“Aaargh!” I yelped as she appeared behind me out of thin air. “Tsk, tsk! Look at you. Unable to make ends meet?” She quipped disapprovingly.

“” I managed to spit out while unsuccessfully trying to zip up my trouser.

Phew! I should have taken the gym membership months ago. I ignored her smirk and quickly changed into a loose plaid dress.

She dogged my steps as I hastened to reach the office in time. It was the day when our promotions were to be announced. She hoisted herself on my desk and waved at someone enthusiastically.

“Who are you waving at? I asked her nonchalantly.

“Just my friends. Weddings, deaths, proms, and appraisals are feasting days for us. They are usually followed by regrets, remorse, and a whole lot of negativity.” She said smacking her lips loudly. I made a retching sound just as my boss arrived at my desk. 

He cleared his throat and said, “Great performance this year! Keep it up.”

As he turned to leave, I bounded up and asked “Sir, my promotion?”

“Oh yes. That went to Ravi. We were looking for someone with an engineering background and technical expertise.”

I flopped down on my chair dejectedly. Her eyes lit up with glee as she swirled and engulfed me in a frosty embrace. “Aww, my poor baby. You should have listened to your parents and taken up an engineering degree instead of commerce.” She preached and I mumbled a curse.

Back home, I poured some wine, microwaved my dinner, and stretched on my sofa. I checked my dating app to see if there were any good, prospective dates. I felt her snuggle up to me, purring like a cat. 

“Told you. You should have married Rahul all those years ago. Now look at you, trying to find some love on dating apps. Pathetic!”

I had enough of her nagging. I pulled myself up and cleared my mind of all thoughts. She lurched away suddenly at the absence of negativity to nibble on. I addressed her directly for the first time since she appeared in my life. At first, she was just a wisp of silvery smoke but as years passed by, she grew into a swirling mass of stormy, gray smoke. The shadow of my past, my regrets and remorse, my ‘could-have-beens’. I could never banish her as remnants of past decisions remain all our life. But it was time to embrace her, accept her, and move on. I hugged her or tried to. 

“You are but my projection. I accept you as a quintessential part of me. I shall have regrets, mistakes I cannot undo but I won’t let them control my life and color it gray. Be at peace.” I said as much to her, as to me. She, the shadow faded away to a remote corner of my mind. 

I relaxed, drank the whole bottle of wine, and looked up Rahul’s phone number. 

She whispered, “Peek-a-boo! I see you.
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