You left too soon…
“He’s here!” she squealed, and burst into a giggle.
“Who is?” I asked absent-mindedly, worried that the food that we ordered would not be enough for the large number of guests trooping in, students and faculty alike, not to mention the other staff. Maya tugged at my ornate shawl again.
“Nafisa! See, he just arrived! Oh my! He is gorgeous!” she said in a hushed whisper.
I shook my head from side to side, realising that she was talking about the Italian Professor from the Math Department. It was quite silly, I thought. Maya had been gushing about him relentlessly for the past few days whenever she and I had some alone time at the staff room or got the time to grab lunch together. Our Departments being different, we did not get much time together at the University but usually caught up later at the YWCA where we were both staying. Maya and I had joined the University on the very same day and took an instant liking to each other during the orientation. Though she was a bit like a child in her understanding of the world and could be quite obstinate when it came to selecting a cuisine on our Sunday afternoon luncheons, I liked her simplicity and honesty in everything.
“Maya! Stop it!” I scolded gently as she tugged my red shawl again, making it fall to the floor. “Look, can you help me with decorating the….”
“Nafisa, let’s go say hello?” she implored, like a school girl with a huge grin plastered across her face. She was not listening to a word I was saying. Clicking my tongue, I turned away impatiently. Maya could really be annoying at times.
As if that would stop her. She skipped along, like a child on Christmas morning. I wanted to remind her to act her age but I had too many worries at that moment. None the less, I was upset with her. I really needed her help and that stupid infatuation of hers could wait!
Maya was gone for the next hour or so and when I saw her again, she was almost stuck to him like glue, much to my consternation True, he was quite pleasing to look at and talk to, judging by the throng of people around him. Or maybe they were just being polite but did she have to make her fandom so obvious?
From a distance, I could see him strolling around, exchanging pleasantries and asking questions about the decor with a feigned, polite interest. However, Maya hardly gave the others a chance to talk, her face stretched in a gloating smile. As I turned around, fuming, I noticed the Dean’s eyes on them, watching intently. Soon, it became evident to me that most people had their eyes on her that evening. She looked resplendent but she was spoiling it all by her immature behaviour.
I came face-to-face with them during dinner. Them. Yes, because she was still next to him with her continuous, excited prattle. When she noticed my disapproving expression, she immediately pulled me by the arm, making me spill some of my drink on my outfit.
“Oops, sorry!” Maya laughed, not looking sorry at all. “Anton, this is my best friend and colleague, Nafisa. She teaches Chemistry.” She squeezed my shoulder, holding me in an iron grip.
Anton?! Too friendly, too soon…. I thought.
“How do you do?” I greeted him and he did the same, smiling. For a brief second, his eyes locked with mine and I saw a shadow flit across. I don’t know what it was but I felt that most of his pleasant demeanour was probably not real. I do not know why, but at that moment I decided that I did not like him. Why did he have to come here!
That night, Maya knocked a couple of times on my door at the hostel. I had slipped away right after dinner and didn’t stop to ask Maya if she wanted to accompany me. Obviously, she didn’t!
“Nafisa! You asleep?” She asked, in a low voice. It was close to midnight and I didn’t bother to get up. I was quite upset, as it was.
That, however, was my first meeting with Maya’s so-called ‘one, true love.’ Much as it enrages me, I cannot deny Maya’s undying faith in the power of her love. She believed he would come back to her someday. See where it led her!
It was I who had discovered her dead body that was just beginning to decompose. After almost two days…or three… I can’t remember clearly. I don’t want to! It hurts like someone stabbing me in my gut! Poor Maya, she was trusting to the point of being naïve. Too many times, too many times I had warned her to be cautious around him.
I still dream of Maya…often. Of those happy times spent here. Before he had arrived. In my dreams, she is always laughing and chattering incessantly, just like she did when she was alive. I want to ask her why she hasn’t strangled him yet.