The scorching heat was making Arundhati’s skin red. Drops of sweat were making her frown. The barbaric sun was making her thoughts wiggle. Beautiful images were tantalizing her mind.
She was slowly rubbing the window of her house. The frost outside was making her shiver. Temperature was decreasing and the snow-flakes held her gaze. How pure this whiteness is? Where is this place, Heaven? Am I dead? Arundhati opened her eyes in haste. Her heavy breaths made her helper, Sakhi, restless. No matter what harmed the Princess, she always took the blame on herself. She was an efficient server because Arundhati once saved her. Sakhi couldn’t repay. And thus she decided to be on her knees for this generous Princess of Triloknagar.
“What happened?” She asked. Arundhati was lost. She stared at Sakhi’s face, quite unusually. She was disgusted with all the wetness under her heavy jewellery. She took her veil and started wiping the traces of moisture.
“I had a dream. Am I alive?” Arundhati asked with a broad smile.
“Yes you are. See.” Sakhi pinched Arundhati very slightly, assuring no pain the Princess experience.
“Ouch. I will complaint about this to the higher authorities.” The giggles surrounded the whole room.
The annual fair was about to start. It was to be hosted by all the aged ladies of palace. Arundhati wanted to showcase her paintings too but was not allowed. Her step mothers wanted all the lime-light.
“Don’t worry dear; your father will see your paintings some other time.” Arundhati’s mother said, adjusting her nose-ring.
Arundhati was excited to explore the place. She picked up her best outfit and Sakhi was also gifted the same colour to match her friend’s stature. The fair was secured and only ladies of nearby villages could see its glory. It gave Arundhati more freedom to move. She was hopping from one corner to the other. But something caught her attention, when she was at the verge of completing her voyage.
“Can I come in?” A curtain was set aside by Sakhi. An old lady was sitting behind a big stand. She coughed hard on seeing a stranger in her tent. No one visited her much. She analyzed the young girl quickly. The look of the tent was petrifying Sakhi to the core. On the other hand, Arundhati was calm and composed. This tent was not much scary then her wild fantasies. She walked ahead and quickly kept a gold coin on the table. The shine of the coin could be seen in the old lady’s eyes.
“She is Princess Arundhati.” Sakhi introduced.
“I am Kajri, Princess. I tell fortune.” The lady shivered a bit, she couldn’t make eye contact with Arundhati.
“I know. That’s why I came.”
“What do you want to know, Princess?” Kajri asked with amazement. Why a Princess would worry about her future? She has everything beneath her buttocks. Kajri waited patiently for her to speak. Arundhati was conscious on speaking her heart out. Sakhi sensed the heaviness and thus moved out of the tent. Arundhati relaxed her shoulders a bit, something which royal ladies never do.
“I have this weird dream which I always see.” She started the narration.
“What it contains?” Kajri asked, raising her eyebrow.
“In real life I am in between of a vast desert. I never intend to see snow in my life but still I see it every night. I don’t know what it is but I always find myself in a home surrounded by snow, containing a fireplace and a chimney. I can see children playing with a snowman outside, when I sit beside a window. I can see a man clearing the path with a shovel. I don’t know what this mean. It makes me restless.” The tale was delivered without a hitch.
Kajri tried to sense everything. She touched her antique yet dreadful jewellery and looked upwards. She mumbled some chants. Arundhati had no option other than seeing her quietly. She tried to neglect all the possibilities running in her mind. A sudden shriek by Kajri made her nervous. She shifted backwards. Kajri’s rolling eyes were making her claustrophobic. She was about to stand but Kajri held Arundhati’s hand tightly. She smiled ferociously, as if she knew something.
“You will have a life in snow Princess. You will sway away with the time. You will reach beyond this place. You are not meant to be here.” Kajri proclaimed.
Arundhati ran away. Kajri’s words were echoing in her mind. It felt as if the voice was still following her. She flipped after some more steps.
“What happened to you?” Arundhati’s step mother spotted her, lying on the floor, blood gushing out from her elbow.
“Nothing choti-maa.” She got her support and quickly came back on her feet. She felt embarrassed. Many people were looking at the elegant Princess, drowning in her own blood. After that night, the intensity of dreams widened its arena. And quickly Arundhati’s health started deteriorating. Meanwhile, the king of Azamgarh visited Triloknagar.
“Raja Sahib, I came here not just to visit you but also to talk about our children’s marriage.” The king of Azamgarh took some time in revealing his thought.
Well, in no time Arundhati’s father smiled and they mingled in a formal hug. The news spread like fire in the palace and thus Arundhati’s fate was written.
“Aren’t you happy?” Sakhi asked Arundhati one night. Her face shrank after her health dropped and her eyes buried inside. She looked pale and the smile was also lost after she heard her marriage being fixed. She couldn’t forget Kajri’s words, “You will have a life in snow Princess. You are not meant to be here.”
She took some time and decided to tell what happened that night, in the tent. Sakhi heard everything very patiently.
“I don’t know what is happening to me.” Arundhati said after finishing her part.
“Don’t you worry about that Princess? She might be an imposter.”
“But why I am seeing myself in between snow all the time, ALL THE TIME, after that night.”
“This is because you desire to see that.”
“But this marriage won’t allow me to see it now. I am parcelled from one corner of a desert to other.” Tears were doing the talking more than Arundhati’s words.
“You need to take rest. Sleep and enjoy snow around you.” Sakhi kissed her forehead and left the room.
“She won’t leave this place.” Father Henry announced after returning from the store room.
“What do you mean father?” Amelia asked.
“You said after blessing the house everything will be fine.” George said next.
Father Henry stood near the window. He could see the children playing with a snowman outside. A man was clearing the path with a shovel. He smiled on seeing them. He turned and took a seat on the nearby sofa.
“Blessing the house works when you want to extract the bad things out.” He said. Amelia served hot chocolate in three mugs and sat beside Father Henry.
“We don’t get you.” George took a sip, followed by the Father.
“This soul in your house had a deep desire of something. It had travelled years to reach this place. And asking her to leave your home would be injustice.” He explained.
“You mean that we should stay with a spirit. That’s insane.” Amelia jumped in anxiety.
“No I don’t mean that. You use the lower portion and allow her to use the top floor.”
“Come on father what are you talking about? It’s our home.” George explained rationally.
“George, what if you die in your sleep, wondering about a place you wanted to see before you die. That’s hard isn’t it?”
They nodded in affirmation.
“Same happened with this lady. She died one night, dreaming about a place just like this. She wants nothing. She hasn’t harmed you yet, right.”
“Yes, never.” Amelia replied.
“She won’t. She is a Princess, benevolent and kind. Let her live. I will keep visiting you, if you don’t mind. These two ladies need me.” Father Henry collected his coat and said as he reached near the door.
“Ladies, there are two ghosts.” George got perplexed.
“Princesses need someone to take care of them. God bless you.” He stared the ceiling, smiled and left. Amelia and George decided to share their place, allowing the Princess to be their guest of honour.
P.S. "This story is written as part of A Winter in Storyland contest on Tell-A-Tale – Bringing stories back into lives."