The intensity of the moment faded and so did the embrace. She rested her head on his shoulder. He began moving his fingers through her hair looking into a deep unknown somewhere, the expressions on his face conveying a sense of deep contentment.
They had been engaged for six months now.
As she sat waiting on the park bench, she was reminded of the day in the coffee shop. The entire café had witnessed a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime event. Many of the girls (especially, the PYT) had gone home with a twinkle in their eyes.
Now the only thing that remained was to inform her parents. He was an orphan by birth and lived with his old Aunt who clearly approved of her. Her parents had a vague idea of him as he had been to her home on two occasions: once during Christmas and second when the computer had conked off. They had seemed to accept him fairly well back then, or were they just being courteous to a guest and a friend?
As she pondered these questions over, she became aware that he was looking intently at her. Her reverie was broken and she looked at him. His gaze seemed to reassure her that everything would be alright. She smiled wanly and held his arm. They had walked to her house. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “Good night.” He turned to leave and stopped. He looked at her and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright. They like me, you know. They can’t refuse.”
She had broken the news to her mom, haltingly and trying to judge her reaction at every statement. Her mom took it quite coolly and responded, “We knew.”
“You knew? What do you mean, you knew?”
“He spoke to us yesterday. He asked us for our permission. And we were only too happy to give it to him. You are a very bad liar.” And she had broken into peals of laughter while her daughter stood there stunned. He never failed to surprise.
As the reminiscences came back she chuckled to herself. She gave a cursory glance to the watch more out of habit than the need to know the time. And she realized she had been waiting for him for the last three quarters of the hour. She looked up at the gate. This was getting to be a regular occurrence now.
Third time this week that he was late. Was he…
No, he couldn’t. He is too much in love with me to do that…
That’s what I think. Maybe that’s what he wants me to think. Maybe he’s trying to avoid me. Maybe he’s grown bored of the entire thing. Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore…
No, it cannot be!!
Why not? He’s been an hour late, twice already! He wasn’t like this before! In fact, he was the one who used to wait for me…
That was then. This is now.
Maybe he’s exacting revenge on me, making me wait.
Or maybe he’s really found someone…
Why would he do that? He doesn’t look like the kind…
Men are all the same. They soon get bored and look out for greener pastures.
But I would have caught him somehow or the other!!
He could be seeing her on the sly…
If there is a ‘her’. And if there is, then God help her, because I am gonna claw her face to shreds!!
What else could explain his regular delays? It had to be… another… woman…
She found herself loathing the very mention of it. She decided to confront him with an ultimatum. Men always feared ultimatums, her mom had told her.
The scent of the roses drifted down to where she was sitting and soon enough a bunch of roses found their way into her hands and another found its way into her hair. He came around to her, tie loosened and shirt uncuffed and plopped down in the grass beside her. He laid his head on her lap and closed his eyes. She tousled his hair absentmindedly. He immediately sensed something was amiss.
He got up and looked at her. Her eyes were brimming with tears. He took her face into his hands and she embraced him tightly. He was surprised at this sudden surge of emotions and staggered for a moment before responding to her embrace. And breaking the unwritten code of silence, he spoke.
“What happened? Something wrong?”
“No, nothing,” she replied through her tears.
“Come on, tell me. What happened? Did Mom say something to you? Dad?”
“Nobody said anything to me,” she almost yelled, her tears now unstoppable.
He couldn’t understand what had driven her to shedding tears. For the first time in his life he was confused and bewildered. He had no clue what to do. Clearly, he had never faced a crying woman before. He never had to. After all, he was renowned for being humorous.
It seemed like an eternity before she spoke through her tears.
“Tell me the truth, you are bored with me right? You have found someone new and now you want to leave me, right?”
He was speechless. The words came to him as a shock. Everything seemed hunky-dory the previous day when he had left her… He was still trying to figure out what had happened when she spoke.
“I know you have fallen for someone else. You don’t love me anymore.”
“What else would explain the fact that you have been an hour late on three occasions now this week?”
“I had work…”
“Don’t give me any excuses. I know the truth. It’s that new girl in the office, right?”
“I don’t want to listen to anything. And I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
“No, you are getting it all wrong…”
“Don’t touch me!! I don’t want to listen and I don’t want to see your face anymore. Here’s your ring. You can give it to that bitch if you like. I don’t care. Don’t ever show me your disgusting face again…”
He stood there dumb-founded, the words not really registering upon him. She was leaving and he stood rooted to the spot. His mind was filled with a thousand questions all of which wanted an answer at once. His mind was filled with an impenetrable mist. He was lost in the fog. He was searching desperately for some kind of an answer. And by the time the mists cleared, she was gone. He stood there, looking at the ring in his hand.
To be continued…
Continued here at Them – Part 4