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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.”
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.
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?”
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.
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
Why do you say that?
That day after you left me at the hospital?
The entire corridor was flooded.
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.
Make sure you clear the exams
All the best
I have my heart set on an IAS wife
She switched off her data. She scrolled through the messages over and over again.
Bitter bile rose up and choked her. She switched off her phone.
Click here for Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête