You can read Part 1 of this story here
She wore her favourite black dress, the one that accentuated her curves, a simple elegant dress that made her feel confident and sassy. A little bit of make up, kohl rimmed eyes, a light mauve lipstick and some cologne, hair left loose.
She took an Uber, the venue was the school auditorium. It was crowded with people of all shapes and sizes, laughter, selfies, food and mocktails filled the room. She looked around for a familiar face, her heart now beating a little louder than usual. She saw a man approaching her, short, stout, the paunch was too visible, he looked sort of unkempt. No way it can be him, she told herself as she pretended to check her mobile.
“Hi” he said with a sheepish grin as he extended his hand which had a bouquet of yellow roses as she looked at him, open mouthed. How can someone change so much over 12 years, she was wondering as she heard a loud laugh and he walked in from the other direction. Tall, dusky, lean with a muscular frame, he strode towards her and shook hands with the other guy first and thanked him for joining in the prank. She found it quite silly and turned away as she spotted Nisha her friend.
He joined Nisha and her as they were busy tucking into some samosas along with Karan, Salim, Neha and Shradha. Everyone was glad to meet Varun after years. She got to know he had completed his Masters at MIT and was working at Google. After a while she excused herself and went to get a cocktail. As she waited for the bartender to prepare her drink, she heard his husky voice ” I have been guarding something precious for more than a decade in the hope that I can restore it to the rightful owner and have the pleasure of being treated to some lip smacking Bombay delicacies”. She smiled. “Where is my treasured book?” . He took it out from his coat and placed it on table. She swooped it up in her arms and held it close to her bosom. She had missed her favourite book sorely. She turned the pages and it was in a perfectly well maintained condition, he had been guarding it just like he had promised. “Well well I must say you have taken good care of my book though I am not too happy that it took so long to give it back.”
“I know and I would like a chance to explain ” he said with a sombre look on his face.”Can we go someplace quiet?”.
The both walked away from the party and took a cab to one of the restaurants nearby. It was famous for its signature mumbai dishes. It was not very crowded, they chose a corner table and ordered some drinks and snacks. Over food, he told her about his father being implicated in a corruption scandal in London where he worked and the family had to leave all of a sudden. Her mother’s brother made arrangements to get them out of the city before word spread and the media came knocking at their doors. His grandmother was severely diabetic and suffering from hypertension, she wouldn’t be able to handle the situation. It took a few years to clear off the charges, meantime they stayed back in London. Once everything was sorted , the family moved to US where his father’s elder brother had been settled for years. He kept missing her and felt guilty for not being able to part ways amicably. But as time went by, he had this nagging doubt if she would forgive him, or perhaps she had moved on and he dint want to look like a fool barging into her life. He had to travel to Bangalore for a 2 days conference and the date was coinciding with the reunion. He decided to take a chance and it worked.
She was at peace now, knowing that all that happened was due to unfortunate circumstances. They spoke about the school days, the fights, the play, the debates and so many things. They did not realise when the clock struck 1 and it was closing time. He asked if he could meet her for breakfast the next day as he had a flight at 11 am to Bangalore. He would be taking the return flight to California from Bangalore. She found herself dejected. So it was just breakfast tomorrow and then god knows when they would meet.
He gave her a hug as they parted ways. She found herself humming after long and she was smiling, a smile that came from within. “Come on”, she chided herself “stop behaving like a love lost teenager. He is going back and you both are just friends. Long distance never works anyway.” Thy met for breakfast at 7 next morning and spoke over cups of endless chai and poha.
It was time for him to go finally. They hugged each other, this time it was longer and he bade her goodbye promising to call her and be in touch.
She went home but could hardly focus on anything, she kept reminiscing the moments they had spent, they felt so magical. “Am I in love? Is he the one I have been waiting for? The way he makes my heart flutter, no one has ever made me feel that way. Is it true when they talk of your first love and all that I laughed and brushed off once upon a time?” She had many questions but no answers. She spent her time listlessly.
The next day she was busy at work when her phone rang, it was Varun. “Guess what, I have extended my trip by 2 days and will be flying to Bombay, I wanted to spend time with you. I hope you wont mind my intruding your space” She wanted to jump with joy. “Act cool” she told herself and responded “No I wont mind, would be nice to spend time together.”
She went home and did a happy dance. They met on Wednesday and spent 2 days together. They travelled to Lonavala, went to Juhu and ate kulfi, street shopped at Fashion street and spent nights by the “Queen’s necklace” talking about life, their relationships, dreams, heartbreaks, everything under the sun.
It was time for him to leave finally, she dint know if she should expect him to make the first move or should she do it. She did not believe in the silly notion that it has to be the guy who has to say it first. But she had her apprehensions if it would work out, why not wait and see where we land up?
She bade him goodbye, with a peck on the cheek and a hug. He was surprised and kissed her on the forehead. “I will miss you Aru”
They stayed in touch , spoke every day vis Facetime, chats. The time zone differences made it difficult and both had highly demanding jobs. They made up on weekends. The longer time they spent together virtually, the more convinced she was that this was not just friendship or a fling. But how would it work out? He was happy in LA and she never wanted to leave her favorite city Bombay.
If its meant to work out, it will. She told herself, else we are destined to be friends.
A week later he boss called her and made an unexpected proposal for her to consider- they were setting up shop in US and wanted her to take an international assignment for 2 years to set up operations. It was a lucrative offer- monetarily, in terms of position and the work experience she would gain. She had no second thoughts about it. Is this destiny she thought?
Her first call was to Varun who was overjoyed to hear her.
3 months later she left for LA, Varun was at the airport waiting to receive her, she ran into his arms.
She felt groggy after the long distance flight and could hardly make sense of his banter. “Is this meant to be? Or are we better off as friends? Just like my past relationships, what if this one fizzles off too? I will lose a friend as well and thats a precious bond I don’t want to forego. We both are highly ambitious, want similar things in life but the one stark difference is where we plan to spend the rest of our lives. I plan to get back home and he never wants to leave LA. Will love last?”
They were many questions reeling in her head, lets leave it to time, she decided finally. Let us savour this moment and not worry about what happens next. Why search for a happily evert after when you can create it in this moment? This fleeting moment that should be savoured, bit by bit, relished and it then stays in your heart and mind as a beautiful memory that you keep re visiting- the one that warms the cockles of your heart.
With that, she rested her head on his shoulder and slept off.
He held her hand gently, the other hand slipped into his denim pocket as he felt the solitaire. “Now is not the time” he told himself as he snuggled closer.
Authors note- It took too long to come out with Part 2 I hope you like it!