Most of my life was nothing but a long stretch of obligations, deadlines and challenges. I never had time either to live for myself or to do things that I loved doing. I became a widower at a very young age and had to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up two young motherless daughters single - handedly. I went through thirty years of my official and personal life like a well - programmed robot playing a dual role of a homemaker and a working man. But now, I was relieved of nearly all of my liabilities. My daughters were married and well - settled in Mumbai. My office has awarded me a peaceful retirement after biding a tearful farewell. Now I was a free man - free to live my life the way I want.
I bought a nice little cottage in the silent and serene suburbs of my hometown and bade adieu to the hectic city life of Mumbai. The idea of moving to my hometown was suggested by Sharma who was my childhood friend and classmate. He once was a Police Officer and now was enjoying the benefits of a retired life in our hometown just like me. He used to join me in the evenings and we shared the glees and glooms of the last thirty years of our lives. There was not much to do in this 'not-so-happening' small town especially when you are a retired man. I noticed that the plot on which the cottage was situated had a lot of empty space in front and decided to convert it into a beautiful garden in order to make a perfect investment of my time. Gardening was my passion since my childhood and which I had to ignore all my life due to lack of time.
I went to the market on a hunt for some good quality seeds, manure and equipments that I needed for gardening. I found a nursery - farm and started searching for seeds of some beautiful flowers in there. I picked up a small packet of seeds which had the picture of gorgeous violet coloured flowers on it.
"No, it can't be cultivated in this season," a sweet feminine voice advised me from behind.
I turned to see a woman who looked like a beautiful fairy. She seemed to be in her late thirties with a svele frame, waist lenght silky brown hair and an exceptionally beautiful face. I kept staring at her as if I had seen an apparition.
"Oh! Sorry," she said tapping lightly on her head, "I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Sonia. I live in Kailash Villa - the bungalow opposit to your house."
"Are you Mr Kailash's...."
"Wife," she said before I could finish, leaving me stunned as I had assumed her to be the daughter of the elderly gentleman.
"You can take anything from this section," she said pointing towards the adjacent rows. "They are best suited for the soil and weather of our place."
She readily helped me in locating all that I needed along with providing me with her expert opinion on gardening. Afterwards, she offered to drop me in her car. As the drive was a long one, we got enough time to share our views and experiences regarding our common passion. I felt like I had stumbled upon a friend in her. She dropped me at my house and invited me over to her place to visit her garden. I gladly accepted the invitation and promised to fulfil her wish soon.
The next evening, I went to her house and she gave me a warm welcome along with a streaming hot cup of tea. Her garden was a marvellous collection of a wide variety of plants and creepers. But I was particularly attracted towards a plant which had beautiful blood red coloured flowers on it. The petals were shaped like tiny hearts. I was about to touch them when she urgently pulled my arm back.
"No!" She nearly screamed, "they are poisonous. It's a rare species which is found only in Africa. One of my friends has gifted it to me. It's name means 'poison of love' in English. The plant predates on insects which are attracted to its beauty by injecting a rare kind of slow poison so that it can feed on them at leisure."
I was astounded by the intensity in her eyes as she said. As soon as her gaze fell on my bewildered face, she regained her composure and said, "let's move on to the medicinal herb section. I have been administering them to my husband whenever he falls ill and they have always worked like a miracle!"
"So you are a doctor too," I said teasing her.
"Oh! No," she said smiling coyly, "just some home remedies....that's all."
A week later, I was woken up in the middle of the night by the wailing of sirens of an ambulance. I looked out of the window and saw Mr Kailash been carried on a stretcher into an ambulance accompanied by a weeping Sonia. I ran out of the house to meet him but the ambulance had left by the time.
"What has happened to him?"
"Poisoning, they say."
The next evening, Sharma came to visit me and started blabbering about his bravery and honesty as a police officer. I kept silently pondering over the failing health of Mr Kailash and the circumstances that may have led to it.
"What are you thinking?" Sharma asked as he noted that I'm being distracted.
"About Sonia and her 'Poison of love."
"Well," he said thoughtfully, "I know Sonia, she's an eye-candy but what is Poison of love?"
"Think about it Sharma," I said completely ignoring his query, "why would such a beautiful lady like her marry an old and paralyzed man like him."
"Yeah, you are right but what is poison of love?"
"For the money, Sharma!"
"But what has the poison of love to do with it?"
"She attracted him towards her using her charms and made her fall in love with her. Then she poisoned him to take possession of his wealth."
"Yes, even a fool can understand that," Sharma said scratching his head like a madman, "but the thing that I still can't understand is what the hell is poison of love?"
"We have to peel the mask off her, Sharma." I said flashing a knowing smile, amused by his agitation. "We will visit him at the hospital tommorrow when she's away."
The next day at the hospital, we waited for Sonia to leave and entered Mr Kailash's room as soon as she was gone. After inquiring about his health, I decided to fire the dart.
"I hope your wife is taking good care of you," I poked him to know the truth about their marriage.
"I'm really indebted to her for sacrificing her life for the love of an old and ailing man like me."
"Maybe she's more interested in your wealth than you," Sharma said curtly and I glared at him.
"I have no wealth left to me, Mr Sharma. I had to wind up my bussiness after suffering a huge loss. I had to sell all my property to pay the debts. Even the bungalow is mortgaged. We are surviving on whatever she earns by selling flowers from her garden."
"Then she must have tried to kill him so that she becomes free to trap another prey with her charms." Sharma carefully whispered into my ears.
"Has she fed you any medicinal herb from her garden recently?" I poured out my doubt.
"She used to do so. But on the fateful day, I was having constipation and she was away. As I didn't know which herb it was, I plucked up those beautiful heart - shaped flowers that caught my eyes and drank their juice."
I gaped and Sharma's eyes popped out off their sockets. We bid him a hurried goodbye and jumped out of the room hiding our ashamed faces.
"So he has himself poisoned him with the 'Poison of love!" I said once we were out of his room.
"Will anyone tell me what the hell is 'Poison of love?"
A few heads turned towards us as the corridors echoed with Sharma's pitiful moans.