short story

Published:  01:31 AM, 16 January 2020

A pleasant surprise

A pleasant surprise
Exhausted by staring at the computer for long hours, Riya decided to take a few minutes break. She removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes gently. Engrossed in her work, she had forgotten to drink the warm water she had placed on her desk. The water was now cold already. She refilled it with lukewarm water and emptied the glass in one go.

Everyone in her office had already left, even the security guard. The guard didn't want to leave her alone in the office and offered to stay until she was done, but Riya, who was very close with the guard, urged him not to worry about her and convinced him to leave. He did so reluctantly.

Riya cared about her colleagues, and that was one of the reasons all of them loved and respected her. Her bosses liked her because she was extremely hard working and very reliable. These qualities allowed her to succeed, and just a few years after she started working, she managed to get several promotions.

That evening, Riya was working late to finish a proposal for an important project. It was already 8 pm, but Riya had promised not to leave until she was done with her work. "I have to finish this no matter what. I have other things to do tomorrow," she told herself.

Just then, her mobile rang. It was her mother. "What time will you be home," her mother asked over the phone. She knew how important work was to her daughter, and even though she didn't like Riya working late, she never complained.

"I'll come as soon as I am done," Riya replied to her mother.
A few years ago, Riya's parents wanted her to get a less demanding job. A job that would give her time to do other things in life. But she had always been a strong-headed girl who did what she wanted to do in her life. She was the scriptwriter of her own life, and she made her own decisions. Though her parents worried about her initially, they were soon convinced that they need not worry about her. She might not have followed the path her parents wanted for her, but she had managed to do exceedingly well with what she had chosen for herself.

Riya often thought about the lengthy discussions she used to have with her parents when she was struggling with her career. She sometimes used to wonder whether following her guts was the right choice.

It was already 9 pm, and Riya was still working. Then her office phone rang. She picked it up, but the person on the other end said nothing. There was only silence. Irritated, she hung up the phone. A while later, it rang again. Not wanting to distract herself from work, Riya ignored it.

When she was done with her work, it was already half-past nine. She turned off her computer, took her bag and car keys and rushed to the elevator. When she reached the parking lot, it was dark. Except for one lamp post, all the other lights were turned off. She started walking towards her car, and she had this feeling that somebody was following her. A chill ran down her spine. She heard footsteps too. Too scared to turn around to see who is it behind her, she hurried towards her car, hopped into it and drove off.

On her way home, she began thinking about all that had happened a while ago- the calls on her office extension number, and the unmistakable feeling of somebody following her in the parking lot.

"Who called me repeatedly? And how did someone know my extension number? Only the office staffs and my family members know about it. Everyone else calls me on my mobile phone," she thought. "And who was it at the parking lot? Was someone stalking me?"

Caught in a tangle of thoughts, she stopped the car in front of her house. She saw the door was locked. She fished in her bag for her cell phone and called her mother. "Where are you, mummy? You asked me to come early, and now you aren't here? Where are the others? When are you returning?"

She shot a volley of questions without giving her mother the chance to reply. After she was done with her questions, her mother replied that she would be back shortly.
After hanging up the phone, Riya took out keys from the bag and opened the door.

She threw her bag on the sofa and went straight to the kitchen. She opened the fridge and looked for something to eat. Her eyes went to a bowl of apples placed above the refrigerator. She grabbed an apple and went back to the living room where she switched on the T.V. and dumped herself on the sofa.
She picked up her phone again and called her father.

"Where are you all? I am tired of waiting for you guys for this long."
Her father said, "Don't wait for us. We are at your uncle's house, and we will not be able to come today. It's too late now. Before you sleep, make sure you eat something and turn off all the lights."

"Ok," she said in a low voice. Her father could trace the disappointment in her voice as she hung up the phone.
Instead of eating something, Riya, who was utterly exhausted, decided to skip dinner and call it a night. She turned off the lights in the living room and the kitchen and headed to her room.

As she was going to her room, she heard a loud sound. She was scared because of the incidents that had taken place with her in the evening. She turned on the lights and was surprised to see her parents, sister, and aunt's family, who had returned from the U.S. She saw her brother standing behind them with a wide grin on his face. It was only after seeing her brother that she realized that it was her brother who had called her at the office.

It was him who was in the office's parking lot. He had been sent there by their aunt's family to ensure that she returned home and do not go elsewhere so that they could surprise her.  When he narrated how she seemed so scared in the parking lot, the house erupted with laughter.

Sulochana Nepal is a Nepalese writer

---Sulochana Nepal

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