The Topography of Pain - by Amrita Valan (Flash Fiction 2021)

Amrita Valan is a writer from Bangalore, India and has a master's degree in English Literature. Her last job was as a content creator in deductive logic and reasoning in english. She is currently a stay at home mom to two boys. Her work has been published in more than a dozen anthologies and online journals including Spillwords, ImpSpired, Cafe Lit, Cafe Dissensus, Shot Glass Journal and Oddball Magazine, among others.


The Topography of Pain

by Amrita Valan
 
The valleys and gorges in his chest hurt each day since she left. He befriended the deep ravines of absence, gashes etched by glaciers of abandonment. Bottomless pits serrated hollow scoops of his heart, a daily bloodletting since Avantika’s departure.
Pratyush was a student of commerce in college, where he first met, then was besotted by the flamboyant and flirtatious Avantika. Her thick glossy mane of coppery hair, behind which she hid her almond eyes, her bow shaped lips, her infectious laughter made his blood rush.
They took the same bus back home, so he started purchasing two tickets to sit next to her. If the bus was crowded, she sat while he stood in attendance. If the bus was a packed tin can, he used his body to protect her from collisions with men who ogled her.
Ava grew fond of him while unabashedly sighing over the latest college stud. They were only friends, but surreptitiously he hoped. 
The second year of college saw his dream come true. Ava was standing red eyed, tremulous at the bus stop. He was horrified yet gratified, when she rested her head on his shoulders and wept, bitterly narrating a tale of betrayal. She had been dating Sunny for a month. They’d gone to the college fest and the Colonial Cousins concert, thus cementing their public relationship status. Suddenly he started going AWOL. Today, he had brutally informed her he wasn’t serious. There was another girl, and he shouldn’t have gotten this intimate. Sunny was apologetic, but he hated drama. Ava walked away, stone-faced, flames of a setting sun hurting her eyes. Till Pratyush arrived and so did her tears.
Their love affair was tender, merciful, and urgent. Need for intimacy defined their commitment. Ava asked, ‘Are we soul mates?’  Pratyush kept silent. Discussing would tempt fate. 
Fate was more callous. On Valentine’s day, it was delivered to Ava, a blue inland letter from America, containing protestations of undying love and abject apologies from Sunny. She started corresponding, applied to the same bunch of American colleges he had the year before his departure. They were both humanities students, Sunny, a year senior, and he guided her efforts. Ava secured admission to his university. Pratyush knew of her American dreams but not of the rising sun who awaited her there.
He hadn’t her academic aptitude and was already working in an accountant’s firm on a modest salary. He let his dream girl go, to fulfil the dreams in her eyes. Resigned to live with the knowledge that they were soulmates, just not meant to be together. Romanticizing a futile love. But Avantika rediscovered her conscience, just before leaving. She confessed how a repentant Sunny and she had made their peace, and how she felt he deserved a second chance. ‘True love’, she said, ‘is fated to be, and we were not fated to be dearest.’ Tears trembled. She made no effort to hide them with her lustrous mane.
Pratyush took her face in his palms, then deliberately dishevelled her brown sheath to veil those almond eyes. Which glowed harder than diamonds for all their tearfulness.
In them, he spied a world foreign to him.
Where skies seemed bluer in photographs she shared on Facebook, and the length of the majestic Rockies, infinite.
Pratyush hid another world in his heart, which captured the absolute topography of his pain.

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