I couldn’t control my smile. Nowadays, I smiled without reason. But today, there was a reason. After two months I was finally meeting him! I could see myself blushing in the mirror. What happened to the fierce journalist Ameeta! “Is this love?”, I asked myself while I took out my diary and started reading the page dated 29th September.

Today I received a message from a stranger on Messenger. I was surprised to see a lot of similarities between us – interests, books read, movies seen and groups too! The guy Neeraj also looked good! Should I accept it?

I turned the page.

30th September

I accepted his request – I was curious to know more. If anything went wrong, I could always block him. I know that he’s working for a shipping company and is on a six month break in Gujarat.

Since then, we talked every day on text or call.

29th November

I’m so happy! Tomorrow I’ll meet him! The beach, him and me!

The next evening, I was humming the song ‘Kanhi Karta Hoga Woh Mera Intezaar’ in a taxi on my way from the Bhuj airport to the Mandvi beach resort, when suddenly the taxi stopped with a jolt. The windscreen shattered and the driver’s head fell on to the steering wheel with a stream of blood flowing from his forehead. I ducked under the seat, trembling with fear. Out of nowhere, the door opened and a hurried voice said, “Come quickly, there’s a shooting from the other side of the border and everyone is advised to stay indoors. Some terrorists have intruded into our side, taking advantage of the situation.” Without a second thought, I grasped his extended hand and started running with him. We crossed the narrow path of the grass field and reached his isolated house. He locked the door and offered me water. I finished it in one gulp and looked around. It was a big room with only one window. There was also one more door apart from the main door, which probably led to the backyard. The man appeared again with a cup of tea. I took it and for the first time looked at him properly. He was a tall, middle-aged man with a lean and fit body. His most striking feature was his big, deep hazel eyes, the same as mine!

I reached into my pocket for my phone, but didn’t find it. Perhaps I left it in the taxi. So here I was, at an unknown place with a stranger, without my belongings. I wanted to see Neeraj, but the gunshots wouldn’t allow it. It was dark now. The kind man lit a candle and said apologetically, “Sorry, due to the current situation, electricity has been shut off in the whole town.” Although winter had just begun, the house was unusually cold. After a hot meal, the man gave me a mat and a blanket and disappeared, perhaps to sleep in the backyard!

I couldn’t sleep properly. Images of the driver covered with blood, Neeraj, and the man’s kind, hazel eyes whirled in my mind. The man was not around. I opened the back door. He wasn’t there either. The backyard seemed neglected with long, wild grass. I went back inside the house and was surprised to see him with a cup of tea. I took the cup and our hands brushed against each other. Why was his hand cold? Taking a sip of the tea, I asked, “How’s the situation outside? Can I go to Mandvi now? My friend will be waiting for me there.” Before he could reply, I heard a gunshot. “The situation is still not good. Don’t worry! You are safe here, my child.”, he said affectionately. His words instantly made me comfortable. The man was very hospitable. He took good care of me but not once did I see him eating in front of me!

“This house is so cold!”, I wondered as I wrapped the blanket tightly around me, trying to sleep. I was able to sleep well, unlike the previous night. The day passed by smoothly, with far fewer gunshot sounds than the day before. In the evening, I was in the backyard, when suddenly a series of loud gunshots were heard. I ran inside the house, closing the door behind me. The man was not there. After a fierce battle of gunshots, there was a deafening silence, which was broken by a loud thud on the door. “Miss Ameeta, are you there? Please open the door, I’m Inspector Vijay Kumar.” I hesitated, but felt a pair of hazel eyes reassuring me. I opened the door and saw policemen standing there. “Are you alright, madam?” I nodded. “There was an ingenious plan to kidnap you by the fanatic organisation you kept writing against. Most of the members and their leader were killed in the encounter. We found a diary with details about you in the leader’s pocket. Do you know him?”. The inspector showed me a picture of Neeraj with a moustache and a beard. I felt like the world was spinning around me. “Madam, are you ok?” I heard a faint voice before collapsing.

4th December

I will never forget the 48 hours I spent in that house. Trust, betrayal, kindness, menace, known, and stranger. These words mean something different to me now.

On her deathbed, my mother had confessed that my father died before their marriage and I had his deep hazel eyes. Inspector Vijay Kumar had said that a previously unseen middle-aged man guided them to my location.

Some things are unexplainable and beyond logic. Some questions do not have answers. Sometimes we witness things that baffle even the sharpest of minds…

I closed my diary and stared at the pair of deep, hazel eyes which stared back at me from the mirror.

Written by Geeta Jena

Geeta spends most of her time indulging in her hobbies - teaching and writing. She has written short stories and poems in Gujarati and Hindi for her college magazine. During her tenure as a Pre-primary teacher, she has written rhymes and plays for her students. Her favourite genres are romance and supernatural.