“Where have you been Alex? Mother Lily is waiting for you in the Common hall.” I heard Zarina’s sweet and shrill voice as soon as I got out of the study room.
“ Mother Lily is here! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” I started walking towards the hall but Zarina’s comment stopped me in my tracks.
“ Go get dressed first Alex. You are still in your pajamas.”
“ Do I have to?” I said with a groan. I never understood all this ado about dressing up.
“Of course not. I wouldn’t mind some excitement.”
Zarina’s eyes shone with mischief as she said this. I loved her like my sister but she was known for being mischievous. It was best that I got dressed.
I gathered my clothes and went to the common shower room for boys. It was nothing much. Just the type you would find in hostels. Two rows of cabins with no much furnishing apart from shower-heads, a bucket, and a mug. I wasn’t bothered by it. I had bathed here ever since I was seven years old.
There was no one else in the common room. I wondered where all had gone. Usually I had to wait for my turn to take a shower unless there was a special occasion. Was I missing something?
I showered and got dressed at record speed and rushed towards the hall dumping the soiled clothes in the laundry basket as I went. I would wash them later. I had to find out what was going on.
My jaw hit the ground when I saw the gathering in the hall. It was jam-packed. Everyone in the orphanage was present: the caretakers, children, youngsters, teachers, even the ones who had started working were present. I was pleased that I had followed Zarina’s advice and dressed up. I smoothened the creases on my sweater as I walked inside.
“ Hello Everyone!!” a feeble voice resounded in the hall.
I was even more surprised when I looked at the makeshift stage that seemed to have cropped up overnight. All the trustees were sitting on chairs and standing at the dais was Mother Lily herself.
Despite her wrinkled face and feeble body the energy she exuded was palpable. My lips automatically stretched in a smile when I recalled the first time I had seen her. The memory was still crystal clear.
I was only seven years old at that time. I sat alone on a bench outside the ICU. The nurse had told me that my mother had died. I was too small to understand what she exactly meant. I kept praying to God to make my mom well. From the time I was born my life revolved around my mother. Father had long abandoned us, our relatives ignored us and I was too shy to make any friends.
Someone had contacted The Emerging Lily Orphanage and Mother Lily had come rushing. She didn’t ask me any questions. She just picked me up in her lap and hugged me tightly. I remember feeling loved and protected in an instant. Tears flowed freely wiping out all my confusion. I had accepted the fact that life would be never same again.
She brought me to Emerging Lily Orphanage where I got love, care, and acceptance from many others who were alone like me.
I came out of my reverie when I felt someone elbow me.
“ Go to the stage Mother Lily is calling you.”
I staggered towards the stage in a haze.
Mother Lily kept a hand on my shoulders and said,” I love all my children but Alex has a special place in my heart. He has been honest, sincere, and hard-working. What else does a mother need? I will miss him a lot but just like the birds fly away when they grow up. Alex has to go and claim his share of the sky.”
“ Are you sending me somewhere mother?” I asked in a faltering voice.
“ Yes my dear, you are going to St. Normans’ tomorrow. I received their acceptance letter two days ago but I wanted to surprise you.”
My knees buckled and my hands flew to my mouth. A few drops of tears trickled down my cheeks. I was rendered speechless by my welling emotions. All those sleepless nights had finally paid off. I had succeeded in taking the first step towards achieving my dream.
I was showered with best wishes and gifts. All my brothers and sisters pooled their resources to arrange the things I would need for my stay at St. Normans’
I had felt so excited then. Now, I was not so sure. I felt the knot in my stomach tighten. Thousands of questions plagued my mind. Would the teachers and students there accept me? Would I be able to keep up with their level of teaching? After all I never got any formal education.
“ Alex, your stop is here.” The conductor’s voice brought me back to the present. I took a deep breath, gathered my luggage, and alighted the bus. I felt the thrill of excitement tickle my bones as I took in my surroundings. Endless rows of trees lined the long winding road. It was deserted except for a tiny shack.
It was manned by a young boy. Another man in ragged clothes sat near the shop in front of a bonfire.
I went towards the shack and asked the boy, " Can you tell me how far St. Normans’ is?”
“ It is about 2 hours walk from here. Why did you get down here if you wanted to go to St. Normans' ? You had to get down at the next stop.”
“ Isn't this El Rosa?”
“ Yes it is but St. Normans’ is closer to El Nina.”
I mentally cursed myself for not telling the conductor that I had to go to St. Normans’ but what could be done now? I would have to wait for the next bus?
“ When would the next bus come?”
“ Tomorrow morning.”
My heart skipped a beat when I heard this. I had to reach the hostel tonight or else I would be late on the first day of the college. What sort of impression would that leave on everyone? It wouldn’t be safe to walk alone on this deserted road. It was already twilight and the sun would set in some time. Maybe there was some other way.
“ Is there any short cut to St. Normans’?”
“ Do you see that narrow path going into the forest.” He said pointing to a path overgrown by bushes. “ It will take you to the backyard of St. Normans’ in half an hour but I have to warn you. No one has dared to take that path in the last 20 years. It passes through ‘The Forbidden Forest’. It is believed that a lot of secrets lie buried in this forest.”
I decided to take the path. After all no one had ventured into the forest for 20 years. So no one could say for sure what lay there. They might just be scared of wild animals. I wanted to be a research scholar and a scientist is never scared of exploring the unknown. With this thought in my mind I walked towards the forest.
“ There are many secrets hidden in this forest. Only a stranger could have the courage to unravel it. Sometimes the stranger chooses the path but sometimes it is the path that chooses the stranger.” The old man’s voice resounded behind me.
The cool breeze and the greenery had a calming effect and I felt at ease. The twittering of the birds seemed to assure me that everything was safe. How could this forest be dangerous? Everything here was so serene and beautiful.
Halfway through the forest I felt the hairs on my back stand. It suddenly became eerily quiet. I was assaulted by a sweet fragrance. I took a deep breath letting it fill my nostrils. It was as if thousands of roses were in bloom. I closed my eyes feeling strangely drunk.
I felt someone’s presence behind me but when I turned around there was no one. I felt a gust of wind blow past me but I was unsure if it was really wind. I had a nagging doubt that someone had brushed past me.
Maybe the boy was right there were really strange forces in this forest. I had no wish to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. So I broke into a run and stopped only when I could see the outline of a building which I rightly assumed to be St. Normans’
I completed the formalities and settled down. I had planned to study after reaching the hostel but my walk through the forest had left me feeling drained. So I went to sleep instead.
EVA's POVI roamed around the forest glad that the silly humans kept out of the forest. So I could move about at my own pace without worrying about shocking someone. I finished running the perimeter of the forest in a few minutes.I wished that I could go further but Emily had strictly forbidden it.I sat there idly on the rock. Suddenly a tempting smell assaulted me. There was no doubt that it was a human being. What was a human doing in this forest? Did he not fear for his life?I had to ensure that he never came back to this forest again. I would have fun scaring him to death. I followed the trail and reached behind the human in moments. I intended to push him down but this human was more aware of his surroundings than I thought. He sensed my presence and turned around. I moved away before he could even turn fully but that is not the point.I let out a gasp when I saw his face. It was Audrey. How was that possible? He had died 500
ALEX's POVThe sweet twittering of the birds pulled me out of my deep slumber. I felt so cozy and serene. I sat up and stretched my arms. Taking my surroundings in, I realized that I was in my hostel room. Last night I was so tired that I couldn’t appreciate my room.The walls were newly painted unlike my room in the orphanage which had the same whitewash since the time I had come to live. The bed here was soft and cozy. I had a wardrobe all to myself but the irony was that my clothes didn’t even take up a shelf. The room even had a study table with a pre-set computer.How did I get so lucky?The room was undoubtedly grand as per my standards but I was more grateful for the peace and quiet the room offered. In the orphanage I slept with 20 other boys. The mornings were utter chaos with everyone trying to get ready. This was the reason I always stayed up at night and studied and slept at daybreak.Though I liked that it
ALEX's POV“ Come on Alex! Don’t be such a spoilsport. I am asking you to come with me and do mountain climbing. I am not asking you to murder someone.” Aaron pleaded.“ I have never done mountain climbing Aaron. Moreover I have assignments to do.” To be honest I was a bit scared of heights but I wasn’t going to admit that.“ Did you not tell me that you loved to look into the eye of the danger. Now don’t chicken out. Mom has gone for her weekend conference. She won’t be back until tomorrow morning. If I go home now my sisters would drive me crazy with their makeup and fashion talks.”“ What about my assignments?’“ Oh! Come on. You have 15 days to submit them, Alex. One day’s fun is not going to impair you.’We had been arguing like this for the past 30 minutes. Aaron was damn persistent. I knew he wouldn’t give up.So, rath
EVA's POVI had vowed to keep my distance from Alex but destiny seemed to have different plans. I was sitting near Audrey’s tomb when I sensed that someone was in danger. I usually ignore such sensations. I believe in letting human beings sort out their problems themselves.However this time the sensation was too strong. I decided to check it out. Following my instincts I reached Mt. Eros. I looked up to see what the danger was. I watched in horror as Alex hung precariously on the ropes. Then the ropes snapped and he fell.In the heat of the moment I rushed and caught him in my arms. I felt drunk on his tempting fragrance. I bent down to inhale deeply but right at that moment Alex opened his eyes. Realizing my folly I immediately set him on his foot and darted away. Thankfully Alex hadn’t seen my face. It would have been difficult to explain my presence to him.I stopped running only after I reached Dixonville. Eric and Emily
ALEX's POVI found it difficult to understand how someone could be so rude. I had just wanted to thank her.I was completely crushed and I felt my ears burn as I watched my savior get into the car without even blinking her eyes. She had no clue how her words had cut through my heart like a sword. My fantasy was shattered.I didn’t want to stand there even for a moment. I turned around to leave but accidentally stepped onto something hard. This made me stop dead in my tracks. Picking it up I realized that it was a mobile phone. I hit the home button hoping that it wasn’t broken. The screen lit up immediately and the name Eva Dixon flashed on the screen. I liked the name, Eva, short and sweet. My savior must have dropped it while getting into the car. I decided to go to her home and return her phone despite her arrogance. I couldn’t ignore the fact that she had saved me once.First, I had to find out where she li
ALEX's POVI still had an hour before I would have to get ready for college. So I settled for a short nap but before I could drift off to sleep someone knocked at the door.I let out a groan. Who was at the door so early in the morning? I threw away the covers in irritation and went to open the door. My irritation vanished on seeing Aaron at the door.“ Hello Alex!! I hope I woke you up.” He said with a chuckle.“ No I was already awake. You didn’t disturb me.” I replied nonchalantly. It was technically true just that I had not slept a wink.“ Oh! No! I missed the opportunity.” He said with a disgruntled look.“Come on, get dressed quickly. I want to take you somewhere.” He commanded without any explanation. I got dressed up and locked the door. I knew there was no use asking him anything. He liked being cryptic.He took me to the third floor of the recreation wing
ALEX's POVAaron and I had decided to go to the gym every morning. So, I waited for him outside the door but he never turned up. After a while, I went looking for him. I found him in the boxing ring. He was hitting the punching bag as if it was his worst opponent. He panted with exhaustion and his shirt stuck to his skin, drenched in sweat. His face was contorted with such fury that he could have burnt everything in his path.I had never seen Aaron like this before. What might have turned the easy-going friendly boy into a furious monster? I shuddered at the thought but I had to ask.He had always stood firm on my side. Now it was my turn.I grabbed the swinging punchbag with my hands. This forced him to stop. I asked in anticipation, “ What happened Aaron? Why are you so furious?”He threw the boxing gloves away and grippe
EVA's POVI felt so terrible after what I had done. I was filled with self-loathing. The moment I saw the light in his eyes die and his face turn expressionless I felt my heart shatter to thousands of bits. I was tempted to take back my words and explain everything to him right away but I controlled myself and sprinted into the forest. After turning a few rocks to sand and ruining a section of the forest I calmed down enough