Read the previous part here
She entered the mall, trying to assure herself that it would be alright and she would stick to her resolve. ‘There’s no reason to take this forward. It would hurt us both’, she thought as she stepped on the escalator.
He was standing outside the store waiting for her, leaned against the railing of the second floor, facing the large floor beneath. He had been waiting for whole five minutes now and nervousness had started seeping in. ‘She will come’ he assured himself. In all these years, it was the first time he had felt this way at the prospect of meeting a girl. What had happened to him, he could not fathom. He had been on innumerable dates before but this was different. This girl was different.
And then he saw her coming up. She was clad in a white suit, her long hair flowing down to her back. ‘She is beautiful’ , He thought, his heart beat getting faster with each passing moment. Was that simply on seeing a girl approach? ‘I must be going mad’ he thought. He could not take the eyes off her until she joined him outside the store and waived a ‘Hi’.
“Hi!”, he said. She came and stood beside him against the railing, watching the crowd in silence, until he remarked, “Salwar Kameez suits you more than those western dresses”.
She smiled, still looking down at the crowd pouring in. “Thanks”, she replied. She was conscientiously trying to keep the conversation to the minimum, for she had seen in his eyes what was about to come, and a part of her wanted to avoid that altogether.
“So, what would you like to do? Head to the store or maybe chill at the food court first?”, he asked.
“I’m sorry, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. Could we head to the store straightaway?” she said smiling in a sorry way.
And that did the trick. “As you say, Madame”, and they started towards the store. Though his heart was sinking, he was tongue tied before that smile, a smile which could bewitch. It was getting increasingly difficult not to fall for her. ‘This girl has some magic’, he thought. He felt surprised to think what he had been doing all those years, as they went over to the Men’s Clothes section. All that looked simply a waste of precious years now, as she stood beside him, going through the shirts.
It was a new and weird feeling and he almost felt as if everything would turn out to be alright. He was feeling at home, with her standing beside him, doing something for him. He was unmindfully looking at the shirts, his mind tangled in his chain of thoughts when her voice brought him out of his sweet reverie.
“How about this one?”, She asked. He took one glance at her choice and smiled.
“Not bad at all”, he said taking the shirt from her hand and keeping it aside. Then he took out another from the rack saying, “I’ll go and try these on” and started towards the changing rooms, while she went over to the women’s clothing section.
‘She has a knack of finding the best stuff out of that ‘, He thought, looking at his refection in the mirror, smiling. He went out to show her the final look, and there she was, her back facing him as she browsed. He was about to call her and ask how that was looking, when a sudden memory flashed his mind. It was a random question, but somehow it seemed linked to this moment. “Would you pay her bill?”, The words resonated in his head. He tired to think but he could not pin point what could it possibly relate to, until he saw where she was standing. It was the women’s clothing section; He had replied he would not pay her bill! Yes, that was it and he had said it right in front of her but she had never seemed to mind. At that point, it had seemed to be the obvious choice because it would not have been worth that effort, She was just another friend. A friend who had gone to become the one with whom he had shared every tiny detail of his world. This close connect had lasted a few months hence, until a silly rumor doubting their growing friendship, had made them part ways for the better.
He silently walked back to the changing room, aiming to correct something he had said long ago.
She had gone through some great stuff, selected a handbag for herself and was now waiting for him to come. ‘He has taken more than fifteen minutes.. ..What in the world is this guy doing?’, she thought, keeping her purchase the payment counter.
She had already paid, when he came into view. He had a sheepish expression on his face which said , ‘Sorry to keep you waiting’. She nodded and gestured him to join behind her in the queue. She gave him the way and then waited patiently. She noticed he had kept both the shirts and along with another flowery one. She had not expected a guy with a fashion sense as him to wear that, except at a beach. It has small printed flowers all over . ‘Wait, Is that a women’s Shirt?’, A possibilty crept her mind as she got a close look at it, when the salesperson opened the otherwise crumbled shirt kept in the basket, to remove its sensors and fold it neatly.
Surprised, she looked at him as he was engrossed in clearing the bill. ‘None of my business’, she reasoned herself. ‘He has no sister, didn’t he?’ again a thought crept her mind before she fought it away.
Finally, they stepped outside the store. “Lunch ?”, he asked expectedly, meeting her eye.
“I’m sorry, but it has been over a hour already. Maybe next time..”, she seemed to be in a hurry.
“I have something urgent to talk about. Could you please stay, just for the old times sake?”, he said with a serious expression.
‘Old times sake?’ she thought. “What is it? Something happened?”, she replied, concerned, like she always was, for everyone, sadly.
“Yes..” he said, his eyes cast on the cream tiled floor beneath. And they walked silently towards the Food court. An awkward silence ensued between them. Only, if they could remove those eight years from in between..
Catch on the finale here!
The image used here has been sourced from the internet.