Second steps

Second steps

She stood on the ledge, gazing at the twinkling lights; her breath erratic and heart racing. The breeze running through the sparks and flames had a warm touch to it much like her palms that throbbed due to her pumping blood. She looked down in the distance, a step away from what the rest of her life would or wouldn’t be.

She found herself inching closer to the edge and reaching out to the very extent of her capabilities to grab what was hers, as a singular scream tore through the cloud of smoke and startled her; sending her right foot stumbling and pulling her in a swift motion to what could be a very decisive end as her right hand flayed to find a grip of a branch, an edge, a twig, some hope.

It all started that fateful morning when her father mentioned an office holiday coming up, heralding a discussion about the festive plans. Oh the world had always been full of drama for our little angel. Ever since her first steps, all endeavours had been larger than life adventures for her. Now she found herself in third standard, in a distant boarding school. It was an ordinary, above average and modular school that did not stand out in any way; but to her, of course, the boarding school was a magnificent institute no less than Hogwarts. To her, the gatekeeper’s occasional frown at the rough-housing boys was no less than a battle-cry of great weight and the 5 feet high fence no less than an enormous wall separating her from the rest of her whimsical land. Across the cathedral inspired grand hall she’d sit and listen to the sleep inducing charms of the grimly stoic master who floated around in her black clad tunic with dead eyes. All week she hadn’t been able to concentrate in class out of sheer anticipation and excitement about the approaching holidays and the prospect of flying back home to her parents and sister. She never had been good with other people, ostracism and alienation had always followed her from school to school as she grew up on the move. Her disconnection was an ode to the elaborately dramatic fictional structure she placed herself in, the eccentricities of an immensely creative mind wore her social faculties down. Her world was too colorful for reality and too lively for the concrete jungle around her, for she knew life beyond the restraints of survival.

Fiddling with these thoughts, she slid into the backseat of the father’s car and peeped out of the window for the whole ride home. All attempts of her father to start a conversation or spark a topic were met with chin-jutter acknowledgement but no replies. Diwali had always been the only festival (apart from Holi) that she liked even the slightest, since it fit her definition for beauty and joy. The reflection of the bright lights in her eyes was only accentuated by her own spark that playfully danced in her bright blue eyes. She had her mother’s eyes, on a plump face topped with shoulder length black hair that further lopped to the side and gave her right profile an elegant look beyond her age. She jumped off the chassis with a thud before the E brake clicked home and was in her mother’s embrace before dad got his seat-belt off. The festival of light was indeed upon us. The rest of the day passed by in a blur, even-though the little tasks like buying groceries were no less than video-game boss-battles to her.

When finally the time for firecrackers arrived, her excitement knew no bounds. It was a family tradition, the whole setup in the garden. The lights, the food, patio furniture and comfortable sofas in the center to watch the fireworks from. Those bright eyes that twinkled all week in anticipation were now fixed on a particular brand of gunpowder pellets. The box advertised glowing and exuberant colours, which were exactly what she had her eyes on as she climbed the cupboard beside the fence. Right foot on the stirrup formed by a chair armrest and left on a higher shelf, she hoisted herself up and stood right on the ledge. The tree beside her spread its branches in her direction but was a little too far to hold balance against. The party had already started and the other kids were lighting their stocks in a trance. She had to do it now. Her only mistake, she looked down, and was instantly betrayed by her powers of observation. Her whimsy took over and the world was no longer simple, and so we get here. She stood on the ledge, gazing at the twinkling lights; her breath erratic and heart racing. The breeze running through the sparks and flames had a warm touch to it much like her palms that throbbed due to her pumping blood. She looked down in the distance, a step away from what the rest of her life would or wouldn’t be. She found herself inching closer to the edge and reaching out to the very extent of her capabilities to grab what was hers, as a singular scream tore through the cloud of smoke and startled her; sending her right foot stumbling and pulling her in a swift motion to what could be a very decisive end as her right hand flayed to find a grip of a branch, an edge, a twig, some hope. As her sister screamed at her to get down from there, she didn’t realize it would cause her to come down instantly.

Lights out, she thought as the last speck of optimism left her and she accepted her fate and rapidly coming ground, but to her surprise; it was more like a love tap than a hammer strike. She landed face first onto the lush green grass and the dew drops of early November chill kissed her cheek and forehead. As she opened her big blue eyes, all her fantasy and imaginary details lost form. The world that was always strange and new was suddenly, familiar and safe while retaining the fantastic colours and brightness. Everything was vibrant and zealous, but in a way that didn’t jarr or startle her; rather enveloped her in a cozy warmth while being a part of but not being limited by, reality. As her sister hauled her to her feet and dusted her knees and elbows off, she couldn’t help but smile at the look the little one had on her face. A look of pure amazement with the ordinary.

And so was the combination of home and Diwali to her. From there on out, she never looked back; and the packet of firecrackers still rests on the top shelf, burning at the anger of the angel’s second steps that took her away to more mesmerising things of the world.

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