Strangers and Reality

She was alone in the woods. The silence that many would describe as eerie made her feel secure. She was safe when she was alone. After all, it was people who had always caused her pain. She was miles away from anybody she had ever known  but the thoughts in her mind never let her feel lonely and in that second she knew- it is the most ordinary people who lead unexpected lives.

Human beings are complicated creatures. There are times when they want to simply give up, catch a plane and escape from the mess that they have become. These sudden urges which are often marked by desperation and self pity are best ignored. In an attempt to shy away from their problems, they often find themselves on the dreaded path to self destruction.

Anika  had failed to see all the flashing signs that warned her of the path she had chosen. The concerned looks from her friends, the worried glances her parents exchanged everytime she walked into the room and the sympathetic looks strangers gave her every now and then.

Her life had  derailed and she  was slowly but surely coming undone. And she was in no mood to interfere with what she believed, was her destiny.

It had been 5 days since Anika had run away. Her family and friends were still in shock. Anika had been a bit on the edge the past few days but then again, isn’t every bride- to- be?

Her fiance was heartbroken. He had left for the Bahamas for the honeymoon Anika had planned so intricately, all alone.

Anika sat on a wobbly chair in a bar miles away from home. Her face was calm and she coolly sipped on her drink while her mind raced. For the first time in days she had actually slowed down  to consider the consequences of her actions. She almost decided to go back home but stopped herself. Her home no longer felt like home. The feeling of comfort and belonging she should feel for the place she stayed her whole life in had faded away. The life that she had worked so hard to create for herself was suffocating her. Here in the loud bar amidst the motley late night crowd of drinkers she felt at peace.  She sat up straighter and smiled a little.

…………….

She struggled with the zipper as she tried to give her wedding planner directions on exactly where she wanted the wedding cake to be placed. Her bridesmaids ran around the room searching for her missing earring, all the time chattering excitedly.  Anika finally managed to zip the dress and turned around to look at herself in the mirror.  She was fidgeting with her veil when in the mirror she saw the reflection of a blue car parked outside her window. A bald man in a black suit stepped out of the car and made his was up her driveway with a beautiful bouquet of carnations in his hand. He knew carnations were her favorite flowers and seeing him there, where she least wanted him, she began to panic. She calmed herself down and asked her bridesmaids if she could have a minute alone. As soon as they left the room, she grabbed the purple trolley bag that she had packed and kept in her closet for months in case of an emergency like this and quickly changed into a track suit. This was not the plan but she knew it was time to start a new life.

It was a beautiful day for an outdoor wedding and Barry Holdman sat on one of the many folding chairs clutching the carnations as he expectantly looked around eager to see her walk down the aisle.

…………
Life is funny that way. Anika never expected this strange man to have such a major impact on her life the first time she saw him at the animal shelter.
She volunteered there a few times every week. It was a Tuesday morning when Barry Holdman visited the shelter to adopt a pooch. They spoke for a few minutes minutes and he left. Little did she know she would see this strange man again, very soon.

He began to show up everywhere she went. The grocery store, the book store and even her workplace. She was courteous at first- always smiling and waving, making small talk. But eventually the vivid details he remembered about her began to freak her out a little bit. He knew things about her she was sure she had never mentioned to him in those few moments of polite conversation. It was then that she realized this man was bad news.

He showed up at her house one rainy night. Dressed in his signature black suit she saw him standing in her garden looking into the house. For once,  he wasn’t smiling and his eyes looked hollow. She waited for him to leave but he wouldn’t go. She didn’t feel particularly threatened by him, she never felt he would harm her but his presence just unsettled her. The queen of bad decisions that she was, she decided to confront him.

She walked out towards him and looked up straight into his eyes.
“So, we meet again.” he said.
“Well, you’re standing in front of my house in the middle of the night”
He smiled. ” it’s good to see you are still as Feisty as you used to be. I always thought that a death in the family would make you rather quiet”
“what?” she asked.
He just smiled at her and walked back to his car and left, without another word.

Anika tossed and turned in her bed the entire night trying to comprehend the strange conversation she had with this rather strange man. There had not been a death in her family. Why would he come say this to her? and who was he?

She woke up to screaming. She wasn’t sure what was going on but she ran out to her front porch and saw her mother crying.

” Whats wrong? Mom! talk to me. What happened? ”

“Its your cousin Ron. He passed away. The police suspect it was an accidental drug overdose.”

She couldn’t believe her ears. She wasn’t particularly close to her cousin but his death came as a shock to her. Moreover, he wasn’t known to have a drug problem. His death was confusing  for her. The bald man’s smiling face flashed before her eyes. Who was he? and how did he know?

It was a month later that he made another  appearance again. This time it was late one night when she was walking back home from work. It was raining and he stood alone under a black umbrella. The streetlight above his head flickered and he blankly stared ahead. She froze when she saw him standing there. It was a quiet night and he was the only person she could see. She ran and crossed the road. Her footsteps loud in the quiet of the night. She continued walking with her head down, not looking in the direction of the old man. He suddenly yelled across the road ” Sad to hear about your job Anika” His voice was heavy and as expressionless as his face.

Sure enough, she woke up the next morning to the news of the firm she worked for shutting down.

This man soon became an ill omen in her life. She hardly ever saw him but whenever she did, things went wrong. She was too scared to ever confront him. He always met her when she was alone and vulnerable. She wasn’t sure how she felt about being warned about the events of her life and she wasn’t sure if this man had good intentions in mind for her or no. It was what happened a few days before her wedding that helped clear her head and she knew that it was time to confront this odd man who seemed to know her life. But nothing could have prepared her for what followed.

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