The Better You

  • 16 Jun - 22 Jun, 2018
  • Nadeem Alam
  • Fiction

It was getting late at night and Adnan was not back from office yet. I always wait for him to arrive, serve him hot food and then without much talking, we go to sleep.

I was lying in my room and reading a book when I heard the main door open. I jumped out of the bed and rushed outside. There he was, placing his briefcase at the table, looking tired as usual. I asked him if he had eaten but instead of responding, he glanced at me with his loving eyes and smiled. I got confused. First, he was not wearing the white shirt which I had ironed for him in the morning and secondly, he never smiles at this time of the hour. However, I shredded my thoughts and hugged him. Later, we went out for dinner. It was past mid-night but we knew about some restaurants in the city which remain open till late as we had dined in a few of them before getting married.

We used to work in the same bank. He was senior than me yet we developed a good understanding. I always liked dining out, watching movies in the theatre and roaming around in shopping malls. I wanted to see the outside world before having children. My dreams materialised for some time but were shattered soon. After we were married, he asked me to quit my job and stay at home. He got promoted too, which made him very busy. I was just a two-months-old bride whose husband had turned into a robot. I lived alone in a small apartment on the eighth floor and spent my days watching the outside world from my balcony. He now works in another branch which remains open on Saturdays too. The only day off he gets in a week is spent by either visiting his parents or his friends. I had become a prisoner of my own dreams. The soul of the girl in my body was breathing her last.

This night had come after a long halt. I did not want to end it but it was cruising fast. We went to a mall, Adnan bought me a beautiful bracelet and then we dined at our favourite Chinese restaurant. We also watched a movie together before going to bed in early hours of the morning. I watched him sleep for some time, so much so that I even started to adore his snores.

I suddenly woke up at noon, as my phone kept ringing continuously. He probably left for work without interrupting my sleep. I felt a little embarrassed for keeping him awake last night but also fondled a sense of joy and thrill which was radiating from my whole body. I could still smell his presence in the room. I smiled sheepishly and picked up my phone which had stopped ringing now. I was holding my phone and thinking about last night when it started ringing again. I attended the call and the person on the other side first verified from me that I am Mrs. Adnan then dropped the bombshell. Adnan had met an accident and was in a hospital. I initially lost my ability to absorb the news but then recollected my senses and immediately asked if he is alright. Person on other end of the phone hung up just after telling me the name of the hospital. With trembling hands, I called my brother who worked near my home. He came within next twenty minutes, picked me up and took me to the hospital. I informed Adnan’s parents as well who were also on their way to the hospital.

Adnan was in the intensive care unit and had not regained consciousness. Visitors were not allowed, yet I was taken inside to see him. His head was covered with bandages and different machines were attached to his body through tubes. He was wearing a hospital gown. After a while, the nurse asked me to go outside and handed me his belongings. Blood stained white shirt was clearly visible from the transparent plastic shopper. I was mesmerised on further hearing from my brother that Adnan met an accident last night. He was brought in unconscious condition to the hospital. His mobile phone was broken. They could not inform us about the accident at night. Police found Adnan’s visiting card from his wallet. In the morning, they got Adnan’s next of kin number from his office and informed Alia. After an excruciating silent pause, Adnan’s mother looked at me and asked in an annoying tone, “Alia, were you not bothered when Adnan did not turn up home last night?”

I simply had no answer. I covered my face with both hands and started crying like a baby. Images of last night made me shiver like a leaf. At first, I thought I had seen a dream but then looking at the bracelet in my wrist made me tremble more. I started gasping for air and then lost consciousness.

I woke up in the hospital bed with my parents at my side. They lived in another city and probably had just arrived here. Adnan had gone into coma. His condition was worsening. Everyone believed I was too perturbed because of Adnan’s condition but I knew the actual reason. I did not want to look at my hands. Even the feel of that bracelet at my wrist made me nauseous. In the evening, I was discharged from the hospital and was taken to my apartment. My parents and my brother came along with me. I removed the bracelet from my wrist and put it inside a drawer. I was feeling a bit better. My brother brought some food from outside. My parents were very tired. After we had food, they went to sleep. My brother also left after a while.

Later, while stepping into my room, I was stunned by the shiny bracelet placed on top of the dressing table. I picked it up and opened the drawer to put it back inside when I sensed his presence. I turned back and he was standing right there in the doorway, smiling intriguingly. I held the bracelet in my hand tightly and froze. I even forgot to breathe.

He slowly walked towards me, took the bracelet from my hand and adjusted it on my left hand’s wrist. Staring at me with his loving eyes, he whispered, “Do you want me to stay?” I did no respond.

Tears started rolling down my cheeks. With an agonising look at his face, he started to step back. I do not know how or why, I yelled, “Wait!”

He stopped.

Hesitantly, I took a step forward, clinched my eyes, and threw myself into his open arms. •