The First Time I saw Colour

“Good morning, Sir! How can I help you?” The sales girl asks as I enter the store. I smile back at her. She is pretty and has nice, bright eyes bur her face is blotchy grey with make-up. Including her lips.

“I’m looking for a brightly coloured scarf for the season. I’m just tired of neutral colors.” I explain.

She smiles and nods once and then walks away to the scarf section. I take it as my cue to follow her and I do.

She stops mid-way through the aisle and examines a shelf. She picks one up, which is plain and looks… Well, grey. She holds it up for me to touch and feel it. It is warm and soft and not too expensive.

“What colour is it again? Do you think it suits me?” I ask as I drape the scarf around the back of my neck and let the ends hang down my front.

She eyes me once and says, “It is a rich crimson colour. It looks great on you. But let me…” She stops and reaches out with her hands and she drapes the longer end once more around my neck and then grabs my arm and drags me to a mirror.

“You look dashing,” she smiles at the reflection of. I do, too.

I take off the scarf and hand it to her.

“Anything else?”

I shake my head. “Just this for now. Thank you.”

She bills it up and I hand her the cash. On the back of the bill, she scribbles something surreptitiously and puts in the bag with the scarf. I raise my eyebrows and she shrugs. “Just in case you need something,”

I lean in close to her face, from across the counter and whisper in ear, “In that case, promise not to wear any make-up,”

I swear she stopped breathing for a moment there. I pick up my bag and wink at her as I leave the store.

Once outside, I look left and right before crossing the road and reaching the bus stop. I look up straight ahead of me and I stop in my tracks.

I see a man, no older than I am, but he’s not in grey. I see him wearing a fedora  with a messenger bag and sauntering down the side-walk, away from me. He has a watch on one hand and lots of colourful beads on the other. His shirt and jacket sleeves are rolled up to reveal delicate but strong arms, like an artist’s. His fedora is shiny with glitter, which colour, I can’t say. I debate running up to him but what will I say? How can I tell a complete stranger that he is the only physical being that I can see in colour?

But I run to him anyway. When I reach him, I tap him on the shoulder. He turns around revealing the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen which complements my own wolfish looks. He has mischievous eyes, long lashes and a smile that leaves me breathless.

I clear my throat to clear my head. I extend a hand towards him. “Hi, I’m Samarth. Can I talk to you for a second?”

His face is impassive as he takes my hand and shakes it. He has short nails and they were painted in one, two, three… five different colours. I couldn’t name even one of them.

He released my grip on my hand and said, “Siddharth. Nice to meet you,” he nods. “What did you want to talk about?”

I look around. We’re in the middle of the street, with people bustling everywhere.

“How about over a cup of coffee?” I raise my eyebrow.

He smiles hs mischievous smile that automatically makes me smile back and my heart beat faster.

“Okay,” he says simply and we start walking together towards the nearest Cafe Coffee Day, at the end of the street, near the signal.

We enter the cafe and go towards the counter. I’m kind of nervous because up until this point, I thought it was disease. Now I’m thinking maybe it’s not.

Or it’s probably all my imagination.

Siddharth snaps his fingers. “Earth to Sam?” He looks at me, a bit puzzled and miffed that I zoned out at his glamorous presence.

“Sorry,” I look at him sheepishly. “A cappuccino, please,” I say to the guy at the counter. He did a once-over of both of us, thinking he was discreet in his inspection. Well, I noticed, buddy and I know what you’re thinking.

We take our coffees and I paid for both, and find a couple of couches at the back of the room, near the glass wall, sitting opposite to each other, with the low coffee table between us. As I sit down, I look at the sky: a cloudy, dark grey sky. The only colour I can recognize and see from birth and yet somehow, the man in front of me seems to be dipped in a sea of colours.

“So?” He asks.

“Listen,” I begin, “I’m going to ask you a few questions and please try to answer them honestly. Don’t think I’m mad and save the judgement for the end. Okay?”

He tears a packet of sugar and pours into his coffee and looks up. “Go on.”

“What’s the color of your coffee?” I start with something simple.

He raises an eyebrow and says, “Brown.”

“Are you wearing anything brown?”

He plucks at one of the bands on his arm. Oh. That’s brown.

“What else is brown around here?” I feel the excitement running through me.

He looks around. “The couch is a nice rich brown, the table is few shades  lighter and so are our coffee cups.”

“And your hat…?” I begin.

He smiles his mischievous smile again and yet again, my heart fails to beat at a normal pace.

“Here’s the deal: I will explain all the colors of whatever I’m wearing if you tell me whatever is going on with you. Okay?”

I nod.

“So I’m wearing a glittery purple fedora…”

PURPLE. It’s my new favourite color.

“…My hair is highlighted with purple, again…” He takes off his hat to reveal short spiky hair tipped with purple. It must be his favourite colour too.

“…A green jacket, a beige shirt, black leather pants…”

I need to get me one of those.

“…Black socks and red shoes. Now for my accessories.”

Without warning, he slides next to me on my couch and leans in close. He smells of intoxicating candy, giving me a sweet tooth instantly.

He flexes his long, slender fingers and shows them to me. “I’ve painted them in rainbow and glitters. These are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.” He says while pointing them out. I have a hard time concentrating but this may be my only chance at finding out how I can see him in colour.

“I used dark blue lipstick for my lips and silver glitter eyeliner over black.” He pointed to his eyes, which were a deep, mesmerizing brown.

I cleared me throat, and I say, “I’ll try recognizing your bands and beads on your wrist.”

He offered his wrist and I took it. I examine them closely and I point out to each band what colour they were: it starts with black, then a blue and black band of some rock band, then a bright orange college band, then several silver charm bracelets, then the brown band he showed me earlier, then a rainbow band, then a handmade purple (obviously) bracelet, and then finally, another black one with a metal band inscribed on it.

He grins when I finish. “Not bad for someone who’s seen colour for the first time.”

I stare at him blankly. He smirks smugly and reaches forward for my coffee and take a long sip. He must have finished it.

“What’s in the bag?” He asks as he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. I suck in a breath.

The bag. What bag?

I look to my other side. Oh! That bag. I take out the scarf and show it to him. He smiles a full, bright smile and my cheeks were probably as red as my scarf.

He takes it out of my hands and does a fancy wrap around my neck and finishes with a flourish. “There. This suits you well. How did you pick it?”

“I asked the sales lady.” I mumble.

He laughs and get us another coffee each. He’s stirring in the sugar when he asks me, “So, what’s your story?”

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “I don’t know what this is,” I begin. “But ever since I’ve opened my eyes, I’ve seen things only in grey. Even the bright blue sky looked bright grey, if you can imagine that. I’m not colour blind, because I’ve been tested for it and it was okay up until today before I spotted you.”

I look up at him and into his rich brown eyes. “Every time I look at myself, I see grey. I’ve always believed that maybe a nerve that recognizes colour might be missing. But…”

I look down. I see a red scarf around my neck. I see it!

A huge gasp involuntarily escapes from my mouth. I see that I’m wearing a shirt that is somewhere between blue and green. My mother picked it out for me. I look outside and the blue sky peeks among the fluffy white and grey clouds. I see the bright green leaves and a dark brown bark of the trees. I see the grey asphalt and white lines and all the colourful vehicles riding over it, red, blue, yellow, orange. I see buildings with every color. I see the red logo of Cafe Coffee Day. I see beige pants on me. I see I’m wearing a blue watch. A total mismatch, but I can see it! I look at the bag of the scarf and it is a nice, pale orange. I feel it, as if I’m trying to grab the colour in my fingers.

I lean back and laugh with delight. This is the happiest I’ve ever been!

I look back at Siddharth and he has leaned back against the couch and folded his arms with a peculiar look on his face. Like he’s planning something.

I raise my eyebrows at him and he leans forward. “You. Come with me. Right now.” he says in a husky whisper, and his face is all serious.

I hop up and follow him out of the cafe and to his apartment. I’m happy that I followed him.

Freaking Murphy’s Law!

Freaking Murphy’s Law!

This is for you, Indu!

So here’s what was supposed to happen on one important, nice, cloudy, Friday:

  1. My alarm goes off at 5:50. I would press snooze and the alarm would ring again at 6:00. By that time, I would be up.
  2. Switch on the heater until I finish brushing my teeth and pooping.
  3. After bathing, make breakfats: usually consisting of an egg, toast and coffee.
  4. Lock the door of my flat and head over to the bus stop at around 7:30, and it would take me about 45 minutes to get to  the place where I was going to have an interview for a better job.
  5. Ace the interview and have lunch with a few friends.
  6. Get back home and eat leftovers for dinner and snuggle up on the sofa with a cute Pixar movie on the TV.

Things went wrong even before I woke up. I open my eyes and look at the time on my wall clock and it’s 6:30. I look at my alarm clock and it has stopped just after midnight. I hurry around the house and quickly finish my bathroom work. I debate taking a bath: I take a lot of time. But I end up bathing anyway. After, I look for some blue clothes. I mean, I’m going to an interview, right? The first thing that was drilled in our heads in MBA classes was that blue makes the best first impression. All I could find were some old pyjama bottoms, tracks and a tank top, none of which I could wear. I wear an orange kurti and a pale yellow Punjabi bottoms.  No dupatta. I couldn’t find one.

For breakfast, I open my fridge and grab an egg and I see that I have no bread. I find a lump of chapathi dough, which could make a nice chapathi for me. I take it out, keep the pan on the stove, switch on the stove and light it a few times. It did not light up. Now I have to change gas cylinders.

Once that’s done, I quickly roll out one chapathi and put it on the pan. While that was cooking, I run to my room to put on some make-up. My kajal stick is at its end. I apply brown kajal and tie my hair into a pony and go to the chapathi, which had burnt. I flip it over and let it fry a bit and then break an egg on the pan. I sprinkle some salt; no time to look for pepper. I roll the chapathi and the omelette together and eat them. Halfway through, I see that my egg is still gooey and I look at it in disgust. I take huge chunk and swallow it as soon as possible.

I grab my bag, check for my wallet, keys, phone and file and then head out. It had been raining the whole night and it is a bad day to wear light colored clothes. I rush inside for an umbrella and  my clock shows 8:15. Great.

I practically run to the bus stop. There’s an unfamiliar crowd and I wait for about five seconds when a huge, blue, leaning bus comes rumbling our way. There are people standing on the foot board. Obviously, I couldn’t even climb in. I walk away from the bus stop and look for an auto. One guy comes and I tell him the place, and he agrees to come. About halfway through, the auto stops. The driver tells me that there’s a problem with the engine and needs to be taken to the garage. I pay him and get out and look for another auto.

Nobody agrees to come. They say it is a very short ride. So I walk. And walk I did for 20 minutes until I reach the office, all sweaty and oily and stinky. I look at the time. Its  9:15. Not too late. I walk into the office and breathe warm air conditioned air, trying not to think about how many times it is set to be cleaned automatically, or how many bacteria and fungi the machine is harbouring, or how my nose had already started to itch. I talk to the receptionist and giver her my name. She goes in. After a few minutes, she comes back out and says the interviewer will be late. I slump in my seat. And I wait.

3 hours. That long. He finally comes in, dressed in a suit and tie and I take a good look at him. He looks young to be interviewing me. Too young, if I might add, probably even my age. I shrug off the thought when the receptionist asks me to come in. The interviewer was the MD of the company, and he had started it all on his own. He apologises several times for keeping me waiting before we actually got to talk. I am pleased with how it went. I might even get the job! He looked pleased when he went through my resume and after he spoke to me. Ha! Take that, Murphy!

After the huge morning fiasco, I am late to meet my friends for lunch. I order some fast food for lunch and take it home. As I am waiting for a bus, a car speeds by me on a huge puddle, spraying me and my food and my bag with filthy water harbouring who knows how many diseases. I decide to give myself a break and take another auto home.

When I got home, there is no power. The water is empty in the tanks and I need electricity to pump it up. I sit freezing in my own living room until the power comes back on.

Murphy’s law tried ruining my day and almost—ALMOST— succeeded. But I am a tough competitor. It had to lose.

Under The Stars (Her)

Under The Stars (Her)

If you haven’t read Under The Stars (Him), please click here

HER

I can’t let him walk away without him knowing how I feel about him. He’s already devastated, and I know I’ll only make it worse for him, but I have to. It’s only right. And he deserves so much explanation.

“Wait,” I call out to him. “I need to tell you something.”

He looks back and I can see the pain in his eyes. I could feel tears stinging at the back of my eyes. I shake my head and go over to him and take his hand, just like I did when I entered the party. I dragged him to my best friend’s backyard, which has a swing set (Also because my parents can’t see us.) and make him sit down. I can see the confusion on his face.

I take a deep breath and sit next to him. He still doesn’t say anything.

“There’s something you need to know.” I say.

He crosses his arms. “I think I got that covered. What’s new?”

Ouch. That hurts. But, I know he’s hurting more. For wanting me. Even if he has no idea what’s wrong with me.

And that just makes me more sure about him.

“No interrupting me, again,” I say. He nods.

“I really enjoyed tonight,” I begin. “I’ve enjoyed being with you all these days. And, I know I like you. You like me. And I know you want to take this a step further, and I want it too, but I also want you to know that… I need time. I know that a bitch broke your heart a while back and someone did it to me, too. I guess we’re both healing.”

I take a deep breath. This was NOT easy. Thinking about the guy who broke my heart is probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. And talking about it to someone who genuinely likes me back? It’s worse.

I can’t continue. Not with him looking at me as if my every word is breaking his heart. Not with me hurting like this. Even after almost a year after the break-up.

“Thank you,” I finally say, which was definitely not what I wanted to say and I know it was not what he wanted to hear but I can’t bring myself to say anything more. I breathe out, not knowing I was holding my breath, and stand up. He’s still transfixed on me. I lean in and peck his cheek, and turn away quickly. I don’t want him to see these tears. They’re not worth him. 

I turn and run back to my house, second time today, and all because of him. I ran to open the door for him a little while ago and now I’m running away from him. Running away from the only person that can most probably heal my heart.  And, I may also be able to heal his, if I could just allow these feelings to wash over me.

I reach the back door and go inside and shut it behind me. I slide down to the floor, trying hard to not make any sound while sobbing. The position reminds me of the party.

It’s funny, how, just a few days ago, before I even knew he existed, I was aware of every movement, every gesture I made, and how that connected, or how often I made those when I was back home. With him. 

And after only a week of meeting him and spending only three days with him, I no longer thought about the one back home. The only thing I was aware of was how intently he looked at me when I laughed at something stupid or when I hi-fived his cousin (AKA my best friend) when he did something stupid.

I cannot believe I’m allowed to feel this way.

I somehow tell my parents that I’m home and that I’m exhausted and head to my room. They don’t ask if I’ve had dinner. I was honestly relieved because I do not want to eat anything tonight. I go to my room, flop on my bed and try not to think about all the bad things that happened over the year.


Flashes of his wedding run through my head like a slideshow. They’re all random, and I know most people there. Then suddenly, I’m aware that he’s in my bed for the first time. The bed in my room back home. And we’re naked underneath the covers.

I scream and close my eyes, wishing it to all go away. Closing my eyes only makes it worse.

That night, the night I thought I became his, the night he’d told me he’d loved me, the night I finally decide to defy my parents.

But, the truth hit me hard. A girl should always belong to herself.

I opened my eyes and it was daylight already. My phone was flooded with missed calls and texts from my best friend, who was having a family get together during the whole festive season and I was a part of it. A part of her family. And it made me whole again. Almost.

I quickly bathe, and put on the clothes I had prepped previous night and head out. My parents know where I’m going and where I’ll be all day today, so I don’t bother telling them.

I almost wish I could skip today, because I don’t really know if I can face him. But I owe it her. She’s done nothing but tell me over and over again that it’ll eventually be fine. All the times I’ve cried on her shoulder hits me square in the face and I go.

He’s the first person I see when I go over and his back is to me. Just like the first day I saw him. The same day he offered me his amazing chocolate chip cookies. The same day I refused them because I loathed seeing chocolate.

Because he always brought me chocolate. Rice crisps with chocolate which burst and crackle like fireworks in your mouth.  

He turns around and sees me and his eyes soften. He comes over me and looks at me for several seconds.

“You look like you didn’t sleep too well last night. More nightmares?” He asks.

I nod. I don’t know how he knows this, but I want to hold him and cry. And thank him over and over again for everything he’s done.

I go into the house with him, and look for my best friend. I help her with some work and she keeps me busy all day. Talking to people. Making sure they’re eating right. Serving amazing food that he cooks. Serving amazing snacks. I ate a little breakfast, the breakfast that he cooked, and some lunch too. Also, dinner. It was around midnight when I finally went back home.

I was offered to stay back and sleep in her house, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him being so close to me. Also, there were too many people in her house already.

All through the day, I steal glances at him, and he at me. Also, sometimes smiles. Those times, and the times he came really close to me, my heart would do the flitter flutter. It sometimes felt that he could probably hear it. And I would look elsewhere.

I know he felt it, too. That just makes me feel worse. But not anymore. I can’t take this heart break anymore. I can’t do this to him.


That night was the most pleasant night in what feels like ages. Also, it was about him. That gave me strength to do what I had to do today.

I went to my best friends house, since her parties don’t last for just a night. They’re several days long, and themed. Anyone not fit for the theme was not allowed.

I go over with a huge smile. When she sees me, she clutches her hand to her heart and asks, “Who are you and what did you do to my mopey best friend?”

I laugh and brush off her comment. She hugs me and whispers, “I love this girl. I missed her,”

And I turn around to see him looking at us, with a huge smile on his face.

When my heart does the flitter flutter this time, it’s not nervousness. Or anticipation. Or fear. Or hurt. Or like. 

It was on the way to love.

I notice the pain has subsided in his eyes and probably in mine too. We don’t talk much again today, but I can see the tension has diminished. Completely.

Sometime in the afternoon, I find him alone in the kitchen. And guess what he was doing? Staring at the oven which had his chocolate chip cookies.

Perfect.

I go over and sit on a stool at the breakfast table, carefully watching him. He turns around and smiles when he sees me.

Yes! I’d been waiting for that unhurt smile.

He says, “Why do I get the feeling that I’m in trouble?”

I raise my eyebrow. “Maybe because you are.”

He walks toward me, opposite to me, slowly, not taking his eyes off of me. Not once.

“And,” He says, slowly, “why do I get the feeling that something good is happening?”

“Maybe because it is,” I say coyly, and I point to the oven. “I want to eat them, you know.”

“Really? Is someone over her hatred for chocolate?”

“It was never there,” I confess. “It was the person that I hated.”

He touches my cheek and I can’t believe the first time he did that was only two days ago. It seemed like a long time ago.

“You ready to talk about it?” He whispers.

I shake my head. “I don’t need to. It’s not worthy of you.”

He leans in, and the oven timer goes off.

We laugh. He pulls away from me and the moment has simply vanished, but pleasantly. I watch him take them out carefully and put them on plates for cooling. After he’s done, he goes over to the plate of cookies from the first tray and hands them to me.

“To a new beginning,” he toasts.

“To a beautiful new beginning,” I say.

And he kisses me.

He was chocolate, and I was totally in love with it.

Under The Stars (Him)

Under The Stars (Him)

HIM

She doesn’t like loud noises.

*Knock knock*

She opens the door and smiles breathlessly.She must’ve run to open it.

She doesn’t like to run.

“Hi,” she says, with a quick wave.

My hands were shaking with exuberance. I manage to lift it out of my pocket and wave back.

She likes to wave.

“Hi,” I say, “Am I disturbing you?”

She frowns and shakes her head. “Don’t be silly.”

She opens the door wider, gesturing me to come in. I step inside and find her parents looking at their unexpected guest. They ask me to sit. I oblige.

I look around as she closes the door and joins the three of us awkwardly sitting in the living room. She eases the tension between us by introducing me to them.

So, hey. Uh…” I begin. “This is kind of emergency. You are needed right away.” I cock my head towards the neighbour’s house, which is her best friend’s house, who also happens to be my cousin.

She narrows her eyes and glances towards her phone next to her. ‘She would’ve called me…”

I cut her off. “You know how busy she’s been with the festivities starting tomorrow. She’s pretty exhausted. She wants you to go through everything once.”

Her father asks her, “Is it really important? Can’t it wait till tomorrow? You can leave early.”

“Yes,” she nods seriously.

NO! I want to scream back.

“As if,” she continues, “anyone would be awake that early. It won’t take long, I promise. I’ll call you if I’m spending the night. Just don’t worry, okay? Please?”

They have ‘WORRY’ plastered all over their face. But they give in.

She jumps up in joys and claps. I laugh.

I like that she can make me laugh.

She tells me she’ll just wear a jacket and come downstairs. I tell her I’ll meet her outside. I nod politely to her parents and wish them goodnight, and go outside.

A few moments later, I see her practically jumping off the stairs. It is then in the street light that I register what she’s wearing. A grey hoodie, halfway up her left arm, underneath which she’s wearing a navy blue tank top and white pyjamas with snowflakes print. Quite contradictory to the season, and also to what I’m wearing.

She reaches me and we walk quietly for a while. We pass 4 houses when she finally breaks the silence.

“Oh, my parents are NOT going to like this,” she says with a nervous laughter.

“We can always go back,” I say.

Not going to happen.

She looks at me in absolute disbelief. “Are you kidding me? I don’t know what plans you’ve made but I really hope it’ll be worth all the lying.”

“My plan will be,” I tell her, looking straight ahead. “If only you could lose yourself and try to enjoy, for once.”

She playfully elbow-jabs me in the gut and we laugh. I resist the urge to put my around her and pull her closer to me.

I love that she can’t stay mad for more than two seconds.

I take her to my car parked at the end of the road and it doesn’t take 10 minutes for us to reach the outskirts of the city, near the beach. Her face is flush with excitement when she realizes our destination.

As we get closer, she rolls down her window, and the balmy salty air rushes in. I do the same. She’s resting her elbows in the window and looking outside, breathing it all in. I need to look at her. Right now.

“Hey,” I call out to get her attention. She turns to look at me with a blissful and peaceful look on her face, as if I woke her from a trance.

“What’s your favourite spice?” I ask on an impulse.

“Cinnamon,” she says without thinking. She tilts her head questioningly.

I try to keep a straight face and force myself to look at the road. “They say that a person’s favourite spice tells a lot about their personality.”

She grins. “Is this some sort of an amateur chef pick up line? Is there more?”

I laugh at my feeble attempt.

She laughs, too. “Because that was really lame. Even for you.” She looks outside and adds, “Though it might’ve made me like you a little bit more. Tiniest bit more.”

And I think I like you a whole lot more than I did three seconds ago.

“We’re here.” I announce.

We’re in the middle of a shopping street along the coast and I park opposite to the only store that’s open: my favourite snack place. And even that is dimly lit.

She looks at it for a while and looks back at me, confusion clearly visible on her face. “I have a feeling that someone’s going to get raped tonight.”

I laugh and shake my head. “Come on,” I beckon her forward and we go inside together. I let her open the door. She opens it and gasps.

The party was at full swing. She looks at me with her eyes full of excitement. She grabs my hand and pulls me inside with her.

“What is this place?” She shouts over the music.

I lead her to a quieter place near the counter. I help her up on a high stool and take one myself.

I hand her a menu card. “Do you want to eat dinner? Or a small snack? Maybe like ice cream or juice?”

She goes through the menu card and points at vanilla milkshake. I shake my head and say, “This place is known for its chocolate drinks. And you choose vanilla?”

She rolls her eyes. “I hate chocolate,” Unbelievable. I call over the waiter and shake his hand. He hugs me.

She raises her eyebrow.

“Our grandfathers knew each other,” He says with a grin.

I place our orders, her vanilla milkshake and giving him the opportunity to surprise me. We say we’ll be back after a while. He nods.

I take her back to the party place and I tell her, “This is the coolest party in the whole town. Everyone’s invited secretly during day time, you know proper restaurant timings, and you won’t even know if the person sitting next you is invited.”

“This is amazing!”

We finally reach the dance space, weaving through dancing people, drunk people and people who can’t keep their hands off of each other.

She laughs at every one of them with excitement.

Then, a random guy, someone I’ve never seen before asks her to dance. She looks at me, as if asking is this okay?

I smile and nod, and they dance away almost to the centre of the dance floor. I lean against the wall with a glass of soda in my hand and watch her.

I watch her dance with all she’s got.

I watch her and her complicated braid with an emerald stripe fly around.

I watch her as she takes away a huge part of my heart and fills it with herself.

She comes back to where I’m standing and slides down and sits on the floor. I join her and offer her a drink from my soda. She takes a huge gulp.

“You don’t dance,” she notices.

“Nah. I’m not a dance person. Did you enjoy?” I ask her.

Her eyes gleam when she looks at me. “Did you see me dance?”

I blush and nod.

She shakes her head. “That was the best time I’d had since, like, forever.” She breathes out a strand of hair from her face. I pull at her braid, needing her attention.

“Don’t you want your milkshake?”

She smiles breathlessly, and I am reminded again of how well it suits her.

“Before that, I need to dance with you.” She stands and holds out her palm, indicating me to take it.

I shake my head. “No,” But I’m laughing. She laughs, too and grabs my hand and pulls me up. Strong girl.

We walk to where she was dancing earlier, and starts dancing even before reaching the dance floor. I watch her, mesmerized.

“Dance!” She orders. She puts my hands on her hips, and hers around my neck, just as a slow song starts playing. My hand finds little bare skin of her waist just below her tank top. She feels it, and she seems to enjoy it. And we sway a little, not taking our eyes off of each others.

When the song ends, I take her hand and we walk back to the counter and we are greeted with our drinks. Today, mine is a coffee and chocolate frappe. I love that drink.

He hands me the key to the roof and I thank him. I climb up the stairs first and then unlock the door to the roof. I take her hand and lead her outside on the roof. She sucks in her breath when we reach.

“It’s beautiful,” she whispers. Because, spread below us was the ocean, and above us, the infinite number of stars twinkled in a royal blue sky, with a crescent moon in the midst of it all. She sits on one of the wooden picnic tables, taking it all in. I sit next to her and look at her, taking her all in.

I can’t seem to get enough of her.

Finally, she draws a huge breath and looks at me, her eyes tearful.

“Thank you,” she whispers.

I brush her cheek with the back of my hand. She shivers lightly.

“Your drink’s getting cold,” I say. She laughs.

God, I missed her laugh.

We sit quietly as we watch the ocean and sip our drinks, neither of us offering our drinks to the other.

Se finishes and sets her glass down. I do the same.

“So,” she starts, ” ‘Our Grandfathers knew each other’ ?” She quotes with her fingers.

“Yeah,” I say, “My grandfather and his were best friends. My dad and his didn’t get along all that well, but he and I do.”

“It seems to me that there’s a lot more than just getting along.”

“I work here, actually. Been working here for about eight years now. I just love this place so much that I wanted to show you how beautiful it is. I wanted to share the experience with you.”

She smiles.

“Are you allergic to chocolate?” I ask her out of the blue. Well, not really ‘out of the blue’. I wondered about this ever since she turned down my freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and the chocolate chips were still gooey and warm. They were practically irresistible.

She twists her braid over and over again. It takes a while before she talks again.

“You know why I came here?” She asks me.

“You never told me.”

“Well, okay.” She turns completely towards me. “There were two reasons. One of which I will tell you now. The other… When I know I can trust you enough, you will definitely know.”

Now I’m curious.

“Go on,” I prompt her.

She flashes me another breathless smile.

“Okay,” she begins. “Promise not to interrupt me? Or laugh at me?”

Her emerald-green eyes looks up at me pleadingly. It’s hard to say no to those eyes.

It’s hard to do anything but stare at those beautiful eyes.

I shake my head and say, “Fine.”

She takes a deep breath. “So, one afternoon, my girls and I were returning from our usual brunch. I was driving and we were stopped at this really not-so-crowded rich people’s residential area. I asked the police in the most politest why as to why we were stopped. He simple answered checking. So, I got out of my car with my girls and let the police check it. We were standing in the side-walk, when this car pulled up in front of us. A guy gets out of it, probably a few years older than us, and we knew he was this famous politician’s son. We didn’t mind him. That guy just acted as if he was oh-so-hot and was probably sad that us hotties didn’t even care to look at him.”

I laughed.

She grinned. “There’s more. So the checking didn’t take long, just two mins tops. The police officer gave us this ‘clearance ticket’ and told me that I was to show this to any police officer if I was pulled over for checking. I thanked him and waved at my girls to sit inside. We all sat and my hand just went over to turn on the ignition, when the guy from the car comes up to us. I didn’t want to be rude, so rolled down my glass and asked him what he wanted. As if I couldn’t tell. He had this… ugly lopsided grin, which was so ugly that I wouldn’t be surprised if he started drooling. So he puts his head in my window, and he reeked of cigarettes, so I moved back. He said, “Hello beautiful ladies. I hope you all are old enough to vote. Please vote for my daddy!” We exchanged disgusted looks. He kept rubbing his hands and moistening his lips thinking that one of us would kiss him because he was rich. I got really mad, and I told him to back off because I needed to drive. And then the bastard leaned even more inside and whispered loudly, “Your cleavage is fantastic. I’d love to see what’s after it.” ”

She looks like she was trying hard not to punch anything. Or maybe she is just holding back tears of anger. “I lost it then. I slapped him right across face. His ear started bleeding.”

My mouth hangs open. She has an amusing look on her face, as if she’d enjoyed the experience.

“And then?” I asked.

“And then what?” She said. “He, being who he is, filed a complaint against us. We also did. We fought against him in court but it was ruled out as a “Harmless comment.” In fact, even in the court, he tried to play it off by saying that it was a compliment. But anyway, he got out. You know, the funny thing is, I was wearing a boat neck top and it was NO way near my cleavage. And then the court told us how our inappropriate behaviour and dressing provoked him to do this. We were stuck in the media circus. I got fed up. I had no privacy. In my own city. So I left with my parents and came here. ” She finishes off with a smile.

My mouth is still agape. She reaches over and closes it. “You may swallow a star.”

We sit back and enjoy the company of the stars, while I take in every word she’s just said, wondering why she wasn’t here all these years.


I drop her off at her house. Somehow, her playful mood has subsided and she has a look of sadness on her face. I really, really like her. She’s the first person about whom I’ve ever felt like this . I know why she’s hurting, and why I’m hurting, but I just want to make it all go away.

If she could just be happy, like today. If she would just allow me to help her.

We don’t speak a word on the drive back. She gets out of the car and I follow her. She doesn’t go for the front door; instead she uses the back door.

I take a deep breath and say, “Hey. You were really brave, doing that. You don’t need to be sad for that.” But I know it wasn’t that. I know what’s bothering her. It’s the other story. The one which she’s going to tell me when she trusts me enough. The same one which will reveal her hatred for chocolate.

She looks back, and smiles. “Thanks. My own parents were ashamed of me.”

I don’t know what to say, or if words are even necessary, so I just go up to her, cup her face in my hands, brushed her cheekbones with my thumbs, and kissed her on the forehead. “If I were there, I would be the proudest person.” And I walk back to my cousin’s house, not noticing her wiping a tear with the back of her hand.

“Wait,” She calls out. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Dauntless (Part 2)

SHWETHA

I had to call Shruti. Again. And even though Shruti doesn’t mind helping me, I felt hesitant to call her this time. Because I always thought Shruti could see through me. And I didn’t want Shruti to know what was going through my mind. And I definitely didn’t want her to see me like this.

God, I look terrible. I can’t even look at my own face this time. It was that brutal.

But I did call Shruti, held the phone away from my ear when she yelled at me, and cried when I hung up.

As soon as I hear the doorbell ring, I run and open the 6 locks on my door and open it so that Shruti could squeeze in faster and without anyone noticing. She gasps when looks at me.

“What has that beast done to you this time?” she whispers.

She bends down to see my face. “What is it this time?” She asks me softly.

I laugh weakly and say, “The same.”

When I say ‘the same’, it’s usually my husband coming home late in the night, occasionally with a skimpily dressed woman, screaming at me for being present in my own home, and then locking himself in our bedroom with the other woman. In the morning, before leaving for work, he beats the living hell out of me and dares me to tell this to anyone. I could never accept that dare.

This was sort of a routine, and until Shruti came, I never told this to anyone. Not to my parents who married me off 5 years ago and never bothered to look up on us, not to my closest friends, that is, if I had any left. And no siblings to tell this to. After beating me up, he never left home without ordering me to clean up well. To get ready for the night.

When she came over to my house, looking to bond with the new area, I saw her face fall. I knew right then that she knows that I was being hurt. My make up attempt was fruitful until her. Or, maybe no one bothered to look at me properly.

When she came in the second time, she asked me what was happening to me. I couldn’t hide it further. I told her everything.  And she started helping me by cleaning and covering up my bruises with expert make up. Then she told me what had happened to her. She had also shown me the scars all over her thighs, and stomach and breasts.

She was only twenty two, and the wisdom she had, because of her experience, gave me the courage to stand up for myself. I think that’s how I ended up going to self defense classes. Also the reason why I ended up getting a lot more bruised than usual. But no one knows this. Not even Shruti.

She shakes her head. “This cannot go on anymore. I am going to put an end to this.”

I grasp her hands, rather tightly, and look at her in the eyes, without letting her know my thoughts. “No, you can’t. You know what is going to happen if this gets out.”

It will be huge. No one will believe us. They would think we were doing this for money.

She shakes head at my comment and takes me to the dressing table in the spare bedroom and sits me down. When she begins, it seemed like a dark shadow passed over her face. And I realize that whatever she was thinking, it wasn’t pretty.

“Hey, Shwetha?” She calls to get my attention.

“Hmm?” I ask.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time now,” she says. “Remember the incident that happened to me sometime back years ago before moving here?”

I tense. I knew that she was going to tell this not-so-pretty fact that she’d been thinking. “Is everything all right?”

“No, actually,” she takes a deep breath. “When I told you I couldn’t remember the person’s face, I lied. I know all about him, where he lives, who he’s married to and what he does to his wife.”

I am too astounded to speak. I try shaking my head, but I can’t move. I try to speak, but no sound comes out.

But I try again. “No,” I whisper, as tears start to fill my eyes. I quickly dab at my eyes when she’s not looking.

She finishes her work in silence, and I couldn’t speak anything else. I don’t ask her this, but somehow I know that she knew about my husband right when he met her. Which was when she came down to my apartment right after moving.

Instead, I ask her, “When were you planning on telling me?”

She has to think about. Why does she have to think about it?

“I wasn’t, actually,” she says.

I take a deep breath to calm my nerves but it only makes me more nervous. I know what I have to do. For Shruti. For myself. For that so-called husband of mine who is soon going to wonder why he was born in the first place.

“Promise me,” I tell her, “you won’t do anything irrational. Not for me.”

She smiles. “I promise you’re going to something for both of us.”

I know she is right. She can predict the future. Or she can just see me.

I look up, closing my eyes, imagining the stars, and a ‘thank you’ escapes from my mouth.

She dresses me up and smiles at me. And I smile back at her. She leaves as soon as we hear footsteps from the corridor.

And when she sneaks a hug from me, I hug her back just as tightly as she did.

I am crossing the living room and am halfway across to the kitchen when I hear the bell ring. I look at myself in the mirror and brave a smile and think about what I am going to do to him.

I still smile as I open the door, surprised that he hadn’t brought anyone home today.

“Hi, baby,” I whisper against his ear as I take his bag and rip his jacket off. “You must be very tired.”

He seems surprised at the gesture but pleased all the same. “What happened to you?” He asks, in that flirty way and gives me his signature half-smile. And I realize that that’s how he picks up women from places. I am disgusted by it. I am NOT going to be one of them.

He’s still smiling and backing me up against the wall separating the kitchen and the living room. I smile back at him. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I tease. “You still have dirt all over you.” I wrinkle my nose to show him that I like it when he’s clean.

“What do you propose I do?” His nose is touching mine now, his one hand on my hips, the other next to me on the wall, leaning towards me, making sure that there was no air gap between us.

“I have a surprise for you,” I say, smiling. “You should clean up.”

He laughs softly and says, “You always know how to make me happy.” He turns and goes off towards our bedroom to clean up.

He does not take more than five minutes to come out of the wash. He is so predictable. He comes out in a towel. I look at him, a little surprised maybe, and he widens his arms. “We’re anyway going to take our clothes off, so why waste energy in putting them on?” He asks and smiles seductively.

I sigh. And smile, pretending that I was smiling with the thought of what he is going to do to me. Oh, if only he knew.

Oh, wait. He will soon.

“But don’t you remember?” I try to pout cutely. “The best part of us was taking each other’s clothes off. Now only you get you enjoy that.”

“Isn’t that extra work? It would be so much easier if I’m like this.” He scratches his head.

I give a small laugh and walk towards him. Slowly. “But that will be unfair.” When I reach him, I lift my hand to his jaw line and slightly brush it. “Don’t you think?”

He puts his head back, shakes it, thinking how unbelievable I am for making him do this and turns and walks back to the bedroom to dress up. I sigh in relief. I DO NOT want him to be seen naked.

Then I walk to the balcony. It is perfect because it has a gorgeous view of the lake and today, especially, the moon is beautifully reflected in the waters.

I expect him to dress up real quick and hold me from behind. He did that, before things changed. Which was a really long time ago.

Instead, I hear a crash and when I turn around, he looks at me guiltily. He just broke my favourite antique vase by the door of the balcony. I shake my head, trying not to be mad at him and try to smile, to let him know that it was okay.

He sighs in relief.

Then I turned back around and he puts his arms around me, which are not resting. “I hope you’ll let me make it up to you,” he whispers against my ear.

“Come on,” he says, pressing against me. “Let me make it up to you. I know you can’t be mad at me for long.” I feel his smile against my neck.

I finally turn to face him and hold him really close to me. He is probably wishing that we could rip each other’s clothes off right then, by the way he was looking at me. Then I thrust my tiny kitchen knife through the place where it hurts most.

He kneels down, howling with pain, when I clamp my hand over his mouth. “I’m not done yet.” I hiss. “You’re going to pay.”

I force him to stand up, make him look at the balcony, and… It is a good thing that the balcony of a tenth floor apartment has short grills.

He doesn’t even try to cry for help, because he knows that it is useless. I watch him becoming smaller and smaller, and fall with a thud on the ground. And I see him lying lifelessly on the ground.

And then, after what seems like an eternity, I call Shruti. I am very scared.

“Shruti,” I haven’t realized my breath was shallow and fast. “I did it.”

Dauntless (Part 1)

SHRUTI

“Again?!” I yell into the phone. I could feel her cringe.

“Please. One last time, Shruti,” she pleads.

I take a shaky breath to compose my anger against what was happening to her. I decide to do something.

“Fine,” I say. “One last time.”

I grab the pack full of makeup which I made particularly for her and my keys and head downstairs, to floor 10, to her flat. I ring the doorbell and I hear her running and tugging at the locks. She opens the door just wide enough for me to squeeze in sideways. She doesn’t even look at me. I set my pack down and turn around to look at her, and I gasp.

“What has that beast done to you?” My voice is barely a whisper. I could see bruises on her face even though she has tried hard to cover it with her hair. I walk up to her and bend down to examine her face properly.

“What is it this time?” I ask her softly.

She laughs weakly through her tears and bruises. “The same.”

I shake my head. “This cannot go on anymore. I am going to put an end to it.”

She grabs my hands and looks at me in the eyes with a different emotion in hers: determination. “No, you can’t. You know what is going to happen if this gets out.”

I know exactly what will happen. That doesn’t mean I can sit back and watch the show of “How hard can I beat Shwetha?” by her husband every other day. She’s been my best friend ever since I moved to this apartment 3 years ago, after the huge incident. I still look back to that day. Even though the very thought of him makes me want to hide in a hole, he led me to her. Someone I could confide in and not feel like the world was ending every time I thought about it. And someone whom I should be ever grateful for. But, I still have one last thing to say to her. It will shatter her, but it is very important that she know it.

I shake my head at her comment and take her to the dressing table in the spare bedroom. We both know the drill. It flows with us naturally. He does something, she calls me, I come, she cries, and I apply make up to her to cover anything that gives away her unhappiness. This time, it’s different. She hasn’t wept in front of me, like she used to. It’s like she’s a whole new person today. I wince at the thought of how much damage it would cause her when I tell her what I’d been meaning to tell her from the very moment I stepped into her apartment, asking for help in the new area. But I work up the courage and decide to tell her.

“Hey, Shwetha?” I ask to get her attention.

“Hmm?”

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time now,” I say. “Remember the incident that happened to me some years ago before I moved here?”

She tenses. “Is everything all right?”

“No, actually,” I take a deep breath. “When I told you I couldn’t remember the person’s face, I lied. I know all about him, where he lives, who he’s married to and what he does to his wife.”

I carefully look at her as realization dawns upon her.

“No,” she whispers, tearfully.

I continue my work and couldn’t help noticing how deep the wounds are this time. Also, I can see wounds of struggle on her arms.I finish my work and help her put on new clothes, when she finally breaks the silence. “When were you planning on telling me?”

I think about it. “I wasn’t, actually.”

She exhales steadily and says, “Promise me you won’t do anything irrational. Not for me.”

I smile. “I promise you’re going to do something for both of us.” I believe that she will. She’s the more sensible of the two of us, and I know she will not act rashly.

She looks up, closes her eyes and breathes a faint ‘thank you’.

After dressing her up, I look at her face and I realize how I’ve never seen her skin bare. I think about that and how I know I will see her makeup-less skin in the near future. I smile at her and at the thought that I am leaving her in good hands. She smiles back at me.

I leave her, just as we hear footsteps from the corridor. And I sneak a hug from her. She hugs me back just as tightly as I did.

One hour later, she calls me. “Shruti,” I could hear her heavy breaths and through my speaker. I also notice that she’s whispering. “I did it.”

(This was for a friend’s women magazine, named Bella Donna, and I was so happy to write this for her!)

A WISH FOR A SNOWFLAKE

Prakrit stared at his laptop screen. He was waiting for Sara to call. She was his best friend and their story of friendship is an unusual one.

Prakrit had read Sara’s blog a few months ago, when he had moved to Shimla with his father. Its content was very funny and at the same time, heartrending. He soon discovered that they had something in common— both were lonely.

Even though Sara was an extrovert, she didn’t trust people. Prakrit was the exact opposite of her. He was shy, didn’t talk to people much and hated making new friends. Sara’s blog had given him confidence to do so.

When he had complimented and thanked her in the ‘comments’ box, she’d immediately replied asking if he wanted to be friends with her. Prakrit, who usually hesitated, agreed. They exchanged e-mail ids first. Then they became friends on Skype, hoping to video chat. When they did, it was hard for either of them to let go.

It was arranged to video chat at 6:00 PM sharp on the 17th of June. When they did, both were at a loss for words the moment they saw each other. Sara had skin the color of chocolate, big brown eyes, hair as short as his, and was skinny as a scarecrow. And even though Sara had warned him about her being very talkative, he had no idea that one could talk so much. Prakrit’s skin was light. His eyes were small and he wore striking red glasses.

They began their conversation. During their first chat, Sara didn’t talk much about herself. She asked him plenty of questions. She was a good listener. She found out that Prakrit moved from Mizoram to Shimla with his father in May, who was a wealthy scientist. When she heard that, she teased him for being such an introvert.  She explained to him how wonderful being in Kanyakumari was, with the ocean all around her, but somehow she seemed lost.

“Why? What’s wrong?”Prakrit asked her, once they’d become closer. She simply shook her head to his question and went back to talking. They’d planned on video chatting three to four times a month but they loved each other’s company so much that they spoke nearly every day.

On a chilly October evening, Prakrit waited and waited for her to come online. When she didn’t, he felt frustrated. Frustrated not because she didn’t show up, but because he missed telling her things and listening to her talk, however wacky it was. She could always make things easy for him. Once, he felt so lost in the new city that he poured all his grief to her. He compared his life to hers, saying hers was so easy to live in. She shook her head, showed him the beautiful blue ocean behind her and said, “The ocean is full of dangers and has its own problems. Do you see any of that?”

A week passed by. Prakrit didn’t come online. Sara kept waiting for him. She messaged him and emailed him from time to time. But he didn’t reply to any of them. Finally, he couldn’t tolerate it for much longer. He had to know the reason for her being forgetful.

When they both finally came online, Prakrit was shocked to see a different side of Sara. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she kept blowing her nose. He realized that she had been crying.

“Why are you crying?” asked Prakrit with a bewildered look.

“Do you have any idea how high the sea level rose in the past week? I don’t have enough tear glands to spare!” she replied. He had to smile.

“What happened?” he asked her gently.

“Why didn’t you reply to any of my messages?”

“Why didn’t you show up last week?”

This took her by surprise and she stared at him, unsure of how to answer. She took a deep breath and said, “I had my reasons.”

“Which were…?” She knew he wasn’t going to let this one slip away.

She thought and answered carefully. “I had to see someone who was far from home.”

“Who was it?”

She shook her head in absolute frustration and said, “I’ll come clean. I need to tell you something important.”

He narrowed his eyes, if it were even possible, and asked, “What is it?”

Prakrit heard someone call her in her house. She looked like a piece of glass that was about to shatter but she contained her anger and went to the door, yelled something and slammed the door shut.

“What was that?”

“My mother. She keeps telling me to do stuff I don’t like, which is why I cut her off. That reminds me, Prakrit, you’ve never told me about yours.”

“I lost her two years ago.”

Sara gasped. “What happened?”

“A fatal heart attack. She died very young. God took away the only person I looked up to.”

And he became teary eyed.

“Which is why it hurts to make friends, doesn’t it? One day you have complete faith in them and the next, it’s like you’re complete strangers. I know how it feels. I’m sorry.”  She consoled him. She would’ve let him cry on her shoulder if she was next to her.

“Anyways, forget about me,” Prakrit took a deep breath and forced a smile, “What was it that you needed to tell me?”

A moment ago, she wouldn’t have hesitated. But after listening to him losing his mother, she didn’t know how he would take this news. “You know how the scientists from all over the country are conducting experiments to know the root cause of all types of cancer and find drugs to cure it?”

“Yeah,” Prakrit said, unsure of why she brought this topic up as she loathed science. “It’s called ‘Cancer- Root and Cure’. I’ve heard about it. They’re making excellent progress. But, what about it?”

“They obviously needed volunteers for it and I became one.”

“But that’s for cancer patients only! Why would you…” he stopped short and the air suddenly became still. “Don’t tell me…” he couldn’t even finish.

“Yes, genius, I’m a cancer patient.” She said gently. Prakrit couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He buried his head in his hands and tried to control his grief. He didn’t look up for a while. But, when he did, the look on his face was somewhere between anxiety and fear. Sara was amazed to even hear him speak.

“When?” he asked shakily.

“Two years ago, I’d been diagnosed with leukemia. I’ve been getting treatment from everywhere, which explains the very short hair, but in vain. This is why I’ve volunteered for this research program. I’m using every opportunity I get.”

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” he asked. His voice had a slight edge of anger. She just shrugged. “The truth is that I didn’t want you to know at all.”

He looked up. She smiled and he realized how nice she looked when she smiled.

“I wanted you to be happy,” she continued, “I wanted to keep someone happy, besides myself. I prayed to God every day, and He answered. But don’t dwell on it too much. I’ll be fine. I volunteered for the research program because of you. For you.” When she smiled, Prakrit found himself smiling without meaning to.

After that, neither Prakrit nor Sara ever mentioned cancer, or health, but she did have to travel to Bangalore and Delhi often. Whenever she went to Delhi, she used to say, “I was this close to meeting you in person,” almost touching her forefinger to her thumb without actually touching them.

On Christmas Eve, Sara was teaching Prakrit to bake brownies and chocolate chip cookies. While his cookies were baking away, he decided to take a break. He sat down, huffing and puffing, his forehead beaded with sweat, even though the temperature had dropped down to somewhere below zero.

“Who knew cooking was so tiring?” he complained.

“It isn’t, really, if you have the passion,” she replied, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes. Go ahead.”

“Tell me more about your mother.”

He thought for a while and said, “My mother was the best person in the world. As a kid, I was very shy and scared of small things. She used to console me, always.” He focused on the kitchen window across him and had a faraway look in his eyes. “She was probably the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I miss her very much, Sara.”

“I’m sure she’s very proud of what you are now,” she said.

Then all of a sudden, he got up and looked out the window.

“It’s snowing,” he whispered.

“Prakrit?! Where did you go?” she called.

“Sara!” he said excitedly.  “It’s snowing!” he picked up his laptop and showed her. Sure enough, they saw millions of light, fluffy flakes of snow falling from the grey sky, even though it was quite faint.

“Wow” they said in unison.

“I’ve always wanted to see a snowflake. With my own eyes, I mean,” Sara said.

“Now you tell me,” Prakrit looked a bit flustered.

“Hey, at least you get to see snow. I only asked for a snow flake. The pictures on the internet are rubbish, you know? Besides…” She stopped short as someone in her house called her. She shot Prakrit a queer look and disappeared. When she came back, she held a box, one foot in length and breadth and half a foot in height and set it before her.

Prakrit smiled. “Merry Christmas!”

“So, I suppose,” she crossed her arms and looked annoyed, “I shouldn’t open it today?”

Prakrit shook his head. “Open the brown wrappings only. That’s what you do, isn’t it?”

“Yes. And I’ll do it later.”

“Now,” Prakrit took a deep breath. “Let’s get back to cooking, shall we?”

The day after Christmas, Sara told Prakrit that she would be given new drugs and treatment. Specifically, radiotherapy. He had been scared for her, and it was on the 2nd of January, which happened to be his birth date. But they both knew that Sara was braver.

After Christmas Eve, it hadn’t snowed till the weekend. When it did, he collected a few small pieces of snow on some slides. He asked his father for the use of his laboratory for a while and he set off to work. He wanted Sara’s wish to come true. He wanted her to see a snowflake, before anything happened. He scolded himself for thinking that way. She will get better, he thought. She should and she will. Prakrit’s father owned a science lab a little further away from his house. There were plenty of microscopes.  He took the help of his dad’s colleagues and prepared a slide of a single, silvery blue snowflake. It was surreal. He even took a picture of what he saw in the electron microscope.

It was very late in the night when he got home. He packed everything in a box: the slide, the picture, and even a note and was ready to send it through mail.

Finally, the 2nd of January in the New Year was here. Sara had informed that after the radiotherapy, she would come online and chat with him. And should anything happen to her, somebody else would inform him. Although Sara assured him that nothing bad would happen to her.

So, there he was. Waiting and staring nervously at his laptop screen, waiting for her to come online. Instead, a girl of around fourteen, who introduced herself as Sara’s cousin, burst into tears and said that Sara hadn’t made it through the radiotherapy. This hit him like a bucket of cold water. Two of his favorite people in the world, his mother and Sara, had left him with a heart full of memories too painful to reminisce. He asked her a few questions on where she was going to be kept and about the rituals. Her funeral rites. She said Sara didn’t agree to any. Sara’s body had to be given to the scientists, as a part of an agreement. He wanted to see her. He had never made that decision on an impulse when she was alive, and he was ashamed of it. At least now he should go and see her. He knew her house. He knew the address. He thanked her and almost immediately began packing up and leaving for the airport. He had enough money to catch a flight by himself. He left a note informing his dad about his whereabouts. He’ll be fine, he thought. He’ll understand.

It was well past eleven in the night by the time he reached the airport. The last flight to Kanyakumari had already left, but the next one was at seven o’clock the next morning. Finally, he got into the flight. As he was nearing her, he couldn’t control his grief any more. He buried his face in his hands all through the journey. After getting off the flight, he asked a taxi driver to take him to her address. The driver stared at him for a moment, unsurely, and then took him to her house. At first, he didn’t understand why he looked at him that way, but on reaching her house, he understood why. She lived in a mansion, a huge mansion overlooking the beach. All this time they were friends, he never knew that she was very rich.

He expected someone to stop him and question him. He plucked all his courage to face it. But, apparently, no such thing happened. When he entered the mansion, he wished he had more courage.

Sara was there. She lay in an open coffin, wearing a knit sweater and skirt, and his heart skipped a beat. It was the sweater and skirt Prakrit had sent her for Christmas. She was there, in front of him, all flesh and no spirit. Prakrit remembered all the times she used to say she wanted to punch him. And yet, there they were, together, and she couldn’t move. There weren’t many people, but nobody looked at him. No one asked him who he was. He moved closer to her and saw how pale she really was. She had bruises all over her body. In the photo behind her coffin, she looked like a completely different person. She had longer hair and her beautiful smile.

He took out the box in which the slide and the photo were kept. He carefully placed it in her hand. He blinked back tears from his eyes and noticed the girl who had told him the news. A tear fell down her cheek. He knew how much everybody loved her. He now understood the meaning behind her example of the ocean that she related her life to. He turned around and walked towards the door. Then he broke into a run. He ran past the people, the door, the gates and the guards.

And he didn’t look back.

(Thanks so much for reading this! There will be improved versions of this shortly! I wrote this two years ago for my college magazine and it got published! It’s the first one so far! Yay!)