An exclusive excerpt from Areeba Nasir‘s short story, Bench published in The Best Asian Short Stories- 2020 (Edited by Zafar Anjum), published by Kitaab in 2020.
Bench by Areeba Nasir
Rukhsana watched the sun slowly drown in the stream of green mountains. Houses built in the terraced valley clung to the mountains like honeybees on the beehive. Rain was not rare but was uncommon during that time of the year. It had soaked her clothes and her cloth bag. Her umbrella was broken from one side. She held the partly broken umbrella over her daughter who was sitting beside quietly.
“I made arhar ki dal today, why don’t you come home?” she asked.
“I thought of getting some for you but I don’t remember where I kept the tiffin box; do you have it?”
“It’s kept in the cabinet above the fridge if no one has touched it,” said her daughter, looking down at the weeds sprouting in between the rocks. The deluge of rain and the onset of darkness was making Rukhsana uncomfortable. She got up from the bench to look for somewhere they could take shelter for a while, but nothing could be seen, just the mountains, trees, and the bench with the umbrella. She turned around to ask her daughter if she would come home but she was gone.
“Why did she leave without saying goodbye again?” Rukhsana said, picking up her things from the bench.
“Where have you been in this weather?” Rukhsana’s husband, Prakash, asked as she entered the house, soaked and shivering.
“Went to see Mimi, she doesn’t want to come home; I told her I had made her favourite arhar dal but she left without saying goodbye.”
Prakash had nothing to say. He took things from Rukhsana and handed her a towel.