“Arya, get here as fast as you can,” a panicky voice spoke on the other side of the call.
The bag of groceries in Arya’s hand slipped through her fingers on to the road as her heart sank. Her hand, holding the phone to her ear, trembled. She thought she would faint, but she gained composure as a cab honked for way.
“Is everything okay? What happened?” she asked.
“Nothing’s happened. All’s fine. Just get here.” came the response as the call ended.
She went through a plethora of emotions in an instant – an instant that felt like eternity. Looking at the skies, she prayed and hoped for something positive with all of her heart – it didn’t matter what, she just hoped for something good, though her mind was overladen with fear.
Cab – she had to find one quickly, but she couldn’t see any empty ones around. She couldn’t possibly wait for a bus at this point. She ran, as fast as her legs could, towards the hospital.
She wanted to call her brother-in-law again and find out the reason but something held her back. A little hope still lingered in her heart and she didn’t want it to be extinguished – not now, not later, never. She continued running.
“What did you do in school?” Sameer asked.
“What do you mean?” she replied.
“School sports. You are so bad at running. Did you ever finish ahead of anyone?”
“Who cares about running? I like to wrestle. If we were together in school, I would have beaten you up.” Arya said as she twisted his arm behind his back and had him submit to defeat.
Today she did care about running. Today she ran like she was seven years old. Straight, fast and into everyone and everything that came her way. And she hoped Sameer had learnt a little wrestling from her and would not give in to submission now.
Some minutes later she found herself at the entrance of the hospital. She took a deep breath, wiped the sweat from her forehead and stepped in. She glanced around and found nothing unusual but this was only the entrance. Her heart rested on the third floor. She hoped it would be that way too when she reaches there.
The elevator would take too long. She climbed the stairs despite her knees warning against it. As she reached the floor, Pranav came out of the ward crying. “He’s not responding anymore,” he said as he rushed away in the long, crowded corridor.
She was numb now. She felt nothing – no emotion upon hearing those words except for fatigue from running. She slowed her walk as she made way to the corner of the ward’s other half partitioned by a pale white wall.
Her eyes first glanced at her father-in-law. He was holding Sameer’s hand and without an expression on his face. Then she turned, a little hesitatingly, towards Sameer. His eyes were open. His mouth was too.
Sameer was breathing, but barely. He was mumbling some words in acute pain but it did not seem to make any sense. When he saw Arya, he tried to lift his hand towarda her. She helped him with it and noticed the coldness of his hand. At that very moment, the pulse left his body and he turned cold forever.
Sameer’s father burst into tears at the sight. Arya remained numb and fatigued. No tears came to her. She had cried every night thinking about this. She had gone through this a million times in her head. At that very moment, she felt nothing. Nothing at all. She ran her hand on his face. It was cold and disfigured; his jaw – rock-hard, his eyes – glum, his lips – dry, his scalp – bald and scarred, his skin – ghost-dark.
“Why did you marry me?” Sameer asked.
“Ah, let me think. One – you are ugly, two – you are cold-hearted, and three…” Arya began to answer.
Sameer cut her off, “No, I don’t think I want to hear the third one.”
Arya answered anyway, “… and three – because God has written it that way.”
With knees too weak to stand, Arya sat down on a chair next to his bed and fell into an instant slumber. When she awoke, there were earthworms crawling and conversing on her body.