I had just moved into town. I had taken admission for a 3 week crash course for admission in a college. I and my parents went to this ladies hostel for admission which was almost empty in terms of population. It was a working women’s hostel. And since I came last I got a room where only one other person lived whose name was Layla. It was an ordinary room. Each room had about 8 beds. Four beds aligned along the wall where the door was and four beds facing it. I took the bed that was the second from the door, right beneath the switch board so I could charge my phone easily. I unpacked, took a bath in the attached bathroom and decided to take a nap. I woke up in the middle of the night, probably because it was a new place. The lights were off. However I could see Layla walking towards the second last bed in the opposite side, below the window and get under the blanket. I turned around and went back to sleep.
Next morning when I woke up Layla was not there. Her bed was neatly kept and there was no sign of her phone. She must have left already. My place of stay was about an hour away from the location where the crash course was being taken. So I had to leave at about 7.30 A.M. to reach and find the location on time. Classes were until 5 in the evening. By the time I reached hostel it was 6.15 P.M. I was very tired. So I went to my room straight. Layla was there. She was fair and had straight long black hair. “Hey!” I said. She turned back and saw me. She returned the same gesture. Layla was a student in a nearby college. She had friends in another room. So she rarely visited our room and spent more time with her friends. We had a small talk and then I left to take a bath. When I came out of the bathroom Layla had already left for her friend’s room.
I woke up again in the middle of the night. I could see Layla walking towards her bed. When I checked the time, it was 3.12 A.M. I wondered if she makes noise while entering our room because I always tend to wake up when she comes to sleep.
Next morning I woke up at 6.45 A.M. and saw that Layla was again, not there. I dressed and left for classes. When I returned in the evening, I realised that our room has been cleaned. Probably by one of the ladies who worked there. Layla was nowhere to be seen. She probably left with her friends. Maybe a girl’s night out.
My third night there and I again woke up. Lights were off. As expected I saw Layla. But she was standing at the foot of my bed and looking at me. I was startled and then I said, “Go to sleep Layla”. She said, “Mmm”. She sounded drunk and moved slowly towards her bed. That’s when I noticed something. “Did you get a haircut?” I asked her. She just fell onto her bed. I was pretty sure she was drunk. I checked the time, it was 3.15 A.M. So late. I tossed and turned and finally went to sleep.
Alarm rang at 6.45 A.M. I woke up. And Layla had already left. How does she do that? She comes back so late, so drunk and still manages to get up early! As usual I went to my classes and returned at about 7 P.M. Since the food was so terrible there, I had bought something from outside.
After I washed up I decided that I’ll talk to Layla about coming in more quietly at night as she always wakes me up when she does. I waited for her until 12 at night. By this time I was feeling very sleepy and decided to give in. Next thing I heard was my alarm ringing. I opened my eyes, but it was still dark. I got a hold of my phone and it was still. It was 3.00am and no, my alarm had not rung. Maybe it was in a dream. I saw Layla in her bed. She was already asleep. There was nothing I could do now. I couldn’t wake her up from her sleep and talk about her waking me up every other night. So I turned around and went to sleep. I turned around in my bed again and saw something. Ignoring it, I went back to sleep.
My alarm went off again. It was 6.45am and I lied there in my bed. I suddenly looked for Layla. Her bed was once again neat with folded blanket and fluffed pillows. But the bed beside was messed up, blanket squashed to a corner and pillow was on the floor. She and her items were missing. Then I remembered something. I had seen something last night, which may or may not have been a dream. Last night, someone was sleeping in the bed beside Layla.
That evening, I had returned from class and was getting ready to take a bath. “Hey,” said a voice from behind. I turned around and saw that it was Layla. “Hey!” I said with a smile, genuinely surprised. After all it was the second time that I was seeing her after I had come there, well sort of. Then I told her about how I never see her. She said it’s because she spends a lot of time chatting and working with her friends. Sometimes she ends up sleeping there or some of them comes and sleeps in our room. Then I realised it must have been one of her friends that I saw last night. “I have a lot to do tonight. I might not come to sleep or I’ll come very late.” Just then I remembered. “Layla, I wanted to tell you something. Whenever you come late at night, somehow I wake up. Could you come a little quietly?” I kind of regretted it as soon as I said it because Layla stood there quietly for about 2-3 long seconds and then said, “OK,” then she walked out.
That night I decided to wait for her until she comes and then apologize to her. It was obvious she did not like what I said. So I waited for her. Next thing I know is that I woke up. It was dark, lights were off and Layla was standing at the foot of my bed. I said, “Layla, hey! I was waiting for you. What time is it?” Then I looked around to find my phone. I got it in my hand. I turned to Layla again but by this time she was in her bed, under her blankets and sound asleep. I checked the time. It was 3.12 A.M.
Next morning, again she was missing, only her neatly kept bed was there. That evening I waited for her in the room. It was a Friday night. Next day was off for me since it was a Saturday. She came into the room at about 9pm. After a few minutes I talked to her. “I’m sorry if I had offended you somehow”. She stood there quietly. I continued, “You know, when I said to come in more quietly at night.”
“Oh that, that’s fine. It’s nothing!” she said and she left to take a bath. I somehow was not convinced about her being okay with it.
That night I slept by 11.30 P.M. listening to my playlist. I woke up as usual. Lights were off and songs continued playing on my phone. Far away a church bell chimed three times. I stopped my music player and tossed around in bed. Like a routine, I looked at Layla’s bed. It was empty. However, Layla was sleeping and a friend of hers was sleeping with her in the next bed.
Did I mention about my daily classes from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.? No, right? It’s because it was absolutely boring. The crash course was as useless as it could get and helped absolutely in no way to get admission. So after four of my classmates left the course, I too stopped the course with a refund of 25% of the fees I paid and came back to hostel on that particular Saturday afternoon. I packed my clothes and everything else I owned. My parents had come by that time and they loaded all of my stuff into the car. I wanted to say goodbye to Layla, but she was out with her friends.
Four months passed by. The test was over and I had got admission in my dream college with a pretty decent rank. Thank god I had left that good for nothing crash course. My classes began a week back. I made new friends and we had some good times in the past week.
It was a Saturday and we decided to try out this coffee shop known to be popular for its brownies. After being there for about two hours we decided to leave. I was just about to leave when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned back and was surprised to see, “Layla! Hey! How are you?” It was Layla. She was here with her friends. Upon seeing me she told her friends she’ll come later because she had some catching up to do. I told my friends the same and we sat together to chat.
After chatting for a while. ”So… new college, new friends. Everything must be fun now,” she said. I replied, “Now it is. Not much classes have been taken so we are just exploring the city right now.”
“Do you still wake up at night?” she asked jokingly.
“No… not really,” I added, “that is something I miss about you, no one to wake me up at 3 o’clock!” and laughed. She smiled for a second and then her face fell. I suddenly remembered a similar scene from that day in our room. I said immediately, “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad. I was just tired of getting my sleep interrupted every night that I spent in that hostel.”
She said, “Don’t feel bad about me telling you this, but you can’t exactly blame the next person you see just because you lost your sleep.” I kind of felt offended.
After a few seconds of silence I said, “I was not blaming you. It’s just every night I woke up exactly when you came to sleep.”
She sat there quiet for a second and said, “But whenever I came to the room you did not wake up. Instead I would change my clothes, switch off the lights and go”.
I asked, “Go?”
“Go to the next room, where I sleep most of the nights.”
I sat there confused, “You would sleep in the next room?”
“Yes! In the week you were in the hostel, I slept in my bed only twice. The rest of the nights I slept in the next room, with my friends.”
I said, “Maybe that was some other week, because that week you slept in your bed for all the nights I was there.”
She replied, “No, I specifically remember that it was that week because we didn’t have much work that week and I ended up sleeping before 1.00 A.M. unlike other weeks.”
I was all the more confused. “But… I used to wake up every night around 3 o’clock and saw you walking towards that bed of yours under the window, curl up and sleep. And in the morning you had your blanket and everything neatly folded and you would have left.”
She looked confused and answered, ”No… my bed was the one beside the one below the window. And I never fold my blanket.”
I sat there nervously trying to digest everything. Suddenly I remembered something, “So it must have been your friend who had short straight hair, who sleeps in the bed below the window-” Layla looked alarmed, “-and leaves before you come in the morning-“.
She suddenly said, “I don’t have any friends with short straight hair,” her tone suddenly changed and even she sounded a little scared, “maybe its some other girl in the hostel who slept in that bed… for some reason.”
“But…” I wanted to say something and I was scared to.
She asked, “but what?”
I said slowly, “But once she slept with you, on your bed, the one beside the one below the window…”
She and I sat there for a minute, silent and unable to speak anything. Finally Layla said, “So what are you saying exactly?”
I said, scared and slightly trembling, “I thought it was you who came every night into our room around 3 o’clock and slept in the bed below the window. And that you left every morning before 6.45 A.M. after folding your sheets. And that once I asked you whether you got a haircut because you had shorter hair that night. And that it was you who was at the foot of my bed watching me sleep, twice. And that it was your friend who slept in the bed beside you and once with you… in your own bed.” She and I sat there quietly. I continued, “but if it was you who slept in your bed twice that week, who came the other days and slept in the bed beside yours and once with you… in your bed? The girl with the short straight hair…?”