His ghastly face hovers above me and his devilish grin mocks me as I tremble and sob, groping in the dark for a place to hide.
I open my mouth to scream but no sound escapes my parched lips. My heart pounds inside my chest as I flail my arms to strike the face but my hands hit the air, and I wake up.
Another night. Another nightmare. I pant as I come around. Sweat trickles down my forehead and tears roll down my cheeks as I take in the stillness of my room. The face has vanished leaving behind a mind grappling with the ghost from the past.
I sit up on the bed and watch the soft moonlight streaming in through the sheer curtains. Pulling my knees to my chest, I hug my legs. My heart thumps within the ribcage as I breathe in deep to calm my nerves. How much longer do I have to endure this torture? All those sessions with the therapist…what a waste.
I bury my face into my hands and cry from fear and loneliness when I feel Bulbul’s soft fur brush against my arm.
I look up, into her chocolate brown eyes, as she whines softly and licks away my tears. Her velvety muzzle pushes against my arms so I cross my legs and make space for her. She flops by my side, lays her head on my lap and gazes into my eyes.
“I am here,” her eyes sparkle. “You don’t need to worry,” she grunts.
I pat her soft head and she snuggles closer. She peers at me, places a paw on my lap and whimpers. My strongest support system, she shielded me from the blows that threatened to break my bones and destroy my spirit.
“What would I do without you, Bulbul?” I murmur and hug her tighter.
Memories of the face come and go, like waves of the sea hitting the shore, then receding.
“It will take you time to get over the trauma, Kavita,” my therapist tells me every session we meet.
“The man is no longer in your life, Kavi. Forget him,” my mother tells me every time I pour my heart out to her.
“I will be here for you always…” Bulbul seems to say, her love exuding through every pore of her being. I kiss her head, hold her close, and lie down to sleep.
The alarm jolts me awake. I turn around to switch it off when I see the photo frame by the bedside lamp. The words, ‘I will always miss you’, etched above Bulbul’s picture startle me. I feel goosebumps erupt over my skin as I stare at the photo. I clicked it at the beach last month; our last trip together before the cancer snatched her away.
I turn around to see the empty space by my side, and the tears begin to flow once again.