Redemption – A short story by Priyanka Gogoi

The night sky hung above like a stole encrusted with millions of precious stones sewn by the finest of tailors. Except for the crimson crescent moon, there wasn’t any space left for the grey patches to loosely dangle from the sky that absolutely exquisite. Leona stood enthralled for some time in awe and admiration.

 

It was her second visit to the place, one of the isolated islands the world has ever known and she knew she was there for a purpose. Resting in the solitary shack, Leona thought of her encounter with Sanjeev after a hiatus of five long years.  The last time, she shared her cold coffee with Sanjeev, she remembered, was in the office cafeteria after a heated conversation. Many years flown by since that hot summer day, but she could never find anyone to share her coffee with. A tear silently trickled down her white face.

 

Leona had a hard time trying not to think about Sanjeev but every effort she made to suppress her agitating emotions turned out to be futile. Her longing for him grew stronger with every passing hour fuelling memories that lay buried, deep inside her, unleashing locked emotions. She sat restlessly in the small shack while racy thoughts kept her swinging between her past and her present; sleep, of course, turned into a far cry. She thought of taking a stroll by the beach side. It was half past twelve and the moon glistened in its warm hue amidst thousands of twinkling crystals in the dark sky. ‘It must had been one of the favorite moments of a photographer to capture the beauty of the night’, Leona murmured to herself, as she walked on the soft and shimmering white sand, barefoot, sans the clouds of doubt that hovered above her mind like a hallow throughout the day. A sense of strange satisfaction filled her heart and as she smiled the fine lines of laughter below her eyes got stretched a little. No doubt she looked pretty just like the night, beautiful and mystical like a sorcerer.

The night had already cast its magic spell on the mortals and the immortals. The beach had worn its mysterious robe of silence, often broken by the tides crashing into the rocks and sometimes by the noisy little insects that inhabited the island. The waves were calm and Leona was peaceful, untouched by the loneliness in her life.

 

She was never a sport when it came to adventure. At 26, she was happy to be working without taking a break in five years; nothing bothered her, except a promotion or the perks that came along with the fat cheques. Leona was of course a success story for her juniors at school and an over achiever in office but a loner in her life. Her rose tinted shades probably made her blind to see how entangled she was in the cobweb of so called urbanism as she spent her evenings busy talking animatedly while drinking fine wine and wearing diamonds, least aware of the consequences. She was intelligent but was too naive to understand the shrewdness hidden behind plastic smiles. Love stood somewhere down in her list of priorities, sometimes preceded by the new lipstick in the market. “How foolishly stupid was I?” Leona questioned herself as she sank deeper into memories and experiences that made her past, a past that held Sanjeev and his love for her, pure and uncontaminated. A tear rolled down her cheeks without making a sound. She suddenly stopped as she stepped on something coarse and hard. She stooped and lifted the object from underneath her feet; an empty shell. Leona paused for a moment and a sudden emptiness engulfed her as she found the shell symbolic of her life. Nature, in different forms does teach life’s lessons in its own simple way! She missed Sanjeev like never before. She started thinking of the past few hours she spent with Sanjeev.

 

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Sometimes past rings in memories which one never wants to think of. But Sanjeev had no choice; Leona had already arrived, not just in his thoughts but in reality. He met her today. Sanjeev pinched himself to make sure he was not dreaming. It was past midnight and he was wide awake, lost in his past. He couldn’t believe that Leona chose to stay in a shack with the locals, until he saw her playing with the kid. Kids were never adored by her, “they throw such tantrums that you feel like pulling off your hair”, was something Leona used to tell Sanjeev whenever he would mention kids. He tried to hide his faint smile while still recalling how she used to abhor the little ones. So, when he saw her playing with the kid he was much surprised and little hesitant to approach her but he took a deep breath and walked towards her with a loaded heart, full of unanswered questions. He found himself helpless as he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Leona was beautiful indeed. Sanjeev avoided looking into her melting eyes and greeted her with a plain “hi”.

 

Sanjeev jumped out of his bed as suddenly Leona’s face appeared in front of his eyes. He gulped down some water from the bed side bottle. “Was it destined..?”, he kept wondering  throughout the struggling night.

 

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His words were still ringing in her ears but she knew she was a changed person. Leona was not ready to let go her chance for the second time. “Thank you God! You gave me a wonderful evening with Jeev”, she murmured to herself and her eyes drifted towards the boundless sea. She started thinking of the evening that went by.

 

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Evening descended on the island and the sun baked sea slowly turned from blue to orange. Leona and Sanjeev walked silently over the wet sand until they reached an abandoned fishing boat. Silence tormented them. The sudden awkwardness of the moment reflected in their faces though both tried hard to pretend normal. Their life had treaded different paths in the past five years but destiny brought them face-to-face once again, which Leona believed, had a reason she had to figure out.

 

“Would you mind if we sit here for a while?” asked Leona. ?

“Well.. fine with me” replied Sanjeev.

“So, what brought you here? I mean…kind of weird to me”, he asked again, this time with some bitterness in his words.

“To unwind”, she said softly without eye contact.” “Sanjeev, I need…,” she could not finish her sentence as Sanjeev interrogated, “Why didn’t you tell me Leona? I waited for you…!

Leona couldn’t utter a word. Sanjeev came closer and looked into her brown eyes. They were blank!

He sought for answers “Why didn’t you tell me anything? Was it not enough? I loved you!

Leona sat like a statue without any expression. Then she slowly said, “I was wrong Jeev…it was always….,” she stopped as she heard a kid from a distance.

“Daddy! Daddy!” A little kid came sprinting towards them.

Leona turned towards Sanjeev, “Ron! I played with him in the morning. He’s your s….?”

“Ron completed four years yesterday”, said Sanjeev with a smile and lifted the boy in his arms. Ron started giggling filling the vacuum in the air. Leona felt a sense of relief but deep down she fought hard against her emotions. She watched the son fondling in his father’s arm, happy and secure, free from malice. Leona stood still and a tear fell down and lost into the sea. She knew what she had to do.

“Hey Ron, come here, I have a surprise for you. Come quick!” Leona gestured to Ron and he came running to her.

She reached for a small gold pendant in the pocket of her Capri pant and gave it to Ron. Ron clasped his gift in his fist and rushed to show it to Sanjeev. Sanjeev took the thing and looked at Leona without batting an eyelid. He found her eyes no longer captive but they were spinning thousand tales! He wanted to ask but couldn’t say a thing. She had answers but no words.

 

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A sudden touch on her shoulder brought her back to present. She felt the breeze brushing her cheeks. Leona turned back and saw Geet, her friend.

“There you are. I was going crazy looking for you. Take it. You forgot these again…? Just pop it up now”, Geet said.

“I need no medicines Geet. We both know it’s just a matter of few more days”, Leona took the pills reluctantly.

“Just shut up. I have news for you. I think I saw Sanjeev”, Geet broke the news.

“We had a lovely evening. I even played with his son. Ron is such a sweetheart. They are here on vacation”, Leona said with a smile.

“You, what? Did you tell him?”, Geet sounded curious and worried at the same time.

“No…it’s my only path to redemption”, Leona answered. Geet said nothing. Leona left a heavy sigh. She no more bore the burden of guilt. She felt like a feather floating on the wind.

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