To my wife, Priyanka,
for the gentle nudges that push me in the right direction.
The moon shone on the long blade of the knife. The steel reflected a silver ray straight into her eyes, but she didn’t flinch. The wind howled through the overgrown vegetation that surrounded her as she stood rooted to her spot. A long minute elapsed. Then he held out the leather handle of the knife towards her, and finally a cracked voice broke out of her quivering lips: ‘I left that life behind years ago.’
The fervid expression froze on his face. In the bright moonlight, she saw the familiar black intensity in his eyes that she had never quite understood. ‘It has to be done, or they’ll take us down with them,’ he said.
‘But can’t we all sit down like civilized people and at least discuss it once?’ She was almost pleading now.
He stepped closer, reached out and shoved the handle of the knife into her reluctant palm. The burnished leather felt warm and inviting. She fought against the instinct to wrap her fingers around the handle and grip it hard. He sensed her dilemma and continued, ‘They’ve become crazed with greed. They refuse to see any sense. You and I are the only ones who can run this whole thing now.’ His tone softened to add, ‘You know that I love you, don’t you? I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ His voice was soothing, but his expression was still hard. A spark of doubt ignited in her mind. But, then he smiled in the most reassuring manner that she had ever seen and she found herself smiling back. She gazed into his determined, young face and he did not break his gaze from hers.
The sound of a dry twig breaking under the weight of someone’s foot rang out through the moonlit night. The spell broke. Both of them turned to see a long-haired girl walking up the path towards them.
He squeezed her hand. She let his warmth radiate through her body. She let a full minute pass and then slowly tightened her grip on the handle of the knife.
Ready for attack, she strode down the path, in the direction of the long-haired girl.