“So this is it?”
“Hmmm….this must be it.”
“Wow….just like that, huh?”
She looked at him as he stared into her face, his look intense as ever, melting her like it always did. She let out a heavy sigh.
“No….not just like that. It took a lot for this to happen.”
“Yeah….it took a lot for this to happen.”
He kept looking into her eyes, so much so that she turned her face away.
“What? Now I can’t look at you?”
She let out a small smile.
“Look at me all you want. Am not the one to stop you.”
She risked looking at his face again….and something inside her snapped. She was familiar to this feeling….this helplessness, like nothing was in her hands. She felt the passion between them that so strong and real one could almost touch it, as if it were a living breathing entity. And yet at that moment his eyes betrayed nothing. What would she not do to just know what was going on inside that fascinating mind of his….
He gave that half smile of his…the one with his lips slightly crooked, the one that made his strong jaw line more prominent.
“Nope….not saying anything this once. I’ve said enough already.”
She looked at him, incredulous.
“You don’t have anything to say?? How come I don’t believe this?”
“Why?” he sniggered, “Is it absolutely necessary I have to put my feelings into words each time?”
“I’m more used to it, you know. Considering the fact that you always have ten words to my one, I find it strange, if not outright implausible that you choose to be silent today, of all days.”
He turned his face away, and kept staring at nothing in particular, an expression she knew well. It just meant he was feeling more than he was thinking. She touched his hand, placed her hand over his.
“Goodbyes are grueling and complicated….but we have to, you know.”
“I know. I always knew this was coming. But I wonder if I’m ready for it.”
“Shit scared….don‘t know if I’ll be able to do it.”
“Hey…” she turned his face towards her, “Look at me. You’ll do just fine.”
“I can’t seem to let go…”
She smiled, shaking her head.
“Who can? But it’s the way of life….and you know it as well as I do that we will eventually do it.”
“I can’t get this place out of my mind. I can’t get our first date out of my mind…” he admitted.
“Yeah, how can you, when that was the time you were an hour late and couldn’t even recognize me when you saw me…?” she laughed.
“Need you remind me of that all the time? Told you a million times, I’d seen you just once, at that was in the disc, under the stupid blue neon lights…how was I to know that the ethereal beauty in black I’d seen that night would turn out to be this….” He let those words hang there and looked at her teasingly.
She flared up immediately, just like he knew she would and just like he wanted her to. He loved to see this flushed look on her face, this rare display of emotion she allowed herself.
“This….? What….tell me? So I was wearing a halter top that was a little too tight and jeans that were a little too low waist that night…and that was just for a dare. So it was not the real me. Don’t get me started! I know you wouldn’t have taken my number from that idiot Neev had I not been playing the part of an empty headed and high heeled dumb college girl right down to the red lipstick and weird hairdo.”
“Whoa! You know it was love at second sight when we met for the first time right here, don’t you? At first sight I wanted to be your friend, with benefits thrown in”, he winked, “And at second sight when I saw you in that pink kurti I knew I was gone…I’d already started seeing our babies running around this very place while you sat with a tired look on your face, exasperated, and me your knight in shining armor carrying one baby in each arm and letting you have your lunch in peace while I take care of the cute devils and…”
“Stop it” she interrupted “You have an overactive imagination, did I ever tell you that?”
“Only like a million times….” He smiled at her.
For a while none said anything, and yet both of them knew what the other was thinking.
She looked at her watch, it was getting late. Time would always fly when she was with him. And she always dreaded this moment. Especially today.
“I have to go….you know” she said softly.
He looked up at her and held her hands.
“Stay. Don’t go. Please.”
“I’m getting late. I have a flight to catch early morning tomorrow, and there’s a lot to be done.”
“Yeah…somebody’s getting married after all.”
A sudden gamut of emotions hit her, and it was a heady feeling. Her eyes moved to the pale pink diamond on her finger of its own accord, and she started playing with the ring, which had off late become her habit.
The waiter chose that very moment to come with the bill, and placed in right on the middle of the table like always.
“Remember how you’d called the waiter a sexist the first day he put the bill in front of me?” he teased her.
She gave a rare smile she reserved for the unlikely occasions when she would be embarrassed.
“In my defense, I was angry. And since I couldn’t take it out on you, that being our first date, I took it out on him.”
“He’s seen a lot hasn’t he? He’s seen us through all our fights….me trying to make you talk while you look out the window and stare at the florists’ outside, and then the million times you’ve walked out on me….leaving me looking at your receding back and then to have a solo lunch .”
“And each time he must have thought we were done for good….until next time we’d come back again, arms around each other.” She giggled at the memories of times gone.
“Just that this time we’d be gone for good.” He said softly.
And the feeling was back. Along with the realization that she had to say goodbye that very moment.
“Look….” She started.
“I know….” he said “just let me walk you back home one last time.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea….I don’t want anybody to see us.”
“And why is that? Don’t tell me you are scared….you, of all people.”
“No…” she almost whispered, “My mother asked me not to meet you today. I’m not supposed to.”
“Don’t give me this shit. Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean I can’t even walk you home.” He sounded slightly irritated.
“There’s something called rituals and traditions….try and understand. Only I know how I managed to convince my mom that I can go to the parlour on my own. She was so into sending my aunt as my chaperone.”
He held out his hands in surrender, and stood up.
“Fine then. The last time we meet here you don’t let me say a proper bye. Story of our relationship summed up in one meeting!”
She stood up to leave and looked at the place one last time.
“This is difficult. This not knowing what to expect…this moving into unknown terrain in a matter of days. I’ll miss my handsome date so much you know.” She looked at him.
“Yeah…the next time you go out you’ll be a married woman dining out with your husband. Could anything be more boring than that?” he remarked.
She started walking out of the restaurant. He held her hand and stopped her.
“Tell me its going to be okay. Tell me everything’s gonna work out fine. I’m just so scared.”
She tilted her head and looked into his eyes with that mysterious smile that always made him realize just why he’d fallen in love with her in the first place.
“It is going to be fine. I will leave for Guwahati tomorrow. And I will get married there in two days time. And then I’ll be leaving for the US with my brand new husband in a matter of a month. And you, my love”, she ran a finger along his face, “will do just fine.”
“Remind me again why you couldn’t get married here and have to go to Guwahati of all places?” he asked.
“Please…I’ve told you a million times….because my Aita, who’s ninety and has been dreaming of seeing me get married since the day I turned 18, is there. And also because my would-be husband hasn’t met any one of my cousins who are out there…got it?”
He sighed and cupped her face in his hands.
“Well then….bye young Miss. Go get ready to become a Mrs.”
“You will be there, won’t you? I hope you haven’t forgotten to book the tickets, given your track record of forgetting to do things until its absolutely the last moment” she asked.
“It wouldn’t do for the groom to be absent would it, love?”
She laughed out, and his heart soared.
“Yes my love. And for the last time, please don’t make me wait a minute this time, leave alone an hour. We’ll do just fine as husband and wife. Now let me go so I can be with you forever, and even after that. See you day after tomorrow.”
And she walked away, with him looking at her receding back….