“Could you get me some Aloe Vera?…”, said Shabana massaging the itchy, blackened skin of her shin. Fariha turned on her heels way too soon. She was half way towards the terrace when the rest of her mother’s request had caught up with her which she had, probably, added with a sharpened tone, much annoyance and a raised voice, ” …and don’t cut a portion, for God’s sake, just get the whole leaf!”
The cooker had given off its third whistle. As Shabana dropped her legs on the floor, her shalwar adjusted itself. She put on the slippers and spent half-an-hour in the kitchen grinding, mixing, stirring. She needed her scissors to cut some herbs into bits. After a while, she could hunt down only half of it, she blessed the art of those who made such a scissor whose halves you could use as a knife too, made a mental note to scream at all her kids and seasoned her curry.
When she retired on the sofa and could no longer ignore the terrible itch on her ankles, toes and shins, she called out to Fariha.
When the girl didn’t reply. She went up herself. At first, she noticed a tiny red spot on every other step of the stairs. Then, the itch and pretty much everything else was wiped out of her mind when she found the missing half of the scissor by the barely open terrace door in a tiny pool of blood.
A wild gust of wind swung the door open. She stepped in to see rough, bloody impressions of a foot- parts of it, really. Two- three of those impressions were of toes, some of toes and a little part of sole, some of just a heel and they were all leading upto to the aloe vera pot.
She found half of a leaf as rooted in the soil as ever and the other half hanging on to it just by a little piece that was left uncut. The sticky aloe gel,oozing out of broken leaf, was continuously falling to the ground. Just next to it was another pool of blood. All that blood was making her feel light in the head. It was deep red and bright but the more she looked at it, the darker it got.
When she looked closer, she realised the marks were actually leading away from the pot and into the house. She was scared and for minute she didn’t know what to think. A thought of Fariha entered at the back of mind like a muffled echo. It became a whisper as it moved forward and, finally, a sound of thunder.
She tore the rest of the broken leaf, grabbed the half scissor and followed the red spots downstairs. She kept an eye on them but soon they were none left to follow. She called for Fariha again. As she walked into her room, the red stains had reappeared. She could hear the faucet running.
She found Fariha washing the blood away from her foot. The expression on Shabana’s face intimidated Fariha to start talking.
She explained how her foot landed on a glass dolphin, the tip of whose nose punctured her sole. She pulled it out completely and to make little mess, she wrapped her dupatta around it. Her mother had just one thing to say-
“Half of a leaf…”, she said, her irritation rising with every word, “even after I, specifically, told you not to…”