This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
“Moon ! Moon! Come back here! Do not go near the edge!” cried the lady, in her early thirties, running towards the lake. She was close enough to the water threshold that her delicate reflection was visible on the blue shimmering lake water.
“Go away Aunt Muriel ! I don’t want to come. I didn’t do it. I never scratched her cheek !”, wailed Moon ,walking infuriatedly by the lake , her little image of that of a four year old dancing naughtily on the swift ripples of the water.
“Oh! Dear. But Sun is alright you know. And we were merrily asking you. Now come let’s go back inside. Everyone is waiting. We have an entire day to enjoy.” replied Muriel in a worried voice.
“Yes of course you will enjoy. You have been enjoying since a year after she came.” said Moon, tears trickling down her tender, innocent face. “I do not like the baby Aunt. You do not play with me anymore.” The tiny reflection came to a halt and faint sobs mingled with the squeaky chirps of the sparrows nesting on a nearby tree.
Aunt Muriel hugged the kid warmly. She carried her in her arms and started walking away from the lake. “Your Mother made some fresh orange marmalade. Let’s nick some of it, shall we?” she whispered in her ears with a chuckle. Crackles of laughter followed their trail, intermittent with short sobs now and then, as they moved towards the lake house.
Two pairs of dainty feet were immersed just up to an inch above the ankle in the chilly azure waters. It was as if the lake emanated some cool aura which made the surroundings bearable and refreshing during the dry, torrid summer. Their lazy swing of toes drove all the tiny inhabitants of the lake to vacant that particular area.
“Uncle brought this yellow and violet pens for us, Sun.”, said Moon, taking out a pair of pens from her jeans pocket.
“Wow!” exclaimed Sun. “I want the purple one.”, she added.
After a moment of hesitation Moon finally handed her cousin what she had wished .Then she looked at her yellow one for some moment, stealing out surreptitious glances at the glittering violet one which her cousin had so easily acquired. She finally said, “I couldn’t have been more relieved that you choose that violet one. Yellow ones are so much popular at schools. Nice that now I have one.” The swift breezes made the lake water rustle in indignation.
Sun looked up. After a few moments of ignorant contemplation, she said, “studying in the third grade is so not fair! Nobody knows any current affairs in my class.” And with one last scrutinizing glance at her own pen, she added, “can we exchange?..”
“It’s blissful here, isn’t it Moon?” asked Sun, lying on the wet lustrous green grass, just at a short distance from the lake.
“That’s exactly why our family comes here every summer.” replied Moon with a satisfaction. They were lying on the huge wet rocks beside the lake. Moon was holding her little cousin’s hand. It was a grip of care, of adoration and of an alert safekeeping.
“Did Mom tell you that I won the elocution competition this year?” Sun tenderly asked Moon.
“You win it every year my dear.” replied Moon with a chuckle. “You’re short of a celebrity in our family, now that you are the top of class every year. Grandma says you’re the most talented kid in our generation.” She turned her head towards Sun. Her white face was flawless, framed with long black hair. She looked beautiful, Moon thought. She smiled at her cousin. And sighed.
The pleasant breeze which carried the cool comfort of the lake, swept over them. Moon was drawn in the reverie. She thought how easily they have grown close to each other while growing up together. Sun was her only real confident, her best friend now.
“I will be applying for University in three years Sun.” Moon said. “I have no idea where I will get through. I don’t know how you do it. But what teach us back at school I find it very boring. So obvious. No use of imagination.”
“Is that why you spend so much time in the library, reading those old books?” inquired Sun.
Moon grinned. “Tell me about it. Those are awesome. I might never study according to the curriculum. There are so many things in this world to learn about.”
After pausing for few thoughtful moments Sun replied, “Why don’t you just go by the books for few more years? Get into a nice University. Then you can do whatever you want to.”
Moon heard the words. But she didn’t want to listen. The view of the distant trees, all rustling in the heavy summer breeze with sunlight crested on their gleaming leaves like shining armour, was far too much a splendid distraction. She saw the green, unusually still water of the lake and wondered whether it could also sense the suffocating stagnancy that was engulfing her life. Somewhere a bird few above the lake and she was overtaken by that sheer urge to fly high into a new world.…
“Moon! Moon!” Sun called for her cousin, sprinting toward the lake which had remained a faithful spectator of the life and times of the Bhalla family over many generations.
Moon was swimming in the placid glassy waters, as if her body was about to assimilate into the water. she wanted the lake to bear testimony on the day of her conquest just like it shared so many gamut of emotions ever since she was a kid.
“Hi Sun! When did you guys arrive? We reached today morning.”
“Just now. And I heard the news. You topped in the college with the highest percentage in the last 5 years! My gosh! I even saw your photo on the local papers. Your kind of a town celebrity now Moon!” she cheered.
She exuberated, “Now you can get into which ever university you want to. That is so cool! I never knew you were this good in science.”
Moon swam out of the gleaming lake. Expressions of jubilance making her sharp dusky feature look much more striking. Her long dark curls were encasing her bright eyes. She had grown up to become a slender lady.
The cousins hugged.
“I was madly jealous of you when, you were a kid you know”, she said suddenly with a grin.
Sun laughed back. “Well I was indeed a stubborn kid”. She winked.
She looked at Moon once again. Her eyes were shinning in reverence, “I want to be like you, you know.” she said. And that was the moment when Moon realised, that she was ready to face the world, live her dreams and that of others.