The court was adorned with a carpet of citrine leaves. Neither the basketball, nor Aranya’s feet missed any chance of crunching the fallen. The roads parallel were almost quiet, except those occasional motors that teleported by. Leaves often lunged for his cedar hair, but were denied stay by his consistent leaps and sprints. Aranya randomly glanced at the empty road, and saw someone crossing it, typing something on her phone.
“Adhere to road safety rules, señora. The way’s not safe.” He called out. Startled, the female looked up. Hasty squeals of tires sounded, and a moment later, the car was still. Aranya jumped over the bounding fence, and rushed towards the scene. He helped her up and inside the car. “Please take us to the nearest medic.” He said to the driver. He sounded plain, calm, and to some extent, disinterested to the driver. She looked at him spitefully. He ignored her and turned to the victim, who was just holding a handkerchief to her wound, and looking out the window as if nothing had happened. No tears, no denotations of hurting, no external show of pain. He was confused. She caught him staring. “You’re the only person who didn’t get bewildered by me.” She chuckled. ‘Seriously? She just got in an accident and is smiling already?’ He thought.
“I am bewildered.” He remarked in a mundane voice.
“Your face doesn’t say so.” She said.
“My face never says anything.” Everything he said seemed to lack expression. “How do you feel?”
“Literally nothing. Just that my vision is gradually blurring and I’m about to—” She lost consciousness, right outside the hospital. A stretcher was already waiting for their arrival, along with a man in his mid-thirties. Aranya saw wrinkles of worry on the man’s face. “Don’t worry, sir, “ he said, “It’s nothing more than a tiny wound on her forehead. She looked fine.”
“It’s complicated. She can not feel pain.” The man replied.
Things started making sense to him. Sometimes, as he was browsing the internet, trying to comprehend his own disorder deeply, a syndrome in the nature of her condition would often appear. But he hadn’t been enough curious to look it up; now he wished the contrary.
Soon the operation theatre was open to visit. The man hastened in, followed by Aranya. The girl had gained consciousness, was sitting up, sipping juice, and grinning.
“I broke another bone!” She said as if it had been a mischief. As if she had broken a vase.
“And now you’re grounded.” The man said matter-of-factly.
“Dad!” she cried
“For two months, Tamara. And yes, you’ll only eat healthy.” Then he turned to Aranya. “How did it happen?”
“She was using her phone while crossing the road. I even warned her. And then, all of a sudden… “ He stopped. The man sighed.
“You want something?” Tamara’s father asked her. She shook her head. “So, I’ll just get done some paperwork.” He left.
After some minutes of awkward quietude, a bright voice rose. “Okay, so, let me get this straight, I—”
“I know you’re insensitive to pain. Your father informed me about it.” Aranya cut her off.
“People consider me fortunate.”
“A bane to one can be a blessing to another. I’m an example come to life. I cannot—”
“Express. You don’t have an external show of emotions. A disease that sounds like dad’s name. Alexi—”
“Alexithymia.” Aranya was impressed. He’d never seen anyone knowledgeable of his condition.
“My mother was a psychiatrist. When I was young, she’d tell me stories about various disorders, so as to make me understanding and empathetic.” She said, almost reading his mind. “Did you try therapies?”
“In vain. They concluded that they would only work if my emotional block was lifted naturally. Or at least loosened.” Tamara’s father entered to him completing his sentence.
“Tamara, we’re good to get home now.” He then turned to Aranya, “Thank you for helping us. Let me drop you home. I’m Alec, Tamara’s father.”
Aranya tried to control his face muscles in order to smile the way he’d seen people do it. “Thank you Sir. I’m Aranya.” He said.
“Aranya,” Tamara called out, “If that’s okay with you, can you come over to my place after school? I don’t have a lot of friends, and don’t want Dad missing out on his work. So…?”
“I don’t know where you live.”
“Three blocks from your place, to the left.”
“I never saw you around.”
“Dad hardly lets me out. I—”
“Save conversations for the way?” Alec said, exasperated..
Aranya stood on the front porch. His conscience was serene, telling him he was visiting a relative. Plumeria trees had filled the backyard. A branch of one bore a swing, taken by some
blossoms. The door opened to the warm visage of Alec. “Come in!” He said.
“Sorry that you have to nurse Tamara.”
“I’m happy to help, Sir.”
“You can find her upstairs. Thank you again.” Alec’s smile reflected gratitude. Aranya tried to force a smile again. “Son, you don’t have to compel yourself to fit in. A transition that feels low and compressive, shouldn’t be kneeled down to.” Alec said, and went out the door. Aranya stared at the door, then climbed up the stairs.
He knocked at the door. “Come in.” a sleepy voice called from inside.
“How do you feel now?” He asked.
“Tired. I just woke up.”
“This might serve a refreshment to you, then.” His hands conjured something from his backpack.
“Buckwheat flowers!” she exclaimed.
“You can eat them, they’re healthy and nutritious.” His words fell victims to her death-stare, and a basis for a pillow fight to commence. He returned it with a force. She received it with an ow. “Hey, sorry. Are you fine?” Guilt rushed inside him. He kneeled down next to her, concerned. Looking at her fractured arm, he noticed her shaking. “I’m really—” He started, lifting his face to find her teary. Instead, she was trying to administer her laughter.
“That was such a stupid trick, Ra.”
“And lo, you fell for it!” She laughed hard. Aranya watched her with folded arms, which made her laugh even hard.
Nurse Aranya continued his job. After all, his patient was his best friend. She also helped him ace Chemistry, so he paid fees by tutoring her in math. Tamara never attended a public school. Alec had built a shielding cocoon for her, compiled with all assets but open sky and mad races. She hadn’t left him with alternatives. Whenever he trusted her, she returned with fissured bones and skin. A white scar on her right cheek, from when she had been thirteen and mistakenly struck herself with a rake, was akin to a falling star on a fading dawn. Umpteen alike graced her from toe to helix.
Autumn Equinox switched to a couple days before The Hallows' Night. Fortune had denied residence to the small cicatrix on her forehead. Tamara’s place was almost a second dwelling to Aranya. They were sitting in the living, carving pumpkins for the forth-coming festival. “Hey, let’s go apple-picking tomorrow.” Tamara said. Her eyes had a distinct spark.
“As if your dad would permit of running errands like that, Ra, going distances just to fetch apples.”
“Mom loved going apple-picking, but, since I wasn’t allowed of traveling too far, mom had to restrain from it, too. So dad grew an orchard in the garden.”
“That’s convenient. Will be there at the regular hour.”
“Wait.” Tamara lifted herself and sped upstairs. She came back with a pair of black suspender trousers and a formal mustard shirt neatly placed on her forearms. “Wear this?” She gave a timid smile.
“Aranya! Here!” Tamara was aboard the swings, oscillating at a great pace. She leaped off from it’s extreme, and landed unsteadily with Aranya’s fingers gripping tightly onto her arms. A wrinkle had appeared on frons. “You aren’t worthy of being left alone.” He said. All the Sun’s light was eventually on Tamara’s face. Mirth rose in her eyes and fell as sleet on the grass. “Okay, cry if you want to, but that’s true.” He picked up the baskets. “Change in plans and we’re weeping here all day?” He said, offering her a basket.
“What’s something that makes you the happiest?” She asked Aranya as they stood circling a tree, searching for lively, red apples.
“Umm, being myself. Earlier, people’s judgemental outlook towards me hurt a lot. My classmates believe I’m egocentric. They hate me. Some of them are even scared of me. And my teachers? They take pity on me. To fit in, I tried forcing external emotions on my face. They then called me insane. Then, one day, someone told me ‘a transition that feels low shouldn’t be kneeled down to’. That thing got me. And now I’m back to being my inexpressive self.” He looked at her. “What about you, Ra?”
“Well, being able to do whatever I want. I don’t want to feel feeble. And I don’t blame dad for his strictness and protectiveness. But you know, I just want to run around crazily, do extreme parkour and gymnastics, which dad would never agree to. So yeah, that’s that.”
“You know, Aranya,” She started as they continued their stroll in the orchard. By this time, a quite lot of apples had congregated in their baskets. “Mom and Dad lived in a small countryside when they were young. Mom had been in love with Dad ever since she saw him. But she didn’t have the courage to say it straight.”
“Those times, a tradition prevailed there, where if you loved someone, you’d invite them to pick apples with you on Halloween’s eve. If the person, agreed, they’d wear the town formals for the occasion. You’re wearing the same outfit as Dad did when he affirmed. I’m wearing the same as Mom’s.” She looked at him to accept the merriest moment being awarded to her. His lips had slightly curled by the edges, and he was looking down at his feet, maybe too nervous to look her in the eyes. “Aranya, means a forest, and Tamara, means a palm tree. Even our names suggest that I’m just a unit of you.”
“Ah na, Ra, they suggest that you’re contained in every whit of me. That you, make me. And Ra, Ra is not just a short name. It’s significant. It refers to the Sun. Ignore a forest, not a leaf would grow without it’s light. Just like I couldn’t have without you. I know, Ra. Everything, from your quirky tricks, to leaping off the swing today, you do partly for me. Inviting me over without even knowing me, on the first day, says enough. And see, your divinity worked wonders, that now, I have started smiling.” He said. Tamara saw a smear darkening a minute portions of his shirt. Looking further she saw a tear’s trail on his flushed, left cheek. She smiled heartily. Never had she been happier.
“So, just in case you don’t know, I run terribly fast. And I, am going to run with your basket.” Aranya snatched her basket and sprinted the fastest he ever had.
“Hey!” She called out and chased after him.
A lifetime was set that All Saint’s Day.