The Missing Pebble
Ambika leaned against the golden backseat and closed her eyes, fighting for breath. Her sister’s voice continued relentlessly in her ear. “Oh Mia, you can count on me. Leave her at the lobby of the resort, I will take her inside” was all she said before hanging up. Her attention was snapped when she saw a throng of people near the gate through the window. Her vantage point gave her glimpses of chiseled face hewn from marble now drowning in the frothing water of fountain. The headless statue of Buddha stood unscathed from brawling child wildly flailing hands intently looking for the now missing ‘pebble’. I knew my sister’s philosophy to encourage and let children explore their creativity unbridled should have murdered itself when she discovered Tanya’s creative outlet was collecting pebbles. Soon Mia found herself to be a mother of connoisseur of boulders lining every available shelve, some astray on the floor in her daughter’s pink room. Distressed to see the mishap to the carefully decorated room, my brother in law tried throwing away some of the boulders in neighbor’s unkempt garden though he found himself staring at them again tomorrow morning with ‘don’t touhc’ scribbled on it with blue crayon. Pardon my niece’s spelling mistake, though the kid got the letters right was the highlight of next squabble between the parents.
From the gawking horrified audience my niece has gathered for her spectacular performance, it looked like the damage was going to burn through my purse. This is how swirling chocolate drink turned sour in my mouth. No! What was I thinking? I don’t want to babysit the devil’s spawn. Did devils even eat chocolate? I would have to ask my boss about that. He would probably know from jiggling evidence above his belt. Lugging for the back door of building, I swiftly snatched Tanya who was now sobbing. “Excuse me!” Ambika hissed as she shoved the bell boy and security staff ahead of her. “Miss this child belongs to you? How can you leave her unattended?” smiling brightly at the bewildered guest who popped the ominous question, “I apologize on my ‘Niece’s’ behalf to have created this ruckus.” she answered. The mollified guest made a sweeping gesture for the bell boy as he left the lobby abruptly. The crowd dispersed as she glared at a haggard soul from the security to pick up the neglected face from the water.
She sighed as she crouched down on her knees. Cupping the wet face, she consoled her niece. “I lost my pebble mausi. Papa will be very sad.” Tanya whimpered. Try raging mad niece, “Ahh Tannu, come inside we will tell Papa all about it during dinner.” She said instead. Dragging the mourning child across the lobby she stopped at the sight of her boss and silently retracted her steps down the stairway tucked in the corner of reception to enter a small room she used as her second office. Crossing to the desk, she opened the top-drawer to retrieve her secretly stashed chocolate box. Depositing the box on her desk she asked her niece to eat while she went upstairs to talk to her boss. The child solemnly nodded when instructed not to move in her absence. Ambika rushed out the door to meet the fuming boss half way up the stairs. Tanya expression grew grim as she eavesdropped the intense conversation on the other side of the elegant teak door. She looked a touch remorseful as she sucked her chocolate dripped fingers clean. Multitude of solutions fluttering through her mind. Unfortunately only one seemed attainable, plus overhearing mausi’s conversation had closed all other plausible avenues. Slowly, she withdrew a crisp white sheet of paper from the bottom shelve and was rummaging through her backpack for her almanac when mausi popped her head through snatch open door. “Ok good. You found paper.” Suddenly alarmed she hurriedly entered the room and snatched the paper to overturn it. “Ah, all good! Touch nothing else Tannu. I will check on you after sometime. Draw something for me in the meanwhile. “The words were barely out of her mouth before she whizzed out of the office.
Her sister; a sweet woman had rushed to the hospital to help a stranger who fainted on the pavement before dropping her surely adopted spawn in her hands. Ambika’s explanation has temporarily placated her boss. Nonetheless it was accompanied with a veiled warning and non-negotiable reimbursement. The situation at work has progressed to become untenable today. Mix-up of room keys, quarrel between two housekeepers has escalated just short of hair pulling wrestling match before her appearance had spurred them in opposite directions. Sudden booking of 11 rooms by an edgy motorcyclist club, an annoying double-chinned midget women who constantly called the reception since morning was the last straw. She was personally requested to remove a cat perched on a tree across the lady’s window. Apparently the guest had cat allergy and she feared whiff of cat, no… sight of cat 5 meters away itself could trigger it. She was passing by her boss’s door to check on banquet hall when her boss called her inside. She opened with a heavy sigh, “yes sir” was the standard response. “Ambika do you know who kept this?” the boss asked mystified. Appraising the scrawled letters dictating call beside the number on the sheet didn’t matter to her as much as the smooth pebble placed on it did. She apparently did know the culprit. “I’ll look into it sir” she answered. Exiting the door she made a bee-line to her office.
There lying on the floor with crayons strewn around her like radiating beams of light her niece drooled on the mishap drawing of flower and sorry scrawled in similar handwriting. Ambika jostled the sleeping girl who sat upright with the grace of a monkey. “Hmm, you look like a very busy girl who didn’t heed to my instructions. Whose number is it? ”she asked wryly. Tanya promptly stated that the number copied from almanac belonged to her art teacher who did part time art installation exhibition. The said teacher also lectured her student to seek beauty in broken things which was the usual theme of her installation. Miffed she thanked her niece for her artwork and promised to contact the teacher. “Mausi, you are the front office manager na! Can I take back the head of the statue… you know as replacement of the lost pebble?” the uttered question baffled the father who was standing at the door.
The Missing Pebble
Submitted By: RISHITA MEHTA
The Missing Pebble