Sonia woke up at the slightest sound of early birds chirping on a nearby rooftop. The soft tweeting was so melodious that it could to melt any aching heart. Sonia’s heartache was caused by holding her feelings inside. It was the last day of work for her colleague and good friend Enrico. Her mind felt uneasy. It was dark in her room so she turned on the bedside lamp. As she turned her head, she caught a glimpse of the small aquarium with half a dozen goldfish, on top of her chest of drawer. She cracked open the blinds and looked out through the window. A red glow spread across the base of the morning sky. It contrasted with the black bare branches of trees that lined her backyard. It was a gorgeous sight. Sonia knew right away that her red and black dress will be perfect for the evening. She planned to go to the farewell party right after work.
As usual, it was another crazy day at work. Sonia had to answer several calls and emails and before she could think about what to write to Enrico as a parting note, she realized that she was running late for the team meeting. It is always awkward to walk into a meeting late, specially when she was dressed nicely. A lot of eyes lingered on her even after she took an unassuming corner spot. Sonia had a fair face, medium height and her dress complimented her figure. She was almost regretting this attention when her eyes met the dark amused eyes of Enrico. The young man had sharp attractive features that appropriately matched his brilliant mind. Sonia let out a long sigh and broke into a lovely smile. The rest of the meeting was a blur as she kept thinking about what would be an appropriate parting note. Enrico was moving to New York. She might never see him again.
The farewell party was fun. It had a huge turnout. After all, Enrico was popular and fun to hang out with. Couple of hours into the party, Sonia checked her phone. Her sister had texted her to call her Mom. She came to say goodbye to Enrico and handed him the card. She had finally decided on the Alert Camus quote.”Don’t walk behind me ; I may not lead… Just walk beside me and be my friend. Wish you all the success. Keep in touch. Love and hugs!!” She hesitated about the last words but could not help herself.
Enrico frowned at her and asked her in a surprised tone. “What’s the hurry?””I have to call Mom, urgently,” she explained. Sonia was worried about her mother. “Let’s do this. You go outside and give her a call. It might be no big deal,” her colleague suggested. He did not want her to leave without him. Sonia did as told but came back looking more concerned than ever. “Mom’s sick. She needs me. I have to drive to Cheyenne.” As she was leaving, it seemed that both were having a hard time saying goodbye to each other.
Sonia breathed deeply as she started her car. “WAIT..!” She turned around at the faint but sure sound of Enrico’s voice. He was coming out of the restaurant waving his hands signaling her to stop. In a flash, he got in the car. “I want to go with you. I love you, Sonia,” he blurted out. “Did he read the card already? Why is he saying it today when we are supposed to never see each other again.This is so unreal!!” Sonia was in a trance and felt quite powerless as the soft sincere kisses colored her fantasies.
It was only couple hours drive from Boulder but it was almost 9 pm when they started. They had so much to tell each other that time went by very quickly. Before long, they reached downtown Cheyenne. It was getting chilly. The large display near the bank showed 37 degrees and 10:45 pm. Sonia turned up the temperature and thought of making a drink for them when they get home.
Her Mom lived in the outskirts of the town, about ten minutes away. Sonia suddenly noticed her phone vibrating in her jacket pocket. She hesitated to pick up the phone. Before she could reconsider she was blinded by the headlights of a huge vehicle that came from the side lane, and rammed into the passenger side. As the air bags deployed, Sonia caught a glimpse of Enrico’s eyes. They had a faraway look that gripped her heart with fear. She tried to touch him. He felt cold. She reached for her phone and called 911.
Within 15 minutes, she found herself in a chaos of red and blue lights and loud sirens. A big policeman helped her out of the car. The front portion of her car was smashed beyond recognition. She learnt that the truck driver was drunk. He had suffered multiple injuries. Couple of paramedics were helping him into a wheel-chair. Another cop approached her to ask the name and age of her co-passenger. Sonia’s heart missed a beat trying to grasp the meaning. In seconds she saw Enrico’s lifeless body in a stretcher, being carried into the ambulance. She gulped a sudden lump in her throat. Everything was over.
As reality started to sink in, Sonia called her mother. “Mom I am here in downtown but my car got into an accident. I will be home soon. Are you OK ?” In another hour, a cop car dropped her at her parent’s house. Her father was out on a business trip. Her mom was sick with high fever. Sonia checked her temperature and decided to give her some ibuprofen and applied cool towels on her forehead. Around 3 am in the morning, she felt better and feel asleep. Sonia went upstairs to her room and pulled up the blinds. The moonlight shone through and flooded her room and bed with a pale light. Sonia looked out of the window, up at the moon. Tears flooded down her cheeks.”I love you, Enrico…why did you leave me?”
Her mind was going crazy. She saw a speck of bright light from the moon darting towards her window. It came straight through the window and touched her forehead and vanished into her head. She felt a burning pain in the middle of her forehead and a slight head ache. Simultaneously, something dropped on the floor near her. She quickly turned to the mirror. There was no apparent sign on her skin to corroborate this supernatural incident. “Was it a figment of my imagination, considering what I have been through this evening?” She brushed her finger tips over the spot and it felt warm. Then she groped on the floor and found a small crystal. It was clear and shaped like a conch shell. It sparkled when she switched on the light.
Most of the night she tossed and turned on her pillow, bothered by a foreign feeling in her forehead. After a while, slight sound came from the direction where she had left the crystal shell. She got up and saw that it was glowing. When she held it in her hand, the headache went away, magically. She went back to bed, holding the shell in her palm. She felt comforted as if someone was nearby.
In the morning, she had trouble brushing her teeth. The tooth brush felt heavy and was falling off her hands. It was as if she had lost control over them. She messed up the bathroom counter top when trying to squeeze out the toothpaste. It was a hilarious sight. But certainly not to Sonia. She was extremely annoyed trying to clean up the mess. The simplest task seemed like an uphill battle. Feeling scared, she found the crystal and shoved it in her pocket.
After the bathroom ordeal, she came down to the kitchen to make breakfast. One part of her wanted to scream for her mom. She had hardly ever cooked anything. She didn’t even know where to find the stuff she needed. What if she could not clean up the huge mess she was about to make. “Oh God, please help.”
Sonia found strength by humming a simple repetitive tune and calmly opened the pantry. Her eyes fell upon a box of Bisquick pancake mix. “Yummy!” she thought. Almost instinctively, she turned around and opened a cabinet door and found some mixing bowls. She easily found the milk and eggs in the refrigerator and oil in the pantry. Or was she being moved by an unknown force? Soon she was flipping the pancakes like an expert.
Her mom’s eyes popped out, surprised, when Sonia served her breakfast in bed. She smiled with her mouth full . “They are delicious, Sonia! ….mmm. By the way, the yard needs some attention, dear.”
Sonia worked in the yard for several hours. Sometimes she felt the touch of invisible hands on her own holding the rake and firmly pulling out the dry brown leaves from the grassy patches. Sonia’s imagination made her think that the piles of leaves on the ground were easily finding their way into the bags. She was pretty impressed with her accomplishments. But in her heart, she was sure someone was helping her.
Her father came home in the afternoon. Sonia told him about the accident in detail. She was sobbing in between. “I should probably call Enrico’s parents but I don’t have the guts,” she admitted. Her dad offered to drive her home and help her buy a new car the next day.
While cleaning up in the shower, she kept the conch shell by the soap dish. Sonia felt conscious of her body as if someone was watching her. At night, she felt a masculine embrace and a soft sincere touch on her mouth. “Was it Enrico ? How was it possible ?” She wished she could go back in time and prevent the accident.
Sonia felt uneasy in the dark room. She turned on the night lamp. As she turned her head she saw the crystal conch shell on top of her chest of drawer . It was right beside her small aquarium with the familiar goldfish swimming in it. “Wait a sec! Where am I ?” Sonia could not believe her eyes. She was in her house in Boulder. And it was the beginning of a new day.