She woke up with a smile on her face that was reminiscent of the dream she had been having.
Father came into her room and announced that his relocation was a misunderstanding on the part of the office paper work and he, along with his family, could go back to Apollo. She could almost jump with the thought of going back home to her friends, school and aunt Gemma.
But then she had woken up.
And as the smile drawn from this dream receded slowly, it turned into a frown, followed by a groan when she realised that this was just a dream and that she would have to live here, in Erebus.
She took a bath and was ready when she went down for breakfast. Normally, she wouldn’t bathe and dress out of her pyjamas till the late afternoon or till she had to go out but now hygiene and good habits seemed easier and less tiresome than lassitude and Erebus. Actually, if she was honest with herself, it gave her some sense of achievement amidst a situation where she felt that she had lost everything that had ever mattered to her. Also, since the family had shifted just as the holidays started, there was no school for another month to pass her time. Moreover, since she hadn’t met or seen any of the other children, there really wasn’t anybody she could talk to. She hadn’t even seen any of the neighbours except for Mrs Falafel, an over enthusiastic, highly opinionated (although she wasn’t sure if she was rightly opinionated) talkative person who had already bored the head off Mary’s mum. She had seen her when Mrs. Falafel came down on the very first day of unpacking, asking the busy, tired and dirty inmates of the house a hundred different questions about where they were from, what each of them did, how the last neighbourhood was, what sort of neighbours they had, what all clubs they were a part of, where all the kids studied, etc. Mary had an older brother who was away at college at the ACU (Apollo City University). She was terribly jealous of him. He was getting to live in Apollo. And the other person she had met was Mrs Falafel’s daughter, Jaime, whom she saw just once when she came to drop off the pie her mother had sent.
Life had been reduced to waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast and sitting on the sofa with earphones in till either the charge got over and she had to move to a more power plug friendly seating place or if it was time for lunch.
Thus life went on like this for a few more days till her mother, tired of her complaining and also of her personal frustration of seeing her daughter lying like a bag of potatoes in a very unhealthy form of the spine on the sofa all day itched her like she was something that had to be removed. It was like the feeling she got when she looked at a finished bowl of food on the table counter, just lying there, with no purpose, creating a distraction and spoiling an otherwise great looking table counter and kitchen. So finally, one day when her OCD could no longer endure it, she decided that Mary had to be removed. Removed and thrown out of the house so that something fruitful may come out of her flesh, brain and soul.
So, she did just that.
And Mary found herself on the front porch with the door firmly shut her on her face.
It was 3 pm and bright and sunny and all that stuff but also confusing and terribly aimless. Mary had to use her brain which had been dormant for quite a while now and she found the entire process of thinking a very tiresome and difficult thing to do.
Fortunately, or unfortunately Mrs Falafel’s daughter, Jaime was just walking past their house and seeing Mary, she came up to her and before Mary could decide the fortune or misfortune of this act, she pulled her and starting taking her to wherever she was going amidst a torrent of words out of her mouth until the obviousness of her being Mrs Falafel’s daughter, hit Mary.
She was taking her to where all the other children hung out- the Plush Park. Well, might as well know the people she will be going to school with. And soon enough, Mary heard voices coming from the direction in which they walked.
As the park came into the view, she saw a couple of kids just standing around the railing, talking and laughing.
The first person she noticed was a very good looking, handsome boy called Jin. She was sure that he would be the one on whom everybody crushed on at school.
‘Jin has caught your eye I see. But wait till he opens his mouth. Dumb as one can be. Or simple-minded. Whichever you prefer.’ said Jamie when she saw the direction of Mary’s stare.
‘No no. I wasn’t…’ drifted off Mary’s voice. She wasn’t feeling ashamed or red but it was part impressiveness and part offence of her personal thoughts being read and being correctly assumed without her permission.
Then she saw a few other girls and boys but they felt like the kids in the background used to fill up scene space in ads and movies.
When they neared, a girl in the group waved and called out to Jaime.
‘That is Ria. She is a singer with a terrible general health. But she speaks thoughtfully chosen words at appropriate times. You’ll like her.’ whispered Jamie.
‘Everyone, this is Mary and Mary this is ……’ she sped the names of the different kids, but Mary didn’t remember a single one except for Jin and Ria. I suppose context is always necessary if we plan to remember a lot of new information at the same time.
After introductions, Mary just stood there listening to them talk and once in a while answering questions they put up to her. Soon, she understood what Jamie meant when she called Jin ‘simple-minded’. Then Ria said suddenly ‘Where’s Tyche? She is also new around here and is also from Apolla. You both would have a lot to talk about’ she looked at Mary.
It’d be nice to talk to someone who might just understand, thought Mary.
The group spent the entire evening talking about all sorts of things. They talked about the school and the town and what was going on in their lives and Mary’s initial displeasure at being forced to go out subsided. She wasn’t convinced that she would love her current situation but maybe, just maybe she could bear it.
It was dark by the time the group dispersed. Mary thought she would walk back home with Jaime but she was nowhere to be found. Somebody suggested that she might have slipped away and left early.
With no other option, Mary started to walk back home.
The way back home was pretty easy as it was almost a straight path but in the darkness it was still a bit confusing. Also, a weird chill had developed in the atmosphere. Slowly there developed a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach. On top of it all, there was nobody in sight. It was all too still and dark and cold. Mary wished that Jaime hadn’t left. Or had at least informed her before leaving. Maybe it was stupid but she felt that it was taking a bit too long for her to get back. She started walking faster. Then from the corner of her eyes, she saw something moving but it was making absolutely no sound. She looked straight ahead and broke into a run.
Then a sudden dent in the road caused her to stumble. She stopped to balance herself before she could fall and when she looked up, she saw a big oak tree. It was gigantic with red leaves and it seemed to spread across the sky. A strong wind started blowing and the sky seemed to be amidst a storm and the tree was almost glowing red against the dark blue sky. The wind was loud. Mary struggled to keep her eyes open.
She blinked and shook her head. She thought of running back in the direction of the park. Away from the tree. But suddenly, the wind stopped. It all became quiet. Mary opened her eyes. It was all still again. The big oak tree had disappeared. And she was standing at the corner to her block. Her house was a mere twenty steps away.