Name of the Book : I See You
Author : Aindrila Roy
Read The Blurb @ Goodreads
Review by Varun Prabhu
Author : Aindrila Roy
Read The Blurb @ Goodreads
Review by Varun Prabhu
When I First Saw You
For twenty-four-year-old Liam Redmond, the road to perdition had begun innocuously.
On one dull and dreary Saturday morning, he sat huddled on his bed, his head resting on his knees. His collar-length black hair prevented him from seeing the thick blanket of clouds darkening the horizon.
A sudden blare of loud rock music replaced the dull thrum of the air conditioner. Liam gave a start and reached out for his phone on the side table, his brows knitting into a tight frown. Holding up a hand to shield his eyes against the daylight, he answered the phone without looking.
“Liam, baby! You were supposed to call me ten minutes ago!”
Liam groaned. “Sorry Lily. I forgot.”
“Forgot?” the voice over the phone sounded aghast, making him cringe. “How could you forget Liam? I’m supposed to go to my cousin’s dinner! I need to buy that dress, sweetie!”
“Lily, I have a headache. That’s why I –“
“Oh, dear baby,” Lily crooned. “Should I come and pick you up?”
“No. No. I’ll come and pick you up. I don’t really fit inside your tiny car.”
“Oh, cool. See you in an hour?”
After saying his goodbyes, Liam disconnected the call. Running his fingers through his black hair, he reached for the bottle of Aspirin that had become a staple on his bedside table. Pushing himself off the bed, he walked over to the closet to change when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and cringed. His messed up black hair made him look like a hedgehog. Liam had never been too well built to begin with but now, with the dark circles under his gray-green eyes, he actually looked gaunt. The five o’clock shadow only worsened the emaciated look. He ran a hand through his hair.
Something needs to be done about this.
With that thought in mind he reached for the hair gel when his eyes caught a movement in the mirror. Startled, Liam whirled around and frowned in puzzlement to find nothing amiss. He could have sworn he had seen someone dart across the room.
Liam shrugged. Reasoning that it must have been a trick of light coupled with his lack of sleep, he dismissed the incident and began preparing for the day.
Fifteen minutes later, he stepped out the bedroom, dressed in a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt, looking a lot better even if he did not quite feel it. He had gotten rid of the stubble and subdued his hair; however, it had not been possible for him to completely do away with the dark circles.
In the dining room, he found his roommate Griffin Newman sitting at the table munching on a bowl of cereal. A footballer by profession, Griffin was as broad as he was tall, his girth pure muscle.
Liam nodded an acknowledgement and got a bowl of his own. “You home? I thought you’d be at the school.”
His roommate shook his head, a stray lock of his curly blond hair falling on his forehead. “A day off. What’s up with you? Headed out?”
“Yeah. Going to the mall with Lily.”
“She wants you to buy some new shit for her?”
Liam scooped a spoonful of cereal and shoved it into his mouth before replying. “It’s not like that Griffin.”
“It totally is,” the footballer scoffed. “The only reason that chick hangs out with you is cause you’re loaded. Tell me, would she have come to you had you not been THE Liam Redmond, heir of Redmond’s Grill? Had you been a let’s say… Liam Smith. Would she still be so into you?”
Liam smirked, playfully jabbing his roommate’s arm. “You are awfully good for my ego, you know.”
The blond man grinned. “Happy to help. By the way, why aren’t you banging that chick? I mean she’s practically throwing herself at you. I’d totally do her if I were you.”
“But you’re not me and I’m not you.”
That earned him a laugh. “True that. How’s that headache of yours?”
“Same old, same old.”
Griffin clicked his tongue. “Fuck! Go to a doctor man. How long have you been having these headaches now?”
“A couple of weeks, I think,” Liam answered carefully. “Usually goes away when I take an Advil.”
“Look, I’m no expert and all that shit, but seriously, that doesn’t sound good. You gotta get yourself checked.”
“Yeah, I plan to. Tomorrow maybe.”
The taller man stood up with his empty bowl. “You better. Anyway, you have a great day with that chick. I’ll see you tonight. Get beer.”
He waved his roommate adieu and quickly finished his cereal. A glance at the clock told him he just about had the time for a cup of coffee and headed to the kitchen to make it. He needed it to get the Advil to kick in before he could drive. He did not fancy sitting behind the wheels with the pressure in his skull. As he inhaled the earthy scent of the freshly brewed cup, he found the tense muscles in his shoulders easing.
Nursing the steaming cup in his hand, Liam made his way to the living room and perched on a chair. He sighed a little at the palpable relief coursing through his tired body. Fatigue had become a constant part of him, flowing through his body like a thick sludge. He slid down a little further into the chair, put his head on the back-rest and closed his eyes for a moment. Sleep overtook him and almost immediately, like a reel of a movie waiting to start, the dream played out in front of his eyes.
He walked along a desolate park alone with not a soul around. The grass crunched underfoot as he walked. He breathed the moisture laden air when he heard a voice. He could not really understand what the voice said; he just knew by instinct that it called him. He whirled around, but there was not an inkling of anyone’s presence. Just the dismal, lonely park. The next instant, he felt water lapping against him. His lungs were on fire and even though he tried to swim up, the water kept pulling him down. He was drowning!
Liam sat up, gasping. This same nightmare had been plaguing him for days now. Each time he closed his eyes, the nightmare would start, as if someone had put it on auto-play. Night after night Liam had been seeing the same dream over and over again. And every time he would wake up heaving and stay awake till the crack of dawn.
Liam had not confided about the recurring nightmare to anyone because he honestly had no idea what to say without sounding pathetic. He did not want to tell them that he could not sleep because of it. People around him worried about his near constant headache because they were oblivious of the cause for his sleeplessness. One night’s good, uninterrupted sleep would cure the headaches, he told himself.
Finishing the coffee in one gulp, Liam picked up his car keys and left his apartment. Twenty minutes later, he pulled his midnight blue Land Rover into Lily’s driveway. Liam had barely parked the car when she stepped out of the door with a wide grin on her face. Before he had even shut the door, she had skipped over to him and threw her arms around him.
“I saw your car!” she chirped. “Shall we go?”
Briefly returning her hug with a pat of his hand, Liam stepped out of her embrace. A petite blond girl with red highlights in her short hair, Lily was striking to say the least. He had met her through common friends and the attraction had been mutual and spontaneous. At the party where they first met, they had ended up exchanging numbers and it had been a whirlwind of an affair. But now, Liam had begun to entertain the idea that perhaps he had made a mistake and that maybe him and Lily were not suited together.
“What are you doing tonight, Sweetie?” Lily asked as they began to settle in the car.
“Have a game night with the guys.”
“Oh, you mean Max, and Griffin?”
Liam rolled his eyes. “Do I have any other friends?”
“I don’t understand. Why does Max stay at your place so much? I mean whenever I come, he is there.
He has his own house, why doesn’t he live there?”
“I’ve told you, Max likes being with us more than he likes being at his home,” replied Liam as he turned around a block.
“Mansion you mean. He chose to look after the family business and is doing fantastically. Why are you stuck in this tiny house? What’s stopping you from going back to live with your grandfather?”
Liam’s jaws tightened as he bit back an irate response. “I’ve told you. I want to live my life on my terms.”
“But after your Grandfather, you have to look after the chain of restaurants, right? I’m just saying that you should use this time to learn the business and prepare for the inevitable.”
“I know that business like the back of my hand Lily,” Liam shot back. “I don’t need to spend any more time learning it. As of now, I’m learning to eke out a living of my own, on my terms and not depend upon the Redmond fortune to do it.”
“But all I’m saying is –“
“Lily! I’m not discussing this, okay!” When she didn’t reply, Liam pressed. “Okay?”
“Yeah alright. Whatever.”
The mood was still somber when about half an hour later, the Land Rover rolled to a stop at a parking lot. Liam killed the engine and stepped out, wincing when the sun hit his eyes, making his head give a nasty throb. Massaging his temple with one hand, he groped his pockets blindly for his sunglasses. Donning it, he opened his eyes and spotted something that further soured his mood. Thick dark clouds loomed in the far sky.
“Lily, let’s hurry. It’s going to rain.”
Almost two hours later, Liam found himself muttering curses under his breath. He should have known. With Lily, shopping was never a quick trip to the mall. Maybe ‘shopping trip’ was a misnomer. It was more of an excursion for it involved long winded trips to various shops; hours spent trying to decide which item to buy. If that weren’t enough, she would then take another hour hemming and hawing about the price. Other than her constant attempts at changing him or criticizing his friends, it was this habit of hers that drove him batty.
Liam had been climbing the walls when Lily stepped out of the trial room in a black and white dress.
“Baby, how does this look?”
“Lily, just pick something up and let’s go!”
“Why are you getting mad at me?” Lily pouted.
“Because it’s been two hours! This is just a gathering of some of your family who see you regularly! I don’t understand why you need a new dress to begin with.”
Lily stomped her foot in frustration. “You’re impossible! I can’t shop like this.”
“Fine then, you shop in peace. I’m off. See you around,” said Liam as he stormed out of the shop, ignoring Lily’s calls. Stepping out of the mall, he clutched his aching head in his hands, moaning in agony. The flare in his temper had increased the torturous throbbing to the point that it felt as if an orchestra had been going on inside it. On the plus side, sheltered under the awning, Liam was saved from the downpour so thick it felt like the sky had sprung a leak. The heavy deluge obscured everything in view.
Leaning against a pillar next to him, Liam closed his eyes, enjoying the occasional spray that wayward gusts of wind sent towards him. He had no idea how long he had stood there with his eyes closed and slightly wet before he noticed something monumental. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, his head did not hurt.
The almost cathartic experience he had just endured snapped his gray-green eyes open and his lips moved into an easy smile. Unable to believe his luck, Liam shook his head as a test and saw that it indeed was gone. His head did not hammer in protest. Neither did it feel like it was made of lead. The perpetual tightness and pressure behind his eyes had eased. If he had been the kind given to whimsy, Liam would have jumped for joy. Instead, he decided to treat himself to an ice-cream; such was the extent of his eccentricity.
He pushed himself off the pillar and was about to step out, unmindful of the rain, when something stopped him dead in his tracks. There in the parking lot across him stood a girl. Arms wide open; face upturned, eyes closed and a beautiful, tranquil smile playing on her lips. She was garbed in a white dress that covered almost every inch of her body and yet she exuded an understated sensuality unlike anyone he’d met before. Her silvery blond hair tumbled down to her narrow waist, billowing slightly in the wind.
She was alone, enjoying the rain seemingly oblivious to everything around her. Liam stood about a hundred feet away, mesmerized. She was easily the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in the twenty-four years that he’d spent in the planet. An occasional pedestrian, in their rush to get out of the rain, paid no attention to her, but Liam’s eyes could not see anything else. There was something almost ethereal about her, something divine.
As if sensing his eyes on her, the woman lowered her head and turned to look at him. Their eyes met and Liam felt a trillion sparks of electricity course through his body. A part of him knew that he should have lowered his gaze for it was rude to be caught staring, but his eyes had developed a mind of their own. They were riveted on her and would not move. Her brows puckered into a small frown, her smile faltered a little and her head cocked to the side. The two stood still for a few moments, one enchanted and the other confused.
And then she smiled. To Liam, it felt as though every dark cloud in the sky had dissipated one magical moment and sun shone brilliantly. There was nothing in this world that was more miraculous than the simple act done by this stunning creature, this nymph. Pulled by a force he could not comprehend, Liam stepped out of the awning and into the rain. The water touched him, but did not he notice it. The wind whipped at him but he did not feel it. Wholly unaware of everything save the wonder his eyes beheld, Liam walked on.
The girl in the parking lot frowned again, although the smile never left her face, unsure of what she was seeing. Liam picked up his pace and started to cover the distance when a loud honk rudely jolted him to his senses.
“Fuck you!” the driver of the car screamed and gave him the one fingered salute. “Go jump off a building if you wanna die. Don’t choose my car!”
Being woken from his daydream felt akin to being dropped to Earth without a cushion. Liam blinked a few times, trying to gather his bearings. It was only now that he felt the dampness on his skin. The sounds of traffic that he had been impervious to just mere moments ago now seemed to be jarring him to the bone. Assaulted by the sudden barrage of sensations, Liam found himself scrambling for a coherent thought.
“Sorry!” A familiar and unwelcome feminine voice sounded behind him. A small hand grasped his arm in a pincer grip, manicured nails digging into his skin. Liam turned to find Lily smiling apologetically at the angry driver and pulling him along.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Lily was livid. “You were almost run over! What were you doing standing in the middle of the street?”
Not giving her an answer, Liam spun around looking for the nymph, but there was no one in the parking lot. Lily shook his arm, demanding an answer, but Liam seemed to have lost the ability to think. He vaguely registered Lily’s outburst, but his lips could not formulate a response.
Somewhere in the distance, Liam could hear the tinny ringing of a bell. Lily’s face flickered and wavered, as if he was looking at her from underwater. The shrill ringing got louder and louder and everything around him was obscured in a bright white light. And then there was nothing.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aindrila first penned a short story, of a princess defending a fortress, as an 11 year old. Glad that it was out of her system, she threw that piece of paper away.But over the years, her imagination kept tormenting her with story ideas, until she decided that it was time to finally let them out. She now writes full time, mostly horror-fantasies, filled with complex and anguished souls, fighting monsters within and without. She is fascinated by Indian and Greek mythology, animes, high fantasy novels, and paleontology, all of which have found their way into her stories as subtle tweaks to the backdrop.
'I See You' is her first published story.
'I See You' is her first published story.