It was one of those wild parties where you feel you can do anything. Fly, dare, go unguarded and just live like the way you always wanted. One of those liberating experiences.
She must have had quite a few shots that night. It was after all, a big gathering. Everyone cheering and lauding each other to have one more.
The one's went on, the night grew darker and the spirts lighter. She had always been the life of any event. The cynosure. The attraction that brings in unholy moths that goad you to loosen up.
She did loosen up. Young, pretty, carefree and affluent, the world meandered around her.
Then someone dared. She was dared to drive at the highest speed she had ever driven at and reach her home at a record time of 12 minutes. That meant driving 50 kms in just 12 minutes.
What an excitement would that be. Just when she had agreed and was about to step out of the buzzing pub, Nathan had stopped her. The man that had been doting on her, forever. "Don't.
it is too risky. And it is definitely not worth it. They won't even remember the next morning that you had accepted the dare" he tried rationalizing with her.
"I would remember and that is what matters" Rita was adamant.
With her head reeling and heart pumping she raced out to the parking lot. Nathan was a nice guy who always cared for her.
He had urged her relentlessly not to take the dare, but she didn't pay heed to. Just earlier that evening, he had proposed to her. She hadn't accepted but hadn't declined either.
She needed time to think and she knew he would be there, waiting, as always. There is still time for that. Now all that matters is the dare.
When her life is already so perfect, what could a little harmless dare do?
Rita got into the car. It was easy. The car seemed under control and she zoomed into the darkness while the noise went feeble in the background.
Her head hurt when she woke up. it was like a million guns blazing at the same time, all within her head. Everything seemed unclear and just too white.
With great difficulty she could open her eyes. It was as if there were huge boulders parked on those deer like eyes. She could barely lift the weight and get to open her eyes.
She felt something wrapped all over her face. And hands. And legs. Damn her whole body! She had control only over her eyes. She had the vision area of that of a horse on a racetrack.
It seemed like a hospital room. While she laid there unable to move an inch, someone opened the door. The nurse gasped to see her awake. Soon, there was a parade of doctor and more nurses.
She had met with an accident. Nothing else was disclosed. What about her friends? Nathan? She couldn't ask and they wouldn't tell.
All that she was offered as means of information was that she was in a coma for over 8 weeks. No one had visited her after the first few days.
Her medical insurance was healthy and the hospital was more than cooperative on that ground. She was a plastered body with only eyes that functioned. Every part of her body had a bandage on.
The tubes went in and out of various sections from her.
Rita couldn't grasp the reality of the situation until this routine of medicine and laying insert on a bed seemed to be going on forever. She would wake up.
Stare at the walls, get medicated, sleep and repeat.
One day when she woke up, it was a different room with a better view. Her bed was now positioned to face a sliding glass door that probably opened to a garden.
The bottom 3 feet of the glass door was completely sealed off with some wooden planks. But the trees seemed nice, lush and green.
She could often hear the birds chirp and see the clouds float by. It made her less dead. She could never see below the main girth of the main tree stems. The planks covered them.
But she would visualize soft grass and some flowers, seasonal ones with a multitude of hues, all vibrant.
The same set of nurses continued their routine. She now had more information. She had learnt that she was indeed in a fatal accident.
Several of her body parts had ruptured and her limbs immobile, as of now. Her face had hit the front screen of the car.
The broken glasses had shattered all over her face, some even digging more than 2-3 inches into her skin.
She missed her life. Wasn't it better to be dead than to be living this way? She laid numb and limp and just stared at the trees.
The sealed doors and her restricted vision only offered her a glance from midway to the top of the trees.
Most of them seemed fairly old with thick branches sprawling out and lush leaves surrounding them.
One day, when she woke up to the clear glass doors, she thought she spotted somebody. It was a man. She wasn't completely sure. The sedatives had their side effects too.
They numbed her when she didn't want to be numbed. While she was toying with these thoughts, the figure appeared again and she got a good look this time.
It was Nathan! Stealthily walking next to the glass door so as not to make a sound. He waved at her, joyous and animated. Maybe visitors weren't allowed at all. Could be a host of reasons.
Infection, psychological disturbance...Rita didn't know and didn't care at the moment. She was just glad that Nathan was right there. Outside the glass door, below the trees and on the grass.
He had tiny placards with him to communicate with her.
"You will be alright" read one. The others were something like "It is just a matter of few weeks now when the bandages and tubes will come off". "You can go back to the world".
He wrote things that the doctors never told her. Through the placards, he made her understood that her car had banged into a pole.
She was speeding beyond control, the front mirror crashed and the car turn multiple spins before finally landing on its back.
She got pulled out of the car by a passerby, and the car lit off in a matter of seconds after that. The man saved her life and had called 911. It was a miracle that she survived.
And she would recover, Nathan kept reassuring her.
Rita was impressed with his timings. He would always disappear minutes before the nurses appeared. Probably he had studied their routine well. What a wonderful human being.
Yes, she would marry him, the moment she heals. That is if he still wanted to marry her. Would she be a liability on him? Only if she could ask these questions to Nathan.
And almost as if Nathan could read her mind, the placards next day had all the answers. "You won't be a liability on anyone. You can still get your job back. Travel the world.".
Nathan's placards worked magic. She had started healing. He would entertain her through little antics and she would laugh, albeit from within, the bandages.
She had started liking her quotidian life again. It didn't seem that mundane anymore.
She hurt less, her tubes were gradually coming out and soon came the day when the bandages had to be removed. One by one the layers came off. The doctor gave her an encouraging nod.
She hadn't lost her vocal chord. She could talk but it hurt still.
Soon, she could sit upright. Her hands and upper torso were functional again. Only if she could walk till the glass door and touch Nathan, the grass and the trees.
Most of her tubes were out, the machines were getting scantier and she was feeling healthier. She often enquired from the nurses why they didn't allow anyone to visit her.
"Well, no one has come to see you, Rita". That didn't make sense. Maybe they didn't want to disclose everything. Maybe it was protocol. Just a few more days.
She spent most of her day with Nathan from across the glass door. They would communicate via the placards and Rita would giggle at the tiniest of things. Her life was coming together.
She was ready to face the world. The experience had mellowed her. There was so much to life that she learnt through the glass door and the placards. She didn't want to waste a single moment.
A few days later, the bandages and support from her lower body were removed. She could move her legs. They worked. Soon enough, she had started gradually walking with the help of the nurses.
Days passed and Nathan stood outside the glass door patiently waiting.
One day, Rita woke up rather early. The nurses weren't there yet. She managed to move the legs on her own, climbed out of the bed and after a few rough stumbles she made it to the glass door.
Clutching on to the curtains, she pulled at them and looked out.
The sight made her dizzy.
She was looking into a blank wall. The door opened to a white wall that had nothing on it. It seemed like a very high partition wall from another building.
There were no trees, clouds or with a palpitating heart, when she looked below, there was nothing but a broken pavement. No grass.
The door and the wall were so close-by that no human could sneak in there. Her head reeled and she collapsed.
The doctor was next to her when she gained consciousness.
"Where is Nathan?"
"Nathan followed you that night when you got into the car and was the one that pulled you out of the car and called 911. But he before he would get out of the place, the car went ablaze.
We couldn't save him".
Rita slowly got up and looked at herself in a mirror that was now brought to her. The left portion of her face was disfigured. The glass fragments had ruptured her skin badly. But she was alive.
Only because of Nathan. Then and now. The doctor gave her what they could retrieve from Nathan's car.
And in that small packet was the ring that Nathan had bought for her that night along with a note - "I will take care of you, always".