Pia came looking for us eventually. She looked at us suspiciously as though she knew we were talking about her.
“What are you talking about?” She inquired.
“Its adult talk.” I told Pia same thing my mum used to tell us when we were little.
“I wanna know! I wanna know! I wanna know!” And that was the exact same thing that my sister and I used to tell my mum.
From my mother's smile, I could tell that she too was reminded of our childhood.
“Come Pia,” she said, walking out of the room “Its nothing important.”
Pia thought for a while and then deciding its not worth arguing about, ran to catch up with my mum. I followed them to the dining room.
In my family, everyone had their fixed places at the dining table. My mum sat at the head of the table, closest to the kitchen, my dad on her right, my sister to her left and I used to sit next to my dad. I subconsciously pulled out my usual chair.
“Thats my place!” Pia looked at me, dismayed that I had taken her place.
“Yours? Then where should I sit?”
“There..” Pia was pointing at my sister's chair.
I looked at Pia, wondering whether she was trying to imply something. Obviously not. She was just an eight years old who wanted her place.
I walked over to my sister's chair. My mum smiled at me encouragingly as I took my sister's place at the dining table.
Lunch was a boisterous affair with all of pretending to be normal. We all spoke a little louder and laughed a little harder as though trying to make up for the six months that we had lost.
Pia seemed oblivious to all our pretense. She didn't interact much, kept her head low and ate quietly. I wondered what had happened to her. She had been normal some time back.
I decided not to ask her.
After lunch Pia and I sat down to do her homework. As a child, I had always hated people who looked at me and said “Oh my god, she's grown so much.” It was almost as though they had expected me to shrink and I had grown up.
But now I understood what they had meant. Looking at Pia's books made me realize how quickly she was growing. Within no time, she had grown from a baby who couldn't even wipe her own nose to this child in front of me.
Kids grow up too darn fast. I remember my sister telling me that when she was inviting me to come stay with her for some time. You'll miss not being here for those moments Khushi.
After what seemed like eternity, Pia was done.
“Now what do we do?” Pia asked me.
“Well, don't you go to play now?”
“Nobody plays with me anymore.” I wanted to ask her why, but I didn't press her.
“Well, in that case.. lets go..” I picked up my jacket.
“Where?” Pia asked in surprise.
“You coming? Or not?”
We both ran out of the house.
I had no idea where I was taking her. We hit the streets, walking aimlessly. We watched a movie and then went to a local fair. We went on all the rides possible. When we thoroughly exhausted ourselves with all the giggling, laughing, screaming and running around, we stopped and had ice cream for dinner. By the time we were in a cab, Pia was half asleep.
Once home, I carried Pia to her room. Her little arms were wrapped around my neck. I pulled off her shoes and tucked her in.
“Pia?” I asked gently.
Pia stirred in her sleep.
“Pia?” I asked again.
She opened one sleepy eye.
“Would you like to stay with me?”