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!
She stared. She could have sworn it was him.
Oops. I did check the DP.
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
That you are sorry. Meet me after work tomorrow.
Fine. He went offline.
I’m busy tomorrow. She yielded. Maybe on Friday.
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.
She swallowed hard to dislodge the lump in her throat.
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