Sunday
20:00 Hrs

It was the coldest mid January winter. I bolted the front door and double-checked the lock. Ann was waiting downstairs. It was our first wedding anniversary and I had booked us a ticket for the latest movie at a multiplex downtown. She always insisted on a simpler plan. In a red Versace gown and a shawl wrapped around her, she looked as beautiful as ever. I hugged her from behind.

“I love you,” I said as I tightened my arms around her never wanting to let her go.

“And I love you more,” she smiled, “lets get going before we lose the beginning in your romantic talks. We have all night for that.”

“When have I been late?” I complained.

“Remember that day, when you turned up 30 minutes late for our wedding,” Ann mocked stressing more on ‘wedding’ part. I knew I had to hear that for the rest of my life. Women never forget being stood up, even if for a minute.

The plan was simple.

20:00 Hrs: 15 mins walk to Taxi Stand.
20:15 Hrs: 30 Mins Drive Downtown.
20:45 Hrs: 10 Mins alley walk toward the theatre.
20:55 Hrs: Theatre.

What she dint know was that a surprise party was waiting for her after the movie.

20:05 Hrs

We were nearly half way towards taxi stand. A year later, I still felt more in love each day that I held her hand and walked down the street. She is my pride. I just could not stop thinking about her. We crossed the back alley of a meat shop, when the butcher came out to close for the day. Some think struck my mind then.

“What?” Ann asked guessing the obvious expression on my face.

“I think I left the back door open.” I said. “I should go and check.”

“Oh no, we will be late for the movie. I hate missing the prelude.”

“Honey, the credits are worth being missed. Don’t worry we will get there in time. I will be back in 10,” I promised.

20:10 Hrs

I had a reputation of being finicky. I liked double-checking every time I left my apartment. The obsession went back to my 10th grade year. My father took us on a vacation to a beach on west coast of Hawaii. Two days later, we received a call from our neighbor saying our house had been robbed. They took everything from cash that my father had been saving for my high school year to most of the electronic equipments. It turned out that my father had missed a window that served the entrance for robbers. I ended up attending a community college near by. The worse two years of my life that I scrapped through.

I checked the back door, thrice. I had locked it neatly although I failed to remember when. I turned back to join Ann. We had just lost 10 minutes. Given the time frame, we could still make it to the theater by 21:05 hrs. What harm could a 10 minutes delay cause?

20:25 Hrs

“What after the movie, honey?” she asked sliding into my arms. This was the right time to throw her off the hook and then surprise her with my master plan.

“I guess we will go for a short sight seeing and then head back home,” I answered as if it was the best plan I could come up with.

“That’s it? You want to go home and sleep on our wedding anniversary. How depressing are you?” she questioned, to which I only managed a shrug. Playing it cool was not my cup of tea.

20:55 Hrs

I held open the cab door for her, marrying her had not made me lose my charisma. She stepped out clenching harder to her shawl. It was beyond freezing on that particular night. I unbuttoned my over coat and wrapped it around her. I asked the cab driver to meet me at the same place at 23:00 hrs. We started walking towards the theater. The alley was dark and deserted as if no one had visited it in decades. Streetlights hardly managed to do their part of the walkway. Rest of the part was dimmed by moon light. I drew Ann closer to my side as we walked past closed shops.

“We should have been in the theater by now had you not gone back to check the already locked doors.” Ann mocked my finicky nature.

“Well my nature comes with me in the marriage. It’s a package deal honey. Bear with me. And anyways what’s with the movie credits and you.” I said sarcastically. She did not react, her face turned pale as she stopped and looked in a far corner.

“There’s someone in that corner,” she said panicking. I looked in the direction where a middle-aged man stood with a gun in his right hand. His long hair covered his face and his over grown beard made it even harder to read him in that dark alley. I moved Ann behind me and took slow steps towards him.

“We don’t want any trouble. Take all you want and leave.” I said taking out my wallet and tossing it at his feet.

“I don’t want any trouble either, if only you co operate like good generous citizens,” the mugger replied bending to collect the wallet. “The necklace!”

“What?”

“Your wife’s necklace. Toss it this way before I blow her head off.” He said pointing the gun at Ann.

“Ann! Give him the necklace. Hurry.” I said as I moved to cover her. “Here, now let’s not push this any further. We have given you all we had. Just walk away and I promise we won’t have any trouble or cops.” I held Ann’s hand and walked slowly away from him.

I saw a man approaching from behind the mugger. The dim light failed my eyes to locate a cop approaching stealthily. Too late, I thought as I realized that the mugger had suspected a stranger’s presence. He turned around to look and panicked at the sight of a cop. Adrenaline rushed through his body as he pulled the trigger in terror. In a fraction of second, the bullet left the gun and sped towards Ann.

Too late, I thought. Happy Anniversary my love.

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