The Storm

“Thank you,” she whispered as she took the hot chocolate from his wrinkled hands, and wrapped the blanket tighter around herself. She was seated on the floor so she could be as close to the fireplace as possible. She took a sip and stared into the fire. “So what’s your story?” The kind man asked as he sat on the armchair next to the fireplace. “Story?” “Yeah. How’d you wind up at my door in the middle of a raging storm?” The sound of the storm outside overpowered the silence, but it was nothing compared to the storm within her eyes. “I’ll tell you, but I should warn you that it’s not interesting at all.” “I’m an old man. Anything out of the ordinary is interesting to me.” She smiled at his words, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She took another sip of her drink and moved away a bit from the fire. “I live in the main city. My Dad is a pilot, and Mom is a fashion designer, so you see they’re both never really home at the same time. This week was the first time in three years that they both had time to stay at home and ‘chill with their only daughter’ as they like to call it,” she snorted, and gulped down her drink. “So we decided to go camping in the countryside. I think Mom wanted to go camping so she could reconnect with nature, and with me and Dad. I was allowed to bring my best friend, Danielle, along with us. I call her Dan. Dan has been going on camping trips since she was a little kid so she knew all the good spots in the countryside. We camped in an open ground with trees all around us and a small river about thirty feet away from us. It was a beautiful place. I wish I had my phone to show you some pictures. Anyway, the first three days were great fun. We went on hikes, tried to do fishing and failed miserably,” she laughed, but it didn’t feel genuine, “but today was horrible. I woke up and Dan was gone. I went to check at the river because I knew she liked to sit on the river-bed with her feet in the water but she wasn’t there either. I started to worry and ran back to the camp. I woke my parents up and told them that Dan was missing but all of her stuff was still there. They were totally unconcerned. I got into a huge fight with them over their lack of worry for Dan, and then I decided to set out myself and look for her, but the storm started and so here I am,” she finished her story. The old man smiled kindly and asked her, “now that this story is finished, how about telling me the truth?” “Wha-what? How-how did you-?” She spluttered with wide eyes and a shocked expression. “I’m old. Not a fool. I could tell that you’re lying from the start, but decided to humour you. How about you humour me now and tell me the truth?” She didn’t say anything and simply stared at him. After a while she looked out the window and slowly stood up. “Well the storm is over. I should get going.” She refused to meet his eyes and stared at his feet. She walked over to the front door and kept her hand on the knob but hesitated to open it. He understood that there was no point in his asking again because she wouldn’t tell him, and would probably lie again. “Where will you go?” He asked with a resigned sigh as she opened the door. “Wherever the roads take me.”

 

By Sonam Sharma (Editor, Fiction)

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