The office premise was almost empty. In one corner, Riya was waiting alone in her cubicle, for getting the files signed by her boss. The files were important and needed by Boards of directors the next day. Even her boss is aware of the same. But today when Riya went to get them signed, she was driven away viciously, asking her not to disturb. So here she is now, still waiting at 9 pm to get the signatures.

The job of personal assistant to the MD-CEO of the prestigious S. N Group India in itself is unnerving enough. It was only her need and great perseverance that Riya has been able to survive this challenge for 3 long years and everyone respects her for that. This job gave her a lifeline when all the other doors were closed for her and today she is sticking here more out of gratitude than anything else. Otherwise, anyone and everyone is aware of the temper and working style of Parmita Sabarwal, which is one hell to match with. She has been the longest to survive this challenge. The entire office, call her boss “The Devil” behind her back. Riya also joins them sometime.

But today the devil herself was on fire.

Alone in the cabin, the hard hitting Parmita Sabarwal, was re-reading the email for the umpteenth time. She stared at the email message on her computer, her mind racing so fast that the words blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life–the life she’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build–begin to crumble around her.

“All secrets do not bury with the dead. Some are stored, treasured and nourished, to be used at the right moment. And the right time has come.”

For a moment she thought it was a prank. But who in this company can dare to do such a nasty prank on her? On a more careful look she sensed that the sender was well prepared and have masked the email address of the sender with her own ID. May be her IT team can unmask this spoofing, but she cannot share it with anyone. With a pale face, helplessly she read the mail again and wondered if the Pandora’s Box was opened at last?

**************************

Parmita Sabarwal took charge of this company, seventeen years back, after the sudden demise of Mr. Sabarwal, her husband. At that time the company was a mess and she was already struggling with her five year old daughter. But the erstwhile home maker tackled both with an iron fist and never looked back thereon. Under her able leadership, the company reached a new zenith and is today considered as one of the leading MNCs of Asia. Everything was working fine, but Parmita was never at peace. Her restlessness was not hidden from others. Even she herself understood it. But no one knew the reason and none dared to ask. But today’s mail proved that someone had known all along and was now playing tricks with her.

Triinggg… Tringgg…

The phone disrupted her thoughts. It was Ashi, her daughter.

“When are you coming back, Mom?”

“I will just leave, honey. You want anything?”

“No Mom, I was just checking out. Are you okay? Your voice seems a little drained.”

“I am absolutely ok dear”, Parmita forced a smile, “Will be back soon.”

Daughters are the greatest gift of God, Parmita thought to herself, after disconnecting the phone. Ashi has grown up to be such a fine lady. She could not have asked for more from God. Her super busy life forced her to put that little child in hostel at a very early age and till date she feels guilty for missing out the best days of her growing up. Only last week Ashi have returned home after completing her Engineering. The burden of the company, her own troubled life could have affected Ashi adversely. So with a heavy heart, she had taken that decision. And Ashi, a topper all through her school and Engineering College, never failed to make her mother proud.

The very thought of Ashi, warmed up Parmita, she composed herself and dialed the intercom, “Riya, come quickly and bring the files.”

*****************

It was almost 11 PM when Parmita left the office for home. As the car drove smoothly across the expressway she leaned her head on the car seat and closed her eyes for some rest. The day was hard. But no matter how much she tried the email kept on recurring in her mind. Who could know what happened years ago? She had made sure that no traces remain. Unable to rest anymore, she decided to check the other official mails which were ignored for that ominous one. As soon as she opened the mail on her mobile, a new email notification popped up. From the same sender with official email id of Parmita. It reads,

“The lines on your forehead and your shaking voice is giving away all. Currently your secret is only with me. Just think what will happen when the news is leaked to the media. As the headlines will flash across the country about the CRIMINAL Parmita Sabarwal, how will the boards react? Your company, the employees and what about Ashi??? What will Ashi do if she knows her mother is a MURDERER?”

The last line shook her terribly.
“No, no, she cannot know anything”, she shouted forgetting everything else.

“What happened Madam?” the driver asked.

His voice made her realize the mistake.

“Nothing, you drive”. She said in her usual stern voice, but her heart was still beating fast. The brain, which usually works faster than a computer was now completely fogged.

***********
Once reaching home Parmita went straight to her bedroom. Today she cannot dare to face Ashi. Her eyes will not be able to hide the misery from her daughter.
“Mom, what happened? I was waiting in the drawing room. Even called you. But you seem to be so lost. What is wrong?” Ashi was waiting at the entrance of the bedroom.
“Nothing dear, just stress from work,” Parmita tried to sound as normal as possible.
“Then let’s have dinner. I was waiting for you.”
“Please dear, I am too tired to have dinner now. Let me rest.”
“Are you sure you are okay? Should I call doctor uncle? Your face is also looking unusually pale today.”
“Yes Ashi. I am absolutely fine. Please leave me alone now.” Parmita replied exasperatedly. Ashi, knowing very well the famous temper of her mother left the room with a disappointed heart.
As Ashi left the room, Parmita felt bad for her behavior, but she had no choice. Now she needs to think alone. So she took a deep breath and tried to think rationally. Life has always given her tough choices and she has always tried to choose the right one even if the decisions were hard. This time would not be an exception. She is the Parmita Sabarwal, who can turn rags to gold with her Midas touch. The confidence gained through years of struggle cannot be shaken by a filthy blackmailer.
Her chain of thoughts was broken by the mail alert. One more mail.
So you think you can control the world with your money and authority. Already counting notes to trade with me, I guess. Sorry, madam. Not this time. You may think that I will demand some sort of ransom for secret keeping and you will buy me with your riches. But I do not want any of your filthy riches. Rather,I detest them. My only aim is to bring you down completely. I want the world to know how you killed your own husband for property. I have an eye witness of the same. So I am giving you an option. Either confess your crime and surrender to the law. Else I will go live with the details on media.”

Parmita read and re read the mail. She made up her mind what to do next.

*************

The next day Sabarwal mansion woke up to a loud cry. Parmita Sabarwal was found dead in her bed, from an overdose of sleeping pills. Police arrived immediately. Mysterious death of the business magnet kept the news channels busy for the next few days. No suicide note was discovered from the spot. The soon to be Group president of her Group had a history of anxiety and depression. After some days of investigation, police declared it as death over accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

*************

Days have passed since that fateful night. Since Ashi was left orphaned. After the funeral, Ashi retired to her own room. All the relatives left at last. The chaos that followed her mother’s death had kept her on her toes. The death of her mother revealed the ugly faces of the so called ‘near ones’ and every moment she craved for her mother’s protection, unknowingly.
She opened her mailbox. It was flooded with condolence messages. She deleted them one by one. The world will never understand her loss. How she has lost the very reason of existence. As she was scrolling down, her finger froze when she reached the last unread mail. Her mother had sent her a mail before her death. With trembling hands she opened the mail.

“Dear Ashi
I am really sorry that I am leaving you at this juncture of your life, but I must end this dangerous game myself and there is no other way. Though I am embracing this untimely goodbye, I have no regret. God has been kinder in the recent years and in you He has given me the greatest gift I could ever ask for. And today as I see you all grown up as a responsible lady, I believe you are prepared to know some truth.
When Mr. Sabarwal married me, I was already pregnant with you. When your father, my fiancé died in a bike accident, my marriage was arranged with him in a haste by my father. Just a business deal to save the face of my family and Mr. Sabarwal’s not so well functioning company. Your grandfather also died shortly and Mr. Sabarwal became the whole and sole owner of the entire empire. For the world he was a respectable businessman, just beaten by some bad business choices, but within the closed doors he was a monster. A compulsive drinker, a serial abuser and a sex maniac. The mental and physical torture was beyond comprehension, but I did not have the courage to walk out, thinking about your future. The torment grew day by day. My helplessness encouraged him further. Then one day when at last I could not take it any more I revolted. When I refused to give in, the soulless creature threatened me with the unthinkable. He targeted you. That was the last straw. The very reason of accepting years of suffering and now he wants to destroy your innocence. Years of agony and dolor erupted like a volcano and I killed him in a fit of rage. Then efficiently staged it as an accident, freeing myself from the misery.
The monster was gone and I found a ray of hope to raise you properly. But the guilt of a murder never really left me. It always gloomed my life like a black cloud in the otherwise blue sky. Then some mails started coming today, blackmailing me and I knew I could not carry this burden anymore. But I could not possibly leave without telling you the whole truth. It is only you that I owe an explanation and hence I am writing this mail to you.
As a mother, my final advice to you would be to delete this mail forever and all the threat mails from your “Sent Box” to avoid unnecessary complications. Yes, I understood the sole eye witness was you, you were the sender of the mails. You may be a qualified engineer, but it is hard to mask the daughter from a mother. What I never imagined was that you could hate me so insanely. But I understand you did not know the complete truth, hence the resentment.
Always be brave and courageous. Never ever succumb to the wrong or be afraid to stand up for your right. Wishing you all the happiness in the world my fierce lady.
GoodBye, Mom.

Drops of tears rolled down the cheeks of Ashi on the keyboard. The truth shook the very foundation of the beliefs she grew up with. But the damages could not be undone now. Controlling the huge gush of emotion which was overpowering her, she started deleting the mails from her “Sent Box”.

———–X———–

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