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He had never really believed in the word ‘death’, but today he sat there thinking. Did ‘death’ mean the end of a physical being? Or did it include the death of the soul as well? If such was the case, then he too had died today. According to his doctor’s report, he was termed as ‘lucky’ but he knew otherwise. He had lost the single purpose of his existence. He would have been lucky if his heart would have stopped beating with hers or if they would have been together right now.
He stared at the pale, motionless body in front of him. The doctors had declared her dead but he deserved the title more. After all, he would have to spend the rest of his meaningless life without her. Watching someone you love, die is something that should never happen. His eyes shifted from her face to the glass coffin , where he saw his own reflection. Her eyes were closed but his eyes were lifeless. She was the one with horrible scars all over but he was the one with the scarred soul. According to medical science, the death of a soul is considered insignificant, the heart should be beating strong. As far as the doctors were concerned, he was alive but he knew much better because his soul was dead.
Nick’s mind raced back to ten years ago when he and Lisa were best friends. During one of the science lectures in college, he had heard the word ‘nyctophobia’ and he knew that was the best word to describe his phobia. He repeated the word in front of Lisa and asked her if she knew what it meant.
She replied, “Nyctophobia means fear of the dark and I know that you are afraid of darkness. “
Nick was surprised, “How did you know?”
She said, “Well, I know that you carry a torch in your bag. I know that you hate sitting alone in the evening and I also know that you hate basements.”
Nick was all the more shocked and he said, “When and how did you notice all this?”
She answered with a smile, “Well, we women are very smart and like to keep ourselves informed about the special people in our life.”
Nick fought back a laugh ‘we women’ was her current favourite phrase and he felt amused whenever she used it.
Lisa asked, “What’s so funny?”
He answered, “Nothing really.”
“Then why are you looking so happy?”
“Oh, I am always happy when I’m with you.”
She saw the time in her watch and frowned because it was time to attend the next lecture. But before leaving she turned around and said, “Nick....I love you.”
He could feel his heart thumping loudly and said with a smile, “I love you too, baby.”
After a few days Lisa asked Nick, “Do you believe in soulmates?”
He replied, “Why this question suddenly?”
“Well, I will answer your question later but first you tell me if you believe in soulmates.”
Nick said, “I have never given this a thought, but I am sure you will end up explaining it to me....so go ahead.”
She started speaking even before he had finished. “I believe that each person only contains half of his soul. The other half is missing. Since the soul is not considered as a vital organ, no one notices this. But then one fine day, you meet your other half, your soulmate. And you realise that the person has filled that empty space in your heart which you didn’t know existed. Suddenly you start feeling whole and that person completes you. Life becomes perfect in every possible way. Sometimes your soulmate gets snatched away from you and you become incomplete again. That is the time when it really hurts because you are lonely and alone.”
She paused for breath and asked, “Do you get it?”
Nick was silent for a moment and said, “I get it.” He smiled because he knew that he felt complete since he had found his soulmate.
Lisa had a habit of coming up with strange questions all the time. One day she asked Nick, “What is the one thing you cannot survive without?”
Her question made Nick laugh and he said, “From where did this question come now?”
“Will you please answer my question honestly?”
“Okay, so for me the one thing that I just cannot live without would be light.”
It was her turn to laugh now and she said, “That is so typically you my dear. For you, light has to be the most important thing since you are so scared of the dark.”
He replied, “Out here what I meant by light was hope. What is life without having something to look forward to. A person can live for a few days without food, few minutes without air but not a single second without light without hope. When the light is gone, there is no more reason for anything.”
Nick came back to reality. He was again surrounded by darkness. He had no reason to live. The rest of the day passed in a daze. People surrounded him and felt sorry for him. Some just looked at his eyes and said he was like a lifeless being. A dead body. It seemed as if they were attending two funerals at the same time.
Nick saw his five year old daughter looking at him frequently from his mother-in-laws arms. His heart ached for her. She would now have to spend the rest of her life without her mother. The love of his life would now just become a story.
He felt someone place a hand on his shoulder. “Nick?”
He turned around to face his neighbour. “Should I take care of Ann tonight?” He just nodded.
He walked home late at night dragging his feet on the floor. He opened the door with trembling hands. He walked into the empty house and that’s when reality struck him. She was gone, never to come back. He would have to spend the rest of his life, alone and he crashed on the floor and howled inconsolably.
Weeks passed or maybe just a few days. Nick was not interested in keeping track of the time. Life just went on. Every morning he pasted a fake smile on his face for his daughter. He tried to continue a normal life for her sake. He attended all her school functions, read her bedtime stories, and took her out each weekend. He kept his smile intact till he put her to bed at night before breaking down all over again. He knew he was cheating Lisa, he was cheating his daughter and above all he was cheating himself. He had lost the light of his life and was left with darkness again and that was the only thing he was afraid of.
At night he dreamt of his love. He waited eagerly for the dreams because that was the time when she was close to him. Out of all the dreams he had, one of the most recurring one was of the day his daughter was born.
“Nick, she has your eyes” said Lisa.
“No sweetheart. I think she is as pretty as you. Thank you so much for giving me the most beautiful gift. Go to sleep now. You need to rest” he said lovingly stroking her forehead.
Nick looked at his bundle of joy again and then looked at Lisa and thanked God for giving him such a perfect life.
“What do we name her?” asked Lisa.
“Can we do this later baby? You need to sleep.” But as always Lisa would never keep quiet when asked to.
“What about Anora? Ann for short.”
Even though her face was pale, her eyes were shining brightly. Nick said, “That’s a very unusual name, sweetheart.”
“Only if you knew what it meant” saying this she smiled which said that she had something up her sleeve.
“Okay, you can tell me the meaning later but you must rest now.”
Nick got up to leave the room and she said, “Nick, I love you.”
He couldn’t help smiling, “I love you too, baby.”
This was the memory which kept flashing in front of his eyes repeatedly. Even now while he was putting his daughter to sleep.
“And they lived happily ever after.” He shut the story book and bent down to kiss his daughter.
“Daddy, do all stories have a happy ending” asked the five year old.
Nick knew he was lying. He longed to tell his daughter that real life is nothing like a fairy tale where everything ends with a happily ever after.
He bent down to kiss her goodnight and then turned off the light. He hurried to get out of the room because he hated the darkness.
“Daddy, you can leave the light on if you want.”
Nick thought maybe he had not heard what she said, so asked, “What did you say, baby?”
“Daddy I said you can leave the light on. I know you hate darkness.”
“You know daddy, our class teacher asked us the meanings of our names today.”
Nick was surprised at the sudden change of topic.
Ann said, “I told her mine.”
His voice came out as a whisper when he asked her, “How did you know?” He was shocked because the answer to this question had left with Lisa.
“Mummy told me when I had gone to meet her in the hospital” said the little girl.
“It means light” she added.
Nick suddenly felt weak in his knees and wanted to get out of the room.
He took a deep breath and turned around.
“I love you daddy.”
He felt his lips turn into a smile and he knew that this time it was not fake. He stared at his daughter for a while and for the first time in several weeks, he felt happy.
Everything suddenly seemed to fall in place. His dream, her name, the meaning. He did not feel afraid of the dark anymore even though Lisa had left him because she had not left him without hope. This was what had kept him going. This was what she had been trying to tell him all along through his dream. He had finally found a way out of the darkness. He had finally found his light.
He reached out to his little angel in the darkness. He was not scared anymore and was neither in a hurry to get out of the room. He bent down to kiss his daughter lightly on the forehead.
“I love you too, baby.”