What Could Have Been [Story]

Very few things hurt like lost love. Here's a story that defines the sentiment with thrilling clarity.


Very few things hurt like lost love. Here’s a story that defines the sentiment with thrilling clarity.

This post contains descriptions of violence that may be triggering for some readers. Please use your discretion.

Mira looked into the mirror before her. Oval brown eyes stared back at her – vacant and listless. Her long, wet, dark hair framed her small face, hanging limply past her shoulders and reaching her waist. The steam from the shower was misting the mirror, but she could still see the dark bruises through it. Splattered across her ribs and her upper arms, the angry purple welts contrasted against her pale skin. She stepped back into the shower, the hot water beat against her skin, soothing her sore muscles.

Last night had been the worst so far. Every breath Mira took sent white hot pain through her throbbing body. Why does he do this? Does hurting me, beating me senseless, make him feel better? These were questions she had pondered upon countless times, and just as always, she fell short of an answer.

Mira closed her eyes, and at once her mind travelled back to a happier time – the day that her life changed forever. They had met at the book signing of one of their favourite authors.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” he had asked shyly, gesturing to the vacant chair besides her. Mira could recall the first time she had gazed at his features, like it happened at least once every day; those soft, coffee brown eyes, along with that subtly bearded striking jaw line, and the thick mane of neatly cut hair that matched his eyes.

“Yes, please, I don’t mind.” She had responded politely.

“Hello, I am Jamal,” he had divulged, extending a hand in her direction. “Mira here” she returned, shaking his hand. His grip had been strong, just as she had somehow known it would be. At first, the conversation had been awkward, much too formal, but soon enough mutual interests and distastes had them laughing and become much more amiable towards one another.

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“Are you a professor?” Mira had enquired, eyeing the beige tweed jacket carefully folded in his lap. “Oh no, not yet at least,” he had laughed, following her glance. “Although, I am currently pursuing my masters in English Literature, hoping to take up teaching someday,” he supplied softly. Mira had disclosed her passion for music, and how she planned on teaching kids to play the guitar. Post the book-signing they headed off to the cosy little coffee shop just around the corner from the bookshop.

Mira had disclosed her passion for music, and how she planned on teaching kids to play the guitar

Mira leaned back onto the wet tiles in the shower, returning to reality, yet wanting to spend some more time with the fond memories of her tormenting past.

She could remember him clear as day, the way he had been in the start, even before they had been in a relationship. Mira had always loved how they could talk about anything and everything under the sun, ranging from politics, to books, to movies, and even sometimes take perverse pleasure from basking in the glory of their mutual intellect. Long walks and long conversations were an almost daily occurrence.

She remembered his husky tones, his gentle manners, and even his gawky laugh which she had so come to adore. Despite his slight frame and stature, his quiet, inner strength had been clearly evident; not the kind that would seek to harm, but to protect, and nurture. This strength had manifested once, during one of their languid walks.

Mira and Jamal had been caught up in an excited discussion about a movie they had just watched, when a sudden commotion caught their attention. It was another couple, in the midst of a heated argument. The words had been unclear from the distance, but the body language clear enough. The man looked close to hitting the woman he was with, and Mira gasped.

She turned to Jamal, only to find that he wasn’t besides her, but on his way to the arguing couple. In a few, quick strides Jamal reached them and caught hold of the arm that the man had risen to strike the woman with. Though he had been considerably taller than Jamal, Jamal’s quiet ferocity and vigour won out in the end, and the man strode off, leaving the woman heaving and sobbing with relief. Mira could still recollect the calm manner in which Jamal had helped reassure the woman and find her a cab home. He had even taken down the cab driver’s number and warned him against upsetting the lady in any manner.

Mira had never felt as alive in her entire life as she had in the time spent with Jamal. The world seemed a lot less alarming and Mira began to love herself a lot better with Jamal around. Every day they spent together was packed with endless conversation, and every night with ardent passion.

Mira had never felt as alive in her entire life as she had in the time spent with Jamal.

A sharp rap on the door brought her crashing back to reality, nearly causing her to slip on the wet floor of the shower.

“Get out, b*tch! I have to get to work, I need my breakfast, now!” bellowed the voice that she had come to dread. Shaking all over, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself into a thick terrycloth robe. Steadying herself, Mira reached for the door handle, steeling herself for whatever could and would follow. Once out, she quickly glanced around the room to see if he was still around. Suddenly a hand clamped around her wrist jerking her forward. Mira stifled a scream as pain shot up her forearm.

“What the f&k do you think you were doing, occupying the bathroom for hours on end in the morning? Are you too dumb to realise that I have to be at work, not strut around the house like a f&king princess all day long?!” he jibed cruelly, his eyes darkening with boundless fury, his otherwise handsome face contorted in rage. He twisted her wrist until tears welled up in her eyes, and soft sighs of pain emerged from her lips.

“Shaurya, please, I am sorry. Please let me go. I will lay out your breakfast right away, in no time. Please,” she pleaded, praying inwardly for him to release her. And release her he did. He pushed Mira with such brute force that she lost her balance, tripped over the thick rug, and sprawled across the bedroom floor. Her head hit the base of the large mahogany bed, and she nearly lost consciousness from the force of the impact.

Mira curled up into a ball, steeling herself for the beating she knew would follow, but the slamming of the bathroom door reached her ears like music. Slowly uncurling herself and straightening up, she wiped the tears that had come streaming down her face, stumbling her way to the kitchen.


Finally, Shaurya left for work, but not before he had slapped Mira twice and almost drenched her in piping hot coffee. She heard the front door slam, nearly shaking the foundation of the enormous suburban flat. Only then did she allow a groan of relief escape her parched lips, slumping into the nearest chair at the massive kitchen table.

Mira’s body sagged with reprieve, and her breathing returned to normal. The left side of her face seemed to be on fire from the slaps. She laid her head onto the cool wooden surface of the polished table and involuntarily drifted off to sleep; worn out from the physical and emotional ordeal she had just been through. Her subconscious glided away to the cheerful memories in her mind.

“I aced it, top of the class!” Jamal had been beside himself with jubilance. His results had just been declared, and like he had predicted, he had done extremely well. Mira looked at him from their bed with unbridled euphoria in her eyes. Jamal was bounding about the room like an ecstatic five-year old, and Mira couldn’t help but laugh.

“Now we can be truly free. We can move to my native village; the ancestral home is ours for the taking. We will lead a quite life – you can pursue and impart your musical talents and I can teach at the village school. Just like we want to’” Jamal sat himself on the bed besides Mira, pulled her into his arms and held her tight.

But first, we get married, of course,” he breathed into her soft, luxuriant hair. “We will spend quiet weekends reading, talking, listening to music, taking long walks, or just doing nothing at all. Away from all this hustle and bustle.” Jamal added, the ecstasy evident in his voice.

The jarring tone of the landline woke Mira from her slumber. When she tried to raise her stiff body from the chair she almost doubled over in pain from the bruises acquired from her fall. Mira made her way to the living room and received the call only to find a monotonous insurance agent on the other end. She disconnected without a second thought.

She glanced at the photo within. It was from her wedding day with Shaurya, two months ago.

The effort of walking to the living room and answering the call made Mira giddy, causing her to lean on the small, ornate table upon which the phone resided. She clumsily knocked over a photo frame while trying to regain her bearings. The shattering of the frame against the marble flooring caused Mira to jump out of her skin. She glanced at the photo within. It was from her wedding day with Shaurya, two months ago.

Such a handsome couple, look at them! They are obviously made for one another. Such a lucky girl. Such a lucky girl.

Mira could still hear the relatives and the guests exchange these words in gushed, envious tones. If only they could see me now, she thought to herself bitterly, leaning back into the plush sofa.

Theirs had been an arranged match. When Mira confided in her parents about her plans to marry Jamal, her parents went berserk.

He doesn’t belong to our community! How could we ever accept him? What does he want to do for a living, teach village children? Nonsense! He will ruin your life, and then you will come crawling back to us when you will not be able to afford the niceties that life has to offer. We will lose face before our society, is that what you want your parents to go through? Is that how we have raised you to be?

We will lose face before our society, is that what you want your parents to go through?

The words came back to Mira; lashing against her ears, she could hear them so clearly that they knocked the breath out of her. No amount of begging, pleading, or threatening had worked. Of the many proposals that had come flooding in, Mira’s parents zeroed in on Shaurya. He was smart, attractive, well-educated with an MBA, a well-paying job, a house of his own; in short, every parent’s dream.

Mira did not realise that she had started crying. Massive sobs wracked her body, draining her of any semblance of energy she had remaining within her being. It seemed hours before she stopped crying, but it seemed to be over almost as suddenly as it had started. Mira rubbed the tears off of her face with the edge of her robe with newfound fervour and rose from the sofa. She had to get away, or she would cease to exist much longer.

On her way to the bedroom, Mira first poured herself a cup of strong, tepid coffee, and drank it down in large gulps. Once in her room, she headed for the adjoining dressing room and selected a simple knee-length summer dress. On her way out, she happened to glance at the mirror and saw that the low cut of the summer dress bared her neck and shoulders just enough that some of older, fading bruises were visible.

Self-consciously, Mira reached for a dark scarf and wrapped it around her neck protectively, draping her shoulders as well. She applied make-up on her face to hide the fresh bruises from the morning. On the way out, she grabbed her keys and dumped them in the satchel, slamming the door shut behind her.

Mira did not know where she was headed. She walked without a destination in short, quick strides; her strappy, flat sandals slapping against the pavement with every step. It was almost as if she was possessed, and yet she had never felt freer in her entire life. Without realising it, Mira found herself at the local train station. She didn’t know why her feet had brought her there, and began to feel anxious. People were rushing about her, as she stood there clueless.

Unexpectedly, the hair at the back of Mira’s neck prickled, on edge. She felt a stare burn into her back. Heart thudding in her chest, Mira turned and there he was. The same coffee brown eyes, the same shoulders, albeit a little slumped, the very same person who was once the reason behind her elation and now her unrelenting sorrow. The luggage beside him was evidence that he was fulfilling his dream of residing in a quiet village.

What she saw destroyed her. The shards of his wrecked soul were blatantly visible in his eyes.

He stood a few paces away, yet close enough for her to see the look of naked misery in his eyes before she averted her gaze. What she saw destroyed her. The shards of his wrecked soul were blatantly visible in his eyes. The mirth and vivaciousness had left his eyes, and they seemed to be made up of those shards now, and somehow they made their way in through her ribs and stabbed at Mira’s heart. The wreck that she saw within his spirit had been her gift to him, for loving her so completely and unyieldingly.

Mira forced herself to look up again, but when she did, he was long gone. Mira scanned the milling crowds around her, but couldn’t spot him again. And just like that, the comforting scarf around her neck now felt like a tightening noose. This was her penance, the harrowing torture she underwent everyday was nothing compared to the hell she had put him through. She could see it clearly now.

Sluggishly, she made her way out through the train station, and back home. She entered the empty, lavish house, closing the door with a click and leaning against it. This time when she closed her eyes she tried, albeit unsuccessfully, not to think of what could have been.

Pic credit: Image of man and woman in the park after a quarrel via Shutterstock


About the Author


Hello there! I am Foram, and I am a writer by profession. I have a Post Graduate Diploma in English Journalism, and languages are my go-to. I was brought up in the Middle East, read more...

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