Ok, a bit of a background on Sherry is warranted, I guess
If you remember, Sherry had met Anya when he was 24 years of age and Anya 14 (actually nearer 15) and had felt an instant pull of attraction. Except that he hadn’t really treated it as an attraction, just that he liked to talk to her, enjoy her joie-de-vivre, her chatter, and valued their ‘friendship’. But then slowly he realized his feelings were more than just mere friendship and to his growing dismay (and exultation too) he clearly see the infatuation in her eyes – for him. The way her eyes lit up at the sight of him was just irresistible and acted as a magnet.
Yet he would have to resist. She is just a child you idiot, he berated himself disgustedly; he slowly withdrew himself from her, his heart almost breaking at the bewildered hurt in her eyes. He steeled himself and to avoid weakening, he took off to Singapore, against his mother’s wishes, for he knew if he stayed back, he was bound to break his own vow and succumb not only to the silent plea in her eyes, but also to the call of his own heart.
Away from her, he had made peace with it (actually a dull resigned pain somewhere in the left side of his chest) by throwing himself into work, secure in the knowledge that he had done the right thing. He made new friends and socialized more than ever before yet that delighted laughter, the mischievous giggle the bright warm eyes haunted him at most unexpected moments. He had stopped fighting his ‘wayward’ thoughts and learnt to cherish those flashes of her memories while he tried to find another who could replace ‘her’ in his heart. He was no lovesick boy he snorted disgustedly to himself and got on with his life. The only luxury he did allow himself was to send her a birthday greeting, just a single heartfelt line each year. Perhaps he was subconsciously or consciously waiting for her to grow up. Whatever the reason, that email was enough to prompt Anya to send him a long email bringing him up-to-date with all the events and happenings of her busy young life, home and school. He pored over her mails, reading them again and again, looking for nuances, hints he might have missed earlier.
In his case rather than ‘out of sight out of mind’ it was ‘absence makes the heart fonder’.
He was totally obsessed with her as the ‘voice’ in his head declared miffed and completely put off with the guy it was forced to reside within, disgusting and so pathetic, it moaned over and over again. Sherry made a face – I am in Singapore aren’t I? He defended himself in an attempt to shut up the ‘voice’. He was sometimes successful, other times not so much.
But then his mother, who had refused to accompany him, fell seriously ill. Worried for her, he shifted back to take care of her full time. After she recovered, he began hunting for a job in Delhi. He had lucrative offers from several companies, but what clinched this particular bank in South Extension was that he caught a glimpse of Anya as she came out of their orientation class along with Aisha. He stopped in his tracks, stunned, pole-axed.
Despite her changed appearance, the stylish haircut, he recognized her in a heart beat. He felt dizzy and breathless, she had grown even more beautiful, she was positively glowing, he thought as he stared at her hungrily, jealously wondering if she were in love with the guy she was laughing and talking to.
That very same day he had taken up the job, unable to resist the strong desire to be near her, despite the solid tantrum thrown by the ‘voice’ in his head. Unheedingly, almost foolishly he had gone with this particular job.
At that time he hadn’t known that she was taking up classes nearby, only surmising that she probably frequented the uptown market and perhaps, just perhaps he would be able to catch a glimpse of her. How pathetic can you get, he berated himself, how low can you sink, stalking a girl like that! What nonsense, he defended himself, I am not stalking her, I am hardly going to haunt the shops in the hope of running into her, besides if I wanted I could just call her up or Aisha to fix a meeting, no big deal he shrugged. Then why don’t you? The voice in his head insisted, either meet up with her openly or take up the job at Gurgaon.
Oh shut up! Sherry scowled ferociously to himself as he emailed his acceptance to the bank and joined soon after. He cleverly managed (or perhaps fate conspired) to acquire the office which faced the very street where he had seen Anya. Ever so often he would get up from his seat, coffee in hand to stare out of the third floor window, looking out at the street, hoping against hope.
He was half relieved, half disappointed when days passed by without a glimpse of Anya, but hope is a strange thing. Each day was a new day and perhaps today would be the day! Dammit, he swore to himself, this is crazy, I definitely need some treatment. That’s it, no more visits to the window otherwise you are changing your job, he told himself firmly.
True to his word, he sat glued to his seat the whole day, even had his meal on his desk, getting up only to go to the washroom. There was a late evening meeting and it was past 7.30 pm by the time it wrapped up. And he had an engagement party that he needed to go to; no point in going home, might as well go directly from here, he thought wearily, feeling terribly tired and sleepy. He called for a cup of strong black coffee and walked almost unconsciously with no real purpose or thought towards the window.
His heart stopped beating and started thudding again furiously, the hot coffee scalded his tongue. Yes that was Anya, thought giddy as a teenage, with Aisha and the same guy he noted; the girls walked a little distance and got into a car, waved to the boy and vanished into the night.
He continued to stand near the window till a colleague called for him. Still in a sort of a daze, he went through the motions of social niceties, laughing, talking cracking jokes, even as his heart sang with joy. He had finally put two and two together, she didn’t come here to shop, she came to attend classes, which got over at around 8 pm; now he would be able to see her often, he exulted.
Oh hell you are really pathetic, the voice in his head moaned, rooting for a glimpse of a teenager, how sick and creepy can you get? They should lock you up, it hissed viciously. Unheeding, unrepentant, shameless and rather helplessly Sherry would take up his vigil by the window each evening till he worked out her weekly schedule and on good days, he even caught a glimpse of her in sunlight. Bas ek binocular lena baaki tha (he did think of it but desisted in view of the screechy moral police in his head).
He often fantasized about ‘casually’ bumping into her, but regretfully discarded the wild scheme each time. He couldn’t do that to her, why disturb her? He knew she had a crush on him, she seemed to have gotten over him and looked happy in her own world, amongst her friends, busy preparing for her entrance and school leaving exams, why mess it up for her? It was a question of her future. No, he wouldn’t do that to her, couldn’t do that to her, he wasn’t that crazy, he was happy to have a glimpse of her, even from so far he could feel the warmth of her smile, the twinkle in her eyes – would it be so bad if he did procure a pair of binoculars?
Today had been a routine day at his office; he worked till a bit later than 7.30 pm, when the office peon brought in his customary cup of black coffee along with an update of the news, “Sir, pata hai, there is a huge traffic jam outside on the main road, an oil tanker had caught fire, you wont be able to take out your car,” his eyes gleamed with morbid excitement, “Many people have been injured, shayad terrorist attack hai, all networks have been jammed,” he continued with relish at the satisfying shock on Sherry’s face.
Anya! Was his instant concern, how would she go back if the main road was blocked and no network? He checked his mobile as he walked to the window, nope no network and no Anya yet. Perhaps she hadn’t come for class today, he thought hopefully, but then it wasn’t time yet, he thought as he looked at his watched. He sipped his coffee and dismissed the peon with a nod of his head. He waited impatiently, his eyes fixed on the lamp post under which she always stood waiting for her car (pssst once the streetlight had conked off and he had gotten it repaired on his own expenses) hoping yet dreading.
While he is waiting, let me try to describe Sherry (sorry not at all observant or good at such descriptions). He was quite tall and broad shouldered, with a rather funny nose. Funny in the sense, it was rather buttony and coupled with the deep dimples they gave him a cute boyish look, much to his despair, especially during his growing years. Girls senior to him in school used to tease him mercilessly and some even pulled his cheeks; he would blush a tomato red inviting more cat calls and comments. He had managed to survive those awful teen years and even learnt to use his ‘cuteness’ to get out of trouble or inveigle a favor or two from his very tormentors. But his most arresting feature were his eyes, a nondescript brown but wide, bright, clear (framed with long curling lashes a woman would die for) and warm, especially when they rested on Anya.
His heart skipped a beat, there she was with Aisha; where was the boy today? He thought irritably. They were a bit early today and as usual totally oblivious to the world around; Anya was chattering away to Aisha. He shook his head, and smiled faintly, she really was a chatterbox, even her emails were long and endless. He put his empty cup down and straightened; he frowned, when did that motley bunch come? He stiffened and his lips set in a firm line, the girls were still oblivious to the lurking danger, fools he thought savagely, can’t they be a little more circumspect? But what if even if they were, today was an exception and they couldn’t be blamed if the situation went beyond their control.
No he would have to intervene and show himself, he couldn’t hide behind the scenes any longer he detached himself from the wall where he had been leaning to get a better view and went out to them at a run and said casually, careful to keep a neutral detached tone, “Hello girls, fancy meeting you here.”
From the corner of his eyes, he noted the boys stop their advance and then reluctantly back off. He smiled grimly to himself; at least he hadn’t read their signals incorrectly.
Aisha’s squeal of recognition and relief barely registered as Anya threw herself into his arms. Staggering slightly at the suddenness and unexpectedness of it, his arms automatically closed around her and drew her to close to him for one brief exhilarating insane moment before he recalled himself and forced himself to put her away gently from him. It took all his self control to act unconcerned and casual even as his eyes devoured her, “And who may you be?” he mocked her.
“Sherry!” pouted Anya prettily, thrilled that he was here, in front of her.
Sherry pretended to start, his eyes devouring her, “Kiddo? Is that you? My my, wouldn’t have recognized you,” he said half admiringly, half mockingly, he turned to Aisha, “Hello Aisha how are you? And what are you two doing here at this hour?”
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