The sun had almost accomplished one-fourth of its journey for the day when I got down from the cab. Holding my two-year-old son, Evan, I pulled out the two heavy bags from the cab's dickey and entered the apartment complex that was to be my abode from now.

People must have heard of 'Rags to Riches' stories, but mine was ironical, 'Riches to Rags.'

A sigh of agony passed my lips as I threw a sullen glance at the eight-storey structure.

'What a shabby contrast to the complex where Allen and I used to live!'

A posh three-bedroom flat with all modern amenities in a resplendent twenty-two storey building called 'The Blossom' had been our residence for the last couple of years.

An abysmal plane crash shattered our cozy nest. The Boeing in which Allen traveled made futile attempts in landing at the runway and caught fire at the tail end, engulfing all the passengers into its devastating arms.

The debates and fights over the cause of the crash went on in different television channels. Endless views propped up, and people tirelessly discussed who was responsible for the mishap, trying to throw dirty allegations on one another.

As a benevolent act of redressal, the airlines did give the near kith and kin of all the passengers some amount. With that, I could pay a part of the loan that we had borrowed from the bank to purchase our house.

Though I had initially planned to continue living there, I fathomed soon that it would be a difficult challenge to make both ends meet while maintaining a vast house with my single modest income and paying the monthly dues to the bank.

 Emotionally I was attached to the house. Allen and I had taken extreme pains to furnish the home with the most exquisite materials. The room meant for our little prince, Evan, had walls painted with fairy tale characters. The cheerful colors used for the same gave a vibrant look to the room. Everything was designed artistically by us.

Clinging onto sentiments sounded rather preposterous and I sold off the house to unshackle myself from the hefty loan.

With whatever little money we had saved during our five years of wedded life, and the dues got from Allen's office, I purchased this small house, far away from the city.

I missed Allen, and it was evident that though words were redundant, Evan too missed him. The child would continue to gape at any man who resembled Allen in any aspect.

 Allen had been a warm and loving life partner. 

The ringtone on his handset,  'I will be there for you; I will be there for you,' made me feel extremely secure and cozy. But he did not keep his promise of, 'I will be there for you.' Allen had left me alone to carve my niche in this big world.

Retrospectively recollecting the past few days' events, I slowly walked into the premises with my son.

"Welcome, Mrs. Margaret." An elderly gentleman's voice shook me from a stupor.

I recognized him as the secretary of the building. I had got acquainted with him during my visits to finalize the house.

There was a swarm of men and women, all dressed in their best. It was evident that they all were unanimously getting ready for some celebration. They greeted me.

I nodded meekly, struggling to fit into the groove. It seemed to be a hospitable crowd.

"We have our annual get together here at the community hall today. It will go on till 2 pm. Please come and join us for the games and lunch." A middle-aged female told me, while some kids came forward to befriend Evan. They touched his cheeks, but he cringed.

Evan's mood had been too bizarre from the morning, and his eyes conveyed his agony for having to leave our cozy home back in 'The Blossom.'

"Please do join us," said yet another female touching my shoulders with warmth.

I didn't want to look diffident, but I was honestly in no mood to attend a bash. I nodded, concealing my reluctance behind a broad smile. In the meantime, another lot of people came out of the premises and shook hands with me.

Taking leave of them, I approached the rectangular box, that was a sad excuse for an elevator.

Unlike the automatic door that we had at ‘The Blossom,’ this had two manually operated collapsible shaky doors.

The eeriest part of the elevator was that it moved at snail's pace. There was a huge long wall it had to traverse through, from the ground floor to the second floor, as the elevator service did not cater to residents of the first floor.

We could have a glimpse of the hallway on all the other floors, except the first.

The elevator took a good part of a whole minute to move out of this wall area. It was frightening.

The man in charge of operating the elevator was conspicuous by his absence today. He too was at the get-together.

I had no option other than taking the elevator as my house was on the seventh floor. it would be impossible to climb the stairs with a toddler and two huge bags.

Opening the elevator door, I struggled to get inside through the narrow gap, with all my paraphernalia, and by then, the message started playing, 'Please close the door, Please close the door.' Finally, the voice ceased as I fitted all things inside and closed the wobbly doors one after the other.

The house was in a mess. The movers had demanded an exorbitant amount to do the unpacking and arrange the furniture. I couldn't afford that kind of money and had decided to unpack on my own.

A look at the strewn boxes and furniture made me repent on my decision. 'Maybe I should have paid them the amount,' I groaned.

Evan wouldn't allow me to move and was continually clinging to me.

Only if Evan would sleep for a while, I could start organizing the house.

I sang the worst lullaby to coax him somehow to sleep and finally succeeded in my mission. 

I realized that no sooner he would get up, it would be necessary to feed him with milk. I had forgotten to pick up the milk on my way.

 I was aware that the complex had a multi-purpose store in the building compound. Evan would sleep at least for half an hour. I should get the milk and then start unpacking, I thought.

The electrician was expected in about an hour to fix the fans and lights. It was pretty hot, so I left the Veranda sliding door open to enable some fresh air into the room. Evan was a very light sleeper. But I would be back in an instant with the milk.

The isles wore a deserted look, as all the residents had gone for the get-together. 

Taking the elevator, I went down and hopped to the store and bought the milk. When I got back, I realized the elevator had gone to the seventh floor. The green monitor flashed '7'.

'Oops! The electrician must have come earlier than expected,' I moaned. He would ring the doorbell and wake Evan. 

I searched for my handset in the bag to call him and request him to wait for me, but I had left it at home.

It felt like an eternity before the elevator slowly made its descent after I had pressed the button. Getting inside, I shut the door before the recorded message would start prompting me to do so.

My stomach began churning as the elevator started on its upward journey. Frightened to see the lengthy wall gaping at me, I shut my eyes. Suddenly I felt a jolt, and the elevator came to a halt. As I opened my eyes, I was staring at the darkness. To my horror, the elevator had stopped functioning because of a power failure, and I got stuck inside alone in front of the long wall. I was fully imprisoned.

'Was there a backup? Some generator or something?' But then who was there to operate it? Everyone was away at the bash, including the security guard.

"Help, help," I screamed, hoping that someone would come to my rescue, but I knew I was calling out in vain.

Loud music was blaring from the community hall when I had gone to pick up the milk. No one would hear me in the din, but I had a faint hope that if lights go off in the hall, they might make some amendments immediately.

 I was not aware that the electric connection of the building was unassociated with that of the community hall. They probably experienced no power failure at that time.

I waited for a while, but no help was coming.

"God!!! Please help me," I prayed as I frantically groped in the darkness and pressed all the buttons in the elevator, but to no avail.

"Evan, Evan, " I cried. What if he had already gotten up hearing the doorbell!

Suddenly I recollected that I had left the Veranda door open for some breeze. What if Evan got up and strolled towards the open veranda? Chill ran down my spine, imagining my tiny kid walking with faltered steps towards the open space.

I scolded myself for not carrying my handset. I could have called for help.

There was a convenient railing fitted on the veranda wall, on which a two-year-old could easily set his feet and peep at the world outside.

I had made arrangements to fit an enclosure the following day, but today it was open, and Evan was alone in the house.

I kept screaming for help, but my voice failed to penetrate through the sturdy wall. I was drenched in sweat. Soon I began feeling claustrophobic, with not an iota of air circulating inside.

The secretary had said that the program would go till 2 pm. What was the time now? I knew when I got out of the house, it was 11.30 am. It might be later than noon. Around this time, Evan must have woken up. My knees became shaking unsteadily in utter fright.

Two more hours before the crowd from the bash would disperse and come for the elevator. If power did not get restored in those two hours, my world would be doomed.

I may die of suffocation here, then who would take care of Evan? And if Evan topples from the Veranda, what would I do even if I survive this suffocation? My heart began beating with enhanced, uneven rhythm giving rise to palpitation.

I cried and cried until I could cry no more. I felt an intense urge to throw up. I had started losing my breath. I searched for my puff. Oops!!! I had forgotten to put that inside my handbag in my hurry to leave.

Maybe the electrician would return for the elevator if no one answered the door for a long time and might inform someone about the power failure. A ray of hope came as short relief.

I garnered all my waning energy and screamed, the voice emanating right from the pit of my stomach. Suddenly everything turned dark.

I could see little Evan ambling towards the open veranda. The green mango tree outside with its proliferating branches swayed as if they were beckoning him. Giggling, as the leaves ruffled his curly locks, Evan spread out his tiny arms and walked towards the railing. He climbed on the bar and put out his hand to touch those luscious green leaves.

'Awwwwwweeee,' the screams of a child falling down the seven-storey rang in my ears harshly. Suddenly I woke up from what was a momentary trance.

All of a sudden, the elevator jolted, and I realized it was moving downwards. The power got restored, and someone had pressed the elevator button from downstairs.

'I want to go up,' I cried, but it came to a halt, and I frantically opened one of the doors. At the same time, someone from outside opened the other one. It was the electrician.

"You are here? Did you not go upstairs before sometime?" I asked with trepidation in my voice.

Somewhat confused with my question, he shook and nodded his head simultaneously, adding to my woes.

"You appear frightened, madam. What is the problem?" He asked.

I had no time to waste in interrogation. Pushing the electrician aside, I started climbing the stairs as he looked at me with awe. He must have thought I had lost my mind to come out of the elevator and then start using the stairs. He had no options but to follow me as I covered two steps at a time.

When, at last, I reached the seventh floor, I was aghast to find the door of my house, ajar. My heart missed several beats as I heard a male voice from inside as if he was talking to a kid.

'Who was he? How did he get inside the house, and what was he doing with Evan?'

"Evan," I said as I snatched the kid from the hold of a total stranger. The child was giggling and cooing in excitement.

"Who are you?" I bawled much to the bewilderment of the man, who looked decent and calm.

"I was staying as a tenant in the neighboring flat until yesterday. I cleared off all my furniture, but I had forgotten my overcoat inside the wardrobe. I came to take it, and also I had to hand over the keys to the flat owner officially."

His information gave me an elucidation as to why the monitor on the elevator had flashed number 7. This man took the elevator to the seventh floor and not the electrician as I had assumed.

The gentleman introduced himself as Robert.

 "I was about to leave when I heard a child crying in this house. I realized that the new neighbors had shifted. The baby's wailing made me come to the Veranda to see why no one made any particular efforts to placate the kid." He explained what had happened in my absence.

"I called out twice but drew a blank as a response. I tried ringing the doorbell, but the power had failed, disabling its function. I returned to my veranda to give another try at calling out to someone inside, when I saw the kid moving towards the open Veranda, to my horror." At this point, he took a long breath and continued.

"There was no time to waste. I got out of my patio, walked through the parapet wall, and jumped into your Veranda to catch the baby on time." He shook his head as if to remove that horrifying moment from his mind.

I stood transfixed to the ground. Tears fell from my eyes incessantly as I realized that a moment of delay by him might have had my child tumbling down the height of seven floors.

"Surprisingly, his wails ceased, and he passionately held on to me, as if he had known me for a while." Robert patted the kid's head as he smiled.

I understood that Evan had seen his father in the gentleman who also was a tall guy with more or less similar features as Allen.

"Pardon me for being audacious, but where had you gone leaving the child all alone that too for so long?" He asked earnestly.

"I had gone to fetch some milk to feed Evan, once he wakes up."

 I told him about my adventure in the elevator, which had caused the delay in my returning.

"Yes, you are right that long wall is eerie and to have got entrapped in that!!!" He closed his eyes in awe and said a small prayer to express his gratitude to God that the worse was over.

"Will you be staying here alone with the kid?" he asked a little perplexed.

"Well, yes, I lost my husband six months ago in a plane crash." I tried to cover up my agony behind a superficial veil of a smile.

He creased his forehead when he heard this. Then suddenly, he gave the Boeing number in which Allen had traveled and met with his end.

Assuming that he must have read in the news about it, I said, "You have meticulously followed the news about the crash. Even the Boeing number seems to be fresh in your memory."

He shook his head, and with misty eyes removed a photograph from his wallet. A beautiful lady with an equally charming baby girl on her lap was smiling at us from the picture.

"My wife Bertha had gone to visit her mother with our two-year-old daughter, Zara. They boarded this ill-fated plane on their return journey."

A long silence engulfed the room.

Here were two people who had lost their dear ones in the same tragic air crash, trying to gather their lives' wrecked pieces.

We looked into each other's eyes, searching for some solace.

Isn't all this a game of fate?

 Robert stayed in my next flat till the day before and had, by mistake, left his overcoat, while he emptied the full house. He came to pick it precisely at the time when I had got stuck in the elevator. That he should hear the cry of Evan and come to his rescue was destined to happen.

Is this what people term as serendipity?

Evan slowly walked up to Robert and flashed a charming smile.

As Robert gathered him affectionately in his arms, Evan touched his face saying, "Daa Daa."

September 10, 2020 05:42

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