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Duplicity : Chapter 14

The name of my team is "Writers' Express"

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    Jennifer flicked through the wedding photos in the camera one at a time. Photos of Maya were interspersed between the photos of the bride and groom. She used to love posing for the camera and Jenny used to love photographing her. Those were the last photos of Maya: splashing water near the fountain, dancing with the kids, running with the groom's sandals, jumping on the steps to watch the bride put the varmaala around the groom's neck, lying face down in a pool of blood -- dead.

    Jennifer spun around with a jolt when she felt a tap on her shoulder. The air-hostess gave her a practiced smile and asked her to keep the camera away and tie her seat belt. The flight was ready for take-off. Jennifer switched the camera off, kept it away with her baggage, put on her seat belt and closed her eyes.

    'Maya and Jennifer are kids, their hair in ponytails, hopping around a green hill. They are running away from an inflatable elephant. They sit on a carousel. It starts to go round and round and round. Jennifer is busy peering at herself in the mirror. The carousel goes faster and faster and faster. Jennifer looks at Maya's horse. The carousel keeps going faster and faster. Maya is missing. She looks down. Maya is hanging by the edge of the carousel. There is a deep ravine all around them. The ravine is a monster's mouth. It's spewing blood. Jennifer tries to hold Maya's hand, but she falls.'

    Jennifer woke up with a start in her bed. She was sweating. She cupped her face in her palms, but couldn't stop the tears from flowing.

    It was already noon. The fear of the nightmares had kept her awake throughout the night. It was only in the wee hours of the morning that she had fallen asleep -- or rather unconscious -- from the exertion the day before. She noticed the dozen missed calls from her family. She cleared the notifications and got out of the bed.

    Jennifer had returned to Kochi but she could never return to her old life without Maya. Maya's death had rattled Jennifer's very existence. The two of them had been on their own in Kochi, away from their parents. They used to spend a lot of time together -- mostly in Maya's apartment. With Maya gone, Jennifer had nothing but loneliness to keep company. The nightmares had made it difficult for her to get any good sleep.

    Jennifer had turned down a few clients when she was still in Delhi. There would be no work for a few more days.

    She roamed around Kochi like a ghost, unable to go home or face anyone. The calls from Cyrus were her only connection to human life. A few days back he had called her and asked her to narrate the occurrences to the Duttas. She had sobbed and cried and told them the whole story. It was the only time she had told all that to anyone. She would not have been able to if it was not for Cyrus.

    Cyrus had called her regularly after that. They would make video calls. He had promised to keep up with the investigation for her with some help from Shailesh. There hadn't been any development yet. The police were stumped. There was no evidence. Jennifer had stayed in Delhi for a few days after, hoping for a breakthrough which never came after which Cyrus had forced her to return to Kochi.

    She looked up from the road. She had absent-mindedly walked herself to Maya's apartment, where the two had once spent a lot of their time together. She saw Maya's father walk out of the apartment and signal a truck to haul away. Jennifer hid behind a wall. She did not have the courage to face him yet. She peered at him from behind the wall. He wiped a tear away with the back of his hands and took out a lock from his pocket.

    Jennifer turned around and backed up against the wall. She took out her key bundle from her jeans' pocket and disentangled the key to Maya's place. She held it high and threw it with all her strength. She saw it fall into an open sewer and walked away.

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