“Hey, Vikhas! Hey Vikhi is that you?!”
“Ummm…That depends. Who are you?”
“It’s me, Buddy…Bitu and Billi’s little brother.” He paused long enough for me to see the names register. But his pace quickened without missing a beat. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was running away.
“Wait! Wait up…I just need a few minutes…PLEASE!!!”
He stopped and lowered his head, without turning back he asked, “How did you find me…why did you find me?”
“I, I just needed to talk to someone…well, to you. Do you have a few minutes? Can we go somewhere and talk, please?”
“So how did you find me?”
“I, uh, kinda stumbled on to you, actually. I was looking for Geeta Auntie’s house.”
He looked at me, dead in the face, “Don’t ever go to that house.” He didn’t say anything else for awhile, I didn’t either. We just sat there in silence until he relaxed and started talking. “I don’t even go to her house anymore. Well just around the holidays, but I don’t stay long and I never stay after dark.”
“It doesn’t matter, you wouldn’t believe me anyhow.”
“Well what really happened to Nikhi then? Tell me that, at least…I mean why did your mom curse me?”
“Oh that, well Nikhi was always her favorite. She had his whole life planned out for him – the college he was going to attend, the job he’d be working, she even started looking at girls for him to marry. She had everything you could want planned out, only he didn’t want any of it. But she wouldn’t listen. So he started drinking and he never stopped.”
“He drank so much eventually she kicked him out, dad left soon after. The only good thing to happen to Nikhi was your mom. Your parents took him in and did what they could. But it was too late. His drinking was bad by that time. None of us knew how bad until one night he was supposed to be watching you and your sisters and well…wasn’t.”
“Your parents couldn’t…he didn’t give them a choice. He had to leave. His body was found a few days later. Mom, well she did the only thing she could with her pain, she inflicted it on others.”
I don’t know how long we sat in silence. Long enough that Vikhi continued on his own. “Things were bad right after Nikhi’s death but I thought things would get better, eventually. But mom, she only got worse. She didn’t even see me any more. It’s like I wasn’t even there. But I finally left home when she started seeing Nikhi again.”
“I don’t know how or when it started but soon she was talking to him – like real conversations. They were talking, or she was, about going out, doing things. I thought she’d finally lost it, until one Diwali night – I saw him too. I can’t prove it but I can’t forget it. He was sitting on his bed, smiling right at me. I left that night and haven’t looked back.”
“You can’t be serious!?” But he was, dead serious. He didn’t say much after that. He didn’t ask me anything after that either. He didn’t want to know anything about me, my sisters, the family. He said not knowing was safer for us all.
“Don’t go see my mom – Trust me. Nothing good’s left in her, if there ever was. And don’t try and find me again. Forget you ever saw me. That’s what I’m gonna do.” He got up and left without another word.
“Hey Bitu, I, uh, I’ve been thinking about what you said and you’re right. So I’m gonna be there tonight.”
“Hey Buddy, that sounds great. You know I love being right. What made you change your mind, though?”
“Nothing, I just had a lot on my mind earlier and it took me awhile to remember what Diwali’s all about – it’s all about the teen patti!”
“Ha – Be sure to save a round for me. You owe me money from last year.”
“Don’t tell anyone. Let them be surprised.”
“That’ll make two surprises this year then. You won’t believe who I bumped into a little while ago…” I felt like I was running out the door before she finished her sentence. But I knew I was already too late, “…Vikhas of all people. Can you imagine?!”
Things happened in a blur once I got home. The house was dark and too quiet. I found Bitu’s body first, her blood covered the cards in her hand and the rest of the table. Billi and Rohit were next, their bodies were cold and still on the couch. Their dogs were flopped next to them. My mom was on the kitchen floor, her head cracked open on the tile floor, and I found dad in the garage pinned under the front wheel tire.
The police eventually showed up but they didn’t know what to make of it, what to make of me. I told them who did it, that it had to Vikhas, and how it was all my fault…if I had never found him he’d never had found them.
But eventually they told me it couldn’t be him. His body would be found later, burned beyond recognition in his mother’s backyard.
So that just left me. Alone, with nothing and no one left, just like Geeta Auntie – who had gone missing and would never be found.
Happy Diwali / Halloween Y’all!
Alright, like I said before the story is rough, but it’s a start and right now that’s enough.
This idea, these characters, and the story points didn’t exist two weeks ago. The simple fact that they do now, makes me proud. Not necessarily happy, happy would’ve been a perfect story that went viral but that would take a real Diwali miracle.
I’m gonna let this sit and maybe come back and fix, just about everything, but until then I’m gonna get to reading what other people are writing. So if you stumbled onto this story, I hope you liked it and if you searched it out, I hope it didn’t disappoint.
© Indian Macgyver