Caught in the Middle

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Photo (c) Ted Strutz

Caught in the Middle

Words 101

“When is Deva coming?” Arnav asked Khushi.

“He hasn’t confirmed.”

“I’m booking his tickets.” Arnav fumed.

“But…”

“Does he plan to come after Diwali?” He silenced her.

“Why did Dad book my tickets?” Deva blasted Khushi. “I told you I would manage.”

“So what if he booked?” Khushi soothed.

“But Mom, I have a presentation then! Please cancel it.”

“If I cancel, he may not get any tickets!” Arnav warned Khushi. “It’s Diwali.”

“I’ll manage Mom.”

“How?” Arnav grilled Khushi. “Teleportation?”

“Mom please tell Dad to chill.”

“High time Deva grew up Khushi and acted responsibly.”

“Mom perhaps I’ll skip Diwali.”

***

Written for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and Ted Strutz for the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – XI

The final part!

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

Chapter 11: Will She Won’t She

Sonu flinched but rallied.

“Fine.” He nodded. “I’ll wait until you know. But,” he shook a finger at her, “But be prepared to be pestered for the rest of your life.” He warned. “Once I get a bee in my bonnet,” he shrugged. “Anyway would you like to see a movie?”

“Movie?” She was thrown. “What movie?”

“I was thinking the latest Ant-man movie.”

“I don’t like these stupid action sci-fi type of movies.”

“Have you seen any Ant-man movie?”

“I haven’t seen any.” Lovely admitted. “But I don’t…”

“So how can you say you don’t like them?” Sonu challenged.

“That’s neither here not there,” Lovely was exasperated, “I am not interested…”

“That’s your problem,” Sonu leaned back, “you are a stick in the mud.”

“What!” Lovely was affronted. “How dare…?”

“But of course! Even though you haven’t never eaten something before,” he indicated the untouched plate of tortillas between them, “or seen something you already know that you don’t like it,” he mocked. “No spirit of adventure at all.”

“You have absolutely no idea of what or who I am!” Lovely shot back. “And don’t you dare question my spirit of adventure. Have you tried paragliding?” she sneered. “I bet not.”

“And you have?”

“Of course. River rafting, rappelling, kayaking and even jumping off the cliff.” She ticked them off on her fingers with a semblance of animation. “Adventure sports give me such an adrenaline rush! I still have to do the flying fox and bungee jumping.”

“That’s what I am giving you a chance at,” he slipped in slyly, “bungee jumping, in fact a whole range of adventure sports.”

She frowned puzzled. “Apart from being a wedding planner you are running an adventure sports unit or what?”

“Actually I am terrified of adventure sports,” he confessed, “I had a narrow escape during a school trip while river rafting. I fell off and I didn’t know swimming.” He paused. “I still don’t know swimming. In fact I am terrified of the water.”

“Then?”

“Isn’t marriage like bungee jumping? Or for that matter like any of the adventure sports?”

She looked at him resignedly. “Are we back to that?”

“Yes. And I will keep coming back to it until you agree.”

“And then what? Move on to another unattainable toy?”

“Oh so that’s your problem!” He said with dawning understanding. “You think once we get married, I’ll forget about you and ignore you.”

She looked uncomfortable. “Partly. Yes.”

“So how about living in?”

“Oh my God.” Lovely clapped a hand to her head. “You don’t give up do you?”

“Nope. Not while I am alive and kicking.”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms. “And I won’t give in. Let the battle begin.”

Sonu rubbed his hands in glee. “Shall we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

She laughed. “You are incorrigible.”

He scratched his head. “What’s incorrigible?”

“It means…”

“Does it mean you love me?”

“You are impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible.” He grinned. “Except for me.”

“And you are insufferable and arrogant.”

“Rubbish!” He denied. I am very humble and down to earth. Should we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

Lovely shook her head. “That would be too easy.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll have to begin with learning how to swim and then graduate to bungee jumping.”

“Whew.” He moped his brow. “And if I do, will you marry me?”

She rolled her eyes and looked away.

“Fine!” He threw down his napkin. “I’ll do it. But on condition.” He put his hand on the table palm up. “When I jump off the cliff you’ll hold my hand.”

She slid her hands under the table.

He shrugged. “Fine. I’ll just change the rules then.” He scrolled through his phone.

“Rules? What rules?”

“Rules of the game.”

“Are we playing a game?”

“Of course.” He looked up from his mobile. “One of the world’s most age-less time-less games.” Her eyes dropped before his.

“Okay and done!” He put down his phone. “I just enrolled myself for swimming classes.”

“Good.” She made a move to get up.

“Do you dance?” He wasn’t finished.

“Dance?” she frowned. “Where did that come from?”

“Never mind.” He said impatiently. “Just answer me.”

“I learned some Kathak in school. I even gave a stage performance in school.”

“That’s great. So you like dancing?”

“I guess.” She said warily.

“While I learn swimming, you will learn dancing.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” Argued Sonu. “Dancing is a great stress buster. It frees you and relaxes you. And the best part? I will learn along with you.”

She stared. “You’ll learn Kathak?”

“Not Kathak! Western dance rumba jive salsa,” he coughed, “Waltz.”

“You think you are very smart don’t you?”

“I don’t think.” He looked modest. “I am.”

“Well I am smarter than you.” She picked up her bag. “Thank you but no thank you.” She stood up.

“All those questions you asked?” He didn’t look up from his phone. “The ones we didn’t have an answer to?” She dropped her bag and sat down. “I think they apply to you as well.”

“What do you mean?” She frowned.

“I think you are also part of this system, this society. Even though you are being given a chance you are refusing to take it. You also blame yourself. You also think you are impure and you are unworthy of marrying.”

She paled. “Rubbish.” She said weakly.

“Is it?” He pressed home his advantage. “If it was a broken bone, an otherwise kind of a physical assault would you have been so traumatized?”

“You don’t understand.” She spoke through stiff lips.

“Perhaps. Make me understand. Isnt that why you want to be an IAS officer? To help women get justice? To liberate them to free them? How will you do that if you yourself aren’t free? If you stop yourself from moving on, going ahead with your life…”

“You don’t understand…”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you want to change the world, first change yourself.”

“Change myself how?” Her eyes shot daggers. “By marrying you? You think marriage is the solution to everything?”

“Not everything. Something. And change doesn’t happen overnight.” He looked at her. “I am not asking you to marrying me tomorrow or next month or even next year. I am just asking you to take that one little step,” he paused, “with me.” He broke off a piece of the tortilla and held it out. “Try it.” When she hesitated, he insisted. “Trust me.” he paused. “At least in this.”

She accepted the gauntlet and popped into her mouth. She chewed experimentally even as he flashed her a confident triumphant smile. “Nice isn’t it?”

She downed a glass of water and shook her head. “On the contrary, quite awful.”

She almost laughed at his crestfallen expression. But he quickly rallied. “So fine you don’t like it but I am sure you’ll like tacos. They are…”

“Oh please Sonu!” Lovely raised a hand. “Could we have some decent old-fashioned Indian food? I am starving.”

“Sure.” He beamed. “But for dessert you must have their cheesecake. Have you had it?” She shook her head. “It’s out of the world.” He drooled.

“Better than jalebis?”

“Jalebi is your favorite?”

She shook her head. “No. In fact I don’t like them at all.”

He stared. “Then?”

“I was just trying to understand how bad this cheesecake would be.” There was a glint in her eyes.

“Very smart.” He gave her a resigned look. “Just wait until you try the cheesecake. You can change my name if you don’t like it.”

She tapped her cheek. “Hmm let me see…”

He leaned back in his chair. “No rush. Take your time. You have an entire lifetime to think up names for me.”

“Why waste an entire lifetime?”

His chair scraped. “If you think it would be a waste then may as well forget it.”

“Giving up so easily?” Her voice was low.

He stilled.

She drew in a deep breath. “I meant it for you.” At his puzzled look, she continued. “Why waste your entire life on a…a…a lost cause?”

His lips twisted. “You think I am doing this for you?”

She nodded.

“I am flattered that you think so highly of me.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“That you think I could be so self-sacrificing and caring about others.” He shook his head. “Sorry to break your illusions darling, but I care only and only about myself and my feelings.” He leaned forward. “I am not proposing to you because I am concerned about you, your feelings your future. Nope. It’s all about me. What I will do without you.”

She looked at him helplessly, drawn despite herself. She stiffened.

“Big words.” She jeered. “Easy to say, easier to forget.”

“You are a tough nut aren’t you?”

“And difficult to be with.” She added.

“And selfish and self-centered.”

Hurt flashed in her eyes before blanking out. “I don’t get where you get that from.”

“From this.” He gestured between them. “You are just concerned about your feelings the possible impact if some eventuality happens in the distant future. What about me?”

“What about you?”

“What about my feelings? What about the impact of your rejection on my present?”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop dramatizing.”

“And you lack empathy too.”

“I do not.” She was cut.

“Just because you cannot see my broken, wounded heart, just because I am not crying, you think I am fibbing, joking.” He paused. “What else can I do when my life is slipping out of my hands right in front of my eyes?”

“I am not convinced.” But she was shaken at the look in his eyes.

“If you insist.” He nodded briskly. “I will wait until you admit it.”

“Admit what?”

“That you love me.”

Her eyes flew to his. She stiffened and glared at him. “Don’t you think you are presuming too much?”

He shrugged. “I am no fool madam. And neither are you. If you didn’t love me, you would have walked away long ago and I would be nursing a broken jaw.”

Her lips twitched.

“So,” he smiled, “I will wait until you are ready to say it.”

“What if I never say it?”

“There is no end to what ifs.” He waved his hands impatient. “Shall we go?”

She looked at her watch. “Oh. Yes it is very late.” She stood up.

“If we hurry we can still catch Ant-man.”

“Ant-man?! I thought we were going home!”

“Soon. Very soon.” His eyes were warm.

She blushed and looked away. “But I am warning you that I am not going to join any dance classes.”

“Hey! A deal is a deal!”

“Deal?” she was incredulous. “What deal? I never agreed to any deal.”

“You will.” He was confident.

“You are pushy.”

“So are we back to character analysis?” He waved a hand. “Be my guest, but let me warn you it is a waste of time if you are looking for shortcomings and faults.”

“And brash and audacious.”

“Perhaps just the tiniest bit.” He admitted.

“Overbearing and overconfident.”

“Confident not overconfident.”

“Overconfident.”

“Confident.”

Their voices faded into the distance.

*** The Beginning***

Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your thoughts 🙂

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – X

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

Lovely spent a sleepless night reliving the horrors, which she had pushed away to the dark recesses of her mind. She was glad when it was morning and she could forcibly pull on the mask of normalcy and go back to work her still raw and bleeding wounds tucked firmly away out of sight – even her own.

The day dragged.

There was no sign of Sonu, not on phone or outside her office.

Just as well she thought as she reluctantly trudged back home and as expected.

But at home she was taken aback to see Sonu along with everybody else, including Ghasitaram. The animated discussion gave way to silence at her entry. Lovely stood at the doorway defiant and questioning. Ghasitaram walked up to her and met her eyes for the briefest moments before looking away.

He drew a deep breath and said. “What happened wasn’t right.”

Her lips twisted. “You mean I should have kept my mouth shut.” She cast Sonu a sneer. “I told you he wouldn’t believe me.”

“It’s not that.” Ghasitaram spoke before Sonu could.

“You believe me?” She was skeptical.

“When Sonu told me, I…I confess I didn’t. But…but like he said why would you say such a thing. So I confronted Lallan.”

“He admitted that he…?”

“No.”

Lovely flashed Sonu another accusing glare and walked away.

“But I saw guilt written on his face.” Lovely halted. “He is alive only because he is bedridden.” She turned around. “I am sorry beta.”

“Why are you apologizing?” She choked.

“Because he is,” Ghasitaram paused, “he was my friend. I feel responsible. But forgive him beta, he is not right in his mind. He is sick. Forgive him and let yourself heal.”

“It’s not just he who hurt me,” Lovely managed to say.

A hushed murmur ran through the room. “Who…?”

“Everyone,” she pointed an accusing finger to her family, “Dadi, Chacha, Chachi. They knew everything but said nothing. Did nothing.” Her voice became stronger. “Instead they told me to keep quiet, behaved as if it was my fault. That it would be better if I just killed myself out of shame and disgust and spare them the bother of having me on their conscience. What kind of society do we live in? Why must the victim keep quiet? Why is the victim shamed?”

Only questions and no answers…

“Why are questions always raised about the girl’s character, her intentions? Despite knowing everything why do they risk their own daughters’ future? Why is everybody so hell bent upon hiding the reality? Why is everyone so afraid of speaking the truth? When will the focus shift from the victim to the rapist?”

A thick silence pervaded the room.

She put a hand to her throat. “I feel suffocated, strangulated because of this enforced silence and the hypocritical lives that we have to live and hold up the image of a perfect family man.”

Eyes burning she faced Sonu. “If a goonda comes and slashes at you, breaks your leg, do you keep quiet?” Her eyes scorched Titu. “Do you hide your face in shame? No! Then why are we forced to do so? Why? Why? Why?” She screamed but again there were no answers.

She shouldered past the gathered crowd and ran to her room. She locked and bolted herself in.

The next day after work, she found Sonu waiting for her outside the bank. She froze him with a blank stare and disappeared into a waiting auto before he could move. But he was waiting for her again the next day and managed to catch her as she got into the auto but she urged the driver to speed away. After five days, Lovely gave in and took the bull by its horns.

“Yes?” she was cold. “What do you want?”

“I…I want to talk to you.”

She crossed her arms. “About what?”

“Things.” He said vaguely. “Many things.”

“I don’t think we have anything more to talk about.”

“You are wrong!” he jumped in. “I have a lot to say.” He looked around. “Please can we go somewhere private?” He quailed at the expression on her face. “A public place,” he clarified. “Like the mall?”

Lovely shook her head resignedly. He really was like a dog with a bone.

“So? What’s the problem?” Lovely asked the moment they were seated in a quiet little café at the nearest mall.

Sonu looked at her with troubled eyes. “I…I just…”

Lovely unbent. “It’s okay Sonu. It’s not your fault. You don’t have to feel guilty and over-correct for someone else’s crime. I am fine.” She swallowed and looked away. “It’s just that I have this huge wound inside of me. It doesn’t hurt if I don’t poke or prod it. But even the slightest of touches inflames it and all the pus comes gushing forth proving again that it hasn’t healed and probably never will. But,” she inhaled sharply, “I repeat it’s not your fault. So don’t feel obliged to explain, justify or even,” her voice wavered, “do a repeat telecast of your avowals of love and what not. Don’t worry I won’t hold you to it.” She smiled mirthlessly. “You can walk away and forget that we ever met.”

He shook his head. “But I can’t forget you.”

“You can and will. Just give it time.” She advised. “Trust me.”

“You can. I can’t and…and I won’t.”

“Oh please Sonu! Don’t be the drama king.” She flared up. “Don’t be so childish and stubborn. You don’t know what you are saying.”

“I know perfectly well what I am saying, if you will let me speak.” He held her eyes. “I love you and I want to marry you.”

“Even after all this?” She looked at him with shock.

“How does that change anything? One evil man hurt you wounded you and I am terribly sorry for that, but that doesn’t change my feelings for you. And why are you so surprised? Isn’t that your angst? Why blame the victim? I don’t think any of this was your fault and so it doesn’t change my feelings. If anything I love you more for having overcome this and come back to save your sister.”

“Don’t try to play the hero Sonu,” Lovely was shaking. “It will backfire on you. The novelty will wear off and…and…and besides I can’t I can’t stomach the thought of,” she broke off.

Sonu draped his jacket over her shoulders.

“Let’s have some coffee or would you prefer tea? You’ll feel better. And they make absolutely delicious tortillas. Have you tried them?”

She didn’t answer and neither did he push her. He took out his phone and flicked through his gallery. “What do you think of this?” He showed her the picture of Goan sunset at the beach. She stared at the colors lighting up the clouded skies. She cleared her throat. “It’s of course beautiful. Why do you ask?”

“The Dhoodhsagar falls was particularly spectacular.” He showed her another picture. “What do you think?”

She nodded.

He scrolled through the pictures holding out the phone to her. “Which do you prefer? The sandy beaches or the rocky beaches?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t know anything about you, your likes dislikes.” He shrugged. “I am just trying to get to know you.”

“Is this anyway to know a person? By playing twenty questions?” She threw up her hands. “Besides what does it matter?”

“It matters to me.”

“You are crazy.”

“I think you are right.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Do you know I fell in love with you at first sight?” he grinned at her expression, “Despite your protective gear,” He paused. “Or maybe because of it.”

“Sonu…”

“God woman! Will you let me speak?” He shook his head. “Boy you are such a chatterbox.”

She glared at him. “That’s rich coming from you.”

“Exactly. So please don’t keep trying to snatch the mike or the center stage from me.” He rebuked her. “So where was I? Yes, when I confessed my feelings to Titu after our third meeting, he also thought the same thing.” He looked into her eyes. “And he promptly whisked me away to Goa for de-addiction and rehabilitation. We had a blast but yet all I could think of was you. How you would have liked the sunset, whether you would have found it romantic or dismissed it with some scientific explanation, whether you would have liked to walk on the beaches or grumbled about the sand that got into everything, whether I could have convinced to try the feni or dance to the music on the ferry…”

“Sonu please,” her voice was raw and cracked. “Please don’t do this.”

“It’s already done. I can’t undo it. I can’t get you out of my system. Not then. Not while I was struggling to cope with the physical pain of the accident. Not now.”

“You’ll regret it.”

“Maybe maybe not. But in this,” he gestured between them, “I don’t have a choice.”

She blew her nose.

“Let’s not talk about me.” Sonu said earnestly. “Tell me what you want.”

“I want you to leave me alone.”

“Are you sure?” He asked.

Her eyes dropped before the intensity in his eyes. “I can’t marry you. It wouldn’t be right. I can’t…can’t,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I don’t think I can have a physical relationship…”

“Okay so we won’t. Any other thing? You don’t dislike me do you?”

She shook her head dumbly.

“Great. So maybe you even like me a little bit?” He grinned engagingly at her.

“You are too much.” Her lips twitched.

“So you are saying that you too love me?”

“When did I say that?”

“Your eyes did.”

“Nonsense.” She looked at her watch. “I think I better go.”

“Look I am trying to cut a deal here.”

Lovely sighed. “What deal?”

“I want us to live together as friends, as partners,” he raised a hand, “and if we have to marry for that,” He shrugged. “So be it.”

“It won’t work out…”

“Well then it won’t! We’ll go our separate ways. What’s the problem?”

“You are the problem Sonu. You are oversimplifying things.”

“No. You are over-complicating things. I just want to share my life with you. Besides, Titu will get married soon and then what’ll become of me? I’ll be all alone.” He made a tragic face.

“You should also get married.”

“Excellent suggestion.” He beamed at her. “So when should we get married? Would you like a destination wedding? How about Goa? Or we could go after the wedding…”

“You aren’t listening to me!” She snapped.

“We’ll have separate rooms. For as long as you want. We can draw up a pre-nuptial and have it written down if you like.”

“It won’t work Sonu it won’t.” She said in despairing tones.

“Why will it not? For centuries people have gotten married for sex, for procreation, for political and strategic reasons so why not for friendship and companionship?” He argued. “You want a career right. Go ahead and make your career but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone at home waiting to eat your head?” Encouraged by her expression he gathered steam and waxed eloquent. “While you are busy at work who will take care of our daughters? Somebody has to be home for them right?”

“Daughters?”

“Weren’t you planning to adopt them? Children need both mother and father.” He paused as a thought struck him. He fiddled with the cutlery. “Or don’t you trust me?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

***

Click here for the Final Chapter: Will She Wont She

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – IX

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

 

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

“What do you mean?” He spoke over her head. When she didn’t reply he put his hands over her shoulders and attempted to turn her around. But she threw off his hands and jerked away eyes flashing. “Don’t you dare touch me!”

“What’s the matter Jigs?” He was more concerned than hurt at her reaction. “Something happened in college right?”

“You don’t know anything.” Her lips were frozen and the words came from a distance.

“I don’t.” he agreed. “But you can tell me. I promise I won’t judge you. I’ve also had affairs in the past, I have also had my heart broken, and it is all right. I understand.” He reassured her.

“You don’t understand!” her voice was scratchy and hoarse as she restrained herself from shouting. “You could never understand because you are a man, a privileged and superior class who sets the rules but is answerable to none.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you think?” She nodded at his dawning look of horror and disgust. “I was raped.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Cat got your tongue?” She picked up her bag. “I’m leaving.”

In a flash he barred the door. “This conversation isn’t finished yet. I don’t believe you. I think you are just saying that to get me off your back.”

“Isn’t that reason enough to back off?” She snarled. “That is another reason I would never consider associating with you, leave aside marrying you. You don’t believe me.” She shook her head. “Why do you think I would say such a thing? What purpose would it serve? Or do you think men don’t rape and women beg to be raped?”

Sonu’s eyes dropped before the anger and accusation in her eyes. “I’m sorry.” He backed away. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s…it’s not that I don’t trust you,” he fumbled to clear himself, “I just said the first thing that came into my head to stop you from leaving.”

“Which also doesn’t speak high of you.” Lovely was pale but composed. “Good thing I didn’t tell you who raped me for then you would certainly never believed me.” She attempted to brush past him but he didn’t budge.

“I said I am sorry.” He apologized. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I promise I will believe you. You are right. Why would you say such a thing if it wasn’t true? I really am sorry.” He held his ears.

Lovely moved away and sat down before her legs gave way. “It doesn’t matter.” She shook her head tiredly. “I am sorry I said it. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to marry. Seriously. Can’t you respect that and let me go?” She raised anguished eyes to him.

He took the chair across her. “I respect you and anything you say and want. If you don’t want to marry me, I swear I will back off. But please just explain to me why or how this…this…”

“Rape. You can’t even say it can you? Because you don’t actually believe it happens to women. You think they ask for it, they enjoy it and when things don’t work out the way they want, they scream rape. Isn’t it?”

“No it’s not that. At least not entirely. My reaction is more of a denial rather than an accusation against you. I deny it because I am not strong enough to accept the alternative. That someone deliberately physically violate you hurt you and scar you for life.” She looked away from the raw anguished honesty in his eyes.

“Forget it.” She withdrew. “I don’t really blame you for not believing. I…I also had trouble believing.” Her voice shook and wavered. “That it wasn’t my imagination, that it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t ask for it, that I didn’t deserve it.” She broke down completely.

Sonu’s chair scraped as he stood up and paced the floor. He crossed his arms to physically stop himself from gathering her into his arms. He could only ineffectually exhort her over and over again, “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Please. I can’t bear to see you like this. Please!” There was a crash as he swept a pile of files off the table.

She sobered and sat sniffling. He held out a glass of water. She drank some and wiped her face. She was back to her composed self. “I’m sorry for breaking down like this. I thought I had got over it.” She excused herself.

“Who was it? Tell me.” His eyes burned into hers as he sat down again. “Tell me.” He insisted.

“What does it matter? What will you do? Kill him?”

“I want to.” He clenched his fists. “Someone in college? Did you love him?”

She sat still except for the twisting of her kerchief into a knotted mass. When she spoke her voice was faint and he had to strain to hear her. “I loved him very much. I idolized him. I trusted him with my life. If anyone else had accused him of such a dastardly act, I would have scratched her eyes out.”

Fury and jealousy tore into Sonu. “Who was it?” he was harsher than he wished to be.

When she didn’t reply he had an overwhelming urge to shake her and force her to speak. But this wasn’t about him. It was about her. Quelling down on his impatience anger and despair, he put her first and waited.

“It wasn’t…wasn’t in college.” She said jerkily. “It was after school and before I went to college.” She said skirting around the issue. Sonu opened his mouth and shut it. He didn’t want to risk putting her off completely.

“It was at home.”

“Home?”

“You do know 98% of rapes are by men who are known to victims?”

“That’s not possible!” Sonu instantly denied.

“It’s a fact!” her eyes flashed. “You can Google if you want.” Lovely shouldered her bag and stood up. “I don’t think there’s any point in continuing this conversation. You aren’t ready to listen.”

“You are right. I am in denial. But I am ready to hear you out. I promise.” He pulled at the skin over his throat in a childish gesture. “I won’t judge you or disbelieve you. And if I do, feel free to leave. I won’t stop you, I promise. Please sit.” He indicated the chair behind. “Who was it? A neighbor?”

“After school finished, I went home to stay with my grandparents. At that time, they weren’t staying with Chacha Chachi. My grandparents had an acrimonious relationship, which soured even more after their son’s death. One day they had a particularly bitter fight and I was forced to intervene. He was hitting Dadi with his stick. When pushed Dadi who hit her head on the wall, I screamed at him and threatened to call the police. So he taught me a lesson in obedience and respect for elders. He tied a dupatta around my mouth and raped me in front of Dadi.”

Sonu’s eyes were dark pools of shock and horror.

“Dadi hushed it all up. She threatened me with dire consequences if I went about spreading vicious lies about her husband. They would have me thrown into jail where I would rot until death. As soon as I was able, I packed my things and moved into a PG and later to the girls hostel in DU. One of the first things I did was to learn self-defense. Never again.”

“But you came back.” His voice was careful and neutral.

“When my grandparents moved in with Chacha Chachi due to Dadi’s health issues I had to come back.”

He looked at her questioningly at the odd note in her voice. “Someone had to protect Lata and Suri.”

Shocked eyes met her cold blank ones.

“Grandfather didn’t slip and fall. He wanted to teach Lata a lesson and that’s when I chopped him one in the neck.”

Neither of them spoke until Lovely stood up. “I’ll go home now.”

Sonu looked up with a dazed expression. “Yes. Of course I’ll drop you.” Ignoring her protests, he scrabbled around on the table. She sighed and handed him the keys from where she had placed them. “Thanks.” He mumbled.

He didn’t speak on the way back. When he braked the car in front of her house, he roused himself as if from sleep. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head to clear the haze. “I…I…”

“Don’t worry.” Lovely’s lips twisted. “I got you cornered haven’t I? You promised to believe me but you can’t can you?” She swallowed. “Our grandfathers were best friends like you and Titu. I wonder if your grandfather would believe this ‘story’? Goodbye Sonu.” She got out of the car.

“Goodnight.” Sonu couldn’t say more than that.

***

Click here for the next Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VIII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Today was the day!

Exam over, she was rejoining office after a week’s leave. As she dressed her heart thudded with anticipation and nervousness. She dithered over her dress and changed thrice before settling on one. Stop it she scolded herself, you weren’t this nervous before the exam!

Yes, but he was sure to be there waiting for her after work. She wanted to make sure she was well armed with a thick shapeless drab dress and a severe bun topped with her forbidding spectacles.

But to her dismay he wasn’t there. Nor did he turn up the next day. She checked his last updated status. He was online! She hurriedly exited her app. She was relieved she told herself firmly. This was for the best. For him.

“Miss me?” Once again he popped up when she was least expecting.

“I thought you’d gone back to hell.” She stilled her leaping heart.

“I tried,” he fell into step beside her, “but they threw me out.” He grinned engagingly.

She couldn’t help smiling back at him.

“Oh! Hurry they are going to tow away my car!” Before she knew it she was in the car with him.

“Where’s the tow truck?” she craned her neck.

“Must be coming.” He slid the car into motion and winked at her.

“You think you’re very smart don’t you?” she seethed. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.

“Not now.” He focused on the road. “I don’t want to to have an accident.”

She pressed her lips together. “Where are we going?” she asked stiffly.

“To my office. We can have privacy and your sensibilities won’t be offended either.”

She looked away. She yielded the battle and asked. “Are you okay enough to drive?”

He shrugged.

“I mean your leg was broken, so it must hurt?”

“Not as much as it hurts when you rebuff me.”

Sudden tears clouded her vision. She looked out of the window and blinked rapidly. It wouldn’t do to breakdown so easily. She re-bolstered her defenses.

“What do you want?” she demanded aggressively as she faced him in his cabin.

“I thought I had made it clear.” He threw the car keys on the overloaded table. It slithered over the plastic folders and dropped down through a crack in the middle. Lovely sighed and picked it out. Unable to find a reasonably safe place she slid it into the pen stand making sure to keep the distinctive key chain hanging out. “I want to marry you.”

“That’s the trouble with you Sonu,” she faced him with a stern face. “You don’t have vision.”

“Vision?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “You just care about the present. Instant gratification, with a complete disregard for the future, which trust me, will come, sooner or later.”

“What are you talking about?” Sonu was clueless.

She pointed to his messy table. “You threw the car keys without a thought for how you have found it later. All you were concerned about was getting rid of them. But you will leave this room sometime? You will need the car keys? Better to keep it somewhere you can easily find it?”

“I always throw my keys there and I have never ever had any had trouble finding it.” Sonu declared.

Lovely threw up her hands. “That’s neither here nor there. It just proves what I think – that you have no vision and have not spared any thought for the future. Can you seriously see us together? For decades?”

“I can’t see it any other way.” His eyes were soft and warm as they rested on her.

Frustrated (partly because of the way her heart leaped), Lovely almost stamped her foot. “Uff. Please none of this romantic drivel please. Marriage is no child’s play and it’s for a lifetime. Think about it. More than fifty years of commitment to the same person. Can you do it?” He nodded. “I don’t think you can.” She shook her head.

“How can I convince you I am serious? I don’t know about the future but I do know I won’t be able to live for very long without you.” She opened her mouth to give him a dressing down but he forestalled her. “For the past two months as I lay on the bed battled pain and agony of physiotherapy and learning to walk again,” his eyes bored into hers, “all I could think about was you. That you were there waiting for me or worse slipping away from me, kept me going. I pushed myself harder and harder, ignoring the pain. I had to get back on my feet as soon as possible, before someone else snapped you up.”

Lovely’s eyes dropped. She clamped down on her rising answering emotions and rallied. “I am glad I could be your inspiration but this doesn’t prove anything. In fact it seems to me that I am a toy, which has been denied to you. And the novelty of it has you hooked. Soon this craze this obsession will wear off and there would be nothing left.”

“You don’t understand! If I had the slightest doubt that this was an infatuation, I would have never asked you to marry me. I would have wooed you made love to you, got you out of my system and gone on my merry way.” His lips twisted at the shock in her eyes. “Been there, done that,” he gave a self-deprecating cough. “But,” he hastened to reassure her, “With you I don’t feel like that. I just want to be with you.” He looked at her helplessly. “I can’t understand it myself. It’s a weird feeling, uncomfortable and disturbing. Yet exhilarating.” He ran a hand over his hair. “God! I am not making any sense am I?” he groaned.

Unfortunately only too well.

Lovely clenched her fists and forced her jumping nerves to calm down.

“Look,” Sonu got up from his chair and drew up one across her. He leaned towards her, “there’s nothing to worry. I’ve got it all sorted. I…I mean we, Titu and I talked to everyone and they have no issues with me being the groom instead of Titu. Even Ghasitaram has no problem, in fact he has already sounded out your grandparents.” He smiled triumphantly at her. “They have no issues.”

“What about me?” There was just the faintest tremor in her voice. It cracked and she automatically raised her pitched to cover it. “Have you got me sorted too?”

He looked blank which served to fuel her anger.

“You didn’t think about me, my feelings at all did you? Why would I say no to such a brilliant catch isn’t it?” she jeered. “Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I don’t want to marry.”

“But why not?” Sonu stared. “I am financially sound, reasonably good looking and from a decent family, no in-laws to worry about, what’s the problem?” He looked irritated and frustrated.

“The problem is that it is all about you, the others.” Lovely said. “There’s nothing in it for me. My feelings what I want doesn’t matter at all.”

“Okay. Okay.” Sonu raised his hands and backed off. “Okay fine. We’ll talk about you, what you want. I just thought of removing any concerns regarding familial opposition or hurting Titu’s feelings etc which may have bearing on your stance. If you have any other concerns, we can sort it out together. I promise. So let’s see,” he counted on his fingers, “Titu doesn’t have any problem, my family, your family don’t have any issues,” he grinned, “neither do I. So only you are left.” He tapped his chin. “You are worried, I won’t let you work? But of course I will! I already…”

“You know what galls me?” her tone was conversational as she interrupted him.

“What?” he asked warily.

“This thing about you will let me work. Why would you say such a thing? As if I were your bonded laborer or something. Male chauvinist,” she swore under her breath.

“Hey come on!” Sonu protested. “It was just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean anything other than I fully support and respect your decision to work. Like I was saying, I have my heart set on being IAS officer’s househusband. You go out and set the world right and I’ll keep your home sparkling clean, fresh and welcoming. I’ll look after the children, send them to school, make them do their homework…”

“What if I don’t want children?”

“Every woman wants children!”

“I think you know by now, I am not every woman, at least not your idea of every woman.”

“But you like children!”

“How do you know?” she crossed her arms.

“You told us, that you wouldn’t marry, but you would adopt a child, maybe more.” He shrugged. “But if you are getting married, may as well have children and have fun trying,” he winked.

Her lips quivered and firmed. “What if I don’t want to try? Or have fun?” Angry with herself for allowing the bitterness ooze out, she walked to the window.

***

Click here for Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Where the hell are you? She wished she could call him up and blast him as relief flooded her but there were too many customers around.

Where you told me to go. Hell.

She called him up. “Where are you?” she asked peremptorily.

“He’s in hospital.” Titu picked up the phone.

“Hospital!” she screeched. “Which hospital? Text me the details, if you are lying, I swear I’ll murder you both.” She disconnected the phone and packed up for the day.

At the hospital she surveyed a battered Sonu with horror. There were multiple scratches and bruises on his face, one eye was almost shut because of swelling and his right leg was in a cast. “What happened?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Snapped Titu. “He had an accident because he wasn’t looking where he was going. All because of you.”

“Titu.” Sonu’s voice was thin and scratchy.

“If anything happens to him,” Titu angrily brushed at his eyes, “I’ll make sure you rot in hell.” Her threatened.

“Titu!” His voice was stronger. “I’m fine. And it’s not her fault. Let her be.”

“Yeah right.” Titu flounced off.

“I am sorry.” Sonu said. “Don’t mind him. He’s just overwrought.”

Lovely stood there, her throat working unable to say a word.

“Please just ignore him and,” Sonu cleared his throat, “and any text that he may have sent. I asked him to charge my phone and check for any messages. He must have seen our chat and he just flew off the handle.”

“What happened?” Lovely was stiff.

“I had gone for a morning jog as usual when a bike crashed into me. I wasn’t carrying my phone, but luckily a neighborhood Aunty called Titu who brought me here.” He smiled. “Don’t worry I look worse than I feel.”

“How do you know what you look like?”

“From your expression.” He grinned. “Though I have to admit,” he added slyly, “it gives me a lot of hope.”

“Sonu please!” Lovely began. She drew a long breath. “We’ll talk later. Get well soon.”

“You’re leaving?”

She nodded. “I think it’s for the best.”

“Okay.” He lay with his eyes closed.

Worried (and slightly cut), she looked at him.

He was letting her go.

Without a protest. 

“Are you alright?”

“I will be.”

“Shall I call the Sister? Titu?”

“I’m fine.” He opened his eyes. “Is it okay if I call you sometimes?” He moved his fingers, “until I can begin texting again.”

She fiddled with strap of her purse and nodded.

“Thank you.” His face lit up. “Go and study.” His voice faded. “Make the most of now until I’m back on my feet.” It was a threat and a promise.

Lovely fled.

Titu wandered back in to the hospital room. “You okay?” Sonu looked pale and exhausted.

“You shouldn’t have texted her.” Sonu said without opening his eyes. “It wasn’t her fault.” For all his bravado and show, his heart was heavy. She didn’t care. What did you think that she too loves you? That she would collapse in a flood of tears upon seeing you, like the other girls had? The pain in his body was easier to bear than the anguish that tore through his heart.

“She told you to go to hell!” Titu snapped. “She has a black tongue and you better stay away from her.” He warned. “Don’t get taken in by her tears and sweet talk.”

“Tears? She’s too tough to cry. And what sweet talk? All she said was a dispassionate clinical what happened.”

“The way she was crying outside I thought she would flood the corridors.”

Sonu perked up. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

So she did care! A beatific smile lit up his face. “I’m glad you sent that text. You are a true friend.”

Titu grunted. “That was not my intention. I wanted to cut her out of your life before…”

“It’s too late bro. Too late.”

And all was not lost.

.

.

.

Unless she was the kinds who cared about injured rabid dogs.

 

The next two months passed with agonizing slowness. The road to recovery and getting back on his feet was an excruciating process but an unfinished agenda a lovely end to his budding love story was a high that kept him going, pushing him, keeping him in good spirits (most of the times).

For Lovely it was another story.

She withdrew from herself and threw herself into her books and systematically demolished the piles of pending claims left by her predecessor like a woman possessed. Strangely her family members didn’t pester her about formalizing her engagement with Titu. Perhaps he had asked for more time in view of his friend’s accident, whatever the reason she didn’t care. She only knew there was no place for marriage in her life or weakness in this regard. That way lay disaster.

Brick by brick, she bolstered and steadied her defenses and nerves. She refused to entertain any thoughts about Sonu and kept her conversations with Sonu to the bare minimum. Sonu tried to get her to text him but apart from a good morning or a good night, she maintained a tight-lipped silence while avidly listening in on any conversation that might give her clues to his well being or casually interrogating her Chachi.

She was just doing what any decent human being would do. Other than that, she wasn’t interested in him. Period. Besides who knew who all were reading their messages? She still went hot and cold with shame and horror at having allowed him to breach her barriers and respond to his texts. How could she?! Already Titu had read it. What if Mrs. Sharma or some other family member had read it! What would they have thought? What if Titu told them? What if Sonu and Titu laughed at her behind her back? She agonized over each word of her text. No she hadn’t said anything that could be misconstrued or held against her. But she wasn’t about to take any more risks. And it was for the best. She wasn’t marrying Titu so where did that leave her and Sonu? Nowhere.

Then the dreaded and yet most anticipated day came.

I am back on my feet.

Can we meet?

I need to talk to you.

Please?

I don’t bite.

Fine. Be that way. I will meet you outside your bank this evening.

No. I am busy

You need feeding.

You also have dark circles.

Are you stalking me?

I thought of surprising you yesterday.

But you caught the cab before I could make a move. 

Not completely recovered yet.

How about celebrating my return to life? 

Or would you have preferred me to die?

Stooping to emotional blackmail?

 

Just checking if you have any emotions

None whatsoever

Liar

 

Why do you say that?

 

That day after you left me at the hospital?

What?

The entire corridor was flooded.

Rubbish.

Come on! I wont take much time.

Besides you owe me.

You told me to go to hell

I went and came back

Don’t I deserve a pat on the back?

 

 

 

 

Exams are around the corner.

You can’t hide behind exams forever.

Go study

Make sure you clear the exams

All the best

Thanks

I have my heart set on an IAS wife

She switched off her data. She scrolled through the messages over and over again.

If only

Bitter bile rose up and choked her. She switched off her phone.

***

Click here for Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

 

 

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VI

Like I suspected this story is not going to finish in 6 (or 7) parts but to make up for dragging it, I will be posting chapters daily (if you like of course!)

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

“Where were you?” a bleary-eyed Titu attacked him the next morning as Sonu sat on the balcony his tea forgotten and crinkling. “I waited and waited for you.”

Sonu started. “But why? I texted you didn’t I? It was late and I…”

“Late? It was barely 11 pm!”

“Yeah. I guess I just wanted to be alone.”

“Alone and you? That’s a first! What’s wrong with you?”

“Wrong? Nothing. Everything is right. Just perfect. You know Titu it’s such a wonderful feeling to be in love. I don’t want to share it with anyone, not even,” he looked at him apologetically, “With you.” He shook his head. “I feel as if I am flying and there’s nothing I cannot do.”

“Oh my God,” Titu retired precipitously to the kitchen for some caffeine boost. So armed and somewhat rejuvenated, he returned to harass Sonu. “You are serious about her? Wasn’t one evening with her enough to get rid of that whimsy?”

“Nope. A life time wont be enough.” Sonu was serene and confident.

“She agreed?” Titu’s heart sank.

“Not by a long shot.”

“I am sure she’s playing hard to get to pique your interest and keep you hooked. She’s smarter than the other girls who are so obvious in their intent.”

“You misunderstand her.”

“And you understand her?”

“Not yet.” Sonu shook his head. “But there’s something in her eyes, a deep seated pain, a wounded look that slashes my heart.” He clenched his fists. “I want to kill whoever put it there,” he growled.

“My, my!” marveled Titu, “what an active imagination you have?! I also met her I didn’t see anything like that? She was laughing and chatting as normally as anyone else, perhaps,” he amended, “a little bit more sense than the average behenji. That’s her only claim to fame.” Titu declared. “Listen Sonu,” he cautioned, “don’t get taken in by the tragedy queen act. She’s not our type of girl. Just forget her and move on.”

“And I am wondering just who is my type of girl? Someone who dances well, parties and drinks? Didn’t we agree that we wanted to settle down?”

“But she doesn’t want to settle down does she? She said it very clearly that she wasn’t interested in marrying. So even if you do manage to convince her to marry, I am warning you, housekeeping will fall on your shoulders.”

“All that is inconsequential and a tiny price to pay if she will agree to have me in her life.”

“You’ve lost it man!” Titu was worried. “You and I are going to Goa and not coming back until you are completely rid of this evil spirit.”

Sonu didn’t object and went along with his friend’s suggestion. If Titu was right, it was an infatuation, a passing obsession, might as well take measures to rise above it. She deserved better and more than a passing interest. Yet in the midst of exotic locales, high on feni and romantic beaches, all he could see was her – laughing teasing, brooding, resigned, blanked out and that raw anguish that had flashed in her eyes before it was tucked away out of sight. Something horrifying had happened in college that much he was sure, but what? He raised his glass at Titu gyrating on the deck with a crush of people shook his head and turned away to admire the colors of sunset. Would she have found this romantic or would she have made some cutting comment about nature showing off? He clicked a picture and wished he could send it to her. But she had deigned to even share her number. Now the only way to contact her was to go to her home. Unless…

“Hi! I’m here to discuss a loan.” Sonu landed up at her bank.

Lovely jerked up. “What are you doing here?!”

“Told you,” he grinned, taking the seat across her, “I want a loan.”

She looked at him primly and straightened the sheets on her table. “I don’t deal with loans. I deal with claims,” she shot him a look from her brow, “I’m the bank’s unofficial troubleshooter,” he could have sworn there was a gleam behind the spectacles, “and I have special permission to shoot troublemakers.”

“Well,” he shrugged toying with a stapler on her table, “if you can’t give me a loan, I will stake a claim to your time.”

“I don’t have any time.” She dismissed him.

“But you will go home?” He pointed out. “I’ll drop you home.”

“I can go home by myself.” She snapped. “Thank you.”

“It’s no trouble.” He smiled setting her teeth on edge. Ignoring him, she nodded to the customer standing behind Sonu. “Yes? Please tell me.” She invited.

Unfazed Sonu stood up. “I’ll catch you after work.” He sauntered away while she stared at his retreating back with annoyance and anticipation. Contrarily to punish him (and herself for that transgression, that leap in her heart) she dithered over her work, until she was all caught up. Let him sweat it out, she was still seething over his high-handed behavior, but he was probably cozily ensconced in his air-conditioned gas-guzzler, she thought sourly switching off and locking up for the day. Or maybe he had gotten bored and left, she couldn’t help looking this way and that to see if he was actually around.

“Looking for me?” he popped up from behind.

Arrogant and full of himself, he definitely needed to be taken down a peg or two. “One can’t be too careful,” She curled her lips, “with the kind of good-for-nothings loitering on the streets.”

“What do you mean?”

“The streets of Delhi are choc-a-bloc with suited and booted,” she gave him a scathing disgusted look, “rabid dogs.”

He turned on his heels and walked away.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, she thought triumphantly. But it was a hollow victory. And it was strange how much space ‘rubbish’ could occupy her mind.

She couldn’t get his hurt expression out of her head. Every time she tried to focus on her studies, his eyes would flash up on the pages of her book – surely that hadn’t been a hint of tears? What had she said that he got so upset? She shut her traitorous book with a snap. And why did she care? Because what I said was plain mean? Besides what right did she have to insult him like this?

But it was okay for him to pester and harass me?

He wasn’t harassing! That’s just his way.

Yeah right, make excuses for him. What about me?

Apologize to him.

To him?! But why should I? He started it.

So you finish it. By apologizing. Show him that you are a better person. Can you do that?

I guess. But what if he takes it as encouragement?

Surely you know how to control one man? And you want to be an IAS officer?

She sighed. She had been way out of line and he deserved an apology. Staring at his calling card, she dithered for a long time. Should she call him? Should she apologize in person? Maybe she could pay him a visit at his office? But wouldn’t that give him the wrong message? Give him a tacit license to dog her steps. Besides they had nothing in common. What was the point in building a relationship that was based on a false premise? Relationship! She didn’t do relationships! Darn him for wasting so much of her time and thoughts! She needed to study. May as well be over and done with it.

She texted him – Hi.

She stared at her phone. Single tick. Double tick. No last seen status. Perhaps he was asleep – it was 3 am. Her heart thudded. The ticks turned blue. He was online. She sat up clutching the pillow to her middle. Why was he not responding? Perhaps he didn’t know it was her? Her DP also gave no clue as to her identity. It’s me, Lovely she typed and then hesitated, Jigyasa.

Still no response.

She checked the DP, it was him and he was still online. Was he ignoring her or was he mad at her; or worse hurt because of her?

It is Sonu isn’t it?

He was typing!

No.

She stared. She could have sworn it was him.

Oops. I did check the DP.

Did you?

She frowned and checked again. She almost gasped with surprise.

A mangy unkempt dog stared back at her.

I am sorry. It came out spontaneously.

For what? He wasn’t ready to absolve her so easily.

For crossing that line

Prove it

Prove what?

That you are sorry. Meet me after work tomorrow.

No.

Fine. He went offline.

I’m busy tomorrow. She yielded. Maybe on Friday.

Great!

Already regretting her hasty decision (and annoyed that he did take her apology as a license to continue pursuing her), she typed back but why do you want to meet me?

Even I wonder.

Her heart thudded.

I just have to. Like an addiction I am helpless

Her heart stopped.

I can’t stop thinking about you. It’s as if there’s nothing in my world apart from you.

She felt hot and cold. Her fingers shook as she slowly typed. Perhaps that’s because I am the new toy that you cannot have.

Perhaps

She swallowed hard to dislodge the lump in her throat.

Or

She froze and stared at her screen.

I have fallen in love with you

Tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped them away fiercely. You are crazy

Yes. About you

What do you know about me?

Nothing. But that doesn’t matter. I only know that I cannot live without you.

Sweat beaded her brow. She felt as if she were flying yet a dreadful weight dragged her down.

Her phone pinged.

Let me live. Marry me. Please.

Go to hell. She switched off her phone and gave into the luxury of gut-wrenching sobs into her pillow.

Heavy eyed and listless, she got through the next day alternating between exhilaration and dread of meeting Sonu. She cautiously and reluctantly switched on her phone at the office. Disappointment tore through her. Not a single message from him. She was the new toy. He was already bored of her. Or accepted that she was unattainable. Well that suited her just fine and she was well out of all that mess she had sworn she would never get into it. She threw herself into her work. But she couldn’t resist checking her phone about a million times. He wasn’t waiting for her outside the bank either.

This wasn’t like him to give up so easily she couldn’t help thinking. Had she again hurt his feelings by saying go to hell? What if something had happened to him?

What do care? She jeered herself. And what do you know about him? Nothing right. Just be thankful that he is out of your hair and get on with your life. Stop moping and get back to studying.

She pulled herself together and immersed herself into the world of academics. Like always this was her sanctuary her abode of peace and tranquility where she could forget about the world, and herself. Yet once in a while Sonu managed to intrude here as well. Where was he

By the next day she was concerned enough to call up his mobile from the office landline. She didn’t want him to get the wrong message again. But his phone was switched off. Why would he switch off his phone? It’s not like she was pursuing him.

Maybe someone else was. Maybe she had come back into his life. Maybe he was regretting his hasty declaration. Maybe, argh!

Forget him. Move on.

I would if only I knew he was fine.

Why do you care?

There were no answers or she didn’t want to admit to them. She had only one thought – how to get news of Sonu?

After three dreadful days her phone pinged.

Hello from Hell.

***

Click here for the next Chapter 7: To Hell and Back