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Wilted Rose Petals

Wilted Rose Petals

11 mins 346 11 mins 346


The old church door swung open, creaking to glory, in the otherwise quiet hall. Curious sad heads turned instantly to receive the late newcomer with looks of disapproval and turned away just as quickly. Bright daylight streamed in through the hallway hurriedly before the tall, hatted man shut the door behind him. He walked unapologetically towards the empty seat in the last row of the nave. The interrupted dark-haired speaker blushed as her gaze met his sharp, unwavering eyes that looked right into hers. His handsome features shone in the light that seeped in through the stained glass windows. She looked away immediately. She cleared her throat and continued with the eulogy in her deep shaky voice. "Are only things that shine and glimmer beautiful? Worthy of notice and mention? They shimmer away. The glitter and the grandeur. Darkness, on the other hand, was real. Unpretending. Unafraid. Loud. Blatant. Yet soothing. Darkness has often been mistaken for nothingness. Little have we tried to comprehend, Darkness' ability to be just anything. A whole lot of things. Limitless like the sea which has embraced Darkness with open arms. Uninhabited. Unassuming. Unquestioning. As if it knew that this was where he belonged. Blinding and yet enlightening..."


The newcomer wasn't listening anymore. His steady gaze wandered about her charming, sullen face behind a pretty black veil and then hovered down to notice her prim black dress that snugly fit her shapely figure and the lovely legs that she hid behind dark stockings and belted boots. Gorgeous creature, he thought. But her biased oversight of her dead friend's flaws bothered him. He looked up as he heard her sniff back a tear and saw her walk away. Towards him and then gone. Even as his eyes followed her through the very end of the hall. He got up to leave as the crowd dispersed through the doors like spilled pills scattered off a bottle.


He found her in the church backyard sitting on a rusted bench with dead leaves for company. Just as lifeless. The air smelled of wilted roses. He sat down next to her quietly. She sat up with a start, noticing him. Fresh tears appeared in her already red eyes. She buried her face in his hard chest and sobbed heavily. He held her consolingly but said nothing. "I wish I'd been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered..." she slurred, her voice thick with remorse. He knew better; he had been there all along. Nevertheless, he listened. Her gullible innocence drew him in a trance. Her uncanny ability to see the good in the unlikeliest of people and things - Even Darkness. It was then he knew he loved Solace. Unaware, she sat. Beautiful, even in grief.


But soon enough, his own vivid memories of that night came tumbling.


*************************

Distressed poets, honest writers, struggling artists, and unscrupulous men in the streets alike had taken reckless liberty in accusing him when things took them by surprise or baffled their ideal expectations. And his careless smirk had been his only response all along. But if there was one person that bothered him without failing to equally intrigue him, it was Nyra Hadden. (Or as they now called her 'Nina Darling'. An alias that stuck around ever since her dealings with a wealthy meteorologist client because she apparently reminded him of 'La Nina'.)


Irony had met Nyra for the first time when she was sixteen. Starry-eyed and with a love-dazed smile. Which very soon turned into an appalling look of horror and disbelief. And then, nothingness. A void that greedily consumed every bit of her existence. Eyes that looked about but said nothing anymore. But now after all these years, he met her again down the alley, getting off a taxi, unmindful of her taxi-driver eyeing her hungrily. She had grown into a beautiful woman, he observed. The night was growing chillier. He knew Darkness had arrived. She shivered as she drew her fur shawl closer. She walked gracefully into the huge hotel that stood in front of her and he followed her stealthily.


The receptionist's eyes ran up and down her chest and face. She adjusted her shawl to cover her barely visible cleavage, growing profoundly uncomfortable for the first time in seventeen years. She looked down at her red dress that clung on to her not-anymore-shapely body. Smirking at the sly bell boy, who stood at a corner near the lift, the receptionist asked her again carelessly," So Ma'am, you were saying...". "Room for one. Just for the night. The name's Hadden." she repeated. Her own name swarmed in awkwardness stuck within her mouth. The kind of awkwardness when you walk into a room full of strangers. She drew in a deep breath and nodded to him as he repeated everything she said. "Room No. 404, it is, Ma'am. There you go."


"Thank you. You do have running hot water?"

"Yes Ma'am. Your room has a jacuzzi. And in addition to that, 24*7 room service facilities and wi-fi chargeable by the hour. Would you be requiring a bell boy to carry your luggage?"


"I have none." She replied dryly. She swiftly grabbed her keys and walked towards the lift. Her room was at the far end of the fourth floor. She had to walk past a family standing on the corridor with luggage, unlatching the door. The man looked at her, unblinkingly, as if he had never laid eyes on a woman before while the woman did not hesitate to serve her cold scorns as she shuffled to get her children into their room. Lovely kids, she thought. A thought she dismissed right away realising that it was not something the lady would hear from her. There was something about the lady. As she swiped the card across, she realised she reminded her of her mother. That quaint little nose. And the brown hair. The way she had put it up in a bun. Even the scorn resigned with a familiarity that overwhelmed her. For years now, she had had women scoff at her, averting their gaze in disgust. Not something she had let to get to her, all this time. But that scorn. It sent her screaming into the darkest of scars she had braved past, holding the lantern of impassiveness through the tunnel of time, with only hope to lean on. Almost as if it happenend all over again.


Her mother, protectively, holding on to her sisters and brother. Scowling at her, without even looking into her eyes as tears streamed down her own. "Begone, Nyra! Don't you ever step into my house again. There is no place for you here. Begone! Now!" her voice had bellowed in her ears, as she ran down the street that day, never to return. It continued to echo in her insides never to stop completely. And now, it resonated louder than ever. After all these years of believing that she did not care. That unforgiving revulsion in her mother's voice pierced right through her skin all over again. Her head whizzed. Her eyes burned. But no tears escaped them. She just blinked at the light over the dressing table. Nyra hated the pink decor of the room. It reminded her of something she could never bring herself to forget.


In the meanwhile, Irony had made himself comfortable in the recliner. She was no match to his stealth. Infact, she did not even try. He had a big task in hand again. Seventeen years later. Seventeen years and the only thing that bothered him incessantly. The girl he had wronged. The wrong he had to right.

She walked up to the bathroom. Letting her bright red dress fall to the floor, she stood infront of the full length mirror. A layer of fat now adorned her lower belly. Caressing it, she noticed her upper arms sagging. She hugged herself tight and looked into her eyes in the mirror. She searched for any trace of naivety in them. She, sadly, could account to them, none. Her smokey black eyes. The deep rouge on her high cheekbones. Her blood red lips. All breathed of anything but guilelessness. She thought of the burly man, who had walked in smelling like raw meat, the first time she sat cowered, at one corner of the room. His laughter that boomed across the entire room as she had held herself from sobbing. In contrast to the mildness of the pink walls in that dilapidated hotel room, emotions surged wild within her. He had recklessly swung her onto that dreary excuse for a bed and pinned her down. She barely fought before she gave in.


Her long evading visitor on the recliner remembered it way better. The night he met her for the very first time. The night he witnessed her lover sell her to pocket a few bucks for his new drug habit. The night that changed her life for the worst and his too. But Irony could only stand by and watch the havoc he had caused. He watched her cry herself to sleep every night. Every morning became a regretful addition. Regret and remorse clung on like twin millstones on his heart as he saw the tender sixteen-year-old soul crumble under the ruins of his irrevocable act, too confounded with fear to even believe it happened to her. While people blamed everything on Irony, forgetting their own pervasions and vices, she never pointed fingers at him. Not once. Probably, she was too young to even know. It tormented him to haplessly watch her convolute in pain of all the unwarranted violation. Darkness lurked about not too far away. Soon enough, of all the forced acquaintances she had to make, he was easily the kindest. He listened to her woes patiently and made his offer at her vulnerable worst. She accepted rather willingly. Infact, what choice did she even have. She had nothing to lose.


Embracing Darkness, she became 'Nina Darling'. She was a favourite easily. The woman, men frequented the red light area for. As bubbles rose from her tub, she realised how she had learnt to dismiss harshly the young petrified girls who were in the same boat, she had once been in. Children she had initially sympathized with. Their faces filled with terror floated in the bubbles. Their quivering pleas for help. How she had taught herself to look away basking in all the attention and most importantly, the money that came her way. She grew bitter, insensitive and cheeky like women she had seen only in magazines. Alcohol became her most trusted companion and weed, her official tourist guide. It took her to places, she never knew existed. She thought she was happy. For once, the aversion in her mother's eyes, the last time she met her, finally did not seem to hurt. There was no going back now. She was here to stay.


She slipped into the bath robe loving how she smelled like rose petals. Her face devoid of make-up. Her first wrinkles starting to show up by the eyes. She smiled, unpretendingly. This was for her. Real. Unpaid for. After all these years of trying to love herself and failing. She fell in love like she was sixteen again. But this time, with herself. Tonight was going to be different. No customer to please. No stench of alcohol tingling in her nostrils. She turned on the TV. A 90's song started off softly in the "Midnight Melodies". She knew that song. She nodded reminescently with her smile unwiped. She made herself some tea and headed to the balcony. She sipped on watching the empty pool outside. The water gently dancing with the breeze. Making no ripples. Just like me. In this world. She sighed.


She sat down in the lounge chair opposite Irony and smiled warmly. Irony squirmed uncomfortably. The silence was foreboding. Both of them had so much to say and yet both said nothing. It was almost like they perfectly understood everything that words would just look like decoration. Then, she saw him.


Darkness sat on the bed patiently awaiting her. Her head started to buzz.

"Slut!"

"Whore!!"

All the voices came back. Voices of men that hooted and leered at her every time she passed by. Voices of people that quickly shoved labels her way. They grew louder and louder. And Louder. They surrounded her and stood there accusingly. She sat down unable to move. Darkness laughed. "What did you think, you foolish woman? There is no going back! No one who comes here ever leaves!" he bellowed.


"Not today!" She said smiling wryly. He held her. His grip tightening around her. She resisted. She pushed him away. He fell back staggering. Angered, he charged at her. She pushed him away again. But more forcefully this time. He fell hitting the wall hard on his head. Holding his head, he crashed to the floor with a thud. Dead. Horrified, she gasped. Irony just watched, stupefied. With tears streamlining across her face, she collapsed to the ground dizzily.


She woke up in Solace's lap after what felt like the end of an era. Solace caressed her unwittingly. The old friend that she had shunned for all these years. Unaware, that Darkness had finally been murdered.

Irony sat in the recliner perplexed. He stared at the spilled bottle of sleeping pills beside the tea cup regretfully. He should have known. He had thought he could save her this time. How foolish he had been to not notice. He had failed. Once again.


" 33-year old prostitute found dead in renowned hotel; Suicide suspected", the TV blared.


Nyra resigned onto the lounge chair and sighed, "I've been dead for 17 years. Now they know." Irony could not bring himself to smirk this time. Solace walked hand-in-hand with Nyra out of the hotel room. Out of his life. Deserting him forever.



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