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  • Shivali Yadav


The party was in full swing - all around me, people were mingling, the sounds of their joyous laughter reverberating in the evening gleam. Lights sparkled all around the garden and with an easy smile, I moved through the crowds, people turning towards me as I passed them like sunflowers to the sun. I drank in their attention, feeling at ease. From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a figure roaming at the edge of the crowd. It was strange - he seemed unwilling to come into the gathering, unlike everyone else who was trying so desperately to fit in. Even the stranger - when he saw he had caught my attention, he turned around and walked away. Despite myself, I felt slighted. Who did he think he was, turning away from me?

I swerved around the crowd with the expertise of an animal in its natural habitat and followed the figure into the house. Through the open kitchen door, I could see him refilling his glass, slouched over the table as if used to being unseen. A tingle went up my spine, but I couldn’t figure out why.

As I approached him with a grace long embedded in my movements, he called out, "Hello again, Miss Beth," without turning. His voice was low, but it set my brain whirring - I recognized this voice. Who was it? And why did he sound so sad?

"Who are you?" I felt a tremble in my voice threatening to destroy my poise.

"Don’t you even remember me, Miss Beth?" he called out, finally doing me the honour of turning towards me. I reached for my phone as I saw the man pull out a silver object, horror and trepidation twisting my gut. Even in my own home, I suddenly felt endangered. The man tossed the object towards me, and I flinched.

I expected to feel the sharp pain of a knife wound, but instead, the object dropped weakly to the ground at my feet, harmless. I peered at it closely, and what I saw made my whole body numb, flooded with cold. "Who are you?” I asked again, but I already knew. The man had stopped dead a few feet away from me, and now I could see his shoulders were bent with dejection.

He offered me a faint smile. “Yes, I didn’t expect you to remember, so when I saw that necklace in a shop window, I thought it might help.” His smile faded away, as did any vestiges of doubt that I had. “Your mother still doesn’t know, does she? How shocked she’ll be if she realizes it was her beloved daughter stealing her precious jewellery to sell for money for herself. Do you think she’ll feel the regret and guilt that you didn’t, Miss Beth?”

I felt the bravery and boldness drain from my body and I staggered backwards. “You…I had you sent to jail. How…?” The man let out a low chuckle, the sound having the strange quality of being unused for a long time.

“Sent to jail for a crime I never committed. Well, to be fair, sent to jail for witnessing you commit a crime. I spent 15 years in a hellhole for your felony, just because I was a servant who caught their prestigious master stealing. Just because you couldn’t risk your reputation getting tainted, so you ruined my life.” I couldn’t talk, could barely think - I’d never expected to see him again. When he’d seen me pilfering the necklace and connected the dots to the other pieces of jewellery that had gone missing from our stately home, I’d panicked. I had cried out to my mother and told her I’d caught the servant robbing her.

He was a simple, poor cleaner taking advantage of his betters, and our family had never been one for compassion. My mother pulled all the strings necessary to get him thrown in jail, and I had put the whole ordeal out of my mind. With a rush of mortification, I recalled every other time I’d humiliated the servants, thrown the food they got for me, called them names. Maybe this was karma returning the favour on this gloomy evening. Maybe all those guests outside would finally see me thrown from my throne, and cease their worship of me.

“You always thought you were so much better than us, treated us worse than the dust on your feet. I’ve spent 15 years being tortured for something I never did, Miss Beth. I’ve had more than enough time to let my anger fester, my hatred for you and your family rage. But then I realized something. While I was caged in there, I could have let my fury confine me and define me - but I didn’t. I served your 15 years, but now I’m free. You, however? You and all those other people who treat us horribly? The poison of ego, pride, and so-called superiority that makes you act this way will imprison you your whole life. You will never be free of this anger and loathing. I did not come here for an apology - I am not naïve enough to expect one - but I do hope that from now you stick to destroying your own life, not other’s.”

The man walked away, letting the glass in his hand fall to the ground. All I could do was stare at the necklace near my feet, and let the ocean of regret and guilt drown me.

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