The sun painted the sky with the mellow shades of yellow, pink and orange as I hurriedly cycled down the lane. It was late, I realized as I saw the dark hue of blue in the sky merge with pink from my periphery. I was supposed to meet Ben by early evening. He was going to be angry. Although, what scared me was my mother’s rage when she returned home and found out that I’d been sneaking out in her absence.
The first few stars had appeared in the evening sky and the sun had almost set. My legs were sore from paddling and beads of sweat were trickling down my back but I kept going. Finally, I reached the alley behind which Ben lived in his van and I slowed down to find the turn which would take me to Ben’s lair.
“Where are you off to, kid?”
Oh, no. Nobody could know that I’ve been meeting Ben. Especially in this neighborhood where people know who Ben is.
I turned around to find an old ragpicker bending down to pick up garbage bags, his shadowed eyes fixated on me.
“Nowhere”, I replied hastily. “I mean…it’s such a pleasant evening. I’ve been cycling and wandering around. My mom will call me when dinner is ready.”
“It is a pleasant evening, indeed. But this isn’t a pleasant place to cycle around, boy.”
It was true. People called this place the Dark Alley for a reason. It was filled with an aura of gloom and everything and everyone I’d seen here spoke of a wickedness that I’d never known. That is, everyone except Ben and I couldn’t keep him waiting while I chattered with this man.
“You’re right. I guess I should just go back home via the main road. It’s getting late, anyway.”
“You’d better go soon, boy. This alley is a dark place and its darkness can consume even the brightest light. And you are just a lad. An innocent young lad.”
The man was freaking me out, with his dark shadowed eyes which had lost the light in them and his eerie way of speaking as if he was born to narrate horror stories. I really wanted to lose sight of him immediately and so, I nodded in agreement and turned my bike around to face the main road. I cycled till I reached the end of the alley and swerved right around the corner to a stop. I hid behind one of the old buildings of the alley and peered around to see if the man had gone but he was still there, picking up bags and looking toward the main road. Was he looking for me? No. He must be looking for some garbage van.
“What are you doing, lurking around here, at this time?”
I whirled around to see who it was. Phew! It was just Ben. I was glad to see him but he didn’t seem too happy to see me. “I…I had come to meet you but the ragpicker stopped me on my way, saying this alley is a dark place and I shouldn’t be here.”
“Which is why you should have come at the usual time and not at 8 o’clock in the evening.”
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you happy to see me, here?”
“No, Zac! My uncle comes back around this time and he’d kill me if he came to know that I’ve been meeting you.”
“So you want me to leave?”
“Yeah…I mean, you should leave before he comes back.”
I was beginning to lose my temper, now. I’d got detention in school for not completing homework and that resulted in the delay but I still came to meet Ben because he said that we’re best friends, which was what I’d begun to think. So, why was he behaving like this, now? Heck, I hadn’t even told mom about our friendship just because he’d told me not to. Cycling from home to this place and back again was tiring and I had to do it every day to meet him. Well, I’d got no problem with doing it but I would’ve been happier had he responded happily to my arrival.
He must have seen my face change colors because he looked at me apologetically and said,”Hey, I’m glad that you come and meet me every day but I want this to continue. It won’t if anyone comes to know about it. Are you getting me?”
My fists relaxed a little and that’s when I realize that I’d been pressing my fingers so tightly that they’d created indentations on my palm. Ben took my hand and squeezed it firmly. He looked at me, directly in the eyes, and said,”I’ll meet you tomorrow, right here.” I waved him bye and cycled back home.
I knew he was right. Nobody must know about our friendship.
Zac’s Mom’s POV
Being a businessman’s secretary and managing his deals wasn’t a tireless job and my sore feet and throbbing head proved this fact every day. Even walking up to the elevator had become a difficult job but I reached it just as Mrs. Cooper joined me. Oh, for God’s sake! Not her!
“Hello, there! Ms. Andrews, so nice to see you!”
I wished I could say the same.
“Hi, Mrs. Cooper”, I said just as the elevator doors closed.
And what awaited me was a long elevator ride with Mrs. Cooper while she went on and on about her husband, her sister and perhaps, her whole family.
“Well, I just came back from my sister’s house. You know, it’s near the Arch Lynn Supermarket. We spent the day together. Oh, it was such fun! But I guess, today was another tiring day of work for you.”
“Yes, Mrs. Cooper. I’ll ask Zac to massage my feet and order some food once I reach home.”
“Oh, but Zac’s not home! I’d seen him cycling to the Dark Alley or rather, the neighborhood with the Dark Alley. You see, my sister’s place is near the gardens and the supermarket, so I take the main road near the Alley to reach there and that is when I saw him. Zac.”
Had she gone crazy? What the hell will Zac be doing in a place like the Alley? She must have seen someone else.
“I think you must have seen some other kid.”
“No, Ms. Andrews. it was Zac. I assure you. Oh, there comes my floor. Will see you soon. And do tell me when Zac returns.”
And with that she left, leaving me in the old elevator, feeling as empty as I’ve ever felt. Zac was at home and I was worrying for nothing, I told myself. But somehow, I couldn’t convince myself. Finally, my floor arrived and as soon as the elevator door opened, I jumped out and rang my doorbell. Was Mrs.Cooper saying the truth? Was he home? Will he open the door?
(To be continued…)
Image credits: Google Images
Hey! So this was my first shot at writing a short story and I’d really appreciate if you guys can take out some of your precious time to comment down below if you liked it or if you have some writing advice to offer.
Will Zac reach home in time? Who is Ben and why has he prevented Zac from telling his mom about him? Is Zac in bad company?
Read the next chapter to find out!
This is the first chapter in the Company series. The series consists of :