Smitha was furious with her maid. She’d clearly left instructions for her to hang the clothes on the terrace; and now look what she’d done. Left the damp lump in the bucket and disappeared.
She lugged the heavy bucket up the stairs to the terrace herself, cursing beneath her breath. It was around 9 pm. Luckily for her, the air seemed relatively dry; she figured the clothes would be crisp as notes in the morning.
The night sky was clear, and the faraway sound of traffic sounded oddly comforting. She immediately decided that she’d sit around and look at the city lights once she was done hanging the clothes. The terrace was twelve floors up and she could see a whole lot from here. She smiled and walked to their part of the building. She had had to come around the huge water tank, almost hidden from the terrace door. She started undoing the knotty clothes in front of the hanging line.
She was onto the fourth or fifth garment when she heard a distinct sob.
She stopped for a second, frowned, and went back to her clothes.
She now stopped and turned in the direction of the sob.
“Who is it?”
It was coming from behind the water tank, on the other side. She knew some kids came up here in the evenings to thrash out little kiddy strategies, teens came up here to pour their hearts out to their besties, sometimes even grown-ups came up here to make those clandestine phone calls, or that all important business deal without anybody’s interruption.
In short, the sob wasn’t a surprise to her. It was probably that girl Mamta – always got picked on by the other girls.
And she was right. It was indeed Mamta; she stood below the water tank sobbing heavily.
Smitha’s heart went out to the poor girl.
“What happened, child?” She said, reaching out to touch the girl’s shoulder, when her cell phone rang. It was Charu, her neighbor. She’d wished her a half hour back, on her way up from the basement.
“Hi Charu,” Smitha said cheerfully.
“Smitha,” Charu said, sounding distressed. “Where are you? I came by to your flat, it was locked.”
“Oh, I’m on the terrace. That stupid Raji again forgot the clothes…”
“Oh my God Smitha, you’re there? How … see…you…no…some…ibble..pnd…”
Charu’s voice was breaking. Smitha walked away from Mamtha towards the parapet, a little out in the open.
“Hello? Your voice is breaking ” She said, wincing.
“I said, you’re on the terrace..didn’t you see? Something terrible has happened,” Charu said.
“Didn’t see what?” Smitha cupped the receiver of the cell in her hand. Charu wasn’t still very clear, but this was better.
“Didn’t anyone tell you?”
Smitha was getting a little irritated now. “Arre, I told you na I was here all this while. What happened?”
“You know, that girl Mamta….she…she” Charu started sobbing. “Oh God..Smitha..she jumped from the terrace a while ago…it’s so…horrible,” Charu said and started crying.
Smitha was near the edge now. Did she hear her right? Did Charu just say Mamtha had jumped off the terrace? What the hell…? She then looked down. There was a crowd gathered below. The wind carried sounds of crying and shouting intermittently. It was chaos. And there, in the midst of it all, lay a limp form, quite a mess.
Smitha’s hands trembled, throat went dry, and her head reeled as she turned slowly. The wind howled. Mamta was now standing behind her, in the semi darkness – staring at her - tears mixed with blood running down her cheeks.