Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Hello Readers and Listeners, I am back again with another story. This is about an average-looking middle-class girl in love with a rich and handsome boy. Does she have a chance? Read or listen or do immersion reading, that is, read and listen together. Enjoy.
Watch the audio trailer:
Watch the video trailer:
Listen to OBSCURUS EPISODE 43 - ELLIE AND THE CHEMICAL POOL
Read the transcript:
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for the show.
Before I start the story, I urge you to visit biswajitbanerjee.com, my website, for information about my books, movies, and voice-over projects.
Would you also visit obscurus.buzzsprout.com, my second website, which is entirely devoted to this podcast? You will find all OBSCURUS episodes, their transcripts, and chapter markers on this website.
And now, let’s plunge into the story. Ellie loves Jeff, her dream boy. But for someone as handsome and rich as Jeff, average-looking middle-class girls like Ellie simply don’t exist. Does Ellie have a chance? Come, let’s find out.
ELLIE AND THE CHEMICAL POOL 00:02:01
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
All girls in the office were crazy about him. And why wouldn’t they be? Shiny hair, bright skin, deep dark eyes, a sharp nose, a confident smile often playing on his lips, a deep and pleasant voice, and the cute natural cleft on his chin – Jeff would easily beat the top models and the supposed dashing men of the tinsel town. Ellie liked him too, actually loved him. But for someone as handsome and rich as Jeff, average-looking middle-class girls like Ellie simply didn’t exist.
Being the only son of the business owner, he was all set to inherit the top position in Roy Chemicals Inc. in a year’s time.
The prettiest girls working in the concern – Lea, Hanna, Brienne, Scarlet, and Megan – spent a lot of time trying to impress Jeff. But none of these girls had much chance for the winner was already decided. Adrienne, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the business partners of Jeff’s father, Mr. Thomas Roy, it was known in the business circles, would be married to Jeff sometime in the future. And what a match Adrienne was for Jeff! Beauty with brains! With a degree in business management and with looks resembling the most elegant female figures carved by the classical sculptors, Adrienne would make a perfect pair with Jeff – people often said so.
Where did Ellie stand amid these equations and inequations? Nowhere. But desires do not understand the language of reason. So, Ellie’s heart craved for Jeff, her dream boy. Though she had been a part of Jeff’s team for more than two years, Ellie never summed up enough guts to talk to him about any issue beyond business. And Jeff, of course, had little time or interest in discussing anything other than official matters with colleagues like her.
On a Monday afternoon, however, things took a surprising turn. Around two in the afternoon, Ellie went to Jeff’s chamber to show him the latest sales figures of the month. After looking through the figures, Jeff said, “We have made good progress this month, haven’t we, Ellie?”
“Yes, Jeff, we have.”
“What are your plans for the evening today?”
“Evening … today …”
“If you are not free, then it’s okay.”
“No, Jeff, I am free.”
“Good, then see me at Bruno’s Café at 7 p.m.”
“Oh … okay.”
As she walked out of Jeff’s chamber, Ellie wondered if she was dreaming. Did the dream boy really ask her to join him for coffee in the evening? What was in his mind? Could it be that Jeff also secretly loved her? Oh no, she shouldn’t give her heart and mind such unbridled freedom so as to draw such sweeping inferences. But her heart and mind had already opened up the doors of sweet dreams. Who could tell - the most unexpected things could happen in life? And some of these unexpected turns can be pleasant and life-transforming. The evening might bring her the pleasantest of surprises.
Jeff arrived at Bruno’s Café around 7.15 p.m.
“Oh, I am so sorry; I kept you waiting.”
“Please don’t say sorry; I understand you are a busy man, Jeff.”
He pulled the chair across the table from Ellie and sat.
“So, what would you like to have, Ellie?”
“Just Cappuccino? How about some pasta with a lot of vegetables?
“Are you fond of pasta?”
“Yes, and I insist you try out the kind of pasta I like.”
After ordering the food and beverages, Jeff said, “What do you do in your leisure time?”
“Well, I love to read books.”
“What kind of books?”
“Fiction books, thrillers.”
“Okay, I too love books; I enjoy romances.”
“Do you like love stories too, Ellie?”
“Yes, I have read a handful of love stories too.”
“For me, life is a love story.”
“I believe love is the purest form of Godliness.”
“Oh, that’s such a beautiful thought.”
After a pause for thoughts, Jeff said, “There’s something I want to tell you, Ellie … it’s something personal.”
Ellie could hear her heart speak from within – Go on, Jeff, tell me that you love me. Speak up, speak up.
“How do I say it – you know, I ….”
Yes, Jeff, tell me how much you love me. Go ahead, don’t hesitate – I will say ‘yes’ to your proposal.
“This is so difficult to say … Ellie ….”
Don’t hesitate, Jeff; I have already understood what you wish to say. Come on now, tell me, don’t be afraid – by now, Ellie’s heart was all full of hopes.
“There’s a girl I love. She isn’t Adrienne, the girl my parents, want me to marry.”
Of course, that girl isn’t Adrienne, Jeff. Why don’t you say it clearly – that girl is me.
“The girl I love is such a wonderful person – sweet-natured and kind.”
Oh yes, that girl is me. Why don’t you say it now, Jeff?
“She works in our office.”
Yes, yes, that is known.
“And she is so devoted to her work. My father believes her to be the best worker.”
Indeed, I know your father is fond of me.
“Although my father wants me to marry Adrienne, he may just be as happy to see this girl as his daughter-in-law. She may not be as pretty as Adrienne, but she has a heart of gold.”
Oh, that’s so sweet of you to say. I didn’t know you love me so much, Jeff. All you need to do now is to vent out your feelings to me. And your father is a kind man. Initially, he may be a little upset about your deciding not to marry Adrienne, but I guess he will be happy to see his son’s wish fulfilled. Indeed, Mr. Roy likes me so much that he may be just as happy to see me as his daughter-in-law.
“Do you know who that girl is, Ellie?”
“Well, perhaps I know, Jeff,” Ellie replied while her heart said – Of course, I know, Jeff. I will be such a fool not to understand I am that girl.
“Who do you think is the girl?”
“Why … don’t … you … say who’s the girl … Jeff?”
After a few moments of silence, Jeff said, “Hey, there she is – my girl.”
Ellie followed his gaze and turned around. At the door was Megan! She swiftly walked up to their table as Jeff stood up. And then they kissed – oh, it was a deep and an apparently unending kiss.
Ellie’s heart protested – Stop it, Jeff! What the hell are you doing? This is such an insult! You called me to the café to witness this disgusting kiss! And aren’t you two ashamed to be kissing like this in public? Oh, sick, that is sick; when is that sickening kiss going to end?
Well, the horror ended in a while, and the kissers settled in their chairs.
“Megan is the girl I love, Ellie.”
“Oh, yes, I can see that, Jeff.”
“You must be wondering what are the reasons I called you to the café today?”
“Listen, my father doesn’t just see you as a worker; he loves you like a daughter. Many of his business decisions are based on your ideas. Tomorrow, I will tell my father about Megan and myself after he arrives in the office. I want you to be with us in his chamber when I tell him about our relationship.”
“But this is a personal issue. What would I do?”
“Please, Ellie, you have to help us. I have no doubts you can convince him that Megan is the perfect girl for me.”
Ellie’s heart turned blood-red with anger. Scoundrel, so that’s the reason you called me here. You want me to be your spokesperson; you want me to talk your father into believing that this bitch is the right girl for you.
“Tell me, Ellie, won’t you support us?”
Her heart got redder – Support you! Never! The two of you are disgusting! The two of you are worse than a pandemic!
“Look, you got to support us, girl,” Megan said.
Ellie’s heart protested – ‘Girl’ … how dare you address me as ‘girl’ … my name is Ellie, you bitch.
“Don’t say no to us, girl.”
And Ellie’s heart turned reddest – ‘Girl!’ You addressed me as ‘Girl’ again! Okay, you have made a place in this rich and handsome guy’s heart. But that doesn’t allow you to call me a ‘Girl.’ My name is Ellie – call me Ellie, do you understand that? And don’t think I am unaware of the wonderful moral character you possess. About six months back, you were moving around with Arnold, were you not? During a talk with the other girls in the office, you even said, ‘it feels great to move the fingers over his eight-packed abs.’ Didn’t you say that? Only a fool wouldn’t know what that means? That means you and Arnold had … And wait a minute. Were you also not dating Dennis about three months back? Girl, you change your boyfriends like tissue papers. This rich and handsome guy has little brains, it seems; he thinks you have a heart of gold. Only if he knew your heart is a junkyard, you scum of the earth.
“Why aren’t you speaking, Ellie? You must help us,” Jeff said.
Poor Ellie gathered all her inner strength to fight her tears and said, “Okay, I will do what I can.”
Later in the evening, Ellie stood for a long time before the mirror fitted on the door of the cupboard in her bedroom. Oh yes, she had average looks, just average looks. How much she hated herself for being average.
“Brains don’t matter, only looks matter,” Ellie whispered to herself.
“The three of you are here,” Mr. Thomas Roy said, “I am sure there’s something important you wish to tell me.”
“Yes, Dad, it’s an important issue.”
“You look nervous, Jeff. What’s the matter?”
“Dad … you know ….”
“What has happened to your confidence, Jeff. This is not how my son speaks. Come on now, speak clearly.”
“Well, I don’t wish to marry Adrienne.”
“What? Repeat what you said.”
“Dad, I can’t marry Adrienne. Trust me, she is not the right girl for me.”
A couple of minutes passed without any exchange of words. Then, Mr. Roy broke the ice.
“Who’s the right girl for you? The one sitting next to you?” Mr. Roy gestured at Megan.
“Well, Dad … I wanted to tell you about us, but ….”
“But what? You didn’t have the guts?”
“I thought yo … you … wo … would be upset, but Me … Megan is a great girl, I tell you.”
“Oh yes, I can see that – if she can make my super-confident son stammer – she, for sure, must be great.
“Mr. Roy,” Megan said, “I will do all I can do be a good wife to him.”
“And make him stammer all his life?”
“Your words are hurtful, Mr. Roy. Please don’t say such things. I love Jeff from the bottom of my heart.”
“And how deep is that bottom, Megan?”
“Dad, you can’t speak to her like that,” Jeff said.
“Oh, so now my son will teach me courtesy.”
Jeff looked at Ellie. “Won’t you say anything?”
“So, Ellie, even you have something to tell me,” Mr. Roy observed.
“Well, Mr. Roy, I have the highest regards for you,” Ellie said.
“I know, my dear, you are a good girl. But I will be surprised if you endorse Jeff’s idea of marrying Megan.”
“Jeff thinks Megan is the right girl for him, Mr. Roy. While I am not sure if he is right, I do think one deserves a chance to choose one's partner.”
“But a bad partner can destroy a person, don’t you think so, Ellie?”
“Yes, Mr. Roy, and that’s why I suggest they move around for a year or so to see if they are right for each other. When you hang around a person for a long time, you get to know more about the person. A short association is like a long shot in movies. From a distance, you cannot see the details. But to be with a person for long is like a close shot. Now, you can see the true nature of the person you found appealing. Let them be together for a year – it could even be a live-in if they prefer so.”
After a period of silence, Mr. Roy said, “Ellie, my dear, you are so wise. I wish my son too … anyway, okay Jeff, you don’t have to marry Adrienne. For sure, I don’t want to impose a girl on you who you think isn’t the right person to be your wife. Let’s do what Ellie said. The two of you can move around and be together for about a year. In case you want to be in a live-in relationship, I am okay with it. I am more broad-minded than you think, Jeff.
A big smile played on Jeff’s lips as he glanced at Ellie. The smile meant 'thank you.'
Ellie had never felt so miserable in her life. Tears rolled down her cheeks without a break as she walked towards the station to catch a metro train back home. A few hours back, Ellie kept the wish of her dream boy and his girlfriend. She floated an idea before Mr. Roy that supported the cause of Jeff and Megan, but it made her feel even more average. That Ellie could never be a choice of good-looking boys is what the idea seemed to declare underneath its surface. Average – Average – Average – you are a damn average girl – you could be a facilitator of your dream boy’s love relationship, but you couldn’t be a part of that relationship because – you are average – average – average – average – that’s what the idea she floated before Mr. Roy stamped on her mind.
For a moment, she stopped at the little bridge largely made of wooden planks and rope that connected two isolated parts of the land. The bridge was at the rear of the chemical factory that belonged to Roy Chemicals Inc. About seven feet under the bridge was the chemical pool, yellow-reddish in color, into which the factory often released its effluents. With her fingers rounding the rope railing, she looked down at the chemical pool. A few teardrops went down right into the pool. And then the rope railing gave way, and Ellie couldn’t balance her body on the oscillating planks. She fell into the pool with a SPLOSH.
The pool wasn’t too deep, but the liquid in it was dense and smelly. There was no one around. So, Ellie had to help herself. With a lot of difficulties, she finally managed to step out of the pool. As if her miseries were not enough, now she had to deal with the vile yellow jelly that covered all her body. “Eeeeh … eeeh … God, you don’t exist … and even if you do, you are evil.”
Oh, it took her close to two hours of washing to get the filth off her body. After the shower, she stood before the mirror of her bedroom again. No, she didn’t quite see the average girl she saw in the mirror every day. Something had changed about her. What was it? Glow in her skin! Was her skin really that taut and beautiful? Yes, indeed. And the nose? Did it look sharper? Yes! And her figure – elegant shoulders, tighter breasts, curvy waist, better-shaped legs. Was she dreaming? Ellie pinched herself. It pained. No, she wasn’t dreaming. Certain things had changed about her.
Later, when she was in bed trying to sleep, memories – old and new – flooded her mind. The appreciation of her English teacher for her exceptional expressional abilities, her first crush, winning the gold medal in the district story-telling competition, Tiger – her first pet dog and the great times she had with it, the graduation day, the visit to Paris with her parents to celebrate their twenty-fifth marriage anniversary, the day of her father’s superannuation, the interview at Roy Chemicals Inc., the day she was offered the job, her first meeting with Jeff, and tons of other memories crossed her mind.
Ellie realized she could see the memories on her mind’s screen with great clarity. It was as though she was watching a movie. Hitherto, thoughts had always been a mass of random images. They had never appeared on her mind’s screen with such clarity. Was her brain working sharper? Soon she knew it was – the complicated derivations of physics she had learned years back and entirely forgotten by now just flowed before her eyes. And now she knew the answers to many of the science puzzles that had confounded her when she was a student of higher mathematics. What was happening to her? Was it some kind of magic?
“Is it happening because of the smelly yellowy jelly of the chemical pool?”
Ellie barged into the office with great poise and confidence. Her easy gait reflected a high degree of self-assurance. The colleagues, it was clear, also spotted the change in her.
“Did you get a facial done yesterday?” Megan asked.
“Well, Megan, not everyone needs a facial to look good. Some people are naturally beautiful, you see.”
Goodness, gracious! Did she speak those words! Impossible! Never had she demonstrated the confidence and wittiness of that degree.
Later in the day, when she was back home, Ellie stood before the mirror again. Hey! What was this? The glow in the skin had gotten more prominent and beautiful! And the facial features had gotten sharper. Her eyes appeared deep and wonderful! Ellie’s figure, too, had turned more attractive.
Now, Ellie had little doubts that it was the jelly at work! Although it was supposed to be a pool for wastes, some strange and unknown reactions of the chemicals must have made its contents a beautifying and a wisdom-enhancing agent!
The next day as she walked the office lobby towards her cubicle, Jeff coming from the other side, arrested his motion. For quite a while, his eyes were fixed on the smartly walking girl.
“Hi, Jeff, how are you?”
“Good, and you?”
“Oh, I am fine.”
“The reports …”
“Don’t worry about the reports, Jeff,” Ellie said, moving past him, “they will be ready much ahead of time.”
“Okay … very … good.”
The sparkle in his eyes wasn’t difficult to spot. Ellie knew the sparkle was a reflection of Jeff’s feeling a pull towards her.
Both her physical appearance and brainpower improved steadily over the next month. By the time the process of improvement reached its culmination, Ellie was possibly the prettiest and the wisest person in the town.
To her utter surprise, modeling offers started pouring in – she didn’t realize her changed looks and confidence levels made her quite a known figure in the town. Ellie did appear as a model for several top products.
Also, after the transformation, Ellie helped Mr. Roy make two tough business decisions. Though initially, Mr. Roy wasn’t sure if Ellie’s rather untraditional ideas would help the company after Ellie vented out her mind in a meeting, he decided to place trust in her business sense. Oh, wow! Ellie’s plans worked wonders, and the company made unprecedented profits.
“Oh, my dear, you are a genius, Ellie.” Mr. Roy gave her a tight hug.
Well, the chemical pool had made her a genius. She didn’t let out the secret, of course.
A few days later, while using the little bridge made of wood and ropes, Ellie stood for a while holding the rope railing. This time she was careful not to put too much weight on the rope railing. Then she looked down, expecting to see the pool again. Oh, the chemical pool was no longer there. In its place lay a concrete pathway. The factory people, it appeared, had stopped dumping wastes in the open on the rear side of the factory and made some alternative arrangements for the discharge of the effluents in accordance with the latest government regulations. Wow! The pool was gone! It was a comforting sight for Ellie. Now, no more look and wisdom enhancing accidents would happen, and she would be the only beneficiary of the chemical pool’s properties.
“Sometimes, one ought to be selfish,” Ellie whispered to herself and smiled.
Things between Jeff and Megan weren’t going well. At least on four occasions, the office folks spotted them fighting over personal issues. Their arguments inside Jeff’s chamber got so loud one day that the noises reached even the peripheries of the big office space with the cubicles. From where Ellie sat, the row was easily audible.
“You are such a liar, Megan; you stabbed me from behind.”
“No way, you are blowing things out of proportion.”
“Didn’t you meet Dennis last week?”
“So what? Can’t I meet a man?”
“Yes, you can, Megan. But you can’t kiss him in public, can you?”
“Don’t call that a kiss. It was just a casual peck. Dennis is a friend, after all. But the fact that you have set your spies on me is sickening.”
“Shut up; I haven’t set any spies on you. One of my friends saw you shamelessly kissing that so-called friend of yours. And do not think I don’t know what relationship you shared with Arnold.”
“That’s enough, Jeff. You are a narrow-minded man. Do you think I don’t know about the girls you have been dating before meeting me?”
“Leave my chamber now; I wish to be alone.”
“Oh, even I have no interest in hanging around in your chamber.”
The door of Jeff’s chamber opened, and Megan stepped out of the room. For about a second, Ellie and Megan exchanged glances before the latter walked swiftly towards her chamber.
The next day in the afternoon, Ellie went to show the progress reports of the month to Jeff.
“We have made good progress again, haven’t we?” Jeff said.
“Oh yes, without a doubt we have, Jeff.”
“What are your plans for the evening today?”
“Why are you asking?”
“I was wondering if we could meet at the Bruno’s Café at 7 p.m.”
“No problem, I will be there.”
Again, Ellie didn’t miss the sparkle in Jeff’s eyes, and she knew what it was indicative of – her dream boy was in love with her.
After an attendant served coffee and snacks, Jeff said, “Are you aware Megan and I have broken off?”
“Well, I don’t keep track of my colleagues’ personal matters. But now that I know, I feel bad about it. It is unfortunate for sure.”
“Megan cheated on me, Ellie.”
“She had at least been in two relationships before the two of us started our live-in. Don’t you think she should have told me about her earlier affairs?”
“Look, I would not like to comment on such personal issues.”
“And she never told me about those relationships.”
“Again, I don’t want to comment on such matters.”
“Megan continued to meet one of those boys even after she and I committed to each other.”
“Please don’t tell me all this, Jeff. As a colleague and your well-wisher, I feel bad about things going wrong for you. But I guess it is not good to talk about Megan and what she did behind her back. I am sure you haven’t called me to the café to discuss these personal things.”
“Of course not, Ellie.”
“So, Jeff, why did you wish to see me here?”
“Because … because I want to tell you something.”
“How do I say it? It is so difficult to say such things.”
And Ellie could again hear her heart speak – Don’t hesitate, Jeff. Tell me that you love me.
“What I will tell you now will come straight from my heart.”
Ellie’s heart spoke again – Yes, I know Jeff. You love me. I will pardon you for what you did earlier. Okay, you chose the wrong girl. So what? To err is human. Look at me; I am your girl. Come on now, tell me that you love me.
“Ellie, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Oh, what a moment! Ellie’s heart was about to say – Jeff, I love you too. Yes, yes, yes, yes, I will marry you. But before the heart could pour out its ideas, Ellie’s mind, which was now the height of wisdom, took charge.
“What did you say, Jeff – you love me?”
“Yes, Ellie, I love you. The truth is I have been in love with you always; it is just that my heart has realized it now.”
“And what if your heart is wrong? Didn’t your heart tell you a few months back that Megan was the perfect girl for you? Now, your heart says all negative things about her, doesn’t it? Don’t trust your heart, Jeff.”
“But I really love you, Ellie.”
“No, you don’t, Jeff. You don’t even understand what love is. At one point in time, you were in supposed love with Megan. Only because you got to know about her ex-boyfriends, you rejected her. That means your love was conditional. Perhaps your love for Megan would have continued if she hadn’t had those two relationships. If you truly loved Megan, those earlier relationships wouldn’t have mattered to you. True love is not about conditionalities; true love is bereft of the sense of possessiveness. Liberation is true love, not bondage.”
“Ellie, this …”
“Wait, I haven’t finished. As a child, I read the English translation of a song by Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore. The central character in the song says to her lover – The bond I shall bind you with will liberate you of all bonds. Please understand – love is not about binding a person to yourself. If your love for Megan had been true, you wouldn’t have thought of possessing her. So what if she had been in relationships earlier; so what if she didn’t tell you about those relationships? Was she supposed to tell you everything about herself only because the two of you supposedly fell in love with each other? Does falling in love mean not allowing any private space in one’s mind?
“Ellie, you …”
“Jeff, you didn’t love her; you wanted to possess her. And now that you find me attractive, you have fallen in love with me. The truth is you don’t love me; you want to possess me. True love – I am not sure if humans are capable of that – must be bereft of the sense of possessiveness.”
“So, Ellie, are you saying ….”
“Jeff, what I am saying is clear – I am not willing to be your possession. In fact, I am not willing to be anybody’s possession. I wish to be free and happy all my life. Thank you for the coffee; I will see you in the office tomorrow. Bye.”
After finishing her coffee, Ellie got up and walked toward the exit door with a big smile on her face. She was no longer the old Ellie who had a dream boy in her mind. Now, she was the dream girl of hundreds of good-looking boys!
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!