Karen sighed. She didn’t have the patience anymore to face the empty home that greeted her with nothingness every day, as her step-parents worked till late nights and scurried away to their offices early in the mornings. She didn’t even have the time to say a proper ‘hello’ to them, considering their never being at home most of the time.
Hitching her schoolbag over her back, and sighing once again, Karen hurried forward, away to the outskirts of town. She was free at last – free from the shackles of mockery that her friends failed not to bind her with and a prison of a school.
Karen glanced sideways on the road, at a trio who licked their ice-creams, laughter booming from within each of them as an unsaid private joke was being enjoyed – and Karen smiled – this was a first in many months, since the merry laughter of the trio was not directed at her; this was her only reason to smile.
Of course, she thought. The only cause of laughter among the people couldn’t be the mockery of her. There had to be other genuine reasons to laugh, too. But the constant ridicule that she received from her schoolmates made her think that whenever someone burst out into laughter, it was because of her clumsiness, or any other trait pertaining to her. It had to always be her.
But today, as she saw the harmless laughter bubbling up from the adolescents, she gathered up her courage and walked up to them.
The only boy in the little group looked up at her and smiled. Karen’s heart beat fast, wanting to get lost in the moment forever. But alas, that moment could not last.
“Who are you?” he had asked her.
Someone had just spoken something inoffensive to her.
Karen simply grinned at the boy.
“Girl. Stop drooling at my boyfriend.” The girl standing to his left snapped at her.
It was a rich word that Karen could not quite afford into her vocabulary. Boyfriends, shopping, malls, fun, parties, night-outs, sleepovers, gossip, friends, dates, prom – none of these were in the affordable side of Karen’s boundary.
Should she even be denied of hospitality?
She looked up at the girl, perplexed. “I am sorry.” At the end of the day, she had ended up using the same phrase she would have used against her bullies at school; the outskirts of town was certainly not worth escaping into.
She then dared a look into the depths of the boy’s fathomless eyes. They were soft and kind, and she couldn’t see any ill will there, but she certainly did in those of the girl beside him.
His gaze, in return, pierced directly into her soul, ripping it apart, tearing it to shreds, setting it on fire, reducing it to ashes and then left her eyes abruptly without even a feeling of remorse. Ever-so-innocently.
The two girls beside him seemed oblivious to the ardent gaze exchange that he had just had with Karen. Within seconds, the color of his eyes drained, and he returned to his former self. “Who are you?” he repeated, this time, irritation evident in his voice. “What do you want?”
If falling in love at the first gaze was plausible, then Karen had just experienced that. Her eyes peered into the depths of his soul again through his eyes, seeking the warmth and kindness that oozed out towards her that he had painfully suppressed moments ago.
“Wherever has it gone?” she whispered unconsciously, earning odd looks from three pairs of eyes.
The boy surely thought that she was a freak – just like the others did. She willed him not to look oblivious to what she was searching for, but he remained that way. He knew not what she had been searching for.
Even she did not know what she had been seeking all these days, unless she had found it – love.
A lone voice rang clearly in her head, clear as a bell: “Karen, my baby!” It was that of her mother.
Eyes brimming with moist, she turned away and walked back the way she came, while the salty beads of tears rolled down her cheeks in abundant quantities. Her feet took her to a deserted alleyway, where she broke down and cried until her eyes were dehydrated of moisture.
She wanted her mother. Badly.