With great effort she lifted herself from the couch and went to shower. Elizabeth Murphy looked as though she had died a thousand deaths in the past 4 days, but then she had looked like this for a year now. Everyone she had met had only one thing to say, ”Oh! You poor little thing. So young to have to go through such trauma.” The warm water seemed to be doing good to her. In the recent past, the shower seemed to be her favorite place where no one could see her crying. Where she could lament as much as she could with no one to judge her or tell her to be strong. She pulled on a black top and a pair of jeans. Just as she was about to brush her hair, her eyes fell on the photo. The photo spoke to her; it said soft words, which could only have meaning to her and her alone. She fell to the floor holding the photo close to her heart and howling for mercy, for the pain to leave her and most importantly for forgiveness. She remembered 18th November, 2010 as though it was yesterday.
“Salmon! I love salmon.” Said the ever so chirpy Ella. Elizabeth looked at her best friend with eyes full of care and love. She had known Ella since donkey’s years, growing up together in the same neighborhood, going to school together and ending up in the same college together. For Ella and Elizabeth it had been a roller coaster ride since the day they met.
“Ella! When will you change? Look at all the food you are dropping around you.” Ella paid no heed to her friend’s remark and continued eating as though she had not eaten for centuries.
“Elizabeth before I forget to tell you. I have made a huge breakthrough in the Cahrles consignment. Will be signing the paperwork tomorrow. Isn’t that fascinating?”
It had been four years since both Ella and Elizabeth had started working with London’s top of the art fashion firm. Eventhough they had started around the same time Ella was Elizabeth’s boss. Ella, one would say is a workaholic. But Elizabeth knew the truth, she knew Ella could pick up the best of each person’s idea and put it together as her own. She was not a cheat; as per Elizabeth she was a person with good communication and conviction, which could make her sell even ice to the Eskimo. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a calm and quiet person who did not believe in long working hours and would rather encourage someone’s idea than finishing her own job.
They both walked out into the cold night with jackets clinging onto them. “London should only have summer. Winters make me lethargic and early morning meetings make me cranky. Speaking of early morning meetings, I have one tom for the Charles consignment. Another thing Liz, I really hope you are paying attention to your work. I hope what I said last time is making a difference. Listening to people is not going to help you finish your work. Working is going to do that, I really do hope it has started making a difference. I have barely been in the office since the last time we spoke to monitor. How are things looking? I want an honest answer.”
“Oh! Don’t you worry? I have been putting my head into work and everyone is quite surprised to see this positive change in me.”
Ella looked at her friend for a long time and finally replied, “I hope you are giving me an honest answer.”
“Of course El. Why would I lie to you?” As a matter of fact, Elizabeth was lying to Ella. She had not turned a new leaf, in fact she had become worse. She not only listened to people in the designing department but had also made quite a few friends in the Accounts Department too. These friends were dong more damage than good at the present. But she chose the easy way out by lying to Ella.
“Well, Liz if that is the truth I couldn’t be happier. And oh look at the time I should head home and get some rest. Catch you later. Bye bye.” The two friends hugged each other goodbye and headed off in the opposite directions.
**beep beep** Elizabeth woke up startled to find her phone buzzing right next to her. It was a text message from her mother. It read, “Hello dear. How have you been? It’s been long since you came home for lunch? Would you like to come in the recent future? Love, mom” Elizabeth knew it had not been a long time and this was her mother’s method of checking on her daughters well being. She decided to reply to that text in sometime. Meanwhile, she got up and thought of having breakfast.
The kitchen with an eerie silence was not the best place in the house. It was not the same bustling area as it used to be. Today there was nothing in the microwave, no dishes in the sink and not even coffee in the coffee machine. She made a warm cup of coffee and opened the newspaper, the headlines read “Charles New Collection: A Stunner.”
“I got it. I got the Charles consignment. Can you believe it? They signed the paper just a while back.” Screamed Ella into the speaker of her phone.
“Congratulations El. I can see the happiness in your voice.”
“Oh! My voice is nothing. You should see me right now I’m jumping like a schoolgirl in the middle of the street. Meet me for lunch in half an hour at the Live Café? My treat.”
“Obviously its your treat. This consignment could mean another promotion for you, you know.”
“How I wish”
The newspaper was lying on the dining table while Elizabeth had drifted off into her own world. She picked up her empty cup and went to the sink to wash it. She should probably start looking for a new job. She should probably start living her life again. But it all seemed so wrong. It seemed unjustified. She knew she was living with a fear, a fear that was going to haunt her forever. She replied back to her mother saying she would be there for lunch today. Elizabeth’s parents house was a two-hour journey from her house. She knew if she wanted to reach in time for lunch she better leave now. She picked up her car keys and headed off for lunch.
“I love these nights when you and I can sit under the stars and talk. Don’t you?”, said Ella.
“Hmm.. You had to tell me something. I remember you mentioning something of this sort on the phone earlier.” Ella was avoiding this question the whole evening but there was no running away from it now. She looked down the 20 floors and saw life moving beneath her, she knew Elizabeth’s life would also move on. This wouldn’t be the end of her or their friendship.
“Okay Liz, whatever I tell you today should not affect our friendship at all. You have to remember I’m forced to do this. You have to remember that our friendship still means a lot to me. Okay?”
“El! What is it? Tell me now.”
“No, you promise me first.”
“I promise it wont affect our friendship.”
“Due to the recent cut down, you have been let go. I’ve been meaning to tell you this since morning but I just couldn’t. Looking at the present scenario I know how difficult it would be for you to get a job. I really did try my level best to persuade the management but they wouldn’t listen. Oh for Christ sake say something.”
Ella turned to see her friend smile back at her.
“What are you smiling about?”
“I’m just stunned that you think our friendship is so fragile that it would get affected by such trivial issues. So what if I was let go! I can find another job. Its not the end of the world. Stop getting o worried about me. Would you like another glass of wine?”
“Oh Liz! I can’t believe it that you have taken this so well. And yes I would definitely like another glass of wine.”
Elizabeth went inside the house and started pouring two glasses of wine. Just as she was about to leave the room he eyes fell on the laptop sitting on the coffee table. She was stunned beyond wits and had no cue what to do.
“Liz, where is the wine?”
“Coming El.” With this she picked up the laptop and headed out to the terrace.
Elizabeth pulled the car in her mother’s driveway. She checked her face one last time in the rear view mirror. She looked like a mess and she knew her mother would notice that the moment she saw her.
“Hi mom. How have you been?”, asked Elizabeth on entering the house.
Helen was wearing a white summer dress with an apron tied around her waist. She looked exhausted with all the cooking and cleaning, yet the smile on her face was intact. “Oh Liz! I was not expecting you to be here for atleast another fifteen minutes. I’m good. How have you been?”, inquired Helen and sat her daughter by the fireplace. “Would you like a cup of tea, darling?”
“No thanks mom. I was infact thinking since I am early I would love to take a walk. Would you mind? We could catch up while eating lunch?”
Helen looked at her daughter and realized that a little fresh air would do good to her. Elizabeth started walking down the hill and let the path take her wherever it wanted to.
“Hey! What took you so long? Could you not find the bottle?”
“No. No. My mind was just preoccupied.”
The two friends relaxed under the stars and took in the silence between them. After what seemed like an eternity, Elizabeth opened the laptop.
“Hey El! I was just wondering when were you planning to tell me about this?”, asked Elizabeth pointing towards the laptop screen.
Ella within a fraction of a second went pale. “Where did you find this Liz?”
“That’s not the point Ella. The point is that these are my designs. The one which you condemned saying they were a disaster and even beggars wont wear them. I would like to know how they are a part of you Charles consignment.”
Ella took a deep breath and spoke, “Liz, I did not steal them. When I was working on my consignment they seemed to be looking for something similar to your idea. So I simply picked it up and presented it.”
“Ella you call this similar? This is exactly what I had shown you the other day. This is stealing Ella. Did you atleast tell the management these were my ideas?”
“Of course not, Elizabeth. This was supposed to be my consignment. They would think I am incapable. Why would I jeopardize my career?”
“Did it ever cross your mind that if you had mentioned these were my ideas it could have saved my job?”
By now Ella and Elizabeth were standing face to face at the edge of the terrace with the laptop in Elizabeth’s hand. “I really don’t know what you are getting so angry about. They are not that great anyway. It wouldn’t have been able to save your job.”
“Fine Ella. If these designs are not so important you wouldn’t mind me deleting them completely off your laptop. Would you?”
Ella looked as though Elizabeth had just stabbed her in the back.“No, you wouldn’t.”
With this the two of them started pulling at the laptop. Elizabeth being the stronger one pulled the laptop off Ella’s hand.
Ella lost her balance and fell backwards. Elizabeth saw her friend fall, fall down 20 floors. She stood there dumbstruck and had no idea what had just happened. A few minutes later the neighbors came up to the terrace to find Elizabeth standing in the middle of the terrace with the laptop in her hand. Ella was lying on the ground, 20 floors down, surrounded by a pool of blood.
Elizabeth had not realized that the path had led her to the graveyard. She opened the rickety gate and decided to finally walk up to the grave she had been avoiding since the past one year. She felt she could never do justice to the grave. She walked with her knees shaking and tears rolling down her cheek.
At the end of the graveyard she sat beside a tombstone, it read, “Ella Matthew. Always remembered.”
Elizabeth wanted to say something to her friend. She wanted to ask for forgiveness, but couldn’t form the words. She wanted to talk to her friend but that was not possible. She wanted 18th November 2010 to come back but it wouldn’t.
She simply looked at the tombstone and cried. She knew if she stayed longer she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. She took out a brown envelope from her bag, placed it on the grave and walked back.
Helen was beginning to get worried now. It had been days since she had spoken to Elizabeth. Well not days but rather just one day. She had not spoken to her daughter since she left the house after that day’s lunch. It was not like Elizabeth to not reply to phone calls or revert to text messages. She shunned the thought aside that her daughter was in grave danger, she could have been job hunting for all you know. To be on the safer side, she decided to wait till 4 o’clock in the evening and if Elizabeth did not call by then she would head off to London herself.
Time seemed to have flown for Helen. The clock struck 5 and Elizabeth had not replied till now. Helen checked her phone over and over again in the car. She wanted to drive away the negative thoughts in her mind but they seemed to come back after every five minutes.
Finally, the car pulled into Elizabeth’s Driveway. Helen couldn’t help but run to her daughter’s doorstep. She rung the door bell and pounded on the door but there was no movement in the house. She finally got out the duplicate key and opened the door.
The house had a weird pungent smell and a mysterious silence around it. Helen was scared to enter and find out what had happened to her daughter. She first called out. And was greeted by the mysterious silence and not her daughters sweet voice. She entered the dining and space and got the shock of her life.
Elizabeth was lying on the floor with her wrist slit and a knife lying next to her. She had indeed done what Helen had feared the most. She had killed herself. Helen fell to the ground and held her daughter’s body close to her. Godknows for how long she must have sat like this but she noticed an envelope on the dining table and went to pick it up. The envelope read in Elizabeth’s slant handwriting “Mom”. With trembling hands Helen opened the envelope to find a letter addressed to her. It read,
By the time you read this I’ve probably killed myself. Mom there is some truth to what people say. I could have saved Ella. I was the only one present there. Mom, you cannot always ignore the truth. You cannot always pretend like you don’t know anything. I have known this for a long time now that you know exactly what happened that night. You know this since the day Charles and Co. unveiled their collection dedicated for Ella. Cause it was you who had seen my designs even before Ella had.
I appreciate you never asking me as to what happened that night. The past four days have been exceptionally tough for me. With the designs being revealed as a dedication to Ella and thy being appreciated worldwide. I could never pack up the courage to tell anyone that those designs were mine. I knew people would judge me. They would call me a traitor. They would say I had killed my friend and was now taking the fame for her hard work. But I know you wouldn’t think this way mom.
I followed your advice and visited Ella’s grave the other day that I visited you for lunch. It did not bring me closure but I don’t think I could have taken this step without giving her what she deserved. I had cut up clippings of the new collection and kept it on her grave. I hope she forgives me. I really hope she does.
Mom, I want you to know that I loved you. But living with the pain of having killed someone was worse than dying. I hope I become a better friend to someone else if not Ella. For one last time.
Lots of Love,