This is the finale of a tale I started sometime back, a tale I never thought to extend beyond a single blog post. But then, it was not meant to be and here I am, giving the story an ending, after three installments, only to lead it to another beautiful start. I hope you will enjoy reading the tale, just as much I did imagining the duo and writing about them!
They walked silently towards the escalator leading to the food lounge, while their minds raced albeit confusion and fear, fear of what was about to come and confusion over how they would deal with it. He had rehearsed the upcoming moment a dozen times in his head and he wanted the evening to go perfectly, while she had made up her mind to leave- as soon as he was done discussing whatever he had to , or, if it was something meant to change her decision of keeping this just to a friendship. There could be only two possibilities and she was preparing herself best for any outcome.
The food lounge on the third floor was buzzing with activity, with eateries presenting an array of cuisines lined one after the other. There was a pleasant aroma of various cuisines wafting through the air.
“Which one should we to go?”, he asked.
She thought for a minute, unsure. She had more doubts in mind than choosing an eatery.
‘This should get over before he does something which would make me stay..’ , She thought looking around and in the next moment said ,”Let’s try that Chinese restro, it’s the only one I haven’t tried here before.”, all in a hurry. She wanted to spend least possible time, or at least a part of her did.
‘So she has been frequenting this place’, the thought nagged his mind as they sat on a table for two. He looked at her as she studied the menu. There was a total lack of enthusiasm and an uneasiness emanating from her which made him think if she had met someone else already. ‘Maybe it’s because I forced her to join…’, he contemplated further. But he could not settle down until he asked, “Is someone waiting for you?”, trying to read her face intently .
She was lost in her thoughts, unmindfully looking at the menu when his question unexpectedly broke her reverie. She looked at him, a bit frazzled inside but she tried not to let it show . “Why?” She blurted out instead.
The serious look in his eye turned to an unpleasant questioning gaze, as if she had shown some of her concerns by her reserved reply, as if the answer to his question was in positive. She felt the tension building up in the situation and immediately tried to ease it up with a smirk, “Well, its usually a ‘no’ at weekends, unless I’m running out of luck”, passing the menu card to him. He kept mum and concentrated on the menu card in his hand instead, while she was reprimanding herself over why had she had not taken advantage of the situation and said a ‘yes’. That could have saved her from any relationship ideas he was brewing in his head.
‘She would never give this a try until I clear the air and talk to the point’, he thought. He had understood she was being precautious. And her detached behavior at the store and after, had already given him a hint that this was not going to be as easy.
“What have you decided on?”, he asked.
“Dumplings. I have heard they make them really good here”
“Great. I’ll too go with that but let me add fried rice to it.” he smiled and stood up to give their order at the self help place.
Confusion and questions crowded his mind as he walked to the counter and he did not like it one bit. ‘Is there someone else in reality? She had been taken aback at my sudden probe and didn’t even answer directly at first.’ There were many questions with no straight answers.
This girl had always been a mystery of sorts to him. She always showed up a new trait when he thought he had understood her perfectly. “I’m a one man woman”, He remembered her saying. Then he recalled his own complicated past on love. Would she go with a man like him? Should he clear the air already? He had thought of gifting her the shirt first but her behavior was making him nervous. She was not like the ones he had dated before. The materialistic charms and luxuries would mean nothing to her if she did not consider him good at heart or a someone with a lousy character. He had realized this long back when he had tried to persuade her about one of their classmates who was interested in her. He had tried to entice her by telling about the swanky car the guy owned. “What should I do about it?”, she had retorted, unaffected. All he could do was to stare at her silently and absorb how she had reacted. This girl was much different from what he had thought. That day he had learnt something which made him stand at the eatery’s counter today and invest efforts in thinking what to do next.
He peered at her from the corner of his eye. She was looking at the other side.
“How may I help you sir?” the attendant asked, bringing him back to where he was. He quickly gave their order and went back to the table, carrying two trays.
She mumbled a ‘thank you’ and took her tray from his hands as he sat down.
“So, what was it you wanted to talk about?” she asked seeing the seriousness on his face.
He looked at her with the same thoughtful gaze and started speaking. His tone was intriguing, and his solemn expression urged her to listen.
“I have been thinking a lot lately. A lot about my relationships, my future and my past. ….Do you know what I liked the most about our friendship?”, He looked at her with an inscrutable expression and She looked back at him dubiously. She was trying to fathom what this was getting at, instead of saying the answer she knew, out loud.
“It was the part where I could discuss my every thought with you…”, he continued, “…and you understood me like nobody else. It had become a habit, going over to your desk at the far side of the classroom and rant about everything I came across in that short period of thirty minutes. I had never gone so close to anyone in such a short span of time.”
This was getting weird and she felt as if her fears were about to come true, right in front of her. Was he going to say what she had sensed? Why else would he delve into past?
Though her mind was constantly nagging her to get up and get away from there, she did not heed to it somehow. She continued sitting and listening, for a part of her wanted to see it unfolding, to see how it feels to see a long awaited and lost desire to resurrect and materialize.
“And then we went apart and I left, but never really forgot you. You were always there, present somewhere at the back of my mind. I have been into relationships, chased girls, but I never found someone I could settle down with. And when I thought of an girl I should be with, Memories of you would always come back floating to me. Traits of you would fit perfectly into the ideal frame I had fantasized..”
There was silence for a moment then. He needed courage to continue, to unleash his deepest thoughts all at once. He looked at her but she avoided his gaze, looking down at her food, fidgeting with the fork. He had to give all he had today, and so he went on.
“I never really found someone who truly knew the meaning of love, someone who could look beyond the external beauty and material riches, someone who understood me at core. I had chased beauty for years before I understood what I really wanted.” He looked her straight in the eye as he said the next sentence:
“I want to you back again, I want to bring back those days, all over again. I have missed you all along” , He picked up one of the shopping bag kept beside him and pushed it towards her. “And when I saw this today, I felt like I wanted to be in a position where I could give you stuff and you would use it gladly…in a position where I could pay for you” he trailed off in a whisper, but she heard. And it hit her hard. She had understood which episode was being talked about, and she had never expected him to remember that tiny detail.
Everything was coming onto her too fast, she had not prepared herself for this. She kept on looking at him as if she could not choose the right words to answer him. Everything she had rejected for so long, every stray thought, every emotion, was coming true before her eyes. “I need some time..” she said as she noticed him watching her intently. Her silence was tearing him apart with anticipation. He had invested all he had to unfold his true emotions before her. ” I’m not forcing you to take any decision right now, but I simply want you to consider.”
She nodded and looked from the bag to him, “He wants to settle down, why else would he gather courage and talk to me after so many years?” her heart argued and she knew if he was with someone, he would remain committed. She thought about all the facets of the situation. ‘Why her?’ had been made pretty clear. But what about his past? The walls she had erected around herself would not let her make a harsh decision and so she said, “When were you in a relationship last?”
The question sent a jolt of happiness in him for she was actually considering saying a ‘yes’, if she was asking questions to remove her doubts.
This was the most critical part and he had to do it right. “It was two years back and we are not in touch since…”
“And you want me to overlook the scant regard you had for women, how you numbered your relationships? Don’t you know me enough to think I would be a part of it?” she was feeling angry all of a sudden, all the pent up emotions, all the confusions and the sudden jolt given by him had their effect.
“Who said I want you to be in that count? I was a spoilt brat back then and you knew it when we were friends, you know what I am now too. I have realized what I want in life and I have matured beyond numbering my relationships. And can’t you see how compatible we are in all ways?”, The conversation was getting intense. She kept on looking straight into his eyes, her mind hoping to find a trace of malice, but all she could see was a genuine wish, which urged her to be his.
They both frowned at each other until he took a deep breath and added, “I just want you and nothing else. Forever…….I want you to marry me”, he blurted out, before she could say what she had been thinking. She was taken aback, his last words reverberating in her head.
“Do you realize marriage is big word, not just for us but our families as well. Can you ever be a ‘one woman man’ for the rest of your life?” There was a pause then. But she continued again, before he could reply.
“And before you say ‘yes’, please consider your options and decision once again, because one rash move can cast an irreversible damage on the lives of both of us.” She added calmly, not meeting his gaze.
They ate in silence for a while as her grandpa’s words ringed in her head ‘Do what others say, if you can’t decide yourself’. Could this situation be fitting to use this advice? Her mind was more into battling out a sound decision, than settling on one and so she decided to wait for his reply now.
“I have been thinking about it much before I actually decided to say it out loud to you. I am done with running around and chasing. You just need to trust me back and I promise not to be the same jerk I was.” She smirked at that and looked from him to their empty plates. She got up, picking up the shopping bag he had pushed towards her, along with her belongings. A broad smile crossed his face and it was getting extremely difficult for him to suppress the happiness.
The walked towards the escalator together. She was feeling lighter, having made a decision to go with the flow than battling with herself. She told herself to chill and deal with it as it came, as she neared the escalator. Caught in her thoughts, she almost stepped wrongly on the escalator, and was about to fall when a pair of sturdy hands caught her and made her stand upright on the right step. She mumbled a ‘thank you’, looking down, still in shock over what could have been a disastrous fall, especially with her hands full with bags and a thus a remote chance of getting a grip.
She smiled at the man standing beside her and still holding her arm. This was the first time she had seen someone showing such protectiveness towards her. It looked as if he did not trust her for keeping her own self safe anymore. She looked at his firm grip around her arm and joked, “If you expect me to be like that first girlfriend of yours who did all your work while you slouched, you are at the wrong place.” He smiled and answered, “I’m here because I fully know that, and also that you are not ‘girlfriend’ material.” He looked into her hazel eyes again and said as they stood in the parking, right beside her car, “You are the one who is meant to be my soul mate, meant to complete us both.”
He tried opening the door of her car for her next, without realizing she had not unlocked it yet.
This turned her blush into a pearls of laughter and she remarked, “I think I like you better when you be just yourself – no trying to impress, no chivalry. The simple you and me. How does that sound?”
He leaned against the car, his arm resting on its rear, and replied, “It sounds perfect. But then, things have changed; we were ‘just friends’ then and we are not now, I hope.” He leaned closer and added, ” Besides, You don’t really know how chivalrous I am.”
“I have a hunch that I’ll know that pretty soon”, she said, opening the driver’s door and settling down. She waived a goodbye and he waived back, looking at her from the window and beaming.
This was just a beginning, of something new and beautiful. They were both learning to fly; in the process they would fall and get hurt, but it will be then that they would understand the meaning of true love and take their flight to the horizon, together!
The end and a new start.
The image used here has been sourced from google images.