The Mute Swan- Part 4

The days were getting warmer. He was getting more than one toe into the water. And she was laughing more often.

“I’m with child,” she announced one day and he thought he could never feel happiness such as what he felt in that moment.

They took the process one day at a time. She seemed to get even more beautiful with each day and he seemed to forget that ball of panic in his belly with every other day.

He would sit for hours with his ear to her womb and the other ear listening to her voice. For it was her most favoured occupation in recent days- to talk to the baby, to tell stories to the baby and by extension to its father.

He heard about kingdoms and queens, about bevies on the water and wedges in the sky, about winged warriors and water festivals. He learnt, unintended though it may be, about her origins, about her family and about her life in the past. He also memorized, subconsciously though it may be, all the stories.

Why did he do that? He didn’t know. Every time he asked himself that question, the ball of panic in his belly would throb painfully and he would give up.

When the pains started one night, she was sleeping in his arms. She woke up with a scream and dry eyes and not a tear was shed over the next 12 hours of labour.

The baby was a little girl, with wispy white hair and grey eyes.

“She looks like me,” she whispered when she held her child for the first time and for the first time in 9 months, she shed a tear onto that beautiful blonde head.

Also for the first time, she held her little baby close, drew in a breath and started to sing.

It was a lullaby. It talked about dreams, about wishes on stars, about stories shared on a cozy night. It talked of memories, of fantasies, of a mother’s love for her little child. Grandmothers and grandfathers remembered days long past and shed tears into their pillows. Mothers and fathers everywhere hugged their children a little closer and sighed in contentment. Little babies all over the world slept without a wrinkle that night.

Everybody slept. Except for her. And except for him.

He held her hand and pretended to not notice the tears his beloved was shedding. He placed small kisses on her palm, on her arm, on her hand from time to time and pretended his heart wasn’t breaking a little more with each kiss. He snuggled up next to her, pulled her into his arms and pretended those weren’t his tears on her shoulder.

As the song wound to a close, as he whispered a shaky I love you into her ears, as she placed a final kiss on her baby’s head, her eyes closed.

And they never opened again.

 

*END*

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The Mute Swan- Part 3

He held her in his arms. Her head rested on his chest. His heart beat in her ear. She said it calmed her. He wanted to know why she needed to be calmed.

He wanted to know why she cried when he talked of summer. He wanted to know why she hid those tears. He wanted to know what makes her happy. He wanted to if he made her happy. But, most of all, he just wanted to hear her voice. For the rest of his life.

So, one day, as they lay intertwined under the stars, he asked, “Will you tell me a story?”

“Certainly,” she smiled and snuggled up into him more.

He heard her take a deep breath. He heard her think. He heard her let it out and then, he heard her voice.

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful swan in a lake far far away. She had a beautiful plumage, an exquisite beak, the most dainty legs and the most graceful wings. But, the jewel in her crown was none of these. What she was known for, far and wide and oceans across, was for her voice.

Her voice was mesmerizing. You only had to hear it once to be held captive for ever by it. It had the perfect pitch, the perfect rhythm, the perfect lilt. Swans would come from all over the oceans to hear her sing just once.

But, the reality that met them was a beautiful swan with a most beautiful voice who just refused to sing. Every time a request came to her ears, she would smile and say, “Not yet”. Nothing anybody could say or nothing anybody would do could cajole her to sing. She was promised gifts of the highest order, there were competitions with the greatest prizes to make her sing, swans would even bring in dying requests for her to sing. But, nothing moved her.

Eventually, everyone gave up. She had gained the reputation of arrogance, of malice, of heartlessness. Even though, she was none of those. She was ostracised to live a life of loneliness.

However, she fell in love and the swan loved her back. They got married. Her partner never asked her to sing. It surprised everybody. They talked about it, they gossiped about it. But, the couple did not care. They loved, they made love, they lived with love. Soon, they had a little cygnet and they were the happiest family in all of the oceans.

The world had all but forgotten the beautiful swan with the beautiful voice.

Then, one night, the wind brought a song upon its lips.

It was a lullaby. It talked about dreams, about wishes on stars, about stories shared on a cozy night. It talked of memories, of fantasies, of a mother’s love for her little child. Grandmothers and grandfathers remembered days long past and shed tears into their pillows. Mothers and fathers everywhere hugged their children a little closer and sighed in contentment. Little cygnets all over the world slept without a wrinkle that night.

The next morning, swans from oceans across were clustered in front of the beautiful swan’s nest. They wanted to see her, they wanted to hear her voice, they wanted her to sing again. But, their wishes were not to be granted.

One look at her partner’s grief stricken eyes told them the news.

“It was time, she said.” he announced to the crowd and walked away.”

She kissed him softly on his chin. “They called her the Mute Swan and this was her story.”

He drew her closer into his chest. His heart was beating faster. There was smidgen of panic taking root somewhere in his belly.

“She would die if she sang?” he asked in a voice struggling not to choke on the mysterious lump in his throat.

“No. She sings only before her death,” she knew he would feel the wetness of her tears if she didn’t stop them. But, they were beyond her control now.

“Look at me,” he took her beautiful face in his hands and looked at it with his empty eyes, “Let’s never sing, then,” and he kissed her for the first time.

**

Picking Up The Pieces

“What were you thinking?” squeaked the mouth on the floor.

“What were you thinking?” Colonel Batra shot back.

An entity with one arm and half a leg dragged itself over to the mouth, “I’ve often been told that I should stop running my mouth.” A toothy grin flashed from the mouth now nestled in a dirty palm.

Batra sighed. “What was I thinking?” he thought to himself as he looked around. His butt- a piece of his butt was missing and as a man rather fond of his butt, he was determined to find it.

He walked past two fingers and a kidney. Something that looked like a Gluteus beckoned to him from the left and he pounced.

“That’s mine!” a severed hand clamped over his leftover finger.

He jumped. “How on earth are you doing that?” he whirled towards the one-armed entity and snapped.

“I’m using the force,” the solemnity in the mouth’s voice didn’t match the twinkle in its eyes.

“Damn kid…dead and still joking around…” Batra grumbled as he pulled his hand away.

The entity was now beside him and offering a piece of flesh with its single hand. “Why don’t we think of this as my version of an olive branch?”

“My butt!” Batra snatched it from the hand and pressed it into his torn behind. It merged seamlessly into its place as if it had been waiting for the opportunity.

Batra sighed in relief. “I always thought my butt was my best feature,” said the 50 year old army officer.

“It is a nice butt. Felt quite meaty,” replied the 23 year old terrorist.

Once upon a minute, they had come face to face- gun to grenade. The officer was defending his base from the bomber; the terrorist was promoting his belief through the bomb. There was that split second when their eyes met. Then, they were dead.

Later that day, a terrorist cell will make a legend out of the young man’s name. Later the same day, the old officer would be honoured as a martyr that died in the line of duty. Neither had wanted to die. But, in that split second none of these thoughts entered their heads.

“Seriously, what was I thinking?” Batra mumbled as he hopped towards the wall, his leg tucked under his arm.

“The question should be: why didn’t you think?” came the cheery voice from behind him. The head was now re-attached to the torso and the entity ceased to be an entity and became a person. He slid down the wall beside the now fully-reassembled officer. “Don’t you need your fingers?”

“I only need one,” Batra held up his hand with the single remaining middle finger.

The terrorist snorted and opened his mouth. Then, closed it. The smile slipped from his face as he looked up at the officer he killed.

“Do you hate me?”

Batra moved the facial muscles to rise his eyebrows.

“That looks very weird when you don’t have eyebrows.”

“And whose fault is that?”

The young terrorist’s equally hairless face flushed. “Sorry…” he mumbled.

“What’s your name?”  Batra asked to break the silence that had fallen between them.

“Abrar,” came the quiet answer.

“Age?”

“23”

“First gun?”

“.22”

“Mine too!”

Abrar looked up with wide eyes at the excited officer. Slowly, his face creased into a smile.

“I used to love my rifle. I was only six then, so it was almost as tall as me. But, I would clean it every day and I would love to hold it, even if I wasn’t shooting!” Abrar fell back against the wall as the memories assaulted him.

“Ah…I know that feeling.”

The silence that fell between them now was more companionable.

“Do you hate me?” the terrorist’s question thickened the air again.

“I did. I hated you so much I would have shot you without a second thought.” The air became thicker.

“But…you didn’t.” the small voice almost lost its way in the miasma between them before reaching the officer.

“I know. I was surprised too,” Batra shook his head and shrugged. “But, what does it matter? I’m dead now. So, if it’s anything to you, I don’t hate you anymore.”

Abrar nodded. “At least, you died a hero,” he whispered.

“So did you,” replied the martyred colonel, “Just…to a different set of people.”

The air lightened and the companionable silence returned.

“You know, I read the Koran,” Batra started.

“Oh?”

“It’s a book open to interpretation,” he turned to look at his partner in death, “Just like any other religious book.”

Abrar nodded. “Yes, that’s true.”

“Then, did you ever wonder how it would’ve been if you had adopted a more peaceful interpretation?” Batra’s lopsided eyes didn’t leave the young man’s lopsided face.

“All the time,” came the reply, “But, it didn’t matter. Because good boys don’t ask questions. They follow orders and I wanted to be a good boy.”

“Ah! People-pleaser, aren’t you?”

“That’s my weakness.”

“So, let’s say you meet Messiah now. What do you think you’ll say?”

The dead terrorist guffawed. “What were you thinking? That’s what I’d say!”

Batra laughed, “I thought good boys didn’t ask questions?”

“I’m dead now. What does it matter?” Abrar winked. “So, what would you say?”

“Ah…” Batra let out loud sigh, “I’m not much for talking. But, I believe it’s a sign that the only finger left on my hand is the middle one.”

The terrorist placed a hand on the officer’s shoulder. “You have a lot of growing up to do, old man.”

“And you have a lot of Sorrys to say, young terrorist,” Batra shrugged off the hand from his shoulder, “Let’s go. It’s time.”

 

 

The mourning comrades had lit the fire, one in consecration of a martyr, another in desecration of a terrorist. Leaping flames consumed the remains of hero and villain alike and nobody noticed a well-shaped butt and a toothy grin walking away.

 

*END*

Mask

The room was dimly-lit and crowded. Tendrils of smoke curled towards the ceiling; vibrations from the beat spinning in the corner crawled through the walls. The people were masked and swaying. Sipping a drink, smoking a stick, a couple kissing against a pillar; some talking, some dancing; all lost in the beat and in the moment.

I didn’t know any of them. None of them knew me. We were masked people escaping the reality of our lives, of ourselves and converging in a nondescript location for a nondescript party.

Nobody asks for a name, for an ID. No one offers me a drink, but the bar stood by the door welcoming those who wanted it. Nobody questions me as I join the throng on the floor, swaying into their mix. I usually needed a drink to loosen up. But, that day, in that room, under that mask, I wasn’t me.

Somebody offers me a hand. I take it and he spins me around. I laugh as the Joker-masked person catches me with an arm and pulls me close. We dance the next beat together before he lets me go, I let him go and we become a mass of people again.

A dancing train was forming and I join the tail end of it matching my step to theirs. The sound of laughing makes a heady mixture with the disco beat. We stop being masked people and become our masks. The brown eyes of an Audrey Hepburn catch my eye and pull me out of the train and onto the bench.

I slip in beside her and she offers me her drink. I refuse. I don’t need alcohol tonight. I lean in close and whisper into her uncovered ear.

“Dance with me.”

I could hear her laughter. It was clear. It was tinkling. It was mesmerizing.

I place my hand on hers and thread our fingers together. I guide her to the dance floor through the crowd which had gone silent in my head. I slip my hands around her waist and pull her close. In that moment, only she and I existed. We start swaying to a beat in our head rather than the music shaking the walls. Her hands were around my neck; her face close to mine, brown eyes staring into black. I didn’t know who she was; she didn’t know who I was. But, right then, on that floor, she was mine and I was hers.

We dance until our feet hurt; as sweat runs down our backs; as lips meet lips, we dance under masks where she isn’t who she is, I’m not who I am. We dance into a night which had no place for the trappings of the day. We dance until music stops and we could hear our hearts pounding, breathing, trembling. A lingering touch, a lingering kiss…and we let go.

I make my way home just as dawn breaks through the night sky. I take my mask off, shed the sweaty clothes and crawl into my bed. For a second, I feel like a stranger in my own bed. Then, the light hits my window ending the night…my mask was off, my ID card was lazily spinning on my bedstead and I was me again.

*END*

Image Credit: Hide Behind a Mask II by Catliv (Deviant art)

Memory of a Shadow

She remembers today.

 

“Daddy! He’s following me again!”

 

Dressed in black;

 

“He’s coming to get me! Daddy!”

The man turns, laughs and scoops up his daughter into his arm.

 

Standing by her father for the last time;

 

“Is he gone now?”

The little girl hides her face in her father’s shoulder, “I don’t know. I don’t wanna look.”

 

This time, she looks.

But, all she finds is the shadow of a gravestone made of granite.

So, she cries. She cries for the father and for the daughter. But, for the memory of the daughter’s shadow…

She laughs.

*END*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossroads

“Let’s break up?”

“Let’s break up.”

 

 

“You’ll be in the same hospital as Shona? That’s awesome! It’ll be nice to have a friend during PG.”

“She’ll be my senior. And in an entirely different department. I doubt if we’ll even get to meet much.”

“Nonsense! Of course, you will. If she doesn’t meet you, tell me. I’ll take care of it.”

She laughed. “I love you, Nishu!”

“I know. I know. Now, don’t you go getting back together with her and forgetting all about me.”

“Of course, I won’t! You’re my soulmate. My one and only. We’re engaged, aren’t we?”

“Yeah. Remember that…darling!”

 

 

“Maybe, we should take a break. Try it out and see if it makes a difference.”

“That’s a good idea. Let’s take a break.”

 

 

“Shona’s boyfriend?”

“Yep. He’s my colleague. Same department. Same year.”

“Her current boyfriend?”

“Yep. Small world, huh?”

“Gives an entirely new definition to the term, I’d say. She hooked up with him after she broke up with you?”

“Yeah. They met during her internship apparently. He’s nice.”

“Huh. Is he really?”

“Yeah, he actually is. We’re getting along super well.”

“But, are you ok?”

“Of course, I’m ok! Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Are you over her, Micky?”

“It’s been more than a year, Nishu…”

“Yes. But, are you over her?”

“Of course, I am.”

“………………………..”

“You’re worrying over nothing, Nishu.”

 

 

“Something’s missing, isn’t it?”

“Yea…the spark. I feel like it’s gone.”

 

 

“Are they serious?”

“Are who serious?”

“Shona and that boy!”

“His name is Gaurav.”

“I don’t care. I don’t like him.”

“He’s really nice, you know. You’ll like him if you meet him.”

“Well, I’m not gonna meet him and so, I’m not gonna like him. Anyway, are they serious?”

“I guess so. I never asked.”

“Ask!”

“That’s their personal business, Nishu. I have no right to butt in.”

“You’re not butting. You’re just asking. Innocent question. Part of a conversation.”

“I don’t want to make things uncomfortable.”

“Stop being so goody-goody!”

“I’m not. I’m just being normal! Anyway, I gotta go. Bye!”

 

 

“Why’re you so quiet?”

“I can’t think of anything to talk about.”

 

 

“Micky….Sorry…”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“I won’t bug you about them anymore. I promise.”

“Pinkie swear?”

“Pinkie swear!”

“Oh good! Now, listen to what happened this morning….”

 

 

“I can’t remember when we talked last. Are you free this weekend?”

“Only after 7. Call me. I’ll be waiting.”

 

 

“Apparently, his parents want to him get married.”

“To Shona?”

“No. They don’t know about her.”

“Oh! What’re they planning to do then?”

“Shona doesn’t know yet…”

“What the hell? Why not? And why’d he tell you first?”

“Because, we’re friends, Nishu! Anyway, he says he’s got a plan…”

“What sort of plan?”

“He’s going to slip her profile in among the prospective brides and then, pick her out as his choice.”

“Will his parents fall for that?”

“He’s going to use me as a character reference for her since we’re college friends and all and I’m supposed to talk her up.”

“Still…What if his parents don’t agree?”

“I asked him the same thing. He said he’ll do his best to get them to agree. But, if not, he’ll have to go with his parents’ wishes. Only child syndrome.”

“That sucks! How can he be so easy about it?”

“He’s not, really. But, come on. I admire him for it. He’s dealing with it very sensibly!”

“Sensible doesn’t cut it here. He needs a better plan.”

“That I told him too.”

“Why are you telling him that? Are you nuts?”

“Excuse me?”

“If he succeeds, Shona will be married. Are you ok with that?”

“Nishu! You pinkie swore…”

“But, seriously, Micky…”

“Look, I’m not the one who should be ok here. Shona’s not going to like this plan, you know.”

“Yes. Because the plan sucks!”

“No. Because she would hate to start it off with a lie.”

“Really?”

“I know her.”

 

 

“We’ve been talking for 72 minutes and 44 seconds…now 45…now 46…”

“Stop counting! We’ll talk all night long if we want to.”

 

 

“She hated it.”

“The plan?”

“Yes.”

“What’s he gonna do now?”

“Currently, he’s sulking. But, I agree with Shona. You shouldn’t start these things off with a lie.”

“See, you guys agree upon the important things! That’s why you make such a great couple!”

“We’re not a couple anymore. Anyway, listen, Nishu, I think he’s a little pissed off at me too.”

“Why on earth? You were even going along with that ridiculous plan of his?”

“Well, today, we were sitting in the canteen when Shona joined us. He brought up the marriage issue and I was about to make an excuse and leave. But, Shona literally clamped on to my hand and wouldn’t let go! So, I had to stay and on top of that, Shona’s reaction was exactly as I predicted it would be…”

“Why on earth did Shona do that?”

“I don’t know, do I?”

“Weird. But, it’s not your fault you guys are better friends than they are boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“I know. But, I’m feeling a little bad for him, after all.”

“Oh well! If you’re so concerned, go talk to him directly. Maybe, you can tell him your history.”

“How would that help? If anything, that’ll probably make things worse!”

“Yes, it would, wouldn’t it?”

“You don’t need to sound so gleeful! That’s nasty. I’m not in a soap opera, Nishu!”

“When your ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend becomes your temporary best friend, it is called a soap opera.”

“Why temporary?”

“Because I’m the permanent deal.”

 

“I don’t want to break up. Do you wanna do the long distance thing with me?”

“I do.”

 

“So, what’s the next episode in the soap opera that’s your life?”

“They are not talking to each other.”

“Huh! Shona’s also sulking?”

“Not really. But, he’s still not happy with her and it’s strained; I think she’s giving him space.”

“Is he the kind of boy who appreciates space?”

“I think the space is more for Shona’s sake than him. Shona’s being Shona. I’ve been telling her to buck up and talk things out with him and now, she got all miffed with me too.”

“Oh, Micky, my self-destructive friend, what will I do with you?”

“Marry me and live happily ever after.”

“That’s on the cards already. But, about Shona, I mean.”

“Pinkie swear….”

“Come on, Micky! I know you’re not over her! You know you’re not over her! Why can’t you just admit it?”

“……………………………..”

“Fine! Live in denial!”

“Thank you. I will.”

“Aargh! Micky-baby, listen, the first step is always acknowledging the problem, isn’t it? Don’t you think it’ll be easier to move forward once you admit to your true feelings?”

“…………………… It hurts, Nishu…”

“Honey… Listen, why don’t you come over here next weekend? Away from all the drama…”

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I will. Thank you, Nishu. I love you.”

 

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“You.”

 

“I thought it was going to be just the two of us.”

“That’s what I thought too. But, at the last moment, Shona said she needed to get away… It’s ok, right?”

“I’m fine with it. Shona’s my friend too. Are you ok?”

“Oh, I’m good! All drama aside, she’s still one of my best friends. I love her company.”

“Not more than mine.”

“Not more than yours.”

 

“Wow… It’s beautiful up here! How did you find this place?”

“I searched. For ‘our’ spot.”

 

“She still likes you.”

“No, she doesn’t.”

“She does! I’m sure of it! And it explains everything! Her behaviour, her reluctance for marriage-talk, her reaction to that boy!”

“No, it doesn’t. You just haven’t seen them both together.”

“But, I’ve seen you two together and you’re still into each other. Mikisha! Be honest, do they make a better couple than you two do?”

“I can’t answer that! And anyway, it doesn’t matter. She’s with him now and I’m not such a lovesick puppy as to pine over her every new relationship. Give me some credit, Nishu!”

“Fine! Be proud! And later, when you’re an old spinster sitting alone on a Saturday night, go on a date with that pride too!”

“I will!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

 

“I just had the worst day! Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong… Except you. You’re perfect.”

“I know. I’m perfect. For you.”

 

“He’s getting married.”

“What?!”

“I know. I was shocked too.”

“But, they didn’t even make up!”

“Yeah. Apparently, she called him last night to break it off and he told her the news.”

“Wow…That’s cold.”

“Yeah. But, she doesn’t seem too broken up over it… But then, it’s Shona. She never seems broken up over anything.”

“She was broken up when you guys fought.”

“No…not really…”

“She was. Anyway, she’s not broken up right now, because she likes you.”

“Will you stop?”

“Yes, when you both admit it, I’ll stop.”

“Which means never?”

“Oh, I’m sure it’ll happen soon.”

“You’re underestimating our collective pride, I see.”

“Nope, I’m correctly estimating your collective horniness.”

“Bitch.”

“Love you too.”

 

“I lurrrve youuuu…”

“You’re drunk. But, I love you too.”

 

“He said- I’m not homophobic, but I’m angry you hid it from me for so long; then, handed us the wedding card.”

“Fair enough. All of a sudden, I’m liking him a lot.”

“Well, it’s not the sort of thing you slip in with a hello… Hi, I’m Mikisha; I’m gay and your girlfriend used to be my girlfriend?!”

“Oh! But, that’s an introduction he would’ve remembered for the rest of his life! Anyway, how’re things with you two?”

“We have been spending a lot of time together. But…”

“Just get drunk and talk it out.”

“Yes, I think it’s time to do that.”

 

“How can we make a date seem more like a date and less like two girls hanging out?”

“Should we make out at the bar?”

 

“What happened? What happened? What happened?”

“You were right about our collective horniness.”

“Yes, yes. But, apart from that?”

“Why’re you so interested in this anyway?”

“That’s a stupid question! Because I love you and Shona is my friend and you guys are perfect for each other! Do you realise how many hearts were broken when you two broke up?”

“Two?”

“Don’t be sassy with me, young lady! Now, tell me, what happened?”

“Yes, grandma. We drank, we talked, we made out at the bar; that’s all.”

“And?”

“And…we’re back together.”

“For real?”

“For real.”

 

“I like you. As in more than a friend kind of like.”

“If you mean you jerk off while thinking of me, then, I like you too.”

 

“When are you reaching?”

“Our flight lands at 7.30. Are you gonna be picking us up?”

“I’m sending a car. Where’s Shona?”

“She’s currently telling the guy her parents wanted her to meet that she’s gay. And introducing me as the girlfriend. (Hello, I’m Mikisha, Shona’s girlfriend.)”

“What’s his face like now?”

“I feel cruel.”

“That’s ok. Her parents are not taking it well then?”

“Nope. They still think it’s a phase. Maybe I should get my folks to talk to them.”

“Yeah. Anyway, my parents sure are glad after hearing about you two. Even if he is from the South, I’m still marrying a guy.”

“Sure…what are best friends for?”

“I’m glad we agree. Anyway, get here soon. There’s so much more shopping to do!”

“You think you’re making a compelling argument, but, you’re not.”

“Fine. Send Shona here. You’ll be useless anyway!”

“Traitor!”

“Monkey!”

“You’re losing your touch.”

“I know. Get here soon.”

 

“Marry me.”

“It’s illegal”

“So what?”

“…………………I’m free next weekend.”

 

*END*

A Last Chance: The last time

He roams around
Alone
A dog on the hunt
A scent he follows

He let himself into the house as usual. His best friend was out. She was out.

He pours himself some milk from the freezer and as an afterthought, adds some whisky to it. He needs it, he tells himself; he needs it after the day he had today.

A girl he meets
A girl he lets go
Alone, alone, he roams
None stays around
Too long

He knew he scared Tara today. He couldn’t really blame her for breaking up with him. Hell! He would have broken up with him after that behaviour.

A bark of laughter escaped as he remembered her face when he threw the glass at her. Almost, he reminded himself, almost threw the glass at her. At the last moment, he’d changed the direction an infinitesimal amount and it had shattered into pieces harmlessly behind her.

Ok maybe not harmlessly… he looked at his bandaged hand ruefully. It was a shoddy job. She would have done a much better job. Is that why he was here? He asked himself.

He sits at night
Alone,
Alone in his den
Nursing his bitterness
Restraining his anger
Holding back the memories
That eat at him, gnaw at him
Scratch at him
Until he breaks

When did he realize it? He wonders.

Was it after his first girlfriend? Or his tenth?

When did he realize that no girl stayed because he’s carrying a torch around for someone else? He groaned and put his head in his hands, covered his face as if that would make it all go away. He wished he was an ostrich- put his head into the ground and pretend these feelings never existed. He could feel the urge to throw the glass creeping up on him again. He clutched the cold glass tightly with both his hands; told himself breaking a glass against a wall never changed anything. Yet, almost involuntarily, his arm lifted, drew back…and the door opened.

“Nikhil?” the voice of his best friend brought him out of the daze, “Are you ok?”

Slowly, he willed his hand under control; he willed his mind under control and turned around.

“Yeah!” he replied gruffly, “Tara dumped me and I was out of this,” he put up the empty glass.

“Glasses?” his friend asked wryly.

“Yes, threw the last one at her head.”

“Mate, tell me she’s ok,” Jay’s smile dropped and his eyes narrowed.

“Yeah, yeah. She’s fine. Didn’t actually hit her. Just kind of threw it in her general direction,” Nikhil waved a hand airily and went back to staring at the table.

“You should have Mary take a look at that,” Jay had settled himself opposite to him at the table and was now staring at his blood-stained bandaged hand.

“Yeah. Ok.” And silence descended again in the little house.

He was unpredictable
Not very dependable
He cursed and drank and smoked like a chimney
Not good with families or
Very kind to his friends
He knew there are a million reasons
She shouldn’t pick him.
Yet, he wished…and dreamed
And craved…

The door opened again and this time, she entered. Laughing with her friend, not a care in the world. Her eyes were glowing; her cheeks were pink; she was full of life and he was only a shadow.

He felt a flash of anger surge through him and he stood up.

She’s the one
She’s the one, he needed
He wished…he craved for
She’s the one, he dreamed of
When he dreamed of anything at all

In one long stride, he was standing in front of her. Laila was looking at him strangely, maybe with a warning; the door opened again and in walked her fiancé; he heard Jay growl his name in warning behind him.

But, he ignored them all. Paid no heed to anybody but the girl in front of him- she was so full of life and he was only a shadow- and it was all her fault.

She’s the one
She’s the one
She’s the one…

He bent down and in the split second it took for the realization to hit her, he had swept her up in his arms and crashed his lips to her.

It was a kiss of desperation, borne of loneliness and pining and bitterness for everything that went wrong. It was a kiss of salvation, or at least the hope of one. It was a kiss that meant a lot, though neither realized just how much.

The shocked gasps from Jay, from Laila, from her fiancé, went right past the kissing couple, unheeded.

She’s the one
She’s always been the one

Until, finally, when they came up for air and caught sight of three gobsmacked faces staring back at them.

She went red, pushed him away, struggled out of his hands. He just stood there staring at her with an intensity, with an honesty that made her uncomfortable.

“I…I can’t do this…” she whispered, more to herself than to anyone else, “I…I’ll see you later, Laila.”

And with that, the girl of his dreams walked out of the house.

She’s the one…
She’s always the one.

**

He lives in her head
Sleeps with her thoughts, her ideas
In her bed

Mary stared at the ceiling blankly. She could feel it; the kiss; the touch of lips on hers; his need, his anger; his desperation…She didn’t know how much time had gone by. She didn’t know if George had come back home or not. She didn’t know anything but the feeling of his lips on hers.

He stays with her every minute,
Every second,
Every day

She hadn’t thought it would happen. Never even considered the possibility. Didn’t want to consider the possibility. But, it did. And now, she couldn’t stop thinking about him.

A spasm of anger whipped through her only to be replaced by sadness the next moment. Her eyes welled and tears slowly trickled down the sides of her face.

In that rare moment of self-awareness, she admitted it herself- she did want him. She had settled, but she hadn’t forgotten and now, she couldn’t stop remembering.

She wishes he’d go away
But, calls him back
Every time.

 **

2 years, 6 months, 23 days ago….

 

“Let’s get married.”

 “Why? Do you have a death wish?”

 “I love you. That’s why.”

 “………………………”

 “Silence carries the risk of being taken as acquiescence.”

 “………I don’t want to marry you.”

 **