“Tell me now, do you really love me?”
“I love the idea of loving you.”
“I don’t know what’s more pathetic- you saying that, or me believing it.”
The words still roam in my head, her voice still as alive and sweet as three years ago upon this very bench that bears my weight this moment in the park. I touch the dark brown wood with shaking hands – “ that’s where she always sat.. ” – her memory being the only thing keeping me alive.
* * * * *
It is crazy how love happens. They say it does at the first sight – that you just know your “the one” as soon as your eyes meet hers. Then all of your roads lead back to her, and the colors seem brighter somehow, the world – a cheerful place; and you feel possessed – a magical experience. It took me three years of friendship and a month of separation to realize that Varsha, my best friend, my lab partner and my colleague was the girl I loved.
But I was too late.
* * * * *
We’d been the best of buddies for as long as I can remember. I always liked her, and she did too – her own confession. Our parents weren’t enemies; they liked us, and hadn’t selected any partners for either of us. Neither of us even had any fatal disease! It could’ve worked out pretty well.
But it didn’t.
Our parents came up with the idea of our marriage. She was okay with it, but I wasn’t. I wanted a job, a life. I wanted to see the world freely with my own eyes, walking freely without the burden (or the pleasures) of a wife and kids. So I turned it down. I ‘moved on’. She moved to London once she got her degree. And she moved on too. What could’ve been magical was buried deep beneath layers of – for the lack of a better word – Life.
I’d confessed my feelings, my attraction, my so-called ‘like’ numerous times. What I failed to realize was that this same undercurrent flowing through blood, my ‘like’ as I called it, was in fact love. Today it looks like I took her for granted, and I should’ve realized my feelings and proposed her. But I didn’t.
And she moved on.
* * * * *
London came as a shock to me. After three years of our friendship, I felt incomplete without her. It was a gaping hole in my life – a big fat hole growing with every passing second, tearing me up into pieces.
We did talk, though. We chatted on facebook and on the phone. Those are the only moments I still remember clearly about those days. The rest is a blurry drag of time. She told me she’d met a guy named Mike and she’d made quite many friends over there.
But I was still afraid. I was standing on the top of a mountain surrounded by thick mists about to take a step. This next step could mean the safe haven of a rock, or a bottomless abyss. I was insecure, and couldn’t bring myself to propose her yet. I was, as they say, waiting for ‘the perfect moment.’ Finally it arrived.
One day, she called.
“Saurav, please come here.” She sobbed into the phone. “Please.. I-I don’t know what to do..”
Her father had met an accident and was hospitalized. He didn’t have any insurance and the operation would cost a lot. I finally had my chance. It could work. I’d go there, help her out, and propose. She’d be mine! Repeating it over and over again, I smiled. I emptied my bank account and flew to her.
It had been a month since I’d seen her lovely face, I so clearly remembered before my eyes. There she was , fair as ever, half-broken-hearted, tears running down her cheeks. I took her in my arms, embracing softly- and a little longer than appropriate. I wrote a cheque for 20 lakhs and paid the bills without a second thought. The operation was a success, and her dad was home in a week.
It did occur to me, at times, that she wasn’t her usual gay self around me, not my Varsha, but I ignored it, figuring it was her father’s illness to be the reason.
Finally I proposed.
Her expressions did show surprise, but she accepted. Her faint “Yes” seemed to be tainted by a tinge of sadness, but I didn’t ponder. It was the happiest day of my life!
A week later, we returned to India and arranged the wedding. Her friends from London had come too, excited about a big fat Indian wedding. It was the day before the wedding whence it all shattered.
What I heard shook the feet below my feet. I’d heard two voices coming from the ladies’ room, as I myself entered the men’s’. The common wall that separated both washrooms wasn’t soundproof enough, I guess. So I listened. It was Rose and Jen – her friends from London chatting away. They were talking about Mike and Varsha; they were talking about me!
“She couldn’t refuse, right?” said Rose, “after all he’d done for her!”
“I’d agree. She may love Mike, but she can’t show it! He owns her after all.!”
I ran away, tears welling up my eyes in disgust. I owned her? I owned her! So that is why she was so upset. She couldn’t tell me. She couldn’t leave me!. But I could.
And I did.
Half an hour later, I returned, only to find Mike perched up a chair alone, smoking sadly. I confronted him and he confessed.
“Yes we love each other.” He said matter-of-factly. “But don’t worry, she won’t cheat on you.”
“I know. Do you really love her?”
“Yes I do.” He was serious. And honest.
“She’s yours, buddy. Just promise you’ll take care of her. Or else I will come down from the depths of hell and kick your butt.”
* * * * *
I entered her room to find her by the window with a rose in her hand. She was dressed in white, and lost in thought- my cute angel. I kissed her for the last time.
“I will always love you.” I whispered by her lips.
Before she could reply, I took the rose from her hand and left.
Author’s Note : I don’t usually write romance. It’s my first time. So bearing that in mind, please don’t be too rough in your evaluations. Constructive criticism is readily welcomed. And thanks for reading…
– M. A.