It was a dark and stormy night as Laila stood at the doorway of the century old mansion that she had recently inherited from a distant uncle. She had never even heard of Uncle Firdaus before his lawyer, Mr Azar Khan got in touch with her, explaining her inheritance and her deceased father’s relation to him. Laila’s mother knew little of Uncle Firdaus and like her had never met him.
Despite the inconvenience of having to fly from Lahore to Karachi on such a short notice, Laila had managed to make the trip. Her salary as a school teacher was barely enough to make ends meet; any inheritance was welcome. Her mother had wanted to come along but her aching joints restricted travel. Laila had found the mansion in a tolerable state even though it was almost a hundred years old. When Laila first saw the mansion, it had sparked a grand vision of the British era but now all Laila could think of was how she would be able to spend the night here. It stood defiantly in the thunderstorm as if it were responsible for all the havoc that the weather was creating. With the meagre cash Laila had in her purse, staying at a hotel was out of the question. Acquiescing to fate, she made way to her bedroom for the night.
With the storm brewing outside and thoughts of the numerous locked doors in the mansion lurking in her subconscious mind, she found it difficult to concentrate on the novel she had brought along. The wind was howling like a banshee and torrents of rain beat against her window as Laila tried her best not to be perturbed. Suddenly, the lights in her room went out and the fan stopped moving air.
“Great! A power outage. What am I going to do now?”
Thought Laila as she miserably tried to come up with a solution. Her childhood fear of the dark was returning in bounds and leaps with each passing second. Her door creaked open and there stood a young girl in a red ensemble with raven black hair in a long braid, holding a candlestick.
“I’m Raya; the gardener’s daughter. I thought you might want company tonight. Most people wouldn’t want to be alone in this big mansion.”
She put the candlestick on the quaint dressing table and then stood near the bed till Laila asked her to sit down. Laila could’ve wept with relief at being rescued from her dilemma. She now had a light source and somebody to talk to. Even the forlorn weather failed to dampen Raya’s enthusiasm to talk. She talked at great length about her family especially her sister who was getting married soon. She was describing in great detail one of her escapades when Laila’s eyes grew heavy and she surrendered to sleep.
The next day Laila woke up early and called Mr Azar Khan to schedule a meeting with him so she could wrap things quickly and head home. They agreed to meet in two hours. Before he hung up he said:
“You’re very brave to have spent the night there, miss. I’d be the last person to believe in ghosts but people keep making stories about a gardener’s daughter haunting that mansion”