Story 25

She stood at the threshold of the house and looked around for the last time before stepping out. Every inch of the house was filled with the memories of her childhood; some good and some bad. It hurt to leave the house but she had to, she had no choice. She needed to start fresh.

This house, which had been her shelter for a long time could no longer hold her inside. The invisible layers of memories around the house were peeling off one by one, exposing the vulnerability within. It was time for her to pack those memories in her suitcase and walk out; take them with her and give them a place in her new life, where they would continue to be a part of her life forever. While the old still stayed, it was time for her to create new memories.

She locked the door and handed over the keys to her trustworthy neighbour who looked at her with sadness-filled eyes. This elderly woman understood and believed her more than her own parents ever did. She could not blame them - they were not what they once were, society had turned them into something else. She touched the feet of the elderly woman seeking her blessing. The woman placed both the hands on her head and then as she stood up the elderly woman hugged her with all the strength she had.
“Please tell them not to worry about me. I have found my way.” She told the elderly woman.
“You deserve a better life.” The woman repeated what she had been saying all these days.
It were the words of this elderly woman that had urged her to take the step she had been reluctant about.

She walked away without turning to look back. She knew if she did she would become weak. It had taken a long time for her to make herself strong. She had been weak all her life, but that ended the moment she stepped out on the road and got into the cab. 
Tears gathered in her eyes and she put on her sunglasses; as if they would put a lid on her emotions. Unfortunately, the sunglasses could not even hide the fact that she was crying. The tears ran down her cheeks. She noticed that the cab driver was looking at her through the rear-view mirror. She turned to look outside; watched the buildings, playground and the scenery seemingly move in the opposite direction as the cab moved towards her destination.

Before she knew what hit her; her past played in front of her eyes as if she was watching a movie. 

She saw herself as a kid, loved and pampered by her parents. She saw herself holding her little brother in her arms few days after he was born. She saw herself playing with him as they grew up. She saw the happy looks on her parents' faces. They were proud of their children. They loved her little brother more than they loved her; but they loved her - that is what mattered to her.

Then, she saw the day she got married. It was an arranged marriage, her parents were very happy for her. She was very happy. The happiness did not last long though. Things turned from bad to worse to worst in just a few months after her marriage and she could no longer tolerate the torture. She knew she had to move out. She told her husband that she needed time away. She decided to move back in with her parents.

She called them and told them that she was coming back. They did not say no but they did not say yes either. She took their silence as a yes and moved out of her husband’s house, away from the humiliation her mother-in-law subjected her to, away from the pain her husband caused her. 

As she stepped over the threshold of her home, she did not know she was stepping into a house.

The little princess that she once was no longer existed within the walls of this house; the little princess was stuffed into a photo album that was kept in a basket somewhere in the attic. Her parents showed her to her room, which was converted into a storage room. 

She heard a weird sound and the movie stopped, at least for a while. She then realized that the weird sound had come from her. She had not been able to control the sob. She placed a hand over her mouth to mute the sound of the sobs that followed.
She still remembered feeling claustrophobic in her own room. 

She remembered walking out towards her brother’s room and opening the door. It was empty since he was studying in a hostel but it was as he had left it. She did not step inside the room, she thought it wrong to invade his space. 

She closed the door and walked back to the storage room. She kept her suitcase in a corner and made place for herself on the floor. She picked up the cotton mattress she found in a corner, dusted it and spread it in the empty space. Her space. 

She remembered lying down for a few minutes and waking up after hours. Her parents had not woken her up. She heard her stomach growl with hunger. She got up and walked to the kitchen. She checked the refrigerator, there was nothing to eat. She took out a couple of cheese slices and picked up bread slices from the dining table and made herself a quick cheese sandwich. 

She remembered seeing her mother watching her but when she had turned around to look at her mother she found herself alone - her mother had retreated to her bedroom.
She remembered the cheese being saltier than normal and the bread being moist. It was because she was crying.
How had things changed so drastically?

She remembered wanting to go to her parent’s room and slid into their bed just like she did when she felt scared as a kid. She was a grown up now, but she was scared. How could she tell her parents that she was the same person they had brought up when she could not recognize herself in the mirror! She had changed, she had not wanted to but life had ruined her.

The honking of the cars at the signal put a halt to the movie yet again. She looked around trying to figure out where she was. She was almost halfway to her destination.
She saw a kid selling magazines and bottles of mineral water and bought a bottle and paid him just before the signal turned green. 
She opened the bottle and took a sip of water. She took out a face towel from her purse and poured water over it. She removed the sunglasses, momentarily exposing her teary red eyes to the cab driver who would not stop staring at her.
For heaven’s sake, she thought. She was of the age of his daughter! She wanted to yell at him, ask him to stop staring at her when the man spoke -
“Don’t cry child. Whatever your problems are, surrender them at His feet.” He said pointing towards the statue of Saibaba he had in his cab.
Fresh tears trickled down her cheeks and she wiped her face with the moist face towel.
It was time to put an end to the tears.

A couple of days later when she had adjusted to her parent’s house, she became relaxed and found a way through the hardships. She visited their neighbour and talked to the elderly woman, pouring her heart out. She cried in the elderly woman’s lap who ran her fingers through her hair as she hummed a lullaby.
She slept better in the woman’s lap than she slept in the storage room.

Her father once told her that he had heard her screaming at night and that he was worried about her. He told her that he wanted nothing but happiness for her and he was willing to talk to her husband to sort things out. She refused. He shook his head and walked back to his room. 

She remembered the old laptop of hers which she had left at her parent’s house after she had married. She checked the attic for it and just like she had expected, it was kept inside one of the boxes. She took out the laptop and checked the other contents of the box - memories of childhood, now covered with layer of dust and strings of spider’s web. 

She checked another box and then another; memories came flooding back. She lost her balance and fell off the stool. Luckily, her laptop landed over her and its fall was cushioned but nothing cushioned her fall. She sprained her ankle and her back hurt.

Her mother came rushing towards her and helped her to get up but her father had to join in to carry her to the storage room. A doctor was called and she was attended to. The doctor asked her to take complete bedrest and she looked towards her parents. They were concerned, about what she did not know.

She used the time she got to rekindle her friendship with the friends she had not contacted after getting married. She made a few new friends, too.
Her mother brought her meals for the days when her movements were restricted. Her father inquired about her health and asked whether she was taking medicines on time.

Then, a couple of days later she heard her father talking over the phone with her husband saying that they wanted her husband to sort things out with her.
She did not pretend not hearing; she walked past her father and out of the house. 

She sought solace in the comforting arms of her neighbour.
The woman offered one line advice, the one that the woman offered each time she visited - You deserve a better life.

The cab stopped all of a sudden and she was pushed out of her memories. She realized that she had reached her destination. She paid the cab driver. The cab driver said, “Have faith” and she smiled.
Faith - that’s what had brought her where she was. That, and advice of her neighbour.
She thanked the cab driver and climbed out of the cab.

She glanced straight towards the gates of the bungalow where she saw him standing, waiting for her. He saw her and his lips curved into a smile. Her heart missed a beat. How long since I had seen him last, she thought. It had been years since she had seen him face to face. He looked the same and he still had the same effect he once had on her; the effect she had labelled once as her crush on him. Now, she knew better. 
The rekindled relationship was much mature and deeper than it was before.

She stood rooted where she was and continued staring at him. The smile of hers getting bigger each moment, colour appearing in her cheeks and the warmth of his presence spreading through her entire body.
He did not move either. He observed the woman he had always loved. 
For others she looked different, but for him she was still the same.

Finally she moved towards him and he extended his arms, she rushed into his embrace leaving her suitcase on the road. He held her tightly against his chest and felt her heart beating over his, in rhythm - just like it was meant to be.

He released her from his embrace but continued holding her hands. He placed his forehead against hers, their lips so close that they could feel their breath mingling; he’d stopped one moment short of kissing her. He wanted to but he was ready to wait till she was ready. 

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silent whispers

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