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X marks the spot

October 1, 2011

Somewhere in the middle of the night, he made love to her. 


He woke up as the sunlight hit his face. He was confused. Was it a dream?  Or was it for real? Then he saw her silhouetted against the window, as she drew the curtains aside. He still felt unsure of where he was. He was naked under the sheets. His head throbbed with a dull pain. He felt for it and realized that it was bandaged.  So was his leg. The previous evening came back to him.

He and his partner were to meet a prospective client for their advertising agency. His partner had to back out at the last-minute as his father had to be hospitalized. It was too late to re-schedule the meeting. So he had to keep the appointment with the client.  As it was he hated going for such meetings, but normally his partner would do all the negotiations and take the discussions to a favourable conclusions. All he had to was accompany his partner and smile his concurrence from time to time. His partner needed him for moral support. The arrangement had worked perfectly for both of them. Right from the time they came together last year to start their agency, he has been the ‘concept guy’ and his partner the execution man. For all their advertisement campaigns it was he, who would come up with an appropriate concept on which his partner would work his advertisements. You might remember the ‘genie in the bottle’ ad for the electronic major for their home appliances. They had just entered the home appliances segment and the prices were a little higher than the existing competitors. ‘Time is money’ he had said in one of the discussion they had with the manufacturer. So his partner had gone to work on the theme where he very decisively translated how the superior technology of the appliances was capable of saving time and in turn saved money. Whenever the appliance was used the genie in the bottle would come out, complete the work in a jiffy and would ask for more work. The advertisement had caught the imagination of the viewers and the client was able to garner a sizable market share, more than what they had worked out, in the first year itself. So it was, with other accounts too. He would come up with appropriate ideas/concepts that would be executed beautifully by his partner. He had a knack of touching a chord with the target audience, be it the affluent ones for the high-end products or the growing middle class who were making the economy boom with their newly acquired buying power.

They complemented each other perfectly and in the years they have been together nothing had come in between them, though there were a lot of people trying hard to drive a wedge between them. Both of them knew each other’s strengths; and their weakness’ as well. So last evening he had to meet their prospective customers on his own, much to his chagrin. They had lodged their customers in a resort some 40 Km from the city. He liked to drive and had never wanted to have a driver. He somehow felt that a driver would ‘overhear’ his thoughts. His partner had tried his best to make him see reason but eventually had to give in to his eccentricity. He drove all the way apprehensive of how the meeting would go. But the meeting had gone off well, much better than he had anticipated. The company was represented by their CEO and the Chief Financial Officer. They were highly understanding of the situation and had even said that business dealings could wait till his partner was able to be a part of the discussion. This in itself was a huge relief for him. He took an immediate liking to the CEO. The slightly balding man was soft and kind – a complete antithesis of a CEO that he had in mind. Added to that, he also reminded him of his father. He was surprised that he could make small talk. During dinner they had exchanged many anecdotes, you are never short of them in the advertising field or for that matter, in business. He had declined to have a drink, except for the toast they held out for the possibility of working together, citing that he had to drive back. By the time the dessert was served he was enjoying their company, the other two were visibly drunk and all his inhibitions had vanished.  It was nearly 11 pm when they got up and promised to meet again once his partner was back.

Driving back, he felt elated as to how the evening had unfolded. He was so engrossed in his thoughts, that he missed the first splutter of the engine. He became aware when it happened again. He pushed down on the accelerator and the engine caught on. He pumped a couple of times and it became alright. Then suddenly without any warning the engine died. He pumped the accelerator, but nothing happened. He cruised to the side of the road and stopped. He turned the keys but the engines didn’t crank. He got down, opened the hood and peered inside. Not that he knew anything about cars. He gave a customary tug at the battery cables but nothing much changed. He was resigned to the fact that he was not mechanically inclined and called the dealer. The security picked up the phone and assured that somebody would come in the morning. Damn, he had reached the outskirts of the city. 20 more minutes and he would have been home. He locked his car and started walking towards the city.  A few hundred meters on he had a suspicion that someone was following him. He turned back and saw a dark shadow of what seemed like two men. He quickened his pace and could instinctively feel that those following him were also walking fast. He broke into a run and entered a side street lined with houses on one side an empty ground on the other. He could hear the footsteps of his followers getting nearer. He made a mental calculation of what he had on himself. He had a few thousand rupees in his wallet, credit cards, an iPhone, a gold bracelet which his wife had bought for him on his birthday. A smile appeared on his face, she must be asleep peacefully at her mother’s place, he thought about his wife, momentarily forgetting about his situation. Suddenly he realized that his followers had caught up on him. From the corner of his right eye he could see a blur. As he turned to see what it was, a metal rod hit him on the forehead. He could immediately feel the warmth as the blood started flowing into his eyes. The stickiness of the blood was almost blinding. He blinked his eyes a few times and still his vision was hazy. He was really scared now. He could feel his heart pounding. He picked up speed, as the adrenalin helped his heart to pump more blood faster to all his cells. He could break away from them. Then suddenly his leg caught in a pothole, buckled, and he went sprawling on the ground. On the way down, his shin scraped the pavement, blinding him with an excruciating pain. The pain was unbearable. His body reacted the only way it could cope with the pain. He blacked out.


Normally she would be home no later than 9 pm. She worked as a nurse in a private hospital. Though her shift ends at 7 pm, it would be 8 before she can leave the hospital. Occupational hazard of being a nurse, she would say, plus the fact there is none waiting for her at her house. She didn’t really mind spending some extra time  at the hospital. Her house is about 10 km from the hospital and on a normal day would take her 30 to 45 minutes to reach home on her scooter. Yesterday evening was different. A lorry had rammed into a school bus, injuring about 30 odd children, some of them critically. Since the hospital was close to the accident site, the children were taken there for first aid and treatment. Giving first aid treatment was a little tricky as the children were already traumatized by the crash. Then there were a lot of official formalities to be completed; worried parents to be assured, so by the time she left the hospital making sure that her presence was no longer required, it was already close to quarter past 11. As it was pretty late, the ward boy offered to go with her to her house, drop her at her place, take the scooter to his house and pick her up the next day. Given the late hour the traffic was thin and they could reach her house in 15 minutes. As they neared her gate they saw a body sprawled on the ground, face down. They turned him over. His entire face was bloodied. She checked his pulse. It was feeble. They managed to lift him of the ground. A moan broke out from him. They managed to take him in and laid him on her bed. Dry blood had crusted on his face, making it appear as if he is wearing a bizarre face mask. With some hot water, they managed to scrub the dried blood off his face. There was a gaping wound, on the right side corner of his forehead. A couple of sutures were required to close the wound. She placed sterilized gauze and bandaged his head. They sat him up and removed his shirt. The whole of his body was bruised. She wanted to check if there were any other injuries on his body. She undid his belt and the attendant pulled down his trousers. On his left leg there was a gash on his calf muscle. She dressed the wound and stitched it up. He was delirious the whole time, mumbling something, what appeared to be a woman’s name. She injected a pain-killer, a shot of tetanus and a mild sedative. The ward boy asked if she wanted him to stay back. She told him that there was nothing that he could do and so he might as well go home and take some rest. He left, promising that he would come and pick her up the next day. She smiled to herself; it was already the next day. She locked the door after him. She was famished and remembered that she hadn’t had her dinner. She was about to go into the kitchen when the door bell rang. It was the ward boy. He handed her a set of keys. He had found it near the shrubs by the compound wall. It must be his keys, she presumed. It should have fallen off his pockets when he fell down. After he left she checked the bedroom, the sedative was doing its work. He was sleeping peacefully. She pulled a chair, next to the bed and sat down looking at his boyish face. The hard day took its toll. She dozed off. When she woke up, he was moaning and also shivering.


Over breakfast of toasted bread and omelet, she was advising him to go for a MRI to rule out any concussions and also X-ray to check if there were any hairline fractures to his tibia-the shin bone. Most of what she was going over his head, as he sat watching her. She was not the classical beauty but she was definitely attractive. She somehow reminded him of Julia Roberts. Especially the smile. He was wearing a shorts and a T-shirt which she had given him. Both were a size too small for him. His shirt and trousers were unusable with all the dried blood. His attackers had taken away all his belongings. Luckily the car keys had fallen off. Either they could not find it or they didn’t have the time to look for it. Surely they saw him locking the car and putting the keys into his pocket. He called his partner from her phone. His partner was anxious as he was not able to reach him since late last night. He was relieved that he had called now. He was really worried when he could not get through to find out how the meeting had gone He was bemused to hear of his experience. Yes, his father was stable but was still in ICU. He would arrange to pick him up in the next half an hour and also follow-up with the car dealer for repairs and send them right away. He made another call to his wife but didn’t tell het about the incident of the previous evening. What is the need to worry her unnecessarily? 


The ward boy came to pick her up. She informed him that she would be on leave that day.She told him that he could take the scooter if he wished as she wouldn’t be going out anywhere. She was visibly tired from lack of sleep and mentally drained by the happenings of the previous day. She would normally never take off, but this day was different. Besides she had to be with him till he was picked up by his friend’s car. She hoped that she would be able to sleep the entire day without being disturbed by any emergency. She looked at him as he ate his breakfast. He was grimacing as he chewed. The pain-killer was losing its effect. He appeared like a child with his boyish face. She realized she didn’t know anything about him. And he was not so forthcoming either. Must be the trauma caused by the incident, she thought. What is there to know anyway? He is just a patient and that was that.


The car came to pick him up. It was an awkward moment. He thanked her for all the care she gave. She just gave him her ‘Julia Roberts’ smile. He didn’t know what else to do. She reminded him about the scans and X-rays. He just nodded his head. Clumsily he got into the car. As the car started moving, he turned back to see her standing outside the gate looking at the disappearing car. Damn, he remembered that he hadn’t even asked her name nor had told her about him. Anyways, now that he knew where she lived he will come back one day this week. The people from the car dealer were already there. It wasn’t such a big issue after all. All it needed was tightening of some cables and voilá the car started without as much as a splutter. He drove home. Took a shower, without wetting the bandages. It was quite a feat. Changed to his clothes and went to meet his doctor. The doctor checked him physically and suggested a few tests to be done including the MRI  that she had  insisted. He also checked the suturing and observed they were professionally done. Nothing to worry, about it being infected. Anyways not to take any chances, he prescribed a course of antibiotics. The doctor advised him rest for a couple of days for his body to get over the trauma. He went home thinking how much of rest was possible especially with his partner having to deal with his father’s health. In the evening he got a call from his partner. His father had passed away. He immediately rushed to the hospital. He had never seen his partner so dejected and down. He always thought of his partner as someone strong. On seeing him he broke down uncontrollably. He instantly knew that he had to take things into his hands. He made all arrangements for the discharge and all the necessary paperwork. Since it was late evening, the funeral had to be the next day. Hopefully the old man’s sons and daughters would be able to reach by then. He had personally called each one of them to give them the news. It was a sordid business, telling someone, that their dear father was gone, however expected the end might have been. He then called the local crematorium and booked a time for the funeral. All the rituals had to be followed as the old man was a very orthodox man. So was the entire family for that matter. A few meetings were to be re-scheduled, some of them couldn’t be and he would have to take his partner’s place, as for the next 2 weeks he couldn’t be expected to go out on business trips. There were a lot of things to be taken care of. He had to do it for his partner’s sake. 

The next four weeks went in a tizzy. He never thought that he was capable of doing things that he did in those 4 weeks. An extroverted businessman had emerged out of the cocoon of introversion. So much so he forgot about his condition. The MRI had revealed a small clot in his brain. Nothing to worry about; nothing that couldn’t be dissolved by drugs, his doctor had assured him. He remembered that he had not thanked his saviour on that fateful night. He went to her house, but it was locked.  The neighbours were not of much help. They just knew she was working as a nurse and were without a clue about which hospital. Couple of tries later in the week  too yielded the same result. A locked house. With no name to go by, it would be difficult to locate a person in a city milling with people. He felt guilty even though it was circumstances that prevented him from trying to meet her and to thank her. Then he remembered. He had called his partner from her phone. He got the number and called her, but it was switched off. He tried a few more times till an automated voice told him that the number was no longer in use. He decided he will take some effort to trace her. He made a list of hospitals in the area and decided to go and find if she worked in one of them. He just couldn’t to any hospital and enquire about the nurses in the payroll. So he would go to hospital and just watch the nurses to see if he could spot her. Morning and evening, he would go to the  same hospital. He was not sure how many shifts were there, but he assumed there would be 2 shifts at least. 

In the fifth hospital, the ward boy recognized him. He had no recollection of seeing him at all, though he had come to pick her up the next day, while he was having breakfast. The ward boy explained that it was he  along with her, who had taken him into her house. No, he didn’t know what happened to her. A week back she had gone to her native place. Came back, resigned and left in a huff without even informing him. He didn’t know where to. His affection for her was evident in his voice. Obviously there were a lot of lives she had touched. 

Time as they say is a great healer. The wounds were healed completely. The one on his forehead had left a discolouration of his skin . It now appeared like a purple egg. He slowly started forgetting about her. Sometimes looking into the mirror, only the purple scar on his forehead would remind him  of that evening.

 They celebrated the fifth anniversary of their company incorporation. Business grew. More so, his bondage with his partner. They became very busy and were traveling frequently, mostly to different places to meet their customers or for various symposia. 

It was on one of those travels that he saw her again. His customer had come to pick him up from the hotel where he was staying. They were going to the client’s office. In one of the intersections, he saw a familiar figure, waiting to cross the road. She appeared to be holding a bag in her right hand. As they neared the signal, it turned red. The pedestrians started to cross the road. He watched as she stepped onto the pedestrian- crossing . On her right hand she was holding the hand of  a girl of about three. When they came right in front of him, the little girl turned towards him. She was very fair. And on her forehead there was a birth-mark. A purple egg.  

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2011 11:05

    You have a gift of narrative. The story had me rather captivated; and wondering if what I thought would happen. It did, but again, in a way that kind of pulled th mat from beneath th feet of my narrow perceptions! Th remarkable thing is the absolute oblivion of th story to its opening line, in bold. So, when are you going to compile a few and publish? 🙂

    Usha, thanks a lot. You are most kind to me with your words. I don’t know if you are pulling my leg. Being a self proclaimed eccentric, I don’t know when the writing bug will bite me. One day, I woke up with the first line of the story in my mind. I don’t know why. The whole day the words kept coming back, and I thought I will do something with that. That is how this story came into being. My uncle says it has got shades of Dr. Zhivago. Like I say in my header,’No thought is original….’ 🙂

  2. October 2, 2011 11:08

    And yes! Th title, and its multiplicity of levels. Intriguing!

    Is it not? I am happy that you picked it up :). I wanted to it name it ‘Mark of a man’ and I thought of the baby being a boy. Then I thought that the title should imply something about genetics. Thats how X chromosomes came into play. That meant that the child has to be a girl.

    • October 4, 2011 23:42

      That’s a neat, slightly mysterious touch! It was also the picture of th chromosome that had me wondering :)! And, my suggestion that you should consider publishing was not in jest :). By the way have you read the story, “A Face on the Wall”? Something about this story reminded me of that one! Just did that as a lesson with the 8th Std, a month ago 🙂

      • October 5, 2011 12:28

        Thanks a lot again Usha. Thanks to you I googled for A Face on the wall and read it. Have you read Steven King’s(my favourite writer) Different Seasons. It is a collection of 4 novellas (4 seasons) and the last one is called winter’s tale (I think) is also a bizarre story. Try to read it when you get the time and I am sure you will like it. Oh one more thing the first novella titled ‘Hope springs eternal’ is Shawshank Redemption. 🙂

  3. October 4, 2011 09:48

    The male chromosome Y is the smallest of the 23 chromosomes. The Y chromosome carries only a few dozen genes, compared with more than 1,000 known on the X chromosome. It is predicted that the chromosome might be heading for extinction within the next few thousands of generations. There will be no human males, only females. Reproduction will be only through virgin births like that of Jesus.
    “The mammalian Y chromosome is likely to be engaged in a battle with X chromosome in which it is outgunned by its opponent.” – From the “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society”
    Both the male Y and female X chromosomes are thought to have originally been the same size, but after the Y took on the sex-determining role for maleness it apparently began to lose genes. At this time it also lost the ability to pair up exactly with its partner and to swap faulty genes for good ones, as the other 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes do.
    Since men have no ‘spare’ X chromosome, they are much more likely to suffer from genetic disorders like colour-blindness, haemophilia and others, because these genes are on the X chromosomes.
    There is a gene Xq28, which is likely to determine the sexual preference of a person and this is more likely to be inherited through their mothers. , it is more likely that his maternal uncle is also gay, not his paternal uncle.

    • October 4, 2011 10:42

      Wow, I didn’t know this that the Y chromosomewill be extinct. Thank God it didn’t happen before I was born. 🙂

  4. October 4, 2011 13:12

    You have also produced two boys. Hopefully, they will have girls. I prefer girls.

    • October 4, 2011 16:38

      Me too. 🙂

      • October 4, 2011 21:22

        I read the story and your comments again. Sometimes you feel that something which happened long back is happening again. I think that the neural connections in the brain when that particular event happened were very strong and you remember it again and again. Also a particular person has a tremendous influence over you even in completely changing your outlook on life and everything else. My late foster daughter Pammie had the same effect on almost everyone who was in close touch with her. Why and how?

  5. October 5, 2011 12:31

    I understand. A sense of deja vu. It happens as you rightly said about a thing that has affected us immensely, a sense, a taste, a fragrance, a happening or a person.

  6. October 5, 2011 17:58

    Steven King? Have not read him yet, but I shall, as soon as my bundles of sheer exhaustion (correction!) are out of the way :). All the more, for I have not seen ‘Shawshank Redemption’ too, till date, though I have the CD, and it has been reco. by many! Thank you for the pointer.

  7. October 21, 2011 23:03

    Govind – the story was absolutely captivating…..Although I must say the ending left me reeling – but then that was your idea 😉

    Thanks Corinne for the visit and your kind words.Made my day. 🙂

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