This short story is selected as Story of the Month July’2012 and won INR 1000 (US $20)
Editor’s Choice: Social Short Story – Heal
I stood on the balcony, staring blankly at the crashing waves. The coffee in my hand had grown cold. I ran my fingers on my face, pushing back my wind whipped hair and brushing away my tears at the same time. My cheeks were dry. The salty breeze had dried up the salty tears. I placed the coffee cup on the floor and turned away slightly to avoid the strong winds. And that was when I saw him.
He was silhouetted against the pink sky, tall, alone, dark and frozen. He stood there on that rock, looking straight, staring into the ocean just like I had been staring a few minutes ago. The sky grew orange, then deep rust. The ball of fire slowly sank into the black waters. He stood there a little longer till darkness set in and slowly, head bowed low, stepped off the rock and walked away from the dark sands. My gaze followed him until he vanished behind a clump of bushes. I shut the balcony door and went back into the empty room.
I was healing. Or atleast, I was supposed to be healing. It was peaceful now, being away from the sympathy and shared tears. My grief was mine and mine alone. I missed Adi every minute of the day, but atleast I didn’t have people telling me, telling me, what a wonderful person he was and what a shock it was to have lost him like that. Like I didn’t know. Like I didn’t feel. These few weeks in this small seaside town was exactly what I needed. An escape from everyone who knew me. Who knew us. They were well wishers who wanted to share my sorrow, but their good intentions were slowly driving me towards insanity. I needed to get away.
I went down for dinner. The couple who owned this homestay were in the living room. They looked up from their moment of togetherness and smiled at me. The lady got up and called out to the maid to serve me my dinner. I was a writer, on a break to write a book. That is what they thought. And that was what justified my odd behavior.
The next morning I walked on the sand barefoot as the eastern sky grew light. I picked up shells and then threw them back on the beach. I dug my toes into the cool sand as I walked, breathing in the fresh morning air. I went up to the rock where I saw him last night. I could not shake away that picture from last evening. That was the first time I had seen him in these two weeks, but I instinctively felt some sort of bonding with him. I sat on the rock, staring into the sea until it became too warm to stay outside.
I read ,wrote, swam and took small walks in the shady gardens for the rest of the day, just as I had been doing for the past two weeks. I had not healed yet, but the isolation and the sea had soothed me. I forced myself not to think of Adi, his smile, his hug. His love. Those terrible days in the hospital after his accident. I also shouldn’t have survived , but I did. Why?. I suddenly missed him terribly. And I almost burst into tears again.
That evening , I walked out to the balcony with my cup of coffee. Twilight was my favorite part of the day. And as the sky changed colours and the clouds blushed, my eyes scanned the sands and stopped again on that rock. He was there again, standing straight, alert, staring at the waves. Waiting.
One more week passed like this. Every evening I wanted to walk up to the beach and go closer to him, but something stopped me. I didn’t want to intrude into whatever it was that brought him there every evening. So I just stood there on my balcony with a cup of neglected coffee, watching him dissolve into the darkness every evening.
It was my last day by the sea. I walked past the packed bags on the floor that evening and went downstairs. I smiled a small smile at the new guests who were sipping tea in the living room and walked outside. It was drizzling. I didn’t bother to pick up an umbrella. I stepped into the wind laden spray of raindrops and my feet took me across the damp sands. Towards him. I stood there, still, silent, behind him. He sensed me, but he did not turn. The waves came and went. He stared and waited. The rain grew fiercer, but both of us did not move.
‘Scott’, a voice called from behind. I turned. A woman was approaching us, flustered and wet. She saw me standing there, behind him. With a curiously glance at me, she instinctively shared her umbrella over my head. I smiled at her and then looked at him again. He hadn’t turned or moved an inch. Her eyes saw the question in my eyes and she shook her head sadly.
‘ I work in that house, ma’ she said, pointing to a house on the shore, beyond the bushes.
‘ It has been a year. They were playing in the beach one evening when she ran into the sea chasing a ball. She was just five years old, such a pretty child. Maggie. We couldn’t even find her body’.
Tears filled the woman’s eyes.
‘ Her parents were so angry with him that they just abandoned him here and left to their city. He now lives with the old couple in that house. They are a lonely couple, they treat him like their own son now. But he hasn’t forgotten. He comes here every evening and waits for his little playmate to return from the ocean. Maybe he thinks she will be back someday or maybe he knows and feels guilty that he couldn’t save her’. She shook her head sadly.
I looked at him, standing on that rock, soaked in the rain, but still unflinching in his wait. A tear rolled down my cheek. For the first time in months, it was not a tear for Adi.
‘Scott, va’, the woman said and grabbed his collar, almost dragging him. He turned. Our eyes met. ‘ Forget , Scott.’ I whispered. ‘ Heal. They are not coming back. Your Maggie. Or my Adi.’ I bent down to touch him. He moved closer and looked at me, eyes limpid pools of sadness. And as though he understood what I had said, he let out a short bark and wagged his tail.