The Park Bench by the Phone Booth

Rupa liked to sit on the bench beside the park, by the red telephone booth next to it. The bench was always vacant, so she sat there reading her favorite story book every evening, undisturbed. She was new to the neighborhood, and she had no friends. She had found refuge in the books, which were always her companions.
One such evening, as she sat reading her favourite author, she heard the phone in the booth ring. Startled, she looked around. People were busy with their walks, and the other kids were playing happily. She went up to the booth and picked the call. ‘Hello, what is your name?’ she heard a voice at the other end. Scared, she hung up, and decided to go home. The next day, the same incident repeated. This went on for about a week. Rupa was confused as to why the phone rang only when she sat on that bench? After a week of these daily incidents, she almost decided not to sit on that bench. She hesitatingly looked at the booth, wondering if the phone would ring. She stood by the bench, thinking whether to sit and read, or to just take a walk in the park.
And as expected, the phone rang. But today, the voice said ‘look up!’ She peeped outside the booth and looked all around. She couldn’t see anyone. ‘H..hello’ she said with a quivering voice. Dummy, look across the street! I’m waving at you! The voice said. This time she looked at the building across the street. At a window on the third floor, she saw a face, and the person waved at her. The girl seemed about her age. She hesitatingly waved back. Then the voice said, ‘come up here, to my house. I am at 304’ and disconnected.
Rupa was in a dilemma. Why didn’t the girl come down? Was this a trap? Mummy had warned her not to trust strangers… but this was a young girl, of about her own age! Finally, curiosity won, and she went to the building, to the third floor. She knocked on the door at 304.
A maid opened the door, and she took her to a room. There she saw the girl with one leg in a plaster cast.
‘Hi! I’m Rita!’ She said. Rita had broken a bone and couldn’t walk. She had missed school for some time, and was getting very bored. She had seen Rupa sitting alone on the bench, and had decided to talk to her.
‘Why didn’t you say so the first time, you idiot? You almost scared me!’ Rupa said.
‘I had fun looking at your scared face!’ Rita laughed. ‘Today I felt that you wouldn’t come back if I scared you anymore, so I revealed myself to you!’ the naughty shining eyes said it all.
And it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Thanks to the bench by the phone booth.

The Date

The roof had been dripping water. The walls were all wet and the water flowed down the walls to the floor. The two women, mother-in-law (mil) and daughter-in-law (dil) had put rags on the floor, and wrung them out from time to time. After twenty days, the wet walls were now covered with fungus, and the air was heavy to even breathe.
They had found a new house and decided on the move. He was still away at work, and had said he would not be able to come. ‘You have to do it all by yourself, dear!’ He had told her. But like a true soldier, he tried to help her from a distance in whatever way he could. He arranged four men to help with the packing. And thus had passed the three days of intense activity. They had managed to pack most of the items, and had left only the kitchen and the bedroom for the last. Even these, they had retained the bare minimum in the kitchen for cooking, and just the bed for sleeping. So the packing was almost done.
And then the next problem was round the corner. The house where they were to move into, was unfit for occupation which they discovered at the last moment. So they left the packing as it was, and decided to wait till the next house was allotted for the move. They decided to live in the same place for a couple of days more, as they had been promised another accommodation at the earliest.
The house now wore a gloomy look. The source of water leakage had been discovered, and the water pipes shut off. So the leakage and dripping had stopped. But the walls were still wet, and the moldy smell still persisted. The morale was down, and it was depressing.
She sat bored and frustrated. Thinking what to do next. The mil generally kept herself entertained by the television. But the dil was not interested in watching television. She had put a lot of things on hold just for the move, and her plans had gone all awry once again.
As they both sipped tea and sat in that dejected state that evening, the dil’s whatsapp beeped. Suddenly there was a lively look on her face.
‘Hey baby! Heard your hubby away. Come and meet me at Sher pub!’
‘You crooked minded fellow!’ She replied. She was smiling.
Ditch that fellow, just come! I’ll be there in a couple of hours. Will reach and message you’, he said.
‘Sure’, she replied.
She noticed the mil look at her slyly. She decided to get ready and take a bath. As she came out, she saw the mil making dosa. The mil said, ‘You can make your dosa when you feel hungry. I’m watching a serial on TV now, so I’ll eat watching TV’.
‘No, you eat. Please don’t wait for me. I’m going out with friends. I just got a message’, she replied. She saw the look change on the mil’s face. She inwardly smiled to herself.
The older woman quickly recovered, and said okay. She had noticed the change of mood in the dil after all these depressing days.
The dil got ready and in time, she got the message. ‘I’m here, come’.
It was almost nine pm. She told the mil, ‘Please don’t wait up for me. You sleep. I will be late. I’m locking the door from outside’.
She locked the mesh door from outside, and left with a wave of the hand. The older woman noticed the spring in the step. The clothes that had come out of a packed suitcase.
Sher pub was a five minute walk from where she lived. She soon reached the place. Saw him almost immediately. He looked tired. He gave her a warm hug and her favourite chocolate. ‘Hmm, he remembered’, she thought. They sat talking and drinking, and the time passed. Then they went to a nearby joint for chicken roll. Then they both walked hand in hand towards the house.
The lights in the mil’s bedroom had gone off. ‘Mil has slept’, she said. Good.
She unlocked the mesh door from the outside. But the door did not open. It had been bolted from the inside. The light was on in the hall. She told him to hide round the corner, and rang the doorbell. A woman who never sleeps till 2am in the morning, fast asleep by 12? She smiled to herself. Again she rang the doorbell. No answer. After the third unsuccessful ring of the doorbell, she called on the mobile phone. After almost 12 rings, the old woman picked up the phone. She came and opened the door, and said she had bolted the door by mistake. Her look said it all. Then the dil hesitantly said, ‘My friend has come, and will stay here tonight’. The look on the mil’s face was worth watching. She mumbled something like a grunt, and turned to walk away to her room. But human curiosity always wins… she didn’t go into the room, but hovered there. The dil called him inside.
Mom! He ran in and gave her a tight hug.
So, who do you think had a good laugh?