11. 21 days?
Someone was calling my name.
My body started waking, and I sighed against my mattress before opening my eyes. I was tucked in my bed, a soft baby purple comforter wrapped around my body and silk pillows resting below my head. An orange glow spread across the room from a lamp on my bedside. Only then did I realise it was late at night.
Groggily, I looked to my right to find Aarav, still in his suit, staring right at me.
“Do you have the time?”, I asked through a yawn.
“7:30”, he said without looking at the watch sitting idly on his wrist.
A moment of awkward silence passed between us, before he asked, a little hesitant in his ton “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m sorry for that”, I sat up in my bed, “and thank you for what you did back there”
He nodded and turned to leave after adding, “Dinner is ready. Come join me in the dining room”
“Okay”, I answered to his retreating back.
What happened, I didn’t know, but it was frightening. That dream seemed almost too real to be fake. I could still hear his cruel laughter and the slimy thing getting forced in my mouth. I could feel the rush of panic and his inhumane hold on my jaw. I could feel the tears that slid down my cheek.
After the vivid nightmare I had, seeing Aarav was an out-of-the-body experience, I couldn’t meet his eyes. My body was present, but my heart was locked away somewhere, afraid of what might happen and without any repercussions at that.
Aarav was the one who helped me calm down, but talking to him now would be beyond awkward. I had nightmares about him raping me, that isn’t something that can be easily forgotten. And I don’t think he will be likely to forget as well.
I just hope he doesn’t pester me to talk about it, I’m still shaken.
Five minutes before eight, I found myself in the dining room. A table of four was set, and Aarav was seated watching the news on the television hanging on the left wall.
Who in their right mind would voluntarily watch ‘news - the very problematic, negative and almost always revolving around things that don’t matter?’
I huffed as I took my seat and a tall, plump lady who looked to be in her mid-thirties stepped inside holding a tray filled with delicious smelling food and my stomach growled in approval.
I clapped my hands and with a greedy smile on my face eyed the food as she placed them on the table. She wore a green saree that complimented her dark skin very well and as she smiled at me, a warm feeling spread across my heart. She reminded me of my mother, in the way she wore her saree, in her kind smile and the motherly affection that oozed out from her. I loved her.
“Thank you”, I smiled at her and dug right into palak paneer and chapatti.
A low ‘no’ arose from my left and taking a momentary break from my food, I looked up to find Aarav staring at the TV in a frown so deep, it looked ploughed deep on his face.
“What’s wrong?”, I asked.
I didn’t care for him, personally, but I did care about the woes of the general public. I classify as a nosy person and I cannot keep my aristocratic nose out of anybody’s business. I take pride in the secrets I have buried in my soul for all my friends who confided in me. Because while I was a professional nosy person, I was also a loyal confidant, and I could keep a secret like the biggest mafia mogul who pretended to be a lonely accountant.
“21 days nationwide lockdown has been announced, effective at midnight”, he answered, his eyes still on the screen.
“I’m sorry, what?”
He looked at me then and did an invisible eye roll. I couldn’t see it, but I could definitely feel it.
“Listen”, he ordered and pointed to the screen, and my eyes followed suit.
“This has to be a joke”, I cried out when I finally understood what our prime minister was telling us. A novel coronavirus was spreading and to prevent this spread, a nationwide 21-day lockdown was announced. That meant no gyms, no shopping, no restaurants, no adventures, no vacations, nothing at all.
I was going to be locked inside my house for 21 whole days.
Twenty-one days. That meant 501 hours locked inside. 501 hours of nothing to do, and with a man I was kind of, sort of, scared of and didn’t know anything about.
This was torture, of the third-degree.
I finished the rest of my meal in grudging silence, because for some reason I was blaming Aarav for my unfortunate luck, and left without another word.
The first thing I did when I locked myself in my room is call Shanaya. I was going to bitch and moan to her and she was going to listen and then I was going to call all my other friends, individually, until I was exhausted and the problem was solved by pure repetition.
I wasn’t a complainer usually, I liked fixing things and that is one of the reasons I liked listening to people’s problems because then I could to fix their problems and put a smile back on their faces.
But today, I had a problem.
A huge huge problem, and I didn’t know how to solve it.
So the only logical solution was to complain and then fall asleep listening to their unrealistic but nonetheless comforting plans.
Shanaya picked up on the second ring and screamed straightaway, “Rex! A lockdown! A bloody lockdown! How are we going to survive?”
“I don’t know. I can’t even imagine”, I cried.
“It’s a prison sentence, and we didn’t even commit a crime”
“It’s like being locked in a dark room with no doors”
“It’s like wearing the same pyjamas a month in a row. My poor body can’t handle it”
“Tell me about it. And on top of the lockdown, I have to share my time with a man I know nothing about and am still mad at him, it’s like being locked alone”, I cried.
“That’s horrible, I’m so sorry. The moment we are allowed, I am going to fly to you and hug you so hard, you’ll forget these horrible 21 days”
“I love you”, I cried and we kept talking, circling the same conversation over and over until we ended up on a topic I dreaded.
“Do you miss him?”, she asked softly and a tear instantly rolled down my cheek.
Do I miss him? Where do I even begin? While I haven’t consciously missed him, my subconscious is very much aware of the huge gap his absence left in my heart, and my eyes mirrored my mother’s on the day I was I formed about the news. The gold was missing.
My gold was missing.
“I don’t want to talk about it”, I stuttered.
I heard a sigh on the other hand before she said, “Look I know I have been annoying you with my little comments these past few days, but it’s only because I didn’t want you to breakdown. I couldn’t see my best friend breaking down. I couldn’t helplessly watch you surrender to a stranger. I wasn’t that strong.
I am not that strong.
But you are, I know you are.
And you are smart too. So don’t try and forget about it, don’t push away the beautiful memories of him, feel the pain and heal. You two were a wonderful couple, but you have to move on now, and you can only do that if you make peace with your past.”
“I know, I just… I can’t do it right now. It’s very fresh and I..”, I stuttered and breathed through a sob.
“It’s alright. Take your time. But never forget, I’m always here for you. Always”
“I know, thank you”, I sniffed and with a few loving words, we bid goodbye to each other.
This call was exhausting, and while I rationally knew I should take her advice, I wasn’t ready yet. So I put on my pyjamas and switched off my phone, and after a long skincare routine, retired to bed.
My body was wrecked but I was wide awake. I wanted to give in to the exhaustion, but I wasn’t able to.
Too much had happened in too little time.
I broke up with Dev, married a literal stranger, found out this forced marriage was a deal, had the life-scarring episode this afternoon and now, I was locked in my home, which isn’t really my home, for 21 days.
My headspace was a mess.
It felt like I was experiencing my life in fast forward, and if someone made a documentary on me, 2020 would be marked as ‘Too much in too little time’, I was sure.
Sleep was still avoiding me and since I didn’t know else what to do, I googled ‘how to sleep’ and after following half-pathetic, half-good advice (I couldn’t tell which was which though), my eyes finally shut down and I entered the state of half-death: the mysterious sleep.