Josh looked out of the window. The silhouette that leaned at the lamppost had not moved for the last three hours. Drawing the curtains back, he returned to his wine that he had left on the counter. Almost finishing a chardonnay on the counter, he was laboriously punching on his laptop. A call from his colleague, Logan, distracted him from his work at hand.
“Are you sure you want to resign now, especially when you are about to become the senior president?” Logan inquired for the third time that day.
“Honestly, I don’t even know for sure. But this is what is on my mind right now, and this is what I’m going to do. I am just too tired of living the same life over and over. I have worked all of my life, never bothered to have fun, have a holiday, have a family for God’s sake, Logan. In fact, the only travel that I have ever done is for work. I think I finally need to retire.” Josh insisted.
“Do you realize that you have been working all your life only to achieve as much?” Logan argued.
“I know. I know. But I just think I need more from life now. I need to find out what more can I be apart from just being a lawyer.” Josh struggled to smile.
“What are you going to do after you quit?” Logan asked, worry communing through his trembling voice.
“Go for a vacation. Maybe. I have not decided anything, yet.” Josh was unsure what would he really tell his colleague for over thirteen years. After the call, he again approached the bar to refill his glass. Involuntarily, his eyes wandered off towards the lamppost outside the window. ‘The shadow. It’s gone.’ Baffled but unaffected, soon he went to bed.
The next morning Josh did not have to snooze the alarm. He did not have to double out from the sheets and head straight to brush his teeth, take a shower and dash out towards his car, blowing it full steam and zooming off to his office.
He slowly opened his eyes, peeped through the sheer curtains while still lounging on his bed. The bedside clock showed the time as 9:48 am, the blinking dots no longer scared him. But he didn’t mind rolling off his bed and trotting his way to the bathroom. A long warm shower later, he decided to walk into his kitchen to make breakfast. A few slices of bacon, two eggs and a toast was slowly washed down by fresh orange juice. Josh was loving this new pace of life. A life he had not known for the last 22 years of working as a corporate lawyer of high repute.
Simply on a whim, he decided to make travel plans. He picked up his diary and made a few calls. He started his laptop and quickly fixed his travel and stay plans. A vacation to the secluded islands of Seychelles was ideal, he reckoned. A few hours later, he stepped out of the doorway to discover a shiny yellow cab right in front of his doorstep. He hesitated but jumped right in. “To the airport,” he ordered and returned to settling his belongings and taking stock of the papers required for the travel. He gave a final look inside his carry bag and zipped it up. He glanced at his watch to estimate travel time for him to reach the airport and then looked out.
The surroundings looked familiar, but that was certainly not the way to the airport. “Where to, my friend,” he asked the cabbie casually.
“Where ever you wish to, sir,” he responded as nonchalantly.
“That does not look like the way to the airport,” Josh interrupted. “Where are you taking me?”
“Here sir,” the driver turned around to look at Josh as he halted the taxi. After a moment of awkward silence, Josh looked out of the window to check where he had reached. “I don’t even know where this is.”
“Why don’t you find out for yourself,” the driver walked out and opened the door for Josh to step out.
Perplexed and almost irked, Josh entered an iron grill gate and found himself in a hall filled with a few teenagers celebrating. About a dozen chairs seated girls and boys dressed in their finest, chatting and making merry all the while. A few were dancing and a few others were crowded around the slush tub. In a corner, a couple of boys were having an animated conversation, “Would you cut it out,” one of the boys said. As he turned around, Josh observed that the boy was him, from more than 33 years ago.
“What are you throwing your weight around for, buddy? You’re the one making the most fun,” another boy cackled. Josh identified him as Hank, who’d been his wingman all through college.
“Nah, am sure he’s started to like her now,” another freckled boy extended a cheeky jibe. The others laughed at the little joke they shared.
“Nothing like that,” Josh argued. “I just wanted ugly Hannah to believe what she wanted to. Only when she will know that I was trying to pull a prank on her, will she ever let me go off the hook. I am tired of her trotting around like a puppy behind me for the last three years. I have had enough of that thick duck.” Josh took a last long swig from his coke bottle and tossed it in the bin nearby, as the other laughed at his crude joke. He turned around to spot the much-offended Hannah standing in front of him. The other boys scuttled as soon as they were challenged with the situation.
“Unbelievable,” Hanna spoke through her tears. “I loved you, Josh!” That was the last he heard from her that day. As she ran away from the party, young Josh returned to look for Hank and his other friends amongst the crowd, only to scoff at Hannah a little bit more.
The older Josh again found himself seated in the backseat of the yellow taxi, the driver humming to himself, pleased with his mission.
“What was that?” Josh reprimanded.
The driver watched Josh through the rear-view mirror and pulled the brakes with a jerk. Josh almost fell face first behind the front seat. He let out a frustrated grunt, as the driver flung the door open again.
“Where are we now?” a much confused Josh was now standing right in front of a wooden grill window. Through the bracket, he saw an older Hannah staring out of the window into the void. Upon her table lay a dairy which she seemed to have been scribbling on. Josh noticed the date on the diary as Jun 18, 1995, well over 8 years after the incident when he had seen her last.
As Josh was busy flipping through the pages of her diary, he heard someone call her from the other room. Josh followed her to observe her conflict with her partner. They seemed to be arguing over her neglect in the relationship- how she has been detached most of the time and how that was affecting them. It was not much that he could understand from their conversation but he noticed that Hannah was very sad with the accusations hurled at her. Her eyes reflected a vacant hollow and she did not even make an attempt to hold on to the threadbare relationship that she had. After a few minutes, the man left the room closing the door behind him, leaving Hannah in tears. It was the second time Josh was seeing her cry and this time it was not even his fault, or so he thought.
Josh returned to the room where Hanna was originally writing in her diary and flipped through some of its previous entries. On one of the pages, he spotted his name that was followed by an insight from her- ‘Only if Josh had not broken my trust.’ He immediately closed the diary and walked back to check on Hannah. He discovered her in the kitchen lying in a pool of blood, flowing through her wrist. A kitchen knife was found in her other hand. Shocked beyond belief, Josh let out a scream but could not hear it himself. He quickly looked for his phone in his pockets but could not find one. Rushing to another room in search of a phone was in vain as well. He looked out of the window and called for help but his voice was merely a muffle. Hannah was quickly losing consciousness. He bent down and held her wrist with a towel. The blood kept oozing out, tainting his bare hands. He felt sick to his stomach and shut his eyes in horror.
A blink of his eye returned him to the moving taxi again, “What sort of a screwed up joke is this?” he screamed at the driver. Josh quickly looked at his hands to check for bloodstains. “What is all this? I simply wanted to be left at the airport. Who are you? Why are you doing this?” The barrage of his questions was met with silence from the driver. As the taxi moved forward, Josh felt the sickness in his pit. “Just take me back home now,” he ordered.
Within seconds, Josh found himself on a beach. His eyes were closed as he enjoyed the melodious music made by the waves. The pristine blue water kissed his feet as he sunk them further in the white sand. The breeze wafted through his hair as he opened his eyes to notice Hannah walking towards him. She smiled at him. Her eyes lit up as soon as they met his. He noticed that there was a joy that radiated from her being as she closed in and hugged him. This was the most beautiful that she had ever looked. He pulled her away from the embrace and kissed her gently. It was as if Josh was lifted from his being. He opened his eyes to look into her deep brown eyes, love shining through the pores of her skin. He sighed and stood mesmerised, taking in the beauty of the moment. “I love you,” he finally said.
“I always did,” she replied.
“I never knew it could be this beautiful, my love.”
“Now you do.” Hannah held both of his hands in hers and kissed them. “Only if we can wind back time, now.” With that said, she fell into his arms.
“I can try,” Josh whispered.
A white light shone and he found himself in his bed at home. Confused he looked around. The sunshine peeped through the curtains. His eyes fell on the bedside alarm clock. The time was 9:48 am. He jumped out of his bed and immediately got ready. Peeping outside the window he observed a yellow taxi parked right opposite and a man standing next to it leaning on the lamppost. He hurried out of the door, shut it behind him and walked towards the taxi. As soon as the man saw Josh approach him, he opened the door of the taxi and said, “Where to, sir?”
“Where I need to go,” Josh smiled.
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