The Sentenced: Chap 14 (contd.)

 

Back to your memories ….and how! Antonspeak

‘Remember the thread that bound us together?
Seemingly fragile, but oh so mighty!
A cord that hardly sings of its existence
But when one pulls, the other answers
And so have you answered me in my dreams, dear one,
Like a sudden, sweet fragrance and I woke up in tears.

I welcome the tears that speak of you
And the sighs my lips part with
I would not know of a love so strong, so real so brutal yet so kind
Had I not known you, precious one, who would teach me of love so true
How would I know of a lover’s bliss if it hadn’t been for you?’

***********************

Strange! I did not have the slightest idea I remembered these lines! These were written by the woman who wanted me with all she had. Whatever that may be, I cannot believe Rebecca actually talked me into coming back here… to India and the University where I once taught….albeit, for a few months, to the town which is still rife with her memories. I cannot believe I came here again!

And for what exactly? Seeking closure? May be my thoughts are showing on my distressed face. Rebecca just squeezed my hand and smiled a reassuring smile. I can’t ignore the sense of dread that’s building up inside me. As the car is rattling past the dusty roads, I can hear the hum of the sea, the familiar sights of the town that I once inhabited with Maya. This is her town, the warm breeze that rushes past my ears everytime I step out of the car whispers Maya’s name….as if reminding me that I am late and the person who would welcome me back here is long gone.

“Stop here, for a minute…..please!” I blurted out suddenly, tapping the elderly driver on his shoulder. He is a pleasant fellow, chattering non-stop about how he is an excellent guide and how he can show us all the ‘oh-so-wonderdul’ tourist spots in and around this town. I kept nodding and smiling as Rebecca listened to his ‘vast reserves of knowledge’ with interest. Actually, his incessant prattling was giving me a headache but I chose to be polite.

Now, startled, he slammed on the brakes and Rebecca was caught off-guard as her body lunged forward. My arm shot out, trying to stop her from hitting her chin and she grabbed it gratefully. The car swerved to the right before coming to a final halt.

“Whaa..What? She stammered as the driver turned around to find out why I had asked him to stop.

“Sorry, I just need a moment. Be right back..” I answered their questioning looks with those quick words and sped off to the corner of the brown road filled with multiple cracks. ‘I know this place so well’ was all I was thinking.

As I turned the corner, my breath hitched in my throat.There it sat, just as I had left it, just as I had seen it the last time! Partially hidden behind the bushy tree I remember so well…. but I forgot its name…. Maya knew what that tree was called…..was the cottage that we had lived in. Together. For seven months almost. I stood, as if in a trance, staring at the little villa that suddenly seemed so welcoming…. I started walking towards it with tentative steps…. as if waiting eagerly to see who would be on the other side of the locked front door…. waiting for me with bated breath….

“We’ll name it love-nest….Anton?”

The words seemed to drift into my ears, as if they had materialized out of thin air. Maya’ voice. From the past, buried somewhere in my memory. As if they knew it was a good time to pounce on me. I remembered Maya then, surprising myself, I remembered the exact scene. Maya sat on the bed in my favourite red dress that complimented her dark hair and brown skin perfectly. Perched on my favourite chair at the other side of the room, I was eyeing her hungrily. She knew that look in my eyes and brought on a mock scowl on her face, only to burst into fits of giggles a minute later.

Things took a beautiful turn as expected. Maya was a wonder in my arms…. so alive, so ethereal but so real, all at the same time! I breathed in the fragrance of her washed hair as the wet locks plastered on my chest. Her favorite part after we had made love was butting her head against my chest, shoulders and back. I used to tell her she looked like a mountain-goat doing that.

I began to smile. Did anybody live in our cottage now? On a sudden whim, I decided to find out. With long strides I reached the little gate from where I could get a good view of the garden. I could still see the stump of the hibiscus but the little place was filled with weeds and tall grass. By the look of the cottage and garden, I knew it was deserted. The paint had started peeling from the outer walls and the windows looked dull and lifeless under layers of dust.
##########

“We’ll name it love-nest…. Anton?” She asked as she lay on the bed, her head on my thigh, her red dress riding up, giving me an eyeful of her legs. I had rolled my eyes.

“Yuck! So cheesy!” I answered with apparent disgust and she shot upright at once, her face clouding over. I had to laugh at that grim expression and it made her angrier. As she hastened to get out of bed, I caught her hand and pulled her back.

“But hey, I like cheese,” I whispered in her ear and as my lips tickled her, she laughed too.
“Of course you do! You’re Italian!” She had quipped.

#############

I was about to open the creaking gate and step in.

“Anton?” A woman called behind me.

I spun around so fast I almost knocked myself off my feet but somehow grabbed her hand and steadied myself. I was half expecting it to be Rebecca but it was not. Actually, the moment I heard it, I knew the voice wasn’t hers.

The woman was still grabbing my hand. I felt her nails digging deep into my palms. Her face was slightly flushed and her eyes wide, as if she was bursting to tell me something.

“So you have come…. now!” The tone…. the accusatory tone, I had expected it all along. Her eyes scorched me, her nails still trying to cut into my flesh, trying to punish me for the death of that one friend who loved me. Why could I not remember her name! Darn, my memory always failed me at these moments!

Was it… Naisa? Nadira? Something like that…. damn!

“Hello….. How are you?” I greeted awkwardly. She stared at me with unblinking eyes, her face had turned a terrible shade of red, her nostrils flaring. For a moment, I thought she would attack me with those clawish nails.

But the next minute, her grip on my wrist loosened and the anger in her face melted away. As I saw those large eyes fill up with tears, I knew the worst had passed. Clutching t my shirt, she broke down in violent sobs and her knees buckled. As if on instinct, my arms went around her and before I realised it, the front of my shirt was getting soaked with tears.

Those tears were falling from my eyes.

“Nafeesa is my best-est friend on earth! She is more like my soul-sister, honestly!”
Maya’s voice chirped in my head.

Nafeesa! I remember the name now Yes, Nafeesa.

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