Slowly, the night drifted away into darkness. The stars appeared as my eyes were about to shut and in seconds I was fast asleep. It was going to be a long day tomorrow. I had to go to Vicky’s school to get his report card. I am sure he must be nervous too. I never raised my kids to come under societal pressure and be competitive about grades. I had always given them the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. Live life on their own terms and learn from their own mistakes. Sam was not like that. Sam was strict. Sam wanted results and performance. He always said “If we don’t teach them the importance of hard work, they will never understand the importance of money” I always told him the more we force them the more they will grow vary of studies and career.
It was around 5 am when my sleep was disturbed by a bang on my door. I woke up with a jolt. I shouted “Who’s there?” There was no response from the other side. I was sure it was either Vicky or Anna. Who else lives in the house and why would someone pull off a stunt like this. I got up from my bed and walked towards the door. As soon as I pulled the door knob to open the door, the door wouldn’t move. Someone was holding the door from outside. I shouted “Vicky this is not funny, if you are holding the door please let it go, this is not funny.” There was no response from the other side. I wondered if there was something wrong with the door and it just got jammed. I tried to pull it hard but it was still not moving. I thought I better call Vicky and Anna to come and help me get out of there.
“Vicky, Anna, are you guys up. Please open the door for me. I think it got jammed. Vicky, Anna wake up and open the door.” Nobody was up yet. There was pin drop silence around me. I started to pull the knob harder and see if I could find something to open the door with. There was nothing in my room. How can I be so ignorant? With two kids inside the house, how can I lock myself in? What would have Sam done if something like this happened? That’s when it clicked me, we don’t live in an apartment. We live in a house with windows with no railings. I ran towards our bedroom window and managed to get out. I started running towards the front door, when suddenly I saw a shadow approaching me from the front yard. It was a man’s shadow. A tall man. My feet stopped and I stood there not knowing what to do. That’s when a man with a black scarf around his neck and wearing tall rain boots came out with what looked like a hockey stick in his hands. Every inch of my body froze. I couldn’t even move my finger or open my mouth to shout for help. He started running towards me. I just tightly closed my eyes and started getting flashes of my entire life. A hush of wind swept past me. About few seconds later I heard him shouting to get inside the house. “Go inside and don’t come out for sometime” That’s when I realized something else was going on.
I shouted at him ” Oye, who are you and what is happening here?” He replied ” I am your friendly neighbor and there is a wild bear on the run. It was lurking around your house since sometime. I spotted it and came running to alert you guys.” I was surprised, a bear near my house, how is that possible? I didn’t even make anything to eat yet. Bears usually come when they smell food. Hundred thousand thoughts were running through my head when it suddenly hit me, Vicky and Anna. Oh my god what if the bear took them. I ran towards the main door and saw it wide open. At that moment I didn’t care how it was open or who opened it, all I wanted to see were my children. I ran upstairs towards their room. Vicky and Anna were fast asleep, not knowing what was happening downstairs. I slowly shut their bedroom door and went to the kitchen. I wanted to find what triggered the bear to come towards my house. I usually am very careful with keeping food outside. We always make sure we store it inside so that the bears don’t get the smell. As soon as I entered the kitchen, there I saw a big plate full of bread pudding lying on the counter. Vicky loves bread pudding. He might have eaten it before going to bed last night. But how insensitive of him to not keep it inside. I packed it in a tight container and stored it back in the fridge.
I wanted to put this incidence aside and start getting ready to go to Vickys school. But just then the masked man came knocking at the door. He was tired, his face was full of sweat as if it was not him but the bear which was chasing him. I asked if he wanted some water, he said yes.
“Listen Rumi right?”
“Ya that’e me. How do you know me?”
“Well your husband and me were good friends, I was living in the city since last couple of years and just came back to this place few days ago. He did invite me to your wedding but I couldn’t make it”
“Oh! What’s your name? Maybe he might have mentioned it to me sometime.”
“I am Vicky”
Vicky. What? How? Why would Sam name his son Vicky when he already has a friend named that.
“Hey are you fine? I know today morning was a bit too much. If I would have known jungle living comes with all this, I would have stayed back in the city.”
“Huh! This is very normal for us. Usually we are more careful than this but I think last night my son left the bread pudding on the kitchen counter and that’s why the bear.”
“Oh! Your son matlab Vicky right?”
What in the world? How does he know my sons name? Who gave him all this information? And why didn’t Sam ever mention him to me?
“Did Sam tell you about him? Were you guys like best of friends because I don’t recall him telling me anything about you?”
He started laughing as if mocking me for not knowing who he was.
“Sam never told you about me? That bastard. He was such a prick and pain in the ass. The most uptight and sad person I knew. He always kept his private life super secret. But he always blurted it out during our daaru nights. I miss that fellow”
He was just confusing me more. When did Sam drink with this person? Why didn’t Sam tell me about him at all? And why am I only seeing him now for the first time in my life?
“But this doesn’t answer my question, why didn’t sam ever mention you to me?”
“Well it is too late for that now. Sam would have answered that better. He was a weird guy. He never showed me your pictures or your kids. He just told me who you were and where you guys lived and that you guys were much happy living in the jungle”
“Why do you keep calling this a jungle? This is a town and not a jungle. It is much better than the noisy city you came from.”
“Well that’s just my view because it’s only been two days for me here.”
” Anyway, can you tell me how was my front door open and why I was not able to open my bedroom door. Did Sam even tell you about where we keep the keys and everything?”
He started laughing again “Well that he never mentioned but it was so obvious, key under the doormat and I locked your bedroom door so that the bear couldn’t get in.”
“Well in that case thank you for alerting me. You could have just knocked and told me that. Standing outside looking at you I thought you are some kind of murderer or theif.”
” I saw that on your face. The dead face with no reaction what so ever. You were frozen weren’t you?”
“Ya, I was and I have no shame admitting it. What would anyone do if they see a stranger coming out of their house wearing a mask and with a hockey stick. It was scary.”
“Sorry for that. I should have alerted you before. But anyway it was nice meeting you. I will get going now. Have to make breakfast and then take my daughter to her new school.”
“Daughter? You didn’t tell me you were married?” How old is your daughter?”
“Oh! sorry I am not married. My daughter is adopted and she is 8 now. The age where they start growing up super fast.”
“Oh! wow which school are you planning to enroll her in?”
“Mostly Mount caramel because it’s the closest one to the house”
“Oh! that’s a wonderful school my son goes there. In fact today is his open house and I will be going to meet his teachers and get his report card. You can come along with us, that way I can introduce you to some of the teachers out there. I know most of them.”
“Perfect then. I will get going and get Sanya ready. What time should we meet?”
“Around 8:30 is okay? His open house starts at 9:00 and it only takes like 10 mins to walk to the school.”
“Sure we will be at your place by 8:30. Thanks for doing this. Will see you soon.”
As he walked away something inside me shifted. I felt lighter knowing that someone was there to warn me for what happened in the last hour or so. Also, I had completely forgotten about what happened that morning. He is so much fun to talk to and I haven’t had a conversation with a man in such a long time that I had forgotten how it feels to have one. But I am still pissed at Sam for not telling me about his friend, who was apparently quite close to him.