Ashima is 10 year old who has come across a hard truth of her life. She finds missing reports with her photos under her parent’s bed. What will she do now?
Slipping in my seat at the dinner table and picking up my spoon to eat, I looked at my parents who were staring at me. I asked, “What is wrong?”
Dad passed one of his best smiles. I bet this the smile that gets him clients. He asked, “How was school?”
I shrugged turning my attention back to the food. I cared less about the school. Mom asked, “Ashu, what is the matter? You didn’t like your new school”
I murmured, “Does it matter? In a couple of months, we will be moving again”
“Why are you saying like that?” mom asked squeezing my hand. She had curly hair tied up with her favourite pin holding it. I stared at them. Sometimes I used to wonder why I am not like them. I don’t have those smooth curls or dad’s bright smile. I saw those black eyes of my mom’s staring at me. I jerked her hand back, “You know why I am saying this. Every time I start to like some place. We move. I don’t have any friends. I don’t like moving”
I ran back to my room crying. I hated this. I crawled in my bed and looked over at the wall which had photos of us all over it. I don’t know why they don’t get it. These tapes reminded me that my life here is temporary, at least in these 8 years I have learnt that.
I don’t remember when I slept but I got up when alarm clock beeped. I rubbed my eyes and walked out of the room. I smelled my favourite cake being baked. This was mom’s way of making up with me. She asked, “You’re not ready for school”
I took a bite of cake and walked back to my room to get ready. I was stuffing things in my bags when I remembered, I had given mom to check my homework. I entered her room and saw my notebook kept on the night-stand. As I took the notebook, the pages fell on the floor. I knew I needed a new notebook now.
I bent down to pick everything. I got under bed to get the last sheet but bummed my head against a box. I saw my photograph in it. Actually it was of when I was around 2. I took out the box and saw many photos of me in that same teddy bear sweater and two ponytails. I don’t remember that sweater. As I took out the papers inside, I saw the heading on one of them.
It can’t be real. I have never gone missing. As long as I remember, mom had been glued with me all the time. I start to read it. I saw in place of Ashima it said Riya. It didn’t have any of my parent’s name instead there were some other names. I searched more and found more posters which had the information about me and the contact details. I wrote down the phone number and arranging everything back to way it was, I made my way out. I got out of the house and waved mom goodbye. As I reached the bus stop, I saw a booth.
I knew I had to find out who was searching for me. I dialled the number. My heart was beating faster. I actually thought it will be cause of my heart attack.
I heard a sweet voice say, “Hello”
I stammered, “Umm, is this Mrs Savita Arora?”
“Yes” she replied. I took a deep breath and said, “Who is Riya?”
“Oh my God! You are calling in for our missing daughter.” She started calling someone. She continued, “We are so thankful for that call. What do you know about her?”
I started thinking. After giving some thought, I replied, “Well, I am reporter and wanted to know the story behind your missing girl”
I could hear disappointment in her voice. She sighed, “Okay, so her name was Riya. She went missing when she was 2 years old and I took her to mall. I lost her when I went to the trial-room”
I could hear her sobbing. She told me everything about how I went missing and how they have been searching for me ever since. I asked for her address. I knew it would be inappropriate to land a bomb on them by landing on their doorstep unexpected, so I asked when I can drop by her house.
As I ended the call, I was in tears. My whole life had been a lie.
I entered the house. My head could not differentiate between what was true and what was not? I was sitting on my bed covered in sheets crying by myself. Mom came in asking, “Ashu, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Do you have fever?”
She pulled the sheets and saw me crying. She hugged me tightly, “Oh, baby, what’s wrong?”
I pushed back, “Don’t you dare come near me. You kidnapped me. You are not my mother. I hate you”
I knew I was right when I saw her face go blank. I wiped my tears, “I get it now. I get it. All this…why we had to move, why I was told not to make friends with neighbours, why you didn’t have photos of me as baby…I get it now. You both lied to me. I am going to my real parents. I talked to them”
My heart used to melt when tears used to roll her cheeks. I got up and took out my suitcase out of the cupboard. Packing all the stuff, I said, “I have their address. Least you could do is drop me there”
She got up saying, “I’ll call your dad”
When she left my room, I sat on my bed and went over my false life on the wall. I knew I was never their daughter. I had brown eyes while both of them had black. I had straight brown hair and they had black curls. They said that was because I was special. How stupid I was.
When we reached their house, dad turned to me asking, “Ashu, are you sure?”
I got out of the car without answering. It was a big house with a big garden around the house. I was awestruck. I have always dreamt of growing up in a house like this. I can’t believe my dream is coming true. I have seen some kids wishing they were switched at birth with some kid of wealthy family. I felt like I was in some movie. As I stepped on their lawns, I saw a couple calling out, “Riya, Riya”
I was about to go forward when a five year old came running to them. I took a step back when I saw how happy they were without me.
I turned around and saw my family, which had been there for me. On one side, I had the family which had everything, where I could get anything with snap of fingers and other side was family where I got the things which meant something. My mind said to be with wealthy side and my heart belonged to the love side. I knew I would never fit in this big house. They have replaced me but who will replace me where I belong…
We don’t have to move now. We don’t have to run because no one was looking for me. I could nail the frames on wall instead of taping the photographs. I can have friends now and last week, dad got me a dog too. Even though, we don’t live in big house, we still have home and I don’t think you need dream house to be happy. Now, we have no secrets and I think that was what was missing earlier.