Highly Commended Story - Senior Category
“We Believe What We Want To” by Svetha Mahadevan, DPS International School, Singapore, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
Svetha is a 15-year-old currently studying in DPS International School, Singapore. She loves reading poems especially by Tennyson, Wordsworth and Robert Frost. When it comes to novels, she likes the Science-Fiction genre the most, her favourite being The Time Machine by H.G.Wells. Svetha hopes to become a published author one day with the support of her parents and twin sister.
We Believe What We Want To
The silvery-grey sky grumbled relentlessly. Dark clouds hid the sun. The sound of emptiness was disrupted by the loud boom of thunder. Puddles began emitting a loud sound as the rainfall became heavier. The roofs of the cars bounced loudly with spray. The cold, icy rain fell on her head, but Geeta ran across the slippery path. The harsh rain obliterated the crystal reflection of the sky and turned it into chaos.
She ran into the restaurant and silently thanked heavens when she realized that a table in the corner was empty. The restaurant was full. Geeta looked around at the busy tables. An old couple was eating side by side, bent over their meals. A group of young women in their thirties were collapsing with helpless giggles as a woman dining alone nearby looked on and frowned. Businessmen in their grey suits were discussing what seemed to be a confidential matter. A family and their teenage children were laughing and bonding with each other. The noise level was high. The lighting was dim and the air was thick with the scents of so many different foods. She was starting to feel claustrophobic, but the hunger was too overpowering and so, she remained seated.
She sat in one of the two chairs and ordered a pasta and cookies. An old shabbily dressed woman, looking a little lost, asked her whether she could sit in the chair opposite hers as it was the only empty one. Geeta nodded. While waiting for the food to arrive, Geeta noticed that the old woman was sipping water and did not order anything else. She found it peculiar, but did not comment. In about two minutes, a waiter arrived with the food and set it down on the table. Geeta who was famished started devouring the pasta immediately. She was almost done with it, when she noticed the old woman chewing on a cookie. She was annoyed, but considered the fact that woman was old and ignored the incident. However, the old woman didn't seem to be finished with the cookies. She ate cookie after cookie and infuriated at this, Geeta grabbed the paper bag and ate the last two cookies. The old woman then smiled at Geeta and started inching her hand towards the coffee.
Geeta jerked the woman's hand away and gulping the coffee in one sip, went to the counter to pay the bill. The restaurant staff told her, "Ma'am, we are terribly sorry for the delay in your order. It will take two more minutes. There are customers who have ordered before you and we have to cater to them first." Confused, Geeta said, "No the order already arrived at my table. It is table 20." The waitress said, "Ma'am, but that was for the old woman. She ordered a long time back. Two kids wanted to sit together, so she asked them to sit at her table and instead sat at yours." Geeta was mortified, frozen to the spot. She felt traumatized. She couldn't believe it had happened. She rushed to the table to apologize, but the woman was not there. Apparently, she had gone outside with her daughter. Geeta walked out of the restaurant and into the rain. As she scanned the crowd, she suddenly realized that she could see no sign of her. She started to move, her eyes darting more wildly with each passing second, hoping to find the woman. Then when she realized that there wasn't a single way to approach the old woman and seek her forgiveness, she was immeasurably disappointed.
She walked back into the restaurant and sat down at the table. Her food arrived. She took a long look at it. And this time, she thought to herself, "For just a few cookies, I got angry and irritated the old woman. But such was her patience that instead of scolding me, she simply smiled and bore with me. If only, I had not been so short-tempered and instead politely asked her for an explanation then I would have realized that it wasn't my order. Instead, I started judging her and came to the conclusion that she was an irritating old woman who was ruining my day. But she wasn't anything like me. She had probably realized that I was hungry and let me eat the food, she had paid for. Oh! How all of us see and believe only what we want to."