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Popcorn & Movie Night

‘Ohhhhh, my head, ohh… it’s throbbing!’ Suhana moaned as she slowly tried to open her groggy eyes. ‘I can’t possibly get out of bed in this state. I think I should just try to sleep some more.’


Suddenly, her mind started having flashbacks to the previous night. She recalled decking up in black jeggings, a sleeveless tank top, and her all-time favorite black leather jacket. Her curls which fell over her shoulders were huge and wild. Her smokey eyes, rouge, and pink lipstick were blended efficiently on her sweet, wheatish face. 


She thought of the heated argument she had had with her mother before leaving the house. 


‘I insist you stay home. I don’t like your friend, Vani. She’s bad news, and you always end up in some kind of trouble when you two are together. And that boyfriend of yours…? What's his name again?’


‘Who? What boyfriend are you talking about?’ Suhana said, rolling her eyes and waving her hands in the air. 


‘Uff… that boy who keeps calling you every hour… I can’t remember his name. Raunak? Raman?’


‘Mom, are you talking about Rajat?’


‘Yes! That idiot. That useless boy! He seems to have no sense of direction in life. What are you even doing with such a guy?’


‘Mom! Rajat isn’t my boyfriend. We are just friends. And we aren’t going out anywhere… I’m just going to Vani’s place for a sleepover. Why are you being so rigid? It’s the weekend. I’ve worked all week. I just want to unwind a little and have some fun.’


‘Rigid! I’ll show you rigid!’ The word shook her mother’s mind. She took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m not going to let you go until you get permission from your father.’


‘Oh, God! You’re just finding ways to make me stay put at home. Dad isn’t even here. He’s on a work trip, remember?’ Suhana gradually raised her voice. ‘Mom… please… I won’t do anything craaazy. And I’ll keep in touch with you over the phone. I promise. Pleaseeeeee. Pretty please! Don’t you trust me?’


Her mother squeezed her eyes tightly and buried her face in her hands. ‘I do trust you, darling. It’s your circle of friends with whom I don’t get that good feeling. You will call me when you reach Vani’s place. And you are not to go clubbing or pubbing or whatever it is you do. You will stay put and come home first thing in the morning. Are we clear, young lady?’


A huge smile appeared on Suhana's face. ‘Yes! I promise, Mom. You’re the best!’ She wrapped her skinny arms around her mother and gave her a tight kiss on the cheek. 


‘You’re my only daughter. I worry about you. Your safety is my priority. Please don’t do anything stupid. You must understand that the world isn’t as safe as it seems. There are a lot of bad people out there. Every day, we hear horrendous stories about what’s happening in every corner of the world. I love you, Suhana. Please be safe,’ her mother said gently, looking distressed and concerned. 


‘I will, Mom. Don’t worry. It’s just going to be popcorn and movie night,’ Suhana beamed and was out of the door in no time. 


Suhana tried opening her eyes again. Her head was throbbing. But she just couldn’t pry her eyes apart. She fell back into a deep sleep. 


But her mind didn’t stop racing through the eventful night they had just had. She remembered entering Vani’s apartment. She could hear the blaring music as she stood at the front door. Suhana was surprised to see the apartment filled with so many people as she entered. The party was happening. She wasn’t expecting such a big crowd. 


‘You’re late!’ Vani thundered. 


‘Yes. I’m sorry. My mom wasn’t letting me go. Let me just text her that I’ve reached your place. She was apprehensive for some odd reason.’


‘I know… your mom hates my guts. Come on in. You can leave your things in my room, and the glasses are kept on the kitchen counter. Help yourself with whatever you want to drink. I’ll be back with you in just a few minutes.’


‘Vani, where are your parents?’ Suhana asked, worriedly. 


‘They’ve gone to a relative’s place. They will be back tomorrow morning. And it so happened that the CCTV stopped working today. And that's when the idea struck…  a house party!’ Vani gloated. 


‘Wow!’ Suhana said slowly, feeling an icy sweat covering her face. ‘Umm… do you have a charger? I hardly have any battery left on my phone. And I happened to forget mine at home.’


‘Of course. It’s kept on my bedside table.’


The party was already in full swing. People were scattered all around the apartment in groups, talking loudly, laughing, and cracking jokes. There were some inhaling lines of cocaine, some rolling joints, and some smoking hookah. Every single person had a drink in their hand. 


Suhana was feeling out of place. She followed Vani like a puppy dog, feeling lost, wishing she hadn’t come. Vani happily mingled with the crowd and introduced her friend to everybody. A stream of strangers kept shaking Suhana’s hand, and she just kept nodding along. 


‘Where’s your drink? Vani exclaimed, with widened eyes, staring at Suhana. 


‘I’ll make one in a bit,’ Suhana fumbled. 


‘Are you crazy? Have something. Wait, I’ll tell Sharad to make you a drink. He makes the best cocktails.’


‘No…no… I…I don’t drink cocktails. They’re too strong,’ Suhana said nervously. ‘My mom says we shouldn’t…’


‘Oh, you’re such a mumma’s girl, aren’t you? Well, good morning, sunshine! Mumma isn’t here looking over your shoulder. Don’t be the party spoiler!’


‘Oh, God! Do I really have to?’ Suhana blinked a few times. ‘I didn’t know you were going to have so many people here.’


‘Suhana… you’re at a house party! Unwind a little!’


 ‘Wait… I’ll just check my phone and be right back,’ Suhana said and scooted to the bedroom. She stayed put in Vani’s room, hoping time would fly by. 


A few moments later, Sharad and Vani entered the room. ‘Here, take this,’ Vani smiled, handing Suhana a drink. 


‘What is it?’


‘It’s just rum and coke,’ Sharad smiled. ‘Come, let’s hang together. Vani told me you’re a professional graphic designer. Maybe I can connect you with a few people.’


Suhana smiled slowly. ‘Okay,’ she nodded and stepped out of her safe space. Her eyes scanned the room; the same people looked even crazier than before. 

‘I’ll just stick to one drink,’ she thought to herself and followed Sharad around the apartment. 


Sharad and Suhana started talking. They stood on the balcony and spoke about work, life, and their past experiences. They grumbled and cribbed about their client relationships and how many of their clients instantly expected results. Somehow, they hit it off. 


‘Did you always want to pursue graphic designing?’ Sharad asked. 


Suhana looked down at her boots and slowly shook her head. 


‘What did you want to be?’ Sharad raised an eyebrow. 


‘If I tell you… you’ll laugh!’

‘Oh, c’mon!’ He giggled. 


‘I always wanted to be a ballerina. When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me to ballet classes. I practiced ballet for six years, and then I had to stop because we moved back to India.’ 


‘Wow!’ Sharad said slowly. ‘Ballet huh! Sounds interesting. Oh, your glass is empty. Let me get you another drink.’


Suhana watched Sharad head to the kitchen. She was already a few drinks down. She coquettishly swayed to the music, allowing her mind and body to unwind. She continued dancing in the middle of the drawing room when her eyes spotted Vani. They smiled at each other. 


‘I told you, you’re going to have fun,’ Vani said as she walked toward her. 


‘You know what an introvert I am,’ Suhana smiled. 


‘Yeah! But look at you now. All eyes are on you!’


Suhana could feel her cheeks go red. 


‘Here you are,’ Sharad smiled and handed Suhana another drink. 


Just then, Suhana got up in a fright. 'I don’t remember anything after that. Was that my last drink? She sat up in bed, her head spinning, and looked at the unfamiliar walls. 


‘Where am I?’ She panicked. ‘What am I doing here?’ She ran her hands over her body, checking to see if she still had her undergarments on. She searched her pockets for her phone. There was no sign of it. She got out of bed and found her boots lying on the floor. She slipped them on and walked around the room. The door was closed, and the curtains were drawn. There was no furniture in the room except for one single bed. 


‘This is definitely not Vani’s house… but where the hell am I?’ She mumbled as she peeked out of the window. ‘How did I end up here? Did I have a blackout? And where is my phone?’ She was in a high-rise apartment in the middle of nowhere. She tried opening the window, but it was sealed. She couldn’t even figure out what time of the day it was. 

 

Suhana was completely disoriented. Her throat was parched. Her bladder was bursting, and her head was splitting. She felt her tears threatening, but they couldn’t seem to find a way out. 


She moved to the other door. ‘I hope this is the bathroom.’ She gently turned the knob and the door creaked open. The bathroom was cold and dingy. It looked like it hadn’t been used for ages. It had this distinctive foul smell, and everything was covered with layers and layers of dust. There were big dark cobwebs in the corners. Suhana somehow managed as quickly as she could. She then sat herself back down on the flimsy bed. She flipped over the bare, tattered pillow and finally found her phone. She tried turning it on, but the battery had died out. ‘My mom must be so freaking worried. She’s going to kill me.’


‘What do I do now? How did I end up here? Did I have too much to drink last night? Was I drugged? Have I been kidnapped? Where the hell am I, and how the hell do I get out of here?’


Suhana, feeling feeble and weak, sat on the bed with her legs folded against her chest, holding her tears back. She could feel the fear and hunger overpower her mind and body. Helplessly, she paced the room several times, searching for clues and trying to assemble the puzzle. She cautiously peeked out the window, hoping not to be seen. But there was nobody in sight. All she could see was an empty, barren land. Left with no option, she was back on the bed… waiting. 


After a period of time, which seemed like an eternity, she gathered her courage and tried to open the bedroom door. Surprisingly, it was unlocked. She gently turned the knob and very slowly opened it. There was pin-drop silence and not a soul in sight. She slowly tiptoed out, afraid to make a sound. She left behind dusty footprints as she made her way, down along a long, narrow corridor. 


The apartment seemed empty. The off-white walls were pale and dusty. Some walls had the dusty outlines where frames had once hung. She walked past an empty, dark hall leading to a drawing room. There was a sofa set in the middle of the room covered with filthy bedsheets. She walked toward the balcony door, trying to open it. It was jammed. She walked wall to wall, trying to find the way out, but it just seemed impossible. It felt like she was wandering in circles. Suhana had almost explored the entire house, searching for the main door when she discovered a single brown door. 


As she approached the door, she could hear muffled voices. Suhana froze. She could feel her heart pound and her stomach knotting. She took several deep breaths, trying to calm her mind and her every move. Discreetly, she took a few steps forward. The muffled voice seemed muffled no more. She could overhear a group of men talking. She pressed her ear against the door, trying to be as quiet as possible. She heard the familiar names of the people she had been acquainted with the previous night. She then heard Vani’s name. A man with a husky voice even mentioned Sharad’s name too. 


‘Suhana is in the other room,’ announced one of the voices. 


‘Suhana…. Suhana…’


‘Suhana is here?’ She heard another voice. 


Suhana began to tremble. She knew they were going to come for her. 


‘Suhana… Suhana… beta wake up… ,’ Suhana’s mother nudged her. ‘It’s already Saturday afternoon. I can’t believe your still asleep! You said you wanted to go shopping. Wake up!’


Suddenly, Suhana’s eyes opened. 


‘Mom!’ She gasped. ‘Oh! Moooooom!’


‘What happened? Why do you look like you’ve just seen a ghost?’ Mom frowned. ‘Are you okay?’


Suhana nodded slowly. ‘I’m so happy to be home.’


She gave her a perplexed look. She paused and said, ‘Oh, before I forget, Vani called. She wanted to know if you were going over to her place tonight. For the sleepover.’


‘Sleepover! Suhana’s eyes widened. ‘No!’


‘But you’ve been harping about it all week.’


‘Oh… no… I’m staying home with you tonight. Let’s just keep it quiet. Maybe we can have popcorn and movie night.’


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2 Comments


Captivating from start to finish! This short story beautifully captured the dynamics between a concerned mother and her only daughter, kept me engaged with its suspense. Loved every moment!

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Aditi
Aditi
Mar 19
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Thank you so much 😍

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