takes up most of her time and the cold no longer plays on her mind. Now, they live happily alone together.

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Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

A Boy in School

There was a boy named Siddharth in her school. He was unlike the other boys, he looked like an old man with loose wrinkled skin. His purple-blue lips always had her attention every time he spoke. His voice was peculiar too, shaky and shrill. This boy was one of a kind with a bad temper. She would often look at him and turn away. One day, the teacher changed her seat and she was asked to sit beside him. It was a terrible thing to have happened to a 9-year old girl.

He sat in the corner by the wall and she was next to him. The girl did not dislike him for his looks but something inside her knew that this boy is an evil demon from hell in a child’s disguise. She felt like there were no bones in his body because he could never stand or sit straight, just loose hanging rubbery skin. He always slouched and looked like the letter ‘C’. But who would have imagined how strong he could be. He had a unique way of forming a fist with his thumb between his index and middle finger. He would often show it to her, feeling proud like he invented it. She can never forget that joy in his eyes every time he made that fist, because the next second she would be holding her arm in pain and rubbing it.

When he hit her the first time, the girl got angry and punched him back. But this made him angrier and it was followed by a quick succession of punches. He would go into a fit and punch the girl with both his fists, on her spine, shoulder, arms, and legs like a maniac. The girl was not crazy or as strong as him, so she would give up and say, “Okay, I am sorry please stop!” This would make him feel like a winner and he would stop. It was not only punches, sometimes he would poke her with his compass during geometry class, sometimes he would slap her hand with his steel ruler, and sometimes he would hit her with his bag while leaving. He was usually very quiet, did not talk to anyone or bother anyone much. But, he could lose his sanity any time and a series of punches could come her way, so she was always nice to him.

Every Wednesday, the school distributed The Times of India newspaper. There were four students per bench, every bench received two newspapers, and had to be shared with their partner. The girl’s partner, of course would be Siddharth, who would never share anything. He never let her read the newspaper in peace. Every week, one of the partners would get to take the newspaper home but the girl never got the chance to take it because he was a bully. The girl did not care much because she did not enjoy reading the news and there was always The Times of India newspaper at home. Soon, the girl started getting tired of the bullying and torture. Though, she feared his punches, she tried hard to punch him back with all her strength so he could feel the same pain as she did. Slowly, the fury of punches started to reduce. All the while, the girl was afraid of getting hurt and looking weak. But one day she decided no matter how much it hurts, “If he hurts me, I will not cry, I will not cause concern to my parents, and I will not complain to the teacher. I will find a way to deal with this bully in a manner that he understands.”

She stopped being nice to him. She stopped talking to him. She pretended like he did not exist. She knew this would cause trouble but she had to do this to save herself from his power punches.

He tried talking to her, she ignored.
He nudged her.
She ignored.

He pulled her hand. She turned sharply towards him with a burning rage in her eyes and yelled, “Don’t touch me!”, and she pulled away. He noticed the fearless anger and she saw his wide, shocked, ugly egg-shaped eyes. A slow evil smile formed on his lips, then came the punch with all his might. She used her strong, girly voice and screamed. She cried as loud as she could and hit him twice. Now the entire class’ eyes were on them. She hit him again and said, “Stay the hell away from me or I will complain to the teachers and bring my parents.” He tried to hide his embarrassment behind his hollow chuckle. But, he was a kid too and got worried that she would really do it and get him in trouble.

After this, he tried to hit her again a few more times, but she would face his punches without fear and hit him harder. Once she even called out to the teacher and said, “Excuse me sister, this guy is hitting me.” Nothing happened though, the teacher ignored her but this scared him. She started keeping the bag between them and drew a line over the desk. He would hesitate to cross the line, he knew that she did not fear him anymore so he stopped bothering her. Soon, the girl’s place changed and she never had to deal with his madness again.

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