Everything had seemed so magical before they got married. They were so madly in love with each other. But, off-late things had really gone downhill, to the point of becoming repulsive. It was as if their happy life was cursed for eternity. Nothing would ever be the same again, Akash knew. It was apparent to both of them that their wedlock was failing miserably, though it was just a couple of months old.
“It is Aarti who is to be blamed”, he told himself.
Akash had become increasingly frustrated over the months. Like his personal life, his professional life too had begun to take a toll on him. Though he was a star performer in his company, his boss never cared to notice him. Rather, he fancied his ‘good-looking’ colleague who wasn’t better than Akash in any manner. He had had enough of this personal slavery giving him a perpetually despondent look.
It was then that he decided to call it quits and decided to start his own venture. But things were not looking easy. He needed financial aid to support his dream and he had shared his vision with Aarti. He had sought her moral and emotional support. Rather than supporting his decision, she had mocked him for spoiling her life. They had had arguments like these in the past. But this one had clearly crossed the limits of his patience. Unable to take it anymore, he had slapped her hard.
- Also read Of Men and Their Bragging [Musings]
He was now standing on the terrace of his flat. It was summer and even the nights were unbearably hot. Every time they would argue or fight, this was the place he would go to find solitude and calm. Clearly, it was not his fault, he introspected. Ever since his marriage to the love of his life, he had showered unconditional adoration on her. He had provided them both a respectable living, if not a lavish one.
But, we humans are never satiated with life. We want more of everything, even if we have to barter our own lives for acquiring something that will never be a necessity… How could he ever make this clear to Aarti, he thought. Laughing it off the next instant, he reminded himself that it would be, after all, a futile effort in the end.
Finally, he decided to erase all these thoughts off his mind and reached for the cigar in his pocket.
It was unusual for a hot summer night like this to be blessed by a cool breeze which suddenly began to blow. It was refreshing. It was two hours past midnight, but he chose to be oblivious to the fact that he had left Aarti alone in the flat. He enjoyed the company of the cigar and the silence more than the person he once loved a lot. He let himself be taken away, floating towards the sky just like the cigar smoke. He was in a trance-like state, away from the trivialities of life and enjoyed the moments. The only sound he heard was the light ticking of his old wrist-watch where the hands were now moving towards 3:00 am.
The slow tapping of what sounded like footsteps disturbed the eerie silence and forced him to come out of his reverie. He was dumbstruck at the sight of what was ahead of him and it puzzled him.
It was on the other side of the terrace where he saw her. She stood like a statue on the parapet staring at the dark sky. The fluttering of her robe, and her jet black hair waving furiously were the only things that convinced him of life in her. Her eyes bore into him, trying to pour out the pain buried deep within her. Her pale face seemed to show no emotion, but she seemed to connect with him through her eyes. He was seeing her for the first time in his life, yet he felt related to her in a way that he could hardly fathom.
Perhaps, it was out of empathy that he got up slowly and looked at her compassionately. Moving closer towards the other edge from where he was standing, he placed his palm on his heart assuring her of help. As he reached the side of the terrace closer to her, she gave him a smile, which in a strange way seemed to mock him.
The disdain on her face was clearly towards him. Showing no signs of retreat, she started to walk towards the edge, taking slow but determined steps. As he watched, she stood there contemplating for one last time. She had her back turned towards him.
For a few moments, Akash stood there transfixed and failing to think of anything. The next instant, even before he knew, he was struggling on the parapet of his on terrace balancing himself, desperately trying to stop her. Standing on the edge of the parapet of the terrace, he frantically waved at her.
After what seemed like an eternity, she turned towards him. She smiled at him in an assuring way, her face now apparently calm. Backing down slowly, she got off the parapet and walked towards the door. It was only then that he heaved a sigh of relief.
“What the hell are you doing here!?”
The surprised cry, shockingly loud enough, took him off guard instantly. Losing his poise completely, Akash fumbled hastily, unable to grab hold of any support. It was Aarti who had come looking for him on the terrace. Spotting him on the edge of the terrace, she was overcome with fear of losing him and rushed to pull him back to safety.
Before she could even come close, Akash had spiraled down, crushing himself to death on the concrete ground while Aarti’s wailing cry for help woke up the entire colony.
The mysterious girl was never seen again and the rendezvous remained incomplete…