On the day of Justin’s death; the day he had taken his client to see the big property, he had followed his client back from seeing the house in his client’s car. During their ride back, the Tyre suddenly busted and the man asked Justin to fix it. It was totally feasible why he would ask Justin. He was twice Justin’s age, he was wealthy, he thought that if he bought the house, he would be doing Justin a big one and Justin would probably do what he said to get on his good side. But the true reason why Justin accepted what the pompous, probably corrupt man asked was because he was simply a nice guy. He must have thought, ‘you don’t want to get your crisp white Caftan dirty while kneeling to fix your Tyre. There’s no problem. It would not hurt me to be nice and help.’ Unfortunately, it hurt a lot. While Justin was fixing the Tyre, a truck hit him. He didn’t even see the truck coming because he had his back to the road and the truck driver had not seen him because Justin was kneeling. Before the truck driver could stop to see the casualty, the client panicked and drove off leaving a lifeless Justin by the side of the road. The small man who came with the police to inform Alice of Justin’s death was the person who had hit him. He had narrated the incident to the stunned girl on their way to the mortuary after they had managed to revive her and her only response was a wry smile through teary eyes. Even until his last moment, he was a gentleman.
Justin was buried five days before Christmas; she knew that forever, Christmas would leave an awful taste in her mouth. She had cried that day to the extent that her throat went raw. But nothing had relieved the pain. She had wept bitterly as she asked countless elusive questions including ‘why’ but the hardest one was ‘How’ could She possibly go on living life without the man who was her everything? She felt like a deflated balloon, an extinguished flame, she had become pale; as white as ash and had aged thirty years over night. Life would definitely not be the same without Justin.
There was a lot of talk of the after-life during the period of his burial especially from Justin’s mother. Alice did not see the woman shed a tear; she only kept singing praises to God. She was what you’d call a super-believer. She had this iron clad mind-set which some psychologists may term neurosis. A mind-set which held on to the belief that the creator of the universe was this mega director to a blockbuster and though there was opposition and antagonism now, the plot would conclude with a glorious victory and transcendence to heaven. That crazy faith that could make a person say “I know God is with me and He loves me” while strolling in the valley of the shadow of death. Justin had adopted that belief system which was reason for his super positive attitude, and he had taught that belief system to Alice. She knew that he was in heaven for sure but what hurt her most was living here on earth without him. There were just two ordinary people with a not-so-extraordinary dream trying against all odds to achieve those dreams. Though it was hard, though they suffered and slept hungry sometimes, and even got disappointed it was worth a million more times than being alone in this cruel world. Justin was a cushion to the cruelties, without him, she felt exposed. He had just stopped to exist in her world, and he was her world. They said it got better after the funeral. Alice would say that was a big fat lie. Every day was harder than the day before. The pain in her heart never really stopped. It hurt more when she tried to keep the tears in. Justin was dead and the realisation that there was no them anymore felt like blades that tore up her soul, she felt mauled, pommeled and pulverized that he had simply vanished from her existence.
Around March of the next year, Alice returned back from the holidays. She had gone home for Christmas and had spoiled it for everyone. She always found herself crying from her sleep. Mom spent half of the time begging her to eat, Dad silently thought that her pain was self-induced since she had put all her eggs in one basket; all her love and trust and dreams had been in the hands of Justin, now that he was dead, it was natural that it seemed as if she had been stripped of life support. The holiday was not helping her condition, rather it made it worse. Anita had always felt alienated by the family but Justin made her feel as if she belonged somewhere, without him, the loneliness brewed a storm of depression which was so tangible. It was like a cancer in her soul.
Her mother asked her to stay after the holidays were over. “If you go back, you will miss him more.” She had said.
And Alice accepted to stay for a couple of months but she knew this was not where she belonged. In addition, her depression had become such a thick cloud that it affected her entire house hold. She decided to return. She had a business to run and pieces to pick but if she realized that she couldn’t go through with picking the pieces, then she would go back to her parents. At least that was what she told her mother.
Everything was how she had left it. Well, except that her house rent had expired. The landlord was compassionate enough to let her take her time to pay it, especially with all she had gone through. The Bakery was exactly how she left it, but now, whenever she stared at it, that hope that transformed it into that massive pink and brown building with delivery trucks by the side disappeared, what remained was the cold realization that there was no way she could go through with achieving her dream without Justin. How ironical was the name ‘Just-Alice’. Because she felt that it was just her in the world. She felt alone: Weak, dreary and lonely…