The clock struck four, but she din’t hear it. Even though she kept checking the tiny watch that was always kept by her pillow, she din’t know it until it was fifteen minutes past four. She scurried to the kitchen and turned on the kettle.

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She was waiting for her great-granddaughter to come home after school, to feel the cheerfulness of the little one while she narrated the happenings of her day at school. This was one part of the day she looked forward to, the one time she did not have to be conscious of her self, the one time she could actually forget that she was deaf, the one time she din’t have to see the sneer on others’ faces when she couldn’t figure out what they were saying. But she knew such days were short-lived, as it was only a matter of time before the kid grew up and learnt the ways of the elders.

The slight movement out of the corner of her eye indicated that the little one was there. She settled down on the kitchen doorstep with a simmering cup of tea, careful not to bring it too close to the restless lady prancing up and down the stairs, clearly excited to tell her something. Then the story started. Though she couldn’t make out much of it, she still managed to time her expressions so as not to arouse the suspicions of the little one. At the slightest appearance of a crease on that tiny forehead, she too turned serious. At the slightest sight of those beautiful dimples, she too smiled widely. Nothing seemed amiss in those innocent eyes and the story was completed with the expected response in all the anticipated parts.

It wasn’t until sometime before dinner that she found some unusual activity in the house. There were open suitcases and neatly folded clothes on the bed, which told her that someone was traveling. Her questioning looks went unnoticed. Finally she got to know that the little one was flying back with her parents to wherever they lived earlier. She had no idea where that was. The only thing she knew was that it was very far off, on the other side of the globe. Though she din’t expect them to stay forever, when a year had passed since they came, she thought they were going to stay for good. But it din’t seem so.

She was not prepared for this. She wished they had told her sooner. Or perhaps her ears failed her again. They must have told her and she din’t hear them. She was uncomfortable asking them to repeat things, as they din’t seem patient enough to emphasize things for her. She quietly had dinner, popped her bedtime pills, kissed her granddaughter and the little one a tearful goodbye and went to bed.

She was up before the sun, that had been the routine for quite some years now. Sleep eluded her. The medicines which used to knock her out for hours straight did not seem to work these days. She sat at her favorite spot on the kitchen doorstep with her regular cup of tea, staring at the fading orange glow in the sky. In her mind’s eye, she could hear the birds chirping and the sound of the early morning breeze. That is how mornings used to be, before the world turned silent on her.

She din’t want to think about it yet, but she knew they were gone. She just knew it somehow. She din’t even had to check on them to make sure. Tears welled up in her eyes. She was starting to feel lonely. Again.

She had come a long way, from the pretty toddler she once was to this wrinkled deaf self that she is now. For a moment she felt angry, towards herself, towards everyone and everything. But then memories began to flash past her. Her much younger self. Her parents. Him. Her son. Her granddaughter. And now this little one. She had it all. At one time or the other. Though she lose them eventually, to time or to space, she had it all. That’s all that mattered. She wiped her eyes, picked herself up and proceeded to go about her daily chores.

Some time after breakfast, when she was sitting in the porch reading, she noticed a head bobbling behind the newspaper. Her face lit up when she saw the maid’s five year old daughter in front of her, trying to ask her something.

Moments later, the two were seen exchanging stories, she – seemingly absorbed in the story this little one had to say, her earlier worries forgotten. Seeing the two chatting animatedly, it’s difficult to tell who the child is between the two – the small girl in pigtails or the eighty year old who looked just as perky as her newfound companion. After all, the older one gets, the younger their inner self becomes. Lonelier too.

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