I could not receive her call as I was busy in the Stocks meeting at my office. I had responded with a “Will be there soon” message in reply to her text “Come quickly.”
I parked my car in the basement and took those steps along a road I knew so well. A sudden gust of wind sent icy tendrils winding through my hair. As I walked up the familiar stairs leading into the lobby I noticed that the receptionist was new, and she did not recognize me, but the guard at the gate was the same as an year ago. He saluted me, and asked the new girl to let me pass.
The carpet, the plush sofa sets, the lights, and even the smells of the place had remained unchanged — as if time had not touched them as it had touched me. There was a young couple on the sofa, holding hands and watching the television. They paid me no heed. But in my mind they were looking at me with accusing glances, calling me the name the media had carefully refrained from using — “Murderer!”
I gathered my bearings, got into the elevator and pressed the button that said “15”. The fifteenth floor of Paruplaza Apartments — the place where I had built my life the way I had always dreamed, and the very place where it unraveled in front of my eyes!
As the doors of the elevator opened, I was filled with a sense of dread. My instinct — every fibre in my body screamed at me to turn away and run — run until my legs could carry me no farther. But all I had been doing in the past year was running — it was time to face my fears, to let go of something I had tried to hold on for so long.
“Come soon”, her second message had said. I didn’t reply, but hurried past all the locked doors, so I could be with her again. And presently, I stood in front of apartment 1519. The nameplate on the door read “Mrs. and Mr. Nandan Shyam”. Looking at the innocuous plate of metal, no one could guess the world of terror it housed within.
I opened the door and stepped inside. The furniture was shrouded with white clothes — I had no idea who had done that, nor did I care. Now that I was in, I rummaged through the mess of papers on the dining table and found the one I was looking for — it was newspaper clip from exactly a year ago. The headline announced “Famous socialite Raveena Shyam commits suicide” and it carried her picture — the picture of my wife. The article mentioned that Raveena was suffering from severe depression, and committed suicide one night when her husband was out due to some business reasons.
I looked at the piece of paper and wept. These were tears of remorse — of guilt. Guilt that had I received her call on that fateful night a year ago, I might have been holding her in my arms right now instead of that newspaper clip which showed her smiling face. I sobbed in silence for a long time, and finally took out her phone from my coat pocket. No one had used it for an year, and the last dialed number on it was mine — just minutes before she had thrown herself out of the window.
Without thinking, I pressed the call button. My own phone lit up and started ringing. Her caller picture was the same the newspaper had printed, and it had a faint glow due to the incoming call — but it could not compare with the healthy glow Raveena had on her face when she was happy. It almost killed me to remember how seldom I had given her the reason to smile. My phone rang for one full minute before the call disconnected.
“One Missed Call” — proclaimed the screen.
One missed opportunity, I read.
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