The bird-watcher, Rex, as he had introduced himself later, had a modest cottage of his own just by the sea-shore to which he had carried the inebriated Reeta this early morning around 4:30 AM. He laid before her a generous brunch – sweet potato pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, an assortment of nuts, a glass of fresh orange juice and a jug of water.
“Have you made all of these?”, Reeta asked.
“Yeah! I’m the lone king in this castle, you see. And, I’m a foodie. I’m always this generous to my guests”, said Rex with a grin pointing towards the food on the table.
“Thank you!”, said Reeta forcing a faint smile for her saviour of the day. “Won’t you join in?”
“I had breakfast already . . . It was almost morning when I carried you in. And now, though its almost time for lunch, I thought a little light food would do you good before you decide to head homewards to have lunch. I’ll give you company, though. Just fixing myself a hot cup of ginger tea”, replied Rex who was dressed in a loose white t-shirt and grey baggy pants with a cowboy’s hat on his head.
“In that case, if you don’t mind please make two cups. My head is aching terribly and I think ginger tea is just the thing I need right now”, sighed Reeta turning her gaze out of the open door towards the sea outside. She was unusually calm. No one who had seen her the previous night or in the wee hours of the morning would believe that she could indeed be so calm. A complete contrast to the noisy sea outside!
“Sure lady!”, said Rex with a smile.
The cottage was sparsely furnished. But, she observed that the tiny kitchen was well-stocked with food supplies.
She took the cup of tea from Rex without a word and sat sipping the hot beverage as she continued to the stare blankly at the waves crashing on the shore.
“So Miss, you were a bit high last night, weren’t you?”, quizzed Rex.
“I wish I would really have been”, Reeta replied absent-mindedly, her eyes still fixed on the waves crashing outside.
“What! You had already passed out when I spotted you. There was no one around. I caught sight of you when I went out for an early morning stroll hoping to spot some birds. I didn’t want to leave a beautiful lady lying unguarded for human or animal predators to pounce on. And yet you say, you wished you had passed out? Huhh!! I think you have had enough partying last night and it’s time you went home. Your folks must be pretty good worried by now. I’ll drop you wherever you want me to”, said Rex placing his empty cup on the table.
“You see those waves crashing on the shore? How emphatically they keep surging forward across the sea! But, the sturdy rocks and rugged cliffs restrict them. And so, they crash! C…RRR…AAAA…SHHH! They lose all their strength and lie low – broken, forlorn and lost! The gorgeous gallopping waves lose their existence. They leave the rocks and the sand wet. But, there remains no trace of them. No trace whatsoever”, whispered Reeta audibly tracing her fingers in the air as if she was painting the whole event in the limitless canvas before her.
“That sure is an amazing level of thoughtfulness! I mean, I see the sea and the waves almost everyday that I’m here in my cottage. But my interest lies in birds, you see. I had never spared much thought for the waves. Are you a poetess? Usually poets see meaning in every occurrence”, said Rex sitting down (he had already got up with the intention of leaving after finishing his cup of tea when Reeta started off about the waves).
“Ha ha ha . . . ha ha ha . . .”, Reeta broke off into a wild hysterical laughter. Much to the chagrin of Rex, she did not stop. She went on laughing as if she was insane, pounding her right fist on the table rhythmically. As the intensity of her laughter went on increasing, the furious pounding of her fists kept on gaining speed. Suddenly, she banged the table with a loud thump.
Before the bewildered Rex could utter a word, the cup which was in Reeta’s left hand cracked and fell onto the floor. The crashing of bone china broke Reeta’s ominous spell. She had momentarily remembered the happenings of the last two days as she saw the waves. And that had once again caused a flurry of emotions to upswell within her. The whirlpool of anger, hatred and self-pity within her had gushed out electrifying waves of current into all parts of her body. Her dainty fingers transmitted the current onto the empty tea cup as it crumbled under pressure and fell on the spotlessly clean floor.
Rex stood up with his mouth wide open . . . unable to utter a word.
Her spell now broken by the clanking sound of the broken cup, Reeta looked onto the floor and then at Rex apologetically. She closed her eyes shut for a few seconds, took a deep breath and sprang up from the chair on which she had been sitting for the last forty five minutes without a movement.
“I’m sorry. I’ll clean up. I’ll pay for the damage too”, she said without much emotion evident in her voice.
“You may clean up the mess, but you can’t pay for the damage”, muttered Rex slowly.
“Excuse me! What did you just say? I heard it clear enough. I CAN pay for the damage. Do you know who I am?”, said Reeta looking straight into Rex’s eyes.
“Never mind, lady. You won’t understand. I’ll drop you home as soon as you finish cleaning up the floor as you desire to. Meanwhile, let me catch up with the headlines of the day before heading out”, said Rex rolling her eyes, as he turned towards the television unsure of how to react further. He wanted to flee out of the cottage to spot some bird and unwind himself by observing its movements. The events from last evening till then were beginning to take their toll on his mind.
‘Minister Speaks’ – flashed the title of the programme which was just about to begin. The shrill confident voice of the journalist filled the small cottage room as the introductory prelude music came to an end, “Today we have addressing the press conference the yet-to-be-sworn-in Minister of Health and Family Welfare. We know that the health and families of the people of this nation are in safe hands, now. Although the swearing-in ceremony is still a day away, our Minister-designate has already embarked on fulfilling his election promises to the citizens. This is his first press conference after being allocated the portfolio. Let us hear what he has to say to the people. Over to our correspondent for Live updates of the press conference being addressed at the moment by Mr. Jay Kapoor.” It was a repeat telecast of the press conference that had happened earlier in the morning.
Reeta was almost done cleaning up the mess without paying any attention to the television programme, when the last word forced her hands to stop. As Jay Kapoor appeared on screen and started speaking, her vision blurred out and her head started spinning as she soundlessly fell down on the floor that she had just wiped clean.
Rex continued to watch the programme unaware of the happenings behind him.