Valentines Day

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The raindrops made a soft pattering sound against the glass window, I tried to look out through the misted window but all that I could see was foggy blindness, the outlines of the branches starkly black against the white foggy surroundings. I could just make out the meandering cobbled garden path that curved out of the house and the outline of the picketed fence and imagined the wooden gate in the distance through which he would walk in any moment, in his green checkered uniform and a bag over his shoulders. It was already 8AM, the train arrived at 7 and he had promised that we would be home by 8.30. “No need to come to the station” he had said, the few words that I could grasp through the cackling static in the phone line and before I could mouth “I miss you”, the phone line had gone dead.

He was coming home! It was enough to give me a sleepless night. I had stayed awake the whole night, deciding on the drapes and the sheets and the tablecloth that needed to be changed, the cupboards that needed cleaning, the crockery pieces that needed wiping and the dishes that I would cook, his favorite ones only. The girls had been so excited, Daddy was coming home, it had been so difficult to put them to sleep, especially the elder one, she had kept chattering on and on about all the things that she would do, the little one had just kept looking and nodding and was fast asleep long before her sister had mentioned fifty things that she would do. She was still chattering when her eyes were closed and she was half asleep, I remembered her dreamy rumble and smiled.

4am, and I had been up like a stick even before the alarm sounded. I had taken an extra long bath and was particularly generous with the perfume that he had gifted me in our anniversary. I checked the calendar, 14th Feb 1994, “Oooohh perfect!” IΒ  thought and hugged myself, “He has chosen the perfect day to come home!”. I had cooked all his favorite dishes and slaved around the house like a maniac. Finally, there was nothing to do but wait. I checked the clock again, five minutes past 8. “Humph!”, I thought grumpily, it was going to be a very long half hour!Β  I decided to make tea. I put the teapot on the table and fidgeted around with the position of the newspapers and teacups. The clock showed 8.40 now and I was getting restless. I kept staring out of the window, the rain had stopped by now but the fog was still thick. I sat down on the sofa and tried to read the newspaper. Bombings, attacks, accidents and murders, I threw it away hastily and leaned back, thinking.

I suddenly woke up with a start, a mellow sunshine had appeared at the window sill and a soft breeze was blowing, the shadow of Β the leaves were making a beautiful pattern on the wall against the sunshine streaming in. I looked at the clock, it was 1pm. My head was still confused and was trying to process everything, when the phone rang. A slow dread crept over me. I picked up the receiver and muttered a shaky hello. “Hello! Hello! Priya?”, I was so relieved that I could weep, it was him, he was safe, but why was he calling? “I am sorry, my leave got cancelled at the last moment, something happened. I can’t give you all the details over the phone but I will try to come home next month.Bye”. The phone line went dead again. I kept the receiver back, my mind was numb and all that I could think of was that the new drapes weren’t matching the cushion covers.

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