The walls were pristine white. They were neither devoid of emotions nor did they present any stark reminder of a hospital. A number of canvases on the wall told stories through a riot of colors that pierced the monotony  like the first rays of the rising sun.

An array of chairs and tables, lamps hanging from the ceiling, and a long, granite counter held mouth-watering culinary assortments behind a glass shelf which held her attention but only for a fleeting moment.

There were handful of people in the room – a man who nursed a lone cup of coffee, which was his only companion, a couple who sat with their fingers entwined but their thoughts seemed to be far away from each other, an elderly couple who playfully bickered over the last bite of chocolate cake while sharing a steaming cup of tea. But in midst of this she sat alone on a table surrounded by books, a bottle of water, a cup of tea, papers with words scrawled all over them, a few memories, and regrets. She didn’t seem to belong there.

The kohl-rimmed eyes had a haunted look to them, which only magnified the grief reflected on her face; it did not flit but stayed constant. The devastation tore at the heart because it brought her to her knees. She was broken yet emanated strength.

She was strong! Why? Because had it been otherwise then the room would have been echoing with heart-wrenching sobs. It seemed as if something from the very core of her soul had been brutally ripped away; such wounds left no visible marks but scars that stayed timeless.

She gazed at one of the paintings quite aimlessly as if the vibrant colors held within their depth all the answers to her clashing thoughts. Tears lent a sheen to her otherwise blank eyes but last vestiges of pride wouldn’t allow her to shed them. Self-respect and an inherent ego helped hold her head high but fragments of jarring memories snuck in through her otherwise heavily guarded armor. He was the chef concocting bittersweet memories and regrets and she played the character of a mute spectator to perfection.

There was very little she could do about it because now it was too late.

“Is it?”, he would have asked with desperation and mockery lacing his voice. An icy hand closed around her heart as she thought of the man who had coaxed, manipulated, and cajoled her into questioning her sanity.

She tried hard to let go of the silent scream that wanted to deny his every accusation but her shattered soul and trembling hands told a different story.

Clenching her fists tightly, she reigned in her emotions and schooled her features to perfection. When she lifted her face, those looking at her were taken in by the smile on her luscious lips. She looked ethereal and so fragile. If one peered closely at her face then she was only a beautiful stranger enjoying the solitude.

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