I am that moth.’
The line ended there and the rest of the page was blank. Gasping, I sat upright in my reclining chair and felt sudden goosebumps on my skin. Maya knew where she was headed, yet she could not stop herself! And I could not prevent my friend’s untimely demise! A friend who was more of a sister, a confidant, and an accomplice at times! Did she really deserve death for her foolish yet sincere love for that man? I knew he was bad news… I knew it instinctively! And Maya was a more-than- willing victim to his predatory charms.
Unbeknownst to me, my eyes had welled up and a tear drop rolled down my cheek. I had been reading Maya’s diary, one that was found under layers of clothing in her suitcase. I knew of this journal that she religiously wrote in. Even when she was living in the YWCA Hostel, I would often see her scribbling in this diary that had light blue pages. Maya wanted to become a writer. She had told me she was writing a romance novel. However, she never showed me what she wrote and kept telling me to be patient till her novel was completed. I wonder if she had foreseen the death of the author.
I could not sleep last night. I was thinking about the day when I went to meet Maya’s grieving parents. They were seated in the Dean’s office.That was the same day that I had found her dead in the little bungalow that she and Anton had been living in. Before he abandoned her and fled to his country. I remember pressing the doorbell several times. Maya lived in the cottage all by herself. It had already been more than a month since Anton had abruptly left the town. However, Maya, silly as she was, stayed behind with his memories and photographs. She just would not believe that he had gone. Forever.
Why wasn’t she answering the door! I hadn’t heard from her for the last two days. With a rising sense of dread that almost choked me, i recalled that there was a tiny window in the bedroom that opened into the garden behind the bungalow. With some luck, I might be able to see…..
The curtains were drawn and the window was locked from inside. Pressing my cheek to the glass pane, I tried to peer through the narrow wedge between the curtains. The first thing I saw was her hand, dangling from the edge of the bed. For a minute it seemed as if it had been severed from her body. A powerful surge of panic almost overwhelmed me but I am not one who loses her head easily. I forced myself to stop imagining things!
Looking around hastily, I saw a broken metal pipe that had been cast in the rubbish bin. There was no time to waste. Grabbing it, I hurled it at the pane. The glass shattered under the effect and I stared as the peach curtains fluttered in the warm breeze that rushed in.
A peculiar stench was emanating through the broken window of Maya’s room. Just standing there, I knew what had happened inside. I tried to shut my eyes as a corner of the curtain lifted, providing a view of the inside. Maya lay in bed, as if in a drunken sleep. Her right hand was dangling at an awkward angle.Her eyes were closed and mouth half-open, as if she had fallen asleep mid-conversation with some unseen being.
Horrified, I looked on, as if in a dream. Or a nightmare. I knew she was dead. She had probably died days before.
When I came back to my senses, I realized I was screaming. Screaming, sobbing and fumbling with my phone, all at once. I have no recollection of the numbers I dialed and how long I was there, trembling and shrieking in Maya’s little garden, watching her dead body through a broken window. I had a vague sensation of people filling into the garden, some surrounding me, some wrapping me in an embrace and some trying to gently pull me away from the sight of my best friend’s motionless body. My brain registered the arrival of policemen in uniform, the Dean talking to them in a low voice, his face set in stone and as dark as a storm cloud.
At length, he came to where I was, under the shade of a garden umbrella, sitting on a plastic chair. I had no idea who brought it there. It was all very surreal and the colorful umbrella suddenly reminded me of the beach where I had picnicked with Maya and Anton several months back. Mr. Shekhawat walked up to me and put his hands on my shoulders, gently pulling me to my feet.
“Go to my office, Nafisa or my quarters. Wherever you want to go. My driver will take you…..you need to….”
I stared blankly at his face. What was he saying?
He beckoned to someone and his Private Assistant came running. This time, he spoke in a loud, almost commanding voice.
“There’s nothing you can do here! She is gone…….. beyond our help! Nafisa, go! You are in shock! You need to be looked after.” I felt his arm gently guiding me away from the garden and his words started to sink in.
She is gone! She is …. wait! How…! It’s my birthday in two weeks and she promised me a treat and movie!
The howl that escaped my lips the next minute startled me greatly. It was animal-like, raw with rage and grief. As I felt my legs give way, the Dean helped me up. I sobbed in his arms, and, by the way his shoulders shook against mine, I knew he was crying too.
This diary with the light blue pages was Maya’s favorite possession. I requested her mother to let me have it and she agreed, trying to stall her tears. I flipped through a few more pages and found a little two-line poem:
If this is a goodbye, let me keep your heart
My soul I give to you, now that I’m forced to part….
She signed her name below it with the date. I realised it was in the week before the Easter Holidays. It was probably one of those last few days in which I had seen Maya, still alive.