Best Shorts featured story #2

Gayathri Nair, author of this story is vociferous on issues that she’s passionate about, writes when her head can no longer contain the stories that she perennially walks around with. An agnost, a dreamer, she says “I have a Lover’s Quarrel with the World.” Gayathri is STW’s second featured ‘Best Short’. Congratulations!

21 minutes…

Of Love, Of Betrayal

11:27 P.M. I look at his slumped figure sitting on the edge of the bed, his face hidden in his hands, the glock lying on the crumpled sheets beside him. His incoherent sentences amidst the sobs, is the only thing filling the silence that has descended upon us in this dingy motel room.

I scan the room silently trying my best to avoid looking at the helpless figure sitting in front of me. The bed is covered with documents; his laptop, still powered on, is on the table, a can of soda beside it. His jacket has been unceremoniously dumped on the chair next to the table and cigarette butts form distinct grotesque patterns on the floor. The room was a mess, he was a mess, I was a mess.

“Why?” I ask him, my hands digging deeper into my pockets. Even though the lone window in the room was shut against the cold November air, a chill ran through me.

“Look at me, please” I beg him, tears freely streaming down my face now. He shakes his head, takes in a sharp breath then lifts his face, his deep blue eyes instantly finding my brown ones. He grabs the gun then says in a hoarse whisper “I’m sorry”.

“We don’t have to do this” I say simply, trying for the last time to keep us both alive. But I am acutely aware of the change that has occurred. I no longer recognize the man sitting in front of me- the Kyle I loved has gone and in his place is the emotionless Government Agent whom everyone dreaded.

“I loved you, you know” his voice breaks slightly as he says it, but it’s so different from the first time he had professed his love to me.

The adrenaline rush was wearing off and I give up trying to move when the pain becomes too hard to bear. It feels so easy to let myself slip into oblivion, give myself up to the painlessness. But I push my fluttering eyes open-he had promised to come. “He will come” I tell myself.

It is a while before I hear sirens in the distance and seems ages before I am finally pulled into those strong arms I knew so well. Kyle Wilder’s face came into view. “Stay with me” he whispered frantically, “the paramedics are on their way”. He hugs me and it’s only the sound of his heartbeat that kept me alive, I realize now.

I try remembering how his face looked without the worry that clouded his face now. The boyish grin, the thick black hair constantly falling over his eyes. I try picturing the twinkling in his eyes when he has successfully managed to make me laugh at his witty one- liners. I touch his face, hoping that my touch would convey all that I felt for him. He wasn’t just another team member to me- he was much much more. He was what had kept me alive during the abduction and the inhuman interrogation by those Korean beasts.

But all this is too much of a strain and I let my eyes close knowing that I am safe.

I open my eyes 26 hours later in a hospital room. Kyle was sitting by my bed, his hand clasping mine. When he feels me stir he moves closer. “I’m so glad you are alive” and a small smile graces his face. His eyes wander over my face and he runs his fingers gently over the bruises covering my face. “I thought I had lost you Rachel…and I can’t imagine living through that…I…I” his voice drops to just above a whisper now. He lets out a sharp exhale and momentarily shuts his eyes. Opening them slowly, he leans his face closer to mine “I love you” escapes his lips before they claim mine in a tender, passionate kiss. I simply smile at him when he draws back to let him know I felt the same.

That was three years back. The man sitting in front of me today was only the shadow of the man I had once loved. The face that once grew creased with concern for me was today darkened with brutality. The eyes that had once looked at me with so much love and fondness, today held pure disgust for me. Yes, the times have changed. I have changed. Both of us today have issues greater than our love for each other, pulling us apart. All those finer human emotions are lost… it’s only about survival now.

“I loved you too” I say; my voice doesn’t crack.

11:33 The sound of a single gunshot echoes across the room and down the hallway outside.

11:33 Agent Simmons drowns the last of the whiskey in his glass, turns away from the window and takes the file from the IT technician’s hands.

“We were able to get a clear shot of the agent from the traffic cam as you had requested sir”

He nods. The Tech guy leaves. Simmons steadies himself. He had always been proud of his hand-picked team till seven hours ago. That is until he learned that one of them had sold themselves over to the other side. He opens it and stares long and hard at the face so clearly visible in the photo. “Rachel Atwood” even as he mouths those words he feels the pain arising out of his chest.

11:48 I was driving fast and aimlessly. One hand clutches the steering wheel in a mad grip the other reaches up to touch my lips as my eyes close involuntarily at the memory of our last kiss. The kiss that was neither passionate, nor frantic, nor slow and romantic. The kiss was one of regret- regret at the unfulfilled promises, regret of having loved and yet not having loved enough. In that kiss, our breath mingled, we became one- if only momentarily. Slowly I had drawn back my face and loosened my grip on his shirt, and he tumbled back onto the bed, his eyes wide open not in shock but in acceptance, a red colour slowly, steadily, spreading across the front of his shirt.

Written by Gayathri Nair.

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About Shruti Bharath

Social entrepreneur and developmental writer, passionate about creating workable solutions in the areas of improving employability of youth and women through skill enhancement/training and generation of productive and sustainable employment opportunities.

2 comments

  1. Balakrishnan

    Nice. I liked the narration. And the suspense too.

  2. Neena mathur

    Very well expressed!! hope to see you win the Booker prize one of these day!!

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