They laid carnations on the grave. Her favourite flowers. How often he had walked home carrying a bunch. He was carrying one that day too. But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw, as he opened the door of his home on that summer evening of '98.
She lay there in the passage to their drawing room, in a pool of blood. Eyes still open, smiling even, as if welcoming him. He fell to his knees and clutched his head. She had slit her wrists. "Oh God... Oh MY GOD!" he shrieked. "What happened? Why did you...," he asked in shock, even as he rushed towards the medicine cabinet to get the first aid kit out.
"Don't." she said softly, stopping him mid step, "I was just waiting to tell you I loved you," and closed her eyes forever.
"NO! Please don't leave me Yana, please!" He held her face, and kissed her forehead, bawling like a baby. He had booked two tickets to Bali just a few days ago. "She needs a vacation," her doc had told them last week. Six years. Six years he had been caring for her, through her chronic, complicated illnesses. "We'll be okay," he'd smile assuringly, as her put her to sleep every night. She'd just smile sadly.
But he knew she was slipping away. His beautiful, young bride was slipping away everyday, as they tried in vain to battle her premature Alzheimer's and depression. Her past was fading, and her present turning dark. There was little he could do. Sometimes, love isn't enough. He dialed the police station and hospital numbers.
As he waited for them to arrive, he sat next to her, and looked around their drawing room misty-eyed. It was neat and orderly just as she had done it up, when they first moved here. She had picked all the things personally and supervised every small detail in the house. And now she lay there, lifeless like her favourite Victorian furniture, her favourite Persian rug, her favourite Chinese vase. He slouched on the floor next to her and stared at the eerie whiteness of the wall. Their 20" wedding frame was missing! Bewildered, he wiped his tears and stood up.
His first instinct was to check their bedroom. He ran up the stairs, and right enough, found the frame propped up on their bed. Her ivory wedding dress lay neatly alongside it. The floor was strewn with their wedding photographs. She had probably spent her final hours trying desperately to hold on to the slipping memory of the happiest day of her life. She had probably decided life wasn't worth living, if she couldn't remember the love of her life - him. He broke down, and threw himself on the bed. His heart threatened to stop with the pain he felt. Tears streamed down his face, as he lovingly caressed her dress. That's when he found the note, neatly rolled into a scroll, and slid into her gold wedding band.
Now, don't be mad at me. Look at it this way; no more medicine schedules on that darned excel sheet! (Bad joke. So, sue me!)
P.S.: Darling, I know you won't be in the best of your minds when you read this. But this is something I meant to tell you for so many months. It has taken many painful days and nights to say this to you. I want to leave. I need to leave.
Meeting you has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. In you I found the love I had always dreamt of, waited for. In your arms I found the solace and love a woman can only dream of. Only with you, I could feel happy, healthy and whole. I have no regrets. You loved me like a man should a woman. You loved me like a dream. But life can sometimes cruelly shatter dreams. Six years you stayed by my side. Nursed me, held me, took care of me. Even in my imperfection, you remained perfect. I've never felt more loved than in these six years I've spent with you. But I could give you nothing back. Not even happy memories, because they are beginning to deceive me...
I'm sorry, Jim. You deserve a better life, a partner, who can take care of you. Who can love you, like I wished I could. Do me a favour, Jim. I have gathered all my stuff here. Burn all of this up. Burn my memories off. Start your life again, Jim. Marry. Have kids. Play with your grandchildren. Promise me you will, and forgive me. Love, Yana."
He kissed the letter, and as he held it tight, felt something on the other side. He turned it around and found their two Bali tickets attached to the letter and a small note under it. It read,
"P.P.S.: Go. I hate to be a spoilsport."
The bell rang.
It was the cops. He was surprised to see their lawyer with them. "What's he doing here?" he wondered to himself, puzzled.
"Hi Jim," the lawyer said, "I'm so sorry. Yana called me this morning about her will. She wanted me to keep a copy ready. I had no idea..." He handed Jim a copy. Tears welled in Jim's eyes. She had been planning it for a while. 'Why didn't you let me in to your biggest secret?' He took a deep breath, and nodded. The cops went about their business in a cold manner, as his world came crashing down. They began to take the corpse away. His love gone cold, white. "May I, officer?" he asked, choking with emotion. "Of course," said the officer, and respectfully laid down Yana's still beautiful body. He kissed her lightly on the lips one last time. "Goodbye my love," he said, bursting into a fresh spate of tears.
Hours later, when he could summon the courage, he opened her will. She had left everything to him, and asked him to burn it all. He would. There was nothing here for him anymore. This house now felt like a coffin. She was all around. In every nook. In every breath. He could think of no better way to let it all go. Moments later, he was out on the porch with several cans of gasoline. He splashed it all around the house. He was having none of it stay with him, without her in it. She had left him behind; he would leave all of this behind. He smiled, and dropped a burning match on the balcony. An angry streak went right into the house and started turning everything it touched into ash. He began to walk away, even as fire engines rung their bells furiously and approached the home of Mr. and late Mrs. Smith.
That night had been a living nightmare. Cops, questions, fire and darkness. Courts, more cops, lawyers, friends and alcohol followed soon after. He had walked through those days in a daze, until he found her. Today he had brought her to the charred remains of his past for the first time. He did not wish to walk down that road again. That neighbourhood, that pain. But she had insisted. Behind their good life, she had sensed a void. All through their first days together in Bali four years ago, their whirlwind romance, their crazy-quick wedding, their marriage and kids, a part of him had been missing.
"It's time you truly fulfilled Yana's last wish, darling," she said softly. "Forgive her for leaving you. Forgive yourself for not being able to stop her. You have never once visited her grave. Let's go say hello. You need it for a goodbye."
(Co-authored with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devil22)