‘Now, be a good girl and don’t open the door for anyone.’, her Mom had said before leaving. Her parents were at the temple, for an evening of prayers and offerings. For the very first time, the girl was left alone at home. She ran around, her heart racing with excitement. ‘What to do? What to do? I need to make a plan.’, she thought, while pouring tea for her dolls. After sufficient deliberation, it was decided. They were all going to go on an intergalactic monster hunt, on her lava ship. After all, space monsters made the best quarries.
The clock struck seven, startling her from play. She rushed to the kitchen. She had been given an important task. She put two cups of rinsed rice in the cooker and poured four glasses of water into it. She checked off a mental list to make sure nothing was amiss, before turning on the stove. Now, all that was left to do was, wait for the cooker to whistle thrice. The rice would be cooked to perfection. Dad would pat her head and tell her she did great. She smiled in anticipation.
The doorbell rang, puzzling her. Mom and Dad weren’t supposed to be back yet. She climbed on to a stool to peep through the door lens. It was the watchman. ‘What is it?’, she asked through the door. He told her that there had been a bomb blast at the temple. She did not understand. He explained further. Her eyes widened in shock. ‘What about my parents?’, she asked. ‘They are probably safe. You stay put and I will let you know if there is more news.’ His hurried steps went down the stairs.
The cooker whistled thrice. She turned the flame off, as cold dread crept into her heart. What if they never come back? The question went round and round her head, like a merry-go-round. She waited on the divan, body rocking to and fro, fists clenched and eyes closed tight in silent, frantic prayer. She waited and waited. She prayed and prayed. It must have been hours. It felt like hours. The silence closed in on her, making it hard to breath.
The doorbell rang again. She ran to unlock it. Mom was there, clad in her crisp cotton sari and Dad stood beside her, sweat beading his brow. They were both breathing heavily. She threw herself at them. They pulled her in and all three collapsed into an embrace of warm assurance. She held on to them, shoulders quaking with sobs of relief, as terror seeped out of her pores.