Walter opened the door of his office and ran in, coughing and panting. Then he stood there for a few moments, with his hands on his chair as he looked out of the window. A couple of minutes later he regained his breath and the familiar smile returned to his face. He reached for his cellphone and speed-dialled �Home�. Again, it was the machine.
�Hi Jan, it�s me. I know you will be sleeping right now. I just came back from Boston early morning and headed straight to the office to drop off a few files. You had told me that you would have a busy day on Monday and so take the Tuesday off and sleep late. So I guess you are still in happy slumberland. I wish you were awake but then I guess it is best that I leave whatever I have to say as a recorded message.�
He strolled to the window and looked outside.
�I have always led a happy life, Jan, you know that. I got great parents, great friends and lived in a good neighbourhood. I was blessed with enough intelligence to get me through school and college with good grades. My life has been one big happy dream.�
Walter reached for the photo frame on his table and picked it up.
�But right now I am looking at what has made my happy life even more complete. I know you hate clich�s, darling, but since it is from your favourite film � Jerry Maguire, I hope you won�t mind. You have no idea how much you mean to me.�
He kissed Jan�s photograph gently.
�You will remember the first time we met, at the swimming pool. You were facing away from me, and I was admiring your�.well you know me�.and saying something to Phil about you, when you turned. I won�t say it was love at first sight, honey, but it was at least lust at first sight.�
He pressed the photo against his chest as if hugging her and walked towards the window again.
�However I vividly remember the day when I realised that I had fallen in love with you. 3 months after we started dating, I was waiting for you in the mall. I was standing outside a furniture shop and I saw that some kids were jumping about on a waterbed inside. They were having so much fun that I decided that when I have kids, I would buy them a waterbed to play on. I also said to myself, �Only if Jan is OK with it�. It was at this point that I realised that I was already thinking of you as the mother of my kids, someone whom I would have to check with before I splurged on an unnecessary item.�
�A few minutes later you turned up looking ravishing as usual, and were puzzled when I asked you �Do you think it is appropriate for parents to buy waterbeds for their children?� Now you know why I asked that inane question.�
�I cherish every moment I spent with you, Jan� Walter said as he started fidgeting with the lock on the window. �My parents, friends and my career had already made me a happy man. You made that happiness complete. I will love you forever Jan, and I want to tell you that right now I am the happiest man alive with absolutely no regrets. I don�t think I would have been this happy had I not met you. I just could not have had a better life than this.�
He finally managed to get the window open and looked down. He took a deep breath and said
�And yes, you were right about not putting any time limit on the messages that our answering machine records. I am really glad you did it. Love you, bye.�
Walter disconnected the phone and put it on his table. He pulled a chair, climbed on to it and opened the window. With a jerk he hitched himself up and straddled the windowpane for a moment. Then he put his other leg over the pane and stood there with his back to the wall of the building.
�If there is one thing I never got around to doing, it was bungee jumping.� He chuckled at his own joke and flung himself down.
The next day, Jan sat listening to Walter�s message over and over again. She had not cried at all. Her mother was worried about her since crying was the natural thing to do at such an occasion. But she just kept listening to the tape, with the hint of a smile on her face.
Her brother entered the room with a newspaper in his hand. He headed straight for his mother�s room. Jan went to the room a few minutes later as she realised something was on. Her brother and mother were looking at the newspaper and crying.
�What happened? What is it?� Jan asked.
Her mother just simpered loudly and turned away. Her brother put his fingers over his eyes and stood there. Jan picked up the newspaper and glanced at it. There it was, Walter�s photograph. His legs seemed flailing wildly and he had stretched his right fist forward, like superman. Janet could see his face and though the photograph wasn�t clear, she was sure he had been smiling. She read the line below the photograph.
�PLUNGING TO A BETTER DEATH � A MAN JUMPS OFF THE UPPER FLOORS OF THE SOUTH TOWER ABOUT HALF AN HOUR AFTER THE SECOND PLANE HIT�
Janet read the words �better death� and started crying.