The night grew darker across the sky with the twinkles glowing brighter. He looked at the ancient wall clock that hung on the wall beside his dead grandfather’s framed black and white photo. The needles measured the depth of the night as 2:30. He had to leave.
On the room opposite to the other side of the hall slept his parents. He could hear his father’s snores like an old truck made to climb a steep hill. His mother wouldn’t realise. For a second he stood at the door of their room and asked them for forgiveness in his mind. He had to do this. He had to leave.
Slowly, he took the bag from under his bed which he had packed earlier in the night, just before dinner. When he slowly walked across the hall towards the main door, he felt his grandfather seeing everything through his black and white eyes. The wooden door generally creaks when opened, so he unlocked the door and pulled it open graciously making sure that the rusted hinges did not give out a loud screech. The darkness of a moonless night was scary but he had made his mind. He had to leave.
“Will you wait for me?” he had asked her the other day.
“Mmm,” she nodded. Her fingers were intertwined with his and he could feel the chill of the evening breeze in her fingers.
“I’ll come to take you away next Friday night around 3. We will run away from everything that’s holding us back and start a new life together” he said, confidently.
“I wish we could,” she said. The smile on her face made him forget the world and was the most beautiful thing he had seen. “You are made for me”, she whispered.
He had met her one evening while he was returning back from the temple. His house being on the other side and he had to walk across the fields and through the mangroves. The sun had almost disappeared into the distant horizon and the sky was slowly turning into a beautiful collage of blue and bright orange amidst the scattered clouds. He could hear the train pass by through the other side of the fields and the shouts of ladies calling out to their cows who were refusing to end their daily feast. His grandfather, when alive, used to bring the two cows for grazing to the fields and he used to tag along as a kid in his knickers, carrying a stick just to be sure of Ammu, the cow. While in the fields he used to tell him stories about everything. Stories about men and women of the village. Stories about ghosts of the village. Stories about the petty thieves of their village. Stories about Gandharvas who were celestial and supernatural men, visiting to seduce women. Time had passed by swiftly and his grandfather had died of a heart attack. The cows were sold off to another man and the days where he wore knickers were long gone.
When he entered the mangroves from the fields, the sky had lost its tint and darkness was slowly growing across. The pathway through the mangroves was seldom travelled after sunset. It was generally taken only by people returning home after visiting the temple.
“Does this way lead to the temple?” came a voice from behind. At first, he was surprised, then he was mesmerised. Before him stood a girl whom he had never seen before.
“Mmm…” he stuttered. He had never been good with talking to the opposite sex since his school days. He hadn’t spoken a single word to the girl whom he had always believed would be his wife someday. Years passed and now she was the mother of two kids. “Yes! I haven’t seen you here before” he managed to blurt out.
“I came to visit just like every year, but I always seem to get confused in the mangroves” she replied without any hesitation as if she had known him for a long time.
“I see” he replied. He could not stop admiring her beauty even in the darkening mangroves. Her knee length hair lay open across her shoulders occasionally swaying in the cool evening breeze, showing him a glimpse of the golden earrings that hung on her ears.
“I shall take my leave then,” she said, her beautiful smile still brightening her face. “Thank you!” she turned and walked away into the opposite direction of the mangrove. He stood there till she disappeared into the darkness. He lit his torch and walked home.
That night he slept thinking about the girl he met in the mangroves. Her smile. He wanted to see her again but was sure he would never be able to. Her voice musically hummed in his dreams like a distant lullaby, calling him home.
The next evening when he was in the temple, he prayed that she would come too but she didn’t. While walking back home through the mangroves, he was struck by a sadness of not being able to see her another time.
“So you visit the temple daily is it?” she asked from behind him.
“Wha… Yeah… I was” he stuttered, turning back surprised.
“Did I scare you?” she asked. She was now laughing, covering her mouth with her left hand, adding to her beauty.
“No! I didn’t expect to see you again” he said.
“Neither did I, but we did,” she said smiling.
“May I ask your name?” he asked with utmost manners he could add in his vocabulary.
“Vaikha” she replied and he felt her eyes flicker.
“Where do you stay?” he asked.
“Now, we mustn’t reveal everything at once, ” she said, giving him that smile he could die for and ran away into the mangroves and he stood there like a kid who was waiting for his turn for a ride.
Days passed and he kept meeting her every evening in the mangroves. This had become the only reason he used to go to the temple these days. She told him that she used to visit her ancestral place to complete a work which she had to, once in a year, for a month and left after finishing the task. The summer evenings were growing warmer by every night and they grew closer. He stopped going to the temple and used to meet her in the mangroves. They used to talk. Talk to each other about everything. About the stories of the universe and the mysteries. About the life, they spent till date. About their dreams that they kept sacred to themselves. He had never felt this way before. Looking into her eyes, losing himself into the depths of the ocean it was. Submerging his mind into a trance every time he was lost in her talks. One evening, they grew onto each other like a crawler on a tree. Engulfing each other with extended arms, reaching everywhere, wanting for more. Like a morning dew dripping down the length of the leaf, the two lives wanted to be one under the setting sun. The oceans had roared, emotions flaring like the all-consuming fire, swaying beautifully under the influence of the violent breeze of ecstasy. The rhythm was intense, shadows becoming one in the darkness.
“Marry me” he had said, not sure what he was saying. Was it the heat of the moment? He pushed himself away from the thought. He wanted her.
“Take me away” she replied, her eyes pulling him into her.
“Will you wait for me?” he had asked.
“Mmm…” she nodded. Her fingers were intertwined with his like their bodies. He could feel the chill of the evening breeze between them. “You are made for me”, she whispered. “I believe that this year, my visit was just to meet you”.
She had promised that she will wait for him in the mangroves because that was where they first met and always did. She told him that the mangroves were an important part of their life and he knew she was correct.
The night was dark. He walked as fast as his legs could carry, through the darkness, towards the mangroves. She had promised. He looked around for her in the darkness of the mangroves but didn’t find her. He couldn’t stop his mind from retching out negative thoughts. May be it was the darkness. He waited because she had promised.
A few minutes later, once his eyes adjusted to the surroundings standing in the darkness, on the pathway he saw a figure in the distance. A girl. His heart jumped, and he couldn’t stop the smile that grew on his face. He was going away with her. She was going to be his wife. He was sure his parents who would never accept this at the moment will definitely understand his feelings towards her. Especially when they know that they have become grandparents. He stood there, smiling.
The figure in the distance was moving, but not towards him. She wouldn’t have seen him, he realised and walked towards her. When he grew closer, he realised that she was dancing naked beside a tree. Her hands held high and hair open, she swayed her body, occasionally moving her head to the sides. She was facing the opposite side. He was about to call out her name but his voice stopped midway in his throat and his legs stopped moving. There was a man standing in front of her and she was dancing for him. The man was beautifully handsome and was wearing nothing on his body.
“He will come” he heard her tell the man, who was now pulling her closer to him. She placed her hands on the man’s shoulders and he saw that her nails had grown. Her voice was not the same anymore and that was when his bag fell from his hands onto the dried leaves of the mangrove. He felt their eyes fall on him. The man smiled. She smiled. Even in the darkness, he could see her eyes bore into his. He felt fear for the first time when he saw her teeth.
He ran, gasping for air, tears of fear flowing down his cheeks. He didn’t know what was happening but he knew that he had to run. Run as fast as he could. As fast as his legs could carry. All the beautiful moments with her replayed in his mind and was now being overshadowed by fear. The stories his grandfather had told him breezed through his mind. He tried to scream but choked on his own voice. The darkness of the night had grown into the air and he felt a pair of fingers dig into the flesh of his left arm.
“You are made for me” he heard her whisper in his ear just before he felt the excruciating pain of the darkness engulf his body and mind.