“Leave?” she heard Tim speak out in a tone that intended defiance to his father.
His father’s words were a blur but she made out ‘stay away’, ‘trouble’ and ‘move’.
Why would he want to move over this?
Tim had told her his father was angry about the incident in school but she didn’t know it would get this serious. No one would move for reason as obscure as this.
For the first time in her life she found a companion, someone she deeply cared about and someone to share the same feelings toward her. And they wanted to take him away too. For what? For protecting her?
Was she that bad?
What about the boys who locked her in the tiny room?
Didn’t they need any retribution?
Nobody cared. They just wanted her to be unhappy.
“I hate you!” she heard Tim’s voice roar through the windows and walls. More voices echoed in the neighboring house but nothing clear to make any sense out of it.
Well, nothing was making sense right now. Her life wasn’t making any sense. How could it be so prejudiced? Someone got everything while she sat there, asking for something as meager as true companionship. And they didn’t want her to have even that.
It wasn’t like anyone wanted Tim. For as far as she could see, everyone hated him as much as they did her.
So why take him away?
It was her. She was the cursed one. First her mother, then Lucy and now Tim.
It was all her fault. If she hadn’t told Tim about what they did to her, he wouldn’t have meddled with the kids and this wouldn’t have happened.
Now what was she to do with her life without him?
There was no hope.
If he moved away, her life would turn the same old meaningless dread that it was. She didn’t want to go back to that.
The house across fell silent. No noises coming through the walls and windows. She started to move towards the window when Tim’s window opened.
Looking at his face gave her the comfort she much needed. She wanted him to say that she had heard wrong. They weren’t moving. He would stay with her forever and ever.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” the word barely came out.
It was getting difficult, speaking when emotions were choking the living life out of her.
“You must have heard,” he said.
His eyes. His expressive eyes. They were speaking of pain and aching. She knew he wasn’t going to tell her what she wanted to hear. He was going to leave her, just like everyone else.
“What?” she tried to say. But the words struck in her throat and instead, a drop of tear rolled down to her cheek. She quickly wiped it.
But in vain.
He saw it too quick.
He climbed on the window ledge and jumped into her room, through her window.
He was quick in holding her hands and breaking into her heart. Stream of tears were now flooding incessantly out of her eyes and by his looks, she could tell, he wasn’t very happy either.
“Why?” she asked in words that came out as a sputter.
He came closer and pulled her in his arms, his hands folded as if tying her with himself. Her hands that were flying loose in the air now tightened around him, not wanting to let go of him.
“I am sorry,” he whispered in her ears. “But…”
She didn’t hear anything from him after that. She guessed he was trying to contain his tears just like she was.
Feeling his heartbeat, listening to the life-giving rhythm, she felt alive. There was no place in earth she’d rather be, than here, in his arms, safe and content.
After a minute long silence, he kissed her between her ear and her cheek and pulled himself away.
“My father says we have to go,” he said, his eyes studded to the floor. Maybe he was feeling ashamed for running away. Maybe he couldn’t bear to look into her eyes. She didn’t know. But it killed her. It hurt to not be able to look into his eyes. She wondered how she was going to live once he left.
“It has been like this for as long as I have known,” he started to speak a little clearly now. “And I know that’s how it will be.”
She couldn’t take it. It was his goodbye. He had come to take part from her, forever. But then, if it was so, why to live. Her purpose to life was in front of her, telling her he was going away forever. Then what reason would she have to go on? She’d have to give some serious thought once he left.
“I don’t know what it is about you,” he said.
The words fell like flowers from heaven. He was talking about her. He felt the same way for her as she did for him. Her heart bloomed even before he said anything more. She didn’t know what love was. But she knew she was in love, with him.
“I know I am supposed to be with you,” he looked into her eyes as he spoke.
His big eyes, looking right through her, peeking into her heart, melting it as he spoke.
“I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but I want to come back. I have to go today but I promise to come back some day. Will you believe me if I said that?” he said. “Will you wait for me?” he asked.
“For a million years,” she said and sprung on to him, holding him as tight as she could.
She couldn’t believe it.
A minute ago she thought it was meaningless to live. To live in a world filled with nasty thoughts and abomination. In a minute, he turned her life upside down.
He gave her a reason to smile.
A reason to breathe.
A reason to live.
They sat on the floor, holding on to each other, breathing each other’s smells, and drying their tears, and sharing the smiles as they glowed.
She rested on his shoulder and started to fiddle with his hair, scribbling on his chest.
He kissed on her forehead and murmured, “I have to go pack.”
She looked at him by turning her head slightly upwards, looking into his beautiful eyes.
She didn’t ache anymore. She knew he was going to come back. Her life wasn’t in vain anymore.
“Okay,” she whispered and slowly got up.
Mandy walked to her closet to get the chain she had hid from the world. Beneath the clothes and book it lay.
She tossed the clothes and lifted the books to get her hands on the gold chain her mother gave her when she was seven.
She walked to the closet and started rummaging through her clothes.
“What are you doing?” she heard Tim speak from behind.
There it was, shining from beneath her pajamas.
She opened the heart shaped pendant. It had her picture on the left and Tim’s on the right leaf. The photos were from the day they went to the circus together. They took the photo and both kept a copy of it. She didn’t know what Tim did with it, but she had cut out the faces and put them in this pendant.
“What is it?” he asked.
She walked over to him and held out her hand, holding the pendant in the little cup her palm formed.
He took it and looked at it.
His expression, it grew grave.
“Bring this to me, when you come back.”
He pulled her in his arms and held her tight, as if he was seeing her for the last time.
“You should go,” she whispered.
He smiled and put it in his pocket. He walked to the window and climbed up on the ledge.
“Wait for me Mandy, I will come and take you away from here,” he said.
“I will,” she replied.
He jumped back to his window and gave her a final look and closed the window door.
Mandy stood there staring at the closed window. But in fact, she was thinking about the day he’d come back.
Till then, she’d wait.
She wiped away the only drop of tear that hung by her eyelid. She smiled. Those tears were not coming back until Tim showed up. She promised herself and closed the window.
Mandy opened the window and stared at the closed one opposite to hers. She hadn’t cried since that day.
Of course, tears had tried to arise and break her. But she was firm.
She’d cry the day she’d see him.
Until then, she’ll live on smiles.
“I’ll be back in fifteen days,” she said and closed her window door.
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