Room No 567
Short story by Nidhi Paneri
Kris dodged his ball out of the elevator into the lobby. His restlessness was sometimes beyond his control. “You don’t have your frontal lobes yet,” his dorky elder brother Matt had said every time Kris would get anxious. ” Frontal lobes? What ever was that supposed to mean?” Kris normally shrugged off anything Matt said. Ringing the doorbell was so not his style. He kicked his ball in an attempt to hit the door of his house, but instead it bounced and hit the door of their neighbouring apartment-apartment number Five-sixty-seven.
“Kris!” he heard his mom shout. At the same time he heard his ‘never-seen-before’ neighbour’s door click open. His mum and an old lady stood face to face. The old woman was bent and crooked. Her silver hair was tied up in a neat bun. She wore a light floral printed frock that was too large for her tiny frame. His mom dissolved her frown for a minute to share a polite hello and then wore it again. “Kris, you better apologise, right now!” she ordered. Kris could smell the buttery aroma of cookies. He sniffed with his nose: the air seemed to carry the tempting smell to his stomach. “I am sorry, may I have one of those yummy bakes? ” he asked
“No!” his mom snarled, “Its dinner time and you haven’t taken a shower as yet.”
Mom directed her gaze at the old lady with an authoritative look. She was so used to spurting out orders at the kids that she sometimes forgot to “unmum” herself. Matt often called her as the mother of the universe. And then he and Kris would laugh at their own silly joke.
“It’s ok,” the old woman said in a shaky voice. “One cookie hampers no one’s appetite”, she added turning around to open up the door completely. The duo walked into her apartment. It had clean lines, with lots of flowered pots, neatly arranged on the bay window wall. His mom saw the lady beyond her silvers and crookedness.
“I am Carla,” Kris’s mom introduced herself.
The warmth of the apartment cooled her off.
“You must have been rather beautiful as a young woman,” Kris’s mom said admiring her grace.
“Yes darling ”, she said, as she showed a photograph hung in the hallway. In the portrait sat an attractive lady with a crown on her head and a bouquet of flowers in her hand.
“So pretty and poised,” Kris’s mom admired.
“This was way back in 1945,”she said with a smile,“ I didn’t win that crown”.
“Oh! You didn’t”.
“No! It was the year of world war, it started on the day of the pageant,”she said and looked down at her feet. “The funny thing is that I left my wedding for this contest”.
“You mean you left Mr. Right for the crown? Did you?”
“Yes, I did,”replied the old woman.
“If mum was alive she would’ve been around your age, in fact she got married in 1945,”said Kris’s mom.
The old woman studied her for a minute. “You strangely remind me of someone, someone very dear,” the old woman said, her emotions almost choked her.
“What was your mother’s name?” she asked, widening her doe eyes.
“My mum’s name was Mary, Mary Anne”.
The old woman’s eyes filled with grief. She grabbed the nearest seat as quickly as she could.
“And what was your father’s name?” she asked with much hope in her voice.
“Joseph, my father is Joseph, he is still with us, but he is in the hospital,”Kris’s mom replied.
The old woman clutched the silver locket around her neck and tears began to flow, “Mary Anne, my Mary Anne”. She looked up at Kris’s mom and opened the locket. Kris got her a glass of water.
On one side was the same beautiful woman in the portrait and on the other side was her mum. In between the pictures there was a small engraving ‘Sister’s forever’.
She looked up at Kris.
“Joseph, I hope he has forgiven me?” she held Kris’s moms hand in hers.
“Forgiven you? I don’t understand?”
“He is the Mr. Right I left behind at the altar”.