“Madam, your taxi is here” the watchman informed Neha.
Neha was still pacing restlessly in the room. Everything was packed. She was all set to leave. But, there was something missing. Something, she was still waiting for. Something, she was almost sure would never happen.
“Madam, your taxi is waiting here” watchman called out again.
She picked up her bags and walked to the elevator. She dragged her herself to the taxi. And while the watchman kept the bags at the back, she just slid on to the back seat. She was feeling exhausted of trying to pretend ;pretend that she was okay. She wanted to let go of herself. She longed for someone to take care of her. She has always been a very good listener, her long list of friends can vouch for that. They all were as good a support to her as she was to them. But today, having all these friends just didn’t seem enough. She wanted something more. She wanted someone, who would listen to her and understand her. She wanted someone, who brought her feelings to surface. She wanted someone, who could sense her discomfort even from her voice over the phone. Someone who would turn up at her door steps with some good old Hindi movies just to cheer her up. Someone who would stop her from going out in rains saying she’ll catch a cold and then taking her out himself. It was only he, who can do all that, and more. She wanted ‘him’. But, not as someone who was just a ‘good friend’.
Its been over a year since she moved to this city. Her sole reason to come all the way here was to be close to him. To find out whether the feelings she had for him were more than just infatuation. And when she knew that it wasn’t infatuation, that she really has feelings for him, she felt miserable. She finds herself in a very vulnerable state now. She is at his mercy!
No! this not how she is. She is a head strong women, who has made sound choices and always stood up to her decisions. Now, that’s what she will do. After a year of uncertainty, she has finally got some clarity of thought. She has to move on. She cant keep wondering what he feels, or what he thinks about her. She cant expect him to come up to her and say that he loves her, when she herself has never spoken about it before, not even given a hint about her feelings. She was always there as a good friend to him and maybe that’s all she would be to him. A good friend.
She has to live with it. Having him as a friend is better than not having him around at all. But she needs sometime away from him for this. To wash away her feelings. To start afresh. That’s the reason she was considering this job in Delhi. She’ll be away from him. But they can still be friends.
They got to know each other through a social networking site. He was friend’s friend or something. It was just like with any other person at the start. A like on the status, or a comment on the pictures with occasional smiley. Then the not-so-frequent chats. They never realized when they started spending hours on chat together. First, it was online, then through SMS, and then the long long talks over the phone. They shared almost everything about themselves. She knew things about him which he never told anyone. He knew things about her which were hidden from her best of friends.
He was the only person she opened up to about her dad. She lost her dad when she was a teenager. Life after that wasn’t easy for her, specially because she was too attached to her dad. Her father was her support system. He knew how she has worked hard to reach where she is now. And how guilty she feels for not pursuing CA that her dad wanted her to. But she thinks her dad would have wanted her to be best at what she does and CA was definitely not her cup of tea. And now she was determined to be the best in her field.
On the other hand, she knew how he always had to be the strong one in his family. And how he longed to just vent out. He was the only son to his parents. Since his parents had a inter-religion love marriage, there wasn’t much support of their respective families till a long time. And when they came into the picture it was just to pass judgment. His mother suffered a bad stroke which left her paralyzed, she couldn’t feel anything below her waist. He and his father took good care of her. She was a women of high-spirits and nothing changed that. Neha had spoken to her over the phone on numerous occasions. And they just loved talking to each other. Sadly, she passed away three years back, after another stroke. Unfortunately that was the first time Neha and Ravi met. It wouldn’t seem like an ideal time to meet someone for the first time, but as glad as Neha was to be there for him, so was he to have her as a support. She took care of all arrangements at home since they had common friends it wasn’t too weird for her. She was there for around four days. She had seen him stand strong, consoling his father, meeting everyone, making arrangements for the cremation and the prayer meet. She had also seen him break down in the night when she forced him to eat something and get some sleep. She just wanted him to let go of all that he was holding in. He wished her to stay for a few more days, not that he ever asked her to stay, she just knew. She had to leave because of work or else she would have never left his side at this time, not that she had to explain, he just knew.
They were constantly in touch. Always there for each other. She never knew when she started viewing him in a different light. But she was never sure about his feelings for her. He always stated how lucky he was to have a friend like her, who was always there to support him, who understood him, who is not like other girls who expected the relation to grow into something else but respected the friendship.
It was during one of her tours that she got a mail from one of their common friends that Ravi’s father passed away. She was shocked. And felt helpless as all she could do was to call him over the phone as the assignment wasn’t over till two more weeks before she could go to him. But she made sure someone was with him at all times. He spoke to her only once over the phone, and it was very strange for her as he was very formal and limited in his words, but she thought it was because the state that he was in. She tried a couple of times after that, but he never took her call neither did he call her back. His friends told Neha that Ravi was not talking to anyone much, that he was not himself anymore. He just seemed like a different person. They all thought it was better to give him some space to overcome the grief. And once Neha came back she would visit him too.
It was about 10 days after the news, that she got a mail from Ravi. She was surprised and something gave her a bad feeling about it. It read:
He left me too. Its a void that will be there till the end of my life. He was the only family I had. Now he is gone too. Its my destiny to lose. Everything around me reminds me am alone now. All alone.
I don’t have Maa. I don’t have Dad. I don’t have my friend too. Why dint you come? Didn’t you know I cant manage all this on my own? Why didn’t you come?
This sent shiver down her spine. He was a very strong person. The mail told her how deep his grief was. She couldn’t reply. She spoke to his friends, and they made a plan. They wanted him to be away from the house for at least some time. It would be easier for him to overcome the grief.
Neha reached back after another week. She left the same night to meet Ravi. She couldn’t recognize Ravi when she saw him, his usual smile was gone, his eyes didnt have their sparkle. He was a different person. Very formal, and closed. Even with her he was very reserved. When she cried and hugged him, he just lightly said, “its ok now” and moved away.
His friends wanted him to stay with them for sometime. All the friends somehow managed to convince him to stay with them for some time. Neha left a day after Ravi moved in with his friends.
It took sometime, but he came out of it. He was becoming his usual self again. Although there were times when he would just cut off from every one. But they were happy that he got back to his usual routine and his work.
It was around then, that Neha got an offer to move to Ravi’s city. She readily accepted.
Now, everyday after work all the friends used to hang out together. Ravi was now back to normal, with his charming talks and the usual humor. It was almost a ritual for Neha and Ravi to meet after work for coffee. They would catch up on their daily activities and then move to meet the others. Every one wanted Ravi to get married or at least be in a relation as he wouldn’t feel alone then. And after a series of arguments on the same Ravi also realized that it was about time to have that one special person in his life. Every girl was being scrutinized for him now, friends will discuss and also discard the girls around him on the basis of whether they thought her worthy of him or not. Although this was a fun exercise for the gang, something inside Neha screamed for Ravi’s attention all the while. But that didn’t change any thing, she was part of all discussions on girls, she was always there when others encouraged him to talk to any girl and always there to know how his date went.
After a series of unsuccessful dates, he met a girl who he found interesting and even the gang approved of her. He used to meet her every now and then, she was even invited to their gatherings a couple of times. Although Neha was always a good host, her friends started to notice sadness in her eyes when ever Ravi left with his girlfriend. She confessed of her feelings for Ravi, when confronted by her friends. They were ecstatic to know this and revealed that they wanted the same, but were not sure about Neha and Ravi’s feelings. They wanted to tell Ravi, but Neha stopped them saying that he had a nice thing going on the his girlfriend.
Ravi liked the girl and spent a considerable amount of time with her, but that didn’t mean he cut back his time with his friends. He was still there everyday for coffee after work. He was there for every gathering, for every movie. And occasionally he was there at Neha’s watching old Hindi movies, just like that. He never used to talk about his girlfriend to Neha, she found it strange as he used to talk about her with others. He was still very caring for Neha, when she fell sick he was there with her the whole time. When ever she was sad he was there with her, comforting her. And when he was sad, he would seek comfort in Neha’s company. They kept growing closer. They felt closer. But neither ever said anything.
It was now very painful for Neha to see him with his girlfriend. She wasn’t sure if expressing her feelings was a good idea. What if she loses her best friend in the bargain? This was a risk she wasn’t ready to take.
So, she decided to move from there. She took up an assignment in Delhi, although it was only for a month, but it would give her some space and time to make her mind. During the assignment she was planning to try to get herself transferred to Delhi itself. She prepared herself to say goodbyes to all her friends there.
It came as a surprise to all, specially to Ravi. He was mad at her for not telling him about her assignment or her plans to move. And moving for better career prospects wasn’t a reason good enough. He knew her well enough to know that it wasn’t the real reason for her to move. And the fact that she was hiding the real reason was making him mad at her.
It was the day before her departure she invited all her friends over for dinner, just to say her goodbyes. Everyone knew the real reason but played along. They had a ball. All the while Neha avoided being with Ravi as he was stressing on knowing the reason behind such decision. After the dinner, one by one, everyone left, except Ravi. He was waiting to be alone with her and now it was impossible to get away from him.
He kept asking and she kept saying the same thing. After a while she said, “I better get some sleep now, have got a lot of packing to do tomorrow”. Ravi felt very bad and he left.
She kept tossing and turning in bed, sleep just eluded her. She just couldn’t forget the expression Ravi had when he left. Was it love for her that she saw in his eyes? “No, that cant be. I am again making all this up” she thought to herself and closed her eyes tightly this time, as if trying to squeeze out his face from her memories. Again, in vain.
Her mobile buzzed. It was a message from Ravi, “I know you are lying, but I dont know why? If its anything that I have done, please forgive me. I don’t know what I have done for you to behave like this, but I know its because of me. I am sorry. Don’t go. Please.”
Neha wept like a baby, because she was hurting the one person she never wanted to hurt. She decided she’ll tell him just before she leaves. She replied, “Its not you. You haven’t done anything wrong. Its me. Its only me. Will tell you. Have to tell you. Come to see me off?”
She knew he never goes to see off anyone. It reminds him of the departures from his life. He replied “you know I cant see you leave.. How can I? “
Her flight was at 7 PM. She had to leave her place by 5 to reach in time. She waited for Ravi till 4pm. He didn’t come, neither did he call. Her friends called, she asked them not to come to see her off. She couldn’t wait any more. She decided to drop a message to Ravi,“I’m leaving because I cant pretend to be your friend, when I wanna be much more than that. Because its painful to see you with someone else. I know she makes you happy and that’s all I could hope for. Wish you the best, as always. Please don’t come now, I wont be able to face you right now.”
She was sitting in the taxi, lost in her thoughts. Just then there was a knock on her window, it was him. He came! She couldn’t say anything, he just slid in the seat beside her.
“Please dont say anything” she said. “Okay”, he said and just held her hand and she rested her head on his shoulders. It was one hour drive, they both sat quiet, not saying a single word.
When they reached the Airport, before she was going to check in, he hugged her. She felt as if she would break down and cry. But she composed herself and managed to smile, with tears glittering in her eyes.
“Come back. Come back soon. Come back ’cause I want us to be more than friends. I always have” she broke down to tears. He wiped them and said “Come on, my girl is not this weak. Go finish your assignment and come back. Comeback to me, comeback for me. (he held her face in his hands) Its always been you Neha, no one but you. I’ll be waiting right here. Just like I wait for you after work everyday, just like I wait for your smile to start my mornings, just like I wait to listen to your voice before I sleep. I was just scared like you to tell you this, but am not anymore. ‘Cause I know now, you are mine. Now go before I change my mind and take you back with me” He said letting her go.
She went, all the while just waiting for the moment to see him again. And after a month when she came back, there he was, right where she left him last time. Just as he promised. She just ran into his arms. She felt no hesitation, no worries, no fears. She was at peace, she had him, forever.
(I am new at writing. Please share your comments and help me improve. Constructive criticism is welcomed.)