‘Life swings like a pendulum backwards and forwards between pain and boredom.’
~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Astrid kept on walking. With no sense of direction and her mind gone haywire, she snaked her way through the throngs of people on the streets. She felt suffocated, as if every time she tried to breathe, the air just got stuck midway. She pushed herself farther and farther, not paying attention to where she was going.
She kept going on for about some fifteen minutes and soon she found herself in a deserted park. She looked around and it looked like no person had set foot on it for years. The slides were covered in moss and vines with the paint scraping off. The once yellow tunnel was now beige, barely visible beneath all the creepers covering it. To some, it might look like a horror movie scene but Astrid found the place strangely peaceful and beautiful.
She walked over to the swings at the corner, which were creaking because of the rust and years of abandonment. Quickly checking if it was safe to sit on it, she plopped down and slightly started swinging.
She never thought she would feel this lonely. Asher’s words were stuck in her head like a mantra. A friend. He wanted to be her friend. And she was not sure if she was ready to have one.
She was surprised when she felt a slight sting in the corner of her eyes. She had not cried in ages. Even during the funeral, she had not shed a single tear. She had felt like she was dead on the inside. She had just felt drained, both physically and emotionally.
But now it felt like she had just bottled everything up inside and it was all at the verge of falling apart. She did not utter a sound as fat, silent tears rolled down her cheeks which she furiously wiped off using the sleeves of her hoodie.
All alone in the deserted playground, she cried. She cried for her family. She cried for the friends she had left behind. She cried for her life that had so horribly fallen apart in tiny pieces that she struggled to put back. More importantly, she cried for herself.
A solid five minutes passed as she pulled herself together. She took in a deep breath and was wiping a few stray tears off her cheek when her phone rang. She sniffed quietly before pulled it out of her pocket and looked at the caller ID. Asher.
She wanted to hate him. So badly. She wished that she could just hate him with every fibre of her body. But it only made her hate herself more as she could not find it in herself to detest him. He had been anything but sincere and she almost prayed that somewhere he would let his true intentions slip. Some small mistake that would tell her that everything that he had said and done was nothing but lies. But so far, he had been nothing but truthful and sincere.
With a sigh, she accepted the call and held the phone to her ear, not saying anything.
“Hey.” His voice was low as if he was lying down somewhere.
“Where are you?”
“I don’t believe you but I am not going to push you. But just tell me you are safe and close to your home. We don’t want the past repeating now, do we?”
“Right,” she muttered under her breath, annoyed at the fact that even when he was not there, he seemed to know exactly what she was doing. She looked around, noticing that it was going to get dark pretty soon and she had to get going. “I am close by. I can manage and thanks for your concern.” She hung up without waiting for his reply and could imagine him frowning at his phone.
She got up and secured her hoodie over her head. She glanced back at the park one more time before walking into the empty streets, trying to find her way back home.
She reached her neighbourhood in about half an hour. Though it was a bit of a struggle to find the right direction, she felt relieved when her house came to her sight. She certainly did not have the energy in her to fight anyone at the moment.
It was about eleven at night when she finally got ready to bed. It did not escape her notice that her aunt wanted to ask her something but she slipped away before she could get caught by her aunt. She already had a lot to think about and she did not want to add more to the mess.
After changing into her pyjamas and brushing her teeth, she sat on her bed, with the bottle of pills in her hand. She knew it was not working and that it was of no use to take them but a small part in her wanted to believe that she would be able to chase away the horrendous nightmares. She knew she needed to talk to her doctor about this. And she just hoped that it would work.
She swallowed the pills and fell on the bed. The moment her head hit the pillow, she was out like a light.
Even after lying on the hospital bed, with half his life already sucked out, in her eyes, he still looked as good-looking as ever. But she would never say that to his face. She gently raked her hand over his pale sunken cheeks, his face so similar to hers as he looked at her, his crystal blue eyes, which once used to shine now dull and almost lifeless, welled up in tears.
No words were passed between them as she sat beside him, her black hair messed up from her running her fingers through it countless times, his hand held in both of hers tightly. She felt like he would disappear if she let his hand go. She was not ready to part with him just yet. Hell, she never wanted to be away from him. She only had him. There was no one else. She needed him.
Desperate tears rolled down her face as she sobbed harder, pushing his hand tight against her forehead as she hung her head.
“No, please. You promised. You promised we will always be together. You said it will always be us against the words. You can’t leave me here alone.” Her body shook as violent sobs racked through her. She no longer tried to hold it together. She dropped the act. She stopped pretending she was strong.
“I am s-sorry.” His weak voice responded. He squeezed her fingers with whatever strength he had left in his frail body, trying to calm her down. But she was not having any of it. She shook her head as her cries got even louder. He continued.
“Promise m-me one thing. You must l-live for the both of us. Live your life to the fullest. I w-will always b-be there w-with you. I-In here.” He weakly pointed at her heart.
“No! Don’t you dare give me that crap. Please. Please stay,” she sobbed.
“P-Promise me. T-That’s my l-last wish. P-Promise me.” The look he gave her broke her heart all over again. She realised that no matter how hard she begged, it was decided. He couldn’t hold on for much longer. He was in too much pain. She knew it. One part of her wanted to let him go in peace, end his suffering. The selfish part of her wanted him to stay.
“Yes. I promise you.” her voice broke midway as a harsh sob escaped her mouth.
“T-Thank you.” He smiled at her. “I l-love you. S-So much.”
“I love you too. Please. Don’t go. Please.” She kept on begging though she knew it was pointless. She leaned forward and hugged him tightly, not wanting to let go. She could feel his hand on her head, giving it gentle pat. She lifted her tear-stained face to meet his dull blue orbs, grabbing his hand and holding on to it for dear life.
She watched him as the little life remaining in him drained out, his hand went slack in her hold. She could hear his name leave her mouth in a scream as he let out his last breath. She screamed his name, again and again, helpless tears rolled down her cheeks as she tightened her hold on his hand.
He was gone. She was now truly all alone in this cruel world.
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