Yellow. The weather around was yellow, the trees, the sky, the grass, the surroundings. It was autumn season, winters were approaching, and chilly winds were blowing around, reminding people of the coldness of hearts.
She was trying to adjust herself to a new weather, in a new city. It was difficult for her. Everything was.
After the sudden, untimely and unexpected death of her partner, she just lost hope in her previous city. Every place would remind her of him, she just couldn’t survive there, so she requested her department to transfer her to their other branch, in Berlin. The secretary knew her personally, so she was relocated with ease.
She opened the door of her new apartment, and the smell of recently painted walls was strong and pungent. She coughed and covered her mouth with her hand, in her other hand, she held her luggage.
‘Not bad…’ she saw the condition of the bathroom, which was perfectly neat and dry.
She was thankful to the department for relocating her, as her previous house in Paris had sanitation problems, the kitchen and bathroom had several deteriorating leakages. But she still loved it, for Steve.
‘I don’t know how I’m going to survive alone…’ she tossed her handbag on the bed.
The bedroom was lavish. A large room, with a conjoining balcony and a hanging garden, perfect! She stepped towards the curtains, and pushed them aside. A cool breeze swayed her from her thoughts, and brought her back in reality.
‘I love you, Steve…’ she whispered, slid the door close upon the nature, and submerged into her materialistic world.
She opened the flap of her laptop and signed in to her department website, informing them about her arrival in Berlin. She immediately got her new ID number, and some important identification marks, and was expected to join from Monday. She took out a print out of her temporary identification card, and she read out her name in admiration.
ID – SA09896682
‘I never thought you’ll join national secret agency someday, you bitch!’ she saw herself in the mirror. Travelling for an entire day had worn her out and she needed a shower.
It was Friday night, and she had 2 more days before joining the duty. In her lonely apartment, she was sickened since afternoon, so she thought to take a short stroll to the market place nearby.
She picked up her scarf as it was cold outside. Gave it a few winds over her head, and moved towards the door. In the back cupboard, she always kept her revolver for protection. She picked it up and slid it in the back pockets of her jeans. While walking down the pavement of her apartment, she saw many vendors selling fresh and stale food items.
She stopped near a stall of quick ham sandwiches, the man was an expert at tossing the bread and sauces and mixing them to make the perfect sandwich. On the next stall, she witnessed a Chinese man, juggling the food, and a large crowd surrounding him. Some people waited for the food, while some waited for the man’s tricks. Men and women of all age, were roaming in the streets freely, without any tension.
She couldn’t remind herself, when was the last time, that she felt so free? The last time, she took a walk on streets, without any worry. For her, it was always about duty, her entire life was a duty. If she was living it by choice earlier, she was living it as a promise now.
She saw another man, munching on the ham sandwich so fondly, that it reminded her of Steve. How he loved ham sandwiches and how he taught her the most important lesson of her life in their first meeting itself.
3 YEARS AGO
Joining the special force and a secret agency in her mid-twenties, Martha Jacobs was a smart lady with a high IQ and equivalent amount of beauty. Everyone in their department was particularly attracted to the flawless junior. She would always hit the bulls-eye on shooting, she would always score an A+ in aptitude tests, she would always climb walls with double speed than regular women in force and she was always dressed and groomed smartly, just as a lady should. There was something special about her, something which made her a special lady of Steve Rose, the head of their department.
‘Call me Steve, please!’ he said with a smiling face, and made a gesture, signalling her to sit down.
Martha sat on the chair, and proceeded with their meeting. She presented various case-files, criminal records, things which could switch any person’s mode from jolly to serious, but on the contrary, Steve was smiling.
‘What happened, Sir? Is there anything wrong?’ Martha asked with a confused mind.
‘No, no! Absolutely not, I’m just wondering, that how will you, I mean, don’t take it as any kind of offence, you know, you’re too sweet and innocent looking to handle such cases, and seeing you narrate them, with beautiful dreamy eyes, scares me!’
‘Scares you? But why?’
‘Because, you have to shed all your dreams once you’re in this line. Life, and death are just matter of choices. One step wrong and you could be shot on the next turn. There’s no guarantee of life, let alone dreams.’ Steve was blunt.
Martha swallowed her own saliva in nervousness. It was her first day at the job, after training, and such harsh words scared her to death already.
‘Hey, don’t be nervous! Just keep reminding yourself that you have to ‘live’. You can’t die, and you’ll succeed. I’m doing this for years now, and have handled so many dangerous cases, still, not a scratch!’ Steve boasted about his fearlessness.
Martha smiled weakly. His words didn’t comfort her much, and she left his cabin in haste.
‘Ms Jacobs!’ Steve called her.
‘Your files…you’re forgetting them.’ He handed over a pile of files to Martha and she ran away.
This short, weird, yet sweet encounter of Steve with Martha, was something, that became the foundation of their further meetings. After a couple of official board-room meetings, Steve started calling Martha at coffee shops, and sometimes at his home. He couldn’t agree more to have fallen for her. Martha too felt soft for Steve, she always admired intelligent men, and Steve was a perfect example of intelligence, blended with looks. His perfect knot of the tie, the way a little triangular corner of his handkerchief was always visible from his coat’s upper pocket, the way he kept his pen, his belongings, at home or in office, every minute detail fascinated Martha, and she loved him more for such little gestures.
‘Tell me, why don’t you let anyone call you Mr Rose?’
‘Haha…’ Steve laughed, as he was reminded the history of his name, ‘This sweet sounding feminine name was chosen by my grandmother, for her granddaughter, when my mother was pregnant. But when a grandson was born instead of a daughter, her dreams were shattered. On her death bed, she demanded her name to be carried on by the third generation of the family, and there was no one from third generation, except from a sweet little 3 years old boy, Steve. And from thereafter, the boy was called Steve Rose. And the icing on the cake is, the same sweet boy bearing a feminine-sounding-name, is now head of national secret agency.’
Martha couldn’t stop, but laugh at the way he narrated his story to her. Steve wasn’t hesitant to even insult himself, if it was for Martha’s happiness! Her smile was the most beautiful accessory that she wore all day long. If any day, she felt low or depressed, Steve would do anything to make her smile, such was his love for her. Inside, he also knew that Martha was falling for him, but still he was afraid to approach her.
A YEAR LATER
As Martha and Steve were returning from a meeting in the night, they heard a couple of thunderstorms.
‘I think we should go back to the car quickly, it’s gonna be a heavy downpour!’ Steve said, in the thunderstorm, his voice was barely audible.
Martha held his hand, ‘But I think, you should enjoy this one…’ in a moment, it started raining heavily, and they both were soaked in a matter of minutes. Martha sneezed, and Steve, being a protective partner, removed his coat and covered her up.
‘I care for you, Martha…it’s enough, come on now…’ he took her to the car, and dropped her to her apartment.
THE NEXT DAY
‘Will you marry me? Will you, marry me? Hey, Martha, I wanted to ask you something, will you marry me? No, no…Sweetheart, I know this sounds weird, but will you…argh! Nothing is sounding right…’ Steve was rehearsing his proposal in front of the mirror, with a diamond ring clutched tightly in his fingers. He couldn’t gather the right combination of words for his special lady.
‘For a proposal to be special, the words have to be knitted by your heart, and not from some sycophantic quotes which claim to be powerful enough to impress the lady!’ a friend had told him the night before, and today was the special day when he had decided to propose Martha.
Steve sat down on his study in confusion, and picked up a paper and a pen. In a few minutes, the pile of papers was over from the table, and rather a pile of crumbled and torn papers accommodated the floor near the study.
‘Nothing is working out…what the hell! It’s already 3 and she’ll be coming any moment now…’
Steve tossed the ring in his pocket and rushed to the coffee shop, where he called up Martha to meet him with their recent case files. He faked it all to be an official work-meeting. Martha was on time, as usual, and Steve was waiting for her at his reserved table. Being into forces since a very young age, Steve had a very limited social circle, he was totally unaware of the things that guys did to impress their ladies, and this was his first time. He was nervous and continually wiped the sweat off his forehead.
‘Hey, are you okay? You don’t seem to be!’
‘No, I’m totally fine, I just need the washroom, excuse me.’ Steve rushed to the washroom.
Martha was suspicious, as Steve was behaving awkwardly. He had never portrayed this nervous and frightful sight of him in front of her, but today, something was definitely wrong. Soon he was back after some quick strolls in the washroom.
‘I guess I ate too much breakfast. Indigestion! But I’m fine now…’ he managed to smile with a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts going on in his mind.
After a few minutes of boring conversation, he paid the bill and as Martha was about to leave, he held her hand. She turned to face him, and found him kneeling, with a diamond ring in his hand.
She couldn’t say anything, but scream at her loudest.
‘I know, this maybe too early for you, but believe me, I couldn’t control my feelings anymore, and my sweetheart needs to know how special she is, for me…’ Steve chose perfect words somehow, even he was amazed at what he just said.
A thunderbolt of claps and cheers filled the café and Martha started crying. Steve slipped the ring in her third finger, ‘Will you give me the honour to make you laugh for the rest of your life, your highness?’
Martha nodded in approval and hugged him tight. Suddenly, Steve turned with Martha in his arms and a faint shot was heard. There was an immediate uproar in the public, and people created a hustle in the café. Martha couldn’t understand what happened, but Steve fell straight on her. He was shot in his back twice.
Martha started crying and screaming for help. In the hustle-bustle of public, nobody cared to call the ambulance. Everyone was safe, except for the man who became the centre of attraction for that evening. Martha’s mind went numb with multiple thoughts running, she tried talking to Steve, but he had left the world. She kept hugging him, her clothes were smeared with his blood, but she didn’t leave him. She kept crying and hugging him for one last time.
After sometime, the ambulance arrived, to collect the body…
FEW MONTHS LATER
The killers were identified, and they targeted Martha that day. It was Steve, who saved her life. The only thing she remembered that day was, ‘Life and Death is just a matter of choice.’
Martha had classified information about the whereabouts of those, who targeted her, and instead claimed the life of her love. The department made several teams and tracked them down, they were the men of drug lords and gun-smugglers, who ordered them to finish off Martha Jacobs, as she was investigating the illegal activities going on in Paris.
She struggled for one long year in Paris, to provide justice to Steve. Finally when she shot the killers with her own hands, was the only moment in her entire one year; that she let out a sigh of relief. That was the only night, she slept in peace. Today, she got relocated, as she didn’t want any connection with that city which reminded her of her past every second. Moving on was difficult, but not impossible, she told herself, and shifted to Berlin.
She was strolling on the streets, trying to keep awful thoughts at bay from her mind, but couldn’t succeed. Steve’s last scene kept revolving in her head. She could still feel him dying in her arms, she could still sense the moment of helplessness.
‘I’m sorry…’ lost in her thoughts, Martha accidentally bumped into someone.
‘It’s okay…’ the man smiled.
He was all dressed up in the late evening, maybe going somewhere. She noticed him precisely. His minute details mesmerized her and his perfect knot of tie, and little triangular corner of handkerchief, hanging out from his upper pocket, reminded her of Steve.
For a moment, she kept staring at the man, like she had some previous connection with him. Perplexed, the man couldn’t resist and asked her, ‘Anything wrong, Ma’am?’
‘No, you…you just reminded me of someone…’
‘Oh, I hope it’s a good memory!’ the man waved her off and walked down the footpath.
‘Yes, indeed it is…the best memory…good-bye Steve…’ she looked upon the sky, stars were glimmering, crescent moon hid in the blanket of clouds. In a moment, it started raining. People on the streets, all ran here and there in search of covers, but Martha remained there, drenching herself in the rain, she was taken aback to the time when she first experienced rainfall in Paris.
Those words said by Steve in the rainfall, a night before he died, again echoed in Martha’s mind, ‘I care for you, Martha…it’s enough, come on now…’ she said to herself, covered herself up in her wet scarf, and headed back to her apartment.
Steve was with her, every moment of her life. Even in Berlin, she had found him, embracing her up whenever she needed.