This story is by Marien Oommen and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Where’s that girl disappeared again? Miia..MiiiiAA!!!
Her mama’s voice resounded right up the wooden stairway.
Mia was safely ensconced in the musty attic. She had, that day, embarked on her voyage of self-discovery. And why not? Having turned all of nine years old. No more a kiddo.
Mia found him in the attic, while plumbing into an old trunk with all the gorgeous grandma stuff she had ever laid eyes on. There were no cobwebs or cockroaches because mama was always cleaning up.
HE suddenly appeared from NOWHERE. And no, it wasn’t a spider.
“I’ve got to write all this down before they turn into shreds.” Mia said, extricating an old album from a brown ornate chest containing a thousand letters and diaries.
“Don’t bother, Mia. What’s worth remembering will come back. They always do.”
His words made her stare hard at the floor in front of her. Then she broke into a smile, shrugging her pretty shoulders.
Her new friend was her little secret, a vital part of this pilgrimage of discovery. Nobody knew anything about her cohorting with him as she sat astride the middle branch of the spreading cashew tree at the far end in the garden. She could spend hours negotiating, making him adapt his thoughts to suit hers.
She needed to have the final say. Always.
But being a wee girl, all she could muster up were unembellished lines. She spent many hours up on this tree and nobody missed her at home. That’s how busy life was indoors. Needless to mention she was the fourth child, the youngest, with very demanding older siblings.
In the month of Merry March, her verse read…
Fido is my wittle doggie,
Who walks beside me,
Day by day.
Along the way,
He wags his tail,
Looks at me,
With happy eyes,
Just before sunset,
When the sky ain’t gray.
Her parents cared little for her scribbles while her siblings laughed, calling it putrid verse. Nevertheless she sent them to the only children’s magazine of the times, The Treasure Chest, and it actually appeared in print!
That was in 1965.
Her friend was ecstatic!
“That’s slammin’ good. I’m so proud of you, Mia!”
She recalled her first day in the seventh grade, at the end of summer. She submitted an essay on a scary train crash she happened to be in. Three carriages in front, having derailed, were crushed like soda tins. Her eleven-year-old eyes scanned the bodies, wrapped in white sheets, lying on the field, the next morning. And their carriage had survived the derailment.
Saved by the grace of God, everybody said.
The homework thread was typical:
‘Describe How You Spent Your Summer Holidays’
Mia wrote three pages recounting the train accident that happened on that disastrous day. Her class teacher, Sr Mary Olive’s remark stung worse than a hard biting mosquito.
“You’ve gone completely off track. Meet me tomorrow.”
That day, Sr. Olive trampled on all her deep emotions, which some nuns excel in.
Her friend fretted for her. He walked up and down the room the entire night, like he really cared for her feelings.
Mia was determined to do better. At least to please him.
As the years went by, her captivation with her secret buddy also grew in fervor.
At 17, when girls all around her were falling in and out of daydreams they assumed was love, which oftentimes turned into nightmares, she would retire to a corner in her beautiful home and pen her angst in desperate verse. Sometimes in prose. She hid them in her tattered notebook, ashamed to show it to anybody. She assumed it was never good enough. Besides, she didn’t want anyone to see her raw self.
At university, he was always there, following her closely. Till one day, disillusionment set in.
Probably why they say the path of true love never runs smooth.
She was on a class excursion and had eaten too much in the bus. The road was winding like a thousand S’s and U’s and at one ugly inopportune moment, Mia was forced to stick her head out and puke like crazy. He was disgusted seeing his prima donna, looking pathetic, spit all over her dress. He shut his mouth, almost angry with her.
Then the day passed like all bad things do.
The years sped by roller coaster style.
Mia had grown up to be quite something. So little surprise that before long, there came a human prince in shining armor. Before she could say anything, truffles or cheese, she became a wife, then a mama and she had no time for her ol’ faithful buddy.
He was cast into outer space. Discarded like an old rag. Mia didn’t even miss him.
The years sped by… more babies. Between teaching, cooking and cleaning, there was very little time for anything else. Her friend had altogether disappeared. She had even forgotten him.
For then real life started with her family. There were a lot of lousy arguments with her man. You know the usual that happens at homes when two strong minds clash. Little trifles like…Why perch the blueberry punnet on a three tier stand in the fridge?
So when it opens, tadah…all the berries rolled down and he never picked even one. Or the innumerable times, he misplaced the car keys.
Really nothing worth writing about.
As a rule you don’t pen the sad moments.
Who wants to read them anyway? The world is already a sad place and you don’t want to make it any sadder.
A new strain of disease had overtaken the land and most people behaved less than normal. Mia heard terrible stories of husbands and wives who strayed from their vows. Of values abused. Of rebellious teens. Friends turning into silent foes. Familiarity breeds contempt and getting on each other’s nerves becomes a daily occurrence. Then, the sounds and agonies of war in a far distant place. Ballistic sounds were everywhere, but this one seemed more important.
Leaders were not doing the right thing.
Nothing seemed perfect anymore.
Except for those grounded in their faith who talked constantly about a blessed tomorrow in another faraway land. These did not break their heads over rumors of war, or floods and other natural havocs breaking the earth. Their homes were exceptionally happy making the best of difficult times.
But even among them, wastrels and wayward scoundrels abounded.
Who could you trust? There was no one on earth.
Her grays had begun to show. Fortunately there were no fine lines on Mia’s face to reveal her age. It wasn’t any magic cream, but her steadfast faith and pure undiluted joy.
One fine day, while reading a tattered diary, her old friend showed up at her desk! He was standing at her elbow, just like that, out of the blue.
Watching her, giving her a hard stare. Like Paddington. But he had aged.
“Hey! Where have you been all my life? You just went away without saying a word? No goodbye, no Auf Wiedersehen?” Mia whined, wiping a teardrop.
“What could I do? You were NOT yourself these past 30 years.”
“What do you mean?” Mia asked, deeply wounded.
“You had no time to sit down or take it away on your own. How could I come to you when you were always with somebody, talking endlessly to prove your point?”
Mia knew he was right.
“How I longed for you to stop talking! I was screaming, ‘Think, GIRL, Think’. Did you even hear me? Ever listen?”
“Will you stay awhile, please? Mia asked, solemn tragedy-queenlike.
Hoping he would never leave again.
“I think I am here to stay, grow old with you,” he said, stoically.
She took out her pink laptop and started tapping the keys.
Gone were those 70’s days, she wrote with her pen, scribbling endlessly on sheets of paper, posting them to news journals and dailies.
Ahhh! The ecstatic joy when her articles got accepted and the cash cheques rolled in. It was all because of him.
Her best friend was back and he would never leave her again. All he was asking for was time. Time to sit alone. Time to meditate. He didn’t mind if she sang or yelled. Never told her to shut up. Maturity comes with growing old.
Talk about a love that knows no ending.
Her buddy was the one who put the thoughts in her mind and as her fingers typed, their enduring love just went on and on like an unbroken chord.
Mia started humming…
“You heard I’ve a secret word,
Just like David penned which pleased the Lord,
But you really do care for my writing, don’t ya?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
A minor setback, a major shift
My resolute mind composed my Hallelujah.”
Now he was back to stay FOREVER. That’s all that mattered.
Her whimsical, saucy, wondrously comic buddy.