Behind The Bag
It was late in the evening, and the sun had just started to set. Dusk opened its arms showering bitterness on the atmosphere of the city. The wind was chilly, and the lost souls roamed the streets with nowhere to go. The moon here had always come up just before the sun, but today was an exception. Call it coincidental, or pure symbolism, but for her, it was nothing short of a strong evidence that what she did was perfectly fine, at least, to her.
She sat in the Starbucks Café, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Her face was cold, and impassive.
“Are you waiting for someone, ma’am?” a young man asked her, pointing towards the empty chair in front of her.
She looked up to find a fair-skinned, young gentleman impatiently waiting for her reply. Before she could see his face, her eyes got fixed on his bracelet – it was a sight which forced her mind to never-ending flashbacks. The now placid face slowly tormented. She clung on to her scarf in such a way that it was next to impossible to find out what it had beneath it.
“Excuse me?” the young man interrupted her erratic thoughts.
“Yes,” she gulped “actually, my husband Mathew, was supposed to show up, but since he will not be able to make it today, I don’t mind.”
He quickly pulled the chair, and sat down. Immediately, she kept her handbag behind the scarf in an effort to hide it from the stranger. She was somehow unable to determine the reason for his restlessness.
“Are you okay?” came a question from a woman who herself wasn’t sure. “Yeah,” he instantaneously replied “actually, life’s been messy lately.”
Not quite sure what he intended, she decided to pass. She gazed back at his bracelet. There was a time when this young woman, just like every other beautiful girl, knew the power of being beautiful – that intoxication a woman can make a man spin in. It was then only natural for her to take advantage of this mysterious yet impactful power, and rule over the gullible. Nevertheless, she believed in being optimistic and had a tendency of leaving behind things in the past. Often in the rapid adolescence, she found herself carelessly breaking a million hearts just for the sake of being the queen of the one she assumed the king. Surrounded with so many people, the next one always better than the previous, she hardly found time to review any of her actions.
It would be rather harsh to judge her too soon, because not everything in the world was her fault. Just when she slipped into the age of sanity, she was taken aback by the occasional raging that her father showed towards the family of four, her sister included, which deeply affected the personality of this teenager. To her horror, the violence only grew by the passing of time, and she was forced to stay away from him. With her, the sister and her dear mother stayed in a small rented home until they were financially stable. Expectations grew, and soon she transitioned into a little more beautiful, young woman and held a position of pride in her software company.
“Oh this?” came an interruption from the man as he found it uncomfortable for a stranger to stare at his bracelet for such a long time. She immediately looked at him, her head staying put, and eyes moving only a few degrees to make a loose contact with those of his.
“My girlfriend gifted it to me,” he continued “actually, my ex-girlfriend…” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” she spoke with a sprinkle of sympathy, now having a complete eye contact.
Not waiting for his new table-mate to ask the reason, he continued to elaborate his misfortune. It is true that only the ones who are in pain truly know the value of happiness. Starting where every romance starts, he quickly jumped to the point.
“I was not completely at fault, don’t you think?”
The nod that came as a response was not a fully conscious one. She somehow managed to connect with this stranger’s story, and found herself lost in thoughts.
“I know, right? She thinks I did it on purpose. I was just trying to reach a bigger cause, just wanted to help her.”
“She just probably misunderstood you,” she replied “and I’m sure you guys can talk it out.”
“Well, it’s not like that,” the man found himself opening up a little more than before.
He began explaining, “It’ll be hard for you to agree, considering the fact that it’s only been a couple of minutes since we met, but I believe I’m the only one who loved her truly. She’s had so many boyfriends before, and sometimes I find myself confused in an effort to find out the reason for her willingness to brief relationships…”
She drank a sip of water from the glass, and continued to listen to him with all ears, hoping to find her solution hidden behind this straight-forward conversation.
“…And to my surprise, after infinitely many trial and errors, I managed to understand why she’s okay with these relationships. She’s that kind of a person who doesn’t find it easy to reject someone…”
Even though she tried her best not to look at the bracelet this time, the temptation just chocked her into giving in.
“What’s up with this bracelet that you like so much?” he couldn’t help but ask.
She didn’t bother replying. Why should she justify herself to a person she just met? She’s never done that, and she probably would have never done it even this time if it wasn’t for this man’s honesty.
A book isn’t judged based on its cover, true, but most of them do pick the book based on the cover. That’s how it goes. The fancier it is, the more is the probability of it getting picked. For an ordinary person, this bracelet was nothing special – no decorations, no carvings, just plain metal. Yet it had managed to catch the eye of this eclectic woman.
“One of my very special friends gave it to me.” She revealed with an unusually slow pace.
His eyes lit up. His curiosity heightened and realised it was only sensible to enquire more about her relation. Looking by the deep involvement, nothing seemed to bother her more than this particular subject. It took him some time to understand that, nevertheless he patiently waited for her to continue.
“His name was Max,” she politely replied “I remember I met him during my second year excursion – we got along quite well!”
He knew where this was going, and instantly caught the melancholic turn of events before she spoke about them.
“So, it’s funny I’m saying this now, but… Better late than never! Hey! I’m Joel.” He revealed.
He managed to make her giggle, and seeing that smile on her cheeks made him feel better on his part, not to forget he, too, had a tale of catastrophe.
“Hey! I’m Anna!” She laughed, putting all other unnecessary thoughts at bay.
“I don’t know how you’ll take this, but ma’am, you’re beautiful!”
“Thank you so much!” She replied with a clear tone indicating she was used to these compliments.
“So,” he continued “as I was saying, this nature of hers comes from her background. She’s more of a girl who’s had a rough past and hence often wants to help others. Maybe it is because she doesn’t like it when people blame or judge her that she accepts everyone and when she does that – she in turn gets piled under a lot of expectations which she is sure not to fulfil.”
“I see where you are getting…” she interrupted.
“Yeah, the things she is asking for are the things she is actually trying to run from!”
Nothing was more amusing than to see these two strangers conversing about a topic of such interest. It was weirdly pleasing for both of them – one wanted to ease out the tensions in the head, the other wanted someone to tell her exactly this. Hail the timing!
“Oh!” the man suddenly exclaimed “I almost forgot! You told me that your husband was supposed to come! What happened?”
“Ah, he got caught in something…” she spoke, clearly not liking the question. Her face suddenly turned pale, as if she was frightened to be exposed.
“Let me tell you a story,” she continued “and it’s about someone I just introduced! Would you like to hear?”
“Yes, sure!” he gladly agreed.
“Max was my trekking partner back in my hometown where we had gone for a two month excursion. Soon after the trip ended, one of our mutual friends revealed to me that he had feelings for me.”
“But he was just a friend on my part, and I clearly had no intentions of seeing him anything more than that. But we kept in touch and soon we grew close – we shared each other’s problems and around a month later, we increased the interest we had for each other. Then, one day, he asked me out. It took me a day to make up my mind, but I agreed. And then, the next week, I got into some trouble, and I quit the relationship without giving him any reasons…”
The man’s enlivened face subdued.
“What was your relationship with your girlfriend again?” she asked, in a hope to clearing her doubts.
“She never really got to know the real me. I always tried to help her. Whether it was directly, or indirectly. Online or offline. And she mistook all of my actions and ended up labelling me as clingy. She was harsh and divine. Never did she really care about me. Most of the times she just ignored me, or perhaps even pretended not to know me. But that didn’t bother me though – I have always believed love needs no conditions and boundaries.”
“Remember when you said that I won’t believe you? Now, I’ll re-quote what you just said. You wouldn’t believe me, but Max was just like you…”
What followed was a sudden spray of silence. Engrossed in the things she had never thought about, the woman’s face was covered with all sorts of guilt and realisations. The young girl had now become a sensible woman. Note this hour, it was only now that she realised what she had actually done to those poor souls who had blamed her for stealing their hearts.
Never had she thought that what she believed to be the biggest power the almighty had given her, would also be the one to pull her down. All her life she had been rude, merciless, and selfish. But she had never realised that. When the man told her about his girlfriend’s personality, she instantly knew that he was talking about a person who was, in many aspects, similar to her. Maybe it was exactly this that forced her to keep the conversation going.
“I never really spoke to him again,” she spoke, after a good minute’s silence “he tried his best to contact me, but all I did was get irritated. I think he tried all the possible ways to meet and apologise. Poor guy, he didn’t even know that it was me who was at fault, and not him. And then, I called him after around two months or so. I remember I had a bad day, since one of my crushes just broke up with me.”
“What? You started dating already?” shocked, he interrogated.
“Yes, I am ashamed to tell it, but I was like that. After I ditched him, I got myself three more boyfriends. None of my relationships have lasted for more than two months!”
Joel only grew more dispassionate about her past.
“I remember he used to wait for me, he used to buy me gifts and he never complained. Even when I shouted at him, he quietly listened. Both of us knew it was my fault, and yet he was the one who apologised. I feel so horrible right now.”
“Look, it’s all in the past. I’m glad that you have realised your mistakes. It’s fine to commit a mistake as long as you learn from it and never repeat it.”
He smiled, and offered her a part of his meal.
“I wish I could meet him. I really want to apologise. I want to show him that I still care about him as much as I did back then.”
She didn’t tell it, but Joel was intelligent enough to understand the hidden status of Anna’s relationship with her husband. He politely asked, “So do you have any idea where he is right now?”
“I have no idea, it’s been ages since I spoke to him. I don’t know what to do!”
She felt helpless. It was as if, all those poor souls were taking their revenge. She needed someone to give her a shoulder to cry on. She needed someone to understand her, to love her like she’s the only girl. She never felt so alone, and all she needed was some love, and some compassion.
“I wish I could see him.” She softly wished.
She looked outside the window to find the moon up and bright. Shining in all its glory. She smiled. She looked back, only to find a man enter the cafeteria. Goosebumps ran down her spines. Now she knew, wishes come true and that all’s well that ends well. She immediately recognised him. It was Max. He took a seat, and sat with his back facing her table. She did not want Joel to know about him. She was confused, and nervous. She was never so nervous to go and talk to a guy. She wanted to wrap him in her arms, but her feet didn’t move.
Just as she made up her mind, a young lady, entered the cafeteria, and sat opposite to him. It was a sight of misery. She was crying inside, and it was like somebody showed her the light and then shut her in a room full of darkness. She had a million questions, and she felt betrayed. She wanted to know why he did that. Now she understood, this is how Max must have felt – so helpless and in vain.
“The FBI is on lookout for Anna Williams, a young CEO of Fionna Softwares, who is convicted for murder of her husband today, at around 16:48 hours, in her rented apartment. She has been on the run ever since, and…”
The cafeteria was full of breaking news. The woman was least bothered. The picture of Anna Williams flashed all over the television. Just when Joel realised he was sharing a table with a murderer, the cafeteria door broke open and came in four armed officers who asked Joel to step aside. They demanded everyone to keep calm. They asked Anna to surrender.
She smiled, and very slowly got up. She put her hands forward and gave in.
While she was being taken out, she turned around.
“Joel, you’ll get your girlfriend back! Don’t worry!”
“How’d you know?” he shouted back.
She smiled. A smile of wisdom.
“What goes around, comes around, baby.” She winked and Joel never saw her again.