A short story about second chances. Life can be quite cruel at times. Read this story about how innocent dreams can be shattered and how those of a pure heart and good intentions overcome the turbulent storms to find their ray of sunshine.
"It's story time! The five year old boy clapped happily at the announcement. “Where's dad?"
"He is on his way home baby." Riya answered while tucking the quivering boy into bed. "But my story?" Nikhil pouted. "Daddy promised." "Why don't I tell you a story today?" her mother tried to placate him.
"Will the story have dragons?" He looked doubtfully at his mother. "Ummmmm. Not a dragon but it will have a noble hero." He pondered over it for a moment and smiled. Settling herself beside her son, Riya started the story.
Once upon a time there was a nice little mansion called Lovedale in a small town beyond the mountains. Rumor has it; an award winning architect had designed it on similar lines to his own house. Nestled between a nice little lawn with flowers lining up the brick driveway, the two storeyed Victorian mansion was the envy of all the other houses on the street. The passerby's shot admiring glances towards her. Every now and then curious kids would peek through the windows to catch a glimpse of the grand mansion.
Innocent and starry eyed Lovedale had dreams of becoming the forever home to a happy family; kids running around the house, a handsome owner and a beautiful lady who would fill the house with the aroma of her baking. Maybe a small dog playing in the backyard wouldn't hurt either, she would tell her neighbors. The other houses on the street used to laugh at her naivety, but she remained unperturbed and hopeful.
Once the property was listed, a lot of prospective buyers came to visit. To her joy, it was not long before the "For-sale" sign was removed from the lawn. The new owner, Priam, was rumored to be a distant relative to the President. Some said he had connections to the underworld. Lovedale didn't care about the rumors. She had observed the owner when he came to inspect her and she already adored him. With classical good looks and a demeanor that screamed money, she was sure he wouldn't stay a bachelor for long. Oh to be young and foolish!
The long awaited day arrived when Priam moved into Lovedale along with his huge entourage of servants and trailers full of expensive furniture. Soon invites were being sent out to the 'who is who' of the town for a lavish housewarming party.
Lovedale had never housed so many people under her roof before but she was thrilled nonetheless. Three hundred people attended the ceremony. The party that followed it went on all night. Toasts were made in honor of the architect and disappointment was expressed when he announced that this was his last project before seeking retirement. The good fortune of the new owner was envied by all. The photographs of the event featured in many elite magazines and newspapers and Lovedale loved every single minute of it. Oh, how pleased she was when people complimented the hardwood floors, the antique chandeliers, the stained glass windows, the high ceilings. And didn't the Mayor's wife mention that the stairwell was exquisite!
The house became quiet again as life followed a routine for the next two months. Spring was blooming and Lovedale looked more beautiful than ever under the new owner's care. No money was spared in taking care of the house and maintaining its gardens in top- notch condition. Priam threw weekly parties and had friends over for a drink or a game almost every night. Lovedale prayed that soon her premises would echo with wedding bells.
One afternoon two official looking gentlemen visited. They were shown to the Priam's office by the housekeeper. As soon as the two gentlemen left all the servants were summoned to this chambers and informed that they were on indefinite leave. He was going out of town and wouldn’t need their services for the duration. His belongings were packed and he left hurriedly without any explanation. Soon the servants took their leave and the mansion fell into an eerie silence.
Lovedale was a bit disappointed by the sudden departure but hoped that her master would soon return with a beautiful bride in tow. But days turned into months and there was no sign of him. The other houses on the street had now started gossiping and Lovedale was fighting a losing battle every passing day. She tried to put up a brave face and told her friends that her master was out on important business and would soon come back for good. But on the inside she felt like a newly wedded bride who had been abandoned after the wedding night.
Ten years passed. As a result of Priam’s prolonged absence, the mansion started showing signs of neglect. The same people who envied the house and its owner did not even spare a glance at her now. She had stopped talking to her friends as they ridiculed her at every opportunity. Alas, you have fewer friends during distress! The hopelessness engulfed her like a disease. The paint had started to peel off and the upper storey was struck by a lightning and now missed part of the roof. The lawn had turned into a pile of leaves and decay; the flowerbeds had long been overtaken by wild bushes. The mansion looked haunted and decrepit with wind howling over the broken windows and broken tiles.
The neighbors wrote to the town council to bring the ugly house down as the unsightly structure was deprecating the value of their properties. The town council tried reaching out to Priam but to no avail. Someone told someone in great confidence that Priam was a crook and was wanted by the police for illegal trading. He had eloped to some foreign country with his black money and young mistress at the first sight of trouble. It seems he had even bought the house from the money he had acquired by conning people.
As the news was communicated as a secret, it was not long before the entire town knew of all the dirt on Lovedale’s owner. Soon enough the news reached her ears and her entire world came crashing down. She couldn't believe how naive she had been. Her owner had not only conned other people, he had conned her of her dreams.
As if she hadn’t suffered enough already, one day the town council announced that they would demolish the structure within a fortnight and auction the plot. Her future looked bleaker with every passing moment.
That night it rained, more like poured. It felt as if the weather Gods could feel her pain and betrayal and decided to empathize. Soon the thunderstorms started and the entire street was shrouded in darkness.
A lone man walked on the street. He was drenched and looked lost. What was his business there and where he came from? No one knew. He tried to seek shelter but over the din of the storm none of the residents could hear his pleas for help. He was about to give up but call it destiny or call it a happy coincidence, a sudden burst of lightening shot through the sky and illuminated the dilapidated house in its wake.
The gates were barely hanging on their hinges and creaked ominously as he carefully trod across the once beautiful lawn towards the entryway. He stood on the dirty porch uncertainly. From the looks of it the house seemed unoccupied but he couldn't be sure. He was craving a smoke but the matchstick could barely sustain a flame amidst the howling winds. He knocked on the door expecting footsteps; instead he heard a loud creak and the front door flung open with a jerk. Thanking his lucky stars he entered the house.
After shutting the front door with some difficulty, he was able to light a match. What met his eyes left him awestruck. Even in the dim light of his match he could see how astonishing the house was. The match gave out and he hurried to light another one. He carefully started looking for a candle but as it was his lucky day, he found a magnificent fireplace instead. One cigarette later he took off his coat to kindle a fire and explored the house, at least what was left of it. The second storey was almost gone but the first floor was intact. Soon fatigue took over and he fell asleep on the couch facing the fire.
Lovedale noticed the unknown visitor and was sad to see him leave the next morning. She knew better than to believe in lucky coincidences now. After all, she was now counting her last few days of her desolate existence.
But fate had other plans for her as the demolition day arrived but no attempt was made to take down the mansion. She must have got the date wrong, she wondered. But the very next day, instead of a demolition crew, a team of architects and workers arrived with trailer after trailer of construction material and started repairing the damages to the house with military precision.
Lovedale believed that fate was playing one last cruel joke on her. She must be dreaming. Why would they try and renovate the house? Why did the town council decide against auctioning the plot?
She got all her answers when a sleek black car entered the driveway and a handsome gentleman got down. This was the same gentleman who took shelter at Lovedale few days ago.
It was almost 6 months later that another house warming party was organized at Lovedale. It was during the toast that she found out that her rescuer was the son of the same architect who had designed her. The architect passed away a few months ago and that night his son was visiting the neighborhood to take a look at his father’s last project. He immediately recognized his father’s work but never in his dreams had he imagined that he would find her so neglected and in ruins. But now it was restored to all its former glory and more. It would now be his forever home just like Lovedale had aspired to be.
Riya stifled a yawn as the story ended. Abhay smiled as she kissed their son who was already fast asleep. She did not notice that he had been standing by the doorway all along. Abhay was no hero as she had portrayed him in the story. But he thanked his lucky stars every day for the storm that had brought him to her doorstep all those years ago.