Serene Society

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Encourage Writing Inc.

An otherwise unremarkable woman has to choose between doing what is right and doing what is expected of her

Submitted: July 26, 2018

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Submitted: July 26, 2018



Serene Society

On a cool and fragrant night in early April, Ravenna, a not-so-young wife and mother, was taking one of her usual evening strolls past the various apartment blocks of her neighbourhood. It was a routine she had picked up only recently; wanting to lose weight, every evening for the past month she had been walking on a street that ran alongside the community’s boundary walls.

Normally, these strolls were as uneventful as the neighbourhood itself. Like some other middle-class gated communities, this aptly named “Serene Society,” was purposely designed to be as safe, isolating and as boring as possible. The residents themselves blended superbly with their environment. Even chameleons would have had a hard time distinguishing the humans from the surrounding dullness; if they ever seen outside their apartments in the first place, that is.

But on this particular night, Ravenna’s vague, wandering thoughts were suddenly shattered by a loud cry which came from an apartment to her left. A boy, it seemed, was crying himself hoarse:

“I want to see Aunt Rosie!”

 He sounded like an adolescent, but his anguish made him sound like a little boy in distress.

“I want to see Aunt Rosieeee!” he screamed again.

Now, this was not the first time Ravenna had received a live feed of someone’s private quarrels. Every now and then serious arguments could be heard from the apartment building across from hers—an unhappy couple would argue about money or long-nursed resentments. Like everyone else around her, she would be distressed but would do her best to ignore it. After all, she had no right to interfere in someone’s private affairs.

But this?  This was a child in pain, and being a mother of a young boy herself, she couldn’t help but be compelled to stop and listen.

 “Perhaps I should help,” she said to herself.

“Perhaps not,” her mind responded. It was none of her business, after all. But, when the boy shouted for the third time, “I want to see Aunt Rosie!” Ravenna’s heart won her over and she ran into the  building, soon arriving at the offending apartment’s front door.

She raised her hand to ring the door-bell, but then stopped. Prompted by her fears her mind had come up with the usual rationalizations. “What business is it of mine anyway?” she thought, "I have no right to interfere in someone’s home!  Besides, who will help me if some angry person inside shouts at me for being a busybody?”

 As if to confirm her misgivings a sarcastic voice from inside the apartment spoke up:

 “That’s right, keep yelling away, why don’t you? That will work, see if it does!”

Ravenna imagined that voice belonging to the boy’s father. In an apparent response to the his challenge, the boy now started banging on a door in addition to shouting. Ravenna feared that the father had locked the poor boy in a room, as punishment. What an outrage! Again she moved to ring the bell, cause a disturbance, break the miserable spell. Yet again, she hesitated, and then felt ashamed for being gutless. Inside, the shouting and banging continued.

 It was in this state of being torn between her heart and her shame that a husband and wife— who lived in the same building— walked in. They were used to the disturbance from this apartment, and they were just as used to slinking away, too afraid to intervene. But seeing a strange woman in running attire suffer over what was clearly an intolerable situation, seemed to have helped the couple find their courage. While the wife introduced the couple to Ravenna and brought herself up to speed on the situation, the husband, without hesitation, went straight to the door and rang the bell and waited for a response.

As she was speaking to the newly arrived woman, it occurred to Ravenna how no one else in this entire building was roused by the noise. There might as well be no one living here. Had everyone abandoned this world for the one promised by their smartphones and HD-TV’s?

The husband rang the doorbell again, longer this time. The boy ceased shouting and the banging stopped. He was sobbing now.

The father finally spoke up: “Who is it?”

“It’s Troy, your upstairs neighbour.” .

“Come around some other time.”

“I am sorry but I have to. Look, if there is some trouble, maybe we can help. I could hear the boy’s crying from the main road. Half the neighbourhood has probably heard of this Aunt Rosie by now.  If this doesn’t stop, I’ll call the police.”

“Mind your own business, “the father responded.

Exasperated now, Troy turned towards his wife and the strange woman for some support, but Ravenna was not there.

For while he had been busy cajoling the father, Ravenna had left on sudden whim: she walked round the building to the back of the apartment and found herself standing outside a bedroom window. Through the window glass and the open curtains she could see into a dimly lit room where the boy was trapped. She could barely make him out; he was leaning against door, weeping.  

Ravenna put aside her misgivings and tapped on the window; the boy did not hear her. She tapped again, harder this time,.

The crying stopped. Lights switched on, revealing a room containing several cartoon posters on bright green walls. A few seconds later, an exhausted, yet curious, young boy’s face showed up at the window. He seemed to be the same age as her own son, Adonis.

Ravenna tentatively waved at him. “Hi, are you ok?”

 The boy took a look at her. He seemed to be sizing her up, not sure what to make of this woman who had appeared out of nowhere.

“It’s ok, dear. I’m your Auntie Ravenna, I live three buildings away. Can I get you anything?”

The boy didn’t seem to know how to respond. To make up for it, Ravenna took a step closer to him, but that seemed to scare the boy.

“You’re not Aunt Rosie!” the boy objected.

With that, he immediately closed the curtains, ending that brief exchange. Ravenna stood there awhile in the ensuing silence, waiting maybe, for the boy to come back and peek through the curtains. But eventually she conceded defeat and returned to the front door.

“What happened?” The wife asked. “The boy’s gone quiet.”

“His name is Farid,” Ravenna replied. “You spoke to him?” asked the now curious husband.

“No. I tried talking to him through his window, but he was too scared.  I just saw a mug on a table inside the bedroom; it had his picture and name on it.”

“Well, in any case things seem to be quiet now” said the wife, relieved. “We’ll keep our ears strained, in case anything happens. Thank you. … I’m sorry; I never asked your name.”

“It’s alright. I’m Ravenna.”  I want to thank you Troy. And you…”
“Penelope,” the wife filled in.

“..And you, Penelope, for not letting me go through this alone.” Ravenna thought for a moment and then asked the couple: “Would you happen to know who this Rosie is?”

“I’ve heard the boy…”

“Farid,” Ravenna objected.

Penelope nodded. “I’ve heard Farid say that name sometimes, but other than that, no clue.”

“I see,” said Ravenna. “Well, in any case I think we should all head home; try and relax, maybe.”  

In the following days, the weather remained cool and Ravenna continued her evening strolls. But now, whenever she neared Farid’s apartment her eyes and thoughts would turn towards the boy. On some evenings, she would hear and see nothing of him. On others, she would catch a glimpse of him messing about in the adjoining kitchen, humming the tune of whatever pop song had happened to have gone viral. Her intervention, it seemed, had calmed things down for now.

“He’s about the same age my Adonis,” she considered. “Maybe I can get arrange a play date for them.” Maybe Penelope and Troy could help in some manner.

It wouldn’t be easy: Ravenna believed the boy’s father might well feel ashamed of accepting her help. And at the end of day, there was only so much that she could do. But it was better than submerging back into the false peace of Serene Colony.





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