“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
It was the season of heartbreaks. It was the season of first loves. It was the season of broken hearts looking for someone to heal the wounds. It was the season of stolen first kisses under the shade of trees. It was October – when the sun and breeze decided to work together to find their balance and let people take long walks, dogs laze around and flowers blossom.
It was October. The college fest had just ended and exams were not due for another few months. While everybody else had entered a relaxed state of mind, she was running around her campus, managing her classes, extracurriculars, catching up with friends and teachers alike, just like any ordinary day. Despite the busy look on her face, she managed to steal quick moments to stop and make a short conversation with everyone on her way – the security guard at the gate, the parking assistant, and the gardener. There was a quick pace in her steps, confidence in her gait and a faint smile on her face. Quite a lively girl any one observing from a distance would say.
She was carrying a stack of papers in her hand with her arm coiled close to her chest. Drafts and submissions of students’ articles for the college magazine that she was the editor of. The tug was a tad too close. An unconscious action, maybe because of her love for the written word.
As she scurried away to the small stationery shop to pick some folders, she saw him approaching her. Her steps slowed, gently like a beautiful symphony fades away. Slow and magical. They both looked at each other. Faint smiles of acquaintance. Their shoulders dropped at ease upon sensing the familiar comfort. Like that of two souls coming home.
‘Hey’, he said, with the same light smile that suited him so well. The right corner of his mouth rising slightly higher than the left, deepening the dimple on the right cheek.
‘Hi! how are you?’, she replied, reciprocating the smile. Hers deepening the dimple on her left cheek. A poetic mirror image.
‘Just heading for my class, I think I am late, but shouldn’t be a problem, am sure the professor hasn’t turned up’, he said. ‘What are you up to today?’
‘Just finalizing the articles. Got a few more entries today. Will read through them once, and then you can take a look’, she replied.
The magazine was a catalyst, that brought the two of them together. They both took extra interest in it as it gave them a reason to interact and work together. Sit together. Close. And feel at home. Sometimes even without uttering a word.
‘I think we’ll need to talk to the printer once, looks like he is going to give us trouble, the change in the number of pages and paper quality are going to be a big thing’, she said, trying hard to suppress the undercurrents and deliberately choosing to talk about work instead.
He looked deep into her eyes, like he always seemed to do to, as if reading her mind, and asked, ‘Did he speak to you? Is he giving you trouble already?’, with a tone of concern. Protective concern. Like he would slay anyone who would dare to cause a frown on her brow.
‘No no, we can do it together. And ..’ she stopped mid sentence as it happened.
The breeze was up to mischief. A loose strand of her hair that was tucked behind her ear ran loose. Touching her nose and then her lips. She saw his eyes noticing it, following its trail. It stopped near her mouth, caught between her lips, glued there by their moistness. He let it enjoy it’s momentary glory, admired its mischief and then slowly raised his hand, caught it between his index and middle finger, and tucked it gently behind her ear. The smile this time on his lips was different. Way different. It went all the way to his eyes.
The sun was playing its part too. It shone bright into his eyes causing faint tears, making them wet enough to gleam brighter.
She didn’t miss a moment of it. She was staring deep into his eyes all this while. Deep, brown eyes, with dark brown cornea. Something she couldn’t do when he was looking at her. Yes, this was her time. She knew it wouldn’t be for long and planned to savor every tiny second of it. The satisfaction of it appearing as a smile on her lips. Sadly, it ended sooner than she anticipated. His eyes, as if sensing her probing ones, darted back, looking right into hers, almost to catch her in the act. They locked into hers before she could take them away and held them there. And everything seemed to have stopped.
To a passing stranger, it would be not more than a few seconds on the clock, but to them, it was eternity. A moment, the memory of which could keep them awake at night, even after years. A moment, that was a balm that could cure every tiny wound they had on their souls. A moment, that told their hearts what their lips could never say. A moment, that some poets had captured in just a para, some in volumes of books. A moment, that would be the last thing that would flash by as they closed their eyes on their death bed.
It was. Love.