Beyond the Window

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Write a story in which a window is broken or found broken.... view prompt

0 comments

Sad Romance Fiction

Will it get any better? 

There’s a point in our lives when we ask ourselves this question. You see a faint ray of hope. For a brief moment, it isn’t a pipe dream anymore. Beyond all those possibilities and what-ifs, you can see what it holds. But then, life goes on.

...

I’m startled by the sound of glass smashing. Something broke the windowpane. I look around and see it lying on the floor. My heart races as I try to focus on it. It’s a tennis ball. Regaining my calm, I get up from my bed.

Morning sunlight shimmers on the cracks around the hole in the window. I open the window carefully. A bunch of kids is shouting for the ball. I walk on tiptoe to avoid the shattered glasses in the way. I throw the ball out of the window. The kids dodge it as it lands from a two-storey height and then chase it after it bounces off.

Six years have passed but I’m still panicking in my room. Vivid pictures of the windows of my house shattering flash in my mind. We would pick up the broken glasses and stones after the pelting had stopped. My father advised us not to unwrap the paper over the stones. Sometimes they fell off of their own. I once noticed my mother sob when she read one such paper.

The last time I stood by this window, I was looking at a marriage procession. It was Vani’s, my childhood love. She got married a year ago. 

Vani and I grew up as neighbors; our houses face each other. My adoration for her burgeoned as a teenage infatuation. She has a dog named Milo who barks at their door only when she steps out of the house. That’s how I’d know she was coming. 

I’d stand by this very window to have just one glimpse of her. The rest of the day would be pure bliss. The window creaks whenever you open it. It so happened that one day I open it and she turns back. One could have missed her faint smile if they’d blinked. I was too chary to close the window ever again. She later told me that she had recognized the sound long before.

Vani was always supportive of me. She wanted to bash the head of that lady. She knew I won’t do such a thing; everyone who knew me acknowledged that I didn’t do anything wrong. You then try to avoid the tussle believing that others will understand too, but not everyone does. What’s even there in it to explain, when you ask someone to move her bag from the adjacent seat and the next day you get arrested on molestation.

Even a bus full of eye-witnesses could only get me bailed out, not prove my innocence. I immediately lost my job and my family couldn’t step outside, impeded by a mob pelting stones at our house. I was being called a sexual predator, rapist, molester, and whatnot. Innocent until proven guilty; people had already made up their minds.

I sometimes wonder how the life of an innocent in prison would be. It’s harder to look at your close ones suffering along with you. You simply cannot bear it. While that lady was being rewarded and praised for her bravery, the world around me was sinking into despair.

Four years passed by with the legal fight without any progress. I broke down when Vani held me in her arms. I had never cried in front of her before. You believe you can fight it, but how do you look at the people you love and tell yourself that they won’t break down.

She tried to persuade me to let her stay. I told her it’s time she moved on. Nobody knew about us, nobody would ever know. For me, there’s no coming out of the scrimmage. I had managed to keep her away from it; I had the option to spare her the melancholy.

I freshen up and go downstairs. The maid gazes at me like I am back from the dead, as I walk past her to the kitchen. I pour milk into a bowl. I hear my mother call for me.

Daksh! Vani is here by the door,” she shouts, probably thinking that I’m upstairs.

I don’t utter a word. Neither my mother nor the maid calls again. My mother had probably figured there’s something between Vani and me from the way I rebuffed attending her marriage; the maid could’ve probed it too, some way. None of them ever asked me upfront. 

I overhear my mother and Vani talking.

“He must be sleeping tired. He’s here for a week. These IT sector jobs make you work around the clock,” my mother says. Vani’s words are inaudible but I can discern her voice. I feel an urge to walk up to the door. 

Two days before her marriage, I was declared not guilty of the charges. That was the last day I saw her. I was too obstinate to understand why she wouldn’t turn down her marriage. If I knew it was going to be our last moment, I would’ve at least ended it on a bittersweet note. I might have told her how much I regret leaving her. At least I should’ve made her smile for a souvenir. Instead, I just stood there after my outburst as she walked away. Maybe I’m still a bit stubborn to go apologize to her. I tell myself it’s the emotions I can’t bear if I see her.

I go back to putting cereals in the milk after I hear the gates close.

“Daksh Babu is in the kitchen. He came yesterday?” the maid is talking. Just before I could shift my mind, I hear, “Look at her wearing those earrings and the floral saree. What will people say? A widow should grieve properly.”

The cereal box almost slips from my hand.

“Can you speak low? She doesn’t have to wear a white saree and no ornaments to show that she’s grieving. Rituals change with time. We don’t follow Sati anymore. Let her be herself and keep her grief personal,” my mom says.

I can understand why my mother didn't tell me. I was busy getting a new life, in a new place. She wouldn't want me to endure the aftermath. She was fighting back tears when she saw me yesterday, after a year. I've been wrong my whole life. I snubbed people who cared for me. None of them deserved that.

I have regretted it every day, but now it's gone way past repentance. Can Vani ever forgive me?

I hear Milo bark. I peek from the kitchen, at the door. Through the gaps of the gate, I can see her faint figure at a distance. My steps are no more under the control of my mind. I briskly walk up the stairs. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears; as if I was a teenager again, whose adrenaline shots up at the thought of looking at his crush. Old habits or guilt-ridden, I just couldn’t resist myself this time.

I accidentally step on the broken pieces of glass and one of them pierces in my foot. Balancing on my other leg I take it out. A sharp pain follows and blood oozes out of the wound. I walk to the window on my heels.

She hasn’t gained an ounce. Her waist-length hair hasn’t grown an inch. Her skin, not a tone darker than it used to be. I can’t see her face as she walked down the street. It reminds me of the way she walked away that day. Tears fill in my eyes and I feel a yearning to see her. 

Will it get any better? For once can we not fail to keep each other happy? Will I ever have the guts to tell her how sorry I have been for leaving her?

My arm touches the crack in the windowpane and the glass clatters on the floor. I move away from the window and lean back on the sidewall. Why would I hide if I want to see her so bad? Damn these old habits.

At that moment it crosses my mind. What if she looks back? She didn’t, when I hurt her last time. Maybe it’ll mean nothing if she does now. Or, she may give a smile or wave at me. That won’t sew up my redemption and I won’t stop blaming myself for paving that life for her. But I’m willing to see what it might mean to me; to us. 

There’s only one way to find out.

I look out of the window. She is nowhere in sight.

June 11, 2021 16:04

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

0 comments

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.