The girl was looking outside the window with eyes that blinked innocently; seemed to be lost in her own universe of randomness until someone called out “Akriti, pay attention. Did you note what I just said?”
Startled by his voice she couldn’t figure out what to say instead she just nodded her head. The professor went on and on about how Eugene O’Neill became a successful modern dramatist with the reference to his one-act-play ‘Thirst’. She went back observing the college campus filled with trees, students of all kinds, and the security guy who was guarding the big, handsome gate of entrance. “Can he stop him from coming in or get to me? Am I safe here?” she murmured inattentively.
“That’s it Akriti, get out of my class,” the professor said. Akriti seemed reluctant at first but after a moment of hesitation she picked up her bag and gave a cold look to her classmates; she got out of the class looking here and there, for the first time she felt lost in her own college which she had been attending for almost a year. It all seemed to be a blur; she flashed her eyes quite a few times to get a clear vision. Her head felt heavier so she sat down by the wall and closed her eyes; she looked tired.
“Akriti what’s wrong with you? Why are you sleeping on the floor? Are you okay? Wake up,” Akriti woke up to her friend Rita’s voice; realizing she fell asleep on the floor outside their classroom; there was a small crowd around her but as soon as she opened her eyes, everyone went on their own ways. Akriti seemed to be at a loss, she smiled grimly saying “I’m fine, thanks”
“Are you sure? Let’s get you home”
“Will you come with me?”
“Yeah sure, look, I’m worried about you; you don’t seem to be fine”
Rita lived nearby so she didn’t mind giving Akriti company on the way although she missed her social-studies period for her best friend’s sake but she could live with that; Akriti was on top of her priority list. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and she was sure about Akriti doing the same for her in a different time; they attended the same school; they were in the same college, studying the same subject as well; their fathers were also best friends of each other. Rita always shared everything with her but Akriti was always the reserved, shy kind; it was hard to get anything out of her but Rita never tried too hard, usually, she used to be the first person to know anything regarding Akriti.
The bus got stuck in traffic. It was a hot summer day in the middle of May. Rita took her water-bottle out of the bag and had a few sips. She asked Akriti if she wanted some water but she denied. In the meantime, a middle-aged man wearing black corduroy pants and a plain white t-shirt with a briefcase in his left hand got on the bus and was looking around for an empty seat. Noticing him Akriti started behaving erratically; she was uncomfortable in her seat and asked Rita to get down from the bus. Before Rita could gather any thought on the matter in hand Akriti grabbed her hand and almost pushed her down. The traffic cleared and the bus moved ahead.
“What the heck is wrong with you?” Rita asked furiously.
“You didn’t see him? Did you?” A sense of fear was in Akriti’s voice, she went on “he was going to kill me, we had to get out”
“Kill you? What? Who?” Rita seemed in an awful amount of shock.
“Tell me, Rita, what if you had only 3 days to live, what would you have done? Would you risk it anyway?”
Rita was goggling at her but she remained silent rather speechless; after a while pulling herself together she asked “Can you please tell me what’s going on?” She tried to sound considerate.
“I can’t tell you everything now, let’s get home first”
“Have you told your parents about this? Akriti, this is serious, you have to call the police,” Rita expressed worriedly. They were both sitting in Akriti’s bedroom and both seemed panicked about something.
“I can’t tell anyone, why don’t you understand he’ll kill me if I do,” Akriti replied promptly.
“Yes that’s the point.”
“Rita I don’t want to die,” Akriti broke down in tears, almost sobbing she said “what if you had only 3 days to live, what would you do Rita? Wouldn’t you want to spend each and every moment? I want to live, not to survive, I want to live my life, Rita. I want to be born again.”
Rita tried to comfort her by holding her hand. She couldn’t keep up with Akriti’s train of thoughts.
Akriti seemed really happy holding the balloons in her hand; she was looking up at the sky measuring the clouds that appeared. She seemed to be in bliss.
“It’s just like we are kids again,” she said.
Rita smiled innocently in reply. Her and Akriti, they both had skipped college that day as Rita had promised her the best day of their lives. They went to the carnival in town. Forgetting about everything that happened on the previous day, they were both trying to enjoy as much as possible.
After returning home Akriti went straight to her bedroom with the excuse of being too tired but Rita stayed along with Akriti’s mother who was waiting for them eagerly “Rita, stay a while, I need to talk to you about Akriti”
“How is she now? She seemed to be resilient but have you noticed anything strange?”
Rita seemed reluctant to answer.
“Tell me, I’m her mother if there’s anything you think I should know, please tell me”
“There’s someone trying to kill her, he sent her some text messages and he said that she has only 3 days to live and she couldn’t trace the number or tell you or go to the police because he asked her not to and he wanted her to delete the texts and everything so there’s nothing, I checked her phone and all,” she took a pause after finishing the sentence in one go.
Akriti’s mother seemed to be in distress but she remained quiet.
Rita couldn’t look her into the eyes, “I’m sorry, I should’ve told you earlier but she said not to…”
“It’s okay Rita, I know she means a lot to you, I think you should go home now and don’t worry, we’ll take care of it”
Rita silently walked away.
The day after Rita was growing cynical; Akriti hasn’t returned her calls, she hasn’t come to the college either; naturally, this made her a bit petulant; she blamed herself for opening her mouth in front of her mother “What if something bad happened to her? What if she is in danger?” The thoughts invaded her mind and she couldn’t concentrate on anything. She decided to go to Akriti’s house after college.
She rang the doorbell as she reached Akriti’s house but no one answered the door, she became quite worried, she tried again, this time with a knock but still, there was no answer. She stood there on the front porch for a while looking at the door and there she noticed the lock, there was no one inside the house; it was locked from the outside.
“So they moved Akriti for her safety,” she murmured; she was relieved.
As time passed Rita became quite impatient about her best friend’s whereabouts, “They should have at least called me once; should I inform the police or maybe they have done that already,” she couldn’t keep herself from thinking about Akriti. Seeing her like that Rita’s mother asked her about what happened,
“Oh no nothing Mum, just exams and all,” although Rita wanted to share the whole incident with her mother but, she thought it would be better if she didn’t; who knew maybe it was only her big mouth that got her best friend into trouble but what else could she have done? It was a matter of life and death, she did what she thought would keep Akriti safe. She tried to satisfy her mind with that excuse.
The day after she decided to skip college, there was a lot in her mind so she thought it would be for her best if she stayed home. According to Akriti, it would have been her last day to live; every time she closed her eyes Akriti’s innocent face came up and all those times they were together; the moments they spent; it was a flashback. “Who would want to kill her? The bus guy; can’t remember his face; I barely saw him. She is such a nice girl, never harmed anyone in her life; perhaps someone was just playing a prank on her just to scare her off; who could that be though? Her ex-boyfriend perhaps; I never liked that guy anyway, told her to stay away from him. Maybe we took the whole thing a bit too seriously; was it stupidity to believe in a few text messages? I mean it all seems to be surrealistic; perhaps it’s me because of whom Akriti is in trouble as I told her Mum about all this, this could all just pass in a matter of time; now because of me only God knows where Akriti is,” it was an afternoon spent in thoughts. She kept looking at the phone waiting for it to ring just so she could hear Akriti’s voice.
Rita’s Mum sent her for a walk seeing her sitting idle and Rita too thought it was justified because a walk could only freshen up her mind and she could pretend to forget about everything that happened.
After coming back from the nearby park Rita saw a crowd gathered around the neighborhood; she was suspicious “did something happen to Akriti?” with that thought in her mind she went right inside her house and saw Akriti’s father sitting on the couch crying his eyes out and beside him was standing Akriti’s mother who looked almost lifeless.
“Oh my God, he killed her, didn’t he?” Rita shouted almost bursting into tears “Please don’t tell me he killed her, who was he? Where were you? Where did you keep Akriti?” she couldn’t speak anymore; she dropped down on her knees crying out loud.
Rita’s mother came to console her. She said in a deep voice “No one killed her dear, she committed suicide”
Rita seemed to be in shock “what do you mean by she committed suicide?”
“We returned last night after visiting Akriti’s doctor in New Delhi, Akriti hanged herself from the ceiling fan in her bedroom; this afternoon”
“Why would she do that? Wait, what doctor? She needed to go to the police station and file a report, not to a doctor,” Rita said angrily.
“The doctor is a Psychiatrist; she was treating Akriti; Akriti was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few months ago.”