After a busy morning, John sat by the window of his new second floor flat. It was a very cold day in Dowlon, still snowing; ice flakes were scattered all over the road. Some were moving with umbrellas on, others were wearing hats and raincoats. John’s wandering eyes got caught on the other side of the road in front. One employee of City Council was taking rest, presumably during his lunch break, by the side of the wall that separated two buildings. Though from a distance, John could at once recognise the cover of the book that man was reading — it was the book, John had recently published — ‘Know No Boundaries’. How could an ordinary Dowlon worker become interested in a book like this? — John was wondering; at once he felt connected to the common man on the road — with the common sense. In his newly bought flat, he had lots of problems, he was yet to set up the broadband network to connect to the world, the flush in the toilet was not working, one of the windows in the lounge was not snugly fitted, only once he tried to use the washing machine and the floor was flooded from the leaking machine.
Though John had moved houses multiple times in his younger days and moved from countries to countries, this was the first time he was alone. In all moves except the first one in the childhood days, Deanna was with him. This was the first time, John had moved out, leaving Deanna in the house they had lived together for long. John never considered the divorce as an option, because of so many legal complications and expenses involved. Had he opted for divorce, it would have been very difficult to explain to the friends and relatives, especially to their own daughter, Jewel. John had never felt that he had loved Deanna; he could not love her without expecting love in return. Retired now, John discovered that he could afford to stay away and use his time in writing books, painting pictures and doing what he would love to do; he did not like to get exploited any more in the pretext of keeping the marriage and love intact.
John reviewed the list of to-do’s in his mind. He seldom kept any reminder in his mobile phone or computer diary — he had already ordered for the delivery of a new washing machine and the disposal of the existing one, he had scheduled an appointment with the plumber for fixing the toilet flush and another with the handyman for fixing the window. He had also a brief dialogue with Deanna, checking that she was still comfortable in their house. What should John do this evening? There was some unpacking to do, not much, John had brought only two packed suitcases from the house, as if he was out on a tour for a couple of months. On any other day, John would have turned the TV on to watch the news and a few selected programs. Alas, no TV sets were available in the new flat, John might not buy any, he might watch the relevant programs via the Internet. Should he talk to someone now? John shuffled through a number of visiting cards and stopped at one of his own cards, on the back of which there was a phone number — the number of Annie, taken 44 years ago.
After a few rings, a male voice responded — ‘Hello, whom do you want please?’
‘I am after Annie, whom I met 44 years ago. My name is John’ — John replied.
‘Thank you, John. My name is Cameron; I do not know any Annie. However, I would make enquiries and let you know; may I have your number please?’
John gave his phone number to Cameron and took up the newspaper, he picked up last evening.
An hour later, John’s phone rang.
‘Hi, John here’, John replied.
‘It is Annie, John; tell me what I can do for you.’
‘Do you remember getting CAPTURED for a night — 44 years ago?’
For a few seconds, there was no reply. Then John heard, — ‘Yes, I do, John, where are you now? Are you still living in Dowlon?’
‘I wasn’t, but I am back to Dowlon now, just in my new flat in Maida Vale.’
‘I am still at Mayfair, that’s why you got me at the same number, but I no longer live in the same address. After marriage, I have moved to another address. Please note my new mobile number, where you could contact me more easily’
John noted Annie’s mobile number.
‘Could I see you sometime, Annie? Your husband as well, if I may?’
‘Sure, would you be free next Saturday at 12noon?’
‘Sure, I would be — ’
‘I shall discuss with Madison, my husband and let you know, we may meet for Yum Cha at China Town. What about your status? Are you married?’
‘I shall be alone this time; we shall discuss more when we meet.’
‘John, you’ve not changed much, I can still recognize you’, — John heard someone from close, when he was waiting at Gerrad Street corner.
‘You must be Annie’ — John said.
‘Yes, John, and here is my husband Madison.’
‘I am honoured to meet you, Madison and you, Annie, let us move in’ John said, and together they entered ‘Emperor Delights’. They were soon ushered in by the waiter, where Madison and John were seated by the window, facing each other and Annie was seated beside Madison.
‘44 years is a long time, let us see how we all had been’, John started, ‘Have I seen you before, Madison?’
‘Yes, John,’ said Annie — ‘Madison appeared in the Coffee House that evening, before we left for Oakwood on Collins. You should have seen each other for a couple of minutes.’
‘I remember you, John.’ said Madison, ‘we discussed about you a few times since then.’
‘Sorry Madison.’ John said, ‘I don’t remember your face at all. When did you two get married?’
‘Not long ago, we had our 20th anniversary only last month’ said Annie, ‘though we knew each other for long, we did not consider ourselves as partners in life.’
As the waiter was asking for their orders, they quickly browsed through the menu and ordered. They tried to select the items where three or more pieces are included in one serve. After the waiter went away and brought drinks for them, they started talking again.
Annie continued from where she left, — ‘44 years ago, when we last met, I discussed about my brother Shane and my sister Shellie; I was paying for their university and school expenses at that time. But things did not go as planned. Shane did very well in Medicine, he topped the list of MBBS graduates; but he was lured by a prospective father-in-law, who organized for his travel to USA and expenses for his MRCP/FRCS, even promised to start a surgery for his practice. Shane had to marry Cheryl. My parents thought it would be good for Shane, so thought Shelly and I. It might have been very good for Shane, but we hardly saw his face after his marriage.’
‘Good God,’ said John, ‘Were you not ready to marry Madison after Shane left?’
‘Neither Madison was ready, nor did I think in these lines. A year after Shane left, Madison married Nafisa, a very charming girl who could easily win hearts of everyone around her. Shelly was still studying, I was not looking for any partner then; but Shelly too got married before she finished her degree. I was the only offspring left with my parents.’
‘What happened then?’ said John.
‘Not long after Shelly’s marriage, my father fell seriously ill with bronchitis and pneumonia. He was bed ridden for about a year, but Shane was still in USA and could not offer his expertise to cure my father, nor did he send any financial help. Rather Madison helped us a lot; he has high regards for my parents.’ Said Annie, ‘When my father was ill for about a year, Nafisa was suddenly down with heavy fever — it was diagnosed that she had been struck with incurable leukaemia. My father died after suffering for slightly more than a year. A couple of months later, Nafisa passed away.’
‘So sad, Annie, Madison’, gashed John.
‘A couple of years passed after Nafisa’s death; Madison used to visit us almost daily and helped us in the way he could. My mother and I tried to help him by doing whatever we could. Around this time Madison asked me whether I had any plans for my marriage and whether I would feel happy to marry a widower like him. I had always regards for Madison but never considered him as my husband, but now I couldn’t say ‘No’ to him and asked the permission of my mother for letting me marry him.’
‘Is you mother still living with you?’ John asked.
‘No, she passed away 10 years ago. But she has seen her grandchildren before passing away — Harry was then 8 year old and Hillary was 6.’ said Annie.
‘So you are now coping with two teenagers at home; having lots of fun, aren’t you?’
‘Why don’t you share some fun with us? I know you are an expert in Maths; can you make some time to tutor them?’
‘Sure, if I can. There have been lots of changes in the syllabus; I may have to learn something from Harry and Hillary.’
‘If so, I am sure, you would pick up very promptly. We have not talked about your situations yet. How busy are you now-a-days?’
‘Not very busy now-a-days, Annie.’ Said John, — ‘Have been living a retired life for last two years. I have become more of a philosopher now than a mathematician or an engineer. But if you two allow me, I would like to teach Harry and Hillary and I would learn a few new tricks and ideas in the process.’
‘What about your family?’ Annie asked, ‘Don’t you need to spend time for anyone there?’
‘I have just started living alone in a new flat, while my wife Deanna lives in our old house. We no longer need to tell each other how we spend our time.’
‘What about your finance? Don’t you need to tell each other how you spend your money?’
‘Fortunately, we have enough for each of us. She got our house and the better car, I got the smaller car. We have now separate bank accounts, where Deanna has 2/3rd of our funds. Deanna is convinced that she would not get anything more, if we settle our divorce in the court.’
‘Perhaps, we should not ask any more questions on this. You two must be aware of what you miss and what you gain, when you are not together.’
‘Please don’t ask, if I say something it could be one-sided. Better read a newly published book, ‘Know No Boundaries’ — written by Lateral Collateral. You may think more about a marriage and a divorce.’
‘Who is this ‘Lateral Collateral’? What happened in ‘Know No Boundaries’?’
‘In ‘Know No Boundaries’ the author aspired to move to a world, where the marriage would not bring extra privileges to exploit persons, single persons would live as happily as those married. It is up to you to read this book or not. You will if you are genuinely interested, I would not buy this book for you.’
‘We don’t read a lot.’ Said Annie, ‘Madison, we may ask Harry and Hillary to take a look at this book, if they feel interested. Why don’t we invite John to come to our house when both Harry and Hillary would be available?’
‘Of course, John, when could you come? Could you come on Monday evening?’ Madison said, ‘We would also ask Harry and Hillary. I would let you know if this date is not suitable for them.’
‘Monday evening is OK with me’ said John, ‘Opportunities to see more of you, Annie, after 44 years. Our ideas must have evolved a lot in the mean time.’
‘Sure.’ replied Madison, ‘Annie has talked a lot about you in these years; I am interested to know more about you as well.’
Conversation went on for hours along with Yum-Cha, till they departed with promises to meet again soon.
* * *
* * *
Deanna had mixed feelings, when John moved away from their house. She was not happy to lose John from her control. In this marriage, she got most of the material things she wanted. But now John would not earn much from his pension, Deanna would have the similar income from now on from her pension. Deanna had more of their total assets, she would be in a position to spend enough for her living as well as one overseas trip each year plus frequent visits to movies, operas and dance recitals. As John did not like to spend money on movies, operas, cricket matches etc, she had made a habit of getting one close friend Ruby as her companion; she would continue to do the same. Should Deanna have to tell Ruby that John was no longer living with her? — Deanna was perplexed. As Ruby usually kept no secret from Deanna, it would be difficult for Deanna to say nothing to Ruby about disappearance of John. Moreover, it would be difficult for Deanna to say nothing to her relatives, when she would meet them in next overseas trips — it would have been much easier if John had died instead of going away. After a great deal of deliberations, she decided to tell friends, relatives and everyone else the same lie — John has gone away on a long overseas assignment to Poland, a place not visited by any of her friends and relatives.
After managing to tell the same lie to everyone, Deanna felt much easier — now she would be able to do whatever she liked to do — travel many countries and more often — buy more of dresses, perfume and jewellery — discard old garments to charities — make a beautiful garden — add a swimming pool — organize to pave the front yard. Deanna knew that John wanted to get full value for the money spent on the house or on the tours, but she did not believe that you have to stay in your beautiful house to make good use of the money spent on the house; she wanted to keep in touch with more people — friends and relatives, spread all over the world, she kept in touch with them over phone, she wanted to help them even when she knew she may only get some love and respect in return, she would love to get goodies from one part of the world for the friends and relatives staying in other parts of the world. She considered that she is more fortunate than her friends and relatives who could not travel as often and she enjoyed sharing her fortune with less fortunate friends and relatives, who often wondered whether Deanna earned more than her partner John.
Deanna now planned to travel more often than she used to do with John — two overseas trips of 13 weeks each and two domestic trips of 6 weeks each. This meant she needed spend only 14 weeks at home at four intervals between trips — i.e. for about three and half weeks each time. Soon she realized that she needed more funds to finance four trips in a year — she organized to lease the house to get enough funds. She kept most of her personal things in a rented store and appointed a managing agent for leasing the furnished house. When she returned home for about 3.5 weeks, she would stay either at Ruby’s or a rented apartment or in a hotel room. When Deanna was overseas, she always maintained touch with Ruby via emails and telephones.
Thus life went on happily with Deanna — she was now living a better life than with John, whom she never loved. Deanna was prepared to sacrifice for all friends and relatives, she loved; but when doing something for John, she felt that she is getting exploited as she needed to continue as his wife. ‘When you may spend your life with so many men and women around you, why would you sacrifice so much for a single one?’ — Deanna asked herself this question many times in her life, but did not find any answer. Had each one of us been provided enough to lead a comfortable and fulfilling life, she thought, there is no need to sacrifice for your partner or for your future. She could not recognize that how little John spent for his own needs, in order to spend for Deanna’s comfort and pleasure as well as for the provisions for an easy and comfortable retired life for the family. Deanna did not like the ideas of saving for the future, she preferred to enjoy as much as possible as she thought she would die young; she wanted to travel in the business class, but she did not have enough money in the bank accounts, she thought it is prudent to withdraw funds from her superannuation account, which John has built for her.
A couple of years later, Deanna returned from a 13week long tour of Europe, of which she had spent three weeks in a Trafalgar tour of Switzerland, in which Ruby was also with her. Rest of the time, after Ruby returned to Awtotom, Deanna stayed with her daughter Jewel, son-in-law Ricky and their granddaughter Sonia. On her arrival, Deanna was looking for Ruby, as she always got a warm welcome by Ruby and her husband Tony. But this time, Ruby was not there; Tony alone was there to receive Deanna.
‘Hi Tony!’ Deanna said, as she came out into the arrival area.
‘Glad to see you back, Deanna’
‘Where is Ruby?’ Deanna was looking forward to seeing Ruby after a gap of 10 weeks.
‘She is a bit indisposed and busy at home; you would see her soon.’ Tony replied.
After about 45 minutes, Deanna and Tony reached Ruby-Tony’s house. Ruby did not look the same as before, she looked very tired and exhausted.
‘I have to give you a bad news, Deanna’, — said Ruby.
‘Doctors have advised us, I have cancer in my lower abdomen.’
‘What are you doing, Ruby? You need to go by what doctors advise you’ — said Deanna.
Life was a lot different now with Tony and Ruby. Ruby was going through Chemotherapy 3 days in a week. She was so exhausted after Chemo, she could hardly carry out any other work; she lost a lot of hair, her head seemed almost bald.
It was Tony, who had now taken over all household work. In spite of jetlag, Deanna joined hands with Tony in cooking.
After a couple of days, when Deanna was free of jetlag — she started helping Tony more and more. Tony came up with one request, ‘Deanna, could you stay a few more days with us this time? We know that you have already bought tickets for your next trip, but could we postpone that for a few months?’
‘Sure, Tony.’ said Deanna, ‘I would surely be here with you, if that helps. I am prepared to lose some money for this; even if I lose the entire ticket it is fine with me. Ruby is more important to me than a trip to somewhere.’
* * *
* * *
As planned with Annie and Madison, John came to visit their home. Harry and Hillary were waiting for him there. On seeing their smiling, welcoming faces, John forgot where he was now, he forgot that he was at the end of his life’s journey, which these teenagers had just started; he forgot that he had lived so many years since he was a teenager like Harry and Hillary.
As John entered the lounge, he could see a few books lying on the side table, one of which is ‘Know No Boundaries’.
‘Welcome, John, to our home’, Annie came up with Harry and Hillary by her side, ‘I don’t think you need any intro here; you could easily make out which one is Harry and which one is Hillary, they have heard a lot about you from Madison and me.’
Madison came with offers for drinks and queries on whether John had taken the appropriate routes to arrive here. After that Madison disappeared on some pretext; Annie, too, took leave of them in order to finish the dishes for the dinner. Harry and Hillary were vying with each other for John’s attention.
As Hillary started conversation, John took the glimpse of another book on the side table — ‘Rhetoric and the Audience’.
‘Hi John,’ Hillary said, — ‘I am impressed by the way you have communicated in your novel and persuaded your readers to decide on how they should go on with their lives — Being Yourself is Not the Solution. It’s the Problem. Learn to Change.’
‘Thank you, Hillary,’ John replied, ‘I have tried to speak as little as possible. I have just put together the words people have said at various events of their lives. Most of them are already brain washed by the traditions and beliefs of their lives, yet they wondered if they could have behaved differently.’
‘I find this topic very seriously difficult.’ Harry interrupted, — ‘Could we go next door to play a bit of table tennis before having dinner?’
‘Sure, I like TT as well, haven’t played for ages.’ John said, ‘Wish if our lives could be simple like TT games — play whenever you like and with whomever you like’.
‘Mum does not like that much, she rarely plays.’ said Harry, ‘Mostly I play with Daddy, and sometimes with Hillary. TT is good for my studies as well; it helps me learn Mechanics — force, momentum, acceleration, torque, spins and moments.’
‘Uncle’, Hillary interrupted, — ‘I need you more today; please do not go to play TT. This week, we would start rehearsing for inter-varsity drama competition. I know you are an expert in dramatics. Please help me in directing to stage this drama.’
‘I enjoyed dramatics when I was a teenager like you. I was in the team that won the Inter-Varsity Radio Drama competition.’ John said, ‘The key to success is the drama itself — the events that create moments, gets your heart to win over your day-to-day needs. The rest depends on characterization, each actor plays the role in a way that you would feel as if the actor was born as that character and has been living as that character ever since. May I ask who the author of this drama is, and what this is about?’
‘I have written this drama.’ Hillary replied, ‘This is about a girl, in love with two men, but needs to choose one.’
‘This is a bit simpler than in most lives, where one finds no love, and yet needs to choose one from many, many prospects’, John replied, ‘I like to read your script how this lucky girl manages to get love from two prospects.’
At this time, Annie entered and announced, ‘The dinner is ready. You may continue your conversation while taking dinner and afterwards.’
‘OK, Annie, we would all go for dinner.’ Said John, ‘Let me have a copy of your script, Hillary. I shall come back tomorrow evening and have a rehearsal with four of us — some of us may need to act in multiple roles.
During the dinner, the conversation was carried on the plans of tutoring Harry & Hillary. John committed to become a regular visitor to Annie’s place. Every Monday and Thursday, he would be there to tutor Harry & Hillary. For Harry, he would teach all science subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Mechanics; For Hillary he would cover Economics, Logic and Literature. Most weeks John would visit more than two times, say for playing TT or being instrumental in drama rehearsal.
* * *
* * *
When Deanna cancelled her ensuing overseas trip at the behest of Tony, she only considered how she would spend next couple of months; she thought Ruby would soon get cured and would live happily with Tony once again. For the year ahead, Deanna had already planned two overseas trips of 13 weeks each and two domestic trips of 6 weeks each.
Unfortunately, Ruby’s condition did not get any better in the first 8 weeks of Deanna’s cancelled overseas trip. Tony and Ruby were so involved in their plight that Deanna could not ask them what she should do next, should she go in the next domestic trip after 7 weeks or she should cancel that trip too — if she needs to cancel that trip it would better be done ASAP; the sooner she could cancel trips the less is wasted in money and efforts. After 9 weeks of Deanna’s arrival in Awtotom, one day Deanna cancelled her next domestic trip without telling Tony and Ruby; Deanna felt she needed to care for them instead of whiling her time away in trips.
When 5 months passed away like this, Tony realized that Deanna has sacrificed a number of her tour plans. After one busy and strenuous day in the hospital, Tony, Ruby and Deanna sat on the dinner table, when Tony started, —
‘I really don’t know how we should thank you, Deanna, for the sacrifices you have made. Your life has been totally changed for us. You haven’t gone home for several months’
‘I am totally at home here, Tony; I wish Ruby gets better and better and we manage to enjoy more and more. When feasible, we may make some trips together.’
‘We haven’t heard of John for long.’ Ruby joined the conversation, — ‘Don’t you even phone him some time?’
‘It is difficult to talk to him because of time difference between Poland and Kanadia, yet we talk sometimes. He has a good apartment there, and does not like to return.’
‘Since John would not return soon, nor you would live there, why don’t you rent out that house?’ — Tony added.
‘Yes, I like to appoint one manager to rent out our property. I need to take a few things from there, some of them would be stored, others would move with me wherever I go. Could I keep these things here?’
‘Of course, you can.’ Both Tony and Ruby said at the same time.
Deanna continued staying at Tony’s place. Deanna’s house was permanently rented out. As a permanent member of Tony-Ruby’s household, Deanna started taking more financial responsibilities in addition to household responsibilities. Not only she spent her time in buying grocery and daily needs, cooking regular dishes, cleaning floors-carpets etc, but also she started paying a share of electricity/water/gas bills. Not all days, all three — Deanna, Tony and Ruby — could equally participate in their activities. For example, some days Tony would go out to meet his friends or to watch soccer matches leaving Ruby and Deanna at home; some days Deanna would go out leaving Tony and Ruby behind to attend opera shows or dance recitals; some days Tony and Ruby would go out to meet their relatives, specially their sons, their spouses and grandchildren, Deanna may remain at home or go somewhere else.
For next few months, Deanna did not make any trips, domestic or overseas; she was always at home with Tony and Ruby. Three of them shared their mite to make their home comfortable, life enjoyable — Ruby was recovering slowly, at least her condition was not deteriorating any further. Only Tony had to go to work, Ruby was not fit to go to work anymore, Deanna did not need to go to work — thanks to John she had a reasonable pension income plus she had started getting rent from their house.
Tony was a bit perplexed on whether or not he should attend the office Christmas Party this time, Ruby would be too exhausted in such a party now; moreover she never relished dancing. Tony asked Ruby when Deanna was there as well, —
‘What should I do about office Christmas Party this time? I don’t think you would like to go this time; you will be too tired in the process. Why don’t we ask Deanna this time; we know she would enjoy such a party?’
‘Sure,’ Ruby said, ‘I don’t mind, if Deanna agrees, she can dance very well, you would enjoy dancing with her.’
‘I like to dance; sure I would enjoy dancing with Tony, I may enjoy even more with younger colleagues of Tony.’
With Deanna beside him, Tony’s Christmas Party was very successful. Tony’s colleagues liked her too. This changed the pattern of Tony-Ruby-Deanna’s outings; since this Christmas Party whenever Tony’s friends celebrated in dance or drink parties, Deanna started going with Tony, leaving ailing Ruby to rest at home. Ruby concentrated on household work and cooking only, that too as much as her poor health allowed her to do. When all three were at home, they talked and gossiped as much as they could, but for going out Ruby relinquished her eagerness in favour of Deanna. Deanna liked moving about with Tony, a good rhythmic dancer; she felt no compulsion or coercion as she often felt while going out with John. She never thought she was getting exploited by Tony; spontaneous were her moves and at her own pleasure.
* * *
* * *
John came to Annie’s place to co-ordinate rehearsal of the drama, authored by Hillary.
‘For this rehearsal, anyone of us could be cast to any roles, without considering age and taste. Purpose is to prepare Hillary in directing the cast from her university.’ John started the discussion.
‘Yes uncle,’ said Hillary, ‘We are only five here, and there are roles for Eva — the heroine, Eva’s father — Andrew, two neighbours of Andrew — Michael & Danny, the doctor-psychologist — Sebastian, the police woman — Charlie, Eva’s husband — Elton and ex-partner Ben. To sum up, we have two female roles Eva and Charlie. Mum, please play the role of Eva, and let me be Charlie. What about the male roles — Andrew, Michael, Danny, Sebastian, Elton and Ben?’
‘Let me do Andrew and Sebastian,’ said Harry, ‘Michael and Elton are for Daddy, while Danny and Ben are for Uncle. Is this OK with you all?’
‘Yes, Harry’ said Madison.
‘Ok with me too.’ Said John and the drama began.
* * *
Andrew [knocking the door of the next door neighbour]: Michael, Danny, — please come out and help.
Michael: What happened, Andrew? It is 4am in the morning, are you all right?
Andrew: No Michael, Eva has committed suicide — hanging from —
Danny: Is she still alive? Let’s rush and dismount her.
Michael: We must inform the police now and ambulance as well. We would do whatever we can, before police and ambulance arrive.
Michael took hold of the phone handset, dialled 000 and talked for a while giving the address. Andrew, Michael and Danny then rushed to Andrew’s place where Eva’s body was hanging by a rope knot.
Andrew: Do you need a step ladder, Michael?
Michael: No. Let’s see how she got there. I would use this stool. You two stand here so that you catch her, when released.
Andrew and Danny held Eva’s body when released; Michael got off the stool; together they took the body and laid her on a sheet on the floor.
Danny: The body is stiff already — rigor mortis has set in apparently.
Michael: Andrew, do you have the contact details of her doctor and the husband/boyfriend, if any?
Andrew: Yes, I do. Here are they — visiting card of the doctor, and this notebook of phone details. Sebastian is her physician; Elton is her husband, while Ben is ex-boyfriend.
At this time entered the ambulance staff and the police officer.
* * *
In the next scene we have the interview of Eva’s father Andrew by the police woman Charlie.
Charlie: Hi Andrew, I know it is difficult for you to talk now. Sorry that we have to ask you a few questions to note at what conditions Eva decided to commit suicide.
Andrew: Ok, Charlie; I know you have to complete your report.
Charlie: Was Eva living with you recently?
Andrew: Not quite. Till Monday before last, she was with Elton — her husband.
Charlie: When did she arrive at your place?
Andrew: On that Monday morning, she phoned me and told that she would come to my place after work and may stay a few nights.
Charlie: What did she do in that evening?
Andrew: She came to my place in the evening; discussed about the projects at her work, told me that she was not happy with one work mate, went to take a quick shower and then ordered for pizzas to be delivered. She watched TV for a while and then retired into our guest room and started working on her laptop. I didn’t check when she went to bed.
Charlie: What happened next day?
Andrew: Apparently she went to her work from our place. She brought a backpack this time, but some of her clothes are already here. In the evening, we had some of my home-cooked food. She told me that she made an appointment with Dr Sebastian for next morning i.e. Wednesday morning.
Charlie: What happened after this?
Andrew: She continued to stay at our place; she used to go to work regularly every day. I did not consider it necessary to ask her how long she wanted to live here, nor did she give me any indication. She used to have breakfast, get ready and go out before I get up, so I could see her only after she returns after work. Usually in the night, I get up a couple of times to go to toilet. We have only one toilet, which is on the hallway between the two bedrooms. I was shocked to find Eva hanging in the bathroom, when I got up last night. I was perplexed and did not know what to do; so I went to the door of the next flat and called Michael and Danny.
* * *
In the next scene we have the interview of the doctor-psychologist — Sebastian by the police woman Charlie.
Charlie: Thank you, Sebastian, for your time. Please tell us when Eva visited you last and did you get any hint that she would commit suicide?
Sebastian: She visited me a week ago. There was no sure symptom that she would do such things in a week. But she was having difficulty in coping with events of her life.
Charlie: Could you please elaborate a bit more? We need to know if something could have been done to save Eva, and whether we should do something to save many other Eva’s.
Sebastian: In our last meeting, I encouraged her to speak her mind, so that she get the courage to change what she can change in her life and accept the facts that cannot be changed. Listen to this CD.
Sebastian: Hi Eva, tell me how you are this morning, Are you feeling any pain, head ache, back ache, or anything where I can help you?
Eva: I could not know when the morning started, I could not shut my eyes whole night, waiting for the phone to ring, but no one rang.
Sebastian: Whom were you expecting to call? Why didn’t you yourself call?
Eva: On Monday morning, when I left home for work, I left a message for Elton on the fridge door — I would go to Daddy’s place this evening; please don’t wait for me. If you need anything call my mobile or daddy’s land line.’
Sebastian: Yes, Eva. So Elton did not need to call you.
Eva: He did not, nor called Ben, whom I sent a message to call me, even see me if he could.
Sebastian: Why did you want Ben to call or even see you? Who is Ben by the way?
Eva: Ben and I used to live together for years till we separated so that I may marry Elton. This happened only 3 months ago.
Sebastian: Why did you want to see Ben yesterday?
Eva: Yesterday was the anniversary of my first date with Ben.
Sebastian: I see. Does Elton know this?
Eva: He might; Elton knew me when I was living with Ben. They have been known to each other for years.
Sebastian: Do they talk to each other regularly now-a-days?
Eva: Not quite; their tastes are different. Ben is rather introvert, does not mix with many people while Elton is dashing, outgoing — I enjoy dancing with him, so in most parties Elton and I used to spend more time together.
Sebastian: Is this the reason, you opted to leave Ben for Elton?
Eva: It was not necessary to leave Ben for only dancing with Elton; I could have danced with Elton while I was living with Ben.
Sebastian: What made you leave Ben then?
Eva: Ben loved me from the depth of his heart; he tried to feel me in entirety — my pleasure and joys, my pains and sufferings. I loved him too as my never-failing boyfriend. Still I enjoyed a lot with Elton; once I was not very careful and became pregnant with Elton’s. At this point of time, Elton and I discussed, we decided to start our family life after a formal wedding.
Sebastian: You don’t seem to be pregnant anymore; have you given birth to that child already?
Eva: No Doctor. On the day of marriage with Elton, I had a miscarriage and the child was lost. For a while, I was wondering whether I should marry Elton still or go back to Ben, but decided to continue with my decision of marrying Elton.
Sebastian: Sorry Eva, for making you recollect the events of that day.
Eva: That’s alright, Doctor. It was a very difficult day; I lost the reason of leaving Ben for Elton. I discussed with Elton, he was very sympathetic, he did not want to cancel the wedding ceremony, and turn back the friends and guests we were expecting.
Sebastian: Was Ben invited on that day?
Eva: No; it would have been difficult for him to see my wedding with anyone else.
Sebastian: I appreciate that, but Ben did not get a chance to know about your misfortune.
Eva: True, Doctor. Even today, Ben does not know this. He must be still under the impression that I am living happily with Elton in the family way.
Sebastian: Did you try to contact him before yesterday? Were you waiting for an occasion to see him?
Eva: No, I didn’t; I wanted to give him more space, so that he could invite someone who would make him real happy.
Sebastian: Do you think he has someone, he could call? Have you ever seen him looking for someone else?
Eva: No, I don’t know. If I could not have made him happier, I wished someone else might.
Sebastian: Eva! I want you to be happy. Could you ask yourself and find out whom do you want in your life — Ben or Elton?
Eva: That is the biggest dilemma to me, I am worried about both Ben and Elton, I like the way Ben listens to me, the way he plans the settings in our home, the way he cooks; but I like the way Elton dances with me, the way he plays drums and guitar, the trips he makes, the way he shows up before anybody — he seems to be aware of everything happening around us.
Sebastian: Eva! If you cannot decide whether you want to be with Ben or Elton, I advise you to ask them individually, even better when both of them are present. They will help you to make up your mind.
Eva: That would be very difficult, Doctor. When I am with one of them, the other one does not almost exist…
Sebastian: Could you do me one favour, Eva?
Eva: Of course, I would; please ask.
Sebastian: Grab that handset from my desk, put the speaker on and dial Ben’s phone number.
Eva: Ben does not keep any mobile phone; let me dial his land line.
The phone rang a few times. No response was received till line got cut off.
Eva: It is difficult to contact Ben, because he does not keep any mobile phone.
Sebastian: I appreciate that, Eva; but it is important for you to know how much he needs you and let him know how much you need him. Try to contact him over phone when he would be at home or at work. If you cannot get him in a couple of days, go and see him personally at his home or at his work. Please let me know how you go. I would let you go now. Please book an appointment with me after you have spoken to Ben.
* * *
Sebastian: Hi Charlie, you have now heard the last conversation, I had with Eva. I did not get any call from her since then. Next, I got the shocking news from Eva’s father, Andrew.
* * *
In the next scene we have the interview of Eva’s husband Elton by the police woman Charlie.
Charlie: Hi Elton, how are you feeling?
Elton: I am bewildered, Constable; can’t accept that Eva is dead; she was such a vibrant girl; I could never imagine that she would commit suicide.
Charlie: Did you try to find out why she came to Daddy’s place?
Elton: I didn’t on the first day; she kept a message on my fridge door asking me to call her at daddy’s place if I need anything. I didn’t try to find any excuse of going to daddy’s place — it was another home to her. However, later I phoned her a few times; she said she was OK, she was writing something quietly at her daddy’s place and did not like to be disturbed.
Charlie: How many times did you call her since she left your place this time?
Elton: First, I called her on Tuesday evening and asked when she had planned to return. She didn’t give any definite answer. I asked whereabouts of some medicines and fruit laxatives; she explained me the details and I had no difficulty in locating them.
Charlie: When did you call her next?
Elton: I called her on Friday to find out her plans for the weekend. She said she would continue at daddy’s place. I reminded her about our plans for visiting my sister’s place and she told me to go there on my own.
Charlie: When did you call her next?
Elton: I called her at work yesterday morning, she said she was busy and would call me later. I called her again in the evening, her phone was switched off.
Charlie: Did you try to call her in the landline?
Elton: No I didn’t. I was expecting her to call me back till I got daddy’s phone about her demise.
* * *
In the next scene we have the interview of Eva’s ex-partner Ben by the police woman Charlie.
Charlie: Hi Ben, I need to ask you a few questions about Eva.
Ben: Yes Charlie. None of your questions would get back Eva. Yet, please ask me if I could have done something which would have kept Eva alive today.
Charlie: Please tell me if you have met Eva in last few days.
Ben: Yes Charlie. Only once recently, yesterday evening soon after I returned from work, my door bell rang. As I opened the door, I found Eva returning from her day’s work. For once I forgot that she does not have the keys to my door anymore, she hasn’t returned home today in the same way she used to do a few months ago. I let her in, put the kettle on for tea.
Charlie: Didn’t you ask her why she was here?
Ben: No Charlie, I didn’t. I thought she would go for a wash, change her clothes and then we would have tea together. But things did not go in the way it used to happen. She kept her bag in the lounge, sat on the sofa and asked me to come over there.
Charlie: What happened then?
She looked around and asked ‘Are you still alone or is there anybody around?’
I replied, ‘What do you think?’
She said, ‘I don’t find any hint that anyone has been here since I left’.
I said, ‘Your guess is correct, no one cared to visit me after you. How are you nowadays?’
Charlie: What did she say then?
She asked, ‘Do you want me to come here and care for you?’
I said, ‘How could I, Eva? You are now married to someone else. All your time is committed to your husband — Elton.’
Then I looked at her, no bulge near her belly, she did not seem to be carrying the baby any more.
I asked, — ‘Have you given birth to your child, Eva? You don’t look pregnant anymore.’
‘No, Ben,’ Eva replied, ‘I had a miscarriage on the day of my marriage with Elton.’
‘Was there any reason to marry Elton, then?’ I asked.
‘Our wedding was already planned and guests invited. Both Elton and I were committed and did not like to go back’, She said.
‘Why are you here today, Eva?’ I said, ‘Do you like to change your life again?’
‘I left a message at your work on Monday to call me,’ She said, ‘why didn’t you call? Last Tuesday was the anniversary of our first date; I wanted to spend some time with you.’
‘Sorry, Eva, I didn’t get the message, my work phone number has changed.’ I said.
‘And, you never keep any mobile phone with you’ She said.
‘I keep now… did not get any chance to send that number to you.’ I said.
Charlie: What happened then?
‘I have a dilemma now, Ben, could you please help me?’ she said.
‘Sure, I would try; tell me what your dilemma is’ I said.
‘I want to come back here, and live with you.’ She said.
‘Now, you are married, Eva. I cannot let you come back before you settle your divorce with Elton’
‘What can we do then?’ she asked, ‘I don’t like to cut off all ties from Elton.’
‘I shall do anything I can do to get you back here. Now have a shower, let us have some dinner and discuss. We would have to discuss with Elton, we may need to discuss with our lawyers too.’
She had a long shower, and then we had dinner. I had some dishes, which was always liked by her. But she had very little and did not talk much.
‘I might have to dine again tonight with my daddy’ she said.
Around 8pm, she left my place and left me pondering for the next step till I got a call from her daddy this morning.
Charlie: Thank you, Ben.
* * *
In the next scene we have the interview of Eva’s ex-partner Ben and the husband Elton by the police woman Charlie.
Charlie: Hi Ben and Elton, Thank you for coming over here. I have listened individually to you two. Now I would you let you talk and share your grief with each other. Please let me know, at the end of your discussion, if I could do something.
Ben: I appreciate your grief, Elton. I have seen Eva for more years than you have. Most charms of life are lost, when we lose a warm and cooperating companion like Eva. Yet, Elton, I would say she would have been alive today, had you not married her.
Elton: Ben! Eva has never let me feel that she is unhappy with me; I could never dream that she would commit suicide. She was so vibrant and scintillating, I wondered how she managed to live with you for so many years.
Ben: Sure, John. I am a man of a few words, but I have always listened to her. I forgot that the last Tuesday was the anniversary of my first date with Eva, but she remembered. She wanted to spend that evening with me; that’s why she travelled to her daddy’s place to organize a get-together with me. But I didn’t get the message, because my work phone is different now. She came to me last evening to see me in person.
Elton: Did she? Did you find her any different?
Ben: Yes, Elton. When I saw her last, she was pregnant with your offspring; she was looking forward to having a baby with the baby’s father beside her. This time she was not carrying the baby any more, nor that dream of a married family life. She was asking how she could come back to me.
Elton: What did you say, Ben? She never gave me a hint of this.
Ben: I said, since you are married with Elton, you must first discuss with him to decide the next course of action. If necessary, you may need to take help of lawyers.
Elton: What did she say then?
Ben: Nothing; but she loved you dearly and now it seems to me she was not ready to discuss this with you. Apparently, she found it easier to take her life than to ask you this difficult question.
Elton: I wish you told me this yesterday instead of leaving her to decide on this. We could have sorted this out, and she would have been still alive today.
Ben: I am not that close to you, Elton. I thought Eva could have explained this dilemma to you better than I could; she is closer to your heart.
Elton: I don’t know how I would have reacted yesterday, had you or Eva asked me those difficult questions. But today it seems, I would not have minded for any compromise only to keep her alive.
Ben: I wish, we could have told this to Eva now. Let us go together to have a last look of her face.
*** *** *** The End of the drama *** *** ***
John said, — ‘How did the drama go, Hillary? Are you happy? How is Eva here? Is she still alive to take any question?’
‘Everyone acted very well.’ Hillary said, ‘As if we all have acted in these roles many times.’
‘How did I go as the daddy of my mum?’ asked Harry.
‘You did very well, daddy.’ said Annie.
‘I have recorded the voice of every one.’ Hillary said, ‘I would use this recording for starting rehearsal at the university. Thanks everyone, especially Uncle.’
* * *
Hillary’s drama brought John, Annie, Madison, Harry and Hillary in warm and cordial relationship; each one cared more for the others. As planned, John was a regular visitor at Annie’s place — every Tuesday and Thursday he was there to tutor Harry and Hillary.
John was out of sorts one Tuesday and was not in a position to travel to Harry & Hillary. He sent one SMS to Annie, and later briefly talked to Harry and Hillary over phone to gather how they had been going with their lessons. John did not recover on the Thursday too, and sent one SMS to Annie again. In reply, Annie sent SMS saying that she would soon visit him. At around 11am, Annie arrived at John’s place with a small Tiffin carrier of healthy cooked food.
This is the first time Annie came to visit John in his second floor flat. The sole occupant of the flat, John opened the door and took her to the lounge, and asked her to sit on the sofa near the window.
‘How are you today, John?’ Annie asked.
‘Yesterday, the temperature was high around 102 degrees and I had running nose. Bit better today.’
‘Let me see’ — Annie put her hand on John’s forehead, ‘a bit warm still. What have you taken this morning?’
‘Tea and two slices of bread with margarine.’
‘I have some digestive biscuits for you. I would take some with you as well.’
Annie went around the house to have a look at John’s little world.
‘Oh! This is your new front loading washing machine.’ ‘Your bathroom looks very good with big mirrors’
‘Don’t you feel lonely here? What do you do all day?’ Annie asked.
John did not reply to her question and said, ‘I do what I love, I love what I do, Annie. I am trying to slow down the ageing process. I want to spend my time only on a few projects — only a few things I want to get done before I hit the bucket. Don’t like to rush for something that will drain all energy out of me. I like to choose those few things, which will fulfil my aspirations most. In the process, it may do well to a few others.’
‘I have come here to check how you are doing. I don’t have to rush back home now, I am not working today, Madison-Harry-Hillary all have gone to their work places.’
‘Good. We may then have lunch together here, Annie.’
‘Yes, I would really love to have patients’ lunch with you. Go and have a bath, let me check if I can do something in your kitchen.’
At the lunch table, Annie came back with the same question, ‘May I ask you something personal? I guess, you were married, where is your wife nowadays?’
‘Yes, I am still legally married; Deanna continues to live in the house where we were together.’
‘Why did you leave that place to settle here on your own?’
‘Many times in my life, I had to work in overseas projects and lived alone in apartments in foreign countries. Deanna could not join me in most places, as she could not get leave from her work. Only she joined me in Kuala Lumpur once, we shared the evenings well, but during the day she roamed on her own and I had to be at my client’s workplace.’
‘John, I am sure you understand that it is more expensive to maintain two households than having one house for a family. What do you gain by staying apart?’
‘I love what I do, and I do what I love. But when Deanna is around I often need to do what she loves, she might need to do what I love.’
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