Chapter 5

Welcome Home


Sophie and her mother enter their home and take a look around. “So, we are finally here. When are you starting with unpacking and cleaning?” Sophie winks at her mom and laughs. They get themselves settled and, after an hour, they begin cleaning. After starting in the kitchen, they cleaned the whole house until midnight. Sophie and her mother are very tired; they throw themselves on a sofa in the hall. “Oh! Mom, do not expect me to wake up in the morning, rather don’t expect that I will wake up at all,” Sophie says in an exasperated voice.

She keeps talking and the next thing she hears is her mother snoring. “Oh, okay, mom goodnight to you too,” she smiles and gets up for a blanket. She coves her mother and kisses her goodnight.

She is walking to her room upstairs and sees a sprawling bungalow nearby. She can see the bungalow lighting up, she looks at the time and thinks that what on earth were her neighbours doing at midnight with the lights of an entire house switched on. A person can leave a light on by mistake in one or two rooms, but not the entire house. That is strange to her, but she ignores it and runs to the room. The next morning when she wakes up, it is not morning, but afternoon at 1:30 pm. She listens to her mother in the kitchen and gets freshened up quickly. She runs downstairs and finds her mother baking, which is smelling delicious.

Sophie thinks her mom got stressed after her dad passed away, and after all that, her mother kept struggling and making money as well as time for her. She went down and hugs her mother, “good morning, maa,” Sophie says. “Good afternoon Sophie, how did you sleep last night?” her mother asks. “Oh! mom I slept like a baby,” Sophie smiles at her while stealing a cookie that her mother is baking.

Her mother, in an annoying tone, says, “Sophie, oh my god, let me bake it all first.” Sophie smiles and stares at her. “When I smell your baked cookies, you know I can’t resist waiting,” she says. “Ok, enough, we need a few groceries. And look around the house, we need some spruced-up interiors,” her mother tells her. Sophie gazes at her living room and is amazed. She enjoys interior design and decoration, which is why she feels so excited when she sees a half-empty hall area that needs a little or more touch-up. “Oh, dear Lord, you got to be kidding me,” Sophie says. “So, mum, hand over the list to me. I will run and get groceries, and what else do we need? For our sitting area, we need flowers, wallpaper, and curtains, and for the rest I will see what I can find. So mom, what is our budget?” Sophie asks with exhilaration. Sophie’s mother glances at her with a question mark, “Sophie, do you know where you have to go. Where is the grocery store here?” “Mom, we are new here, and especially me, how would I know. You tell me, you must remember, you like to visit here on your dates,” Sophie teases her mother. Her mother pauses, smiles, and then looks at her daughter. “We used to come here on a date. Your dad used to take me to one very famous restaurant here somewhere and lakes… [pause] but we did not come here for grocery shopping. Sophie cracks into a burst of laughter because the way her mother answered was so adorable and funny. “No worries I will find one, you take a rest. I know you might have woken up early because these cookies need time to bake, and now that you are almost done rest and get some sleep,” Sophie says.

“How sweet of you, thank you. By the way, I saw people next door this morning; we got neighbors,” mother says. “Yes, mom, I know; to me, they seem a bit weird. I mean, who keeps the lights on at midnight? Okay, mom, I will head out and get some groceries.” Mom blows a kiss on her head, “take care, drive safely and spend wisely.” Sophie leaves and stands by her car. She is looking up nearby stores on her phone. Sophie finds that the market is 5 minutes’ drive from her destination. She is happy to know that the market is close.

She drives out and reaches the main road. She keeps following the map and after driving for two to three minutes she realizes that one car is following her. She is not sure about it because she is on the main road where anybody can travel. She slows down her speed to make sure. The car behind her also slows down. Sophie feels overwhelmed with the situation, so to confirm, she keeps rolling and pulls over after a few meters. The car behind her does not stop and passes her. Sophie is trying to look into the car but is not able to see who was driving.

She takes a sigh of relief, thanking God. She finds the car sluggish down in the middle of nowhere and stops after a few miles. “Dang it, what and who is this person?” she gets so angry, she puts her phone on a speed dial and drives faster towards the car. Now it looks like Sophie is the one following the other car, and in fact, she really is. She wants to see who is inside the car.

After driving, now for seven to eight minutes, she hears navigation, “After 250 meters turn right and you will reach your destination.” She can see the market and also that stranger’s car, which does not turn into the market but continues straight. Sophie feels happy but astonished at the same time. She ignores it and walks inside the grocery store. She starts with vegetables and ends up with home hardware. She is walking to the cashier with her cart when she bumps into one of the other girls’ carts right next to her. “Ohh! I am sorry,” Sophie apologizes. She looks at the other girl, who looks like a fairy tale dream, dressed formally and with a pretty smile, “Oh no, I think I am standing in your way,” the girl says. Sophie smiles back at her and keeps walking. She was paying when she heard some cluster noise near the exit point. She pays and makes her way to the exit. She sees that same girl into whose cart she got bumped earlier. As one family shouts something at her, she looks embarrassed while they look scared. A confused Sophie walks over to her, “Hey, can I help you?” The family immediately interrupts, “Go away, girl; stay away from her; she and her family are cursed.” Sophie gets upset at hearing them; “really, then we go perfectly together, guess what even I am cursed too,” Sophie says. The family stands quiet and vanishes into thin air after listening to her.

“Hello, I am Sophie, and I am a newcomer to this area. What about you?” Sophie introduces herself. As she stands silently, the girl says, “we should probably go outside, we’re blocking everyone’s way.” Her voice is so peaceful, Sophie thinks, “there’s something off about this girl. She’s like a goddess and people say she’s cursed.” She looks at the people in awe. The girl stops near the parking area and replies, “My name is Diana. I am not a stranger here, though, but I hardly visit the market or any gathering areas.”

Sophie smiles, “nice to meet you, Diana.” Diana replies, “It is nice to meet you too, and back there what you said was astounding. I just ignore these people.”

“You ignore them which is why they keep talking like that and you do not feel like getting out,” Sophie says. Diana stands motionless, looking at Sophie. Sophie realizes that she spat out something that she should not have. “I am so sorry, I did not mean that,” Sophie says. Diana replies, “Don’t be sorry, you are not wrong. I mean, I personally do not like crowds much, but yes, people might be one of the reasons I have become like this.”

Sophie feels inferior but changes the topic, “So where do you stay here? I reside at a place that I don’t know yet, but it’s five minutes from here.” Diana laughs, “I reside in the park place area, which is also five minutes from here, she replies.” They share a friendly goodbye and drive back to their places. Sophie is thinking about all that happened back at the store and how the family was being mean to her.

She makes an exit from the main road and enters the road to her home. Sophie thinks that she should also know where she lives and what that place is known as. Sophie unlocks the main door and gets inside, calling out for her mom, “Mom, I got everything pretty much for the next two weeks.”

“Sure, next two weeks means five days or so,” her mom replies from the bathroom. Sophie runs towards the bathroom door and sits down on the floor. “Mom, I have something to tell you.”

“Wait let me come out, I was cleaning and then took a shower, now I am done I will be out in no time so whatever it is, can wait.” Sophie stands up, makes an annoying face, “You are mean, I wanted to tell you like right now.” Sophie says. Her mother comes out and goes to the hall, “so go on, tell me,” she says. Sophie smiles and follows her mother. She tells her what happened from the time she left for the market until now. Her mother is happy to listen to Sophie that she is talking to people, engaging herself, and soon will make new friends. After an hour of talking to her mother, Sophie asks her mother what was the name of the place where they reside. She remains speechless after hearing her mother saying, “Park Place.” She is lying on her mother’s lap and turns herself facing towards her mother with her eyes wide open. “Mom, this is where Diana lives,” Sophie replies.

“Are you sure because there is one place here named The Park Palace?” Sophie pauses and tries to recall, “I’m sure she mentioned Park Place, Mom.” “How far away is the Park Palace by the way?” Sophie asks. “I do not remember exactly, but it is far,” mother replies. “Absolutely, mom, she said park place because it is five minutes from the market, just like us,” Sophie exclaims with excitement. Her mother feels happy. “You seem to like your new friend,” her mother remarks. Sophie thinks about what people are saying about her. “Mom, she was such a very polite and patient girl,” she recalls. “You are grown up now, you observe people around you. I am sure you want to make new friends. You can see who is trustworthy and who is a danger for you,” mother replies. “Yes mom, and that means she could be our neighbor next door,” Sophie responds. “Sure she is because I don’t think I saw any other house nearby other than the big bungalow next to our house. You two have met each other and if you think she can be your friend then yes. There are thousands of people with their own opinions, so don’t listen to what they tell you,” mom advises. Sophie smiles, and after a long talk, she decides to go to her room. While she is walking up the stairs, she peeks out from the window. She could see the bungalow.

She gets completely blanked and could not believe her eyes after what she saw. Millions of thoughts and pictures kept coming and going into her mind, and she remained a deadpan. She saw that the car parked outside the bungalow was the same one that had followed her before. A car parked outside the house might belong to Diana or a friend she thought she could make.

Who was following Sophie? Was it Diana, if it was really her, then why was she following Sophie? Why was the family scared of Diana and said that she was cursed?

Let’s go find out more.