Fiction, Short Story

Colours

Gael sat scribbling in his journal, one fine day in the park. He glanced up at the white sunrays falling on his book, emanating from the black giant star that he had studied was actually yellow. Or was it orange?
The grey pen he was holding, made random patterns on the paper when he heard a soft voice behind him,
“Hola.”
Gael turned around to look at the source of the beautiful voice. It was a girl of roughly his age, probably 20, and she had exquisite white skin, and her hair– that appeared black to Gael—was swept back in a bun at the nape of her neck, barring a few silken strands that hovered around her ears.
“Hola,” Gael replied, smiling dashingly. “¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?”
“Actually, I don’t speak a lot of Spanish,” she said, sheepishly. “Do you speak English?”
Gael nodded, getting up from the bench. “How can I help you?”
“Thank god! My name is Amelia, and it’s my first trip to Spain, and I seem to have been separated from my best friend and tour-guide,” she chuckled nervously, and then continued, “and I cannot reach her phone. But can you help me get back to my hotel so that I can call her?”
“Sure,” Gael smiled again. “Which is your hotel?”
She produced a white card from her pocket.
Gael stroked his chin. “It is just a few blocks away. I can accompany you if you like.”
Amelia shook her head embarrassingly. “No, I don’t want to interrupt your writing, I’d feel horrible—“
“Not so much writing as trying to write,” Gael chuckled. “Come along, it’s no problem.”
She blushed, and a rush of grey climbed up her cheeks.
Gael thought it was beautiful.
Amelia picked up her bag and pushed a stray hair behind her ear and took a tentative step towards the exit of the park.
Silence reigned as they walked towards the destination.
“So tell me about your trip,” Gael asked, breaking it.
“I reached here just yesterday and today I am lost,” she replied, shaking her head.
Gael laughed. “You should have learnt some Spanish. Everyone here doesn’t speak English.”
“You do,” she pointed out.
“That is because I studied in the UK for three years.”
“Oh?”
“Why is that so surprising?” Gael asked, lifting a brow.
“I live in the UK!” Amelia said a little too excitedly.
“That is interesting.” Gael grinned and looked away.
They slipped into silence again.
Gael berated himself for not thinking about something better to say. That’s interesting? Who says that to a girl this pretty?
Amelia watched him out of the corner of her eye. She couldn’t help noticing his defined jaw, the twinkle in his black eyes, and how her heart fluttered every time he chuckled.
A sudden gust of wind swept past them, brushing a few strands of Amelia’s black hair back onto her face and Gael resisted the urge to touch her cheek.
A few minutes of internal struggling led them finally to their departure point.
“This is it, then,” Gael managed a smile, pointing to a three storeyed black building. “Your hotel.”
“It is,” Amelia nodded, feeling an alarming tinge of sadness. “Thank you.”
Gael nodded, and waited for her to say something.
Amelia felt his eyes gaze at her intensely. She looked anywhere but at him. What should I say?
Gael turned to go, and almost instinctively, she placed her hand on his shoulder, feeling him freeze under her touch.
“Hey,” Amelia said. “I never caught your name.”
Gael faced her and stopped mid-way through his smile.
“It’s Gael—“his jaw dropped open.
Amelia stared at him too, tears forming in her eyes.
His eyes weren’t black. They were blue. An electric blue.
The tree beside her changed colour from black to what she assumed was green.
She could see. She could see the colours. The sun is actually orange, she whispered to herself.
Her hand was still on his shoulder.
For what felt like an eternity, neither of them spoke.
The world was not important. Only they were.
“You have red hair.” Gael’s voice was almost a whisper.

***

Five miles away from where Gael and Amelia stood transfixed, in love, and teary-eyed, Sebastian—his brother– was gazing at a birch tree, looking at the monochromatic picture he had of her.
Mariana.
Just thinking about her name filled him with trepidation. He had finally plucked up enough courage to ask her to come, meet him.
He’d laid eyes on her for the first last month, and had immediately fallen in love with her.
Life was black and white for half of the earth’s population. Colours were something only the privileged could see.
His thoughts wandered to the millions of people living on earth, and how so many of them chose love over colours. They didn’t care if they couldn’t find their soul mates—it was a big world after all—and had made peace with the fact that the person they loved, was the person they wanted to be with.
His parents were one of those people who didn’t care.
Unfortunately for him, he did.
Sebastian wasn’t a coward. But he was afraid of fate. His fears kept him from accidentally bumping into her, and see for himself if she was the One.
In my heart, I know she is.
Gael had advised him to just go for it.
He glanced anxiously at the black and white dial of the watch he was wearing. She should be here any minute.
His palms felt sweaty, and his head felt dizzy. He couldn’t bear the thought of letting her go. Maybe, he would just have to wait and see.
In the last one month that he had known her, their conversation had been limited to waving hands, and they had often texted.
To the best of his knowledge, she still had not stumbled upon her soul mate.
The thought was encouraging.
He heard a rustling behind him, and turned in time to see Mariana walking through the clearing, with a smile on her face.
The white sundress she was wearing ruffled along with the wind. Maybe I will find out the actual colour of the sundress today.
“Hey,” Mariana said shyly.
“Hi,” Sebastian breathed. “So we finally decided to meet, huh?” He asked with a chuckle as he wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans.
“Yes, we did,” she laughed. The sound was like the twinkling of bells.
“These are for you,” Sebastian presented her with a bouquet of lilies. They had been taught that the lilies were originally white. No deception there. Sebastian hoped that Mariana would see the symbolism.
She buried her nose in them for a brief second, and gave him a dazzling smile.
Sebastian felt his cheeks grow warmer.
“Why don’t we sit down?”
They walked around and sat on the carefully placed mat that Sebastian had laid for them in the clearing.
For a few seconds, he let the fact that he was sitting here with the woman of his dreams sink in.
Then he asked the question he had dreaded this last one month.
“Can I see the tattoo on your hand?”
She smiled, looking at him with a strange expression. “Of course.”
She handed him her hand, and with the briefest of touches, he held it gingerly, and let the feeling sink in.
He closed his eyes before he could see something else.
Her hand feels so perfect in mine.
He took a deep breath, and exhaled shakily. She had become very still.
His eyes fluttered open.
His heart elated.
The world had colours.
“Mariana,” his voice was a whisper. “I knew it. See? Everything’s so beautiful.”
He felt euphoric. His heart leaped inside his chest with an intensity that it could jump out at any moment.
“See what? Everything is black and white.”

***
Years later from that fateful day, Sebastian could still hear his heart shattering into a million pieces.
Gael made things better. Amelia, his wife, was a lovely woman. Their kids were lovelier.
It was everything Sebastian had wanted, and yet never gotten.
The one thing he was grateful for though was that now he could see the colours. He had been, for fifteen years now.
One would expect him to get over it—but how do you get over something you never had?
He reflected on this while he sat on the porch outside Gael’s house, sipping his tea. He had been living with them since forever.
He turned as he heard Gael’s footsteps behind him. A hand touched his shoulder.
“What’re you thinking about?”
“Her.”
Gael sighed. “Seb, you shouldn’t—“
“Honey,” Amelia chimed as she joined them, and gave Gael a look. Sebastian knew the look well. It translated to you-have-no-right-to-say-anything-about-his-feelings-for-Marianna look.
Gael sighed again, and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, burying his face in the crook of her neck. Both smiled blissfully.
Sebastian looked away.
A loud shrill of the phone ringing inside the house drew Amelia back in, Gael trailing behind her.
“¿Hola?” Amelia spoke. “Si, esto es Amelia.”
Gael smiled as he watched her speak. She’d taken his advice and learnt Spanish.
Amelia’s expression however, changed from pleasant, to horror.
Gael raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?” he asked, as he watched her shaking hands, put the phone down.
On the porch, there was a crash of a certain teacup shattering.
Amelia and Gael rushed outside.
Sebastian had gone very still.
“Seb,” Amelia barely whispered. “It’s Marianna, she—“
“I know,” Sebastian said. “The world’s black and white again.”

Story By: Mahima KhetiyaFB_IMG_1521222178179

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Fiction

Photographic Memory

 story by Mahima Khetiya

 

***

“I have a photographic memory,” the old man living in the tiny, stinky studio apartment on 5th Avenue used to say to people. He said he remembered the engraved date on an old Picasso painting that he had once seen in an art gallery. He remembered every phone number he had dialled. He also remembered the day he had seen snow for the first time when he was a child.

Not that people cared. People hardly cared about him. He had no one, except his own mind and a diseased cat that he had named Minnie.

The old man loved taking a walk at 2 in the afternoon, when there were lesser people on the road and he could take pictures without people staring at him. He almost felt like people had never seen an old photographer. Maybe they really had never.

People used to think for quite some time that he liked using the phrase “photographic memory” because he was a photographer. But then again, that didn’t make sense and they didn’t care enough to give it a thought.

On one of his afternoon walks, he clicked a picture of a little girl on her orange bicycle, cycling furiously on the road. She had a bouquet of lilies strapped to her back, and for some reason, the contrast of white and orange attracted Jerry enough to capture it into his camera. He headed back home, transferred the pictures onto his computer—a piece of junk that seemed like a blow of wind would shake the mainframe and shatter the machine.

Flipping through the pictures of last week and re-checking his mail once more to make sure that he had no reply from the company where he had gone for an interview a few days ago, he came across a picture he didn’t recognize.

It was of an old lady, munching on some bright pink candy floss just around the corner of his neighbourhood.

Another unrecognisable picture. A sparrow twittering in the early morning smog, perched on a pine tree.

Another one. The girl with the orange bicycle—except this one was taken three days ago.

Jerry almost ran to the police station. He claimed that someone had been taking pictures from his camera.

The officer made him sit, offered him a glass of water, and flipped through the unknown pictures.

He then flipped through the set of pictures that Jerry knew he had himself taken. He asked about the girl with the orange bicycle. Jerry shrugged and mumbled something about it being artistically pleasing.

The officer was intrigued by the man who looked like a homeless person, was an old photographer with no job and no family, and how his utmost concern was that someone was taking pictures from his camera that he could, otherwise, have passed off as his own and that would have landed him a job. He suggested the same thing to Jerry.

When Jerry walked home that evening, and checked his computer, he saw a new mail notification, but before he could go over and click on it, his cat let out a sick moan and scratched its ear with a dusty paw. Jerry noticed a rash, and checked the cob-webbed jar in which he used to store money.

Only three cents.

Sighing, he decided that it would do Minnie some good if she had some fresh air.

It was night when he returned, and he drank a bottle full of water, and called it a day.

 
***

Miles away from his studio apartment, the officer was sitting on his desk, inquiring the little girl with the orange bicycle.

The girl said she delivered flowers to people, and that she passed by that same route everyday at 2 to deliver a fresh bouquet of lilies to the widowed lady on the street across from where the old man lived. She claimed that she had no idea that the old man had ever taken a photograph of her. She definitely didn’t know Jerry so she surely did not know about the stranger taking photos, too.

Scratching his beard, the officer stepped out into the night’s crisp hair, and tried to understand how it was possible that a stranger sneaked into Jerry’s house, took photos and went away– without even deleting them. And such beautiful photos they were. Jerry even remembered the exact timing of every photo he had taken, and so he seemed pretty sure his photographic memory had no memory of the unknown photos. The officer believed his sincerity.

Yawning, he retired for the day. He concluded that Jerry must have taken his advice and would make some money out of the unknown photos.


***

Next morning, Jerry woke up, sat flipping through his photos, having some leftovers for breakfast, scouring the streets with his diseased cat, and randomly striking up a conversation with some homeless people in the dark alley behind his apartment. He told them how he remembered the engraved date on an old Picasso painting that he had once seen in an art gallery. He remembered every phone number he had dialled. He also remembered the day he had seen snow for the first time when he was a child.

He went home, refreshed his mail, awaiting the reply from the company, ignoring the mail he had received yesterday. He put it in the spam folder.

Flipping through the pictures of the last week and re-checking his mail once more to make sure that he had no reply from the company where he had gone for an interview a few days ago, he came across a picture he didn’t recognize.

It was of an old lady, munching on some bright pink candy floss just around the corner of his neighbourhood.

Another unrecognizable picture. A sparrow twittering in the early morning smog, perched on a pine tree.

Another one. The girl with the orange bicycle—except this one was taken four days ago.

Jerry almost ran to the police station. He claimed that someone had been taking pictures from his camera.

The officer leaned back, as realization dawned on him.

He asked Jerry what he was doing the day those photos were taken. He said he was sleeping.

And yet later that day, when the officer talked to the old lady who was photographed eating candy floss in the unknown picture, she gave a toothless smile and said how Jerry had asked her to pose that morning, and how she pitied him for not remembering things, how he had been like that for years, how she had been secretly taking his sick cat to the vet so she wouldn’t die and leave him all alone with his forgetful mind.

When the officer nodded sympathetically, thanked her and was about to leave, she touched his arm with her wrinkled hand, and told him, “Officer, do let him live under the impression that he has a photographic memory. That is the only thing he constantly remembers.”
 
 
 
Mahima Khetiya is a writer from Mumbai, India. A 20 year old English Literature student, blogger and bookstagrammer she has a passion for reading, writing short-fiction, novels and a little bit of poetry. She always reads more than she writes, and buys books more than she reads them. Currently co-authoring a novel to be published the following year by Bombaykala Publications. She likes looking at white flowers, aesthetic things, and old buildings.

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