The pale lady intertwined her auburn hair in a tight bun as she flipped through the pages of the book, ‘The emperor of all maladies.’ The air around was humid, and the whistling and hooting of people around hampered the creation of a pleasant studying atmosphere. But, for little Flora, scanting her from reading was something not a soul on the face of Earth could not prove efficient enough.
The stripped lightning over her was quite harsh; it illuminated the belle nurses who tread briskly past her, barely giving her a second look.
“We are receiving patients excess enough to brim all our passages and rooms, and the nurses over here are busy dressing their hair every day. I need everyone in the main hall in 5, or does anyone prefer boxes of ears instead,” The doctor coaxed while sniffing his morning tea.
“En route, professor,” said the lady intern as she shoved the book on the shelves. The nurses shuffled their duties and traced their way to the restrooms.
“Any updates from the war?” She gave her an exaggerated eye roll.
“Seriously, I need to buy minutes to breathe; how on Earth would I be checking on the gossip of the town,” The other responded briskly.
“Flora, she’s the new intern. How would she be nursing patients? She needs to nurse herself.” She whispered in a sibilant voice to ensure not a soul hears them.
“She’s from an influential family in the west. I’ve heard that her family is among the richest in the state, yet she chose to live in this screwed-up mess. Patients die every day. If we encounter a living soul escaping this hospital, it’s quite bewildering.”
"I suppose; she’ll prove to be one of those fashionable girls, who’d turn on our gates for a sneaky break and later dive back into the wardrobes for they realized it isn’t their cup of tea,” The nurse collapsed into a creepy giggle.
“You girls, right there. Cease the twattling and get back to your dorms. My grandson achieved divine peace for you, don’t throw the minutes you live on so easily. The day you’ll be lying on a hospital bed unattended isn’t far,” An elderly lady tucked her few strings of white in a tail and scolded the women in the rooms.
The nurses carried their trays and headed to their quarters, a few chattering along with the others and a few self-possessed in dressing their twigs.
A general dressed up in a Hindustani attire had been brought in from the battlefield, his wounds were grave, yet they remain obscured. He lay unattended, a few doctors shifted past his bed, but none gave away an eye. The lady. inched closer. She felt a queer inexplicable bridge; his fingers were thin, bruised, wounded, and burnt yet alive. She interlaced them with hers, tears dripping from her eyelids; a glimpse of his wounded self was enough to rip her apart. Flora, composed of flowers, she’d spent her days amidst the thorns, but this seemed to be not as blunt as the others. The night lamp next to her glistened as tears sprinkled on it.
“Never fall in love during a war. It’s a beautiful way to make everything fall apart,” The elderly aunt claimed
“What if the power that breaks us is, virtually, the spell that stitches the torn pieces back together,” Flora responded, shielding his broken arms with slings
“I lost my family to the war. I don’t recollect the last time I met or touched them …My duties as a nurse stole all my hours. All I have now are dreams of sunbathing by a peaceful beach with my family, a family that no longer exists. I’ve seen my daughter in you. Delicate, Soft, and Brave.” The lady took a deep pause, clearing the catch in her throat; she held Flora’s fingers and continued.
“She always yearned to be a nurse. But I never permitted it; I didn’t want her to risk all the happiness she deserved. So, promise me, don’t take any step that’ll nudge you to jeopardize your life.” The lady declared in a tone of power and honor.
“I won’t give my word. I came here solely to jeopardize my life and save those of others. If I yearned for a content vie, I would have rather stayed back at my palace and been a fashionable young lady my family wished me to be,” Flora claimed, her eyes settling on the rippled aids of the youth. Her eyes had the gleam that would suffice to convince an elderly person of a torn heart.
“The archaic closet in the room, midway the central hall, where lies the doctors’ canteen to the right. You’d find all the necessary medications and accessories, even the injections and sedatives. Rob is from the section at midnight. I’ll borrow the keys from the senior doctors for my night duty. He would never be treated here. Stich his wounds and send him back to his motherland. Not a word should be out in the mains.” There was something in Flora that forced her to say this. She blurted all of it with an electrifying impulse and sans a pause.
“Thank you,” She raised a petite smile; she wasn’t sure what else she could do.
The young man bled incessantly, his arms were fractured, and severe wounds adorned his back and chest. Flora traced her fingers through and saw something she never even fathomed to know; it stole her breath away. She held the bewilderment to herself.
“Promise me; you won’t convey the same to anyone. I sacrificed my life, guarding my secret,” The general uttered a few words so silently she was forced to carve them from his lips.
"I won’t. It’ll die with me in my grave. But look at these bruises and the grave cut marks. How do you bear this unceasing agony?” Her eyebrows intertwined together.
"Why would they ache? These are the red jewels of pride, of fading away for your motherland.” He intricately explained.
“Why do you even do this? Do you not care about your family?” She enquired with a sudden rage.
"I do, a lot more than you’d ever contemplate. And, it’s for them I do so.”
“I told you never to fall in love during a war. You lose it in a blink of an eye. It’s quite common for nurses to fall for soldiers. However, it hardly lasts for over a week.” Grams explained, holding her fingers in hers.
“Our love story was the queerest. Probably, because even if the soldier survived, our flames to reunite would be blown away by the prejudiced society,” Flora sighed.
"We all consider our tales to be exceptional. However, that may often not be the case. Your family’s quite influential; nothing could ever prohibit them from giving their only daughter what she desires,” Grams suggested, hope deviating from Flora’s eyes.
“What if I say the influence of my family would scant me from fulfilling our surprisingly uncommon tale,”
“What was so peculiar between him and you?” She raised her white brows
“Stop summoning the general by the pronoun ‘Him.’” She took a deliberate pause and uttered in a stroke, “I loved her.”
“I hope you do realize what you just said. You don’t mean it, right?” She straightens, attempting to pull herself together.
"I swore to her; I’ll keep the secret safe and bury it in my grave,”
“I envisaged my daughter in you, but my daughter would never take this step. It’s my error; I let you have the keys,” She refuted, but the tone martyr dug deep in her voice
"You should have permitted your daughter to be a nurse. You’re alive, but she’s….” Flora brutally uttered, her voice trailing away.
“Stop, Flora. Is that all you felt for me in all these years?” Flora could hear her babbling away, but she wasn’t giving heed.
9 days ago
"Our tale stretches back to my 21st Birthday, my brother served in the British army for seven years, and the army conquered its borders across my motherland. Yet, his survival meant a trifle. It was 5 years since the date we met; his soul was treading on his homeland after half a decade. Divas were lit across the lanes of my village, the hay cottages engulfed in the chains of light. I was curating soils of colors on the ground the moment he paved into it. Ma and Papa embraced him with the warmest of hugs. But, I didn't speak a word to him and chided about his promise.
A word, a wish that devastated our lives in a way we could never curate back together. Bombay, the city, was a dream for me; its architecture, its sites, its way of life...reading about it in novels gave me immeasurable joy. He was going to drive me through the city a year ago, but he kept serving his duties.
Rage spun within me, condensing to cries, and he held me and took me through the city three days later. Heaven wouldn't be in comparison to the highs I experienced during those moments. I stood by the lanes, the structures, the trains, and everything I read in my textbooks. I scribbled all of it in my sketchbook, tales of my day beside it. We ate a spicy snack, and its drops are still on my tongue.
On the last day, of our visit, with the clumsy bag on my shoulders, we left our temporary residence. Riots broke out in the city, fire enlarged in various streets, and citizens ran on rules for safety. The train station busted, and blood drops on every wall. My brother caught hold of a cycle rickshaw and drove into the thickets. We made it into the station, but that was the beginning of the worst showdown; our train stood on its tracks for a minute before it would run away.
We swiftly juggled through the street, catching hold of its gate; he helped me climb in. And, it seemed like heaven froze the minute, he urged me to take a step, and a grave flash thundered in my eyes and an explosion that lit up my ears. A gunshot, amiss, clung to my brother’s chest. Blood draining from every ripple of his green coat. The train had measured its miles before I could breathe and comprehend the event that occurred. Men from all walks surrounded him. Surprisingly it takes death to curate unity.
My senses numb, I fell, with no shoulder to cry upon; I spent the rest of my journey with only half the realization I may never see him again. I was retreating with a conscience ripped apart to my home. But, the letter at the entrance blew away all the winds that held me together.
Your leave was unexpectedly extended during the hours we needed you most. You didn't give us a trifle of your energy, so we won't consider posting you unless we see you at our residence tomorrow morning. I hope you aren't oblivious that your village's fields and hay cottage are mortgaged with us. They are quite futile to us, but they are worth diamonds to your family. Tomorrow at 8, in the mansion, right to our seniors' headquarters.
She didn't exhibit any words further. Her eyes conveyed the message, and so did the name carved on her jacket. Prapti Singh became Pratap Singh on that day; she battled two wars daily, one on the battlefield and one for herself.
Flora swore to herself she’d gift peace to Prapti only in her homeland. She battled across the seas for her motherly soil for years but didn’t even deserve a peaceful death by its shore. But, she’ll treasure her peace in the waters that bred her.
“Flora,” yelled an elderly nurse from the heart of the structure, “She looked ghostly pale. She lifted her gaze as Flora trodden in, revealing shadowed eyes, reddened with grief. It was a ridiculously mundane sight.
“Mrs. Forbes, what is it,” Her eyes tightened like two buttons of anxiety.
“Your Grams, Kelly, deceased in her sleep,” She slurped down, tresses of tears fiddling down her eyes
"No, that can’t be. Which kind of merry sport is this?” Flora refused to comprehend the upturn of events.
“It’s true,” The doctor came in midway, “the dear soul served us for half a century; let’s bid her a memorable farewell, ignite this place with candles and lamps on every corner, and we shall see her smile, one last time,”
“Flora,” He continued; he flung her fingers in his and passed down a ring.
Flora scrutinized the object timidly “Monsieur, this ring’s grams’, why will you?
“It’s her only possession, and you were the only child who lived. Keep it well.”
The waves of the sacred waters of the Ganges touched her feet and penetrated her soul as she felt peace. Her left arm engulfed the ashes of her, and the possession of her grams adorned the right. The soul-tweaking crescent of the Asian sub-continent poured its reflected light on the heavenly waters as her skin touched the sea and drowned deeper and deeper into its bosom. She’d never see the solar god again but sought peace.
“Pappa,” The little boy yelled. His body refused to be pulled into death by the wild waters of the Ganges. He battled for breath, and his legs fought for life. The deeper the water god pulled him inside, the fainter his breathing was reduced.
"Mohan, you promised me you wouldn’t drown yourself in those waters again. The last person I wish to lose is you,”
“I longed to hunt pennies which we’d use to buy momma’s medications. The doctors in the city are quite upscale and profound. However, I found this emerald ring in the waters. They probably belonged to the deceased found drowning yesterday. Are we going to pass it to the government?”
"Hop into the cycle and skid to the highway hospital. Your mom will be home really soon. Tell them we arranged all the monetary requirements,”
Dawn twitted in the sky, and the sweepers played the dust into the bins. There scarcely lay a soul on the banks. However, a letter gleamed on the floor, but too dull to be noticed, it soon found its way into the bin.
The pale lightning, and the gloom in the sky, reminisce me of the day I lost her. Her eyes twinkled with courage as they always do, and I felt as if I had no more left. I looked down at our hands, which were entwined… I found myself gazing at them, trying to revise how her touch felt against mine. It was nice to feel so wanted, to find myself at the focal point of someone’s thoughts after months of semi-detachment from the overly pale world.
For the premiere hour in my life, that minute, I tried to remain oblivious to the future. I wanted to be myself, and I let the evening pass through my skin as I wasted hours gazing at her. I could touch her strengths, vulnerabilities, scars, and scents. However, she, perhaps, couldn’t feel any of it; she had commenced retreating toward somewhere I couldn’t reach.
A weird panic brimming in me. I didn’t long to let her go; I wanted to squeeze her in mine, But I felt gravity flinging her in a queer direction as all the threads that tied her to earth loosened up.
She kissed my fingers before letting go of my hand, but how would I let go of her? I read tales of exemplifying love by setting it free and craving to belong to someone in that way that their jubilance was all that meant.
However, after experiencing every surge of emotion I wished to feel, I craved no longer be there. I suppose we all fall in love once to realize why we should not. I had a million words to yell in her ears, but none could exhibit my tongue.
“Flora,” She pulled a lock of my hair, and I felt my face crumple, "we’ll meet soon, again.” I held her tight.
Before I’d change my mind, I said, ‘Bye.’ It sounded more like a sob or a cough, but that was the last she heard of me. Is this how a farewell is supposed to be, or was it not one?