I have a beautiful little cottage in one of the quiet little hamlets in the lap of Himalayas. It resembles one of those little cottages with vines and creepers entwined around the windows and large pine trees making the backdrop. Where the sun rises like a scarlet rose in sky and moon appears in a beautiful arc. It’s like one of those screensavers you download for your computer screen. But nothing’s perfect and so my little cottage isn’t too.
There’s a small guest room in my home which I always keep locked. It has a small, rather charming window. One of those beautiful windows that look like they are straight out of a fairy tale. It has a square wooden panel, decorated with carvings of intricate vines that are entangled among themselves. The wooden panel was once painted red but the colour has faded now. The window has beautiful glass panes which scatter a hundred rainbows whenever sunlight falls on them. The only glitch is that the window pane is broken on one side.
She was the one who broke it. It was on the day I first saw her. Actually, it was the day when I first saw her green eyes and her arched eyebrows. She was peeking through the glass pane that she had broken. I couldn’t see her face at that time. I was too entranced to notice anything else or think anything else. She said she was playing with her cousins and one of them hit the ball on the window. She was apologising. I couldn’t say a word. Perhaps she thought I was still angry. So she didn’t ask for the ball back and left.
I sat in that room for a long time thinking about the pretty eyes I had just seen. I had gone mad. That is what happens when you are in love. But back then I didn’t know. I was puzzled at the effect that single eye had on me. I didn’t have my tea that evening and couldn’t eat my dinner. I was utterly perplexed. What was it that I had missed. I laugh now at my own stupidity but back then I spent a few hours scrolling through pages of a book “Strange Ailments and their Cure”.
My old housekeeper told me that I had been bewitched. Someone must be after my cottage and my apple orchard so they had used black magic. I took her seriously. You are bound to believe if strange things happen to you and you couldn’t find a plausible reason.
She didn’t come back and in a week my perplexity lessened to some extent. I decided to take a walk through my orchard on a fine evening. My housekeeper advised me against it. She said that someone might try to bewitch me again. But I was ready to take the risk.
I took a brisk walk around my cottage, then moved towards my orchard which was only at a few meters distance. I was humming a favourite tune, enjoying the cool breeze and inspecting things with my cane. Suddenly the birds around me began to make loud noises. I looked up and found that a person was falling from a tree nearby. I rushed under it and caught the person. It was a young woman. Her head was shaved. Her eyes were shut. Perhaps she had fainted. I didn’t know what to do, so I carried her back to my cottage.
My housekeeper felt mortified. She warned me, said that it wall all a ruse. I didn’t listen to her and called up a doctor from a village nearby. He arrived an hour later, in the meantime I paced up and down the guest room where I had put her. The doctor gave her an injection and said that she would gain consciousness soon.
After another hour of pacing, I saw her stir. I went and sat on a chair close to her bed. I needed to know who she was. She slowly opened her eyes. It was the same green eye that had me entranced. Again I couldn’t speak. I stared at her. She tried to say something but I didn’t understand. She pointed at the pen I kept in my breast pocket. I gave her my pen. She grabbed my arm and wrote a number on my palm.
I called on the number and half an hour later her parents arrived. Then I came to know. She was a cancer patient. She had last stage blood cancer and there was no chance of recovery for her. Her parents brought her to our small village to fulfil her last wish. Their eyes filled with tears while they told me her story.
I wanted to cry too. I didn’t want to lose her. I went back to her, this time with her parents. She lay peacefully under the white sheets. Her eyes were closed but she was not asleep. She opened her eyes when she heard us enter the room. She smiled at me.
“Thank you for saving me.”
“I wish I could save you,” I said not knowing what else to say.
She smiled sadly. “I wish that too.”
Everyone was silent for a while then she said ” I like your cottage. It’s like from a dream. I wish I had a cottage like this.”
“You could stay here.” I blurted.
Her parents didn’t want to stay but I insisted, asking them to honour their daughter’s wish. That is how she came to stay here.
She stayed with me for a month. I would take her for walks around my cottage every evening. Earlier she would walk on her own, then she began to need my help, leaning on my hand every now and then to catch some breath. In the last two weeks I carried her on a wheelchair but never broke our routine. She loved to walk between the trees. She loved to look at the setting sun and the birds that returned to their nests. She would stare at nature engrossed in something. two days before she died, she held my hand and said
“You know why you are puzzled by the effect I have on you.”
I stared at her. How did she know?
She smiled and said “I can see it in your eyes. You don’t know yet. I don’t know whether to tell you or not.”
I said that she should tell me but then she didn’t. She said she wanted me to stay in peace after she left.
She died two days after. She had asked for me before she breathed her last. I sat close to her. She asked me to hold her hand and in a breathless voice said that she loved me. Those were her last words.
“I Love You.” Can there ever be more meaningful last words? No, there can’t be. The moment she closed her eyes and left us all I realized what she had been talking about that day. I was in love with her. She knew it. She had sensed it and she had grown to love me too. She knew she couldn’t wait anymore for me to realize it. She didn’t have the time.
Since then I have kept the room where she breathed her last the way it had been when she was here. Once a repairman asked to change the glass pane. I refused. I still hope that someday I would see those green eyes peeking again through that broken pane. Till then…