Chapter 3

Written by: Hemali Ajmera



Melanie led Agatha down the stairs to the sparsely furnished living room. 

Agatha thought Melanie looked like a glamorous beauty from a 80s soap opera. Her face was flawless and perfectly made up, accentuating her twinkling blue-green eyes. Her glossy, auburn hair flowed over her shoulders and the perfectly toned body and manicured hands indicated that she was a person who took very good care of herself.  

The hostess sat down on decrepit sofa, adjusting her expensive dress. She looked completely out of place in her impoverished home.  

What a mismatch, thought Agatha. How could Melanie afford to look so good when Scott and Tom looked like they could barely afford two square meals a day?  

“I am actually Tom’s step-mom,” Melanie said, startling Agatha from her preoccupation. 

“Scott and I married last year. We both sing in the church choir.”

Melanie and church? Another incongruity, smirked Agatha.

“Can we talk about Tom?” Agatha asked as politely as possible.  

 “I hate to entertain uninvited guests but would you like to try some delicious French onion soup? It’s my favourite.” Melanie asked, insolently.

By now Scott had arrived from the kitchen with his plate of fruit salad. He sat on the dining table and quietly ate his meal.

Before Agatha could reply, Melanie stood up and strode into the kitchen. She returned with a bowl of soup and sat down to relish her meal.

But where was Tom? Neither parent had bothered to call him for a bite. Strange.

“Errrr, I think I will leave now. But can I speak to Tom for just a minute?” Agatha decided that it was pointless hanging around this weird household for now. Something didn’t feel right in the family dynamics but what? She couldn’t place a finger on it. Maybe she could return later. 

“Tom has left for his grandma’s house,” said Scott calmly, without looking up from his plate.

Agatha felt the hostility outright.

“Shut the door on your way out,” Melanie ordered curtly.


Agatha was walking toward the bus stop when she heard someone cry out her name. 

She looked back and saw a panting Tom trying to catch up with her. 

“Why did you leave?”

Agatha didn’t answer.

“Look, I am not lying, my parents are. Believe me, I need help.”

Agatha continued to ignore Tom. What was the truth…………. or the lie? She couldn’t decipher. 

This story has too many shades of grey so better stay out, cautioned Agatha’s inner voice.

Tom had now caught up with Agatha and stood before her, blocking her path. 

“Melanie is a devil. She has ruined our lives. You saw how lavishly she lives while my father and I struggle to survive.” 

Tugging Agatha to a nearby bench, Tom almost fell to her feet.

“Please get me out, otherwise that witch will kill me. She beats me every day and my father won’t say a word.” 

Tom lifted his shirt to show Agatha the still red, raw belt marks on his back.    




Detailed and very well thought out dialogue that shows the moods and tensions in all the characters. It gives us more insight into the plot as well. Liked this very much, Hemali.
Terse and crisp dialogues and a very punchy end. Amazing piece Hemali.
Thanks Ray and Sameer! Appreciate it.
Hi Hemali, As always you've continued the story well and shown the dynamics between the family members while also adding an edge to them. Two things about dialogue for the future: you don't always need to attribute it if the speaker is clear from the narrative and we don't always need to know that a speaker is speaking calmly or insolently. What would her body language be like if she is speaking insolently? Her tone of voice? Nevertheless, a very good piece of writing that left the reader still wondering what the truth was. Great.