Riya took in a huge breath and briefly closed her eyes as she let the air back out steadily until her lungs were empty. She turned her face to focus on John’s but said nothing.
“How can I help you?” John’s voice sounded small and he felt even smaller in a world he did not understand. His own life came galloping through his mind, behind his eyes as he sat back on his haunches watching Riya regain her composure. His work, his flat, his car, parents, loans, dreams …. and his fiance, whom he knew now for sure that he did not love enough for her to give his life to him. Overcome by a raging guilt, he dropped his own eyes and looked at the pattern on the intricate carpet. He must grow a set, be honest and tell Hebe that she needed to be let free. She deserved to know now and if he did nothing, he would regret it forever. Yes it would hurt, but the right way was never the easy way, his mother had often repeated.
“There is nothing you can do John. You are very kind to notice and care but I will be fine.” She forced a smile before moving to stand. He helped her up and they went through to join Harsha who had poured tea on a tray. “Drink this dear. You will feel refreshed. I can find you another box, there really is nothing to be upset about. Was it a gift from Ramesh?”
“Yes mother.” she took the cup and perched on the edge of a chair, the cup rattling in the saucer.
“He will understand my dear. Things become damaged in an earthquake. It can be replaced and you are safe. This is all I care about. Thank you John for joining us; I can drive you back as soon as you like, you must be tired.” Harsha sipped her tea but did not look at him.
The air in the room became stifling. John recognised and respected the message floating among the motes now just visible as sunlight broke simultaneously through the clouds and window. “Most kind. I probably should get back thank you. Any message for Adi?” he looked at Riya who shook her head.
“Thank you no. Let mother take you back to the hotel.”
* * * * * *
The door to his room was ajar, the lock forced. John eased it open enough to lean in and the havoc that met his eyes took his breath away. Clothes strewn across the floor, the bedside table on it’s side and the contents of each drawer tipped out. He went into the en-suite and turned the tap off which had filled the plugged-sink, water over flowing onto the floor. He looked up at his reflection in the mirror, an expression of disbelief stared back at him
“Shit, the letters!” he swore to himself and rushed back through to search the desk and his worst fear engulfed him like a damp black cloak of hell. Adrenalin teased his fingertips as it coursed along his limbs and he groaned as hindsight also came in to haunt him. “Why didn’t I keep them on me?” moving around the room, he checked for his passport under the mattress as he never trusted hotel safes and was relieved to find it still there.
The receptionist knocked and looked in. “Oh Mr John, what happened? Are you alright, I was passing and heard you moaning.”
“I’ve been robbed – someone has been in and taken important papers. Did you see anyone this afternoon?”
“No, I’m sorry.” she looked around and pointed to a small mirror on the wall behind the door. “What’s this?” she walked closer to it.
L E A V E …. a message written in lipstick.
(To read part 1, press here)