It seems like long ago, probably another life, when mother used to dress her up in red and white checks, white socks and black shoes. On a rain-washed day such as today, father would take her by the hand, with an umbrella colourfully filtering dull grey light. Sometimes when there was a puddle, she would ride in father’s arms, blabbering about school. Finally, on reaching the gates of the small building that was school, she would be excited by the sight of red and white checks running around in the garden and a few bawling their heads off while detaching from their mothers.
She would smartly bid goodbye and run to her class. Morning assembly would be cancelled today. The wet, slushy grounds were unfit for forty impatient feet. Filling in colour in an apple or turning to a new page of handwriting was exciting.
Especially when rain is beating an unsteady rhythm outside.
The lunch break brought the smell of boiled eggs, now dewy and stinky with being stuffed into the boxes while still warm. Handkerchiefs. Meant to be dirty. An occasional neighbour would extend a piece of apple or guava as a token of friendship. But some things were to be guarded like dragons guarding castles. Water-bottles, fruity erasers, and tall new pencils. Broken crayons, pencil shavings and torn pages could be traded for friendship. Like apples or guavas.
In winters she would often return, too excited to keep still, with a bright red button tightly enclosed in her fist. It was not from her sweater. Hers were black. She had found it. And she pleaded mother to sew on the bright thing right next to her boring buttons.
She would have a glowing coal for a heart.