Rimni found the perfect tree, climbed it up and sat there solemnly. She was engrossed in her thoughts when the tree shook almost toppling her over. A girl in a pretty floral frock stood below trying to pull the branch down.
“Can I sit there with you?”
“Sure! Let me lower it down.”
“Aren’t you the one who moved into Red Villa last month?” Rimni enquired.
“My friend Sarah lived there. Her brother died….Then they moved away. People say it’s haunted. Have you seen any ghost?”
“C’mon don’t cook up stories.”
“We moved in two weeks back. It all began a week later. I would hear strange noises at night. My parents heard nothing. And then one night he appeared. A lanky, scrawny fellow whose feet did not touch the ground. He showed me his room, his toys and the world he lived in. We became friends. Good friends.”
“Hah! You were dreaming.”
“You don’t believe in them, right?”
“Ghosts? They float and then they go phoosh…! Ha ha. All cleverly crafted stories. Anyways, I am Rimni.”
Just then they heard a commotion from the street below.
A couple ran carrying a little body. The mother beat her chest and pulled her hair. The father rushed to the car.
Ramia shook her head sadly and murmured. “No point. She is long gone.”
“Hey look! She is wearing the same dress as yours.” Rimni pointed out.
“W..w…wwhat…do you mean?”
“We were playing hide-n-seek last night. Paul locked me in the locker. I met the same fate as him. Suffocated to death just the way he had!”
Rimni sat shaking. Her face was pale.
“Hey.…are you scared…not all ghosts are bad.”
Rimni was about to get off the branch when an ambulance shrieked to a stop underneath the tree. The paramedics rushed out to the house behind.
“That’s my house…!” Rimni shouted at the men.
She ran. Inside, a body was laid out on the white marble floor. Mamma lay prostrate beside it.
“Mamma…Mamma…what happened? Who’s that lying on the floor?” But she lay unconscious. And then Rimni heard the men speaking to her father.
“This is a case of suicide, Sir! The child is dead.”
Ramia floated in bringing with her a cool breeze which blew away the cover off the girls face. Rimni recoiled in terror. It was HER on the floor.
And then she remembered. It was Report Card day. Drinking the floor-cleaner was the only way out. She caressed mama’s forehead for one last time.
Ramia held the sobbing girl by her shoulder and guided her out.
They sat on the tree overlooking the cemetery. The funeral was almost over. The branch shook. A thin, frame came into vision.
“Boo Hoo! You have a new friend! Now stop being cry babies and let’s play a game.”
“You…bugger! You locked me up that day. Wait till we catch you.”
“Ho ho…you can’t.”
Paul flew off with the girls in hot pursuit.
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