“Are you coming tonight?” A bright smile illuminated his face as those three jumping dots on his phone transitioned into a plain “Yes :)”. He loved reading this word. It would be their fifth formal date, however, counting as such would be no less futile than counting the number of egrets tailing a grazing cow, for every date comprised of multiple smaller ones, and every moment spent with her was nothing unlike bathing in cold water after a particularly sweaty football match in the summer. Dan Selvert felt quite a connection with her; she wasn’t like any woman he’d ever been with before. Faye was rather adventurous, and yet, there was something so accessible about her. Their experiences had been unparalleled. He first met her at a pretentious party she had gate- crashed as a part of her incredulous ‘bucket list’ of things to live through, at least once. His already wavering attention took no time to move on from the infinite flavours of wine to her alarmingly sparkling neon dress. But while his attention was not unique, his admiration of her innocence and buoyancy most certainly was.
After tasting infinitesimal portions of food she dared not pronounce in her thick German accent, they sneaked out to grab a bite of what she considered ‘real’ food. But her clear disregard for pre- made plans was revealed to him blatantly, as before they could even make it to the street- side food truck Faye wouldn’t stop raving about, they found themselves watching a low- budget performance of what seemed to be a Shakespeare- inspired independent drama. Faye enjoyed investing in smaller projects and artists; “I don’t want to be the line between someone upgrading to a Maserati from Mercedes, I want to be the reason someone goes home to a well- fed family than a starved one.” That night, fortunately, was still young and far away from being over, although, less eventful on paper than the preceding events. After some really embarrassing karaoke, they settled down by a pedestrian footpath on a bridge, uncaring of having to retrieve their legs back for every passer- by who refused to just hop over them. They shared unconventional details about their lives. He still didn’t know what she did for a living, what her last name was, where she lived and the regular. He reckoned she didn’t know the same about him as well, considering that through their hours of conversation, acquiring a bio- data hadn’t occurred to either. And yet, he felt like he knew her, and he undoubtedly knew that she knew him like no one ever had.
He spotted Faye outside the restaurant they’d agreed to meet at, knowing full well that their reservation would not be met in- spite of punctuality. She was wearing the same outfit she wore on their third date and didn’t seem to mind that in the least. Her beautiful blonde curls framed her face, complementing his short brown ones rather nicely. And yet despite the aesthetics of the place and their chemistry, she refused to take any pictures. “Memories belong to your brain, not the phone. And if there’s a memory I can’t recall without pictorial proof, it’s not worth remembering, anyway.” Dan had some pretty logical counter arguments to this, but they weren’t worth spending time on in contrast to the vast majority of things they still hadn’t covered. Expectedly, she suggested a bizarre alternative to their simple dinner date, and he went along with it. His conservative and restricted standard of living shielded him from general fun, and Faye was a breath of fresh air. He couldn’t wait for their next adventure.
Dan hadn’t been able to refuse any of Faye’s ideas; they all seemed unnaturally insane to him at first, but graffitiing the railway- station walls, dining with complete strangers by pretending to be stranded passer-by’s, sneaking into an amusement park at night, breaking into someone’s apartment prior to leaving money for the damage they caused and even racing through empty roads, all seemed gratifying post completion. And yet, today wouldn’t be a repetition of the exciting times they had. She produced a black jumper from her bag and wore it over her vivid top. A sudden solemnity spread across her still warm smile as she asked him if he wanted to meet her parents. The dark yearning in her usually sparkling eyes was obvious, and while all of Dan’s previous agreements had stemmed mostly from a selfish sense of pleasure, this one was purely for her sake.
They drove to the graveyard by the edge of the city; she spoke very little. Dan had never experienced loss before; human or material. He grew up a rather privileged life as the only son of over- bearing but well- off parents. He had everything he ever wanted, and while he was living his best life before Faye’s arrival, he was living his favourite life now. He stopped by a local florist and bought a yellow bouquet for Faye and white roses for her parents. It was a long drive, and their arrival after the sun’s departure was welcomed with a gush of cold air. As Dan hugged the jacket he’d worn with the original intention of chivalry, he was now glad that Faye had her own jumper. They walked into the ground, through the creaking gates and faced an array of forlorn tombstones. Faye knew exactly where to go, so he followed her quietly, while maintaining a respectful distance, which was getting harder and harder to do through the thick boughs. The letters on the stones fleeted across his eyes, but one caught him right in his tracks.
‘Sophia Caroline Galleri.’
Dan froze, Faye had disappeared through the ostensible maze. He didn’t care. His feet instinctively carried him towards her grave and his grip across the white flowers loosened. He didn’t know whether it was appropriate for him to be there, but his stubborn brain denied contribution of any meaningful thoughts. He felt numb; he knew there were several things he should’ve felt, but nothing happened. He wanted to call out to Faye, but words failed him.
Something touched his wrist. Something cold. Was it Faye? Speed betrayed him as his head spun towards his right at a rate of nanometres per second. There was no one. And yet, he felt searing pain, it was his wrist. Someone slit it.
The weapon was dropped right beside him, but the perpetrator was nowhere in his sight.
Dan called out for Faye only to be met with silence. Blood was squirting out of his arm; his artery had been nicked. He fell onto his knees as his eyes darted to the weapon- it was a knife. The new stains of his blood covered the previous dried ones. A sudden urge to grab it overcame him as his fingers brushed across its hilt. He read the pen- made inscription: ‘DS’.
It was his knife.
The last thing he saw was a blurred tombstone which read ‘Sophia Caroline Galleri.’ Though his inherent regret now masked his pain, Dan still looked for an excuse. “It was a stupid mistake; I was only a young boy!” And yet, years after this inconvenient incident was closed and forgotten, it was uncertain to him whether the tears his eyes betrayed were in honour of his guilt or his imminent death.
Dan closed his eyes, most unprepared to die, and lumped on Sophia’s grave. The white flowers crushed under his weight.
“So, your husband next, Anne Bishop? Or the ‘boy’ who wanted to punish you for your clothes, Nirbhaya?” Faye asked as she consoled a shaking Sophia in her arms, right before her spirit embraced liberation. The eight- year- old Asifa chimed in, “I would’ve trusted him too. He looked like a regular nice person.”
A regular person whose jealousy of her independence and his unfamiliarity of rejection stumped him. The entitlement that had been his whole life wasn’t even a tiny part of hers. He never liked her, and he didn’t even know why he did it. Was it to establish his power? He was inebriated; that was his out- of- jail free card. The revered judge wouldn’t let one tiny drunken mistake, one tiny imbalance in his ledger, ruin this thriving young boy’s life. And Sophia’s death couldn’t be on his hands either, could it? She killed herself after he was already done with her! It’s not like he was the first, either. How could that ever be his fault? After all, he seemed like a regular nice person.
Faye breathed her reply to Asifa with a heavy sigh, “They all do.”
By: Archie Parekh, Dubai