Fresh round of coffee was ordered and Simran kept instructing Joby for Do’s and Don’t’s while Joby was half ear and mostly engrossed in admiring that innocent beauty of hers.
Next day, Joby was dressed in his best formals, waiting for his interview to begin. Though it was just a formality still, Joby wanted to give his best shot and was all prepared for the new chapter of his life.
Things started turning out ok if not better for Joby with his high spirit and dedication. He even tried a lot to curb down his urges for cigarettes in between his work to please his employers. Though the job was demanding and tiresome, with travels from one site to another and to the warehouses to check the stock of building material, Joby persevered.
Everything was smooth for the first few weeks till his nicotine cravings started to take a toll on him. The classic version of Joby was back only to hunt down his present. The same shit started repeating, his smoking breaks in between work, leaving important meetings that mostly lasted for hours, and that filthy smell of cigarettes from his stinky breathes when he talked with other staff in the office.
Adding worse, his frustration and irritated responses were back. His behaviour changed drastically from the time he joined this new job. The consequences were not unpredictable, and he was fired from this job too.
The most affected person was Simran, not only her reputation was tarnished but her faith in Joby was also shaken off.
“I am sorry dear, I just don’t know how all this happened… Everything was going good in the beginning… I just don’t know how this all got messed up.” Joby was talking more to himself than to Simran who was staring out at the night traffic passing by them as they both sat in her car.
“Sorry won’t heal the damages Joby… Sorry won’t heal this time.” Tears were rolling down her eyes.
“I don’t know what to say dear. I’m just too messed up…” Joby clenched his temples tightly to get rid of the headache.
“I am going out of town for a week.” Simran replied wiping her tears.
“Where are you going dear…?” Joby was still unaware of Simran going to see her parents.
“I need to get myself back and don’t worry I will be back soon.” With those final words, Simran dropped Joby to his place.
For the next week, without Simran around, Joby tried to scan for any job he could get. He had to come out of this scenario and he was ready to pick any job, a pizza delivery boy, a courier delivery job, anything that he could find.
Luck had not completely deserted Joby, he was selected for the job of pizza delivery boy. He was supposed to begin his job from the start of the new month. This gave Joby time of few days before his new job started. He was very happy and couldn’t wait to give this good news to Simran. She was returning the next day.
Joby had tried to quit smoking but it was getting impossible for him now. He even tried other tobacco methods but nothing worked. Simran was back.
“Hey, can we catch up for evening coffee and dinner today…? I have news for you.” Joby texted her excitingly.
“I have other plans for you. I will pick you up in the evening. Get dressed in your best. I too have surprise for you.” Simran replied.
Joby’s excitement was lifted a step higher with Simran’s message. Finally, the evening would have something good in her bag for them.
As per the scheduled time, Simran picked Joby and they drove to the farmhouse of her dad in the outskirts of the city. All the way, Joby told her that he got a job. Though it was not that big news, at least, he had a job.
“What’s surprise for me… And where are we headed…?” Joby’s curiosity got the better of him but Simran kept mum and just smiled.
“Come one babe, just give me some hint.” Joby tried to get something from her but Simran enjoyed her silence filled taunting nature.
“Tonight will be the night that will change everything for us and it will be the most memorable night for us.” Simran smiled as she took the turn from the highway to the road leading to the farmhouse.
What Joby didn’t know was that Simran had booked a lavish late night dinner in a five-star hotel where she would propose to him for marriage over the toast of champagne. But before that, there was something else planned by her.
The car stopped in front of the farmhouse and Simran killed the engine. With a deep breath, she spoke.
“Here we are. Now wear this first.” Saying so she gave a blindfold to Joby.
“Why this and what are you planning babes… Going to rape me or what…?” Joby chuckled to which Simran just stared.
“Okay, okay… As you say babes.” Joby understood that he had to follow her instructions.
There was a small garage, next to the farmhouse and Simran led Joby in there. It was a windowless room with a single door for entry and exit. She walked Joby in and made him sit on a chair and switched on the light. The only naked bulb fluttered for few seconds before illuminating the area.
There was a table with two chairs placed across each other. Joby opened the blindfold and was stunned to see what was on the table. A pack of cigarettes, a lighter, an ashtray, and a gun.
“What the hell is this…?”
“Do you trust me…? If so then let me do this.” Saying so Simran handcuffed the left hand of Joby which was chained to the hook on the table.
She slid the key in her back pocket of denim and sat across him. Joby’s heart was beating in his ribs. She kept taking few deep breaths before she could proceed with whatever she had on her mind. Joby was stung with an unknown fear and he immediately grabbed a cigarette from the pack and lit it hurriedly.
She kept watching him till he had had those few much needed drags of nicotine. After finishing off with half the smoke, Joby spoke.
“Babes, you are scaring me now. Tell me what’s all this please.”
“Joby, it’s time for you to decide.” She took a deep breath, trying to get a hold of her nerves before continuing.
“Either you quit cigarettes for me or kill me. You can unshackle yourself only by any one option. So choose now… Cigarettes or ME…”
Joby was stunned by what she just said. Never in his wildest nightmare, he would have thought a girl like Simran would do anything like this.
“Are you insane? Do you even know what are you talking?” Joby took the last drag before stabbing his cigarette in the ashtray.
“I may be insane but I want you to decide right now. You can quit these cigarettes and I will remove those handcuffs. And if you can’t then kill me and take the key from my pocket and set yourself free.” Tears started rolling down her eyes.
“This is not done Simran. This makes no sense, you have gone mad.” Tears started storming down Joby’s eyes too.
“I know I am being very mean and unfair to you dear, but you have left me with no choice. I am sorry for all this but you’ll have to take this decision.” Simran looked away and Joby kept staring at her.
Joby lit another cigarette and moments of silence lingered over them. The only sound that could be heard was both sobbing.
“You have gone crazy Simran. Just uncuff me for God’s sake.” Joby screamed this time.
“I can’t dear, I can’t. You have to make the call and you don’t have much of time. Before that cigarette of yours is over, you’ll have to decide or else I’ll shoot myself.” Simran spoke wiping her tears.
Joby tightly closed his eyes with a long drag. The cigarette has the last drag left. He finally opened his eyes and took a deep breath. He passed the cigarette to his shackled hand and held the gun tightly in his right hand. Simran’s heart skipped a beat, she doubted his love for her over cigarettes.
“I can’t quit the cigarettes dear nor you… I just can’t…” Joby gripped the gun tightly and lifted it.
Simran closed her eyes. She knew that her dinner will not be there. She said her final prayers before the gunshot rattled the closed quiet room. Her eyes closed tightly, feeling the bullet in her chest…
Nothing happened for the next few moments. She touched her chest to feel the blood oozing out but nothing was there. She immediately opened her eyes and saw.
Joby’s brain was blown out and his eyes stoned. The last cigarette was still burning between his lifeless fingers…
Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha