Before She Left
~A Short Story~
She was cleaning up the mess in her purse: old bank slips, shopping receipts, bus tickets. She took each out and observed cursorily, deciding whether she’d need it again. Then she tore up the slips in as small pieces as she possibly could and threw them into the bin.
Most of the bills had faded: they were printed on thermal papers.
What’s the point in giving bills which are going to fade, anyway? Aren’t the bills supposed to be permanent documentation?
She retrieved a bus ticket –a six month old one– from one of the pockets. It was from her last trip from her hometown to the nearest airport city. Six months vanished in a puff! Six months since she last visited her parents, her brother, and… him.
She didn’t tear the ticket – it was memory. And it was not on thermal paper. She pushed it into a different pocket in the purse, one she didn’t usually use to put the notes and the coins. There she found it.
It was an inconspicuous looking paper. If she was not scavenging, she would not even have noticed it. It was rolled up like a cigarette and flattened from being put in the purse.
She took it out and unrolled it. There was nothing on the side facing her – a blank page that must have contained how much she had paid at some mall or movie. She turned it over.
There, in blue ink were the lines. It was a written conversation. There were two distinct handwritings: one small, curvy; another bigger, looping.
All of it came back to her. She smiled as she saw herself scribbling it, beside the empty glass of cold coffee and some spilled chocolate sauce. The brown on the edge of the slip was testimony to the playful tiff they had over sipping each other’s coffee. They didn’t care if anyone was looking. They were lost in themselves.
He was told there was a parcel for him at the reception. He walked the steps instead of taking the elevator.
The girl at the reception smiled at him. Her name was Tias.
“There’s a parcel for me?” he said, returning her smile. Tias was new here. She matched her nail-polish her with her dresses every single day.
Tias shuffled through the drawer and handed him the package wrapped in shiny red paper. A white paper on top addressed it to him, in neutral print.
A hint of laughter touched the corner of his lips. He shrugged and turned away.
In his cabin, he opened the wrapper, taking care that he did not tear it off. She would recycle it, if she was here. Or better yet, add it to her box of memorabilia. He did the same, put it in his chest of drawers.
But she had never said anything about a parcel in the past month or week. He was sure it wasn’t another of their anniversaries – propose day, first trip together, first kiss etc.
It was a copy of The Fault in our Stars. Of course it was from her. Who else could it be! He turned over the cover page, sure to find a scribbling – after five years together, many things about her was predictable.
There was no scribbling. Instead, there was a paper, pasted on the inside of the cover page.
“Don’t go, please. I miss you already,” it said in his handwriting.
“I miss you already, too! I love you so much; I could never stay away long from you. Promise me you’ll fly to me every other month?” She had written.
“Of course, I will. Loads of kisses. I will visit you every weekend.” He now laughed at the absurdity of flying a thousand miles every week.
He read on:
“Ummmmm. Kisses and hugs. Love ya, baby,” she wrote in her small, curly font.
“Love ya, Cat! Ummmm.”
There was a doodle of a boy and girl holding hands underneath the conversation. She had drawn the guy. He had drawn the girl.
All of it came back to him. He smiled as he saw himself scribbling it, beside the empty glass of cold coffee and some spilled chocolate sauce. The brown on the edge of the slip was testimony to the playful tiff they had over sipping each other’s coffee. They didn’t care if anyone was looking. They were lost in themselves.
Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick
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