“Hey, look! The C.E.O is here!” Tanya nudged. “Doesn’t he look younger and handsomer than his photographs?”
Her smile froze when she caught sight of the man her friend was talking about. She hadn’t gone through his pictures before, but found herself tongue-tied now. Fumbling for words to form a reply, all she could manage was an – “Oh.”
Curious, Tanya prodded, “You don’t sound too happy. Do you know him?”
An avalanche of memories hit her; her mind raced back unbidden to the past.
She thought of how she had dressed up to meet him for the first time, how he had laughed at her jokes and she at his, how she had warmed up to him in such a short while.
She remembered the first kiss under a starlit sky on an empty rooftop; and how his smell had lingered on her clothes long after they had parted. She thought of all the dinners she had cooked for him, and the apples he had brought for her every time he returned from home.
She thought of the bike rides in the height of winter, with her huddled up behind him, her hands in his jacket pockets for warmth.
She remembered the look in his eyes when he breathed in the scent of her hair, and the way his eyebrows crinkled when she kissed him gently on his forehead.
She remembered how fervently he’d told her that he loved her, his naked body entangled with her own, on the warm bed in their tiny apartment room back in Delhi.
She remembered how happy she had been then.
Time had flown all too soon.
The memory of their goodbye hug that sweltering afternoon outside the airport doors was still clear in her head, as was the sadness in his eyes when he’d mouthed, I’ll miss you.
She recalled the helplessness of that time; the need to hold each other tighter, yet having to let go, not sure when they’d see each other again.
If they’d see each other again.
She remembered the agony of having to get used to a long distance relationship, those nights of sitting alone in their cold beds, wishing more than anything else to hug the other tight.
She remembered how much in love they’d been then.
Suddenly, everything else blanked out, became irrelevant.
She couldn’t remember why she had let him go.
He was greeting some journalists across the room, with a smile that made her weak at the knees. She felt her heart drop; that smile had once belonged to her.
She saw his eyes light up as he put his arm round the waist of the woman next to him; pulling her closer, claiming her as his own for the world to see.
He had never done that with her!
She looked down at her lap, fighting back the urge to cry.
Her friend was still waiting for an answer.
She turned away, hoping Tanya wouldn’t hear her voice break.
“I used to,” she said.