Misty Memories

by Yogini Patil

"It's so be-a-u-t-i-fulbeautifulbeautiful" Neha's voice echoed through the lush green meadow spread in acres, bordered in the far by snow-capped mountains. The grassland gave an artistic impression of a vast canvas painted green sprinkled with countless purple, yellow pink dots. The sky was spotless blue save a few soft-white tufts that resembled freshly spun cotton, floating playfully.

Neha was on a sabbatical planned a quick visit to her family living in New Delhi, India. When friends read her thoughts on her Facebook status, they planned an impromptu re-union. As much as popular Neha was among her friends, she was a great friend to all. Diya suggested an outing to Manali Neha's favourite holiday destination. Diya Neha had been friends for as long as they remembered shared a special bond. When Neha landed at the Delhi International Airport her entire friend circle (about 15 people) had come to receive her. Neha was delighted to see them all after ages. She was excited when Diya told her about the trip to Manali, scheduled two days later.

So here they were in the misty valleys of Himachal all set for a lovely 5-day vacation. All the way to Manali, Neha giggled, sang, danced, shared stories with her friends. She was thrilled to be here with her loving friends whom she missed dearly back in NY. She was meeting them all together after 5, maybe 6 years wanted to make the most for those missed years. She loved visiting places Manali being her favourite and this vacation with friends being the cherry on the cake Neha was euphoric!

They checked in at the hotel, changed refreshed, devoured yummy food set out for sightseeing. After an eventful day they decided to visit the Sunset point relax watching the setting sun sky in the cool Himalayan breeze. Some of them helped themselves recline by the few trees around the cliff; some started capturing the moments in their cameras, others humming or chatting. Neha Diya quietly sat there, absorbing the blissful nature the cool breeze, the evening rays shadows, the changing colors of evening sky, the soft rustling of leaves, and the last chirping of birds for the day. They silently kept watching the sun dip slowly leaving a beautiful spray of orange, red, pink colors behind.

Thoroughly content relaxed, they all started a trot towards the hotel. The dusk was quickly turning into night. With the mist in the air falling darkness, the visibility was lowering. They needed to get back to the hotel as fast as they could, though the place wasn't too far. Amidst all the childish excited chattering, including Neha Diya's one could easily mistake them for a group of children on a school picnic.

Neha's shoe lace came undone she stopped to tie it. She signaled Diya, who was talking to her mom on her cell phone, to continue walking. Just as soon as she finished, something sparkling across a few yards caught her attention. Inquisitive as she was, Neha propelled towards the source. She was so caught by curiosity that she didn't even realize she was left far behind was moving away from her group.

As she inched the gap, Neha heard an audible soft groan quick breathing sound. She knew she had made a mistake the instant she realized the sparkles made up eyes of some animal. All the stories of forests wild animals flashed in her mind with a pang of fear. With strong reflexes Neha quickly turned around started running, she was so frightened that her throat went dry making it impossible for her to call for help. She sucked in air, kept running only to realize the animal was following her swiftly. She panicked stumbled upon something fell face down on soft, moist grass. She let out a loud scream with all the strength she could muster shut her eyes fearing what was coming. The animal had plunged from behind her; she felt the whoosh making her hair fall on her face. She could feel its breath on her face now a soft yet strong squeak close to her ears. Eyes still closed, anticipating the animal's next move little puzzled by the soft squeak; Neha was suddenly deafened by sounds of claps, laughs, chuckles whistles. Someone was calling her by name, she knew who it was. She quickly opened her eyes to find a cute plump rabbit staring quizzically into her face, with his head bending from side to side swiftly. He looked more frightened than her because she thought he was shaking.

The crowd around her started singing Happy birthday to you, Neha' it took her less than a minute to get the whole story. She smiled to her herself turned to face Diya who had a kind yet mischievous smile on her lips eyes that clearly twinkled with amusement. Diya instantly loved the cute little thing mentally thanked it for its volunteering making the party livelier. Neha Diya looked at each other briskly at the bunny who still had the same expression, now looking at both of them everyone around - broke out into a hysterical bout of laughter.

That night Neha slept with a smile on her face dreaming about the wonderful day the birthday party that turned out to be super surprise for both the girls. She loved the self-proclaimed birthday gift that occasionally squeaked nudged softly at her toe, making Neha grin even big fall in and out of her misty dreams.

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