That dusk marked big thresholds in her life. From a known, cruel day to an unknown, perhaps, kind night. The horizon beckoned.
The ordeal that the last six months were, had sapped her of all her mental fortitude. She felt bleary. Yet strangely conscious. She had very few possessions. A child, a scar from the newest wound on her swollen lip, a box of clothes and a ticket to as far as she could go. She let out a cold breath. She wanted to grin, but 'aaarggh, this bloody cut.' She grimaced, still feeling the sting of his blow.
It had been this way ever since she could remember. It was hard to believe love was the beginning of it all, and this child the beginning of the flash point. He'd loved her crazy. Her every wish, his manna from the heavens. But in his loss of trust, he had turned monster.
His jealous rages had become a way of life, and she was reminded of gentler manners only when a young man in the train said, "What beautiful eyes these are."
She looked up, surprised. He sat across from her, looking unabashedly.
"I'm an artist," he explained, "and you are mistress of the most beautiful pair of eyes I've ever seen."
She looked at him, smiled through her pain; said "You're kind," and turned away.
"Those wonderful eyes are tired too. Maybe they should sleep," he said, offering her his seat. She nodded, too tired to resist and slept like she hadn't in days.
She woke up to find him curled like a baby on the floor below. Tranquil. Something in her melted, but she denied that emotion. She gathered her bundles and her child, and prepared to leave. But she couldn't leave without a goodbye and a thank you. Strings. She bent down, and whispered a 'thank you' in his ear, ever so softly, hoping he wouldn't wake up. But he did. He sprang up, and said, "Pleasure. No thank yous, please..."
"...Anna," she offered.
He smiled, and pulled out a paper. "This is for you, Anna."
She took the paper from his hands, and stared at it intently. There she was; beautiful, scar-free like before.
"It isn't true; this picture," she said politely, and smiled. She couldn't help feeling flattered.
"I see people," he said, "I see you; and you are beautiful."
His words danced violently in her head, as the train chugged off. He was gone. She stood transfixed for a while, his words gnawing at her heart. It was all she needed. Somehow his validation mattered more than anything else. She wasn't just an object; she felt alive.
As if by some unseen force, she felt compelled to get off the train. Clutching the portrait and her possessions, she jumped. Her things scattered about her, her baby in her arms, in this strange land, she stood; and wept. Like a cloudburst on a barren heart, she wept. She realised she was free at last. Terribly alone, beautiful and free. Unloaded off her murky past. Of her ugly brush with love. Free. She held on to her child, and breathed in a lungful of uninhibited air.
"Shall we go home?" a familiar voice said.
She turned around, her heart frozen for a moment; then smiled.
(Co-authored with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devill22)