“So this is the place?” I asked.
“Where, exactly?” I turned around to face her.
Her face continued to act the way it had always done; eyes of happiness perched on a visage unfamiliar with sorrow. Her voice quavered. “Why are you doing this?”
“Just tell me.”
She hesitated. “Everywhere.” Her speech subtle, supple, yet rough like the edges of the buildings I could see from across her shoulder. It came out as a soft whisper, memories of him weighing it down to a low, sombre tone.
“And what did you do?”
“I need to know.” I interjected.
She looked down, hints of shame spread across her face, bound tight together inside of her, and coming out in jagged bursts visible momentarily. I waited, waited for her to speak, waited for her to tell the truth, waited for her to tell a truth that wouldn't tear my spirit asunder, and, foolishly, I waited for her to change her mind.
“Yes.” She turned away from me, soft sobs interrupting a silence cloaked in the howl of an unknown wind and the crudeness of traffic. I suspected she wasn't telling me everything. But I decided to let it slide. For the moment.
She didn't look back at me, her head still down under the burden of pain I had brought upon. “Did you always know?”
“The way you were with him, how he would make you laugh. And how you used to talk about him, telling me how awesome he was. Is. How your head would tilt back at the sound of his name, and the subtle smile that only a keen observer would notice. But it would be wrong of me to say I knew. I merely suspected.”
“Why didn't you say anything?”
“The thought of it was enough to cripple me.”
She came towards me, took my hand, squeezed it tight in hers and told me everything would be alright. I could only laugh; I let go.
“When's the date?”
I nodded, and glanced towards her, intently observing. “Now, tell me everything. Don't leave anything out. What. When. Where. How. Everything.”
“But why?” There were tears now. “Why are you doing this to yourself? Why do you want to know what Ronnie and I did?”
I take out a cigarette from my overcoat, light it, inhale. The fumes released mix in with the already polluted smog that hung over us, exuding its load on shoulders a weight I knew they wouldn't be able to handle. “I hate it when you mention his name. Always did.”
“Is that a cigarette?”
Sarcastic, I laughed. “I use them to smoke my tears away.” I continued to laugh, as I continued to look at her, at how unnerved she was, how unnerving she found me. Almost scared.
“Did you ever fix those boots?”
“Which boots?” The sudden, random question baffled her.
“The ones I bought you, the ones that you burned a hole through when you were in Bern. When you were with him.”
“Oh, er, no, never did.” I realized she never would.
Once again, she hesitated. She gathered her bearings, and in one swift flow, she revealed everything: the What and the When and the Where and the How. From where they first met, to the progress, the intensity of her need, the depth of her wants, to how they connected, and where they touched. Each discovery, though not surprising, still imploded into me, little shards of memory, blunt and sharp in their release. By the time she finished, her breath had become palpably mute; the sheer weight of what she was doing creating a hollow shell that was visible for me to see.
“You can go now.”
“You're staying here?” Yes, I nodded.
“Why are you doing-“
“Just go.” I interrupted. Her voice still aroused in me feelings I could not control, and I didn't want that at the moment. I wanted my insides to fully bear the brunt of what they deserved, of this aloneness, which I had not yet become used to. She was at the door when I stopped her, one last time. “Samara?” She looked back, her body facing the exit, her face turned towards me for what I realized to be the final time.
“Cheers, darlin'.” I paused. “Be happy. And I'll wait for you. I always will.” Like that hole in your boot, waiting to be fixed.
She didn't answer me. And also, for the last time, she hesitated. “Do you still hurt the way you used to? Do you still implode?”
I laughed, a wry smile broke free from a sea of pretentious serenity. I nodded, pathetically, I felt. No words escaped my lips. She left, the creaking of the steel door the only palpable remnants of a love I once had.
By S. N. Rasul
The last drop of rain
A bolt of lightening flashed across the night sky. I ran down the dark alley, gasping for breath. I think I've lost them. The police, I mean. What happened tonight was purely coincidental. I never meant to kill him. Heck, I never even knew those toy guns were actually real! If I knew, I would've never…
Our officers have combed the entire neighbourhood searching for the delinquent who has caused enough trouble today. I remember clearly how it all started out.
--Officer Marshall and I were undercover looking for drug dealers as usual, when we spotted a teenage boy being bullied by a group of other boys. He was a skinny and pale red-head, and looked no older than sixteen. Looked like he'd spent one too many hours in front of the computer. Red pulled out what looked to be a toy gun, at least judging by how the others were laughing at him. He put on a serious face and pulled the trigger.
What happened next was a scene straight out of a murder movie. The huge blond hit the ground with a dull thud as the bullet pierced his forehead. The others scrammed, leaving a box behind (which later turned out to contain cocaine). Red fled. We radioed for back-up from our car and started chasing him. I caught a glimpse of him speeding away in a run-away car (as reported later on) in the rear-view mirror. I sighed and turned to Officer Marshall, “We've lost him.”--
Tired and exhausted, I sunk into a deep slumber. Rain continued to fall around me.
We found the stolen car empty when we finally tracked it down. It was parked in front of an alley leading to a dead-end. Swiftly racing down the alley, we found Red, supposedly sleeping. All our officers had taken up their positions. Guns out.
“Hands up!” I yelled at him.
Startled, I opened my eyes to find half-a-dozen guns pointing at me. I stood up, shaking with fright. I opened my mouth to speak, “But I“…
I never finished the sentence. I knew I never would. I looked down at the place where the bullet had hit me, the blood slowly soaking through my shirt, and dropped to the ground. Closing my eyes, I managed a small smile. I heard the rumble of the clouds one last time and I knew that the last drop of rain had fallen upon me…
The author put down the blunt pencil. As she picked up her pencil-sharpener, she heard the low strumming of a guitar slowly fade away.
By Akanksha Sahu & Shamayeta Rahman
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