The elevator door opened with a ding and to my delight, Antra was standing right there. She entered elevator and my eyes glittered like brilliant cut diamonds. I happily moved a little deeper to make space for her.
I wished she comes and stands with me, close to me. I had not wished on a shooting star, still my wish came true.
She had to come to the farthest end, alongside me as a little girl and an old lady entered following her in a relatively cramped elevator. The little girl was all by herself and so was the old lady, who was walking slowly with a stick and had an arched back.
My crush had not looked at me, yet. She was busy playing with wisp of her hair and humming some tune with earphones on. Honestly, she had not even noticed me.
For the first time seeing Antra dressed in something other than school uniform felt exhilarating. In a cherry red t-shirt and vanilla white jeans, she looked yummy!
How badly have I dreamt of this moment? I thought and kept staring at her from a corner of the eye nourishing countless fantasies.
“Uncle, toffee?” the little girl, who would have been about three or four years old, penetrated into my thoughts, with a toffee in hand. She offered me one from the bunch of toffees from her tiny Barbie printed pink pouch that was hung crossways on her shoulder.
Though she looked adorable, for a moment I thought, ‘Uncle???’ I am a twelfth standard school going young guy and you are calling me uncle? You… disrespectful, tiny, mean creature!
Considering opportunity hidden in the situation, conversely I decided against publicizing my objection. Being soft and sweet with kids was one of the few effortless ways to touch down at your dream girl’s heart; I had learnt somewhere, sometime, somehow.
“No Sweetheart, thank you.” I said with a smile and tapped gently on her cheek.
Baby offered toffee, the same toffee, to the old lady who didn’t have teeth, or even denture. She grabbed and put it in her gown’s pocket. I wondered, why?
Baby plucked another toffee from her little treasure and presented to my girl – I would love to call her my girl; allow me.
Antra smiled and gracefully accepted toffee. She kissed little girl on cheek- the same cheek on which I had tapped. I visualized her kiss on my palm; butterflies in my tummy.
Had I known she returns favor of a toffee with a peck on the cheek and a priceless smile, I would have brought her a toffee mountain.
“Life is no fairy tale; I tell you. You have gone through nothing, yet. Nothing comes easy or for free.” The old lady said out of the blue and turned to me; her eyes were amplified abnormally. She stood erect and pointed her stick towards me. She shook her head and waved her hand to make her gesture further mysterious. I did not want to exhibit but, I got scared a little.
With great difficulty I tried to control my frightened expressions and asked, “What do you mean?”
“This is not going to end the way you want it.” She said and oscillated her stick pointing from me to Antra to me to Antra.
To add to my amazement – I mean, my fright, she said, “This is going to conclude dangerous and dirty.” And she started laughing like a witch. Without teeth, she looked creepier than before.
I glanced at the little girl and Antra to see if I was the only one who was petrified. Yes, I was the only one!
The toffee baby was busy with her Barbie pouch and stuff within. Antra was still lost in her own world; she didn’t give a damn about what the old lady was saying.
I tried to ignore what she had said, but I couldn’t. Before I could react, the old lady looked up and signaled upwards with her index finger. The light fluctuated. I heard a few sparks from the top of elevator.
My excitement of being with my dream girl in a confined enclosure was rapidly being taken over by anxiety because of unnatural behavior around me.
Even before I could recover from scars of the sparks and trauma of the fluctuating light, with a couple of loud thuds elevator stopped going up.
With a loud scream and tightly closed eyes, Antra glued to me. Self proclaimed protector of my girl, who was buried within me, roused and I wrapped my arms around her, tightly. One of the fantasies was done and dusted. She relaxed in my arms and so did her shock.
Everything halted, except my thumping heartbeats.
The old lady looked at me, tilted her head rightwards and raised her left eyebrow garnished with a wicked smile.
I was in dilemma. I could not settle on whether I should be happy or sad or proud or scared.
I gathered courage and loudly asked the old lady, “What is going on?”
She ignored my question. She leaned to the little girl and plucked a toffee from her pouch. Baby tried to restrain but the oldie snatched anyways.
“Hey hey, give it back to her, you weirdo.” I said decisively.
“Why don’t you mind your own business and pray for yourself.” She said in heavier, scarier voice pointing her finger to me in dominating manner.
She put the snatched toffee in her mouth, dropped her stick, closed her eyes and raised both of her hands upwards as if praying to the God. Before I could understand her gesture, the elevator’s cable broke. Our tummies tickled and adrenaline rushed.
I was stunned at what was going on. We were on the free fall. We were going to crash and vanish. The happenings were beyond my imagination.
Antra screamed breathlessly and hugged me tighter. The baby was still crying over her snatched toffee and punching old lady with her tiny hands. Unexpectedly the wacky lady slapped little girl. It left red rashes on her spongy little cheek.
I immediately pulled baby close to me and push floored the old lady. She got up immediately and started laughing bizarrely.
I drained my scare and asked with a firm loud voice, “You are not a human, are you?” Antra was still screaming plus weeping plus peeking at the witch from a side of my shoulder.
Oldie gave a ‘no-comments’ look.
The free fall was getting faster and scarier. I knew this was it; this was the end that she had mentioned. I did not want it to end this way. I did not want it to end at all.
My dream girl, my crush, whose beauty I had silently appreciated in school every day, was in my arms, she was feeling safe in my arms. But I could not do anything to save her from the fall, from what was to follow. I felt helpless and aggravated.
I so badly wanted to escape the fall, but I knew I couldn’t. Those few moments with her in my arms felt like eternity.
The mere thought of hitting the ground hard, our bloody heads and bloodshed was too scary for me to enjoy the moment.
Amongst all the chaos of the baby crying, Antra screeching, the witch laughing, I could hear the narrowing sound of the elevator closing to ground. My heart paused, and so did my senses.
I chose to sit down and tightly held on the support bar above my head to minimize the impact as both the sweet girls followed too. We three hugged, as tight as we could.
“Get up!” the old lady said shouting and leaning towards me. “Come on! Get up!”
I did not want to get up.
“Get up! Get up!” the holler started echoing and getting closer to me. I squeezed my eyes and closed my ears with my hands as tight as I could.
“Get up now!” and a sudden snatch of my blanket woke me up in a splash. My eyes wide opened. In a split second I stood up. My heart was still pumping like a four stroke engine. My senses revoked.
Was it a dream? Was it a nightmare? Yes, it was.
I looked around to verify. I was in my room. I searched for three ladies around me. I could find only one, my mom, folding my blanket.
There was no sweet little toffee girl, not even the witch. Antra had vaporized too. There was no elevator either. The free fall had landed me on to my safe and comfy bed.
My sweaty forehead was like dewdrop covered lawn on an early winter morning. I sat down with my hands on head and revised what I had been through. Shivers ran through my body.
“Get ready quickly. You are already late for school.” Mom interrupted stimulation of my nightmare and stormed to kitchen.
Thought of going to school and seeing Antra remotely, secretly, in school uniform, seemed far preferred than being close to her in a cramped free falling elevator where I didn’t know where we were going to land, may be to death.
I went to the bathroom to get ready. I looked in the mirror, stared at myself.
I rewound little and erased a crying baby and a witchy woman from my memory. I focused on my girl merged into my chest. I felt her heartbeats harmonizing with mine.