It was a sunny morning when the shrill of the doorbell shattered the frail silence. I momentarily averted my eyes from the newspaper resting in my lap and saw my mother hastily approaching the door, opening it with a welcoming smile on her face and inviting the unannounced guest inside, a plump fair-skinned woman with an unfamiliar face and a child in tow behind her.

After greeting her, I retired to the kitchen. From the far end of the house I could barely make out their indecipherable conversation that was repeatedly interrupted by the toddler.

After biding the woman farewell, my mother came to the kitchen and announced that this evening she was taking our new neighbour to the tailor shop nearby, as she didn’t have any idea of the new area. In the meantime, I had to take care of her toddler.

I absent-mindedly nodded at my mother. After all, how much trouble could such a young child cause?

Within the next hour our new neighbour was back, a grin plastered onto her face as she handed me a lilac bag heavier than the baby by her side. I staggered sideways as the child stepped towards me and I led him to the lounge. I heaved a sigh as the doors behind me closed, the placid expression was not wiped off as he said, “Want to play hide and seek?”

I remained silent as I shook my head. The child asked me the same question again, the hope in his voice not diminishing as if he had not heard my reply.

“Please,” he added the third time he asked the same question.

“Okay, just for twenty minutes, till my show comes on,” I mumbled hoping he would not hear me, but before I had finished the sentence, he darted away to hide.

“I’m coming,” I announced, after counting till ten.

I dashed up and down the creaky staircase in panic after I was unable to find the child. As I made my way back to the stairs, “Boo,” the toddler shrieked as he jumped out of the closet under the staircase.

Surprised, I took a step back, and lay sprawled on the floor after slipping on my open shoe laces. The child let out a delightful laugh, full of mockery to my ears. I scrambled to my feet, a look of reprimand settled on my face as I silently glared at the child before me.

His laughter died as he looked back at me with his inquisitive, chocolate brown eyes. I took his frail arm in my slender fingers and dragged him to the lounge.

“Don’t you want to play hide and seek anymore,” the child inquired.

I shook my head, exhausted from the prior events.

“I’m hungry,” announced the child after a few moments of silence passed.

Confused, I raised my eyebrows at him before realising his words were directed toward me. Hastily, I went to the kitchen, in a matter of seconds, I had checked every single cabinet for a packet of chips or biscuits, but found nothing.

I turned toward my last hope the fridge, and a feeling of relief filled me, as I spotted a bucket of strawberry ice cream.

I presented him a bowl filled to the brim with scrumptious strawberry ice cream, topped with chocolate wafers and colourful sprinkles, the gleeful child on the pearl white couch, who had taken the liberty to turn on the television, now sat mesmerised by it. And without even glancing in my direction took the cup from my hand.

Bubbles of anger rose in my chest and I took I step closer to the child, but before I could open my mouth the ringing phone demanded my attention.

“Hey,” my mother greeted me, her voice light and care free, “We will be back soon so pack up the child’s stuff.”

“Okay,” I said as relief flooded through my veins.

My eyes widened when I saw the mess made by the kid on the couch. His hands were drenched in ice cream and a gasp escaped my mouth as I saw two blobs of ice cream perched upon each other on the couch.

“What is this,” I hissed through gritted teeth.

“It’s a pink snowman,” the child announced proudly.

“What is this?” I cried, my voice full of shock and rage. “Are you out of your mind?” I continue as sobs raked through the body of the child before me.

A shudder runs through my spine when I heard the two voices (mum and the neighbour) approaching the front doors and as the lock clicked, my heart dropped to my stomach.

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 23rd, 2019