Romeo and Juliet
by Vinita Radhakrishna
(Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
He was her Romeo. He was everything she had been waiting for. He was not too tall, around her height. He was not too fair, he was dusky. He had long, shoulder length hair which usually was a big turn off but on him, it looked perfect. He had a manly voice, a deep one which made her heart beat faster every time he spoke to her and he had a crooked smile which brought out the twinkle in his chocolate brown eyes. She didn’t know that he loved her. She knew that she was in love with him and this was not a good thing.
She was sitting in her office cabin when the desk phone rang. She picked up within two rings and said,
‘Hello, Inspector Neha here.’
The voice on the other end scared her; it was the same rough voice that made her heart beat faster.
‘Hello, my lovely Neha. How are you, Inspector?’
She could hear his full throat laugh after he said that. She was an Inspector but she was no less a criminal. Like always, hearing his voice made her forget everything. She started laughing with him. It was only when she looked around that she realized that nothing was all right. He wasn’t the one on the call. She hung up.
Neha had been working with the police force of the city from the past four years. It was a short span of time indeed but her hard work and determination had not only won hearts of her male companions but also of the seniors working with her and above her. Even when she was promoted as an Inspector last year, Neha was sure, all the wishes and congratulations were from the heart.
She loved her job. She loved that she didn’t have to sit in the office the whole day and get buried in files. She loved the thrill of helping people and saving them. It made her feel like a messenger of God, in a way, she was. Everything was all right till that day when he walked into the police station. He wasn’t alone. He had been cuffed by her assistant whom she had sent out to arrest a known criminal, who stole from jewelry stores once in three months and then went underground. He had never been seen or spotted before but two weeks she had got an anonymous tip, giving her the time and place of the next crime.
They made a full proof plan and caught him, after the act. Usually Neha wouldn’t miss a chance to catch a criminal red handed but the files on her desk had been lying since six months and she had to write them and submit them in a week’s time. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t been to the crime scene. They had caught him and when Neha saw him, she knew nothing would be the same again.
They put him in a cell which looked exactly as they did in movies, the difference being they had no windows. Her cabin was right in front of the cells and every time she looked at them, she could see him looking at her. He had not spoken a word but he had a smile on his face, that smile which had been there even when he entered the police station. It seemed he had been waiting to be caught.
They already had proof on him enough that once the case went to court, he would serve a minimum of five years in prison. The court cases, however, weren’t instantaneous as they showed in movies. His hearing was scheduled for the coming fortnight.
When Neha went to talk to him, she was nervous. Inspector Neha had never been nervous in her entire life. He seemed to be waiting for her. That was the day it started. She heard his voice for the first time.
‘Hello Neha, sorry, Inspector Neha. I have been waiting for you.’
The other policemen had gone out on duty or dinner and Neha was alone in the station with him. He was behind bars but he still scared her.
‘Who are you? How do you know me?’
Even as she said it, Neha knew how stupid she sounded. She couldn’t take it back now. She waited for him to respond. He came closer, his face pressing against the cell, Neha wanted to take a step behind but she couldn’t. He smiled at her; he had a beautiful smile which lit up his eyes even when he was in prison and then told her, ‘I am your Romeo and you’re my Juliet.’
Neha didn’t know what would have happened if they had not been interrupted by another night duty Inspector. She quickly came out of her trance and walked to her cabin. It was only when she sat down on the desk and closed her eyes did she realize, he was indeed his Romeo.
As a young girl, Neha loved to narrate stories and enact them. For one of her school plays, Neha was chosen as Juliet. She had been so excited that she wanted to enact the part perfectly. She wanted to excel in it. She practiced her lines regularly and one day, while she was sitting in the swings telling the lines aloud to herself, he spoke.
‘O, I’m a fortunate’s fool.’
Neha was startled. She had not seen him coming. He was younger then, older then her by some years but still relatively young. From that day, they got along well. Neha practiced her lines with him.
He lived in the neighborhood although she had never seen him before and her parents had always been too busy to notice whom she interacted with. She was a rich businessman’s only daughter and though she had all the luxuries and toys, she never had time with her family.
He came to the garden every evening and they practiced every day till the sunset. They had been so involved with the play and themselves, they hadn’t even asked each other’s names. He was her Romeo and she was his Juliet.
The evening before the play when they were still enacting parts of her play. He said, ‘O my Juliet, I shall not seek you till later. Thou don’t forget, I shall forget you never.’
Neha hadn’t seen him after that evening. Even after the play got over and Neha got busy with life, she kept a look out for him all the time and she had never been successful. Eventually she had pushed thoughts of her Romeo deep in her mind and continued with life.
Now sitting in her cabin, Neha could remember each day of that one month vividly. He had been a total stranger but she had adored him and deep down, even in that adolescence age, fallen in love with him. Till date, Neha knew now, she had been in love and seeing him today just brought that rush back, she didn’t even know his name. He knew who she was, maybe he always had known who she was, he was playing with her, then and now but she couldn’t believe it.
She knew now why he had been smiling. He had been seeking his Juliet and had finally found her. Committing those thefts and getting caught had been his way of coming back into her life. That anonymous call which she had been unable to trace had been him. That didn’t make him any less a criminal, he was still guilty, he would still be imprisoned but things would never be the same, he was the love of her life and he was a criminal.
Neha spent more and more time at the police station everyday and every time, the station was empty. She would stand outside his cell. She never said a word to him, he didn’t either. They stood there looking at each other. This continued for months even after the court cases started. Neha was the main Inspector who had to file his report. She did her work diligently.
The proof against him was clear. He had been a petty thief throughout his life and then two years back; he tried his hand by stealing at a jewelry store and that success, made him continue with it. He had a partner who was shot down by the police in an open gun fire some months back and since then, he had been in hiding.
Now that he was caught, the phone at the police station refused to stop ringing. Witnesses called and admitted to have seen him a day or two before the crime took place. He would observe his next crime spot from a distance for hours. The callers identified him due to his pictures in the news and papers and were ready to repeat this in court. One caller had even taken a low quality image from his cell phone where he was seen walking around the crime scene the evening before the theft.
Neha would continue with her reports and work, he was being safely shuffled to and fro from the court to the station. He had never caused any trouble. He would walk to the jeep, go to the court, stand in the box and then come back. He never spoke a word. His smile never left his face.
On the evening before the court’s verdict was to be out, he spoke to Neha. He quoted a line out of the play,
‘Romeo loved Juliet,
Juliet felt the same,
When he put his arms around her,
Juliet thou art my flame,
Thou give fever…’
Neha knew what those lines meant. She felt tears fall from her eyes but she didn’t wipe them. She didn’t want to take eyes of him for even a second. They both knew what the verdict was going to be. He would be put away in a high security prison for the next several years.
‘My only love, sprung from my only hate,
Too early seen unknown, and known too late.’
It was the first time she didn’t see him smile. There were tears in his eyes, there were tears in hers. They looked at each other for several minutes before Neha turned back and went to her cabin. She didn’t see him after that evening.
The next day when Neha was back at the station, his cell was empty. He had been taken away. Some days later, she got the news, that he killed himself. His heart had been punctured.
Back in the present, Inspector Neha was sitting in her cabin. It had been more than six months since he was dead but the phone call she had just received was him. She knew it. He could reach her from beyond the world. He was asking her to join him there.
She sat in her cabin that whole night. Next day, early morning, they had a gunshot coming from her cabin. She had shot herself with her gun. The report on him was open on the desk.
‘We two parted in silence and tears.
Half broken hearted
To sever for years.’