I felt the hot afternoon sun the moment I jumped out of the school bus and skipped down the narrow mud road. The empty water bottle dangled around my neck as I began to walk faster. My black shoes were soiled and dusty and one sock was shorter than the other as always. The clasp that held my uniform skirt was coming off. I needed Grandma to fix that for me. I had been very careful with my hair today. She had tied them with the crisp new ribbon she got for me last week. My bag was lighter, today being the end of the week. I broke into a run. I was pretty sure something had fallen out from the half open bag, but I didn’t stop.
I couldn’t wait to reach her front yard and hear the rusty white gate creak open. The cobbled path would be damp and the garden on either side freshly watered. There would always be roses blooming in her garden, the bushes perfectly trimmed, and the creepers gracefully twining around the two huge pillars at the entrance. She knew when I would be coming home and she’d be waiting at the white grilled window. The moment she’d spot me in the distance she’d run to the door, limping slightly and step out to welcome me.
I couldn’t wait to run past the gate, not bothering to latch it despite her loud shrieks of “Be careful, don’t run, the path is wet. Your Grandpa just watered the plants.” She’d try hard to scowl at me, but she would instantly smile, seeing the impish grin on my face. I’d run to her and let her pick me up in her arms. She always smelt of pickles and curry and I would press my cheek onto her cold soft skin. Grandpa would be right behind her with the sweetest smile adding an extra glow to his pink cheeks and one hand scratching his giant belly. I could never wrap my arms around his belly but I’d try anyway.
I couldn’t wait to rush into the kitchen and see what Grandma had prepared for lunch. I was quite sure it would be coconut curry, and there would most certainly be honey cakes for dessert. I couldn’t wait to soothe my parched throat with the tall glass of lemonade she’d have ready for me. I wondered if my sister would be home from college. I wanted to reach before she did so Grandpa and I could scare her from behind the door as she walked in, knowing we were standing behind the door, but pretending to be surprised anyway. She’d bring me story books from her library. I hope she wouldn’t notice the bracelet I took from her drawer this morning. I really wanted to wear it to school because it belonged to her. I’d put it back before she came home.
I couldn’t wait to go out into the backyard after lunch under the shade of the mango and gooseberry trees. Grandpa would lay on his cot under the cool foliage and tell me stories I’d have heard a million times yet never got tired. I couldn’t wait for the sun to start setting, for the four of us would walk to the park. My sister would swing me as we ate ice cream and together we’d watch our grandparents chatter away at the old stone bench.
“It’s time to go,” said my sister behind me, twenty years later. The backyard was the same but unkempt, the halls were dusty and our voices echoed through them. I could still hear our laughter ringing through those empty rooms as me and my sister stepped gingerly down the stone steps. She latched the old wooden doors and turned the key. Her gaze met mine for a moment and we walked down the path, now covered in weeds.
We couldn’t wait, we couldn’t wait, we couldn’t wait to just be home. I looked down at my feet and found two brightly coloured feathers. I picked them up and handed one to her. We walked out the gate of the big house together. It was empty, but our hearts were not.
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