ACCIDENTAL ENCOUNTER • by Rohini Gupta

She paused on the street, suitcase at her feet, crying under her dark glasses.

She had spent an unpleasant morning packing a few rumpled clothes, old photos and a few faded letters, leaving it till almost the last minute, an hour before he was due to return.

She had no idea what she was doing but she knew she could not stay.

Where was she going to go? She could go to the bridge and throw herself into the murky waters, ending her miserable, useless existence. She might throw the suitcase in first and watch it split in indecent haste, exposing the entrails of her forgettable life, her clothes floating up in soggy puddles of black and grey.

The image in her mind nauseated her, but what else was left for her?

She picked up the suitcase and began to trudge through the hammer of the sun, down the noisy city streets. Hardly able to see where she was going, she bumped into someone.

“Usha?” he said.

She blinked at him and then she recognised him. Raghu, her first love, her crush in school, whom she had not seen since the day she graduated. He had hardly changed; older, of course, and expensively dressed.

He asked if he could buy her coffee and she said yes. He took her dusty suitcase. They walked to the corner cafe. She did not take off her glasses.

“You don’t look good,” he said.

Her voice shook when she said, “I’m leaving Anil.”

“Anil? You married him? But he…” his voice trailed off.

“I was a fool,” she said. “You always told me to keep away from Anil, didn’t you? You were right. I was stupid not to listen. He was everything you said — and more.”

“People change,” he said.

“And some people never do. I found a picture on Facebook — with another woman. They had their arms around each other, the way a man and a woman stand when they have shared a bed. I always suspected all those business trips. Now I know for sure.”

“Did you talk to him about it?”

She sighed, “Many times. He always accuses me of being paranoid.”

“And this time?”

“This time I told him it was no use lying any more. He hit me and told me I was the one having an affair. Me. Where do I do anything but work and keep house?”

The coffee arrived. He stirred his cup.

“It should have been you,” she said. “It could have been you.”

He smiled at her, “No, my dear, you were right to leave me. I was too wild and always in trouble.”

“I thought you would never spend a day sober and I thought Anil would give me wealth and security. Look at you now. What happened to you?”

He said quietly, “You did. When you walked out on me I thought my world has ended. Then I took a look at my life and determined to change. I have not had a drink since.”

She stared out of the window at all the people walking briskly as if life meant something. She wondered what her life would be like if she had followed her heart and not listened to all those who said Raghu was a disaster waiting to happen, that Anil was the up and coming one. She had loved them both and gone with Anil.

But then, if she had not left Raghu, would he have changed at all? Oh, the ironies of life.

“Are you married?” she asked him.

He smiled, “Yes, happily married. Two kids. Run my own company. Life is very good.”

Were there actually happy people in the world? He showed her the pictures on his phone. His wife and the children, laughing.

“I’m such a complete failure,” she said, her eyes tearing up again.

“Listen to me.” He leaned across the table. “You’ve taken a very brave step and there is a whole new life ahead of you. He is the failure, not you.”

“Do you really think so?’

There was anger in his tone, “I know him only too well.”

The phone in her purse began to ring. She took out the cheap shiny thing and laid it on the table. It kept ringing then fell silent.

He smiled. “One day you’ll look back at this new beginning. One day you will find happiness again, just as I did.”

Was it possible to ever be happy? There was nothing in her but a great echoing emptiness. Her marriage had scoured her clean of love, of caring, of everything but despair.

Yet, the dark had ebbed a little. “Thank you.” she said, “I needed that.”

“What will you do now?”

The bridge seemed far away. There was a part of her that still clung onto the suitcase, as if there were a thin thread of hope packed among the folded clothes.

She had an aunt who was alone and would welcome her.

“Perhaps,” she said, “it’s not all over.”

“I wish there was some way I could help.”

About to shake her head, she paused. The cell phone in front of her was ringing again.

“This is about all he ever gave me,” she said, pushing it across the table to him. “He bought the cheapest one he could find.”

He looked at it, puzzled, as the ringing stopped.

“I’d be grateful. A ‘hallo’ will do.”

He began to laugh as he understood. “Oh, I can do better than that.”

“Just let it ring a few dozen times,” she said, “He will not give up.”

“Neither will I,” he said.

She imagined her husband’s face when he heard a man’s voice on her phone, and not just any man.

As she stepped out into the sunlight the day seemed pleasantly bright. She stopped, put down the suitcase, and took off her dark glasses.


Rohini Gupta is a writer who lives by the sea in Mumbai, India. Rohini says: “I have published nonfiction and poetry books and am now writing fiction. Flash fiction is keeping me happy while writing longer stories.” Rohini’s blog is at wordskies.wordpress.com.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • A bitter-sweet story, nicely written. Perhaps too “nicely.” I would have liked to hear/feel more of her grief and despair in the first half. Her newly-found resolve came across a bit glossed over. ****

  • A bitter-sweet story, nicely written. Perhaps too “nicely.” I would have liked to hear/feel more of her grief and despair in the first half. Her newly-found resolve at the end came across a bit glossed over.

  • I really enjoyed reading this. I thought it was interesting, engaging and well written. I hope you expand it into a bigger story. I would love to hear more details about her relationships with both Raghu and Anil.

  • I really enjoyed reading this. I thought it was interesting, engaging and well written. I hope you expand it into a bigger story. I would love to hear more details about her relationships with both Raghu and Anil.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Rohini, I have always been more than admiring of the elegance, grace and what I felt was the true perfection of your prose. Hard to say about anyone and mean it, but it’s never been an exaggeration. As I said in another context there has never been a misplaced word in anything you write. That’s especially remarkable because you have approached some timeworn themes and made them glow.

    Without your byline here I wouldn’t have recognized this as one of your stories. It’s ordinary–something I’d never, never expect to feel. Not up to your own exceptional standards. I didn’t leave a vote.

    • S Conroy
      Thanks for this Sarah. I've just checked out another story by this author. Truly special.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Now if I may suggest "Why Do They Lie to Me?"
        • S Conroy
          Thanks again. It's priceless. Think I'll just have to read 'em all..
          • Carl Steiger
            I read all of Rohini's earlier stories some time ago, because they are truly magic. I also found the present story more ordinary than the others, but I did vote. Four stars here; the others have all been solid fives.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Rohini, I have always been more than admiring of the elegance, grace and what I felt was the true perfection of your prose. Hard to say about anyone and mean it, but it’s never been an exaggeration. As I said in another context there has never been a misplaced word in anything you write. That’s especially remarkable because you have approached some timeworn themes and made them glow.

    Without your byline here I wouldn’t have recognized this as one of your stories. It’s ordinary–something I’d never, never expect to feel. Not up to your own exceptional standards. I didn’t leave a vote.

    • S Conroy
      Thanks for this Sarah. I've just checked out another story by this author. Truly special.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Now if I may suggest "Why Do They Lie to Me?"
        • S Conroy
          Thanks again. It's priceless. Think I'll just have to read 'em all..
          • Carl Steiger
            I read all of Rohini's earlier stories some time ago, because they are truly magic. I also found the present story more ordinary than the others, but I did vote. Four stars here; the others have all been solid fives.
  • S Conroy

    Quite a pleasant read, but I feel I need more. What I’m not too sure. Perhaps it’s an understanding of the character and why she thinks her existence is miserable and useless. Is it because she lives in a very traditional society where her ultimate goal is to keep her man happy and bear him children. It would help this reader at least to get a glimpse of what’s going on there.

  • S Conroy

    Quite a pleasant read, but I feel I need more. What I’m not too sure. Perhaps it’s an understanding of the character and why she thinks her existence is miserable and useless. Is it because she lives in a very traditional society where her ultimate goal is to keep her man happy and bear him children. It would help this reader at least to get a glimpse of what’s going on there.

  • Pingback: Accidental Encounter, a flash fiction story | Word Skies()

  • Genghis Bob

    I’m afraid this one lost me when the protagonist, on making the fateful decision to leave her husband after years of badness, conveniently and coincidentally runs into “her first love, her crush in school, whom she had not seen since the day she graduated”.

    Too convenient; too coincidental. Just too easy.

    • S Conroy
      Funny, that was one part of the story I actually enjoyed. I mean I know it's a bizarre coincidences, but I've had a few of them - they do happen. What I quite like is the 'what goes around comes around' idea. Karma and all that. She helped him by leaving him- it turned him sober. And he now helps her by pretending to be her boyfriend. Irony how are you.
      • Carl Steiger
        I've experienced coincidences much less likely than Usha randomly meeting Raghu, so that doesn't bother me a bit.
    • terrytvgal
      Couldn't resist, Bob. "Well . . . if the infinite-universe theory has any validity to it, then anything an author can imagine is most certainly happening an infinite number of times. Anything imaginable. Right. Now."
      • Genghis Bob
        Ach! Hoist by my own petard! In my own defense, I'll point out that, while it is most certainly happening, it may not be the most interesting of the infinite possibilities for us to read about.
  • Genghis Bob

    I’m afraid this one lost me when the protagonist, on making the fateful decision to leave her husband after years of badness, conveniently and coincidentally runs into “her first love, her crush in school, whom she had not seen since the day she graduated”.

    Too convenient; too coincidental. Just too easy.

    • S Conroy
      Funny, that was one part of the story I actually enjoyed. I mean I know it's a bizarre coincidences, but I've had a few of them - they do happen. What I quite like is the 'what goes around comes around' idea. Karma and all that. She helped him by leaving him- it turned him sober. And he now helps her by pretending to be her boyfriend when she's leaving the man she originally left him for. Irony how are you.
      • Carl Steiger
        I've experienced coincidences much less likely than Usha randomly meeting Raghu, so that doesn't bother me a bit.
    • terrytvgal
      Couldn't resist, Bob. "Well . . . if the infinite-universe theory has any validity to it, then anything an author can imagine is most certainly happening an infinite number of times. Anything imaginable. Right. Now."
      • Genghis Bob
        Ach! Hoist by my own petard! In my own defense, I'll point out that, while it is most certainly happening, it may not be the most interesting of the infinite possibilities for us to read about.
  • joanna b.

    this is smoothly written, easy to read. the “hammer of the sun” was a great image.

    but the story itself did not have the ring of truth.

    if she’s going to jump off a bridge, why does she pack a suitcase to do it? as Genghis Bob commented, really? on the noisy city streets of a big city she meets her first love on the way to the bridge? he tells her that life is very good for him on all fronts and shows her pictures of his wife and children laughing but somehow turns into her savior?

    i liked this paragraph the best: “He said quietly, ‘You did. When you walked out on me I thought my world has ended. Then I took a look at my life and determined to change. I have not had a drink since.'”

    that does have the ring of truth. not to mention the ring of irony for the MC.

  • joanna b.

    this is smoothly written, easy to read. the “hammer of the sun” was a great image.

    but the story itself did not have the ring of truth.

    if she’s going to jump off a bridge, why does she pack a suitcase to do it? as Genghis Bob commented, really? on the noisy city streets of a big city she meets her first love on the way to the bridge? he tells her that life is very good for him on all fronts and shows her pictures of his wife and children laughing but somehow turns into her savior?

    i liked this paragraph the best: “He said quietly, ‘You did. When you walked out on me I thought my world has ended. Then I took a look at my life and determined to change. I have not had a drink since.'”

    that does have the ring of truth. not to mention the ring of irony for the MC.

  • Rohini Gupta

    Thank you for all for taking the time to read this and make comments. Thank you, Sarah, thank you, Carl.

    You all have all given me lots to think about and I will take the time to do just that. Then I will be back with more. The learning never ends and neither does the writing.

  • Rohini Gupta

    Thank you for all for taking the time to read this and make comments. Thank you, Sarah, thank you, Carl.

    You all have all given me lots to think about and I will take the time to do just that. Then I will be back with more. The learning never ends and neither does the writing.

  • spencer

    I liked the story… the one line that tricked me up was this one: There was anger in his tone, “I know him only too well.” What is Raghu’s connection to Anil… did all three of them go to the same school together?
    This line really can’t go unanswered- it should either be omitted or explicated further.
    The ending gravitates towards Usha’s transformation. The images are nice: all hinting toward the unknowing, fear, darkness. Yet, the ending illustrating her ability to change didn’t quite do it for me. I wanted her to express new-found liberation-perhaps its not quite the emotional change at the level of Mrs. Mallard in the “Story of an Hour,” but I’d personally like to see the character exhibit a behavior which is not in her norm. What if instead of taking of her glasses, she watches her phone’s slow plummet from the bridge.. its ringing gradually disappearing? What effect could an ending like this have?
    #Food for thought.

  • spencer

    I liked the story… the one line that tricked me up was this one: There was anger in his tone, “I know him only too well.” What is Raghu’s connection to Anil… did all three of them go to the same school together?
    This line really can’t go unanswered- it should either be omitted or explicated further.
    The ending gravitates towards Usha’s transformation. The images are nice: all hinting toward the unknowing, fear, darkness. Yet, the ending illustrating her ability to change didn’t quite do it for me. I wanted her to express new-found liberation-perhaps its not quite the emotional change at the level of Mrs. Mallard in the “Story of an Hour,” but I’d personally like to see the character exhibit a behavior which is not in her norm. What if instead of taking of her glasses, she watches her phone’s slow plummet from the bridge.. its ringing gradually disappearing? What effect could an ending like this have?
    #Food for thought.

  • Jen

    A nice light romantic piece, predictable but in a good way. Just what I needed now.

  • Jen

    A nice light romantic piece, predictable but in a good way. Just what I needed now.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A bit too pedestrian for me. I felt the speech needed contractions – it was a bit wooden in places. I loved the last line; very poignant.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A bit too pedestrian for me. I felt the speech needed contractions – it was a bit wooden in places. I loved the last line; very poignant.

  • terrytvgal

    A nicely told tale. I hope she keeps her resolve and moves ahead in her life. 4stars

  • terrytvgal

    A nicely told tale. I hope she keeps her resolve and moves ahead in her life. 4stars

  • Samantha Memi

    Don’t know how I missed this. Great work. I loved “You don’t
    look good,” he said.
    That’s the way to win a female heart 🙂
    Loved the ambiguity. 5 stars

  • Samantha Memi

    Don’t know how I missed this. Great work. I loved “You don’t
    look good,” he said.
    That’s the way to win a female heart 🙂
    Loved the ambiguity. 5 stars