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Fiction #528
(published March 3, 2011)
by Nikhita Venugopal
It's funny how the places which are nearest to you are the places you hardly visit. Like an Italian who's never seen the Coliseum or a shopaholic who's never seen the back of her closet.

I think I've stood on my balcony about three times in the last year. The railing is cool and wet from the afternoon rain and there's a bite in the wind that's chilling yet comforting. Actually, aside from my present situation, it's quite a lovely night.

I can hear the clock striking from my living room. One.. Two.. Three.. Four.. Five.. Six.. Seven.. Eight.. Nine.. Ten.. He should be home by now. Six months ago, he would have been home three hours ago. But then again, that was six months ago. He says he's working late; that he's working on a big project that his boss has given him. It all sounds quite legitimate, but my over-active imagination is telling me otherwise.

I slip off my green ballerinas and place them aside. The floor is damp and my toes curl in an instinctive attempt to keep warm. Gingerly, I place my left, then right leg over the railing, standing on the edge of the balcony. The wind seems to be biting harder than before, making my body shiver. Maybe I should have worn a sweater.

Six months. Everything seemed fine back then. Then again, maybe things were never fine and they just got progressively less fine and I only realized now. Good God, I need help.

There is a part of me which wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there isn't someone else. Maybe he is really working late. But given what I'm about to do, it would be quite annoying if he wasn't actually working late.

I just realized that I can't feel my fingers anymore. My knuckles have turned pale partly from the cold, and partly from gripping the railing so tightly. As I examine my hands, I hear a car pulling into the driveway. I can feel his fatigue despite the distance between us. I can see him fumbling with his keys, rubbing his tired eyes, wondering what's for dinner. In about two and a half minutes, he will see me standing on the edge of our balcony.

Releasing my white-knuckled clench from the rail, I step back onto the balcony. As I slip my green ballerinas back on, I can hear with opening the door.

The last few days have been cold, so it's probably going to be chilly tomorrow as well. I should remember to wear a sweater tomorrow. In case he isn't really working late.

Nikhita Venugopal lives and writes in Bangalore, India.

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