*This is the third and the concluding part of ‘Bleeding Hearts’
For the first and second part read
Bleeding Heart: A Short Story & Flashback: She Lit Up His World consecutively.
Standing in the extended balcony, enjoying the music as he dragged on to his cigar he felt a slight chill in the air. “Time to go inside,” he thought, “or Lucy will wonder what is taking so long and might come looking for me.” Just as he was about to take the last drag before extinguishing his cigar, he felt a slight tap on his shoulder followed by a familiar voice.
“Wow, fancy meeting you here Carl!” Greeted Mark in an unusually warm way.
“What are you doing here alone?
“Where is Celina?
“She is with you, isn’t she?
‘Don’t tell me you broke off!
“Not after all that, she went through for you—”
Mark abruptly stopped seeing the confused expression on Carl’s face… and this time repeated in a graver tone, “Where is Celina, Carl?”
It took a while to sink in…. here was Mark, standing in front of him in person asking about Celina. “Where had he been for the past 5 years!?
“And what was he harping about?
“What did she go through for him?
“What was it that Mark knew and that I didn’t know?” he thought his mind now racing at 100km/hr.
“Hold on mark… I don’t understand what you are talking about. You loved her, didn’t you? You stole my girl from me and have the audacity to ask me about her!!”
“It was you all the way and as if that wasn’t enough you—
“You sent those goons to kill me!! Didn’t you! I’m surprised you are happy that I’m alive!!
“I had been wondering about her lukewarm response to my approaches all of a sudden –” Carl blurted out with all the vengeance he felt, “and then became aware of your ongoing affair with her…” trailing off as collapsed on the chair.
He was fuming and all charged up. Suddenly the air felt warmer and the chill he felt earlier had disappeared. “There… he had said it!” All those years of frustration and pent-up anger and hurt now got the better of him. “She’s dead, Mark. Celina died 5 years ago when you had sent those goons to kill me. They got her instead.”
Mark stood there frozen. As if turned to stone. “You mean dead? As in dead, gone buried?” he spoke his voice now barely a whisper.
Carl could see Mark had gone all red in the face. And then as if after a long time Mark spoke up deliberating on each word this time…
“You didn’t know, did you? You didn’t know until the very end. And you know nothing even now,” he added much to Carl’s discomfort.
“Well it’s true I loved her. Who wouldn’t? But it was you she loved Carl. It was you. It never was me,” Mark spoke up slowly and gestured Carl with his hand to keep quiet and listen.
“She loved only you.
“She was a decoy sent by the mafia to neutralise you. But look at her lousy luck..!” he smirked, “she fell in love with you instead.”
“Yes, I loved her. Just like you I also loved her but there was never anything else between us. I had discovered her secret and was going to expose her but her love for you silenced me. She had been shielding you from the mafia since the day you proposed to her and was trying to do the as best as she could, with a little help from me,” continued Mark in a gruff whisper. “In the meantime, I was handed an assignment and then I met her for the last time to ask if I should hang around in case she needed my help. But she replied in the negative, and that’s the last time I heard of her or you for that matter.”
Carl was sweating by now and feeling suffocated in the dinner jacket he was wearing. Now suddenly everything was clear. All the missing jigsaw pieces suddenly started falling into place. Secret meetings between Mark and Celina. Those fleeting secretive glances and communication between the two of them. Those mutterings under the breath as his back turned and that plastic smile as if they were caught in the action.
“O’ My God! What have I done he moaned,” breaking down, “I failed her when she needed me the most!” Carl could not stop the tears from flowing as the realisation dawned that they had not come him… They had come to eliminate Celina!! He was a bonus wild card.
He now desperately wished he could unwind the clock to 5 years back. Erase the hurtful words he had said to Celina in anger and frustration. He wished he would have defended her when they were targeting her. Instead, he had been filled with a sense of revenge!! And let them do what he couldn’t do for himself. Kill her!!
As she lay on the ground dying
She smiled at him
As she whispered,
With an unmistakable tremor
In her frail voice,
“I have always loved only you.”
Later standing by her grave
Consequently bitter with himself
He knew she spoke the truth.
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©Ranjeeta Nath Ghai, Atrangi Zindagi Ka Safar, 2016.
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