'Pasta is not yet boiled. I should wait for another ten minutes or so.' Malini thought. 'I should get the red sauce ready, it should be like Italian Den.' She was standing in her spacious kitchen.
"Maa!" She heard Arjun calling her.
She looked around but Arjun was not there. 'I must have heard it wrong.' She started stirring the red sauce. 'Pasta is perfectly boiled now, I should mix it with the sauce. I will ask Abhay to taste it, he will be able to confirm whether it is like Italian Den or not.' She took one bite. It was delicious.
She started setting up the dinner table when she heard someone call her name
'Malini!' She thought she was again hearing voices. She ignored it.
'Malini!' This time the voice was louder. She looked around but no one was there and then all of a sudden she felt like she was being pulled.
"Malini get up!". It was Shreya and they were still in the train.
"What?" Malini jumped off her berth as soon as she heard Arjun was not at his berth. Both the upper berths were empty. Train was at a station and it was 2 o'clock in the night. Almost all the passengers were asleep.
"He must be in the toilet. I will check this side, you go and check the other side" Malini hurriedly instructed Shreya. Malini's heart sank when she saw Shreya at the other end of the bogey signalling in the negative. Arjun wasn't in any of the toilets.
Malini felt like shouting and waking everyone up but she couldn't do it. 'Let me check outside' She thought. She signalled Shreya to get down. They went in the opposite directions to check.
Station was almost deserted. Malini asked a few people if they had seen the child but no one had. She checked some of the bogeys but all the lights were off, there was no sign of Arjun. Tears started to well-up as dreadful thoughts started coming to her mind. She remembered Arjun's face and his request if he can sleep with her.
'Why did I say no?'
'Am I a bad mother?' As soon this question popped in her head, a tear rolled down her cheek. She turned around and ran towards her coach. She was mumbling to herself "I am not a bad mother...I am not a bad mother" and her tears were hitting the ground beneath with every step.
She saw Shreya standing there but there was no sign of Arjun.
"I have asked TC to check, he is bringing the railway police" Shreya told Malini.
"Where is he?" Malini's voice was almost choking.
"Inside" Shreya answered.
Both went inside the coach. Partha along with a policeman was standing there.
"Don't worry Mrs. Kumar. I have alerted the railway police, we will find Arjun." Partha assured Malini.
Policeman was switching on all the lights, because of which a few passengers woke up.
"Switch off the light" said one of them.
"We are looking for a missing child" said the policeman
"I don't care, switch off the light" replied the passenger. Malini heard that. She wanted to rip off that person's heart. Shreya sensing Malini's anger, grabbed her hand and said "It's not worth it!"
Policeman came back to their cabin after checking the entire coach.
"Where was he sleeping?" He asked. Malini pointed to the upper berth.
"We were sleeping on the lower berths" Shreya said.
"Whose berth is that?" Policeman asked, pointing towards the other upper berth.
"That's mine" A short old man came from behind. Malini looked at him and realized he wasn't the man she saw earlier.
"There was someone else sleeping on that berth" Malini said.
"Yes, Mr. Sinha got down at this station and you must be Mr. Thakur" Partha interrupted after looking at his charts.
"Yes! Sahil Thakur" He showed his ID card to Partha
"Did you see a child getting down?" Policeman asked Sahil
"No Sir, I didn't see anyone getting down. I came a few minutes back and put my luggage"
All kind of thoughts were coming to Malini's head.
'Did Mr. Sinha abducted her son?'
'Is Partha involved in this?'
'How can you blame others, you were the one who told him to sleep on the upper berth' Malini's conscience replied. Her head was spinning, she was seeing all the faces dancing before her eyes. Arjun, Shreya, Partha, Mr. Sinha, Policeman and in the end Abhay's.
'How will I tell him?'. Malini was about to faint when Shreya sat her down.
' Shall I call Abhay? I have to tell him' Malini thought.
As she wiped tears, she noticed a piece of newspaper near her feet. She picked it up and turned it to see the headline Another train derails, 15 children dead.
'Where is the rest of it' She thought.
"Whose luggage is that?" Policeman enquired about the luggage below Malini's berth.
"That's mine" Mr. Thakur replied. Malini saw a bit of newspaper stuck underneath the bags. She started to pull out the bags.
"What are you doing?" Mr. Thakur almost shouted.
Malini wasn't listening. She pulled out two bags and looked underneath.
Arjun was sleeping on a neatly laid out layer of newspaper. "Arjun!" Malini spoke in a low voice.
Arjun opened his eyes and said "Maa, Can I please sleep with you?"