Last Walk – Short Story
By: Atul Sharma
The lake was placid that day. Its water level receding day by day as the summer heat became harsh. No soul dared to venture in this scorching heat at three in the afternoon. Nevertheless, Vineet was there, standing in the shade of a tree to save himself from this unbearable heat.
He felt tired of wiping sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief.
Then he saw Anita walking towards him at a slow pace, holding an umbrella over her head and her head hung down.
Vineet’s lips played a smile and he waved to Anita. His heart sank as Anita still had her head hung down. He could feel something bad about to happen. He was feeling this premonition since he got a call from Anita to meet her immediately at the lake.
Vineet worried started to walk towards Anita. Then as he reached her, Anita was startled to find Vineet standing in front of her.
“Hello! Anita, you are late,” said Vineet with a smile which concealed his anxiety.
Anita did not answer, her eyes looking for a place to sit, a place where there is shade to save them from the sun. Then she walked towards a bench placed beneath a tree with Vineet following her.
Anita closed and neatly packed her tiny umbrella in her purse as she sat down. Vineet’s heart was thumping loudly against his ribs as Anita had till now not even looked at him.
“I am going back to Mumbai Vineet,” announced Anita hesitantly.
Vineet’s heart missed a beat. His eyes moved down to the ground that were by now staring at Anita. There was silence, a deadly silence, an eerie silence, a dreadful silence that a shocked and shattered Vineet’s soul could only feel.
Anita was looking straight at Vineet’s face that gave a devastated look. She tapped on the shoulder of Vineet. Vineet fumbled a little. He felt like his body is trembling but he somehow managed to look into the eyes of Anita.
Anita saw a torrent of pain in Vineet’s eyes. She could no longer see into them. She moved her eyes to the birds sitting on a tree nearby.
Vineet beheld the face of Anita for the last time. The fair skin, big beautiful eyes, a sharp nose, and her black thick curly hair. Anita was twenty-eight exactly same age as of Vineet but still she looked much younger whereas Vineet’s hairline had started to recede.
“But you promised me, you will never return,” mumbled Vineet.
Anita could no longer hold her welled up tears as they began to gush down on her cheeks. Vineet’s eyes too welled up but he somehow managed to restrict his tears from producing a trickle.
“I want to commit suicide Vineet, I want to die, I can’t live like this anymore,” said Anita trying to control her sobs.
Vineet broke into sobs too. They hugged each other and wept bitterly, each trying to be a source of solace for the other. They wept until all of their heart’s agony had transformed itself into tears.
Then Vineet slowly released Anita from his hug. Though he did not want to, as he knew it was their last hug. Vineet’s eyes ran around to see if there was anyone watching them but there was none to be seen.
“I knew the predicament of this relation,” said Vineet as he wiped his tears.
Anita rested her back on the bench, took a long sigh, and said, “He will die Vineet.”
Vineet became furious, his whole love changed into rage.
“So now you are thinking of him Anita. You should have not kindled the fire of love in my heart Anita. If I say I would die, will you not go back to him.”
Anita said nothing and kept on staring at the lake’s water. Her life was placid too like this lake but her arrogance created rippled in it, thought Anita.
“Then I think I should be the one who should die, only then I would be able to come out of this mess created by me,” shot back Anita in one breath still looking at the lake.
Vineet’s heart filled up with pain and grief. Grief for a loved one who will soon be lost.
“Go Anita, Go then. I think this was my destiny to loose you again. Firstly, I lost you due to my foolishness and now I cannot have you as you are of someone else. I think our love life was meant to end like this.”
Anita’s heart filled with pity for Vineet. Vineet who still had no qualms, no complaints, no hatred for her.
“You lost me in the past as you did not want love to happen and now love has happened but…,” said Anita as she again broke into loud sobs as she rose to leave.
Vineet pulled her back on the bench.
“Atleast we can walk to the parking lot together for the last time Anita.”
Vineet took Anita’s hand into his hand as they both got up to walk for the last time together.
They said nothing to each other. Both had their heads hung down. Vineet’s heart was sinking with every advancing step, as he knew it was their last walk. He knew he had to relegate this last walk into his memories, as it would be the one he would miss and cherish the most. They passed many people on the way but neither of them lifted their head to look up.
Vineet left the hand of Anita as they reached the road. Anita looked at Vineet; she could see his eyes requesting her not to leave him. She knew she would always remain indebted to this man as only because of him she is alive. Alive in both body and soul. No longer, could she withstand this torment and she hurriedly crossed the road to reach the parking lot without mincing a word. Vineet just stood there watching Anita running into the parking lot. Then she vanished into the crowd.
Vineet took a long sigh, he wanted to weep and yell, but he could not. He was feeling his heart becoming heavy with every passing second. He looked towards the sky and realized the sun has gone giving way to a crimson sky. Just then, he realised that many people had arrived for their evening walk at the lake. He suddenly felt all alone and lone in the rush of people. He thanked God in his heart for the last six months he got to spend with Anita. “Now she should stay happy forever with her husband,” prayed Vineet in his heart as he walked across the road to reach his car.