The fingers, slim like that of a pianist, held a pair of heavy silver earrings that glimmered in the moonlight streaming through the ventilators. Sliced through the half-open blinds of the ventilators, the moonlight formed murderous shadows in the plain wall against which rested a row of identical iron beds.

The inhabitants of the bed were just as full of life as any other person outside the confines of the stone building and yet sleeping in the half-light, they looked like a row of graves with no tombstones.

The fingers with earrings though, had a mind of their own. They stopped at the foot of one particular bed, taking their time as they reached the hand of the girl lying restless.

The hand held the earrings like a brush. Just as it grazed the canvas of her skin, the girl’s eyes flared open, terror flashing in them like a fox caught in headlights. She opened her mouth to scream but her throat became constricted and her lips, she realized to her horror – were stitched shut.

The earring began painting in the canvas of her skin – her hands, her face and her ears – as blood, red and hot oozed out of wounds that would take an eternity to heal.

The scene proceeded like it always did – carving, familiar peals of laughter rang in the dead silence of the hall where twenty other people slept with ease. A heavy hand would brush her head and face when the fingers with the earrings would reach her ears. The heavy hands would caress her, make the pain go away – only to have it repeat over and over in a cycle until dawn.

Rohini knocked on a certain door of the working women hostel an hour’s drive from her home. The door opened with a creak, revealing a woman in her late forties. She took in Rohini’s white attire just as Rohini took in the woman’s spotless knee-length pleated skirt, white shirt, white socks and the white head attire that spoke of the profession that served people in their worst. And right then, Rohini knew, that she and the woman in front of her had a lot more in common than the color of their clothes. They had both lost the man they loved, they had both lost their children…she had still to gather enough strength to make herself vulnerable to Sonika, Ritvik’s mother. At this moment, she wanted not generous sympathy but the company of someone who knew exactly how she felt.

“Akriti,” she said, her voice shaking as she broke down right there, begging with tears for forgiveness.

Two miles away, in the big building painted Yellow Ritvik stood in front of a ward.

“You are going to keep staring?”

He looked back as he smiled, recognizing the strong voice.

“I didn’t know you visited her too, Miss Sharma.”

Avni took a breath, “It scares me sometimes. How messed up some things can be. How is she now?”

“The doctors say she wouldn’t eat until..”


“Until Neha allows her”

Avni shuddered a little. “She is not mentally stable. She needs to remain in this institute or she might bring more harm to herself and other people. She’s just hallucinating.” She said, unsure if she believed her own words.

“I’m just going to leave.” Ritvik said walking away.

Avni took one last glance at Maira on the other side of the glass pane, all alone in her ward, her eyes glued on the floor, unmoving as she hugged her knees to her chest like a pillow.

“Yes, me too.” Saying so Avni walked away.

On the other side, Maira kept looking down in fear. Drops of water dripped down the hair of a shadowy figure in the corner. She was too afraid to look up, to meet the bloodshot eyes, the bloody face with three huge cuts. Maira lay down knowing Neha was always there, watching her every move, even in her darkest nightmares.


Thank you so much for reading Close The Door 🙂



Before anything, we did it! THANK YOU!!! Thank you so much for staying with us on this journey. It honestly means the world to us to have you read our first collaborated work together 💜


“Did you know that Neha is Maira’s half-sister?”

Ritvik stared at her, taking in her words.

What the heck is she talking about?!

“Neha is the illegitimate daughter of Maira’s father Daksh,” Avni said squarely, setting her glass on the table. “Judging by your reaction, I suppose you didn’t know any sooner than I did”

We continue.



Maira swiftly went through the small wooden box as she put the earrings back down. The red stone adorned on the shiny silver amplified its beauty. She ran her fingers through the wooden bottom of the box and found a plastic bottle of pills. The same pills she last used to spike Neha’s milk with that night.

She swiftly tucked it inside her pocket. She heard something rummaging around in one of the boxes on the floor. As she slid the lid open, a tiny insect came out on its sixes. Maira quickly covered it with her palm. After it stopped fluttering, she brought it up to the level of her eyes. It fluttered vigorously again as the tension in the air increased, sensing bloodlust.

Pests, Maira muttered.

She watched it struggle for a few seconds. When it stopped, Maira felt disappointed. She wanted to see its desperation more. She touched its back and stopped at the tip of its wings. It fluttered a little more as Maira clipped its wing off. Flightless and in pain, it convulsed its body and lay on the floor, motionless. It made no sound but inside Maira’s head, she could hear its scream soothing her heart.

As it tried to run away Maira put a finger on one of its appendages only for it to come off as it tried to escape. Maira put her head down to observe the agony, the pain in its movements.

If only she could see its eyes, she thought, bored.

In the next few moments, it succumbed to death. Maira frowned a little, then stood up and walked away trampling its remains on her way out of the room.

She walked gracefully down her stairs, humming happily as her soft steps hit the floor. She looked at Daksh, sitting on his couch. She ran to the fridge and poured some sherbet in a glass. She drew the pills from her pocket and added them to it and walked towards Daksh wearing her prettiest smile.

“Dad” she said, “here”. He looked up, narrowing his eyebrows in confusion with a smile.

“I love the extra love from time to time but I would like to know the occasion,” he said.

Maira rolled her eyes. “There isn’t any! Besides, you’re my father. Sometimes I have to do things to show how much I love you and want to keep you to myself!” She giggled and Daksh joined. It lit his world up to see her smile. Everything he made, everything he earned, everything he built, he’d do it all for her. His little girl, the only one that mattered. He’d say lies he shouldn’t, he would break hearts, he would probably kill, all for her.

He picked up the glass of sherbet and looked at her  smiling, “why this sherbet?”

Maira pouted, “you have to drink it even if you dislike it!”. Maira cuddled and put her head on his chest. It was soft with all the fats and the big round belly made it cozier.

“I have to?” he wondered out loud.

Maira pulled her head up and looked at him, not smiling anymore. “because I have added something in it, of course”

He looked puzzled.

“All my love!” She said as she giggled happily. Daksh let out a happy laugh as he drank the sherbet– the whole glass at a time as Maira watched.

“Also, I lied” Maira said “there is an occasion. You see, I remember it all now!”. Saying this Maira dug her head back into Daksh’s chest leaving him confused. He should have felt happy, of course, but knowing she remembered everything, it would mean she remembers all of it.

He had many questions like how it happened but he could not speak. His head was spinning and his blood pressure level rose. He started sweating profusely as he held his head throbbing with pain. He could feel Maira’s grip tighten around his waist. In his spinning vision, he saw a shadow… A blurry figure in the entrance of the room. Someone of Maira’s age, her hair all wet and clothes drenched in blood.

Neha… I’m sorry… Neha… he thought but nothing came out of his mouth. Neha dug her eyes into his, her face emotionless as he passed out.


“Ritvik?” Avni took his name for the third time as she watched his shocked face, ready to scream hysterically any moment.

“Okay, I understand you are in shock but now you’re freaking me out too!” She said shaking his body to bring him back to his senses. Ritvik blinked coming out of the shock he was in.

“I–” he cleared his throat “I’ve known these two since I was THREE. I grew up with them. I would know if what you’re saying was true …”

“You’re a family friend. You’re saying you’d know if Daksh screwed up and had a daughter from another woman?”

Ritvik realized how stupid he sounded.

“Neha. She would have told me!”

“Why Neha? Why not Maira?” Avni asked. She immediately realized how irrelevant this question was. But before she could say anything, she was interrupted by Ritvik.

“Because we loved each other.”

“Yes! The infamous love triangle theory. It almost got me believing until I thought of what Maira said–”, Avni said, irritated.

“Wait, how do you even know this already?”

Avni smiled. “I am an investigator. Prying into other people’s business is what I do. I did know Maira had done it but to prove it I had to find the motive. Everyone told me how mushy those two girls were that it almost had me believing that Neha actually fell from the window as the police report said.” Avni took a pause and continued, “luckily, I met Ms. Glasses. It wasn’t so easy to get to her. I had to dig a little harder to let her speak it all out.

I was happy that I had finally cracked the case. Love had after all taken so many lives. But what struck me most was when she told me what Maira had said” she paused to wait for Ritvik to ask her what it was to make sure he was listening.

“What do you mean?”

Satisfied with the reaction, Avni quoted Maira with a smile, “you took Ritvik from me too”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“I asked myself, ‘Too? What else had Neha taken from Maira?’ It got me thinking. All the fighting. Would it be all about a guy? I begged to differ. I knew there was more to it than a silly love triangle.

Neha would give up on her life for Maira, let alone a guy. That night when you called when Maira remembered some chunks from her memory, it did lead me to those delinquents but I made sure to ask the witnesses what exactly happened. Turns out, one of the guys made a joke about how Neha had no dad and how she was abandoned. It got me thinking how I had never done a background check on Neha.

So, I had a little chat with Neha’s mother, Akriti. After a little emotional pestering, she told me how Rohini was chosen by Daksh’s family while Akriti and Daksh were still in love. She told me how Daksh never even fought for them. Their little affair continued until a few months after he was married. Eight months after his marriage Daksh decided to break it away but he gave her a family heirloom, a pair of earrings which she seems to have lost too. That night they slept together to mark their last night. Three months after Neha’s birth, Maira was born. Daksh took a place near Akriti’s house so he could watch Neha grow up too. I don’t know how much of this affair did Rohini know about but I know, Maira found out when Daksh went to Akriti’s house and she heard them talking.

Daksh took Maira home and made her swear that she won’t say a word to Rohini if she doesn’t want to see Rohini cry. Maira agreed but she told Neha. Neha’s yearning for a father probably increased the day those two boys commented on her parents and she started pushing her mother to remarry Daksh, for her sake. Maira found out. She goes to her house on a day when Akriti was on her duty and kills her because she doesn’t want to see Rohini hurt.”

Ritvik took a minute to process all the information.

“Of course, I don’t have any substantial proof that Maira killed Neha because Daksh has the police bribed. He didn’t even let the investigation run properly.”

Ritvik wanted to say something in response to it all but he was having difficulty framing sentences. What was this piercing pain he felt? What was he even hurting about?

“You see,” Avni said, I didn’t just come here because I wanted you to know that Neha is the illegitimate child”

Ritvik looked up at her, teary eyed.

“Why then?”

“I want you to make her confess. Help her remember.”

“I can’t!” Ritvik almost screamed. Ritvik loved Neha and he had thought of gruesome things he would do to whoever killed her. But Maira? She was like his little sister!

“Yes, you can.” Avni said “she’s not stable. She needs help. Your help. Do not let her make more mistakes!”

Ritvik was about to protest but their conversation was interrupted by Avni’s buzzing phone.

He did not know what the person on the other end said but what he knew was that something terrible was about to happen. It wasn’t just the churning of his stomach but also the pale look on Avni’s face that pointed danger.

“It’s Maira.” Avni said after hanging up “I had someone follow her. He said she just came out of the storage room outside carrying two big cartons of kerosene. Her father is home alone with her. Do you know where Rohini is?”

“She’s with my parents… they went to the temple together…”

“I won’t be surprised to know that her memories are back” Avni said quietly, walking out of the house, Ritvik following her.


Maira huffed a little with the weight of the liquids in her hands. She looked at Daksh, peacefully lying on the sofa, just like Neha. Now that she remembers, she notices the same curves of their noses. Maira looked a lot like Rohini but she shared the same straight hair, like her father. But Neha shared his nose. It angered her at the very thought. Ritvik was the least of concern for her. But when Neha kept talking of how they could be sisters if they just removed Rohini from the picture, it killed her. At first Neha was persistent, stubborn. Maira fought for her mother in her stead, told Neha how wrong it sounded. Then Neha grew pushy. Everyday, Maira lost patience. But when one of those boys called her an “abandoning father’s trash” Neha went crazy. She started threatening Maira. It was all her fault, Maira thought. I had no other option but to stop her at all costs!

Of course, Daksh knew. Only he knew what was going on but he was too scared for his own secrets coning to light. But it was okay, Maira was here to fix everything, she thought as she poured all the contents of the carton on the neatly done floors.

“Mamma will be sad

Mamma will cry

But mamma will smile

When the devil dies inside!”

Maira sang as she soaked the house in kerosene.

She lit the matchstick to end the chapter. This way Daddy could always be theirs, even if dead.

A car screeched its brakes outside. She looked out the window to check who it was. She gritted her teeth as she saw her guests. Avni Sharma climbed down the car with Ritvik by her side. Maira quickly looked at the back door. She had decided to run out after setting the fire but now she could not take the front door.

She quickly dropped the matchstick, not thinking much. Daksh was slowly regaining consciousness. She looked at him, tears rolling down her face.

“We could have been a happy family, Dad!” She screamed. He looked up at her, his head still spinning. He saw the smokes. In the eyes of his little girl, he saw the same rage he had seen the day Neha died. It was filled with hate with and despise for him. He could smell the smoke. Seeing the matchstick in her hands he needed no explanation. He smiled sadly as he stood up. The orange flames emitted so much heat but none could match up with the hateful fire he saw in Maira.

A sharp flame nearly touched Maira’s head. Daksh came running and pushed her away. It fell on her arms as she whimpered a little. The smoke slowly suffocated them. Daksh reached out to Maira’s little hands and tried to push her out. Maira coughed heavily as she tried to walk past the fire she had created.

Avni and Ritvik banged on the front door but Maira knew it was useless as she had locked it. She knew there was no escape. As the flames licked through her skin, Maira looked back at the end of the corridor and saw Neha standing amidst the blazing fire. Her heart filled with sadness and so much gloom as she remembered her beautiful face covered in blood while she bludgeoned that night till she was unconscious.

“Dad…” she said breathing heavily “the back door”

He said nothing. He quickly found a blanket and wrapped it around Maira without a second thought.

Maira didn’t realize it was all going to be so fast. The ceiling cracked, ready to break any moment. Daksh looked at Maira’s burns and knew he had to save her before he put her into anymore severe harm. He carried her to the back door but before they could reach, the ceiling broke and fell down on the ground. Maira had to leave but all the smoke had entered her lungs leaving her unconscious. Daksh looked around. He had such little time. His eyes fell on her wheelchair. He quickly grabbed it and put her in.

“I love you, my little girl” he whispered and pushed her out just in time as the burning ceiling fell on him, bringing him to his end.

Maira could hear soft sirens of fire brigades as she grasped for breath. Someone pulled her on a stretcher and put her inside an ambulance. Daksh was gone, she knew.


Don’t forget to check out the epilogue to be published today itself!

Thank you for reading.

Close The Door_Chapter 11

Co-written by Aceso and Gauri

**Updated every Monday**


The image of Neha’s begging eyes and bloody face flashed clearly in her mind but it no more made her flinch. All her memories had returned.

She looked at her reflection and giggled happily putting on the other earring.

We continue.


More Than Friends

If there was one thing Ritvik knew about life, it was that life is unpredictable. He let out a coarse laugh, closing the front door. His back slid down the varnished wood as he sat on the cold floor, feeling numb.

At least his parents are not home. It would have been a challenge to fool his parents, especially his mother who somehow always manages to see through his façade. It would have been difficult to convince her that everything was alright and he hated lying to his mother. 

Nothing was alright. Nothing had gone so wrong in his life before. 

No, Eeshanee was mistaken. After all she is a bundle of nerves at the best of times with a penchant for drama.

Neha had once told him, “Eeshu is such a sweetheart and she loves movies. No, she adores movies. Today I told her that she could make a career out of her passion for movies and she actually blushed! I bet she’s already considering it. She is even directing the annual school play. Did you know that, Ritu?”

No, he didn’t. Eeshanee is one of the quiet ones, extremely careful of the friends she picks.

A soft, sad smile curved one end of his mouth. Eeshanee let Neha into her little bubble. Nobody could shut away Neha – Neha with the twinkling eyes and resurrecting laughter, Neha who knew how to love and be loved in return. Ritvik had often teased her, calling her a pup, to which she would pout in mock offense and say, “Is it because I follow you and Mayu around like a dog?”

“No, it’s because you have the heart of an innocent pup and I’m lucky to have you in my life”

She was speechless then. That was the first time he had ever seriously complimented her and she knew it. They both knew that something had changed between them. Somewhere between pulling at pigtails and being each other’s confidante, somewhere between calling each other names and being the person they could always rely on to have their back – they had grown to be more than friends. 

But then she denied having feelings for him. Now as he sat contemplating about precious things lost, he knew that he had failed to see through her wordplay when she said that they were nothing less and nothing more than the dearest of friends, a string of three beads that included Maira.

It broke his heart. One day they were basking in the kind of love that comes but rarely in a lifetime and the next day, they were back to being at the bottom of the stairs that they had built together. And he had no idea what had gone wrong. Neha had barricaded the stairs with kind words and firm resolution, assuring that they never walked that way again.

The muscles of his jaw tightened. His shoulders tensed.

She had stopped answering his calls and messages for a week before she died. She was cautious and distracted, almost avoiding him like the plague.

Was it Maira who made Neha like that? Was she the reason Neha turned so distant, cold and faraway?

He wanted to believe that Maira would never do such a thing. While he and Neha had been the emotional ones, as Maira often teased them, she had always been level-headed and practical. Nothing about her spoke of spontaneity and whim. It was only since she got discharged from the hospital that he noticed her being spontaneous. Sometimes, it almost seemed like she was deliberately trying to be spontaneous…like Neha?

But Maira had a temper that her parents likened to an all-wrecking storm. But is a temper and an innocent infatuation all it takes to take a life… the life of a person who means more to you than a blood sister?

He stood up, walking to the dining table for a glass of water. He pressed at his forehead as it pounded under his skull. A sinking feeling settled at the bottom of his stomach. 

Was it all his fault?

All this time, he had failed to notice Maira as more than a friend. She was almost like a sister to him and he felt the need to protect her, be there for her, keep her in check when her temper got the best of her and remind her that she was a good person, that she was better than her anger.

He had tried his best to be there for her when things got rough between her parents. And yet – he had failed to notice what she wanted.

No, this isn’t right. Maira was angry at Neha when she got discharged from the hospital because she thought that Neha had tried to kill her. She really believed that. Maira couldn’t have faked it. She couldn’t have killed Neha…he prayed that she didn’t kill Neha.

His phone went off, playing Avenged Sevenfold’s Dear God in full volume. He jerked back as the silence shattered, along with the glass that he was holding. It crashed to the ground, breaking to pieces. The phone kept ringing for a few seconds before his mind could finally comprehend what was going on.

Incoming call. Avni Sharma.

He picked it up. “Miss Sharma”

“Hello, Ritvik. Are you home?” the investigator said from the other end, her voice controlled and even.


“Good. I’m standing outside your door right now. Could you let me in?”

“Oh – yes of course”

He walked the distance to the door slowly, his nerves warning him that this didn’t feel good. But then, she might have found a new clue. She might have something to say that would ensure that Maira didn’t commit the crime. He rested his trembling hand on the knob for a long moment before turning it and letting her in.

“You look terrible,” Avni Sharma stated as she walked in and seated herself on the sofa. Her eyes casually scrutinized the place, taking in the broken glass and water, the dirt on Ritvik’s shirt from lying on the floor, and his general unsettled demeanour.

“Kids these days,” she said, waving her hand at the broken glass pieces. 

Ritvik swallowed the dry lump in his throat as he sat on the couch in front of her. “My parents are away for the weekend in case you had to speak to them”

“I see. Not an emergency, I hope?”

“It’s my grandmother’s death anniversary”

“Ah, I am sorry”

“Will you like some tea, Miss Sharma?” Ritvik offered. “I can give you their contact numbers if you want”

“That won’t be necessary,” the investigator said with the composure of a news-reader. “I am here to talk to you, Ritvik”

Ritvik didn’t say anything. Of course, she had come to talk to him. She would probably drill him with twisted questions to try and squeeze information out of him – if he had any, that is. For the second time that evening, he felt relieved that his parents were not around.

It would be tedious but if she managed to find something, anything that would help keep his friendship with Maira unscathed, he would willingly spend the last ounce of his energy answering Avni Sharma’s questions.

He sighed. “Okay”

Avni gave a slight nod and began. “I have found something important that I thought you should know before I go and talk to Maira’s parents. After all, you are just as invested in this case as they are. You deserve the truth”

Ritvik swore he could almost hear the sympathy in her words. Maybe she had come to tell him about the same so-called “love triangle” that Eeshanee had talked about earlier. He felt like laughing in wry humour at the sudden thought of quiet, nerdy Eeshanee making a movie starring three childhood friends in a love triangle that ended in tragedy.

And yet he asked, “What is the truth, Miss Sharma?”

Avni stood up. “Mind if I get myself some water?”

“You’re the guest. I’ll get you some water…” Ritvik began. But she rested a heavy hand on his shoulder like a doctor about to deliver unfortunate news.

“Please be seated, Ritvik”

She moved strategically, stepping away from the scattered pieces and poured a glass of water. “How long have you known Maira and Neha, mind if I ask?”

“We have known each other since we were five”

Avni waited so Ritvik took it as his cue to explain further. “We moved into this neighbourhood after my dad got a transfer. Before that, we were living in Hyderabad but I don’t remember much of it.”

Avni nodded.

Ritvik was growing impatient. He was tired, he was hungry and he wanted to be alone. Avni Sharma could just spill whatever she had to say and let him grieve in peace. The suspense was killing him.

Avni probably noticed because the next thing she said proved that she was right in telling him to keep sitting.

“Did you know that Neha is Maira’s half-sister?”

Ritvik stared at her, taking in her words.

What the heck is she talking about?!

“Neha is the illegitimate daughter of Maira’s father Daksh,” Avni said squarely, setting her glass on the table. “Judging by your reaction, I suppose you didn’t know any sooner than I did”

To be continued.

Thank you so much for reading!

Don’t miss out the final episode of Close The Door: A collaborated web-novella in 12 parts next week!!

Images credited to Unsplash
Image from Unsplash


Co-written by Aceso and Gauri


“But they might have sneaked out and –” Maira began.

“I also asked around the neighbourhood and the shops. I checked the CCTV footages of the society for three days on either side of the day of the murder.

I am fairly sure of what Vidur’s parents are going to say,” Avni said, her voice dropping to an unnerving tone,“These boys are not the most decent of their lot but they haven’t murdered Neha Singh”

Read the complete previous episode of Close The Door

We Continue.


The Cuckoo And The Crow

Avni disappeared behind the wooden door of the apartment leaving Ritvik and Maira outside amidst a web of confusion. Everything was back to square one knowing the delinquents they suspected had nothing to do with the death of Neha Singh.

As they walked away from the apartment, none of them said a word. Ritvik checked his phone, expecting a call back. Irritated he stuffed his phone back into his pocket. He could see Maira’s frown from the corner of his eyes. Maira felt a sharp pain at the back of her head and her palms felt more sweaty. The restlessness in her heart increased every second.

“Let’s get a cab quickly” Ritvik said once they reached the gates after climbing down a few flights of stairs in utter silence.

“Ritvik..”, Maira said stopping “I want to be alone for some time..”

Ritvik looked at her, “are you sure you can go home alone?”

“I’ve been living in this place for 15 years now. I can handle it.” Maira said, avoiding eye contact.

Ritvik did not protest. He had to meet someone after this. After Maira left in a cab Ritvik checked his phone again. No missed calls, no messages.

An hour later he stood outside a small building. The paint on the walls was long faded and the crevices fell home to small ants. Outside, on the gate, a sign board read, “Art Centre”. After patiently waiting for 10 minutes, a group of kids walked out of the door. Ritvik scanned through the crowd and his eyes rested on a pale faced girl wearing glasses. She looked at him in complete shock. She wanted to run away but her body stood there, frozen. She watched him come closer to her as she clutched the straps of her bag tightly.

“Let’s go for a walk, Eeshanee”, Ritvik said smiling. She nodded and walked with him.

“I see you’ve been ignoring my calls” he said once they were away from the crowd.

“Ignoring? What are you talking about?” She asked laughing, trying to conceal her nervousness. She knew what this whole charade was about but she had to stop him before he started asking any question.

“How have you been? Aren’t you a college man now?” She asked.

Ritvik let out a soft laugh. He looked at her. “You see I’ve been trying to call you. A lot. You don’t answer my calls or text me back. At first I thought it was something I did–”

Eeshanee cut in before he could complete, “Really? I guess I must have missed them somehow. School work has got me so stressed, you know. Was it like this back then when you were a student too?”

Ritvik let out a laugh as he watched her attempts to escape his questions.

So naive, he thought.

“When was the last time you called Maira?”

“Like I said, school–”

“Schoolwork,” Ritvik said before she could complete “of course”

“Let’s get something to eat. We haven’t caught up in a while. It’s a Sunday and I know you have nothing else to do.” He said after a pause.

“I don’t know..” Eeshanee said thinking hard of a reason to skip it “my parents want me home soon..”

“Well then you can blame it on me. And look we’ve already reached this ice cream parlor. Let’s have an ice cream and get going.” Ritvik said walking in, without waiting for her to answer. Hesitant, she followed him in.

Ritvik put his chin on his palm and looked at her when they had settled.

“What?” Eeshanee said looking away uncomfortably.

“You’re going to tell me everything you know.”

“What? Is this some joke?” She asked angrily, gritting her teeth.

“No.” Ritvik sat straight and held her hand. She looked at his face for the first time since she had met him some while ago. His face looked tired and his eyes had dark circles surrounding them. In all the five years that she had known Ritvik since he was a senior at her school, she had never seen him so miserable.

She sighed as she finally gave in. “Ask me anything.”

“Why have you been ignoring everyone?”

Eeshanee looked down at the peacock shaped carving on the table. “I just don’t want to be associated with Neha’s case anymore.”

“Why? Do you know anything?”

Eeshanee looked at his eyes. Even after she had died, Neha left so much of her in him that it almost made her cry.

She had met Neha on the first day of her new school. The only one who even wanted to be her friend despite of all the bullying Kashish Nath had brought to her. Through Neha, she met Maira. They were inseparable and undeniably attached, like a vibrant bird and it’s shadow under a moonlit night. While Neha was always filled with life and energy, Maira was calm and quiet. Eeshanee almost had trouble keeping up with Neha but Maira never seemed to feel that way. They were always seen together, until that week, of course.

“You really loved her, didn’t you?” She asked smiling sadly.

“You knew?” He asked, taken aback by her question.

“Yes.” She replied, “she loved you too.”

He gulped a lump of tears to stop himself from creating an awkward situation. Yet, his eyes watered a bit. He coughed and maintained his composure.

“We were together, yes. How did you know?”

“Neha told me, of course.”

“Just you..?”

She paused to find the appropriate words then spoke, “she wasn’t sure how Maira would take it. So she made me swear not to tell her..”

“She made me swear not to tell anyone at all too. I thought she was just scared her mother would find out..”

“Maira..” Eeshanee gulped before she said the next words “she liked you.”

Ritvik’s eyes widened.

No. It couldn’t be true. She’s always been such a good friend. When did she even..

“It doesn’t matter” Eeshanee said calmly “whatever you are thinking to deny what I just said doesn’t matter. The truth is she has always liked you. She never said so but it was very obvious. Neha was feeling guilty for loving someone Maira loved. She was perhaps even prepared to give you up for her.”

It sounded sad but he would never want to come in between Neha and Maira. He knew how much Maira meant for Neha. He stayed silent unable to find any possible way to process all the information.

The waiter served their ice creams.

Once he was gone Eeshanee started speaking again, knowing there was no point of waiting for him to respond.

“I know this is too much to take in. I’ll give you your time.”

He looked at her, frowning in shock. He coughed again and said, “you cannot be ignoring everyone just because you got caught up in someone else’s love triangle. You left quickly that day too..” he nervously swallowed his saliva before he continued “at the funeral…”

Eeshanee hadn’t realized she was being so obvious. She quietly ripped off the lid of her ice cream.

“There was a weird tension between them. A few days before that accident happened” she said finally.

“What do you mean?”

“In the beginning Neha was being her usual happy self but Maira…she looked troubled. Like she was in a bad mood and kept pushing Neha away. I have seen them fight but this was different. Neha was pretending like nothing was wrong and Maira was too busy distancing herself.”

“Did Neha tell you why?”

“No. Did she tell you?”

“I was out on a field trip that week…” He said.

Wish I hadn’t gone though. Could have had more time with her. He thought.

“Later I did find out something.” She said quietly, shuddering at her thoughts.

“You see I wanted them to patch things up so I locked them up in my room and told them they could only leave if they made up. I went downstairs and I came back fifteen minutes later to see how they were doing. Before I could enter, I heard Maira sobbing and that’s when she said that she knew about you and Neha dating”

Eeshanee thought of Maira’s exact words, which were, “you also took Ritvik from me”. It made her heart break back then to hear her cry. Even Neha fell quiet hearing that. The silence was so overwhelming she decided to open the door. Once she went inside, Neha put her pretentious smile on to hide her sadness and Maira walked away.

Ritvik fell silent. If only he had never confessed to Neha, she would still be here, laughing and bringing him more sunshine than spring ever could.

He had always tried to find reasons to believe it was not Maira but it was high time now that he gave up on these tempting lies and accepted the truth as it was.

Dropping Eeshanee off in a cab he walked back almost aimlessly wondering what he should be doing next. He now saw why Eeshanee was keeping her distance. In a town as small as his, rumors about a Private investigator being hired was obvious to spread fast. Not only did Eeshanee know who had done it, she also knew why she had done it.

His phone vibrated with a text. The message read, “Meet me in 10 minutes” with an address attached. Avni Sharma wanted to talk to him.


Maira walked home after getting off the cab midway to catch her breath. She shook her hand to stop her palms from sweating. The image of someone holding a hammer kept invading her mind. Her pace increased as she neared her house. The forget-me-nots by the side of the road annoyed her for some reason. She looked at them and annoyingly stepped on them till they dug inside the ground. She saw someone staring at her from the end of the road.

Neha.. she let out a whisper.

A painful image of her bleeding face flashed in front of her eyes and she closed them. She opened them the next moment only to find the end of the road empty. Maira was convinced she was going insane. She no longer wanted to find out what had happened that night.

“Get away from me!” She screamed in the middle of the empty lane.

She reached home and ran upstairs automatically until she remembered her room was downstairs. She looked around. A little note on the fridge said that Rohini had left to buy some groceries. She could hear Daksh watching the news. She was about to go to her room when she heard someone upstairs.

No one else is home.

She went up the stairs slowly. She couldn’t see who it was but someone had walked into her room.

“Neha?” She called out, her heart racing fast.

She followed the sound of the soft footsteps that led to her room. Everything was the same, just a bit more dusty. She looked around, shivering a little.

Thud. The sound came from under her bed.  She pulled up the cover and bent down to look under the bed, hoping not to find anything terrifying. Everything under the bed seemed similar – her bean bag, her old books. Everything, except a big steel box.

She pulled it out and wiped the dust away with her hands. Opening it, she found some colorful bangles and a packet of bindi. Under the packet were a pair of beautiful big silver earrings, the ones she had been having visions about. The lid on the box had a clear mirror. She softly put one on.

The water was running that day. The hammer holding hands were small. The feet of whoever was charging, holding the hammer were small too and there was a brief speck of blood on those small hand.

The person holding the hammer was her.

The image of Neha’s begging eyes and bloody face flashed clearly in her mind but it no more made her flinch. All her memories had returned.

She looked at her reflection and giggled happily putting on the other earring.

Thank you for reading🚪

Close The Door: A Novella concludes in 12 chapters. Stay tuned for the final episodes of this novella.

Co-written by Aceso and Gauri


By Aceso and Gauri


Rohini stood with her eyes wide holding a cup of milk. She gasped.

“You– you can walk…”

Read the complete previous episode of CLOSE THE DOOR


Chapter 9

Bloodhounds on The Trail

“I…can walk—” Maira mumbled as if in a dream. Her eyes sparkled as she turned to her mother and said, “Ma—I can walk! I can-I can walk see”

Rohini walked to her, eyes sparkling with tears. “Yes sweetheart”

She hugged her, holding her tight as if this little joy would slip out of their grasp if they didn’t hold on to it. Maira hugged back, her sobs coming in hiccups.

Daksh appeared at the door sometime later, caught in by the sound of excitement coming from the room. He stood watching for a good few minute, startled. And then he came to them slowly, wrapping his arms around his family.


Early next morning, Maira felt like a new person. She had barely slept the other night, tossing and turning in bed thinking about everything that she knew about her final days with Neha. She thought over every possibility carefully, like a seasoned poker player, taking her time with the cards she held—the things she did know—before she held them out for fate to play its turn.

Because if there was one thing she was convinced of by this time, it was that she was playing against fate. Fate that locked away her memories and took Neha to its own realm. There were no bread crumbs scattered in the forest of her memories that would lead her to the end of the puzzle – but that was until now.

Yesterday, she had remembered a vital fragment of information and was almost certain that she knew who were behind Neha’s murder. Never mind what that fancy investigator thought.

“She can go to hell,” muttered Maira to herself. How dare she even think that she, Maira, would kill her dearest friend in the world, i.e., other than Ritvik. Maira sighed, running her hands over her forehead. No point in blaming the investigator. Afterall, she was only doing her job.

Maira opened her wardrobe, noticing the feel of her bare feet on the floor. Being bound to the wheelchair gave her time to appreciate the ability to walk. She felt gratitude poring into her veins after a long time. Maybe Neha, from wherever she was now, wanted to help her solve the puzzle of her death and drag her murderers to the court. Perhaps Neha was trying to help her.

She wouldn’t let her down.

Quickly, she showered and threw on a comfortable pair of denims. She found a lilac top that she had borrowed from Neha probably a year ago and forgotten to return. She picked it up as if it were a delicate baby and brought it to her nose. It bore Maira’s own smell, being cramped with her clothes for so long.

But somehow, sniffing deep while fighting to keep those tears from spilling out again, she could smell the vague but very real essence of Neha, still lingering onto it, albeit like a shy deer hiding behind a strong-smelling bush. Maira put it on, arranged her hair to a braid and left.

On the way to the dining room, she called Ritvik. She had assumed he would must still be sleeping but his voice sounded awake, as if he had been expecting her call.

“Hey,” he said, picking after the second ring.

“You up?” Maira asked.

“For hours,” he said. Maira heard the shuffling of paper before he added, “Listen I have their addresses”

“Vidur Samrat and Kashish Nath,” Maira responded, confirming if he double checked the boys’ names.

“That’s them,” Ritvik said.

“Okay good. Meet you in front of our house in ten—no, five minutes”

“It’s fine, Maira, we don’t need to hurry. They’ll be at their home anyway. Finish your breakfast. You still need to regain your strength”

“Of course, we need to hurry! What if –what if—” Maira shouted, impatient.

“The investigator got to them first?” Ritvik completed. Maira didn’t say anything so he continued.

“Then she’ll have them arrested. Which is what we want too, don’t we?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think she likes me very much,” Maira said.

Silence on the other end of the line. “Ritvik, you there?”

“Maira,” Ritvik said, deliberating on each syllable, “This isn’t about you or me. This is about Neha”

“Right,” Maira said, sighing as she reached out for an apple on the fruit bowl. Her parents were nowhere to be seen. Either they were out somewhere this early in the morning or they weren’t up yet at all – which wouldn’t be a surprise considering how tired they look. She herself had ample experience of tossing and turning in bed well into dawn at times before sleep knocked her door.

She made herself some tea and left.

Outside, the sky was overcast, giving their neighbourhood a grey filter. It was balmy though. She met Ritvik outside their gates. Considering that his parents were out of town and hers were asleep, they had no car to borrow. So, they walked in silence.  

Once they had reached the main street, Ritvik held his hand out for a rickshaw. It scooted past, the driver paying them no more heed than a couple of houseflies.

After twenty minutes of waiting, Maira said, “Why not simply call on a cab?”

“I’d prefer to keep our whereabouts a secret,” Ritvik said, serious.

“What difference does it make?” Maira spat.

“Nothing much but it’s better to not have any records of where we went today. What if our calls are being tracked?”

“You’re making it sound like we’re runaway convicts,” Maira said, frowning at him.

“We may be dealing with stalkers Maira! Why don’t you understand? It’s safer to be tracked by cops than criminals. God knows if they do turn out to be stalkers, they may be stalking you too,” Ritvik said, exasperated. “I just—I don’t want to lose you like Neha,” he added, quietly, as if more to himself than to her.

Maira said nothing. What could she say? A few words of reassurance would only sound hollow. Instead, she gave him a hug, the kind one gives to a little child who admits for the first time that he is afraid of the dark.

After sometime an autorickshaw finally stopped. They got in. “Shrabani Apartments, 5th lane, NK Street,” Ritvik said to the rickshaw driver. The driver nodded.

Even though Ritvik had said that it would be okay even if the investigator got to the boys first, Maira wanted to get there before her. She felt like a savage with a thirst for blood, and fury bubbled inside her with every mile they covered. She didn’t care if the police arrested them but she would make sure they got punished if it was really them behind the murder. They would pay for what they did.

Maira learned that both of the boys lived on the same street. They were neighbours. They were quite similar– Maira thought, turning her face to the breeze created by the rush of the moving vehicle.

They were both tall, with the look of harmless sadists, or so they had thought when Neha tackled them with fierce words. It was their final year of high school and they had caused enough trouble to last the duration of their lives, gaining a coal black reputation from their varied preoccupations—disrespecting teachers, leaking question papers, theft, bullying, ragging… and now possible murder.

The anticipation was almost too much to bear by the time they reached the doorstep of Vidur Samrat. They saw a woman in suit waiting outside the door, her finger looming over the doorbell.

It was the investigator. What was her name? Ananya? Anupama? Avni Sharma. Yes —Maira recalled. Avni Sharma. That poker-faced judgemental woman who accused her of—

“Miss Sharma?” Ritvik called as they reached the topmost step. Avni turned, and smiled at them. A polished, professional smile that betrayed none of the questions hovering around her head. She looked over at Maira and Maira felt the embarrassing need to cower, as if she were caught stealing cookies. It made no sense.

“Ah, Ritvik and Maira. How nice to see you,” she said in a crisp voice. “Looking for answers, aren’t we?”

“Ma’am, is there any new progress?” Ritvik said.

“To be fair, yes. There is,” Avni stated. Maira looked up at her. She continued.

“I have made inquiries in your school and I’ve just come back from visiting the other boy, Kashish Nath.” She rested her hands on her hips. Her self-assured stance didn’t sit well with Maira. She held her breath, waiting for her to continue. Ritvik held her hand tighter, as if they reassuring her that they can face this.

Avni looked at their joined hands, sceptical but didn’t ask any questions. She continued, “I also visited one other person who seems to have quite an interesting little story to tell”

“Who is it, Miss Sharma?” Ritvik said.

“Neha’s mom, Samhita. But before we get to her, you may like to know that according to the school authorities, Vidur Samrat and Kashish Nath were both suspended for days for consistent misbehaviour, including the day of the murder.

I confirmed it with Mr. and Mrs. Nath that their son Kashish was at home that day. I inquired with the society’s watchmen and both the night shift and the day shift watchmen said that they haven’t seen the boys outside the apartment buildings for a few days now.”

“But they might have sneaked out and –” Maira began.

“I also asked around the neighbourhood and the shops. I checked the CCTV footages of the society for three days on either side of the day of the murder.

I am fairly sure of what Vidur’s parents are going to say,” Avni said, her voice dropping to an unnerving tone,“These boys are not the most decent of their lot but they haven’t murdered Neha Singh”

To be Continued

Thank you for reading 🚪

Close The Door will conclude in 3 more episodes, that is, in 3 weeks. We are so grateful to you for staying with us in this journey. Stay tuned to find out who murdered Neha Singh and why.

What information did investigator Avni Sharma gather from Neha’s mother? Stay tuned to find out.

We’ll see you next week. Stay safe and take care😊

A Novella by Aceso and Gauri

Close The Door_Chapter 8

By Aceso and Gauri


She saw the broken bottom on the inside of the door, and flashes of memory streamed into her mind. Somebody had pounded on this door, crying for help.

That somebody had died a painful death. That somebody was a beautiful human being, somebody who Maira had once trusted with her life and loved more than a blood sister.

Read the complete previous episode of Close the Door


Chapter 8

Untangling a Tuesday

Maira kept thinking about her mother’s sudden outburst that occurred on the dinner table a day ago. She spent more hours talking to Ritvik on the phone. It reminded her of all the good times she had before the accident.

Maira always felt good when Ritvik was around. It somehow filled her heart and soul with all the energy she seemed to be missing. He was annoying and got on her nerves but at the same time no one could make her feel the warmth he emitted with his smile. She would see him again soon, a mere thought which made her grin and her eyes shone bright. Everything was falling back into their places. Everything, except her memory.

She concentrated on the point in her memory after which everything went pitch black. The last thing she remembered was watching a movie with Neha in her own room, upstairs. Of course, that’s where she had to be looking. But going upstairs was a challenge in itself. Her legs were getting better thanks to all the exercises she had been doing recently with her father but climbing up a stair would still be a challenge.

She would wheel across the hall to the stairway. She could use the wall and the railing to support her legs and push her way upstairs. With enough strength, she could make it of course, but quietly enough so she doesn’t grab her parent’s attention. She didn’t want to answer any question. All the “why-s” and “what-s” were annoying to her now.

Yes, the plan is perfect; she thought.

She could hear Daksh rummaging with the newspaper as she wheeled out of her room. Her mother’s bangles tinkled against each other as she cleaned the drawers. Everything else was quiet but then she heard it.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

She was sure no one was inside the bathroom. But the tap was dripping, eerily in the same hypnotizing monotonous rhythm, drop after drop. The aura grew heavier with every drop that splashed. Visions flashed in front of her eyes.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Neha’s screaming face, a broken blue tap and an overflowing tub of water.

Maira shook her head to get these images out of her head.

Scenes changed and she saw a blurred memory of Neha standing against a group of boys, the sleeves of her shirt folded.

“Don’t you dare whistle at me!” She screamed.

She remembered Neha threatening one of the boys as a huge crowd gathered. The boy looked at her, sweating. The anger in his eyes did not go unnoticed by Maira. He did not even bother pretending to be calm as he marched away from the crowd.

Maira touched her head as she came out of these broken memories.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The dripping sound suddenly stopped. An uncomfortable silence filled the air and surrounded her. She felt goosebumps running through her skin. The back of her head felt hot, like there was someone or something staring at her with piercing fire eyes. She could see a shadow on the floor of someone with long hair. Maira dared not look back and sat on her wheelchair, sweating with fear.

“It’s all in my mind.” She muttered to herself.

The more she thought it was unreal, the more real it felt. She could feel the figure getting closer to her. She could hear it dragging its feet through the tiled floor. The dripping sound started again, but this time faster. Maira closed her eyes, muttering continuously, “Not real. Not real. Not real”

“Maira?” She opened her eyes and looked up. Daksh stood in front of her, worried. Maira looked back and saw nothing but an empty boring corridor. The dripping sound had stopped.

“Did you need something?” He asked again.

Maira shook her head and said quickly “I– no, I just remembered I need to make a call.”

She went back to her room leaving Daksh as he stared at her, trying to grasp what this was all about.

Back in her room she dialed Ritvik’s number and waited for him to pick up. Restlessness clouded her senses with every passing second.

He picked it up. “Hey. I was just about to text you–“

“I think I remembered something.” Maira said, a bit breathless, before he could complete.

“What is it?” He asked, his voice did not conceal his curiosity.

“The last day that I happen to remember was a Monday, right?” she started “Which means, the week that I don’t remember starts from the following Tuesday. I think I’m starting to remember things from Tuesday.”


Maira rolled her eyes impatiently. “It’s like I’m starting to remember some bits of my memory. We slept at my place on Monday. The next day, after school Neha had a fight with a group of boys from our school.”

“A fight? Why?”

“One of them whistled at her. They are a year older than us. I have seen them in my school. You know that silk store next to the Ice Cream station? That’s where it happened.” Maira breathed out. She felt a heavy load lifting away from her heart.

On the other hand Ritvik took a moment to absorb all the information.

“How are you so sure?”

“We went to the Ice Cream station every week. So I’m familiar with the area”

Ritvik paused. He finally said, “There’s someone who might be able to help.”


“The investigator. She told me to tell her if I found something and I think she can help us join all the pieces back together.”

Maira bit her lip. It was true. She cut the line after they talked a little.

An hour later her phone blinked with a text message from Ritvik. “Avni Sharma, the investigator will be at your home tomorrow.”


Avni Sharma was oddly on time the following day. She wasn’t exactly tall but she carried herself with a certain pride. Maira looked at her as she scribbled on her notepad. Something told her she wasn’t going to like this woman much. The rapid movement of the pen scratching through her paper was the only sound filling the room. After a minute, she looked up.

“So your memories have returned?” She asked looking straight at Maira. Rohini looked at her in disbelief.

“They have?”

“What–” Maira continued quickly in a desperation to clear their doubts, “No, i just happen to have remembered some parts of it.”

“You never told us about it. How long has this been happening?” Daksh asked.

Maira rolled her eyes but before she could say anything, Avni responded, “not too close with your parents, eh?”

Maira knew she would be irritated by this interrogation but she had promised herself to not talk back when unnecessary. She took a deep breath to avoid snapping.

“I am just as close as any other daughter is to their parents. I just happened to remember some of the things last night and I forgot to tell them. Besides I fell asleep soon after.”

Avni smiled. “So what did you see?”

“That Tuesday–” she started speaking only to be interrupted by Avni. Maira frowned a little.

“The one when Neha died?”

“No. The one before that.” Maira saw Avni nod but she pretended not to and continued. She wanted to get over with this so this woman could leave. “Neha had a fight with these seniors from our school near the Ice Cream Station. One of them had whistled.”

“How are you so sure it was a Tuesday. I mean if these are random visions how do you know this happened on Tuesday with such surety?” Avni asked. Her face was sharp, almost expressionless.

“Neha was wearing those P.E shorts. And we only have P.E on Tuesdays.”

“So you’re saying those boys had something to do with Neha’s death?”

No, I think they had everything to do with Neha’s death; she thought but she didn’t dare to say it out loud.

“I thought this was important so I’m letting out whatever facts I know. Isn’t it your job to join the pieces and find out?” Maira said. Only a moment after she had said it that she realized how wrong it sounded.

“Maira!” Rohini and Daksh snapped together. Maira jumped a little but maintained her composure.

“I do happen to have a slight idea of what happened.” Avni said, digging her eyes deep into Maira’s sending chills throughout her spine.

“You think I did it?” Maira asked, bewildered.

Avni kept quiet.

” ‘Spoilt child kills the only best friend she has loved.’ That’s your story?” Maira asked. The entire theory sounded so bogus to her that she let out a laugh.

“You never had trouble believing Neha tried to kill you.” Avni said quietly. Maira looked at her with wide angry eyes but said nothing.

After a moment of pause Avni spoke again.

“Maybe if you could give us the name of those boys we can wrap up. I’ve covered everything I wanted.” Avni said collecting her things into her bag.

“Vidur Samrat, Kashish Nath”, Maira replied.

As Avni drove away from that house, she thought of everything she had acquired. A falling marriage, held together by a thin thread for the sake of the daughter. A devoted mother who could commit any sin for her daughter and was struggling to keep the house together. A hard-working father tired of all the fights and overdosing nicotine, with secrets he wishes to keep hidden forever. A daughter, spoilt yet lost, losing touch from reality.

Vidur Samrat. She wouldn’t have trouble finding a school boy but what troubled her most was Maira’s desperation to hide something else that she knew. Avni knew what a face looked like when they said a truth, when they said a lie or when they hid things from her. Few weeks ago she wouldn’t even be here. The police had already closed the case. But, a phone call in the middle of the night asking for help had Avni entangled amidst this web of confusion. The person on the other side of the phone identified herself as the dead girl’s mother. She hired Avni but never said much. She wasn’t as interested in the beginning but now, she was liking it. So many secrets to spill, so many struggles to witness, so many missing pieces to find and above all an entire week to unleash. Avni had been a private investigator for 4 years now but this was the first time she was enjoying it.

Back at her home, Maira wondered if she was doing the right thing, hiding the fact that crazy things kept happening to her. She already looked half crazy with all these memories coming back in pieces to her and if she were to tell anyone she was hearing and seeing things no one else could, no one would take her seriously. Yes, she better not tell anyone.

Believe, if not anyone, then in yourself. Neha said this a lot. Maira looked down at her legs.

I believe I can. She muttered. I can do it. Nothing is wrong with me.

Her naked feet touched the cold tiles. She put all her pressure on her toes first and slowly put her feet on the ground and straightened up. Slowly she lifted one foot. She almost stumbled but she reminded herself, “I believe”.

Rohini stood with her eyes wide holding a cup of milk. She gasped.

“You– you can walk..”


Thanks for reading 💜

We’ll see you next week!


By Aceso and Gauri

Previously on Close the Door

“Well, those are your memories. The only place you would find the rest is in your own mind..” he said. A voice in the depth of his heart said he might be putting too much pressure on her but he decided to avoid it. He only thought of Neha. He had to know.

“Maira…” Ritvik said digging his eyes deep into hers “you have to remember. Connect the dots. That’s the only way we can find out what happened to Neha..”

Maira nodded. She knew what she had to do now. She had to remember what she had forgotten.

We continue.

Chapter 7

A Piece of Her

Silence ensued throughout dinner. Even simple questions like, do you want some more rice? — hung in the air before ricocheting in the silence like a bullet, hitting back at the person who raised it.

But this time the silence was not overly daunting, thought Daksh as he looked at his daughter Maira eating.

His shoulders eased. No, it was more like having a particularly hard thinking fifth grader on the table. Her brows were drawn in a frown and her eyes were liquid pools of a dusky sky.

It was incredible that she should have that eye-colour. Nobody in the family had light-coloured eyes. His own were dark brown and so were Rohini’s. In fact, they were almost black, and Daksh noticed that his wife’s eyes were presently downcast and concentrated on her plate; she was chewing absent-mindedly.

Maira looked up from her dinner and met her father’s eyes. He had a shade of slight anxiousness written all over his face, like a soldier in the middle of a war who didn’t want to get used to short spells of peace because at any given moment something might hit them. She knew that that must be close to what he was feeling – because that was what she was feeling as well.

Maira had discovered long ago that she and her dad often had surprisingly similar reactions to things. Which in Maira’s mind was a good thing. She knew that her dad would never do a wrong turn to anyone. So, she could hope that she wouldn’t either.

“I need to make a call,” she said, taking a final sip from the glass to her right.

“It can wait. You haven’t finished your meal,” Rohini said.

“I just remembered something, Ma and I’m done eating,” Maira said.

“Finish your meal, Maira,” Rohini said, adamant.

Maira stared at her mother in disbelief. Her mouth was drawn in a thin line and her wrinkles were more evident than ever. It must have been the result of her earlier outburst.

“I don’t feel like eating and I really need to make this call,” Maira said, more to her dad than her mother. Daksh looked reasonable enough, opening his mouth to say something when —

“Who are you going to call this late at night?” Rohini asked in a voice that could cut through stone.

Maira felt a prick of irritation course through her. “Nobody. I’m going to sleep”

“Finish your dinner”

“Why? I said I don’t feel like eating. So why are you forcing me? Have you poisoned my food that you want me to eat it so desperately?”

“Maira you can’t speak to your mother like that!” Daksh said, his voice grim.

Rohini laughed, a bitter, piercing short laugh. Her eyes were down again, and unfocused, but blazing with something that one couldn’t miss even from a distance. Was it resentment? Or suppressed anger?

“Why do you care, Daksh?” she said.

“What?” Daksh said, taken aback.

“I said why do you care?” Rohini looked like a tigress baring her fangs.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Daksh said, a beat too late. The silence was back, this time malignant.

Rohini turned to face him and Maira watched on like a bystander as the conversation took a shift. She might as well have been watching a play.

“Oh, don’t flatter yourself, Daksh. You have never cared. Never. Not for me, not for my daughter. You are a selfish fool, that’s what you are. You’re so self-obsessed that you can’t bring yourself to care for anybody other than yourself. Oh, but that must be the exact reason why showing that you love, that you’re so generous and kind and all that bullshit comes so easy to you, doesn’t it? Because you never really care, Daksh, you just pretend to. It’s all a game to you, isn’t it? Your family means less than—”

“Are you out of your mind? What on earth is wrong with you?!” Daksh screamed, cutting her short.

Maira gaped, her blood freezing at her mother’s words. Her dad was panting in frustration, eyes dazed as if he had come face to face with death. He was horrified. Maira couldn’t remember any other time in her life when her parents looked so discomfited. Any hint of self-composure was shattered.

“Mama—” Maira began, reaching out for Rohini’s hand.

She jerked it off and stood up, hands on the table, cheeks flushed and beads of sweat glistening on her forehead. She turned to Maira and said, “Go to your room. I’ll bring a cup of milk later”

With that she walked out of the room in a brisk gait.

The silence that followed was long and slithering, like an invisible serpent that curled around Maira’s neck and tightened, demanding that she ask.


Daksh looked up, the expression on his face just as turbulent as her mother. He sighed and said, “Yes, honey”

“Are—are things alright between you and Mama?” she said, barely a whisper.

“I don’t know,” Daksh said, sounding as tired as Maira felt.

He got up. “Do you need help getting to your room?”

Maira shook her head no. She wheeled to her room, deciding to binge on movies until she was calm enough to fall asleep.

In the middle of the second Harry Potter movie, somebody turned the lights on. Maira shut her eyes on reflex, temporarily blinded by the sudden flash of bright light flooding the room. After a while, she blinked and opened them.

It was her mother. She had brought a cup of milk like she had said she would.

Maira stared as Rohini took a sip, looking straight into her eyes.

“To prove that it’s not poisoned,” her mother said. She placed the cup on the side table and went away. Once at the door, she said in her usual tone, “I know you hate milk but it’ll help you sleep. Don’t stay up too late and keep the lights on”

With that she went away.

After the fourth movie, Maira still couldn’t sleep. The milk had proved to be useless. Maybe some air would help, she thought, finally taking the quilt off herself and settling on the wheelchair.

It was a cool, starry night, a night meant for reminiscing over a campfire. Maira was conscious of the lone shadows loafing about on forgotten corners. It was as if they meant to lead her somewhere – to something.

It was past midnight when Maira stood in front of the basement door. Darkness covered everything so thick that not even the pale shadows that the moon formed could make it past the corridor.

The door had been changed recently. It was made from polymer, printed with a floral pattern. It still had the Ravenclaw poster that Maira had glued to it in sixth grade.

It was her bathroom door, or used to be – to be more accurate.

Maira reached out to touch the hinges. She opened the door despite the crawling fear, deciding to force the fear down for just a moment.

She saw the broken bottom on the inside of the door, and flashes of memory streamed into her mind. Somebody had pounded on this door, crying for help.

That somebody had died a painful death. That somebody was a beautiful human being, somebody who Maira had once trusted with her life and loved more than a blood sister.

She would find the person who did this to them. She would find the third person who was with them that day and make sure that the person suffered the same pain that broke her family.

To be continued

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you next week 💜

Image on Unsplash


By Aceso and Gauri

Previously on Close The Door

A strange anxiety bubbled inside her chest as she held the last newspaper in the pile, one from more than a month ago.
It was just a finger-sized article on the left corner of the front page. It was blurry but she would recognize that face anywhere. Neha.
‘Teen girl found dead’—the headline read.

We continue.

Chapter Six


What is real, what is not? It’s like losing control over existence.

The piece of paper fluttered in her hands that trembled. It took her a while to grasp the words written on it. Of course, just because she could read them, she did not completely believe them. But it was the paper. She scanned her eyes through the top of it and discovered the date it was from. 15th of February. But how could it be? Neha could not die! Not on that day. That, after all, was the day of her accident.

“Mama”, she screamed. When Rohini didn’t arrive she screamed again. “Mama!”, She kept calling her, until her throat was perched. Rohini and Daksh arrived hearing her distress calls.

Maira looked at them, her eyes wide open, undeniably filled with horror.

“Maira we–” Rohini started but before she could ask her anything, she was interrupted.

“Mama, where is Neha?” Maira said with a wobbly voice without wasting a second. She was done with secrets, discreet and deceit.

“What do you mean?” Rohini said nervously, trying to play it cool “we told you, right? Didn’t we, Daksh?”

“Lies!” Maira shouted feeling more breathless every second. “You lied! Neha is… dead.. she died, mama” her voice faded into loud sobs.

“Where did you hear that?” Rohini turned pale.

It couldn’t be. How could she know after all the efforts we made to make sure she didn’t? We took her cell phone, we hid all the papers. How did she still find out?

Maira struggled as she forced her legs to stand up so she could meet her mother’s eyes. She wouldn’t usually even try this in the fear of all the pain she would have to endure but all the heartache made any other pain look feeble. She stumbled and stood up though her legs were still shaking. Daksh ran to her aid as Maira flashed the paper in their face.

“How could you lie to me!” She cried out looking at both of them with equal amount of hatred and anger “how could you!”

“Your health–”


“You have to understand!”

“I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND!! What reason could you possibly have to keep me in so much dark!”

“You were not well.. we didn’t know what else to do .. but you have to calm down..please” Rohini pleaded, her head was going blank every second. Begging was the only path she had to calm her daughter’s rage.

“Neha is dead mama and I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW!”


“No don’t–”

“Just listen once, i beg–”

“No” Maira said still struggling to stand and crying through all the pain. Her heart felt like it would explode. All the flashbacks played like a stereo. Her tinkling anklets, her loud laughs… a pair silver earrings, droplets of water on a glass jar, forget-me-nots scattered on the grass and a loud crashing mirror and some random words. Her temple burned as she thought of the last one.

“WOULD YOU JUST LISTEN FOR ONE GOD-DAMNED SECOND?!” this time it was Rohini. All those stressful months, all the sleepless nights built up inside her exploded right inside her. She snapped out of all the strings as Maira stared at her in disbelief. Her sobs were lighter now but her legs were still shaking. “Do you think it was easy to watch you all these weeks? Do you think it was easy to hide?”

Maira said nothing. She surrendered as she silently cried and submerged back in the wheelchair in defeat.

Rohini walked towards her and sat down on the floor. She put her head on Maira’s knee and said, “I promise, no more lies. I will tell you everything. But please, calm down first”. Rohini had given up on being strong anymore, given up on wanting to take all the load. She needed Maira as much as Maira needed her.

The mother-daughter cried together as Daksh held them both. For the first time since she got back from the hospital, Maira felt home, she felt warm and she felt whole.

Maira sat with her arms wrapped around her pillow some time later, still thinking of Neha. It smelled like Neha’s hair, a bit like jasmine. Every time she came over, she used this pillow. She wanted to cry more but she knew if she did, her parents would delay the truth. Showing them she was strong was the only way she could find out more about that wretched day.

Rohini came into her room with a glass of water. Everyone had lost their appetite that afternoon and the lunch that Rohini had been preparing lay cold in the kitchen.

“Have some water.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Maira asked quickly, avoiding eye contact.

Rohini sighed. “We did.”

“Um.. no you didn’t” Maira replied, confused.

“You woke up mumbling one day in the hospital.” Rohini said. Daksh entered the room carrying a small bag. “You woke up saying something about Neha wanting to kill you. You asked us where she was. I told you myself that she had passed away.”

“And?” Maira asked seeing her mother pause.

“And then you were in pain. You held your head and kept screaming like someone was hammering it.” Rohini sniffed a tear as she continued “of course, you passed out a minute later. The doctor says that incident triggered your amnesia. You woke up the next day, healthier and unaware of everything. I thought I was blessed by God for giving us a fresh new beginning. I thought I was helping. Well, turns out I wasn’t..”

It made Maira feel guilty thinking of how she accused her mother but she didn’t say so.

“How did she..” Maira took a deep breath before she could say ‘die’ but Rohini replied before she could actually say anything anymore.

“Post mortem reports say fell from her window.”

“Then how did i get hurt?”

Daksh and Rohini looked at each other.

“No one really knows what happened that night” Daksh said “there’s an investigator working on it.”

Maira thought of the woman in formals she saw the other day.

“She was here that day. Wasn’t she?”

“Yes. But don’t worry. It was something else.”

“Something else? There’s more?” Maira asked.

“I have something for you.” Maira looked at her father as he spoke.

Daksh shifted towards her.

“Neha..” he said softly “she had these in her drawer. Before moving away her mother left this for you..”.

Maira took the bag. Inside the bag was a square box, bedazzled with blue and pink gems. They were five when they made this.

“Can you leave me alone for some time, Dad?”

He nodded and left her to mourn for what she lost weeks ago.

Maira silently cried as she went through the memories in the box.


Ritvik came rushing to Maira’s house the next day. He found her in the living room struggling to stand up straight as Daksh helped her. She had decided to give up on the wheelchair as soon as she could, after all.

“Uncle” Ritvik greeted Daksh, grasping for breath “are you okay, Maira?”

“Well, I’ve been better.” She said sitting down. Daksh smiled at Ritvik.

“I’ll tell Rohini you’re here.” He said and walked out of the room.

Ritvik sat next to Maira. Her eyes were puffed up, probably because she was crying all night. He made sure to come as soon as he could after Rohini called him and told him that she had found out about Neha’s death.

Maira looked at him. He thought he would cry too. Seeing her, all the pain he had been trying to avoid came back to him. He remembered how he shut himself in his room when he heard of her passing away the first time. His heart throbbed at the flashback of her funeral. Neha, the love of his life, wrapped in a white shard. Everything reminded him of her. Whether it was an old inside joke or some small detail of her beautifully carved features or perhaps her hair that smelled like jasmine whenever the wind rushed through them. But what reminded him of her the most was Maira. It took him a lot of courage to meet her that time during the dinner. But he realized something that say. He needed her presence, the shoulder of a friend to share the pain. But, Maira was clouded by a bizarre unbelievable fact made up by her own mind that Neha had tried to kill her, a bizarre fact that her parents had been continuing. It made his blood boil to watch Neha’s memory get stained. His chest burned with pain whenever a new day passed and he knew she wouldn’t be there in her grey uniform or shabby jeans, playfully teasing him. Maira probably felt the same pain, he thought.

“Is she really..” Maira’s voice cracked.


Maira put her head on his shoulder as he stroked her hair gently. None of them said a thing anymore. They sat there, motionless, waiting for eternity to pass in that moment.

Maira pulled herself away after some time. She wiped her tears and looked up only to find Ritvik just as miserable as her. He sniffed and wiped his face.

“Are you okay?” Maira asked.

“I should be the one asking that.” He said laughing a little.

Does your head ache?”

“It was hurting a little yesterday” she said “don’t tell mama and dad though.”

“Why not?”

“They freak out” she said, “and get all weird.”

Ritvik laughed softly and said, “They care.”

“Ritvik? What happened that week?” Maira asked slowly.

Ritvik had been aching to know the very same thing. He had wondered day and night about the night of their accident but never arrived to a conclusion that would explain the end that followed. All he knew was that Neha’s body was found on the grounds and Maira in the bathroom. No explanation fit the circumstances.

“It was just the two of you that night” he replied, “there was not a single person there to witness it.”

“I can’t remember a thing…”

Ritvik thought for a while “not even a thing?”

“I mean I have random visions…”

“Like what?”

“Like flowers.. forget me nots to be exact, then earrings– metallic ones and random words.”

“Words? What do they say?”

Maira took a few moments to remember then said, “okay it goes like ‘death is the end unless it’s for love’ or something”

Ritvik bit his lips. None of this made sense except–

“Forget me nots you said?”

Maira nodded.

“Well you were both found in Neha’s house and that’s were you must have seen them so you remember them!”

Maira’s face lit up. Of course, that does make sense.

“But what about the rest?” She asked.

“Well, those are your memories. The only place you would find the rest is in your own mind..” he said. A voice in the depth of his heart said he might be putting too much pressure on her but he decided to avoid it. He only thought of Neha. He had to know.

“Maira…” Ritvik said digging his eyes deep into hers “you have to remember. Connect the dots. That’s the only way we can find out what happened to Neha..”

Maira nodded. She knew what she had to do now. She had to remember what she had forgotten.

Maira had to unbox her mind, search for the answers and unravel the truth.

To be continued

We have somehow managed to serve six chapters and reach the mid-point of our twelve chapter novella. It’s such a happy and humbling feeling.

Thank you so much for your support and patient readership. It means the world to us ❤️

We’ll see you next week 🙂


By Aceso and Gauri

Previously on Close the Door

“Yet they have her in an asylum!” Maira now looked up as she said this and added “My parents didn’t even file a case. Yet everyone gives me that pity filled look”

Ritvik said nothing.

Maira continued “like I’m dead, even when I’m alive.”

In Chapter 4 of Close The Door

We continue.


Darkened Souls

It is astounding to think just how much of life is contained in still-life. That was the first coherent thought that Maira had as she stared first at the lifeless, stuffed doll sleeping beside her on her bed and then at the pale splinter of sunshine piercing into her room. Do dead bodies have life too then?

The splinter disappeared as if some great unknown hand had plucked it out and thrown it elsewhere. She could hear a faint rumble from outside. There was a storm approaching.

She got up, dangling her legs from the bed’s edge. The bedtable clock declared two in the afternoon – all bold, black and infuriatingly noisy. Her back ached from sleeping in the same position for hours.

It had been two days since she visited Neha’s deserted home with Ritvik. They had seen a lady making her way out of Maira’s home upon their return.

Maira could have confronted her parents. She could have demanded answers. But she wasn’t sure she was strong enough to bear the answers. That she would ever be strong enough to bear the answers.

Her wheelchair was parked against her bed. Nimbly, she climbed onto it and wheeled herself to the bathroom.

For a moment she just sat there waiting, hesitating. The house-help usually assisted her through her morning routine but her son had fractured his arm yesterday and she had taken a leave. Maira drew in a breath and pushed the door open.

Inside the bathroom, it was plain enough. Plain white tiles with blue flowers, plain walls, plain ceiling, plain tub, faucets, plain everything.

Her parents had got the mirror adjusted lower for her convenience. A broad rectangular basket of toiletries was placed on one side of the bath tub. She picked her toothbrush and was pressing a blob of toothpaste when it happened.

The room turned dark as twilight. Maira first guessed it to be the work of the storm. It was probably dark outside as well. Storms were familiar at this time of the year.

They call it Bordoisila – the girl who visits her mother’s home for the first time after marriage; she blows everything in her path to get there in wild haste – or so goes an old wives’ tale.

For some reason, Maira felt someone’s return. Someone familiar, even dear.

The lowered mirror rattled, the glass breaking from within, bursting and scattering in all directions. Shards, long and pointed like daggers, thrusted themselves deep inside her feet, pinning them to the footboard of the wheelchair.

Another flew to her outstretched arms and stopped mid-air. Maira blinked, breaking into a cold sweat. Her voice caught inside her throat, lost its way and ended deranged inside her hollowed heart.

She wheezed, unable to breathe. She gaped in pure horror as a figure appeared – a pale hand with slender fingers heavy with some half a dozen thick silver rings.

She had never passed a chance of teasing her for believing in astrological mumbo-jumbo.

The rest of her didn’t appear. There was no reason to appear. The hand was enough.

The same hand that used to make Maira’s hair, used to caress her on the cheek more than once in sisterly affection, now held a knife-like piece of glass that intended no mercy.

Outside, rain and hail beat against the roof creating a mad concert set upon driving its audience to a skull-shattering death.

Maira stared, her entire being frozen as the glass stilled itself against her wrist, carving words with blood ink.

‘R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R M-E’

The lights didn’t flicker. They took on a sick glow as the final letter formed on her arm. With that the hand disappeared.

Maira found her voice, letting out a feeble shriek. Her arm burned where the words remained. They seeped into her bones, permanently carving themselves there.

With a jolt she realized that the heavens had stopped drumming and an eerie silence took over, holding the air in its tight claws.

The pieces of broken glass had disappeared from the floor, the light returned to its usual hue, harmless as ever.

The only thing that remained as an evidence of what had passed inside that room moments ago, was the perspiration on Maira’s face, scalp, palms.

Or so she thought.

She jerked her head back, sobbing as she covered her face with her palms. They were wet and sticky but not from sweat.

She saw red. The hot fluid tasted metallic where they entered her mouth upon touch. She spat repeatedly, feverish and nauseous.

Maira screamed, draining the new found air from her lungs.

Her entire being shook as she tried to remove the stains from her hands, rubbing them against her dress, pulling at her hair as a splitting head ache ensued with such cruel force that her eyes might as well have popped out of their sockets.

Water, she thought, reaching for the basin. It was too high for her. In her desperation she didn’t realize when she had fallen off her wheel chair and onto the floor, crawling to reach the lone bucket on the other side.

It was too far away.

She stopped to catch her breath, heart throbbing as if it were pumping poison. She held her head up, trying to support herself on the edge of the tub and sat with her back against it, hugging her legs.

The low mirror was on her eye level. It was as intact as a relationship before a betrayal. Instead of cracks it had something else.

Maira did not scream. No less than an hour passed before her mother Rohini found her lying on the floor, passed out.

Maira had seen what her mother wouldn’t. For everything was in the normal state of things when she appeared, screaming in horror as she saw her daughter lying unconscious on the cold hard floor.

Rohini didn’t see the word smeared from the same blood that had stained Maira’s hands.


It had disappeared, hidden away like locked memories.

When Maira woke up hours later, she found herself tucked up in her bed. The thick floral curtains were pulled and the lights turned on. Her parents knew that she would freak out if she woke up to a dark room.

She turned to her side, sat up, dangling her legs from the edge of the bed as a wave of déjà vu washed over her.

It was as if what had earlier occurred inside the bathroom had been a dream. Nothing but a dream. She would have no problem believing it, but it was night now. Which indicated that she had indeed woken up once before.

That – all that had actually happened. She shivered as she wheeled herself out of the room.

Her mother sat on the kitchen island, beating what looked like a cake mix. Her father was on the sofa, watching the evening news. He heard her coming and turned in surprise. “Honey you’re awake”

“Good evening, Papa,” Maira said in response.

“Sweetie look I’m baking a cake! Black forest. Your favorite,” her mother said in a sugary voice from the kitchen island. Maira didn’t have to look at their faces to know how hard they were trying to act normal.

Yet she turned to her mother once, gave her a smile and said, “That’s nice, mama”

She moved to the centre table and started browsing through magazines. Old newspapers were piled up and dusty on the bottom slab of the table. She stared at them, not quite sure what she was searching for. She picked up a bunch and placed them on her lap.

A strange anxiety bubbled inside her chest as she held the last newspaper in the pile, one from more than a month ago.

It was just a finger-sized article on the left corner of the front page. It was blurry but she would recognize that face anywhere. Neha.

Teen girl found dead’—the headline read.

To be continued

Thank you for reading 🌼

Close The Door_Chapter 4

By Aceso and Gauri

Previously on Close The Door

She held her breath, shifting her gaze between them before stopping at Ritvik. He arrested her with his unfaltering gaze, looking at her with unconcealed curiosity and just a trace of anxiousness. He still held the casseroles in his hands.

The ending of Close The Door Chapter 3

We continue



The Revisit

Happiness and laughter; it’s been some time since this house witnessed it. The walls echoed with Rohini and Soni aunty’s laughs in response to Ravi uncle’s story about his encounter with bad hotel service. Maira could not hear much from the dining room as she cleared some area on the dining table for Ritvik to put the casseroles down.
“Let me help you with that” he offered to help.
“No” Maira said quickly. There was a hint of anger in the monosyllable word.
Ritvik watched her struggle with the bowls. It made him feel bad for her but he knew Maira. If he so much as even tried to help now, she might pin him to the ground and wheel over his body.
He softly put the casseroles down once she was done.
“They are probably going to talk for some time” she said looking towards the living room.
“Yea..” he admitted, “Dad saved some stories for the event. Do you want to go in there?”
She shook her head. It’s been a while since there was some noise in this house. If she entered that room now, she would ruin it. Not only was the idea of ruining the party so distasteful; but the glances of pity people threw towards her made her even more sick.
“I would rather go outside.” She replied bluntly.
“Alright” Ritvik said, “I’ll join you”
Maira looked up at him as he grinned. She sighed and added “Just don’t talk too much”.
“We’ll see” he said as he pushed her wheelchair towards the front porch.
The moon today was bigger than yesterday, playing hide and seek in the clouds. Maira stared at it, trying to find as many constellations as she could whenever it disappeared from sight.
Ritvik had been a friend since she was 4 years old. Back then everything was beautiful. The three of them played with trains and ran wild in the rain, building paper boats. Ritvik, who was plump and slow in his own cute ways, Neha in her neatly braided pigtails consoling Ritvik whenever he cried and Maira with her pale face and messy hair, hiding behind Neha in all of their escapades.
It made little difference even if he was two years older than them. In fact, as kids he was the one who cried the most. Yet, here he was. He was tall, calm and collected. The small face was replaced by strong bony cheeks and a soft layer of beard.

“You don’t look so good”
Maira came out of her thoughts and followed his voice to reality.
She smirked and replied sarcastically, “yea? What gave it away I wonder.”
“It is a beautiful night” he said trying to loosen the mood up a bit, “The moon looks pretty good too but perhaps I don’t have to tell you that since you’ve been staring at it”
There was a brief silence as Maira thought about what to say next.
“My name,” she paused. “It means ‘the moon’, you know”
He smiled. “I didn’t. But I’m glad you found time to research it”
She sighed “I asked mama the other day” then added, “It’s like destiny. The dark is where I belong. The sun will always outshine me to an extent where I will always need it’s light to even shine in the dark.” She paused. “Only to be eaten up again once morning returns, of course.”
The silence regained. Maira spoke again.
“Have you ever been stuck in an elevator?”
Ritvik somewhat knew what she was going on about but he decided to go with it. “No, I haven’t”, he replied sincerely.
“I haven’t either” she said “perhaps it feels exactly how I feel with chunks of my memory gone, stuck in this house. I am not allowed the phone because I might get sick. I’m not allowed to step out of the house, I might get sick. I am not allowed to think too much, I might get sick.” Maira clutched the steel arms of the wheelchair as her throat dried up.
Ritvik stood silently, patiently listening to his friend speaking her heart out. Knowing she was waiting to hear him respond, he put his hand on her shoulder.
“The moon” he said, “it lights up when we feel afraid the most. Don’t act like you don’t know your worth, you idiot. So what if it borrows the light from the sun? It is still working hard to light up the night. Don’t say it so lightly like all that hard work means nothing.”
Maira looked at him. The moonlight brushed through his face stopping strictly at his sharp features. Her eyes watered up. It was a weird feeling where she felt mad at him yet she wanted to lean on his shoulder and cry.
“Dinner is ready –” Rohini shouted from inside.

The dinner felt better today, the spices hit differently on her taste buds. She smiled at Soni aunty’s care filled remarks about her weight. It was a happy dinner after weeks.
After dinner, the Acharyas were ready to leave. Maira felt they might take all the ‘joy’ away with them.
“Rohini Aunty” a husky strong voice called out as they walked towards their car. “Can I take Maira someplace with me tomorrow? I mean just for some fun? I promise I will take care of her.”
Rohini hesitated “well.. I don’t know.. I mean she’s still weak..”
“Of course you can, Ritvik” Daksh interrupted. Maira’s face lit up at the idea of leaving the house. They were leaving some of the joy behind after all.
That night Maira slept with a smile on her face. Her mind mapped through every place that served the most wonderful delicacies, her favorite spots of street food. But she knew where she wanted to go most.


Ritvik reached on time just like he said; sharp at 11 am. He stood next to his car wearing a purple shirt and spotless white chino. Maira glanced at him from the window pane and patted her own floral skirt. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before finally going out. She could see her mother talking to Ritvik. As Maira reached them, Rohini stopped.
“Do you even have a license to drive that thing?” Maira asked.
“I will soon” Ritvik replied with pride.
Maira sighed. “I don’t feel like dying with you driving so let’s just walk”
“Walk?” Rohini gasped.
“I mean I will do the wheely thing and he’ll walk!” Maira cleared her doubts, annoyed. Ritvik laughed.
“No that’s not what I meant” Rohini said quickly, “I thought you’d want to go somewhere far, like the city..”
“Like I said, I don’t trust this guy with the steering wheel!” Maira said trying to hide her laugh as she watched Ritvik frown.
“Ah.” He said finally, “guess I’ll just have to drag a person for the day. No worries Rohini aunty, I’ll keep your daughter safe even if she bugs the brains out of me!”
Maira grinned happily. “To the left, slave!”
Ritvik raised an eyebrow and said, “I’ll take my revenge for this.”
The spring was blooming with colors. There was an aroma of all types of roses freely wandering around, tinkling every inch of her body. She missed dragging her feet on soft dirt and moist grasses.
Just a little more, she thought. We’ll be there soon.
“I knew where you would want to go” Ritvik said, like almost reading her thoughts.
“I guess I couldn’t hide it from you, could I?” She smiled.
“To be honest, I predicted this situation before I even reached your home. So I was prepared.” He paused then continued “Did anyone else visit you?”
“Ishani did. Once. Back in the hospital. She calls sometimes.”
Lies. The truth was, Ishani called twice after that visit and that was it. Somewhere, it made Maira happy that she didn’t. Those eyes were filled with so much pity even after she had survived so much, even if she was getting better physically, even if her wounds were healing.
“We’re here” Ritvik said after sometime.
The wind here was different. The yard was filled with dried up leaves, the forget-me-nots in the corner were slowly dying. She remembered planting them there when she was seven. The small house in front of her brought back so many memories.
Anyone who saw the house could tell the owners were long gone and hadn’t returned. The big lock on the front gate confirmed it.
This was where she lived, the girl who tried to kill her.

“So, it is true” Maira said “Neha and her mom really left for her treatment..”
“Treatment?” Ritvik asked, confused.
“Didn’t you hear? She has been sent away for some mental treatment for…” She paused, took a deep breath and said “attacking me”
Ritvik stayed quiet.
“Did she contact you?” Maira asked hopefully.
“Why did she do it, Ritvik? I had no idea she was this vile poison I was harboring”
“You know that’s not true..” he said slowly.
“I know that’s exactly true!” It felt good for Maira, letting out this hatred that was building inside her. “Was it always this bad? I mean did she always look at me with loathe? What did I even do to her?”
“I think that’s enough, Maira..”
“Enough? Everything that is happening to me is her fault. I almost died because of her. I lost my family because of her! She is a horrible murderer–”
“I SAID THAT’S ENOUGH”, Ritvik shouted. Maira stared at him with disbelief then looked down at her feet.
A cuckoo sang in a distance.
“Why?” She mumbled.
“WHY?” This time she asked loud and clear “Why do you still take her side?”
“There are no sides to take”, he replied quietly.
“Where were you all these weeks, Ritvik?” She asked, her eyes still pinned to her feet.
He kept quiet.
“I waited.” She said “At the hospital, back in my house. You never called, let alone visit me. And now, you stand here and defend my murderer.”
“Oh c’mon Maira–” Ritvik grew restless “I was going through my own thing. Besides, you don’t even remember the details!! No one knows for sure what even happened!”
“Yet they have her in an asylum!” Maira now looked up as she said this and added “My parents didn’t even file a case. Yet everyone gives me that pity filled look”
Ritvik said nothing.
Maira continued “like I’m dead, even when I’m alive.”
Maira wiped her tears silently. “I would storm off angrily if I could walk. But for now, just take me back home”
Ritvik did so without a question. None of them spoke a word on the way back. The spring felt replaced by a damp winter and roses smelled withering to her.
A black car stood in front of her house. A woman in a black suit opened the front door. Before she got in, she took off her glasses and took a good look at Maira. She smiled, more to herself than at Maira and drove away.

To be continued

We’ll see you next Monday 😊 Thanks for reading!