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Short Story ~ Is that you, Melissa?


Is that you, Melissa?

“…be the hottest day in Norway since 1962.” reported a brown man on the televsion, blaring in the otherwise silent room. The sun faded away in the distance, taking it’s last bow for the day, as the evening set in, the clouds could be seen gradually taking over from the far end of the skyline.

It rained everytime it got hot in Norway. It was one of the many things the residents of the small town loved to complaint about – the sharing of almost-got-roasted-in-the-sun stories. But Vanessa couldn’t have that joy of sharing stories; All the residents of the town had fled to better towns, better cities, with better climates, leaving Vanessa by herself in this lonely part of the world. Although, only a week had passed since the residents had left, it had seemed like there had never been life here at Jefferson town. With the town deserted, it looked more like an old stage-set that hadn’t been used for years.

The usual hustle bustle, had died down to the occassional, sound of the scrapping of dried leaves against the weak wooden walls of Vanessa’s house.

It was hard for Vanessa to believe that the entire town had migrated. Something very understandable after 3 earthquakes, an active volcano in the vicinity, and an ever so unpredictable weather.

The silence. The calmness outside the house, was almost surreal.

“…In other news, Apple realeases a new version of the iMag, sources say…”

Vanessa turned her gaze from the open window and pushed hard on the OFF button on the TV remote flinging it on the sofa, it bounced twice before it lay still. She turned back to the empty window, just in time to watch a lonely bird shriek as it flew across the stretch of sky, racing the clouds hoping to catch up with it’s group.

But Vanessa wasn’t that bird.

The good neighbours of Jefferson town, had begged her to come along with them, till the very last second. But, she didn’t budge. A neighbour, even offered her a place to stay. But Vanessa stood her ground. Even, at the age of 68, she was ready to battle with mother nature.

She didn’t move an inch, for an hour, her eyes looking straight at the heart of the setting sun, as she nervously scanned the enormous horizon, seen through the only window in the house. But it was a window, everyone wished to have. It was the only house in Jefferson’s town that entirely faced the thick, dense, beaultiful green forest and also had a clear view of the volcano, seen just below the orange sky. People joked, it was a view straight out of the Discovery channel.

Everybody in Jefferson’s town knew Vanessa’s house. It was not only because of the famous, scenic window, but also for it’s location. It was practically the end of town. Vanessa’s house would be the first to know, if the active volcano decides to sweep this quiet little town out of the face of the planet.

An hour had passed, since the shrieking bird had passed by. The forest outside Vanessa’s window, looked ghastly in the dark. The sun had set, Vanessa continued to stand by the window. She was a dainty lady, her legs frail, but she still looked splendid  in her long, red dress. Her eyes sparkled a beautiful gray, sporting an old fashioned red lipstick, and her hair set just the way she liked it – tied to a pony with the front fringe taken to one side.

She looked outside, with keeness, as if waiting.

The tall grandfather clock in the living room struck eight times, anouncing it was 8 o’ clock. Vanessa hands anxiously rubbed againsts the window sil, her palms aimlessly moving accross the rough surface of the window sil. She looked restless. She knew it was time.

The clock seemed too loud in the silence of the house.

She was getting anxious, she couldn’t stand it any longer. The wait was making her insane.

When suddenly, a ‘thug’ sound was heard from the door.

The sound would have been mistaken for a fallen branch of a tree, or a fallen fruit ..but no… Vanessa knew. She smiled. The sound would have been inaudable, if there was the slightest of noise in the house. Not this house. The 2 storeyed duplex house, echoed in the silence. It could be heard in every room as clear as a doorbell.

Suddenly, a child’s voice came from behind her….”Graa-nd-maa?”

Vanessa screamed and jumped.

Turning around, to a child, crouched up, sitting half way up the stairs.

His hands were folded on his knees, his palms covered his face, allowing only his eyes to be seen. He looked fightened. He shivered as he began to speak.

“Whoo….. ee….. ..is..it?” is all he could manage, half not wanting to know the answer.

Max had sat there, that very spot since morning, waiting, dreading this very moment.

Startled Vanessa, smiled at him, the most beaultiful smile, but didn’t answer. Her eyes sparkled in excitement. She quickly checked her lipstick in the mirror, brushed her hair with her long fingers, and rushed to the door, swinging it open in one quick movement, without answering Max.

Max screamed, covering his face completely now. His heart was pounding faster than ever.

“Melissa!..” exclaimed a very happy lookingVanessa.

“You look beautiful!”, she continued, as she stared at a young lady in a long flowing white dress. She had black mascara on, smugged around her eyes, making her dark citcles seem prominent. Her lips a strange, but beautiful red. Her lips seemed to have sucked out all the blood from her body, as her skin looked painfuly pale. Her short golden hair moved gracefuly behind her smooth, spotless, beautifuly shaped face, dancing gracefuly in the breeze.

Melissa refused to smile, but still looked beautiful. The pitch black night sky outlined her beautifuly shaped body.

“That’s a lovely white dress you’re wearing..  you look fantastic!” exclaimed Vanessa, giving the warmest of smiles.

It was the first time Max had seen Melissa. He remained motionless, just inspecting, watching quietly from a distance.

“I knew you’d make it! I had been… Infact!.. We had been waiting for you”, Vanessa said with a smile, as she pointed to Max, who remained motionless at the middle of the staircase. A safe distance, he thought. He peeped through the gaps formed between his fingers, while beads of sweat seemed to roll down his face. Vanesaa took Melissa by the arm, and led her to the dining table. But the new guest didn’t leave her gaze off Max.

“Look, I’ve made your favourite..Lazagnia with extra cheese…”

“.. it’s Max’s favourite too!” Vanessa continued chirpilly, hoping to get a smile from Melissa, but failed.

Max continued to stare down, with a blank expression on his face.

He watched quietly, as Vanessa talked and talked while she set the table for an early dinner, while Melissa continued her quiet spell.

It was not long, before he noticed both the ladies looking at him. His ears, body felt lifeless.

“Come, darling!…let’s eat….  don’t be stubborn!” said Vanessa, offering a hand,.

Max didn’t move. He was then carried down and placed on the chair opposite the guest.

Vanessa then continued to serve herself and the guest and went on with their dinner, while Max watched them.

Fourty five minutes later, and after a lot of thought, Max built up courage to approach Melissa. He chose a time when his grandmother was back in the kitchen, fetching desert bowls, and after she had cleared the table.

Max reached down, and carefully advanced towards the other end of the table. He took one careful step at a time. Vanessa had noticed him, but didn’t react. She didn’t want to distract him.

Once he reached Melissa’s chair, he asked in a shivery voice, “Gra – eh -and ma?”

“Yes dear?

“Whe-ere es mommee now?”

“Don’t be silly dear…. She is sitting right in front of you.”

Frightened Max put one shiverring hand out, moving it, as if to stroke Melissa’s hair, but ended up waving his hand in the air instead.

Max walked back to his seat. He sat there quietly, while Vanessa served him his first food of the day – a piece of his birthday cake.

Max played with his piece of cake on the plate, while his legs dangled in the ait. Vanessa looked content.

“Grandma?”

“Does Melissa like my cake?”, asked a hopeful Max.

“Yes. She does, dear!.. Very much.” responded Vanessa.

Max looked up at a photo of him on the wall. In the picture, he was being carried by a young version of Vanessa, standing along with a beautiful, young lady, with long, flowing golden hair. Vanessa saw him looking at the picture, and told him that it was a picture taken before the accident. He stared at it, looking at Melissa’s beautiful smile.

After a while, little Max looked around.

He looked confused, dazed, lost at the same time.

“Where is Melissa now, grandma?” asked a concerned Max.

“Oh, Honey, she’s gone.”

After a minute of silence, Max asked

“But isn’t she dead Grandma?”

“Max!… ” screamed a furious Vanessa.

He remained quite for a while, and then asked

“Does she love me, Grandma?”

“Of course, she does, dear”

“Will mommy come for my next birthday as well?”

“I am sure, she will … she promised…she’ll come like she always does.”

“Every year?”

“Every year!”, Vanessa said, as a tear drop trickled down her cheek as she turned around from an empty window, and picked up little Max by his arm.

She screamed, screamed so hard, her face turned red, as she looked at Max’s other arm dangling in the air. She stared in horror at a huge opening in Max’s right arm, oozing with oodles and oodles of cotton.

She held the remains of Max’s right arm in one hand, her lips pressed into a thin line and her pencil thin eyebrows drawn low.

Who did this to you? Was it Melissa?” asked a furious Vanessa, half not expecting an answer while she hurried to her drawer, desperately searching, when finaly she found and took out a sewing kit and placed it, heavily on the table.

“Don’t you worry. Grandma is going to take good care of you.” Vanessa said as she removed a long needle, and a longer roll of white thread. Quickly stuffing back the oozing cotton from Max’s right hand, and began stiching it carefuly, as she whispered into his tiny, furry ears,

“Don’t worry dear, your mother, Melissa will not be here for at least a while now. You are safe.”

“It’ll just be you and me.”

Max’s shiny button eyes stared blankly back at Vanessa.