Sana stood at the cliff-edge, breathing hard. The sun had made its graceful exit, leaving just a little rose in the sky. A cool breeze blew her long hair into soft wisps, making her look rather like a spirit, ready to float off the face of earth. She held a piece of paper in her hand, clasping it tightly to stop it from flying off with the wind.
Involuntarily, a sigh of anguish passed through her lips as the day's events flashed through her mind's eye.......
Sana sighed with relief. It was finally over. She had the house back to herself at last, to wallow in her own private misery. The police had just left. Although they had questioned her, they were considerate of her condition. They had respected her grief. After all, she had just lost her husband. The thought brought on fresh pangs of grief. From today, she was alone in the world. Her other half, the mate of her soul had left her. She rubbed her dry eyes. She couldn't even cry now. Her tears had dried up.
Sana walked to the dining table where Rajveer had been sitting just a few minutes ago. Hands cradling his head, he looked just like he had fallen asleep on the table. Just that there would be no waking up from this sleep.
Sana sat down beside his chair. They had taken him away. She stared at the space that had just been filled by the person she had loved more than the world itself.
She felt the loss like a hole inside her. She felt like she never wanted to get off that chair. Her bones were weary. But there was work to be done. Her in-laws would be there soon. She had informed them immediately after calling up the police. She would have to clean the house before they arrived.
She methodically swept the house starting from one end till, she reached his room. She stopped in front of the door, reminiscing the last time he had carried her through it. Choking on a sob, she gripped the door tightly and pushed it open with one, quick shove.
The room looked exactly like she remembered. It was fairly clean, except for some clothes strewn on the big, white bed and some papers scattered on his beloved mahogany desk. Not really thinking, Sana moved to the bed and picked up his clothes, starting to fold them mechanically. As she walked to the cupboard to put them in, her eyes fell on the desk. Frowning she picked up the papers and put them in one, neat bundle. Suddenly, she saw something that made her pause in her task. Rajveer's phone was lying on the desk, beneath all the papers. She was surprised. Hadn't the police already taken it from his pocket? Unless....... they had taken his official phone and not his personal one. She unlocked it, and her face stared back at her. Along with the notification for ten unread messages. Her lip curled in a scowl of disgust as she read the name of the sender. Tara....... Tara Das........ Sana's scowl deepened as she thought of the havoc that vixen had wreaked in her life.
Sana roamed around the mall, feeling rather sorry for herself. Rajveer, her husband of one and a half years, had called her up to tell her that he was caught up in some work related issue. He wouldn't be home till late. They had made plans to go out that evening, and his sudden withdrawal left Sana with a lot of time on her hands and nothing to do. So, like every other woman, she decided to go shopping. However, the mall did nothing to lift her spirits. She looked around rather aimlessly till suddenly she spotted someone in the crowd. Rajveer. But..........
She called out to him, but he appeared not to have heard her. Exasperated she tried to walk towards him through the crowd that separated them.
"Rajveer!!!” Suddenly he moved as though seeing something. A woman walked through the crowd, waving at him. Sana froze in her tracks as the woman walked up to Rajveer, and they went away together. Sana couldn't move her legs as they disappeared into the crowd.
Rajveer had just left for work. Sana sat on their bed, flipping through the pages of their wedding album pensively, her mind occupied by what she had seen the previous evening. She had waited and waited for Rajveer to tell her about the woman, but he had kept mum. Perhaps it was just her imagination, but he seemed rather flighty around her since then. She looked down at the album in her lap. She had reached the last page. Morosely, she flipped back to the first page and started flicking through the pages again. Suddenly a face caught her attention. It was that woman. Sana sat up straighter; her course of action, suddenly clear to her.
Rajveer was rather tired as he entered the house. He found Sana sitting on the sofa, their wedding album in her lap. Hearing him come in, she looked up, smiling.
"I was just going through our album. There are so many people I don't know in here. So many others I never seen since that day."
Rajveer smiled at her indulgently.
"Why don't you join me? It is a strangely fulfilling task!” she told him. He smiled as he sat beside her. Sana flipped through a few pages. Suddenly, she pointed out a photograph. It was of a small group of people. Three men and a woman. Rajveer's mouth went slightly dry as he looked at the faces.
Sana was watching Rajveer's face closely as she asked, "Who's this, dear?"
He seemed to hesitate for just a second before answering, "That? Oh! Those are some old friends of mine. It’s no wonder you don't remember them, even I haven't seen them since our wedding."
"Sweetheart, I have to stay at office later than usual. Some work came up. I'll be quite late". Rajveer sounded apologetic. Sana murmured a quick ok and cut the call.
Sana called Rajveer's office, her hand trembling as she held the receiver. After a few rings, Sana's heart gave a skip as the phone was picked up.
"Rajveer?" her voice was excited.
But her joy evaporated as a woman answered, “Mr.Gupta left a long time back. Can I take a message?"
Sana slammed the receiver back as a harsh sob was wrenched out of her.
Sana was sitting at the computer, going through Rajveer's Facebook profile. She went through his old posts, growing increasingly impatient as they yielded no result. Frustrated, she was about to quit when she came across a really old photograph. It was dated to almost five years back. And there she was again, with her arm around Rajveer, that hateful woman. The picture was tagged. Sana ground her teeth as she read the name. Dr. Tara Das.
Suddenly the phone rang, almost making Sana jump out of her skin. It was Sharanya, an old friend of Sana's.
"Hello. Sana! How are you? We haven't talked in such a long time!!"
"Yes. I know", Sana replied, slightly relieved to have her mind taken off troubling things. "I thought you forgot about my existence. How come you decided to call?"
"Oh! I ran into your husband and your friend at the mall. That made me feel like ringing you up."
"My friend?" Her knuckles were white from gripping the phone.
"Yes, Tara. Tara Das," Sharanya sounded surprised, “She is your friend isn't she? At least that's what Rajveer told me."
"She is........my friend", Sana choked on the last word.
Sana sat by their dining table, crying her heart out. The previous night, she had asked him about his absences, after she had been rebuffed by his office again. But Rajveer insisted that he had been at the office. Probably the person who had picked up the phone had got it wrong.
Tears cascaded down her cheeks as Sana asked herself what she had done wrong. How could he do this to her? She had given him everything.
It had been the last straw. Rajveer had finally called her to tell that he would be home early and Sana had dared to hope, albeit tentatively. But Rajveer had not shown up yet and Sana's heart grew heavy again. It had been about a quarter to eight when, tired and distraught, Sana decided to go on a walk. The worst decision of her life. Or the best, depending on how you looked at it.
Using a scarf to guard against the October chill, Sana started walking towards the end of their street. But what she saw near the end made her stop in her tracks. A car had stopped there and Rajveer was getting off. Trying to make excuses for him, she quickened her step, till he walked over to the driver's side and leaned in through the window. Sana felt her eyes prickling. In the light of the street lamp, she saw the driver. It was her. That witch. Tara das. She was smiling at something Rajveer had said. Sana had finally had enough. How dare they mock her like that? She turned on her heel and fled, feeling her heart shatter into a million pieces.
It was a Sunday. Sana had made tea as usual and gone out for a walk. Rajveer woke up, tired. He had had a sleepless night. He walked into the dining room to find his cup of tea waiting for him. Thankfully, he slid into his chair and took the cup. He was thoughtful. It had been so long since he had had time to spend with Sana. That dratted business had come up. But thank heavens; it was finally over and done with. And just in time too. Being away from Sana had almost started being a physical pain. But it had been necessary. Sana must never even have a hint as to what he had been doing these past days. He had no idea how it would affect her if she knew. Still lost in thought, he lifted the cup to his lips, slowly sipping the tea.
Suddenly he felt strangeness come over him. He set down the tea cup. Hearing the front door open, he turned and saw Sana walk in. Feeling was slowly leaving his limbs.
"Wha-?" he managed to choke out.
"Oh! You've drunk it." Sana's voice was cold and unfeeling, “Good. That is for ruining my life and making a mockery of my love with that other woman."
Rajveer's eyes widened as he looked at her one last time before his eyes closed forever. He fell onto the table. Sana walked towards him and took the teacup. No matter how hard she set her heart, it still hurt to see him gone. And to know that she was responsible.
The cup still had some tea in it. She rinsed it and took her phone. Sobbing helplessly, she called the police. Then her in-laws. Everyone would be there soon. Till then, it was just her and Rajveer......
Sana toyed with Rajveer's phone as her mind wandered. When she looked down at it, it was locked again. Again she unlocked it to find herself staring back. She remembered that photo. It had been taken unawares, after one of their rare fights. He had taken it whilst she sat fuming. A ping from the phone burst her bubble. Eleven unread messages from Tara. Her anger slowly ignited. Sana opened the messages. All of them were of a similar tone. 'Call me please', 'We need to talk', 'It’s about the advice I gave you', 'please call me', 'We really need to talk'. Disgusted, Sana quit the messages. She opened the audio player, smiling at a memory. Rajveer had a habit of accidently recording phone calls. She wondered if he had gotten over it. But it was something else that caught her attention. Her name. He had so many recordings with her name on them. Intrigued, she played one. It was a really old phone conversation. Struck with wonder, she played another. Then another. And another. Rajveer had recorded all their conversations. Sana felt a strange emotion tugging at her heart as she listened to his voice telling her that he loved her at the end of every call. Even the recent ones. Wait, that wasn't right. Frowning, she played the conversation again. It was when he had called to say he would be late at work. She felt her grip on the phone tighten of its own accord. And........there. She heard it clearly. She had cut the call. Then she heard his voice, "I love you Sana. More than my own life."
A strange sort of foreboding overtook her. She scrolled through the audio clips. One particular number jumped out at her. It seemed familiar. Must have been one of Rajveer's accidental recordings. She played it. It was a woman on the other end. “Hello, Rajveer? It’s me, Tara. I was rather surprised to receive your call.......” The call ended with them planning to meet at the mall. Sana felt a solitary tear travel down her cheek. She played the next clipping. And the one after it. Around the fifth clipping she tensed. Her name had been mentioned.
"...........yes, I understand what you are saying. I know you love Sana, but you must understand her condition......."
Her condition? What was going on?
“My wife is perfectly normal, you hear me!!" Rajveer was almost shouting.
Tara's voice was pacifying, “I agree she is. Most of the time. But like I've said before, your wife has a history of mental problems that I believe she is unaware of. She is prone to sudden bouts of suspicion and/or other forms of mania. I have gone through her medical history. But it is curable. I called to let you know that.
"Really?" the relief in Rajveer's voice was palpable.
"Yes, I have procured the necessary drugs. Meet me today at 7:30."
"Thank you so much, Tara."
Sana was shivering as she looked at the date of recording - 30/9. An unbidden cry burst forth from her lips. No. No. NO. NO!!! What had she done???
Sana looked at the piece of paper in her hand again. It was a love-letter from Rajveer from back when they weren't married. She ran her eyes through it till she reached the very end:
Yours in love, forever
She stroked a finger across his signature before lifting the paper and setting it loose, watching as the wind took it into the mist. Her heart clenched with grief and remorse. Closing her eyes, Sana took a deep breath, put a foot forward......... and stepped into oblivion.