In continuation of The Story
Ajay did not realize that he had started crying. It was only after the girl put her hand on his arm did he taste the salt on his lips. Her hand on his arm felt good. The concern in the girl’s eyes felt good. Talking to the girl felt good. All these days, sitting alone in the room with Smriti he had forgotten how it felt to talk. He loved sharing things with Smriti and though talking to this girl did not mean the same thing, it did mean something to him. He was thankful to the girl for being here. He wiped his tears on his shirt sleeves and apologized for display of emotions. The girl did not move, her hand still having a firm grip on his arm.
“What’s your name?” Ajay asked suddenly. It was a simple question but the timing made it worth something more.
“Sneha” the girl replied. “I am sorry for earlier.” she continued.
“It’s okay.” Ajay really did not think that Sneha had to be sorry for trying to peek at Smriti when he was asleep, though he did find it a little surprising. There were so many questions Ajay wanted to ask, so many clarifications needed and so much more to tell and then – the main thing – the request. He did not really know where to start from, finally he decided to start from the first time he had met the girl. By this time, he was sure that Sneha was not visiting anyone in the hospital. He had to know what she was doing in his room yesterday. Yesterday, it was just one day but right now it seemed like a long time for him. Perhaps the question was evident in his eyes or maybe their thoughts were on the same frequency because before Ajay could ask her the question, Sneha told him that the first time when she entered the I.C.U. she had lied that she was in there by mistake. She told him how she was intrigued by him when she had seen him for the first time in the hospital cafeteria, sitting in a corner seat, all alone. Then, reluctantly she told him that she had followed him to see who he was visiting in the hospital. Sneha knew that telling this to Ajay might perhaps give him an impression that she had been stalking him. Even if it did give him that impression, he did not say so. In a way, that was the truth. Telling him that she was intrigued by him was not the entire truth; she could not tell him about the weird attraction she felt towards him, the powerful pull that put a stop to her rational thinking.
Ajay listened to the girl’s explanation, wanting to add his own experience to what the girl was saying. But, how could he explain the unseen force that pushed him towards her. He wanted to admit that the attraction or whatever it was called was mutual. He decided to let it be for the moment. Right now it was important to talk about what must be done.
He had to tell her what he wanted from her. He took a deep breath and took out his wallet. Opening his wallet he took out a photograph and showed it to Sneha.
“Daughter?” Sneha asked. He nodded and explained, “Shreya. She does not know about the accident. She is on vacation, visiting her grandparents. We were on our way to bring her back home but”
“Are you not going to tell her?” Sneha asked interrupting Ajay though she knew the answer already. Ajay shook his head. Both of them remained silent for a while after that. Despite the awkward setup, the silence seemed to be that of mutual understanding. Both needed time to continue.
“Are you sure what the doctors said cannot be avoided?” Sneha asked after a while.
Ajay did not want to believe it, but he was tired of denying it. He had heard of cases where the patient recovered after weeks and months, coming out of coma and bringing joy in the lives of their beloved ones. He would have given anything and everything for similar scenario but the doctors said that she had suffered severe head injury which reduced her chances of recovery. Sneha was waiting for the answer, he realized.
“No.” that’s all Ajay could say.
“What then?” Sneha asked and Ajay knew what she exactly meant by that and so he explained, “I am not sure what to do or say right now. All these days I have been thinking how to tell Shreya about the accident. I have been having a heated conversation with Smriti’s parents about Shreya’s involvement. Shreya’s grandparents feel that Shreya should be told about the accident and they are hopeful that Smriti would recover from the accident. I am tired to telling them what the doctors have told me. They do not understand that I want Smriti to live as much as they want to see their daughter alive.” Ajay grew restless as he told Sneha about Smriti’s parents.
She could feel the stress Ajay was under. She let herself by controlled by her instinct and touched him for the second time. This time she held his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. She could feel Ajay’s shock in response but he did not remove his hand from her grip. She knew he wanted the support. She was ready to give it to him. She wanted to tell him that everything will be alright. Her decision to step into someone else’s identity was finalized the moment she had seen Shreya’s photograph. She knew Ajay was reluctant to ask her for the favor. Her own conflicting thoughts about the whole idea were now put to rest for good and she was ready to tell him her decision.
Looking into Ajay’s teary eyes she said, “I think I might be able to help”.
Ajay looked at her, surprised and relieved. This girl was extra-ordinary, he thought. That very moment he wanted to hug her and cry for hours. He was not ashamed of showing his weakness. He was tired of being strong for everyone. He held Sneha’s hand in both his hands and bringing it to forehead he let the tears flow. Sneha gave him the silent company that he needed the most. Days were about to change, for both of them. Sneha did not know what it would mean for her but watching Ajay shed tears in front of her, she knew that she had definitely lessened his burden.