The little girl from the closet. My parent's didn't understand her, my grandmother did. She never felt the need to inform me that my friend didn’t exist; Nani sensed that I knew it.
The girl grew up with me, and it wasn't long before we fell in love with each other.
My parents still refused to accept her, in fact they hadn’t even come to terms with her existence.
Nani, on the other hand, was misty-eyed and dancing with joy when she came to know that her favourites had charmed each other's hearts.
I loved her so much. I really did. Her eyes could put me into a trance like surfing on soft waves. I could run my fingers through her hair forever. Her scarlet lips would drive me crazy and make me want to bite.
We had a sweet and lovely time together. Until she disappeared.
Vanished. No goodbye, nothing.
I hoped for days. One full year. But she never came back.
"She died, child. I should've told you sooner, but I didn't know how to."
Nani’s usually soothing voice pricked through my ears, they shot to red. My heart felt like it would beat itself blue.
"How do you know?"
"She got sick, and she told me not to tell you. She left the day you were stuck in office till late."
I broke down, and cried until I could no more.
After a few days, Nani disappeared too.
Worried, I went to Ma.
"Ma, did Nani die?"
My mother looked defeated, but not sad.
"Yes dear, she's no more. She died a year after you were born. Why don't you believe me? "
"Because I used to meet her ...but now she's gone. She must have passed away now..."
Ma shrugged and continued baking.
A couple of years later, I was driving down to my native place when the clouds broke loose. It was too wild to drive when I managed to spot a hotel not too far off. I willed my car into the gate, and rushed into the warm waiting lounge.
It felt welcoming until, "There are no rooms available sir."
"Oh c’mon! not even one room?"
"Nothing liveable until the storm crosses, sir." His brick face cracked, "There is one which is available. But, you have to assure me of something."
"What?", I could kill for a bed to put my weight down.
"There is a door through which you will hear music floating into your room. Do not open that door at any cost."
"Right. Okay, I won't."
I walked up the creaky staircase, unlocked my room, and stepped in. A blast of hot wind hit my face, filling me with comfort instantaneously.
I threw my wet shoes and socks, and faced my feet to warm the heater. It was joy.
I put away my wet clothes, wore the dry ones, and just when I was about to slide under the inviting blankets, I heard a tune.
It was a beautiful one, like the black of that night. It was coming from the door near my closet. I remembered what the owner had said, but I had to know.
I saw that the door had a keyhole; I could peek, right?
So, I did.
A slender lady singing and dancing to the deep hums.
She looked familiar.
OH MY GOD!
Could it be?
Anna? My love?
I still couldn't see her face properly, so I instructed myself to not jump to any conclusions.
The music stopped, I peeled myself off the door and went to sleep.
After about half an hour, the music began again.
This time, it was louder, it was faster.
Curiosity made me get up again, and I peeped.
She was definitely closer now, yet I couldn't see her face properly. Her tender locks were covering the view.
I chided myself for thinking and acting stupid, and went back to bed.
The third time, I heard the songs as if someone was singing right next to me.
I jolted up. There was no one.
I couldn’t help and I peeped again.
This time, the room was red.
Puzzled, I took a step back. Maybe I was dreaming.
I walked back to my bed, and told myself to fall asleep.
The next time I woke up it was 8:00 a.m .
I looked out of the window; a bright and sunny sky greeted me with that lovely smell of the rains gone by.
I did my routine, packed my stuff, and walked down to pay the bill.
"How was your stay, Sir? Did you hear the music?"
"Yes, actually. I did! I saw a lady dancing to it too. "
"Oh okay. Did you notice anything particular about her, rather, anything that seemed off?"
"I don't know. Her face was barely visible, although she did remind me of someone"
"She reminds me of my wife, my wife loved cupboards. She would often sit there, huddled up like a child, and pretend to play "grow up grow up" with our kids there. She died more than 30 years ago,” sighed the owner.
I was quiet for the longest time. My head began to spin.
"So, nothing strange noticed?"
"Well, you see, that lady is my wife's ghost."
He didn’t look like he was playing a joke.
"Her eyes are red."
Holy fuck! So was the room through the keyhole…
Photography By: Yash Mistry