‘Five years, Alexandra. Not a single word did I get. Then…why now?’ Becky’s voice rang out loud and clear through the telephone. She sounded really angry.
Alex laughed. ‘Calm yourself, Rebecca,’ she said. ‘I have my reasons for being so reticent.’
‘I can see you haven’t changed,’ replied Becky’s voice. ‘Very well, I’ll come and see you.’
‘I am so gratified to see that you have forgiven me at last.’ said Alex, still giggling.
‘All right, that’s enough.’ Becky said, starting to giggle too. ‘You still live in the same place?’
‘Of course, I do.’ Alex replied and put down the receiver. The door to her room opened and her little brother, Michael, peeped in.
‘Mummy’s calling you for dinner.’ he said.
‘Tell her I’ll be there in a minute.’ she replied.
‘Is your friend coming tomorrow?’ Michael asked curiously.
‘Yes, Michael,’ said Alex. ‘She finally agreed.’
Michael grinned and ran out. Alex followed sometime later.
Becky faced a huge gate opening on to a large mansion. Alex lived there. Becky was quite excited to think that she would be meeting her again. How well Becky remembered the day when she had first seen Alex, who had been sitting on top of that very gate.
Rebecca and Alexandra had been best of friends ever since kindergarten. They were as unlike each other in behaviour and looks as the sky is from the sea, yet one could not be without the other.
Alexandra had long black hair, sparkling grey-green eyes and a brilliant smile. She had a carefree life, was always optimistic about everything, and simply loved travelling.
Rebecca, on the other hand, had short-cropped blonde hair, and deep turquoise eyes. She was kind, gentle, had a serious view of life and a thirst for knowledge. Both she and Alex loved nature, which was about the only thing common between them.
Becky and Alex had been separated for five years after university, during which time, they had lost all contact to each other. So Becky was really surprised when Alex called her.
The door of the mansion opened the minute Becky rang the bell and her breath was squeezed out of her as Alex threw herself on her and hugged her. Becky gasped.
‘It’s so good to see you again.’ cried Alex, happily. ‘Oh, Becky, Becky, I missed you so much.’
‘Doesn’t seem like it, you know,’ said Becky in a huff. She was glad indeed to see Alex, but had decided to pretend that she was still angry.
‘You’re still angry with me, aren’t you?’ said Alex. ‘But, Becky, tell me, how was I supposed to keep in touch with you when I was travelling all over the world for the last five years?’
‘You were travelling all over the world for five years?’ said Becky, her pretence forgotten in her amazement.
‘Not really the whole world, you know,’ said Alex. ‘But I did visit India, Japan, Thailand, and America. And a handful of other places. And I spent about two months on sea, too.’
‘Tell me all about it,’ said Becky, eyes wide with anticipation.
‘Of course,’ replied Alex, smiling. ‘But not on the doorstep. And you too need to tell me what you’ve been doing these five years.’
‘Your story first,’ said Becky, smiling, too.
Alex laughed and went in, Becky followed.
‘Amazing, isn’t it?’ said Becky, throwing open the windows to let in the light and air. Becky simply nodded.
She seemed to have forgotten exactly how beautiful the scenery from Becky’s room was. The sea was crashing against a rocky beach on the right, and mountains towered on the left. The blood red sun, setting in a blood red sky with pink and purple clouds, was staining the sea red, too. The fresh air smelled of salt from the sea mingled with the scent of wild flowers from the mountains.
Becky’s room was decked from top to toe with the various things she had got as souveniers from her journeys. Amongst them was a traditional doll from Japan, a beautiful hand-painted picture of Lord Shiva from Becky, and a bronze statue of the Sleeping Buddha from Thailand. There was also the wood carving of a ship in full sail, which Becky said one of the sailors on deck had carved for her at her request. Becky was so fascinated by all of them that she didn’t know where to look.
They talked far into the night, and time passed so quickly that, until Becky looked up and exclaimed that it was almost eleven, they didn’t even realize how late it was. So they reluctantly put away the things that Becky had been eagerly showing Becky and went to sleep.
Becky woke up suddenly when an owl screeched right outside her window. Moonlight fell across her face. It was a calm night. But Becky felt as if something was wrong or going to be wrong. She sat up and shivered. It was cold.
The owl screeched again. Then suddenly, she heard a crash, as of breaking glass, coming from Alex’s room. Becky jumped up and ran out.
‘Alex! Alex, what happened? Alex!’ Becky screamed, shocked by what she saw.
Alex was lying on the floor beside her bed. Her face was white, her lips blue, and she was shuddering. Her breath came in short ragged gasps, her eyes were bloodshot, and her black hair half obscured her face. In her hand was a shattered glass, from which water had spilled all over the floor.
Becky was by her side in a minute. And suddenly, Alex’s mother, Mrs. Brooke, too, was beside her.
‘Alex! Speak to me! We need to call the ambulance!’ Mrs. Brooke was shrieking, and Becky had the presence of mind to immediately call the nearest hospital.
They managed to lay Alex down on the bed. She was still, motionless except for her heaving chest. Mrs. Brooke was stroking her hair and trying to make her talk, but to no avail. Becky, more to divert her mind than anything else, cleaned up the mess of glass and water on the floor.
It seemed to Becky that years had passed by before she heard the ambulance siren. She rushed down the stairs and ushered the doctor to Alex’s room. The doctor took one look at Alex and immediately said that she had to be hospitalized, so Becky ran down the stairs again to fetch the men with stretcher. Alex was finally taken to the ambulance with the doctor giving instructions. Becky got up in the back with her and the nurse while Mrs. Brooke, with Michael, sat in the front with the doctor.
The moment the ambulance reached the hospital, Alex was taken into a ward where the doctors and the nurses proceeded to give her injections, saline, and what not. So Becky and Alex’s family had to wait by the door, worried and tensed.
Alex was in pain.
Her skin burnt as if on fire, her head hurt, and she could not breathe. She knew her eyes were open, but her vision was black. She was dimly aware of people around her, dimly aware of someone holding her hand and calling her name. That someone she knew very well, only that she could not remember who it was. All she knew was that she had to convey a message to that someone. She tried to speak, and even though every word she said and every breath she took was painful, she managed to say, ‘Read…read…my words…my words...my home…’
She hoped that it would enough for knew that she did not have much time left. She knew Death was on his way, coming for her to take her away, away from all that she had ever known and loved. But she was not afraid, just a little sad. She was waiting, waiting for Death to come and spirit her away, and while she was waiting, she was wondering what Death would be like. Wondering whether he had any form, or whether he was just the process of a soul leaving its body. Whether Death was truly evil, or whether he was just…just someone or something which spreads peace into the minds and hearts of all living creatures. Or whether Death was anything at all. She was also wondering when her long wait would stop, and when Death would come to take her.
Suddenly a name burst into her mind, a name which she had been searching for frantically in her memories, which were already ebbing away into an abstract darkness which surrounded her mind. Her open eyes finally saw what was before her, she whispered, ‘Becky, I’ll miss you.’ Alex closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then suddenly, all her pain vanished, all her memories disappeared, and the darkness totally engulfed her.
‘No!’ Becky could not believe it. She would not believe it.
Alex was dead. No matter how many times the doctors and nurses told her they had done all they could and that Alex could not be saved, Becky would not believe it. Alex’s last words began to echo in her mind, ‘Read…read…my words…my words...my home… Becky, I’ll miss you…’ and she ran out from the hospital. She heard people shouting after her, but she didn’t turn back. She didn’t even stop for a minute until she reached Alex’s mansion. Then she ran up to Alex’s room and sat on the bed. She looked around her.
Everything was exactly as it had been. It seemed as if Alex had only left her room for some time, and she would come back later. There was no sign that Alex had died, that she would never come back again.
‘She’s gone.’ Becky whispered. ‘She’s dead and she’s never going to come back, do you hear?’
Becky’s voice rose to a scream, though she didn’t know who she was talking to. Then suddenly Becky heard a laugh. She knew that laugh really well.
‘Alex?’ said Becky, astounded.
‘Yes, Becky,’ Alex’s voice answered, though it sounded distant, like an echo.
‘Where are you?’ Becky sounded desperate.
‘In your head,’ was the answer.
‘Am I hallucinating?’
‘No. I am neither a ghost nor a hallucination. I am a memory. Your memory.’
‘Yes, memory.’ Alex was laughing.
‘Then you are dead?’
‘No, Becky,’ Alex answered. ‘I am still alive. I still live in your memories, and in the memories of all who know me.’
‘I’m lost, Alex,’ said Becky, flustered. ‘I just don’t know what to do now that…now that you’re gone.’
‘Do what I told you to do.’ answered Alex. ‘Read my words, my home. I’m waiting, Becky, and I will always wait for you.’
‘But, Alex, what does that mean?’ asked Becky.
‘I’m waiting,’ was the only answer she got.
Becky searched through Alex’s room, in case she found some clue as to what Alex wanted her to do.
She found an intricately carved wooden box set with stones amongst other things from India. On opening it, she found a black diary with ‘My Home, Alex’ printed across it in gold. Excited, Becky opened the diary. Alex had written a letter, addressed to her. It said,
Oh, Becky, you don’t know how scared I’m feeling right now. I don’t know what happened last night, but woke up this morning in the hospital next to the hotel in which I was staying in India. The doctor told me that I have brain tumour, and that it had been hard for them to make me recover, but they managed, even though they were sure that I would not live to see another day. I was feeling quite weak and I could not sit up. It’s evening now and I’m still in the hospital.
I don’t know why, Becky, but it seems to me as if I will not be able to live very long. So I write this letter. I know that if you ever read it, it will be after my death.
I want you to understand, Becky, to know that I’m not at all scared for my own death. I’m scared, Becky, of what will happen to my family when I’m gone.
It’s been almost five years since I left home. I want to be with all the people I love for as long as I can now. I had always wanted to see the whole world, and I think I’ve seen enough in these five years. And I realize that my whole world is actually my home.
I hope you understand, Becky, why I am not telling this to anyone while I still am alive. Everyone would only be scared, and sad, and sympathize with me, which would really make me feel like an invalid.
If you’re reading this, Becky, it means I’m dead. But remember that I will always live in your memories, in your soul, for I am a part of you as much as you are a part of me. Our souls are bound together for eternity with the bond of our friendship. Best friendship.
P.S. If you feel lost, Becky, and don’t know what to do, take my advice, and live life in the best way you can. Don’t try running away from your troubles, it’ll be of no use. And remember, nothing, not even death, can separate us.
I love you, Becky, and I miss you. I wish you were here.
Love again, Alex.’
Becky sat down on the bed and stared at the words written by Alex without reading them. Her hands shook and her eyes blurred with tears. She brushed them away angrily.
So Alex had known. She had known all along that she would die and she had not been afraid. She had not even told anyone.
Becky’s feelings were mixed. She was angry that Alex had known and had not told her, sad that she had lost her friend almost as soon as she had got her back, and, most of all, she felt as if a part of heart had been torn away from her, leaving an empty gap in her chest. She also felt as if she was alone, lost in the whole wide world, and there was no one to help her.
Gradually, she began to understand what Alex had been trying to say. She understood why Alex had kept the fact that she was going to die as secret.
Becky was lost alright; she didn’t know what to do. So she decided to take Alex’s advice and lead her life as normally as she could. Even though she knew she wouldn’t be able to get over the shock of losing Alex, she also knew that it would be of no use driving herself crazy by it.
‘If you are lost after your friend’s death, Rebecca,’ she told herself, grimly. ‘Then you need to find your way back.’
‘Alexandra, come here,’ said Becky.
A little sobbing girl of about eight came up to her. ‘Yes, Madam Rebecca?’ she said in a quavering voice. Becky knelt down.
‘Alex, dear, do you know why I named you Alexandra?’ she asked.
‘No, Ma’am’ Alexandra answered.
‘Because I wanted you to be as fearless as my friend, after whom I have named you.’
‘Her name was Alexandra, too?’ asked little Alex, eyes wide with curiosity. Becky nodded.
‘Where is she?’ asked Alex. Becky straightened up.
‘She is in a place all of us hope to go to someday.’ said Becky, staring at the sky. Then she looked down and smiled. ‘Now, run along and play, Alex, and remember, it is as important to have fun as it is to study.’
Little Alex nodded and ran off. Becky smiled again as she saw the little figure frisking about in glory with her friends.
‘Alex had wanted me to live life to the fullest.’ she thought. ‘I see now how right she was. Oh, Alex, it’s already been three years since you died, and I yet haven’t got over it. And I know I never will!’
Yes, three years had already passed. And in those three years Becky had opened an orphanage. The children there were like her own children. The love which she once given Alex, she now gave the little ones. And Becky had finally lost the feeling of being alone and lost in the world.