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(written sometime during winter 2007)

The feeble light of the December sun streamed in through the open windows as a girl sat huddled underneath them. Her mood matched the weather outside, because just as cold and dismal winds blew outside and the year seemed to be getting ready for its death, similarly, Annette looked forlorn and lifeless.

It had been two weeks since Annette had received the news that her fiancé, Alex, who was a member of the air force, had been killed in an airplane crash.

His body had never been found, which was the sole reason why Annette refused to believe that her beau was dead. Nor persuasions from her family members could convince Annette that Alex was dead, and she spent each passing day under her bedroom window, despondent and crestfallen, yet waiting for the man whose arrival seemed inevitable to her.

It was quite late at night when Annette finally went up to her room to sleep. She was quite distraught and upset, as another day had passes without any signs of her fiancé’s return. Annette lay down on her bed, tired and exhausted, but yet she could not sleep. Something did not seem right, but Annette could not quite put her finger on what was wrong.

She closed her eyes but immediately opened them again. She had heard a strange sound. A sound that she had never heard past midnight in her house. Annette strained her ears. She was certain what she was hearing were footsteps down the hall. But who could be up so late at night?

Annette was terrified out of her wits as strange thoughts about burglars and robbers came to her mind. She put the covers on her head and lay still, hardly daring to breath.

Quite soon, Annette heard footsteps in her own room as their owner entered. Then, all turned quiet.

Annette lay still with her heart in her mouth but after a while, the lack of movement surprised her. Finally, her curiosity overcame her fear, and she hesitatingly removed the covers off her face.

What she saw was mesmerizing. Tears of happiness came to Annette’s eyes and her heart filled with joy, for what she saw in front of her was the man she had been waiting for day and night.

The heavy heart that had been yearning with each passing day for her fiancé, Alex, swelled with ecstasy as Annette rushed into his arms. Tears fell from her eyes as if they would never stop. “I have waited for so long,” Annette whispered in between sobs.

She looked at his face, taking it all in at once. He still had the same jet black hair, those beautiful grey eyes that she had fallen for in the first place, and a weather-beaten look about him that she had come to associate with members of the air force. Annette beamed with happiness as he enveloped her in his muscular arms, and she hold as if she would never let go.

Alex smiled as he stroked her hair. “I cannot stay Annette,” he said, his voice heavy. “I just came to visit you. I promise I’ll be back tomorrow to meet your parents.” And with a parting kiss on her forehead, he left.

The next morning, Annette informed her parents about her nighttime visitor. They were stunned and, for some strange reason to Annette, unwilling to accept that her visitor had indeed been Alex.

“You just wait!” Annette shouted, furious at her parents’ disbelief. “Just wait until tonight. He’ll come. Then you can see for yourself. Maybe then you’ll realize that he was alive all this time, just like I had been saying.”

That night, a feeling of anticipation pervaded Annette’s room, as she waited with her parents for Alex’s second visit. Annette was ecstatic, as she knew that after this night, she would soon be married to the man she loved.

Annette’s face lit up as Alex once again entered the room. “Mom! Dad! There he is!” Annette spoke joyfully, pointing towards the door. Her parents just stared incredulously. “No one’s there, Annette,” her father said.

“He is there,” Annette screamed. “Look by the door!”

A knowing look suddenly dawned on her mother’s face. “He is not there, Annette,” she told her daughter in hollowed tones.

“Schizophrenia,” Annette’s mother told her husband a while later, after her daughter had finally gone to sleep. “It’s a mental disorder. Alex is dead, and Annette’s shocked mind refusing to accept it.”

“Can she be cured?” Annette’s father asked his wife.

“There is no permanent cure. Annette will have to keep on taking sedatives for her entire life,” his wife replied in a dead voice.

**********

Tears of happiness came to Annette’s mother’s eyes as she watched her daughter hold the latter’s first born in her arms. Annette had finally gotten a new life after getting married to her mother’s best friend’s son.

But behind the big smile, her mother’s heart was crying. She knew Annette had finally found a new life, but it was far from perfect. This was because the one night that her fiancé came to visit her, which was indeed nothing but an illusion, had made Annette dependent on medicines for her entire life.

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