He was Gone.

The white snowflakes fell like raindrops, giving the pedestrians who were rushing towards any form of shelter a good white wash. A coat of snow had taken residence on any and all three-dimensional figures. The roads were blocked and traffic was ever-present in the city. People honked and cursed, screamed and made a fuss. Yet, the young woman skipping along to the tunes of love and joy had not a care in the world. She was going home to her love. And, of course, we couldn't forget; Christmas was just 'round the corner.

The green and red and golden lights shimmered all the way around the tree, glittered along windows and traced the walls. The Christmas spirit ever-present in everyone. The woman reached the piece of wood separating her and her love. She knocked twice and the door was opened by the man handling two trays of cookies in one hand. He was clad in a red jumper, green sweatpants and white oven mitts. She giggled and took a tray of cookies from her husband. They laughed and joked all the way to the kitchen and after freshening up, she dragged his sorry arse to the pile of decorations. When she was busy flicking through the multiple bells, sizing them up and wondering which was the best, he quietly snuck away to the piano placed in the far end corner of the room. He played what came to mind, be it Christmas themed songs or random pieces of music. She jolted from her place when she heard the soft melodies wafting through the house.

She hummed carols and hymns under her breath, and her husband's fingers glided across the piano. As she put up the decorations on her tip-toes and strung lights from this corner to that, he smiled adoringly at her. He helped her tape the other end of the lights too. As she danced to the rhythms playing in her mind, he caught her quickly, and kissed her softly, right under the mistletoe. She put the cookie dough he had placed in lumps on a tray, into the oven. She put a higher temperature so that it would bake quicker. She looked around, pleased with their work. His arms sneaked around her waist and he held her tightly against his chest.

Then, they heard the knock.

She shimmied out of his hold and skipped over to the door. The big grin on her face slowly faltered as she took in the drunk man stumbling into her house. She looked to John for help, but he had vanished; poof! She suddenly noticed that the other end of the lights were hanging limply, snaking towards the ground. The piano was dusty all over, as if it had not been touched in a while. There was no mistletoe. There was a burning smell encompassing the entire house. She looked to the kitchen and saw the oven in flames, the inside empty. She gasped, wondering how this had skipped her notice.

The drunk man, who was now seated in a chair and had called her one too many times, got frustrated and charged towards her. He gripped her hair and shoved her downwards. She sobbed and screamed as she thrashed in his grip, her memory bringing back the abuse from the previous night and the one before, and the one before that, and so many more. She suddenly remembered that he wasn't her John, her Johnny was...dead.

Author: Saptaparna Chakraborty

Editor: Nandini Patil

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