Halfway up the slope nestled a small wooden villa, guarded by tall spruce trees swaying in their full glory. The white cobbled paths, flower beds in exotic shapes and sizes were all overgrown with shaggy tangled flowers and weeds. “Let’s start life all over again. I hope the girl doesn’t haunt me in the sleep anymore.” Mrs. Petro mumbled and took a deep breath. She was facilely running the weed cutter all over the place to clear up her garden when a ball hit her back.
Startled she turned around, peered through the rim of her Asian conical hat and finally squinted her eyes to spot her son playing on the slopes.
“Joy. You might slip down the hill. Come inside. Keep this basket full of weeds in the backyard,” Mrs. Petro shouted at her son.
8-year-old Joy came running to his mother. He opened the backyard door to find a faint figure of a girl sitting below a far-away tree. He shouted to grab her attention but she was too absorbed into a picture. Shouting louder, Joy managed to grab her attention but she immediately ran away. Joy chased her, but she was swift like the hilly winds and with the dawning sun, she disappeared into the woods.
Her image flashed before Joy throughout the evening. He tried hard, but couldn’t stop thinking of the curls that covered her face except her almond like eyes and red painted lips. Mrs. Petro had warned him to beware of strangers in the new vicinity. Some scary stories from the neighbours had raised his anxiety further.
Next morning, Joy again slipped into the backyard in search of that girl and he spotted her sitting under the same tree. This time he didn’t call her out but threw a candy in her direction. She pounced upon the candy and vanished from the scene. Disheartened, Joy was frantically enquiring about this weird girl with a picture in hand. Neighbours, teachers, workers, nobody had seen her. The oldest granny of the village too refused to recollect anything regarding her.
One day, Joy decided to take a tray of freshly baked donuts. The aroma of Mrs. Petro’s donuts always enchanted the villagers and drew them into her home. Hoping to enchant her too, Joy walked up to her and surprisingly she didn’t run.
Joy gave a cherubic smile and offered the donuts. Holding the tray, she handed over her picture to Joy. Mrs. Petro had followed Joy in search of the missing tray and was quick enough to snatch the picture from Joy and see it for herself.
“My picture!” exclaimed Mrs. Petro.
“Yes Ma. This is my only possession after you handed me over to the eunuchs 8 years back. Few months back, one of my friends gave me your details and I followed you till here. I wanted to make out, why did you orphan me but love him more than your life?”
Mrs. Petro hugged them both and cried inconsolably.
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