SUZANNE did not stop crying until Helios called her. He was her healing force, a friend, a guide and much more than that. A perpetuating spirit in every cell of her body. She wanted him as badly as she wanted to breathe. Every conversation she was a part of, had to take an eventual turn, ending up mentioning something about him. She sat with him, ate with him, walked with him, talked with him, slept with him and even dreamt him-all by her- self. She often wondered what was happening to her and what made her go so crazy about him. She couldn’t quite figure it out. She felt her own per- sonality imploding rapidly, but his, exploded in a big way, within herself.
Just three months ago, she used to hate him to the core. She didn’t know why. A brash, haughty guy, she thought. It was on the very first day of Bachelors of Business Administration did she see him for the first time. He seemed to strike conversation instantly with anyone, totally uninhibited- exactly the opposite of her. He quickly made a few friends. A lot of them, girls. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with an average build. His long, pointed nose, fair skin, a pair of piercing black eyes and a remarkably beau- tiful face drew instant attention. Girls kept gaping at him nonstop when he was around. Some were quite ostensibly lusting him. They would purposely come up to him on the pretext of asking doubts and slightly bend over, showing him their swollen breasts. Some others would rub their breasts from his behind while feigning to show him something on his laptop screen.
Every time Suzanne saw girls sticking close to him, she somehow couldn’t digest it. She despised them all, not to mention Helios. She was the only one he had not spoken to, on the first day of their college. Not that he didn’t want to but just that she never came by. She was rather unwilling. For such a beautiful, round face girl that she was, with a thick, jet black hair, and unassuming features, it was so queer that she hardly got noticed by any. In stark contrast, Helios was always the center of attraction.
On the third week of college, the economics professor created teams of two, picking names randomly, to deliver presentations on varied topics. Suzanne felt queasy when she was paired up with Helios. Him of all, she thought. To make it worse, the topic given was ‘Market Manipulation and Cartels.’ She didn’t like the topic. She didn’t like any sort of manipulation. To top it all, she had to talk to him now, without a choice. Her ego wouldn’t let her make the first move. She waited on to him. They were given three days’ time. She waited and waited. First day went by. He never turned up. The next day, it was almost afternoon. She was now beginning to become a bit worried and kept cussing him. She was battling in her mind whether to approach him herself or wait a little more. Just as she thought What an ego- istic idiot he is, walking in the foyer of their college, she heard someone call- ing ‘Suzanne,’ from behind. She turned around.
‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’ Helios asked.
Perplexed, though wanting to say no, she feebly fumbled ‘Yes, sure.’
They strolled on to the nearest coffee shop. He sat her comfortably in a cushion seat opposite to him and cracked a joke or two to break the ice. She was hard to open up. But she felt slightly better about him. Her initial animosity on him dropped, considerably. He is not so bad after all, she thought. They discussed presentation at length. Perceiving her dislike for the topic, he suggested she should start the presentation, deciding to handle other complex aspects, himself. She admired it.
As it turned out to be, the presentation was well received, with thun- derous applause. Everybody personally congratulated them both for such a stupendous presentation. The new found success placed Helios as a banka- ble guy in Suzanne’s mind. That evening, he asked her out for coffee again to celebrate their success. She willingly complied. As they walked along, he realized how talkative she could be. She couldn’t hide her excitement.
At a cross-section, about four hundred meters away from the coffee shop, attempting to overtake a slow-moving Limousine, a motorcycle crashed head-on with an Audi, cruising from the opposite direction. The rider and his motorcycle got crushed under the wheels of the Audi. The shattered body parts of the rider spewed into dollops of blood-splattered flesh, in dif- ferent directions. His head and his crumbled helmet admixed into an indis- tinguishable mound of bloody mass. One half of his heart, cut off from his body, pumped one last time and stopped still, for good. Fearing his lynching, the Audi driver sped past in full throttle, brushing aside every trace of hu- manity surfacing in his heart, even though it was the bike rider’s folly.
The slow-moving Limousine jerked to an absolute halt. An old man in the backseat, horrified, opened the door and jumped out, screaming. He quickly called for an ambulance. His driver made a mental note of the Audi’s number, which he informed later when the police was called in. A huge crowd gathered. Many vehicles stopped midway to witness the spot of hor- ror.
The gory accident was way too much for Suzanne’s taking. That too from such close quarters. Being a faint heart, she collapsed on the footpath, right next to Helios. He heard the sound of her head banging the ground as she fell. He panicked for a moment but gathered himself quickly. He sum- moned a taxi driver who had curiously stopped by to see what was happen- ing there-like anybody else. Lifting her in his arms, Helios laid her on the back seat of the cab, with her head resting well on his lap. They were in a hospital close by in the next ten minutes.
Four days later, she returned to college bright and sound, recovering fully. She joined Helios, who was having a fun conversation with a few oth- ers creating ripples of laughter. He, being his jovial self, took a funny dig at Suzanne, saying ‘I never thought Suzanne was such a pussy cat.’ Looking at others, he continued, ‘you should’ve seen the way she fell that day,’ and laughed aloud. ‘But the accident was petrifying,’ he added. Suzanne felt nauseated. She immediately ran to the rest room. People were puzzled. He- lios felt sorry and regretted what he said. Everyone thought she lacked a funny bone. After a while, Helios went out looking for her. But she was gone-gone for the day. He perhaps thought she was a bit too sensitive. He apologized to her when she returned the next day, which she played it down saying she was under the weather and had to leave immediately.
Two weeks later, passing by an adjacent corridor, Helios and Suzanne were drawn by loud cheers and chatters of their classmates in the cafeteria. Lily, who had just returned to college after a Week’s vacation, was blushing pink-rose, narrating her engagement story and the series of events from her affair that had led her to her engagement recently. The two joined the gath- ering. As they listened, Helios felt his hand getting warm and wet with drop- lets. He looked up to see where it came from. He saw a pair of moist eyes. Those were Suzanne’s. She turned her head quickly and scurried away be- fore anyone noticed.
Helios spent some time with the group and quietly slipped out looking for her, while the rest were gleefully listening to Lily. But Suzanne was not to be found anywhere around. The next day, he didn’t query her though he was baffled and wanting to know why.
On another occasion, a fun conversation amongst the usual chatter group, of which Helios and Suzanne were always a part of, turned sour when the topics shifted to depression and suicide. The previous day, the media, all across the world, had blared ‘Depression.’ Famous Hollywood celebrities were voluntarily coming out in the open to describe their own experiences of depression they had gone through to create awareness and to open up a dialogue in the public discourse. While some in the group were sympathizing with the depressed committing suicide, the rest were arguing against it; sui- cide is not a solution to any issue, no matter how difficult or challenging life panned out, was their contention. Helios was vehemently against it. ‘Anyone attempting to commit suicide must be a sucker,’ he jeered, and added ‘a big-time loser!’ forcefully. The little tension built up within Suzanne until then, erupted the moment she heard Helios utter the word ‘loser.’ She burst into tears uncontrollably. She quickly ran away before a scene got created. Everyone was utterly bewildered and Helios, shocked. He went running after her.
He awaited her outside the ladies restroom, inviting stares and dis- gusted expressions from the girls entering and exiting it. A sleazy few didn’t mind him standing there. They rather enjoyed it.
He knew Suzanne would rush to drive home immediately once she was out.
Dashing out of the restroom, she was taken aback to see him waiting for her. Her jolted expression could not hide her state of mind. Trying to avoid him, she quickly hurried past.
‘Wait!’ he yelled out.
She didn’t look back or respond.
He followed her and kept calling ‘Suzanne,’ almost five times. She showed no interest.
She double paced to the parking lot, where she had stationed her red Polo. Opening the door, she quickly jumped on to the driver’s seat and slammed the door close, after her. Just before she almost cranked the en- gine start, she heard another door shutting behind her. She turned back and saw Helios sitting in the left corner of the backseat with his right arm out- stretched sideways. He rested his right palm on the neck support, at the right corner and looked away to avoid eye contact with her. Though she felt slightly uncomfortable, she quietly drove to her apartment without saying a word. He did not take the trouble to get her talking either.
When she stopped the car and walked out, he shut the car door behind him and silently followed her, up to a certain point inside her apartment.
Two hours had passed since she crashed on her bed, sobbing. Helios had settled in a cozy recliner, in the hall, and relaxed. He had smoked a couple of cigarettes and had kept waiting.
Recovering somewhat, she walked out of her bedroom to fetch some water. He looked at her without saying anything. Seeing him, she lost it again. This time she cried out loud, covering her face with both hands. He stood up, walked to her, and pulled her hands out. His piercing eyes met hers, fully wet. He wiped the tears crawling down her face and drew her closer. Their breasts met. He embraced her tightly. She did not resist, surprising herself; she perhaps needed it. She felt an unknown sense of relief. He kissed her forehead, and then the peak of her head. Her stiff body loosened up a bit. He pecked a few kisses on her cheeks producing crisp sounds. Her relief graduated to excitement. He pressed his lips against hers and produced a strong punchy sound. She had goosebumps, and in no time, was turned on completely. Realizing, he withdrew and turned to leave. Just then, he felt his right hand held firmly by another, from behind.
Within the next hour, Suzanne’s bedroom resounded moans it had never witnessed before. She squealed out of pleasure invoked by the pounding of her most private crevice, in her body. Reaching a climax, she heaved a heavy sigh and realized it had been very very long since she had it last time.
They both relaxed for a while. Suzanne ditched her head on his chest and let her finger fiddle with his hairy nipples. Gently caressing her head, Helios said ‘I love you.’
The next two days, they did it again and again, forgetting the rest of the world. They did not step out of the apartment until they fell short of food.
In the following few days, she virtually placed her entire life in front of him. She talked him through her childhood, up till that very moment. She cried, laughed, hated, loved, and went on displaying every possible emotion she ever felt, narrating all the major events of her life. He empathized with her and decided to bring her out of the shell she was forced into, by the im- pact of one event which still kept her vulnerable. She entrusted herself whol- ly unto him.
Vincent! He was the guy Suzanne had fallen for! They were deeply in love with each other and were about to get engaged soon. Everything was well on course. Vincent had ordered an engagement ring for his lady love, of a uniquely hand-picked design. An excited Vincent, while returning, collect- ing the engagement ring he had so passionately ordered for, lost control of his car and met with a major road accident. He was crushed to spot-death, by a heavy truck carrying a huge consignment. The engagement ring he had firmly clasped in his right hand at the time of his death, served as a cue for his identification by the police, later on.
Unable to bear the silence from Vincent for three days, Suzanne had tried calling him, receiving no response. Worried, she then contacted Vin- cent’s mom.
Suzanne’s first take on the news from Vincent’s mom was one of a prank played on her upon Vincent’s insistence. She personally drove down to his house. Learning the truth, she went into a state of clinical shock, requir- ing immediate medical attention. She was ambulated to a close by hospital.
Brought back home, she did not cry for three weeks. Eventually, she did, and from then on, she seldom stopped.
Every often, for one whole year, she had to be treated by a psychiatrist to bring her back to sobriety. For once, she even attempted suicide popping twenty nine sleeping pills and woke up in a hospital after three, full days.
Her own mom cried profusely. Pained and having gone through enough of her daughter’s tantrums, she begged a promise from Suzanne that she should never attempt suicide again.
Suzanne was later put through all sorts of counseling, spiritual and psychological, to create some semblance in her. It helped her get back to normal life by a great measure. Not totally, though. Any event that brought memories of Vincent always tormented her. Such events transported her back to her days with Vincent, reproducing pangs of agony she suffered when she was under depression. The accident had etched so deeply in her mind that even a moment’s thought of it, put her off-balance. She would just break down.
Within three months of her first acquaintance with Helios, she miracu- lously got beyond her past. She could, now, talk anything relating to Vincent comfortably without suffering. She could even discuss his accident, for it stopped bothering her anymore. She was totally consumed by Helios. Helios was more than a replacement to Vincent-an opium rather. She would do an- ything for him. She would write assignments, bring food for him and take care of his every need, like a mother. She wanted him to move in with her. But he did not, despite her insisting him umpteen times. He perhaps was too proud.
Suzanne’s intensity for Helios revved so strong that he would simply know if she wanted to say something to him; she didn’t have to ask for it. Even distance wouldn’t matter. He would throw surprises at her by just call- ing her up or texting when he sensed she wanted to talk to him. Sometimes he would know her thoughts verbatim, making her wonder if he was a wiz- ard. If she got upset or worried about something, just a phone call from him would do to have her joyfully laughing in splits as if nothing had happened to her. When she cried, he had to call her up, otherwise, she wouldn’t stop. Sometimes, he’d drive down to her apartment and appease her. On such oc- casions, they mostly ended up on the bed. She would purposely do it at times because his demeanor then would be so different that it made her ex- perience on the bed, ecstatic.
Two happy years passed by. They both graduated successfully. Helios found a job in Australia as an Assistant manager in a multinational company. Suzanne was upset she had to part away from him. But she eventually relented. With a heavy heart, she kissed him off at the airport and promised to call him every day.
During his first few months in Australia, Suzanne missed him terribly and kept calling him thrice a day. Gradually, she became busy, and her call- ing pattern changed dramatically. Every day-calling sunk to once in three days, once in three days to once a week, and once a week, eventually, to once a month. Repeated attempts by Helios to ring her up always met with voice messages saying she was busy. They lost touch with each other for three months.
Helios spent a successful year in Australia. Considering he had made very good progress, he decided to return. He wanted to give her a pleasant sur- prise with his sudden appearance, without intimating her beforehand.
Returning, he fixed a certain Sunday to propose marriage to her. He ordered a craftily arranged bouquet with exotic flowers like Tulips, Petunia, and roses. He custom made an engagement ring that resembled Vincent’s. Everything was well set. The day was fast approaching.
On the designated Sunday morning, around 11 AM, he decided to go to her apartment. He had carefully rehearsed as to how he would approach and propose to her. He couldn’t sleep the previous night. He wore the dress she had passionately gifted him; it used to be her favorite. He drove down, totally nervous. Everything he looked at, had a story to remind him of his glorious days with her.
He parked his car outside, checked if he looked good in the rear view mirror, picked up the bouquet and walked straight to Suzanne’s apartment. He paused for a moment, took a long, deep breath and pressed the calling bell switch. After a few moments, the door opened. Helios was unpleasantly surprised to find an old lady opening the door. He was dejected to hear from her that Suzanne had sold the apartment to her a couple of months ago. He recalled how Suzanne had once told him she would never sell the apartment – It, after all, carried a lot of exciting memories of their times together. Dis- traught, he returned and remained thoughtful.
He left several text and voice messages to her, not once receiving a single response. His emails were never replied either. Feeling aghast, he kept searching for her like a mad-man, for over a month.
One day, out of his despondency to get over his thoughts of Suzanne, he hired a Hayabusa and went on a ride. Every place he looked at, only mul- tiplied his misery by reminding him of her, so he decided to go outskirts. He rode on a single-lane highway, overlooking beautiful corn fields on either sides. A waft of fresh air did him a little good.
A grand Limousine meandered zig-zag at a distance, opposite to Helios. Get- ting closer to it, he found a beautiful woman fervidly smooching a macho guy-who had to steer one-handed, without a choice. Her legs had opened up. Her right leg was pressing the front glass hard, at the right corner. Her body was moving wildly.
Further closing in, something in the car caught Helios’ eyes. He stared blank for a moment. He slid his left hand through his jacket’s inner pocket, took out the engagement ring he had custom made for Suzanne and held it tightly for a moment. He then pressed his tight-fisted hand to his heart and heavily gasped for breath. Feeling claustrophobic, he closed his eyes uncon- sciously for a moment. Right then, the meandering car hit the bike real-hard throwing Helios high up in the air. While he was still hanging in the air, the car went past him, shattering his bike into pieces. By the time he fell crash- ing on the ground, he was behind the car by a good few yards.
Airtight balloons inside the car, had saved the couple. Slightly recover- ing, they both rushed out and reached Helios.
He was pulling heavily for breath. His Life seemed to be ebbing away. His face was slurried with blood and flesh. His outstretched left hand loosened the grip over the ring, letting it roll on the ground. In a few moments, Helios breathed his last with his eyes, wide open. The last image his wide eyes witnessed before he departed this world, was a horrified Suzanne bending over her knees, and the macho man standing right behind her!
Acknowledgement : I owe a lot to my first audience-my brother and sister-in-law. Their suggestions have always been invaluable. I am grateful to my wife for her forbearance. I wouldn’t have been able to complete this piece of fiction without her support