Story Contest 2019 #2 - Highly Commended Stories »

Highly Commended Story - Koi

“Koi” by Anushri Iyer, Oberoi International School, Mumbai, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.

Anushri is a grade 11 student. Apart from studies she has varied interests and dabbles in learning keyboard and foreign languages. She is conversant in French and Mandarin. She loves adventure sports and is a certified Scuba diver. Her interest extends in varied forms of art; sketching and painting being her passion. Although not a regular writer she infrequently puts pen to paper in the form of short stories. She has to her acclaim the special prize in Story Mirror Schools Writing Competition (SSWC) -2018 as also being one of the chosen 41 stories to be published in a book “Young Storytellers” by Crossword Stores.


It smelled of fresh bread and strong coffee.

The scent was oddly warm and homely, the complete opposite of the cold, harsh rain outside. I was greeted by the chime of the bell and the waitress behind the counter gave me a welcoming bow. I tugged at my glasses, breathing out a sigh of relief that my cover wasn’t blown yet.

Looking around the polished wooden tables neatly laid out with pink checkered linen, I quickly examined the few people who busily typed away on their laptop¬s. I just couldn’t seem to spot her. “Ikumi”, I hear a whisper and turn to find her waving at me from the table next to the hazy window. Everything about her was the same–crescent moon eyes, a narrow nose and rosy cheeks that burned red every time she laughed. It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I last saw her.

“Hey,” she said, holding onto her warm cup of green tea. “Hey, how have you been?”, I ask after sitting down and grabbing a cookie from the pale dessert plate. She smiled weakly and fiddled with her pearl bracelet. “I have been well, I started teaching at a school six months after leaving the company. It is a comfortable job I guess; dancing and children have started to give me a new sense of happiness…I have seen you are doing pretty well. The famous dancer Ikumi Minatozaki, I am so proud of you! I always knew you could make it this far,” she said without removing her gaze from her hand.

She looked up, the regret and pride in her eyes evident and I started to wonder what that would be like, leaving something that I loved so dearly for it to become a fragment of history. “You could too, you were supposed to make it this far too Ena, ” I blurted, “What happened to making it here together? Why didn’t you stay?” These questions are what I had been waiting to ask for the past two years.

I glanced at the tiny droplets of rain slide down the glass on my right. “You know how the position of the company was, it didn’t make sense for me to stay at that point in time. When I heard that the company was facing losses, I felt like we were done.”

“You know?” she laughed humorlessly, “I used to think talent was all I needed to achieve my dream of becoming a professional dancer, but I was so wrong. A little fog in the path to my dream, and I was trembling in my shoes.” She twirled a strand of her straight black hair in her finger.

I felt tears stinging the back of my eye, “I remember that day so clearly, the day I woke up to find you gone. No letter, no texts and endless unanswered phone calls, you were all I had, my only hope, and you–just left. Ena I can’t even begin to explain how it was, the never-ending dance practices, the solitary dinners eating the cheapest possible food because there was no money, the fear of not having anyone to lean on if I really were to get unemployed.” I lifted my glasses and grabbed a tissue, dabbing the corner of my eye while hearing a gasp from the table next to ours. Ah I think I got recognized.

“I will always regret leaving that day. I am sorry to have left you in a situation like that really. It’s strange to think that if I had stayed then maybe life would be different now. Maybe I would have been living my dream today and I would have woken up feeling a sense of purpose¬¬–that is something I have lost over the years. One thing that I know for sure is that you would have made it here in anyway possible. You are the person that I’d like to be as strong as”, she grabbed my hand firmly as I felt her warmth blend into my own. It was overwhelming to hear what she thought about me since I always wanted to be like he. In fact, I always wanted to become a dancer with her. It was like she somewhat shaped me the way I am today, and I can’t be grateful enough to her for that.

I glanced at a fan from another table as she gave me a very enthusiastic expression. I gave her a wave and noticed her contain her screams. I could never get used to this. “ By the way, I almost forgot”, Ena said, making me look back at her. She put her hand towards her side as if reaching out for something. “She reminds me of you”, she mentioned while holding a small rectangular tank with a pure white fish covered in large patches of red and dark blue.

“Koi”, I whispered, staring at the little dragon swimming idly in the tank.

A legend says that once, several golden koi were swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. They gained strength with each current while swimming together. At the end of the river was a waterfall, many koi turned back in defeat, going with the flow of the river. However, the rest dismissed the idea of giving up. They tried to leap and reach the top but with no successful attempts. The local demons mocked them for their efforts and heightened the waterfall. Hundred years later, one koi reached the top of the waterfall. The gods gifted the koi the form of a golden dragon (symbolises strength and power) as a reward of its determination.

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