Guest Story – The Email – Short Fiction Stories
With her usual morning cup of coffee in her hands, Payal sat in front of her computer and opened her email. She looked at the watch. It was 7 am, still two more hours to report to office. Plenty of time. This was the advantage of staying alone, she thought, no responsibilities of marriage, no baggage of duties towards husband and children. She had all the time to herself. Of course, deep down she knew this was just her own way of consoling herself, making herself feel better, for not having married, for staying single even at the age of 35.
She quickly scanned the new mails that had popped up in her inbox. Most of them were not of her interest. Some from job agencies, some newsletters from some websites she had casually surfed, some advertisements. But one address immediately caught her attention; firstname.lastname@example.org. Shekhar?? Unknowingly her heart began pounding fast. She could feel her fingers trembling with anticipation as she opened the mail.
This is Shekhar, hope you remember me. I need to meet you urgently, I have to ask you something. Please meet me tonight in front of the CCD opposite TLC college at 7 pm tonight. Please do not ignore, it’s a matter of life and death.
Payal was taken aback at the concise but intense contents of the mail. After all this time, what does Shekhar want? She thought. Its been 12 years… Shekhar. This was the person with whom she had first fallen in love 17 years back…and was still in love with. Hope you remember me? She thought sarcastically as she laughed to herself. I remember you every day, every minute. Its you who has forgotten me..
Those were the best five years of her life, her days with Shekhar. They had first met in a cultural fest organized by her college. It had been love at first sight for both of them. It was as if destiny purposefully brought them together to tie them together. Shekhar was very well behaved, well mannered, well groomed…a perfect gentleman. All friends envied her as she had a perfect boyfriend. They had planned a beautiful future together. She had it all planned out; her wedding venue, her wedding dress, their honeymoon destination…
Payal shook her head as if to shake off all thoughts of the past. She switched off her pc and went about doing her usual morning chores. But the thoughts were not easily shaken off. Time and again, some or other memory would flash in her mind, making her reminisce those days. What does he want from me after all these years? She thought. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she had always hoped for something to happen…something that would make Shekhar return to her. May be his wife would turn out to be bad and he would divorce her..or may be he would realize that he too could not live without her and would leave his wife for her… But nothing ever happened and she never heard from him. It was not that she did not have admirers. The world around her was full of admirers who constantly tried to woo her, but no one could ever sweep her off feet like Shekhar had. Everyone admired her outside beauty, but Shekhar had been the only one who had tried to reach out to her soul.
As Payal drove her car to her office, she clearly remembered that day. Shekhar had already told her that his parents were not happy with their relationship. But he had promised he would convince them. And then destiny had stroked. Shekhar’s grandpa died. Payal knew how close Shekhar was to his grandpa. So she gave him time, time to recuperate from the event. But Shekhar did not call, not long after he had recuperated. And then he came one fine day, to meet her. There was a change in his demeanour. He couldn’t look her in the eye. He hesitated for a while. “Whats it? just tell me damn it” she had shouted. And without a change in his expression, he had said, “My grandpa wanted me to marry Shiela. That’s the last thing he said on his death bed”. There was no arguing on it. Payal screeched the brakes hard. Lost in her own thoughts, she missed seeing the bumper on the road. People around turned to look at her. Gosh what am I doing? Why do I keep thinking about him? She ignored the onlookers and pressed the accelerator.
But today, nothing in office was so interesting as to keep her from thinking about him. She was staring blankly at the computer in her cubicle, but her mind was far away, in distance as well as time. She remembered her last meeting twelve years ago. She had cried, urged him not to leave her. He had hugged her, caressed her, but made her understand that he had to marry Shiela. That was when he said, “Time will heal everything. Eventually you will also find a good life partner and you too will move ahead in life. But lets not make this harder and bitter. We both are each other’s first love. We have had a beautiful time together. We have created wonderful memories to reminisce. Lets let that remain…forever”. And that was it. She had no reply to this. They decided not to stay in touch to avoid complicating matters further. He got married and lived happily. But she never moved on, she never found anyone else. All she did was live each day in the anticipation that she would hear from Shekhar…
“Payal, boss is calling you” her colleague Veena called out, bringing Payal out of her reverie. “Is something wrong?” she asked further.
“No. I am fine, just a minor headache” Payal replied. And a major heartache, she said to herself.
Payal could not concentrate on anything that day. She kept looking at the watch, waiting for time to run fast. But today time seemed to have slowed down abnormally.So what does he want from me now? She thought again as her mind filled with hope. He said he has to ask me something? Is he going to ask me to marry him? Has his marriage fallen apart? Or has he now understood the value of true love, my love? What should I say if he asks me to marry him? Should I say yes right away? Or should I make him suffer a bit like he has made me till now? No, what if he changes his mind if I don’t say yes right away? Or is it something else? But what else?
They were not in touch for twelve years! So what was so urgent after all this time? They were very close once upon a time, but that time had been long long ago. Now they only shared one common thing, memories. Memories of their love. Were these memories the reason behind his mail? What else could be? Payal knew that inspite of staying in the same city, Shekhar had deliberately never contacted her, avoided all circumstances where they could possibly meet, such as common friends’ weddings. Then why all of a sudden did he want to meet her?
Payal could hardly wait to go home and get ready for her…date? All the way back she kept thinking about how it would go. Who would speak first? What would he say when he saw her? Would it feel awkward? After all, they were meeting after twelve long years! Or would it be just like it had been then? Once home, she almost threw her bag and laptop on the sofa and dashed to the bathroom to take a warm shower. The warm water made her feel relaxed and she felt a new energy surging through her veins. She found herself smiling unknowingly as she wore the lavender satin dress studded with pearls…a dress she had kept for a special occasion like this. Lavender was Shekhar’s favorite colour. She admired her image for a long time in front of the life size mirror in her bedroom, hoping that it would reignite the same flame in Shekhar’s heart, as it had done some seventeen years back. Now she was free of all the thoughts as to why he wanted to meet her. All she was looking forward to was seeing him.
At sharp 6:45 pm, Payal stood at the spot Shekhar had mentioned in the mail. Her anxiety was growing with each passing millisecond. Her heart seemed to be thumping so loudly, she thought people around could hear it. She kept glancing at her watch as she paced back and forth.
7:10 pm. No sign of Shekhar. Shekhar was not one of those who took timings and commitments lightly. She knew that too well. So then, why was he late? She could feel her palms and soles tingling with anxiety. Every vehicle coming in her direction made her feel that it would stop right in front of her and Shekhar would alight from it. But vehicles came and went. Shekhar did not come.
7:45 pm. Payal grew restless. She had no idea what to do; whether to wait further or just go back home. What could possibly be the reason? Why hadn’t Shekhar turned up? Had he changed his mind about meeting her? Why had he mailed in the first place? She did not even have his number. All she could do was waiting. And this wait seemed to have no end! Her anxiety gradually changed its form. Initially, it was positive, full of hope and anticipation. But it was progressively becoming negative, brimming with negativity and despair.
Finally, at 8: 20, when she had given up all hopes that Shekhar would come and was about to go back, a car stopped right in front of her. She quickly gathered herself to face him. The door of the car opened, and out stepped a young man whom she knew…but not Shekhar. It was Anand, Shekhar’s brother. He gradually began walking towards her. Payal kept looking at him, completely baffled. What the hell was going on? First, Shekhar contacts her after twelve long years saying he wants to meet her urgently. Then he doesn’t turn up at the scheduled time. And now, he sends his brother?
“Hi Payal”, Anand greeted her with a bit of unease.
“Where is Shekhar?” Payal wanted answers.
“Sheila underwent a gall bladder surgery yesterday. There was some complication during the surgery resulting in unexpected blood loss. We had arranged two pints of blood for her but now she needs more. She is critical and in the ICU.”
Payal was following nothing. If his wife was serious, why did Shekhar want to meet her?
“She needs more blood. But the hospital stock of her blood group is empty. She has a comparatively uncommon blood group, AB negative”.
Now it began becoming clear.
“Shekhar said your blood group is also AB negative. Will you help us? Will you donate blood and save Shekhar’s wife?”
———About the Author ———
Dr. Ketaki Patwardhan – I am an Anaesthetist in J.J. Hospital, Mumbai. ‘Those enchanted four and half years” is my debut novel. Reading and writing are my passions and I write prose and poetry in Marathi and English.