I am not ready to meet people. Not yet. Doubtful if I ever would be. I don’t know what I feel exactly. It’s all a mess. I’m a mess. All of this is because of me. The thought drives me toward insanity, leaving me with little to do but go along. I haven’t had any visitors since Vikram. Except the doctor, and the nurse checking on me. Which is why I am surprised when the nurse tells me with the ever present sad smile, I have a visitor. I cannot fathom who it could be. I cannot be prepared for any more surprises. But I cannot refuse to meet the visitor either, I just don’t have it in me.
The man who walks in is immaculately dressed in a deep grey suit. Even his silver hair is perfect. It takes me a second to recognise him as a lawyer. I haven’t seen him before though, which is a little unnerving because he looks at me like he has known me all my life. He sits in the chair, not pulling it close. I am glad for that, liking him already. He gives me a minute to gather myself, before speaking. Even his voice is perfect, exactly what a lawyer is supposed to sound like.
“Hello Ani,” he says, smiling the faintest smile, making me comfortable immediately. “I was your mother’s lawyer.”
Mom’s lawyer? Why would mom need a lawyer? I have come to realise just how little I know of my family. Hearing him introduce himself as mom’s lawyer only proves this once again. It is difficult, but the new found courage gives me the strength to hang on. Listen.
“I sincerely hoped we would never have to meet.”
I can see the truth in his eyes, hear it in his words. I know what he has to say is important.
“She had given specific instructions, about how I was to meet you in case something happened. Something like what just did. She ensured you would be well taken care of, if something untoward happened. Both you and Aniya.”
It is a relief, being off the bed. Disconnected from the machines, from the tubes. It’s like I’m free of chains that had tied me down. It is in that moment, as I stand on my feet, that I realise that was one of the sources of my discomfort. Would it have been different if Vikram came to meet me now? Would it be better, or worse? I cannot know for certain, but I have no doubt the end would have been no different for him.
I am free to walk along the corridor, in the section my room is in. How long has it been since the accident? I don’t keep count of the days. It makes no difference. The nurse keeps telling me about Aniya, about how she’s the same, and how that is a good sign. She is a sweet lady, trying to cheer me up, despite the doubt in her mind. Is Aniya really better? I don’t need to read the nurse’s mind to know. It is clear on her face. Wouldn’t I like to be on my feet, the doctor asks as he tells me I am improved enough to be off the bed, on my feet. All the while smiling incessantly. Maybe it is a hospital policy, to smile the widest smiles at patients. I haven’t had any visitors, which makes the smile bearable. Palatable. I say yes, I would like a walk. And he shares a look with the nurse, both knowing exactly where I would like to go. The nurse helps to my feet, and walks by me, helping me along.
The room is the exact same since I last saw her. The morning after the accident. Although it wasn’t exactly the same. I wasn’t there physically that morning. As I am now. The hesitation in my feet makes me laugh at myself, a weak laugh that is threateningly close to a sob. I know the shaking in my hands, the hard breaths. It is fear, I have no trouble recognising it. For a long while I am at the door, before pushing it open and walking in. By the bed, the nurse finally leaves me. Alone with Aniya after so long.
Aniya is on the bed, the same as last time. The machines still strapping her to the bed. Eyes still closed. The scars have started to heal, blending into her beautiful skin. I haven’t allowed any visitors for her either. She needs to rest, in peace, I told the doctors and they agreed. She is my responsibility now. I have to look after her. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to go over to her. Until now.
I sit next to her in the chair, by her bed. The same as Mr D and Vikram. I push the thought away immediately. I am with Aniya, and she is all that matters now. I take her hand, kiss it gently. Return it to the bed carefully. Bending over, I kiss her lightly, on the forehead. On her cheeks. On her lips. No more than a gentle brush of my lips on hers. If she is awake, we would be laughing. At how I am such a coward. She would pull me in, into a real kiss. And then tell me that is what a real kiss is. There is nothing she cannot do. Nothing impossible. Especially when it concerns the two of us.
Walking down, I knew what awaited at the bottom of the stairs. The tradition won’t change. They would all be waiting to hand over the gifts. I didn’t hope to be able to guess what the gifts were. I liked surprises just fine. They welcomed me with the widest, happiest grins. And the ceremony of handing over the gifts started. Dad had a pen for me, the pen we had been looking at for the last month at his favourite shop at the mall. Did he expect it to be the start to my own collection? I wouldn’t know. Mom had bought me an unlimited subscription to the electronic library which would be the coolest place for the two of us. It had so many of my favourite books, almost all of the books from my list of to read books. Of course mom would know what would be an amazing gift. Uncle and aunt had a year’s worth sodexo passes, for Aniya and I. They knew their daughter, knew the passes would be more for her than for me. They also knew I would be just fine with that. There wasn’t anything we kept from each other. And finally it was Aniya’s turn. The gift I was waiting most eagerly for.
Walking over, she smiled, before leaning and whispering. Only for the two of us. The smile spread over to my face, as she gave me the most amazing gift.
I can hear her voice. As she whispers her gift. I could never have expected it, couldn’t have prepared for it. In one moment, she had changed everything. Reminding me again, how amazing a girl she was. How amazing she will always be.
Leaning over, I whisper into her ear. Giving her the exact same gift she gave me.
“We should just get married over to the dark side. We’d be perfection personified, you and I together.”
It was her proposal, and my smile was my acceptance. I didn’t have to say it, she could see it in my face. And in that moment we were the closest we had ever been, the happiest ever.
I don’t need her to open her eyes, to tell me her reply. I know. Her yes to my proposal. I know what she would say, I can hear her screaming in excitement.
“Yes, that would be the best. I’m amazed you finally said it, took you long enough. Yes, yes, YES.”
It brings me to smile. Something I haven’t done in forever. Surprising me with how good it feels. This is how it is supposed to feel, how I am supposed to feel. As always, it takes Aniya to make me realise. Its always Aniya who makes me whole. The tears fall out freely. Unstopped. Unchecked.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Nothing changes. I am spent of my tears, of the sorrow held in for so long, and I feel lighter. Relaxed. Able to look at Aniya, see her as she is. Able to understand just how much I love her. For now, that is all that matters.
There is so much I don’t know still. So many answers I am yet to learn. I know I can only find them as they come to me, with life. As I live. As tomorrow comes to be. Maybe that’s what my life is going to be like from now on. There are a few things I am certain of. I am going to find Mr D. Make him pay. Suffer the same fate as Vikram. Then, probably find the answers to the questions about my family. First though, the most important of all, is Aniya.
I look at her, smiling at the memory of how beautiful she was. How happily she could smile. How she could light up a room by just walking in. How she was the light of my life. How she is the light of my life. How the best thing that can happen now is for her to open her eyes, wake up, smile.
As I look on, the machines start beeping.