Haunted by Farheen Kazmi
I recognized her from way afar. The familiarity of her presence hit me hard with nostalgic recognition. Nithya... my wife. I corrected myself hastily. She wasn’t my wife. She was my ex-wife. She looked at me and her posture straightened on the chair. My eyes narrowed taking in the stiffness that drew her face into grim lines. My jaw hardened looking at the man she was having dinner with.
I tried to maintain calm on my face. A complete poker. But I knew my countenance drew into a scowl on its own. It shouldn’t matter to me anymore. She was her own person. She could be with anyone. We were divorced. We were over.
The scars though. They were fresh. I couldn’t deny that it hurt my ego more than my heart.
I didn’t love her. If I did I wouldn’t know anymore.
A sound of someone hurrying around startled me out of the melancholy reverie that gripped my mind abruptly.
Coming into the present brought me back to reality and I started to walk away from the aisle. My motive now turned towards the urgent task that was at hand. Duty comes first. I pledged to protect the nation. To ensure the safety of people and to safeguard the future of the country. There were many lives at stake. Something big was going to happen. Something bad and vile being plotted. The U.S government’s intelligence service had given confirmation about it. It was time to make haste.
A secret agent’s role was to collect constant information and evidence about the suspicious activity happening around the country. Right now though, my mind was compelling me to think about something else.
I looked around the restaurant in search of Rakesh. He was nowhere around. I frowned. He was late. It was unusual. Rakesh was a junior in the group. He was an undercover trainee. He was a diligent fellow though. Hence he was on the team. I waited for a bit but then I proceeded to walk towards the other end of the aisle of seats.
I took out my phone and messaged Rakesh to find me in the restaurant.
A gasp escaped my lips. My eyes widened and the sickness in my stomach that had festered years ago returned back with a vengeance. The pain punched into my gut leading my eyes to water.
“What’s wrong, Nithya?”
A concerned deep baritone propelled me out of the convulsive suffocation I was caught up in.
I blinked and looked front into Ajay's frowning face. He was a friend. He could only ever be that.
I grabbed the arms of the chair in a death grip to hold onto something while the panic spread inside my mind. Ajay's face grew grave and his jaw settled while he looked over my shoulder.
“Oh, it’s your ex-husband.” He murmured silkily.
Ajay looked back at me as his black eyes narrowed over my face.
His right eyebrow raised.
“You still react to him.” He drawled observantly.
My cheeks grew warm at the taunt.
Rohith Khandelwal. The man who was responsible for whatever trust issues I had with men now. My ex-husband.
“I don’t. I was just surprised. That’s all.” I said stiffly and swallowed hard.
The lump in my throat made it impossible for me to hold down the many conflicting emotions firing in my brain right now.
Was I going to hyperventilate?
I wasn’t going to be weak again. I wasn’t going to allow the man to destroy me further.
Five years. Five long years. I had given it to the man only to learn that it had been one-sided. I had been blind to not look through his empty eyes and fake smiles. I had been foolishly and madly in love with the man who had never loved me in return.
Had I been selfish?
That I had kept an unwilling man imprisoned in an unwanted marriage?
He had said it so. No. He snarled. He stabbed. He cursed when I finally gave up on him and filed for divorce.
He had wanted it. I knew it. The awareness of it had struck me in the first year of our marriage. I sighed heavily. I pushed the bitter memories back into my mind and tried to smile instead valiantly.
“Let’s not talk about it anymore.”
Ajay still looked doubtful but he nodded his head after a second of silence.
“I hope one day you trust me enough to share your past with me completely.” He said wryly.
The guilt came back stronger this time while looking at Ajay's sombre expression. He didn’t deserve it. He took me in as I came all broken and sad and I wasn’t doing justice to his feelings.
I looked around furtively. My eyes roved over my friend’s fidgeting form. Rakesh was seated opposite to me.
“Why are you so nervous, Agent Rakesh?” I asked annoyed.
The man stared at me for a bit and he kept doing that for a while. It started to irritate me the silence which persuaded still.
“What?” I almost barked.
The people beside our table gave us owlish stares which I returned back with a 'back off' scowl.
Finally Rakesh opened his mouth.
“Man, can you not reign in your temper at all? You are gathering attention to us.” He whisper hissed.
I narrowed my eyes and gave him a nonchalant shrug.
“Do you have the information?” I asked again.
Rakesh sighed. He shook his head and pushed a piece of paper towards my side. I took it hastily and my eyes hungrily slid over the words.
My face started to ashen.
“This is the place of threat?” I asked sharply while looking up.
Rakesh nodded his head.
I frowned down at the paper. Strange. The same place. Again.
Rakesh though had his attention immersed somewhere else.
I got pissed instantly. We were at some serious work here and the man was busy chatting away with god knows who.
I moved front and grabbed his mobile while a grunt of a protest from him surprised me.
“Hey! Give the phone back to me, Rohith.” He said angrily.
My eyes turned into slits.
“It’s sir to you, Junior Agent.” I retorted back.
I looked down at his phone and read the messages that he so frantically was typing a moment ago.
My spine straightened as I took in the words. My heart started to pound hard. My skin turned warm.
I looked up into Rakesh's pale and blanched face.
“What is this?” I asked snapping immediately.
I looked down at the several messages he has sent while my fingers scrolled rapidly on the touch screen.
-Doc, his situation is worsening. He is acting delusional again!
-I don’t know how to handle him anymore. I don’t think he recovered at all from the past. The blast destroyed his life. I can’t see him in trauma. He is in denial.
I looked up as bile rose up my throat.
All breath whooshed out from my lungs.
A sudden ringing started to echo in my ears. My lungs filled with smoke. A strong stench entered in my gut, of charred flesh and burnt blood. My eyes cleared into the night as I limped my way while my right hand bled itself. My broken left leg turned into lead.
I looked down at the half cut bodies. I dragged myself around the human flesh strew around the chaos.
The memory of it came back like a hard punch to my jaw.
I grabbed my head and my eyes glazed up while Rakesh grabbed me by the shoulders and was shouting at me. But I heard nothing. I could make out the panic settling over his face. All I could see. All I could hear, were the screams. The plea. The groans. The shrill cries. Of people. Of little kids. Of women and men. Helpless in the wake of a horrifying event that brought painful and slow death around.
“Agent Rohith, you’re removed from the post citing reasons of your mental health…”
The words too came back to my head instantly. I wasn’t an agent anymore. I was sick. In the head.
The team had been successful in gathering information about the suspects. The target points were checked for suspicious activities. Even after the thorough safety measures there was one place which was left out by the team. A huge mistake on their part. I had been there in the area and then the blast.
I closed my eyes again as a prolonged deafening of silence settled in my ears.
“You knew about his condition and yet you still married him?” Ajay asked slowly.
My shoulders drew tight.
“He wasn’t like that before. We were happy back then. I had known about his job. He had been honest with me from the start.” I said ruefully.
“The blast that had happened five years ago in Delhi. He had seen it. He had been in it. He had got injured yet he survived.” I gulped hard.
“But I refused to believe that he wouldn’t come back to me. Mentally though he was far gone. He failed to recognize me. I stayed adamant. I waited until he healed and agreed to marry me. He went through a lot. It would have been selfish of me to leave him when he had needed me the most. I loved him so much. I thought I could take all. But he was a changed person since then. I should have known. I should have…”
Tears started to flow down my burning cheeks. I cried for the years of patience, anguish, care, love and affection I had given whole heartedly to the man that I had thought I loved.
I looked up and was surprised to see a person I know fast approaching towards our table. I wiped the tears from my eyes hurriedly.
He was Rohith’s friend and colleague. What was he doing here? I knew him well.
I was shocked more when he bent down and grabbed my hands.
I stood up and so did Ajay.
“What is it, Rakesh? What are you doing here?” I asked bewildered.
“He is going to do something? I knew that you were here but I couldn’t talk to you because of him.” He implored.
I frowned and my forehead cleared a second later.
“What’s wrong with Rohith? And you came to meet him here? For what?” I asked confused, and a bit panicked me.
Rakesh’s face convulsed.
“He is not well. He contacted asking me about an information. About a project we had handled years ago. He behaved so weirdly. I couldn’t act anymore. I think the episodes have returned.” He said grimly.
“No. It’s not possible. I thought he’s healed. He told me so. That the medication he is into now worked.” I said confused.
Rakesh remained silent. I gave him a stare as disbelief dawned on me like a splash of cold water over my face.
“He lied.” Rakesh let out quietly.
“He lied because he thought you were suffering because of him.” He finished.
“I was his wife for god’s sake. I wouldn’t have…”
I started at Rakesh.
“Where is he now? What do you mean you couldn’t act?” I asked nervously.
Rakesh’s face turned a shade pale with guilt.
“He’s gone somewhere. He pushed me away and then he just…”
I didn’t let him finish the sentence. I needed to find Rohith. He was a danger walking around in such a state.
My left hand though was grabbed from behind. I turned around to look at Ajay’s grim face.
“You can’t do that. You can’t just go after him like this every time he messes up.”
His said frustrated.
I drew back freeing my hand.
“He needs me, Ajay. I just can’t let him go.”
My voice wavered but I held still and firm knowing well the storm that sure was going to engulf me. But I needed closure. From him. From myself.
I looked everywhere but he was nowhere around. Where was he?
I saw someone stagger in the waiting room. I instantly recognized the blue suit the man was wearing.
I fast-walked towards the aisle and pulled the door of the waiting room. It was all dimly lit. I could only make out the interior a little.
I looked around and my eyes fell over a hunched figure at the far end of the room. Rohith was sat on his knees. His elbows were resting on the sofa. His hands were clutching the hair over either side of his head.
I managed to stay rooted to the spot. He wasn’t in the state to bear any histrionics coming from me.
“Rohith?” I called out to him calmly.
Instantly his back straightened even more. His head turned towards the source of my voice. I almost staggered back at the convulsive pain etched over his face.
“You.” He hoarsely whispered.
“What are you doing here?” He asked in a monotone now.
I didn’t have any answer to it. I opened my mouth to reply but he didn’t let me speak.
“For five years you were married to me and I don’t much remember anything of the time.” He murmured wearily now.
I couldn’t open my mouth for fear of saying something that I would regret later.
He got off the floor and turned towards me. He though maintained a good distance between us.
“How was it for you living with a person like me?” He asked again in that dead monotone.
I shivered at the lack of any emotion in that sentence.
He seemed to be in some kind of self assessment. As if her answer to it would hold great importance to him.
He smiled abruptly when I remained silent. The smile didn’t reach his brown eyes. Instead they were empty and quite stark.
“Why? Why did you marry me? I destroyed you. I wasn’t fit to be a relationship then. The things that happened that night! You wouldn’t know about it. You will never know. What I’m going through now…” He snarled.
Anger rushed fast in my veins.
“Of course. I wouldn’t know your pain. For five long years I had lived everyday with it residing in us. I went through the same tremors whenever it hit your body. I gulped down the pain that you swallowed every night. I stayed awake for god knows how many nights you witnessed the nightmares.” I lashed out.
“Of course. I wouldn’t know what horror you saw there. I cursed myself every day for not being there with you then. Because I loved you and cared so much about…” I broke down.
He stayed rooted to the spot looking at my face.
“They don’t leave me alone, Nithya.” He hoarsely whispered.
His eyes now shimmered tears. His face looked haunted now.
“I still hear the screams. I still feel the blood on me.” He continued.
His pain almost brought me to my knees. I moved forward but he moved back.
“No.” He barked…. “Don’t come near me. I don’t know myself anymore.” He warned.
His eyes were now wild and a sense of eerie calm taking over his face.
“But..” I protested.
“Stay back, dammit.” He growled
He took out a silencer gun from his coat pocket.
I gasped and staggered back. My eyes widened. Where did he get it from? I thought they took it away from him. I couldn’t believe he was carrying it around with him.
“What…what are you doing?” I stuttered shocked.
“Let’s just end this pain.” He said firmly.
He then went on to put the gun over the right side of his forehead.
I acted fast and reached him.
“Rohith! Stop this craziness.” I screamed.
He pushed back and I tried to grab the cold metal from around his hand.
“Just move back. I can’t take it anymore, Nithya. Can’t you see it on my face?” He growled like a wounded animal.
My heart broke apart and I didn’t know that I was sobbing hard.
“Rohith, come back to your senses. You don’t deserve this.” I cried.
“But you deserve better.” He murmured.
I struggled with him to take the gun from out of his hands. We both pulled at it and a deafening sound reverberated around.
Two shot went out from the gun and I froze. I looked up into Rohith's widening eyes.
I looked down at the blood seeping red over my white dress. We both fell down with a thud over the floor with Rohith toppling over me. I tried to put my hand over his chest to feel if he was alright. But he wasn’t. A gushing warm wetness flowed into my hand and I stopped breathing. My body was racked now with shivers. A fear so strong that I never encountered in my entire life until now shook me hard from my insides. Rohith got shot. The knowledge of it throttled the very breath out of my lungs.
A gasp escaped my lips while a hot searing pain paralyzed my whole body. I looked to the side to see Rohith moaning on the floor.
“Rohith…” I whispered.
He gasped hard and his horrified eyes drew towards my stomach.
“Now I’m with you in it, Rohith. Now I know how you feel.”
A deep chasm of inky blackness gripped my mind and I fell into it feeling suddenly at peace with myself.
I saw my wife take her last breath and I gripped her body and hugged her hard.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Sweetheart.” I cried hard.
I struggled to breath and my chest felt like it was cut open. I held her tight to myself as death neared me slowly.
“I love you.” I laughed… “Did I ever tell you that, Nithya.” I murmured, while lovingly caressing my bloodied fingers over her hair.
About the Author
Farheen Kazmi is a newbie contemporary romance writer. She has her work published on Amazon as well. She is a voracious reader first, before being an author. She also writes poetry as it is closer to her heart. She is a great fan of the novels written by Agatha Christie and Charlotte Brontë. She is an MBA graduate and has worked in the field for a bit before quitting it to pursue what she loved the most. Writing gave her the needed liberty to play with words and characters. It is what inspired her to be herself. She plans to keep progressing and improving a lot in the field of writing. She feels it is a long way for her to go before achieving something big. Striving hard is the motto and it is her mantra too.