The car crash was horrific. The truck that had rammed into the car, had fled the scene. In the poor visibility of the evening twilight, its number went unnoticed. The hairpin bend on the Agumbe hill was an accident-prone zone. Recovering the body of the driver was a Herculean task in the thick forest that lay beneath. The whole area was combed thoroughly by the police, but the attempts were futile.

Somewhere at the foothills of Agumbe, a wounded woman was rushed to a nearby government hospital by the locals. There, she just uttered her name – Aarthi, before falling unconscious. She suffered fractures in her neck, elbow and knee. But because of the tremendous blood loss, Aarthi slipped into coma.

* * * 

The house in Thirthahalli, a small town in Karnataka, mourned the death of Aarthi. The neighbors consoled her husband, Kishore, who was anguished and deeply shocked. She was driving her way to Mangalore airport to receive her parents arriving from Dubai, when the mishap occurred. 

“Until I see my Aarthi’s dead body, I will not believe she is dead.” Kishore muttered despondently.

* * * 

Two months passed. Aarthi regained consciousness. The doctor advised a week more of rest before discharge. Aarthi yearned to go back home. She pined so much for Kishore that every time she closed her eyes, he smiled in her thoughts. The crisp cold air brought in freshness of his breath. It caressed her cheeks like a gentle morning kiss and she blushed beet red like a newly wedded bride. 

“We found you in a terrible state in the forest. Your family would have lost hope in finding you. Shall I call up Kishore and inform him?” The doctor inquired.

“No. I wish to surprise him.” Aarthi beamed with delight.

Each sunrise brought the burning desire for his warm embrace; the nights blanketed with cozy dreams of togetherness. Time and distance were her foes. 

A week later, Aarthi was back home. Kishore stood aghast.

“My heart believed you would be alive.” He hugged her tight. 

She melted in his arms, satiated.

A week later, another mishap occurred. The gas cylinder blasted and burnt the entire house. Kishore’s body was found in the living room, while the woman’s body was charred beyond recognition.

* * * 

Meanwhile, at the Kempegowda International Airport, Aarthi sipped coffee as she read the headline, ‘Couple die due to cylinder blast.’

The past week replayed in her mind. How much had she loved Kishore! Unconditionally and undoubtedly; Until she overheard his conversation with her best friend. She stood bewildered when she realized that the car accident was plotted by Kishore. After its failure, they hatched another fool-proof plan to eliminate her. The cylinder blast, meant for Aarthi, had backfired. Call it karma, or Aarthi’s vengeance!

As Aarthi boarded the flight to Dubai, she bade farewell to her home, which was never hers, and to her love, that was never reciprocated.

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