Sunlight was barely threatening to break through the heavy cloud cover as she rubbed her eyes and looked at the bleak sky from her window. Her temples were pulsating from lack of sleep as well as her misadventure from last night. In the stark light of day, however hazy it may have been, her decision to put paid to Mother Nature’s plans and end her brief tryst with life was proving to be embarrassing and more than a little churlish. She could not begin to face the ramifications of her ill-made choice and had no option but to keep mum about it and not let a soul know. Not even her best friends. Especially not her best friends.
When she had finally reached the motel in the dead of the night, she had been greeted by deafening silence. She had found it hard to imagine that no one had missed her for the duration of time that she had been missing. What she had found odder still was the tranquillity and peace that she could feel envelope her singed soul when she had crossed the threshold of the dilapidated building. Not knowing what to expect, she had walked noiselessly up the flight of stairs which led to the room that she was sharing with her friends.
She had stood still outside the room, silently staring at the brass number ‘114’ which was moulded in a slightly careless cursive hand, as if trying to fathom the deeper, hidden meaning of life from those three brass digits. She had been standing transfixed outside the door when it had swung open with a barely audible squeak of metal hinges, simultaneously accompanied by a barely restrained shriek of terror intermingled with a newer sense of relief.
“Where were you? What the hell did you think you were doing, driving out in the middle of the night? How are you? What happened?” The questions that had been hurled at her had made her feel nauseous and she had felt her vision blurring. She had held onto the latch on the inside of the door and had felt her knees buckle under her own weight. The clasp of a strong hand on her right forearm had been a reassuring link to reality and she had felt much better for it.
“Will you guys stop razzing on her and at least let her in? I think we can postpone the inquisition to a later time.” With that she had been pulled inside the door and crushed to a warm, broad chest. “How are you, baby? Are you hurt?” The obvious concern in the voice had made her feel half-human and she had barely managed to shake her head, or so she thought.
The next thing she had been aware of was being tucked into bed by a pair of strong hands and gentle touches on her forehead. The soothing tones of the voice talking to her had lulled her into a dreamless slumber from which she had woken up only now.
She struggled to come to terms with the harsh reality of the sordid decision she had made last night. Embarrassment, agony and self-doubt had all but brought her to her knees. And now, she had to face her friends and make up some false story or the other about the night before. So, this was what it felt like. Standing between a rock and a hard place, she thought to herself. Her prowess as a yarn-spinner was sketchy at best. Her imagination was not her weapon of choice when it came to managing a bad situation. And to top it all off, she was terrible at lying. She could still remember her half-baked attempts from the past where she had been caught even before the first sentence had left her mouth.
She stepped into the bathroom and peered into the spotless mirror mounted to the wall facing the door. She looked like she had seen a ghost. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and her hair looked like a mangy cat’s fur. She turned the faucet on and kept staring at her reflection while keeping her hands still under the flow of the cold water. She felt a little confused, a little dazed. Something was missing. She faintly remembered a man’s voice from last night. A deep, velvety voice. A scary, threatening voice.
And just like that, she covered her half open mouth with the palm of a wet hand and felt a headache coming on. Horrified brown eyes stared back at her as she repeated a single question inside her head again and again. Was there actually a man out there or did I just imagine him?