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“I found madam by that shoe cupboard. She was removing all the shoes and talking. I thought she was talking on phone. Then suddenly, she removed one black sandal with big heels and placed it on the floor and started laughing.”
The incessant ringing of the doorbell compelled Avni to leave the half chopped vegetables on the dining table in a bid to open the door. She was pleasantly surprised to see Lakshmi, her maid.
“I thought you were on leave today. So, how come you are here?” Avni asked as she moved aside for Lakshmi to enter.
“Yes madam, we were supposed to go for a picnic as our kids’ exams got over yesterday. But one of them fell sick. So we had to cancel everything at the end minute. I then decided to come here.” Lakshmi started cleaning the kitchen table.
“See, be careful, and don’t throw those chopped veggies.” Avni turned around to close the door. She saw a young girl standing by the door. “Lakshmi? Did you bring anyone with you?” Avni asked over the banging of the utensils. But, she couldn’t hear the maid’s response.
“Hey, come inside.” She gestured to the girl. She asked her to sit and also gave her a glass of water that was kept on the tea table across the sofa. “What’s your name?” She gently asked.
“Smita.” The girl said.
“Nice name, Smita. You must be Lakshmi’s daughter, right?” Avni quizzed.
The girl simply nodded and sat there admiring her surroundings.
Avni was proud of her house. It was her creation. Being an interior designer, she had made full use of her talents in decorating her dream home. It was simple, yet elegant. Nothing was over the top. All the furniture and knick knacks in the house were carefully bought and placed in strategic locations to add an illusion of more space in the house. The walls were painted white and a contrast was added by the maroon curtains and a couple of gigantic paintings.
Now that Lakshmi was there to look after the kitchen and cleaning, Avni relaxed and decided to put the girl at ease. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” Smita said, still not meeting Avni’s eyes.
The girl was indeed very shy. So similar to her younger self, Avni thought. And she had a wonderful idea to break the ice and get her to talk.
“Would you like to help me in cleaning my shoe cupboard? Your mom is never free to do so. And I can’t do it all on my own.” Avni said.
“Sure.” Smita replied.
Avni took the girl nearer the main door, where the shoe cupboard was. “See, this is it.” She opened the door.
Smita gasped in surprise and Avni smiled. She knew it was the right decision.
“So many shoes and sandals?” Smita asked.
“Yes, I love shoe shopping. It’s a weakness of mine. Let’s get started then. You remove all the sandals from the top racks while I’ll work from the bottom.”
Avni kept talking about the various pairs of sandals that were removed from their wooden confines. She vividly remembered from where she had bought which pair and how often had she actually worn them. Smita listened to her in awe.
When Avni removed a pair of black peep toes with a three inch heel, Smita couldn’t take her eyes off of them. Everything that Avni said after that went above her head. She was mesmerized by those heels.
“Smita, you can keep these. They will not fit me now as these were bought when I was of your age. But, these were also my first pair of heels and so I really can’t seem to part with them. Now I guess I have found its rightful owner. Go ahead, take them. They are all yours!”
Smita couldn’t believe what she was hearing “Really, didi? These are for me? I can take them?” She hugged Avni in joy, “Thank you didi!”
Avni laughed heartily and said, “Come on now, wear them and show me that cat-walk baby.”
Smita giggled at that, but she was also nervous. She wore them, and they fit her perfectly. As though they were designed for her feet. She took a tentative step in them and wobbled a bit. And she immediately grasped the nearby wall.
“Yes, very good Smita. Walk slowly. You’ll get the hang of it. Keep trying.” Avni encouraged.
After a few wobbles here and there, Smita finally managed to walk properly in her newly acquired heels.
“Promise me to take care of them for me, Smita.” Avni said. Smita smiled and promised. They then sorted the other pairs of shoes, discarded a few and kept the rest away.
In the meantime, Lakshmi was done with her stuff and as she was leaving she said, “Madam, I have cooked chapattis and a vegetable gravy for you. And I have cleaned everything in the kitchen too.”
Avni thanked her and waved a goodbye. But she couldn’t meet Smita, as the girl was so excited with her heels that she ran away before her mother.
A few days later, Avni went for a stroll in the park with her husband, Vishal. Both of them were lost in their own thoughts, when suddenly Avni spotted something.
“Vishal!” She nudged her husband, “look at that!”
Vishal was brought back to the present from his daydreams by his wife’s panicked voice. “What happened Avni? Are you alright?”
“Look at that Vishal! See, under the bench.” She gestured.
Vishal peeked under the bench and said, “What? Those are someone’s sandals.”
“Please get them, I want to see.” Avni said, her heart wildly beating in her chest.
She inspected the sandals and said, “These are mine, Vishal. I had given Smita, Lakshmi’s daughter a few days back. How come they are here? I’m getting very scared Vishal. Let’s go home.”
Back home, Avni called Lakshmi and asked her to come over immediately and also get Smita along. The time between the call and Lakshmi’s arrival was spent pacing in the flat by Avni, while Vishal was watching the television. “Relax Avni. Why are you making such a big deal out of it? She must have not liked it. So she threw it away.”
“No Vishal. I had told her how sentimental it was for me. And she had promised me to take good care of it. How can she do that? And if she did not like it, she should have returned it back to me, right?”
Vishal resumed his perusal of the television. There was no point in arguing with a livid Avni. Exactly thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Avni sprang towards the door. She opened it and found Lakshmi alone.
“What happened Madam? Everything alright?” A visibly distressed Lakshmi asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. Where’s Smita?”
“Who Smita, Madam?”
“Smita, Your daughter Lakshmi. How can you forget that?”
“But, I don’t have a daughter Madam!”
On hearing that, Vishal switched off the television and joined in. “Come again Lakshmi? You don’t have a daughter?”
“Yes Sir. I only have two sons. No daughter.”
“Then, who was that girl who came with you a few days back when you had come late for work?” Avni asked.
“No madam, there was no one with me. I came alone only.”
Lakshmi then turned to Vishal and said, “Sir, I came late that day and proceeded to do all my work. I found madam by that shoe cupboard. She was removing all the shoes and talking. I thought she was talking on phone. Then suddenly, she removed one black sandal with big heels and placed it on the floor and started laughing. After some time she threw it in the dustbin. I got scared, but then I thought that she was letting go of some of her stuff, so I did not say anything. I quickly finished my work and left.”
“Oh God, Lakshmi, You should have told me immediately. You have my number also.” Vishal said.
“But, where’s Smita, Lakshmi? What did you do to her?” Avni interjected.
“Lakshmi, you go home now. Come in the morning.” Vishal ordered.
He went in the bedroom and got a couple of bottles. “Avni, you haven’t been taking your medicines regularly. Here, take this.”
Avni absent mindedly swallowed the tablets. She had changed a lot in the last six months post the accident. She alternated between depression and euphoria. “Avni, look at me.” Vishal said. “There’s no Smita, alright? You were hallucinating. Please take your medicines on time.”
Avni nodded in affirmation, all the while thinking about that girl in high heels. She was so much like her own self. A little shy, a little bubbly. A hard core heels lover. And then that accident six months ago! She could never wear those heels again.
Sighing and wiping the tears from her eyes, she turned her motorized wheelchair and went back to her room.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: pixabay
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