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It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.

For a moment, she was too afraid to leave the bed and walk into the world that lay past it. But now, there was no one to stay for on the bed as well. Without bothering to give herself a look in the mirror to tie her messy hair into a bun, she dragged herself out of the bed. As she walked through the house old memories started seeping into her mind trying to weaken her resolve.

It was 5 years back Khushi had met Aakash at a friend’s marriage. Living alone in Pune and getting to know that Aakash also worked in Pune made her acquaintance with him pretty fast. After all, it was the first connection she had found in the city. After friend’s marriage, they both met a couple of times in Pune and found each other’s company comforting.

A doorbell ring pulled her back to the present where she was brushing her teeth with her eyes fixed on the mirror. She wondered if the mirror was a magic mirror that showed her the past memories instead of her laterally inverted image. After washing her mouth, she rushed for the door.

“Welcome, Tiwari Ji.” She said finding the new tenant waiting outside the door. After living in this flat from past 6 years, she had finally decided to vacate the flat and move on. She was planning to leave today while Mr. Tiwari would shift into the flat in next 2-3 days.

“My child also wanted to see the house and especially her room before we shift.” Mr. Tiwari disclosed the reason of his visit. The child shifted gaze from her father to Khushi back and forth in anticipation.

“Sure sure.” She welcomed him and his daughter and guided them through the house. Mr. Tiwari’s daughter, who rushed through the house, reminded Khushi of the future that she and Aakash had imagined together with their own kids. They used to argue over the name they would keep for their child and had finally agreed upon the name ‘Aarushi’.

“What’s your name?” Khushi asked the young girl.

“Priya” the baby girl responded gaping at the room meant for her.

“Do you like your room, Priya?” Khushi asked again.

“Yes,” She said. She then turned to Mr. Tiwari and said, “All my toys would fit in the left cupboard and my books will come in the side shelf.”

“Sure, Beta. Now do you love your Papa for choosing this flat for you?” he asked

“Yes Paa, I love you.”

Khushi simply smiled looking at the father-daughter relationship. Unfortunately, her life wasn’t so complete. She missed Aakash. She still hadn’t got used to his absence. Probably, she never would. However, she had learned to accept his absence or at least not to cry over it.

Once Mr. Tiwari left, she started packing the last few bits of her goods. Soon, she had kept all the frames and canvases hanging on the walls of the bedroom in the trolley, all but one. She looked at the only unwrapped frame. It was a moment clicked on a boat in the backwaters of Alleppey during a foggy winter evening.  Earlier, she had always wondered if it was the greenery or the backwaters or the foggy air that made the click as one of her favorites. And it was only today that she got her answer. It was simply because of his shoulder that comforted her head and the way he looked at her through the corner of his eyes in the picture. It made her feel complete and desired and hence became her favorite clicked moment. She wished she could share it with Aakash now. But she couldn’t. She felt the urge to talk to someone and when she couldn’t find, her urge got converted into another. A craving desire rose in her stomach and she picked up the keys to her car and left at once.

*******

(Continued on next page…)


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