She sat on the floor, broken down, shaking, shattered. She was sitting in between a kaleidoscope of broken glass; its fragmented powdery shards dusted the black landing around her. The Room of Mirrors was gone. There were no mirrors that would multiply her from one to many.
She was alone, sitting there, breathing heavy. Her breathing was ragged, and she pulled out her hair in agony that was not physical but mental. Her scream shook her; she screamed long and loud, her head turned upwards. Her shrieks reverberated around her making some Kinetic energy that was making a circle of sound waves around her. Encircling her, Engulfing her. The hot tears rolled down her face, they burned her eyes, but they were no more tears, it was blood that has broken the last glass, her eyes.
This room was her Haven and her Sanctuary. She could not hide more from the reality, her reality. She had made these mirrored walls to increase her strength manifolds. She has pushed back her monsters behind those walls. Now they were lurking out again. Their glowing red eyes are looking at her from every corner. Her cries were keeping them at bay. The broken glass dust was beginning to lift off the ground.
Soon enough her scream turned to a never-ending boom that was making the ground under her shake. The mirror dust had made a debris cyclone around her, making her the Storm Cell in the centre of it. She spread her arms and raised them above her head, and the wind rose up, lifting her up with it. She was Levitating, floating unsupported in the air. Her face turned upwards, and a bright blinding light was coming from her eyes, it was robust and white enough to make all the monsters close their eyes.
She convulsed once and let our a scream that was sufficient to make anyone’s ears bleed and go deaf. All those monsters retreated into the darkness, and she rose up higher and higher in the air, her outstretched arms seemed to control that whirlwind that was making the thin flimsy dress around her flutter and made her look like a white butterfly. Her hair was flowing behind her, making a halo of orange light behind her.
She was obscured from view by the glass dust around her grew so thick that it became impossible to see her. Her last scream was never-ending, and all the light was swallowing her up. And suddenly she went silent; the light was gone, the cry was gone, the wind and the storm had ceased. The glass was turned to fine sand as it lost inertia and fell back on the ground making a wispy sound. Everything went silent and still. Like Time had stopped. The monsters came out from the shadows to hunt her down and feast on her from all sides.
But in the middle of the space, where they expected to find the girl whose soul they had come to claim had gone. She was not there, only her dress remained, lay in a heap in the middle of the debris. She had done it. She had managed to escape the room in which was trapped for years. She had broken those walls, smashed those mirrors, escaped those monsters and left that darkness. Now it was light that she saw, and her soul, white, whole, content. She was Successful. She was victorious. She was liberated. Finally !
The light was green, the bus was moving and had crossed the Zebra crossing as he looked at her retreating back vanish when she took a left turn in the first lane, and he was aware that with a sense of doom. He gripped the handles of the door tightly, telling himself that he has no business with her, she was just a co-passenger. He turned to get back to his seat and was about to sit when he saw something flash under the seat she had occupied minutes ago.
It was glinting in the sunlight, curious, he bent and crawled a little picking it up. It was a solitaire diamond ring; he has never seen one that big in his whole life. “Must have cost her a fortune? He thought,”Maybe it was a gift from someone, maybe from the one in the picture she tore away”. Suddenly he felt his heart fill with an Enthusiasm and he did a turnaround, grabbed his laptop bag tightly around his neck and arm and ran for the door. The bus was still moving slow when he got down and ran in the direction she had gone. Without looking this or that side, he ran at full speed dodging into people on the kerb road, saying a quick sorry to each shoulder he bumped into, taking the first left and squinting its length when he came to a crossroads. It was leading to three roads except the one he came from. He stood there a little breathless looking here and there for a sign of her which would lead him to her, but no, she wasn’t seen around. He climbed the overhead bridge to scan the roads from a height when he saw her emerge from a shop right ahead. He shouted loudly waving the hand in which he held the ring “Hello, Hello MA’AM, HEY YOU FROM THE BUS”, she looked here and there and then saw him up there. There was indifference on her face that was replaced by shock and then anger as she turned and walked real fast in the opposite direction. He saw her give him a dodge and got down the overhead bridge and ran after her.
He didn’t know why he was so desperate to return her the ring, to talk to her, to know what trouble she was in when she apparently wanted him to leave her alone. He ran at full speed as she too increased her pace but caught with her and snatched her wrist. She was made to turn in a circle with the impact as he went for a spin himself and they both fell to the ground. He was thrown to left and she to the right. He sat up and took few deep breaths holding the stitch in his side as she looked at him with obvious anger from where she sat up. They both got up simultaneously as he saw her come up to him. Her eyes were blazing with anger; he felt weak to see the smouldering eyes bore into his. “Who the hell do you think you are? Loafer! Romeo!, good for nothing stalker. How dare you follow me? A girl is never safe in this city. I will take you to the police and get you arrested for stalking” She said with hateful anger in one go as he let her talk, but he felt his anger boil up and surface when he showed her the palm of his hand and kept a finger on his lips, signalling her to stop talking. His action made her stop talking in reflex as she was hyperventilating in anger and he grabbed her right hand, and placed her ring in her palm, closing it back in a fist and threw her hand back to her side. She was speechless as she opened her palm again and saw the single, round diamond sitting in her palm.
She stood there looking at the ring as her eyes teared up once again, but this time he did not let her see his heart melt and walked back to the way he came. There was so much he wanted to say, to ask, but his self-respect was second to none, and she has just insulted him real bad without any mistake. He was walking briskly and went back to the red light and slumped on a side railing, waiting for the next bus. He never realised, but he was seething with rage. Looking at his watch, he cursed himself for being the impulsive fool. Now he will reach home late and miss the match. He has been waiting for the India-Pakistan match for so long. He had betted good money in this game. This was the only flaw in him, he loved to bet some money on matches, though he knew it was not right, the thrill to watch the game increased manifolds if he knew his money was on it. He was an ardent cricket fan and never had better money anywhere else in his whole life. The last match he lost all the money, but today he was sure to win. He was lost in thought when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned around to see who it was when he saw the same girl standing there. “You? Why are you back? I am a stalker and a Loafer and a Romeo Madam; please steer clear of me.” he spoke spitefully. She was quite as she held her head down and told a Sorry. It was hardly audible over the Delhi traffic, but he heard it loud and clear, the most heartfelt sorry it was which made him guilty instantaneously. He watched as two fat tear drop rolled down her face as she sniffed and wiped them off with a flimsy handkerchief. Looking up she gave him a weak smile and said “Thank you so much, I couldn’t afford to lose that ring; it was all I had to sell” her voice broke as she talked. “You saw me come out of that shop, I went to sell this ring only, but when I did not find it in my bag I was broken and that shopkeeper humiliated me as well. So when I came out and saw you, I was annoyed at the whole world. I knew I had lost it on the bus and had no hope to get it back. But thanks to you, you came back all that way to return it, and you missed your bus as well for me. And me, I am so ungrateful, I scolded you instead of thanking you” In one go she said it all and was resolved back into tears. He didn’t know what to say and how to react, “Do you always talk without breaks, not letting the other person speak ?” he said looking earnestly into her face and saw it broke into a warm smile as she wiped her tears, nodding her head in a no.
“Now that you have found your ring and I have missed my bus a second time, let us help each other. Would you like to share what is troubling you with me, maybe I can be of help ?” He said pointing to the bus that just passed the signal as she followed it. She looked at him as if sizing him up, deciding whether he is good enough to help her or share her problem with. An unsure look clouded the weak smile on her lips as she parted her lips and closed them back. He was quiet, he knew that this morning is not a typical morning, he knew some strange phenomenon had brought them together today, and he was waiting for the day to unfold itself as he looked at her keenly.
He saw her, and she caught his attention. She bought the ticket at last stop. Her black suit was making her look real slim and tall. Dusky skin and long black hair, she was beautiful, but it was not her beauty that got him hooked, it were her eyes, big, black, lost. They were like holding some dilemma. Holding her bag close to her body she chose a window seat as the whole bus was deserted in the wee morning hours. He was on his way home from night shift and was weary and tired but seeing her he felt fully awake and conscious. She was sitting on the other side of the bus, the sunlight was in her eyes, and she shielded them with the back of her hand. The shadows of the trees that lines the road was falling on her like playing some kinda Hide & Seek on her beautiful face. Her scarf was caught in the wind and about to fly out of the window. It was about to fly away when she held it by the corner and snatched back in. Wrapping it around her neck securely she sat back in the seat. He was watching her unblinkingly as she felt his presence and turned her head, giving him one long look. That piercing gaze, those bewitching eyes, the black speckled with brown shining like embers in the evening made his heart do a little Tango. She gave him a weak smile and turned away before waiting for his reaction.
He kept looking at her like in a trance, like a fool. He knew she saw him from peripheral view. She loosened her hair and let them fall over her face. Her long and dark hair were covering her lips, obscuring her beautiful, sad eyes. Just then her phone rang, and she rummaged in her handbag not able to find it. There was a desperation in her as she kept looking the bag and then emptied it upside down on the next seat. It’s contents spilt out on the seat.
The seat was covered in odd stuff, and he looked with interest. There was a little Mint Box, a pair of Aviators, a thick book, an inhaler, a diary from which a letter and a picture fell down(it was face down, lying on the floor), few dried Lavender flower sticks, a Swiss knife, a medicine bottle, a set of key chains, guitar pick, a green marker pen, an expensive looking lotion, a hair clip. Small booties(for the small baby), lips gloss, a hair brush, eyeliner, some hard cash and some coins, earplugs, tissues, band-aid, receipts, movie tickets, and finally, under a small mirror, she found her phone. She gave him an apologetic look and desperately took the call.
“Hello,” she said a little breathlessly. He couldn’t hear what was being said from the other side but with each word her voice broke and her eyes welled up.
“no, yeah, ok, but, oh, I lost it, I….I don’t know…..sorry” Every word made him more and more curious, already the contents from her bag made her queasy. Why the booty, she hardly seemed 19, could she already be a mum? No, but he was over thinking, they could be anyone’s, her niece or nephew may be. He was finding her to be somewhat of an enigma, a mystified riddle. His mind was in overdrive as he was trying to make out the conversation. She sobbed in between a few times as she kept talking in one-word answers, he notices she made put up no questions, just replied with resignation.
“Listen to me, no! Just listen. I will do it, just gimme some time” she talked fast and hyper. He was now finding the whole situation a Conundrum. “Ohk, thank you, yeah. Please understand. Alright, Bye” She switched the phone shut and slumped in her seat with a painful sigh.He saw her wipe her tears with her scarf as she sniffed and started to collect all the things back into her bag, stuffing them haphazardly. Everything was in, just all the papers were left out, and she saw the picture on the floor and picked it up. She took a long look at the picture, he tried to see what it was, all he could make out was a young man holding a baby girl, but he was too young to be her father. She held the picture lovingly and ran a hand on the surface as if caressing it and without any preamble, she tore it in half, kept the baby part in her bag and held the man part in her hand and collected the receipts, the tickets, the letters and looked around, she turned her back to him and he could hear tearing paper sounds as she tore the stuff to bits and then she raised her trembling hand out of the window and scattered the paper bits to the wind.
He stood up and was about to stop her but remembered that he had no right to interfere. He saw the back of her shake and could tell she was sobbing hard, he couldn’t stop himself now and went to her and offered his water bottle to her. She looked at him and quickly sobered up wiping her tears and gave him a miserable look. Her lips parted and closed as id wanting to say something, but she closed it and took the water bottle, uncorked it and raised it above letting the cool water to fall into her mouth as she gulped it down. She drank to her fill, she was obviously thirsty. Politely she handed him the bottle and said a wispy “Thank you”. He took the bottle and was about to say something when he saw her hyperventilating from the effort to stop her tears. Panicked he asked her “What is wrong? Tell me, maybe I can help you”. She shook her head in a no and took her inhaler from her purse and took two long puffs from it. She closed her eyes and took some long breaths to calm herself, and when she opened them again, they looked emotionless, steely and icy.
She kept the inhaler back in the bag and zipped it close. Thier stop was still far, she could tell him all is she wanted to, as he had seen her buy the ticket for the last station. He asked her once again “Ma’am can I help you ?”, She again nodded in a no, but didn’t look vulnerable or insecure anymore, she looked resolved and determined. The bus jolted to a stop, and some men got in as he was still standing next to her. Suddenly she got up and went to the door, getting down at the stop. He ran to her and looked at her, “Maám this is not your stop” his voice shook a bit as she turned back to give him a thoughtful look and told “This is my stop” and she ran away as he heels dodged the puddles made from rain and he stood at the bus entrance, watching her retreating back.
An urge took hold of him to follow her, to get down and find out what was it all about. The red light has turned green, and it was a now and never moment as the driver put the bus into the ignition and the floor vibrated under his feet. He held tightly onto the door handles as the bus crawled forward. He had made his decision.