11:59 PM Wednesday
It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back and as soon as I was about to take a step towards the door, the dog which was lying down near the gate, suddenly started barking. The dog was staring at me and howling continuously. I tried to hush it but there was no change in its behaviour. The breeze gained momentum and the fallen leaves of the mango tree were blowing all around. The door knocked once more. This time the knock was harder, with more force. I headed towards the door with baby steps, in a slow motion and peeped through the peephole. There was no one visible outside the door. I thought I may be mistaken. I was about to turn back, when the door knocked for the third time. My heart started beating fast but I gathered some courage to check once again. Again, there was no one.
I yelled, ’Who’s there? Who’s there?’
There was no answer. I decided to open the door to check. I stepped out to find, to search whoever it is, but there was not even a single soul to be seen anywhere. It was pitch dark outside. An owl was hooting from a distance on the veranda. I decided to go back inside. All of a sudden, my legs stumbled over something. It was a dog’s collar. Instantly, I picked it up. It reminded me of the same collar hanging on the dog’s neck, the one barking outside the balcony. I rushed towards the balcony to check. The dog was not there. I shouted for the security guard but no one responded. All at once, I felt something smooth in my hands. When I looked at it, the collar of the dog has been replaced by a silk scarf. Horrified, it fell down from my hands. It was flowing like a river in the breeze. Unexpectedly, it got stuck in the middle of the air as if draped over a silhouette. I turned pale, screamed and hurried inside and closed all the doors. With shivering hands, I somehow reached the Intercom. As soon as I picked up the receiver to dial the security’s number, lights went off. Slowly, I went towards the almirah and searched for the torch in the dark, which was supposed to be placed in the almirah’s drawer. I finally got hold of it and rushed to the phone again. I dialed the security’s number 500. It was ringing, but no one responded. I tried calling again, but no one answered the call. I tried for the 3rd time, but in vain.
With leaden steps, I unwillingly headed towards the balcony. There was nothing outside. No dog and no scarf with silhouette. I assumed this all to be a hallucination. I thought I desperately need a glass of water to calm down myself. I was sweating profusely. I went to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and took out a chilled water bottle. I started sipping the water with the sweat trickling down my cheeks, similar to the dribbling of chilled water drops down the bottle. There was a mirror hanging outside the kitchen in the living room. When I turned steadily sipping the water, my eyes fall on the mirror. I felt something strange. I stood glued to the position, gently rolled my eye balls towards the right side. I scanned from the corner of my eyes. I didn’t see anything in the mirror. May be it was dark. I tip-toed towards the mirror and stood in front of it completely. The thunders lightened the room. There was no one to be seen in the mirror. I considered it as my imagination. I came back and sat on the sofa, but something was haunting me. Something clicked me. On the spur of the moment, I got up and moved towards the mirror again. I was standing in front of the mirror completely, from head to toe, but I can’t see myself in the mirror. A question blocked my mind, ‘Where is my image’? I screeched at the top of my voice. At the very moment, the phone rang. To my utmost surprise, my husband, Rahul came running from the room to pick up the call. I called him but he didn’t respond. He picked up the call. It was on speaker mode. Before he could say anything, the person on the other side muttered something in an alarming voice. The message was very urgent. Hearing that, I collapsed on the ground. I was dumbstruck and soon a series of flashbacks flooded my memory.
6:05 AM Wednesday
'”Good morning sweetheart”, come on, get up now. Your coffee is ready’. I was surprised to see Rahul standing beside the bed holding the cup of coffee in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in another. He went on his knees, offered the bunch of flowers to me and whispered in my ears, ‘This is for the most wonderful woman of the world. You are looking pretty, more beautiful than the morning glory. Now grab your coffee and get freshen up.’ I had my share of coffee and then hurried to the kitchen. He held my hands from the back, stopping me there and asking me to leave the work.
He demanded, ’I’ll take care of the remaining household chores. And don’t worry about our daughter, Priya also. I’ll get her ready by time. You just relax and get some time for yourself.’
Amused by his behaviour, I asked him for the sudden outburst of love and care. ‘Let me also make a habit to contribute in all this daily chores, as I only have to do everything from tomorrow onwards’, he replied.
‘Nothing dear, you have been taking care of all the responsibilities since years. So, I just thought of lending you a helping hand.’
I was rather shocked but I was enjoying the drastic change in his behaviour. I had breakfast made by Rahul and got ready for the office. Today, I wore the same silk scarf given by him on my first birthday. He dropped me at the gate and planted a kiss on my forehead. I took out my car and waved bye to him before leaving.
9:15 AM Wednesday
After reaching office, Seema; one of my colleagues approached me. She not only shares a cubicle next to me but a good emotional bonding too.
‘Hey, you are looking great today. Your scarf is beautiful. Anything special?’
I narrated the entire morning incident to her. She was listening intently. ‘If he wants to give it a try and start a new beginning, then I think you should also take him seriously. If he is taking a step ahead, then you also move forward a step. I understand the many issues you have in this relationship. But, perhaps this is the right time to make everything clear and start anew’, she retorted.
‘Hmm… yeah, you are right. I’ll.’
Soon we got busy with our respective works. I had a meeting from 5pm to 6pm. When I came back from the meeting, I saw a missed call from Rahul on my phone, which I forgot on my desk in a hurry. I called him immediately.
6:10 PM Wednesday
‘Hi Rahul, I’ll be late today evening. I’ve to finish some work by today. But, I’m taking a leave tomorrow as I’ve to do the remaining arrangements for our birthday girl. So, please don’t wait for me. Have your dinner and feed our sweetie also and make her sleep early.’
‘Okay ma’am, as you say. Don’t worry about Priya or the arrangements. I’ll handle everything.’
‘Thank you honey. I was just thinking something. Let’s take out some time for ourselves post the birthday party. I just want to spend some “we” time.’
‘I don’t think that would be feasible dear.’
‘Nothing…just finish your work early. But, don’t get too late. And most importantly, drive carefully dear. I know I’ve told this many times, but still I would want to repeat it. Don’t be in a hurry while driving.’
‘Okay bye, love you. I’m waiting eagerly for tomorrow as our princess would turn 5. It is indeed a milestone.’
‘Love you too. Take care. Bye.’
11:00 PM Wednesday
I was getting late enough for home. So many things were going on in my mind. It should be a grand event tomorrow and I want to make my princess feel special. I’ve to take some time out for Rahul also. I have to get enough rest by reaching home early. The traffic would also be horrible because of the heavy rainfall. With several thoughts running in my mind, I hurried to take out my car. I was driving at a high speed to reach home as early as possible. When I was about to take a right turn for the highway, suddenly a lorry came from behind. I applied the brakes but it didn’t work. Brakes were failed. I tried to jump out of the running car. But the scarf, the same silk scarf gifted by Rahul, which was wrapped around my neck, got stuck on the door, strangulated me and everything went blank. I lost my control and it went for a head on collision. I was in a pool of blood. Soon, a good number of mobs gathered at the spot and I was…I was…no…it can’t happen…but yes, I was declared dead on spot.
12:40 AM Thursday
Now, it made sense what the person was saying over the phone. His voice echoed in my ears. ‘Hello, Mr. Rahul, I got your number from your wife’s mobile. I’m sorry to inform you that your wife is no more. She is dead.’
When there was no reply from the other side, the person raised his voice saying, ‘Hello, Mr. Rahul, are you there? Can you hear me? Hello…’
I was shaking terribly. Somehow, I regained myself and managed to stand on my feet. Slowly, I went to Priya’s room. She was in a deep sleep. Then, I crept into the bedroom and happened to overheard Rahul’s conversation over phone. ‘OUR PLAN IS SUCCESSFUL’, he just said to someone with a wicked smile on his face. Then, he cut the call and threw the photo which he was holding while talking. The photo fell near my legs. I picked it up and got the shock of my life. It was my photo with a red cross mark on it. Then, I looked at him. He got up from his place and passed right through me. I froze at that moment when realization dawned on me that I’m no more…