The two red lines

She wrapped the covers under her body, cocooning herself to keep warm. It was March already but the winters refused to go away. The weather made her gloomy and she’d feel whiny towards the evening. It was warmer in the day but the wind crept up at night. The last of the snow showers paid a visit from time to time. The radiators in the house would whistle intermittently with hot steam but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

The clock on the nightstand was telling her to sleep. But sleeping had become increasingly difficult. Her breasts would feel sore, sometimes painful. Made it difficult for her to sleep on her stomach. She got out of bed for a smoke and took the blanket along with her. Rummaging through the papers on the desk, she finally found what she was looking for. She walked up to the fridge, took out a pint of beer and walked over to the window seat with her smoke and the sheet of paper.

A few dim lights in a few lonely houses told her she wasn’t the only one struggling to sleep. She lit her cigarette and inhaled the first calming puff. It was a pre-war neighborhood – walk-ups with brick exteriors that were slowly giving away. Hers was a 4th floor apartment. She didn’t think it would be a problem though she was feeling increasingly tired of carrying laundry and groceries home these days. The constructions were rather odd; with terraces on different levels in different buildings.
The building next to her jutted out and the window gave her a view of the occupant’s living room. Every night, the TV lights would cast shadows on her walls. She took a swig of the cheap beer and swallowed it with distaste. The letter lied in front of her. She didn’t want to read it just yet.

She looked out hoping to find courage somewhere in the dark of the night. The crescent shaped moon reminded her of better nights spent at that very windowseat with wine and him rather than cheap beer and a smoke for company. Nevertheless the smoke did its job. The beer didn’t taste as bad anymore. She wasn’t as restless now. She picked up the letter, this time with resolve. It had been lying in the pile of mail for four days. There was no return address. She didnt even know if he had moved out.

She scanned the letter for an explanation but found none. The tears came rolling and refused to stop. After two more beers and too many smokes, she passed out in her bed.

“I know I’ve hurt you. It all happened in a rush.”

She wanted it to be a bad dream.

“I’m Sorry I just couldn’t help it”

She was in and out of sleep.

“I didn’t know what to do. She was pregnant and…”

She woke up with a start. It was still dark. Her eyes were swollen and the hair was a mess. She wasn’t feeling too good. No it wasn’t the liquor!

She ransacked her closet. She knew she had a few kept somewhere in a drawer. She always kept them, just in case. Ten long frustrated minutes later, she found it.
She wiped her mouth and ran to the bathroom. The tears had dried down on her cheeks. She looked at herself in the mirror and took a deep breath. She splashed cold water on her case. She was now fully awake.
“I didn’t know what to do. She was pregnant and…”
That line rang through her head like a loud, deafening fire alarm. No! It couldn’t be! The fatigue, the soreness, the mood swings… it all began to make sense, although… she shook her head. It couldn’t be! No! It couldn’t be!

It can’t! But what if…? She wanted to check and make sure.
The three minute wait was killing her.

A smoke later, her worst fears had been confirmed.
Two more smokes and Two more strips later, the two red lines had pronounced this the worst day of her life.

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A Decade ago

She wore a white Tee and capris with a sling bag weighing her shoulder down. The class was fairly occupied. She found an empty bench and walked up to find him across from her; sitting in the other row. He wore a plaid shirt with jeans and never carried books – kept to himself, always quiet. Until the week after when the teacher asked him to read. He looked around to borrow one. She offered hers.

Weeks went by with acknowledging half-smiles. He borrowed her book when he was asked to read. The obligation to speak had reached its brim but neither had anything to say. The half-smiles extended into full-smiles, nods, a word here n there and then into conversations.

He had plans to go to New Zealand and study photography, had just 1 friend and sketched and wrote for a girl he was madly in love with but had never spoken to. He didn’t get along with his father and hated his first name.

The need to spend more time, talk some more, sketch together had taken over. They met often to show each other their work, to talk passionately about the things they loved, and sometimes just to watch the rain. She knew he was going to leave soon. Saying goodbye wasn’t going to be easy and the day was soon approaching.

The rains were fierce that season. It wasn’t supposed to rain that day. It poured! Like never before. The thundering blocked out the sound of her thoughts. All she felt was the cold wind against her skin and his eyes watching her now n again. He had given her his windcheater. They walked fast trying to outrun the rain. Shivering against each other; neither saying a word.
They reached the doorstep as she fumbled for the keys. He waited as she turned the key in the lock, sealing the fate of the moment that quivered in the space between.
Hungry kisses were cherished, each touch meeting with acquiescence. The alchemy of that day had changed everything!

———
I feel the soft drops of rain on my hands.
It had been a decade ago!
It wasn’t supposed to rain that day!

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