How did she come to this? She wonders to herself. Lighting up her third cigarette, she inhales the smoke distractedly. As far as she can remember, she has never felt this much hopelessness and unhappiness. She remembers a time of countless friends, an active social life, good career, and independence.
By the window, she sits in her favorite sky blue chair, and she allows her mind to drift. Thinking is something shes been trying hard to avoid; for fear that it might bring on her sickness. But not tonight, when the rain is pouring down outside her window. The smell of rain-blessed grass, and pitter-patter sound of tears from heaven never fails to put her in a thoughtful mood.
She curls up into a reassuring little ball, and burrows deeper into the comfort of her chair as she remembers how it all started going wrong. As if sensing a change of mood, her three-year-old terrier, Joe, jumps onto her lap. She pats him, and kisses his little head and whispers that everything is all right. Sighing, she wonders, what all right could possibly be? She makes a mental note of things that are all right in her life. Her dog, the television, and the coffee blender. Mostly. She doesnt even hate her life anymore. Shes just resigned to it. Taking a long drag from her cigarette, she thinks about that one choice she made in her life. Him.
She met him, and had fallen instantly into the kind of love that normally existed in novels bought by young schoolgirls. He was her lover, her best friend, and savior from her brother. She had been only eleven when her then thirteen-year-old brother had begun peeping at her in the shower. This eventually graduated to rubbing himself on her, and kissing her when he thought that she was asleep. Her father had passed away when she was just seven and her mother had refused to believe her. Someone finally saved her, and he was her savior. She loved and adored him. He helped her move into his apartment, and loved her, for 5 years. Until today, she still believes that she would have stuck a knife into her brother if they had remained under the same roof. Even now, thinking about it brings a bitter taste to her mouth. She lights another cigarette to get rid of the taste.
A sigh escapes unconsciously, as she thinks about how perfectly happy they were. Five years of perfect bliss, until that woman a.k.a. TW came along. TW, who worked as a cosmetic saleswoman, in a glitzy uptown mall. TW, with the painted nails and tinkling laugh. TW, who always managed to say the right thing at the right time. TW, who had managed to sneak between them. After all this time, she knows that its not all TWs fault, that TW didnt know about her until it was too late. Until TW herself had also fallen in love with him. At least, TW says thats the reason why TW refused to leave him.
Closing her eyes, and leaning her head back against her chair, she remembers that day clearly. It was a lazy sunny afternoon, and she was daydreaming on the bed, when the vibrating mobile phone brought her back to reality. He was in the shower, so she picked it up. A womans voice saying hello darling are you there? told her all she needed to know. She refused to believe it at first, but the voice called his name twice. She felt coldness grip her heart, and the humidity of the afternoon did nothing to ease her shivering. As calmly as she could, she put down the phone, and wrote down the number on the display panel. What happened after that was a blur. She remembers trying to act normal when he came out of the shower, yet wanting so much to cry, and ask him why. She gave an excuse that she had to meet a friend, and left quickly.
Over next few days, she had to work for a project overseas. Avoiding him was easy, and work occupied most of her time. It gave her enough space to think, and plan her next step. She handled it all alone, and refused to tell any of her close girlfriends because she somehow knew that they would cloud her judgment. On her return back home, she checked their savings fund for their future marriage, and found a few thousand dollars missing. She gave in to her pent up emotion, and confronted him. He coolly explained that it was for a new car, and that he needed it to find a proper job. There were no apologies, or embarrassment that he had taken what was the majority of her hard earned savings. One question persisted in her mind during the cold argument. Had TW been the first to sit in their brand new car, bought with her savings? She was sure of it. She knew that they were coming to a standpoint, but chose to deny it. Denial had saved her from insanity, and yet, it had contributed most to her present state.
Feeling thirsty, she gets up to make some tea, and to stretch her legs. Ruffling Joes fur, a fleeting thought passes through her mind; Joe was a gift from him. Bending down to hug Joe close to her heart, she wants so badly to cry, but tears havent been a part of her life for months. While waiting for the water to boil, she drifts off again. They had already booked a wedding date at the registry, before she had first discovered TW. She had wanted to cancel the wedding, but his aunt had persuaded her to go ahead with it. Newly married couples were being given discounted rates for brand new government apartments. His aunt had advised her that they would eventually settle their differences, and to buy the apartment first. Against her better judgment, she had agreed. Marriage was the single milestone she had most anticipated, and she messed it up. She felt none of the giddy happiness that her friends mentioned. She remembered feeling empty, and it showed on her wedding photographs.
The whistle of the kettle brings her back to reality again. As she walks towards her chair with her tea, she gives Joe a doggy snack, which he finishes in a greedy gulp. Settling down, she looks around her cozy apartment. It was meant for two, but he never comes around. Well, he did once, only to give her the divorce papers. And that was the breaking point for her. She quit her job, avoided all her friends, and hid in her house for three whole months. Days and nights made no difference to her. Depression overcame her. She ate only when she felt like it, and did not speak to anyone at all. Completely cut off from the world, she tried to find some inner peace. For a time, she found it on the Internet, talking to people who were suffering from depression like her, and helping those who were waiting to die from a terminal disease.
The rain has slowed to a drizzle. Getting up from her chair for her cigarettes, she catches a glimpse of a familiar car outside. Her heart skipping a little, she opens her window to get a better look. The yellow street lamp glints sharply off the familiar boot of a black Volvo as it enters the sheltered car park. A brief glimmer of a hopeful smile touches her face, and she stretches out her hands to feel the tingling drizzle of the rain. While walking towards the kitchen with her empty cup, she hears footsteps outside. She walks over, cup in one hand, and opens the door with the other. Its just the newspapers. She picks it up, and walks back to the kitchen. Reading the front page, her world freezes for an instant. The cup misses the sink top, and crashes to the floor. But she ignores it, frowning at a picture of her ex-husband-to-be on the front page. Through the blurred API photo and the rush of blood through her head, she hastily absorbs details of a terrible car accident, and its lone male survivor, currently in a coma. Her heart sinks thinking of him. Rushing to clean up the broken pieces of cup, she contemplates visiting him in the hospital. But she cant right now. Shes waiting for her new love to walk up the stairs.
She had met Dan a few years ago, while still with her ex-husband-to-be. It had been painfully obvious that he liked her. And they had a one-off fling that surprised even her sensibilities. She remembered feeling extremely guilty, and deciding to treasure, and love her then husband even more. However, the major shock had been her own ex-husband-to-be straying while she was trying so hard. It had almost destroyed her, but she had survived. And Dan had re-entered her life at the right time. Guilt starts seeping in, as she pictures him lying helpless on the bed. Steeling herself against pity, she banishes all compassion from her mind. She reasons that shes paid her dues and suffered enough. It would be time to start thinking for herself, and her new life.
She slips into her dress and puts the leash on for Joe, who jumps with excitement at the thought of going out in the rain. She switches off the lights, and locks the door. Smiling, she runs down with Joe in front of her to meet Dan halfway at the steps.