Chapter 8: Clarity

Dee

 

“You should do what you want to do, Rudi.”

“What do you mean?” he asked dully.

I stared at him for a while; willed him to understand that I don’t have an option; that he doesn’t have an option. Because while I love him; and he loves me, we love Lucy more.

“I don’t want to marry you.”

Rudi finally lifted his head and looked at me. His eyes were wide, disbelieving. But, I had a new found clarity from that day when Rudi gave himself up for a murder he didn’t commit. I realized I could always read him as well as Lucy could. But, I had wilfully closed my eyes and refused to.

He opened his mouth as if about to speak and closed it again without saying a word. I could see his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he gulped. He was trying to swallow the lump in his throat, I know that now. Just like I know that under all those layers of guilt, he’s actually relieved. And grateful.

I nodded to him. “It’s ok,” I said and moved forward to hug him, “It’s ok, I understand.” I whispered into his hair.

I could just feel the wetness from his tears on my shoulder as he clutched me tight and cried. I could just make out his lips mouthing “I’m sorry” over and over again. A lump settled in my throat at the thought of letting go of all those plans I had made for my future. But, I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to spoil the moment by crying and feeling scared. I wanted to be strong, for Rudi, for Lucy, in return for all those times when they were strong for me.

After a long moment, we let go of each other and Rudi dried his eyes.

“I’ll be visiting Lucy tomorrow,” I said, “You can join me if you want.”

Rudi raised bloodshot eyes to me and shook his head decisively.

I sighed, “I understand,” I waited for him to look at me again, “I hope one day, we can visit her together,” I said.

A ghost of a smile flitted across his face and I sighed again.

“I’ve got to go now,” I stood up and smiled at my ex-fiancé, “I believe this is yours?” I held out his mother’s old ring. He made no move to take it from me. I waited a moment before I made to just place it in front of him.

“Keep it,” he finally spoke up, “I won’t give it to..” his voice cracked, “..to anyone else.”

“Rudi…”

“Keep it!”

With a sigh, I dropped the ring into my pocket and turned away.

“Dee! I…” I turned back to the guy who was once my fiancé and always my friend, “Thank you…” his eyes were full of tears threatening to fall, his lips were stretched with the effort it took to smile, but, in every line of his face, I could see the gratitude that he meant to convey in those two little words.

And when I walked out of that door that day, into a future that was nowhere as decided as it was less than a week ago, I carried away with me two things- a new found sense of clarity and the memory of that gratitude.

 

Rudi

“You should do what you want to do, Lucy.”

“What do you mean?” she asked dully.

I got up from the uncomfortable visitors’ seat at the prison, moved around so that I was as close as I could possibly get to her and went down on one knee.

“Marry me, Lu-Lu-Lucy?” I tilted my head in what I thought would be a charming manner, but, even that couldn’t disguise the desperation evident in my voice.

Lucy gave me a startled look and shot up from her chair. Prison guards surrounding the area took a step forward; for me, time seemed to have come to a standstill as I awaited her answer.

“Are you out of your mind, Rudi?” and that snapped me out of it.

“Wh,,what?” I looked at her, confusion, hurt and a myriad of other feelings waging a war in my chest.

“I said, are you out of your mind?” Lucy repeated, her eyes boring into me. “For heavens’ sake, get back to your chair!”

I got up in daze and sat back down. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t. I thought…she said no…doesn’t she love me anymore? What did I do? Did I do something wrong? Doesn’t she…

“Don’t you love me anymore?” I heard myself asking.

“I do! I do love you!” tears were pooling in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks. None of this was making any sense to me. With a visible effort, Lucy brought herself back under control.

“Rudi, listen to me,” she put her hands towards me, “I love you. I do and I probably always will. But, I…I killed a person, Rudi! When I was in love with you and when I loved Dee, I still killed a person! I can’t…I don’t…don’t deserve this. I can’t handle this…”

“Lucy, I don’t care!” I whispered furiously, “I don’t care that you killed someone. I still love you and it makes no difference to me!”

“Then, it should!” she snapped, “You should care! I do, Rudi. It’s been two years and I’m yet to sleep a night without dreaming about it. I care because whether I meant to or not, I did take a life and I had no right to do that!”

I opened my mouth to argue with her, reassure her, but she continued before I could get a word out.

“Rudi, don’t try to reassure me about this. What I did was beyond despicable and I deserve to feel the guilt for it. I deserve to live with that guilt. And I deserve to work through that guilt at my own pace and on my own terms. You putting a ring on my finger or declaring your love for me won’t make this magically ok. I need to take my time and I need to do my thing. And you need to get away from me.”

“I…I can wait. I will wait for you,” I asserted.

“No, Rudi, I can see the toll I’m taking on you. In fact, I’ve always taken a toll on you, haven’t I?” she smiled, a sad, bittersweet smile, “How much longer will you feel guilty for me, Rudi?” her eyes searched mine with the same honesty as they always did and suddenly, I couldn’t meet her eyes anymore.

In that moment of looking down at my clenched fists clutching at a ring, it felt like a curtain had been lifted in my mind. All of sudden, so many things made sense to me and I could relish a new found sense of clarity. All of a sudden, the silence between us stopped being awkward and I felt like we were back in college, on that leaf-covered walkway, sitting across from each other stubbornly until one of us gives up and spills the secret.

And so, I spilled my secret, “I haven’t written in two years,” I whisper, “I couldn’t.”

“Then, maybe now it’s time to try again. Maybe, this time you can,” my best friend smiled at me from across the table, dressed in prison clothes, yet, looking for all the world more comfortable in her own skin than I was.

“I can’t visit you anymore, can I?”

“Rudi, I’ve always been honest with you. I’ll go back to my cell after you leave and bawl my eyes out. Because, you and Dee were the light at the end of my tunnel and I’ve succeeded in driving you both away. But, in spite of that, it’s the right thing to do. We’ve had each other’s backs for so long. Now, it’s time for us to heal away from each other. It’s time to heal from each other. I love you, Rudi, but, no, you can’t visit me anymore.”

I sigh and swallow. I suppress that voice in my head which is questioning how a friendship so strong could be derailed so easily. I tell that voice, we haven’t derailed. We’re just taking a detour and one day, we’ll be back on track. One day, when we won’t mistake guilt for love; one day, when we can draw the line between friendship and love; one day, when our pieces are all put together and all our own, then, we’ll be back on track.

Until then, I put the ring back in my pocket and walk out of my best friend’s life.

“Thank you…” I hear on my way out and when I look back, I see Lucy’s eyes full of tears threatening to fall, her lips stretched with the effort it took to smile, but, in every line of her face, I see the gratitude that she meant to convey in those two little words.

And when I walked out of that door that day, into a future that is nowhere as decided as it was two years ago, I carried away with me two things- a new found sense of clarity and the memory of that gratitude.

 

Lucy

 

It’s been 2 years since I heard from Dee. She didn’t agree to walk out of my life as easily as Rudi did. It took a year for me to convince her. That night I contemplated cutting my wrists on the sharp piece of rock jutting out of the wall of my cell.

It’s been 3 years since I talked to Rudi. The last I heard from him was when he proposed to me. Saying no to him was the hardest thing I’d ever done and it broke my heart into a million little pieces.

It’s been 5 years since I killed a person. Today, my sentence comes to an end. By tonight, I’ll be released into the free world again.

I’m scared out of my mind.

They tell me there are re-integration groups outside that’ll help me. They tell me that life for “ex-cons” is not as difficult as it used to be. They tell me a lot of things. But, all I can think about is when I walk out, there will be nobody there to meet me. I’ll walk out all alone. Because I am all alone. All I can think about is, today, I miss my friends more than I’d ever missed them. Today, I wish they were with me.

They aren’t though and I’m alone.

I’ve been clutching this little bag to me and staring at that open gate for more than 10 minutes now and the guard is warning me that if I don’t walk out, they might just put me in for another five years. I’m willing my legs to move. I really am. But, oh dear God! I want to curl up in that exact spot and cry and cry and cry.

“Are you Lucy?” a uniformed guard from outside the gate is peeping in and asking the question.

“I…” I swallow and clear my throat, “yes, I’m Lucy,” I reply softly.

“Well, what are you waiting here for? Your friends are outside asking for you!”

“M..my friends?” I clutch my bag even tighter and a ringing begins in my ears.

“Yes! Get a move on, then!”

I remember one night after dad died. I stood staring at Dee with my book clutched to my chest until she took my hand in hers and dragged me out. I remember the size and feel of her hand in mine, the exact of weight of it, the exact fit of her hand in mine and suddenly, I feel like she’s back in front me, grabbing my hand in hers and pulling me forward. My feet finally come unstuck and start moving. I’m walking again; I’m stepping over the gate, over the threshold; I’m out of there; I’m out of the prison and out in the world; and there…there are my friends- Dee, Rudi! Standing beside the car; waving to me!

The next moment, Dee is flying at me, her arms wide open, Rudi right behind her. I’m enveloped in her hug, in Rudi’s scent and in that moment, I’m so overwhelmed, my knees buckle, I’m bawling like a baby and as the ground comes up to meet me, my friends catch me and keep me upright. Like they have for most of my life.

I thanked every star in the sky that day for that moment of clarity, for that realization that no matter how much I push them away, they’ll always have my back, for that chance at a new beginning with old friends, to make my amends and give back what they’ve given me. For my friends, I thanked every star in the sky and every star in the whole wide universe.

And it still wasn’t enough.

 

/fin/

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 7: Murder

It didn’t matter to him that she was lame. It didn’t matter to him that she only understood what she wanted to understand. It didn’t even matter to him that she had killed someone.

He took her into his arms and gently wrested the poker from her now flaccid fingers. She kept staring at the blood on the floor with eyes that were wide open and blank of any expression. He turned her head away from the carnage and buried it into his chest. Slowly, he lifted her up and carried her into her bedroom. There, he laid her down on the bed, kissed her softly on the forehead and tucked her in. Then, he made to walk away. But, a hand suddenly gripped his wrist and stopped him in his tracks.

The wide staring eyes were looking at him now, a silent prayer in them. He sighed and hung his head. Then, he climbed into the bed beside her and took her into his arms. He wished he could keep her there forever, where nothing and nobody could hurt her. He sighed again and tears filled his eyes. But, before the first drop could fall, they had both fallen asleep.

 

All three of them- Lucy, Dee and Rudi were sitting in a little room off of the main living room where the body was still lying and now, being examined by the medical examiner. The lead detective was sitting in a chair in front of them and waiting for a reply to his question.

“So many questions!” Lucy thought angrily. “Why can’t they just leave us alone?”

“She’s…” Dee began and choked, “She’s my aunt.” She said finally. “She lives–lived here and was helping with th-the w-wedding. We, me and Rudi,” she pointed to herself and the man sitting with hunched shoulders in the corner seat, “we are getting married this Saturday. At least,” she paused as the full impact of the body lying in the hallway hit her, “we were going to…” she trailed off.

 

That was how Dee found them- asleep in each other’s arms.

She walked in, felt her tread slip on something wet and slimy on the floor and looked down at a body- bloody and dead. With difficulty, she held her lunch in and the scream that was welling up in her throat. She carefully stepped out of the redness and walked swiftly upstairs and there, in Lucy’s bedroom, she found them. Lucy in Rudi’s arms and both of them fast asleep.

It was not then, that she noticed the bloody poker on the floor beside them. It was not until later that she descried the blood on Lucy’s clothes or that on Rudi’s shoes. Just right then, she was so thankful that they were both alive that she let out that breath, she hadn’t been aware she was holding and gave way to tears. She left them there and made the call.

 

“And you are?” the officer asked turning his carefully blank face toward Lucy who was sitting between the two betrothed.

“This is where I always am,” Lucy reflected bitterly as she pondered on how to answer the question.

“I’m here for the wedding too. I was to be her maid of honour,” she replied softly, eyes downcast and voice betraying none of the bitterness she had felt in the last one hour and over the last few months, ever since Rudi left her.

“You are the groom-to-be?” the detective turned to Rudi.

“I- yes, I’m the groom-to-be,” he replied dully.

“I take it that you were both in the house when this happened?”

“Yes,” Rudi replied while Lucy nodded.

“Could you tell me in your own words, what happened?”

“I killed her.”

 

It was the scream that brought him in…straight into a nightmare.

Even as he ran forward frantically, Lucy brought down the heavy iron poker on to the woman’s head. Time stopped for him in that moment and he watched Dee’s aunt fall in slow motion. Next moment, there was blood everywhere, on the floor, on his shoes…more and more blood than he ever knew existed in one body. A fountain of blood, one still body, a piece of paper fluttering out of its hand… and Lucy frozen in the middle of it all.

His eyes sought Lucy’s face; she was staring wide-eyed at the carnage, hand with the poker still lifted above her head and that, more than anything, snapped him back to action. He swiftly walked over to his best friend and gently eased the poker out of her hand. He lifted her small frame into his arms and carried her to her bedroom. He laid her down on the bed, kissed her softly on the forehead and tucked her in. Then, he made to walk away. But, a hand suddenly gripped his wrist and stopped him in his tracks.

When he woke up the after, it was to find himself being ushered into the detective’s presence. That’s when he decided that Lucy had lost enough.

 

Dee’s head whipped around to face Rudi. Suddenly everything in the room looked sharper, edgier, brighter. It felt as if a curtain has been lifted and the world revealed itself to her with glaring honesty. Yet, she didn’t say anything. She didn’t utter a word, because the emotion swirling in her heart right now wasn’t fear or apprehension. What she was feeling, she recognized as anticipation; anticipation of the one waiting to pass judgement. In her mind, she was the supreme judge sitting in her high chair and Lucy was on trial.

So, she didn’t utter a word and in her silence, all that needed to be said was spoken.

 

Lucy didn’t realize that she had stopped breathing; not until the silence stretched until its loudness was the only presence in the room. In that silence she heard the detective’s shock;

She understood Dee’s judgement; but, most of all, she recognized Rudi’s sacrifice and from a depth she didn’t know existed, a scream emerged.

 

“So, this is your plan?” the words stopped Lucy in her tracks.

“Excuse me?” she turned to face Dee’s aunt.

“I never did like you. But, even then, I didn’t imagine you would stoop so low!” the older woman hissed.

Lucy’s face remained confused. Until, the old lady whipped a piece of paper out from behind her back and shoved it in her face.

The young girl’s eyes widened and she made a mad grab for the paper. But, Dee’s aunt snatched it back a moment too soon and she was left clawing at the air.

“Where did you get that?” Lucy gasped, “Give it back to me!”

“My dearest Rudi…Rudi, my love…I love you, Rudi…” the old woman sneered, “How low can you get? Propositioning an almost-married man! Shameless!”

“Give it back!” Lucy yelled.

“Is it because you’re jealous? Is that why you want to ruin my niece’s wedding? And in the guise of a friend too! Even if you want to, did you think you could steal away her man? Why on earth would he pick you? You! Can’t walk but with a limp, can’t hold a candle to Diana’s beauty…just who did you believe you were?”

Angry tears were pricking Lucy’s eyes, but she refused to let them fall.

“Give-it-back-to-me!” she bit out through gritted teeth and lunged forward.

“Get back, you freak!” the woman screamed, “I’m going to give this to my niece and to the groom so they can see the kind of friend you are. Shame on you!”

Lucy’s heart stopped. “No…Dee can’t see this…Rudi! Rudi can’t see this! I never meant for him to see this! She can’t do this! No! I can’t let her…” In a daze, Lucy grabbed the poker from the fireplace and lifted it…

 

Red…there was a lot of red…blood red…like when she and Dee had dressed up as bloody Snow White and bloody Prince Charming for Halloween…like she had always imagined lining the walls of Dante’s Inferno…yes, blood…it was blood…oh! What had she done?

“What have I done?” words can’t seem to get past the screaming in her head.

“Rudi! No!” her hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, “Don’t go!” the screaming in her head would drive her insane without him.

He got in beside her, put his arms around her and drew her close.

“It’ll be ok; Rudi’s here. It’ll be ok,” she closed her eyes and willed her mind to stop screaming, “Rudi’s here…Rudi’s here…Rudi’s here…”  

 

Lucy screamed and screamed and screamed. Her throat went raw, her tongue parched and her gut wrenched. But, Lucy still screamed.

The detective moved first. He caught Lucy by the shoulders and tried to shake her out of it.

Rudi could have told him that never worked with Lucy. But, he didn’t.

Dee could have told him that she wasn’t going to stop screaming. But, she didn’t.

Lucy could have stopped screaming. But, she couldn’t.

Not until, Rudi put his arm around her and pulled her into his chest. Not until Dee took her hand in her own and gently squeezed it. Only then did Lucy feel the scream leaving her; felt sanity coming back to her. She snapped her eyes open and pushed Rudi away in one fluid movement. Turning to the detective, she snapped incisively:

“Don’t believe him! He’s stupid and thinks being a hero will get him out of the mess he made of his life. I killed that woman. I’m sorry about it; I wish I hadn’t done it. I didn’t mean to. But, it happened and I killed her.”

 

“Two killers?” his junior suggested to the weary detective.

The three friends were locked in separate interrogations cells and he was just getting a cup of coffee.

He shook his head, “It’s the girl,” he stated.

In the end, it was the girl.

That night, a songbird was singing for its missing mate; the waves were gradually building up to a coming storm; the moon was hardly a sliver and hidden behind a smoky cloud and Lucy, best friend to Dee and more than a best friend to Rudi, was handcuffed to be escorted to prison.

Final chapter coming up soon.

Chapter 6: Grief

Lucy

 

My dearest Rudi,

        

      I just woke up into a world where a songbird sits on a tree and sings all day for the beloved it’s missing. I just woke up into a world where the waves that once gently washed ashore, now raged with a ferocity that could drag and drown a person if they so choose. I woke up into a world where the moon hung lazily in the sky and let its beams dance about to create poetry through the night, that some of us, the lovers of the night, can hear and heed and follow in our insanity. I woke up into a world where I wished that we could answer that call of the moon like we used to, until I remembered, with a pain that arose from a place much deeper than just my heart, that in 3 days from now, you’ll be out of my reach forever.

No more will we compose poetry under the stars; no more will we lie through the night with our bare bodies touching and our thoughts for company; no more will it be just you and me owning the world within our words.

What happened to us, Rudi? When, and where did I fail you so spectacularly that you ran back into her arms with a ring in your pocket?

Did you know she described the proposal to me in vivid detail? It was beautiful, Rudi. It reminded me of Laurie proposing to Amy in Little Women. Did you know that was her favourite book? Did you love her so much that you actually read the book for her or have you become one of those who goes online and searches for romantic ways to propose? I wish I knew.

I wish I knew that you were happy. Are you happy, Rudi? I see a flickering of doubt in your eyes at times when I’m watching you and her obsessively over the rim of my glass. Am I imagining it? I don’t think so… You see, Rudi, over the years, you’ve grown closer to my heart than Cassandra and her Castle. I understand every quirk of your eyebrow and every glance from your eye, the way Keats understood the throes of a nature that’s mysterious to many. You’ve always been to me what death was to Sylvia Plath- inspiration, muse and distraction. You drive me to distraction, Rudoofus and there is nothing I can do about it! But, the most painful part is knowing who inspires you.

It’s me. Me at my most insufferable. Have you ever woken up in her presence to write for 6 straight hours, filling 20 pages with 10,000 of your beautiful words of poetry? I love Dee, but, Rudi, she is not your muse; I am. And you know it! Yet, in 3 days, you’re getting married and walking away from me; from us; from all of this.

Is that why you look guilty every time you sneak a look at me, Rudi?

But, my stupid Rudoofus, haven’t you noticed the same glimmer of guilt even when you’re looking at your bride-to-be? You gave her your mother’s ring; you gave up your wilder ideas of trekking in the Himalayas; you even settled for getting married at this beach house in the most conventional of manners; and yet, you don’t feel you’ve done enough for her? What are you trying to make up to her?

Fine. Forget all of that tosh of angst and answer me this: do you love her, Rudi? Do you love her more than you love life? Do you love her with the same undying intensity as Stephen loves Isabella in your favourite Birdsong? Is she your Isabella, Rudi?

Think hard, my dearest. Because, I’m used to a broken heart. Dee is not. I’ve forgiven you for breaking my heart. I won’t forgive you for breaking Dee’s. Because Dee is the most special person on earth and you are not all that special of a boy. So, think hard and unless, you’re absolutely sure, do not wait at that altar for her. We’ve weathered many laughs and tears and many storms together. I doubt if a broken marriage can make a bigger dent than the ones already there.

The birds have stopped singing. The waves are calming down. The night sky is giving way to daylight. I wish you were here to witness it with me. I wish she was here to witness it with me. I wish I could turn to both of you and give my sincerest congratulations. But, the storm from the sea seems to have moved into me and the weight of its grief is threatening to drown me to the depths of Dante’s Inferno. I love you, Rudi. I love you. I love you. I love you.

If she loves you an iota of how much I love you; or if you love her even an iota of how much I love you, walk towards each other tomorrow and happily, unrepentantly, leave me behind in your journey together to a life of bliss. But, if you don’t….

Rudi, my love, my dearest, are you happy?

 

Lots of love and a broken heart,

 

Yours forever,

Lucy  

Chapter 5: Doubt

Rudi

 

I’m not the sort to write a diary. But, I am the sort who writes. I write to clear my head, to maintain my sanity, to put things in an order that makes sense to me and today, I need that order and that sense. So, I’m not the sort to write in a diary, but, since I’m doing a similar exercise, I might as well follow the rules.

 

Dear diary,

Last night, Lucy and I spent the night on the beach. It was beautiful. A songbird was singing in a distance; waves were gently washing ashore and the moon hung lazily in the sky and let its beams dance about to create poetry through the night, that, we, the lovers if the night, could hear and heed and follow in our insanity. And we followed it. We let the moon take us where it wanted to.

We followed every moonbeam across the sand and felt reverted to a time when things were much simpler; like when girls still had cooties and milk and cookies were still eaten before bed. I remember laughing like I used to then and I remember running like I couldn’t feel the heaviness of all this grown up muscle and sinew. When we finally lay down on our blanket under the light of the moon and the shade of a cove that the moonbeams led us to, it was with a lightness that years and age had stolen from us. The process of growing up is a bitch, Mr. Diary, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!

But, Mr. Diary, for all that lightness, I was carrying a heavy weight in my pocket. The letter that Dee wrote me was burning a hole through my side. I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much. I mean, I’m happy here. Lucy and I were meant to be since the day we met. I’ve never met a person that I was more in sync with. We are like two poles of the same magnet…and so, as much as we are bound together, I’m not sure we don’t repel each other.

We are too similar, Mr. Diary.

I sometimes wake up with a fear in my heart that the world that we live in will one day be shattered; because it’s too perfect and perfect things are not meant to last. I feel scared that when reality comes knocking, without the least warning like it usually does, we won’t be able to stand it. Lucy won’t be able to stand it. I’m afraid that when we fall apart, we’ll fall apart on such a thing that it’ll leave a chasm so deep between us, that bridging it would be impossible.

I feel like I’m in a chess game, weighing the odds of sacrificing a knight for the king’s safety. Only here, it’s not the knight, but the queen and it’s not plastic pieces but hearts of friends and lovers.

What do I do, Mr. Diary?

Last night, Lucy asked me if I would walk into the sea with her in search of the fabled Atlantis if she asked me to or would I rather stay on the shore where stories are remembered as just stories and Atlantis is only a kingdom of make-believe? I couldn’t answer because my throat closed up and I choked on the night air.

The truth is, Mr. Diary, that I’m not a brave person. Lucy is brave. Dee is very brave. I’m just…I follow their bravura and bask in its glory; but, me… I’m not a brave person. Walking into the sea, with the salty water lapping around my legs, reaching through my chest to squeeze the air out of my lungs…the thought robs me of my breath and makes me feel like I’m already drowning.

The problem is, Lucy, instead of pulling me out, will join me there and call it our own little world. The problem is, beside Lucy, I’ll enjoy even that suffocating little world. The problem is, under the cover of my happiness, Lucy’s little world will soon kill me.

What should I do, Mr. Diary?

I look at the girl sleeping beside me and I’m overwhelmed by love…by joy…by doubt…and tonight, the doubt is winning out.

 

Lucy,

I’m sorry. I love her. Please forgive me.  

Rudi.  

 

Chapter 4: Longing

Dee

 

Dear Rudi,

How are you?

No…where are you? I know we broke up; but, that didn’t mean you should completely cut me out of your life! If Lucy hadn’t called me, I wouldn’t even have known that you were out of town!

Do I sound very girlfriend-y? Oh dear! I’m so sorry…I don’t mean to. I think you just bring my worst out of me. That is not an ideal thing for a relationship, is it?

Yours in friendship,

Dee.

 

Dear Rudi,

You know, I didn’t think I would miss you. After all, I was the one who broke it off. I thought I was ready to move on. Live the single life. Follow my single dreams.

And I’m doing it! I’m doing everything I wanted to do, Rudi. My life right now is like something out of a self-indulgent movie script. I don’t have to think of anyone…not you…not Lucy…all my plans are my own. My time is my own. My bed is my own. It is, in a way, liberating. After a long time, I can hear myself breathe, and think, without wondering if someone else is looking at me.

Lucy tells me you guys are having fun too. Some days I wish I was there and it would be like we were back on campus.

Yours in dreams of the younger halcyon days,

Dee.

 

Dear Rudi,

There are nights when I don’t come back home, and I don’t have to call anyone. There are also lunches that I plan out without the issue of conflicting schedules. I’m completely on my own, if you think about it, for the first time in my life! And I realize, Rudi, that I can do it. I don’t need you or anybody else. I’m perfectly able to live on my own, happy, contented…free.

I was talking to Lucy last night and I told her I’ve been laughing so much in the last couple of weeks, I’m starting to think something’s come loose in my head. But, she told me that if that was so, then the same thing must be happening to her because she’s can’t think of a time when she was happier than she is now. All I can say is, Rudi, my boy, what have you been getting her up to?

Yours on a high from freedom,

Dee.

 

Dear Rudi,

I was talking to Lucy earlier and after I hung up, I was just hit with this feeling of such gratitude, I knew I had to tell you this.

My dear, dear Rudi, you and Lucy were there for me whenever I needed you and there were times, when I didn’t know I needed you, but you did and you were there. Without you two on the campus, I probably would’ve followed my sister off that roof. But, you two became the family I needed and craved for. I can’t help but think that destiny had a hand in bringing the three of us together. Think about it; what were the odds that three kids from three different broken homes end up fitting together as perfectly as the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? You two, my dear, were and are the best thing that ever happened to me.

Yours in fond nostalgia,

Dee.

 

Dear Rudi,

Over the last couple of months, I’ve only talked to you in mail and to Lucy over the phone. Both of you weren’t here and I was forced to really understand the meaning of independence. Little things like taking care of my bills or cooking a meal for just one or filling up gas on time because I know that if I get stranded somewhere at midnight, neither of my 4 AM friends are here to come pick me up. It was daunting in the beginning. But, surprisingly (really, I never expected to deal with it so well), I rose to the challenge; and not just that, I owned the challenge!

Lucy suggested that I go out to celebrate the fact and tonight, I’m going to do just that!

Yours while dancing with gay abandon,

Dee.

 


 

Dear Rudi,

I’m sorry my last letter was so long ago. I wanted to sort out some issues in my own head before I put them out on paper. My new-found independence is showing, huh? Many times, I did sit down to write a new mail, but, I would tell myself not to be hasty. Then, I would remind myself that if you had missed me, you would have written yourself. Today, however, I’ve finally come to a decision to be as honest with you as I’ve always been.

In my last letter I told you I was going out to celebrate my independence.

I did.

Then, when I got home at 2 AM, I went to bed, cuddled under the covers and cried. I wasn’t sad, Rudi. I just missed you so much.

I needed these 3 months to realise that I didn’t need you in my life. I needed these 3 months to realise that I wanted you in my life.

I just wrote that sentence and now, I’m wondering how you’ll take it. Will you get angry, Rudi? Or will you just shrug it off and walk away? I never was as good at reading you as Lucy…

So, just…well…it’s been a long time. How are you, Rudi?

Yours in the hope of a reply,

Dee.


 

Dear Lucy,

 

I miss you.

Come home.

 

 Yours crying for no reason,

Dee.

**

 

 

Chapter 3: Tragedy

Dee

 

I think I love him.

Or maybe I don’t.

Do I love him?

“I think we should break up, Rudi.”

He looked up at me, surprise writ large on his face. But, I can’t tell if that surprise hides his relief or his broken heart.

“But, why?” he asks. And I’m still unable to get a reading of what he’s feeling.

“I don’t think I feel anything for you anymore,” I gave it to him frankly. I didn’t believe in beating around the bush on such matters.

His eyebrows rose at my bluntness and I found myself thinking that he should be used to it by now.

“Ar-are you sure?” he asked.

I wished Lucy was with me. She could always read him like a book. But, she moved to a different city after college and the last time I spoke to her was more than a month ago. I wondered how often Rudi spoke to her. Probably every other week. I suppressed the surprising stab of jealousy that that thought produced.

“Yes,” I nodded decisively.

He took a deep breath and nodded. Then, with a smile and a wave, Rudi walked out of my life.

**

Rudi

 

“Aren’t you Lu-Lu-Lucy?” I leaned against the bar and touched the elbow of the young lady ordering her drink.

She whipped around with her eyes wide and lips parted and threw herself at me.

“You bastard! Why didn’t you call?” she shrieked.

I laughed and squeezed my best friend tight.

“Hello to you too, Lucy-girl!”

“I can’t believe Rudoofus is in my town!” she let go of me for a minute to rake her eyes all over my face. “So, where’s Dee?”

I swallowed, “We broke up,” I said softly.

“Oh!” she let go of me. “How are you then?” she tilted her head to the side and fixed me with that Lucy-look I remembered from college.

I chuckled. “Surprisingly fine, actually,” I replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I nodded to emphasize how fine I was, “I think it was just time for us,” I shrugged.

She shook her head, “No change at all,” she muttered and grinned. And that moment, something shifted between us. Both of us felt it and this time, we went with it.

“Well then,” she clutched my hand, “drinks are on me tonight,” and she dragged me to the cosiest booth in the bar.

That night ended with both of us stumbling into her apartment, drunk and kissing each other hungrily.

It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The passion, the fire, the symphony of our bodies; there was no Lucy, no Rudi; there was only the ecstasy, the lust, the need of two bodies melding together and making magic.

The next morning I woke up feeling better than I had felt on any morning in the last 10 years. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and started writing. I went on writing for what seemed like hours. Every time I would get stuck, I would look at her, sleeping peacefully, a strand of her hair dancing across her face, her lips slightly parted, her shoulder sloping down into the blanket mesmerizingly and the early morning light giving her a celestial glow. She was my muse, my inspiration and when her eyes opened, I felt like a little kid watching his favourite toy come alive.

That morning, I wasn’t of this earth and nor was she.

**

Lucy

 

“I asked her to marry me,” his voice came over the phone.

My breath caught and burnt in my chest. No sound escaped my lips as anger clouded my eyes until the wall in front of me swayed out of focus.

“Lucy…?” his voice tore into my subconscious the way it always had the ability to.

“Y-yes…I…” I swallowed and blinked, “Congratulations, Rudi,” I forced myself to say.

“I just wanted you to be the first to know,” he said softly, as if he wished that would make up for the world of hurt he was causing me right now.

“I’m honoured,” I could no longer keep the ice out of my voice and I knew, even over the phone, that I had succeeded in hurting him.

“I love her, Lucy!” soft had turned sharp now, but, if he thought I cared…

I wanted to yell, scream at him that I didn’t care; that I could care less who he married or loved. But, why should I lie? I did care. I cared so much that it hurt and involuntarily, I winced.

“I…” I muttered, “I know. Listen, I’ve to go. I’ll talk to you later,” and I hung up.

The lump in my chest had forced its way into my throat now and tears were beginning to fall. I wiped my tears roughly with the back of my hand, grabbed my keys and left the house.

 

“Lucy! He proposed!” Dee’s excited voice filled the car with its exuberance.

I swallowed the fresh bout of tears threatening to fall over and schooled my voice to match her happiness. As much as I could.

“Congratulations Dee!” I sounded warm enough.

“Hey! Are you ok? You don’t sound so good,” Dee remained Dee even over the phone. I laughed bitterly.

“I’m fine,” I assured her, “just driving and this traffic is a snarl!”

“Oh! Then, give me a call when you reach…wherever you’re going, ok?” she said, “and drive safe. You’re going to be my maid of honour!” I could picture her smiling brightly with those wide, concerned eyes. A fresh lump clogged my throat until I could hardly stammer out a goodbye. My vision blurred with renewed tears and all my bitterness concentrated into my foot on the accelerator. I shot forward into the traffic and the last thing I saw was a bright flash before it all went black.

 

It was dark; very dark; pitch black all around. I opened my mouth to call out, but no sound came out. Panic was building rapidly in my chest and that’s when the pain hit. It felt like my entire body was on fire, and being ripped shred to shred. I could feel my heart thudding hard against my rib cage and suddenly, air rushed into my throat and I screamed.

“She’s awake! She’s awake!” I could hear people calling, running feet.

“Lucy…Luce…can you open your eyes?”

I know that voice. But, what is Dee doing here?

“Lu…Lucy…can you hear me?”

A deeper voice. I know this voice too! Rudi is here! Panic subsides in lieu of the bubbling happiness.

I feel something cool pressing against my eyes and then, I realize that I can open them.

The world slowly comes into focus. I see Dee bending over me, watching me with her wide concerned eyes. For some reason, looking at those eyes is making me cry. Rudi is on my other side, sitting on the edge of the bed and rubbing circles on the back of my hand. But, behind his concern, I can detect a layer of guilt. Why is he guilty, I wonder, and why is his guilt making me so angry?

At that moment, a white-clad toothy lady walks into the room with a…doctor?

“Wh-where am I? What happened?” I croak.

Dee and Rudi look towards the doctor worriedly.

“This is normal after such trauma,” he says calmly, “You were in a car accident. Do you remember when you were last driving?” he asked me.

A flash of bright light-screech of tires-people screaming….and suddenly, I remember exactly when I was driving and why I was driving. I reflexively pull my hand out of Rudi’s grip and immediately feel bad for the hurt I see on his face.

“I was driving…yes…I remember,” I say raspingly.

“Good. Good. Now, there was extensive damage to your left leg in the accident and we had to take drastic measures to ensure that no infection would spread. Your friend here was your emergency contact and she signed the consent-”

“D-drastic measures?” the panic building in my chest suddenly made sense and I looked from the doctor to Dee, frightened.

“Lucy, honey, I’m very sorry, they had to amputate it,” my best friend had tears in her eyes as she tried to understand what I must be going through.

But, all I could think about was the green twirly dress I was wearing when I met Rudi in the bar that day and how I would never be able to wear it again. A great sense of unfairness welled up inside me and made my throat hurt.

“I…thank you, doctor,” I murmured, “Can I sleep now?”

“Yes. Yes,” he walked out and I closed my eyes and waited for the pitch black oblivion to claim me.

**

Chapter 4 coming up soon

Chapter 2: Friendship

Lucy

 

Most of the time it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. But, sometimes, it does and that is when I wonder what it is about this person that makes him so special; and one day, while I’m wondering thus, I realise that I’m in love with him.

When did it happen? How did it happen? I do not know. I didn’t know about the journey I was making until it landed me smack dab in the middle of my destination. I’m in love with him.

Until last week, this would have been an easy equation. But, over the last week, the boy has become a couple and the couple was now out on a date that I had convinced them to go on. Wondering at my own stupidity, I flung the empty packet of chips aside and was just reaching for a new one when the door opened and my roommate bounded in, looking too happy to be acceptable on any planet that I was a part of.

“Chips!” she screamed and snatched them out of my hand. “No more chips, Lucy! You promised me!”

I looked at her blandly.

“I’m depressed,” I stated and held my hand out for my salty deliverance.

She didn’t oblige. But, she did come and put her arm around me.

“Why? What happened?” she asked, her eyes wide and full of concern.

I melted into her arms. “I’m in love,” I groaned from somewhere near her armpit.

“Oh!” she gasped. I don’t think she ever expected to hear those exact words from me.

“Who is it?” she whispered. I didn’t know why she was whispering, but, it felt right for the moment.

“Your boyfriend…” I whispered back slowly.

“My boyfriend? Rudi, you mean? My that boyfriend Rudi?” she exclaimed, forgetting to whisper.

Suddenly her arm felt suffocating and my chest constricted. All and any voice died in my throat and I could give only a dismal nod.

“Oh honey!” she sighed and tightened her arm around me, “What do you think we should do now, Lucy?”

And just as suddenly, my chest cleared and I could breathe again. I found my voice and along with that came the realization, that however special the boy was, my friend was way, way more special. I made myself look up and meet her eyes,

“Don’t worry, Dee,” I said with conviction, “I’m not going to mess anything up. Give me a few days and the library and I would’ve forgotten all about it.”

She still looked troubled.

“You know me, Dee,” I assured her again, “All my feelings come with an expiry date,” I grinned.

After a while she spoke, “I really like him, Luce,” she was back to whispering, “But, I don’t love him. Not yet. So, if you want me to break up with him….”

“No!” I sat up straight, “Dee, look at me. I’m not the one Rudi likes. You like him and he likes you. It’s a match made! All this feelings shit- that’s my problem and I’ll deal with it. I shouldn’t even have told you. Me and my big mouth, I tell you!”

A tear made its way down my best friend’s cheek. “I’m sorry, Luce, I really am,” she said softly.

“You have nothing to be sorry about, Honeypot,” I used the much-detested nickname in the hopes of easing a smile out of her, “I’m sorry for ever bringing it up.”

It worked. She gave me a watery smile.

“You’ll be fine? You are sure?” she asked one final time.

“Yes!” I asserted and we never talked about it again.

**

Rudi

 

“Lucy…”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Lucy, come on!”

“Go away, Rudi!”

“You love me!”

Lucy finally stopped walking and turned around.

“Where did you hear that nonsense?”

“Dee told me.”

Lucy’s eyes narrowed. “Just how drunk was she?”

“A lot,” I shrugged. “Is it true?” I couldn’t hold it in.

“Would you believe everything a drunk chick tells you?” she countered.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I bridged the gap between us in three swift steps.

“There was nothing to tell, Rudi,” she bit out.

“Liar!”

“I’m not a liar!” she snapped, turning away from me. “Now can we drop this topic?”

I ran around so that she would have to look at me again. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I could hear the whine in my own voice.

She sighed loudly and dropped down to the ground in a huff.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded even louder, dropping down in front of her and ignoring the weird looks we were getting for sitting down in the middle of the walkway.

“What was I supposed to say?” she muttered after a minute of silence, “Hey Rudi! I know you’re dating my best friend and all, but fuck all that because I’m in love with you!” she mocked herself in a falsely cheery voice.

I winced. “Ok, maybe not like that…” and they fell into silence again.

“But, you told Dee!” I said finally, “So, why couldn’t you tell me?”

“Because my mouth was only big enough for one stupid mistake at a time!” she snapped.

“Luce, But- But it wouldn’t have been a mistake! What did you think? I would break up with you for being inappropriate?”

“Friends don’t get to break up. They wait until the tension builds and then drift apart,” Lucy hugged the copy of I capture the castle in her hands to her chest and sighed.

“You’re stupid, Lu. For all your smarts, you’re a stupid, stupid person.”

“Shut up, Rudoofus!”

I chuckled and got to my feet, then extended my hand to help up my best friend. “Read that book,” I advised her straightening form, “Finish it tonight and we’ll talk about this again tomorrow. No!” I silenced her protesting mouth with a finger to her lips, “Meet Cassandra, talk to her and think it out. If, in spite of that, you don’t want to talk about this, then we’ll just talk about the book,” I gave her one of my “disarming” smiles.

We picked up our walk again, the silence between us coloured with her anger and my anxiety that maybe I pushed her too far with my persistence.

“Promise me that we’ll discuss the book?” we were at the branch off to our separate hostels and Lucy’s voice piped up with an oddly hopeful note.

I couldn’t hold back the smile that burst upon my face in relief.

“Anytime Lu. I promise.”

I had my best friend back.

**

Dee

 

Lucy’s father passed away last Friday, quietly in his sleep.

They called it a massive heart attack. They said it wasn’t common in 50 year olds, but it wasn’t unheard of either. They held the funeral on Sunday and buried him beside her mother. Now, it was Friday again. Lucy hasn’t cried a tear since then. Neither did she sleep through a single night.

She has taken to reading I Capture the Castle throughout the night. She’d start it in bed and finish it by next morning. The next night she would start it again and finish it again by next morning. I’ve taken to staying up with her. I work on my thesis. She reads her book. The light stays on all night.

“I’m going to join you guys tonight,” Rudi says on that Friday evening.

“How?” I ask him softly so as not to disturb the dozing Lucy next to me.

“Bring her out. I found a way on to the auditorium’s roof.” He replies, “It’s beautiful out there at night time.”

I furrow my brows and give him a searching look.

He rubs the nape of his neck uncomfortably. “I…haven’t been getting much sleep either,” he mutters.
It was difficult convincing Lucy to come out. She clutched that book to her chest and stared at me with wide panicky eyes. Finally, I packed a book lamp in my bag, took her hand firmly in mine and dragged her out. Her book was still clutched to her chest.

Rudi was already on the roof when we got there. He climbed down, took one look at Lucy and took her into his arms. Slowly, the book came away from her chest and her small frame curled into him. We didn’t climb to the roof that night. We sat on the grass outside. I worked on my thesis. She read her book. He stared at the stars.

It was on our third night out that the silence was shattered at 3 in the morning with the ringing of my phone. My breath hitched. Rudi and Lucy were staring at my phone with a kind of fascinated revulsion.

“Hello?”

“I’m sorry, Dee-dee.”
That night my sister died. She jumped off of our roof and fractured her skull on our driveway. They put her in the ICU for 12 hours during which my parents claimed to have no knowledge of their younger daughter’s suicidal tendencies and during which I went through every what-if in my head. Lucy held me for all those 12 hours as I drenched her shirt with my tears. She talked me through my anger and she stood with me as I said my final goodbyes to the last member of my family that I’d cared about.

I think I cried more over the next few days than I ever had in my life. Mostly on Lucy’s shoulder and sometimes, on Rudi’s. Three days later, we were back on the campus and that night, we met at the roof again. This time, we did climb up to the top.

And there on the roof, where the only thing between the cold ground and the starry sky were the shoulders of my new family and her only family, Lucy finally cried.

**

Chapter 3 coming up by 01 Dec ’15