I wrenched the door open, only to find you standing at the threshold…
For the first time perhaps, ever since I’d come to know you, you looked worried. Your face was drawn, you looked preoccupied and your lips were trembling. But the one, sure-shot way of knowing that you were feeling insecure, I had learnt, was when you would wear too much make-up, as if to hide your features, as if you wanted to erase the person behind those strokes of blush, mascara, eye shadow and gaudy lip color. I used to hate it when we would go out and you would be heavily decked up, because you were naturally beautiful. You didn’t need all of that. You looked the most beautiful that day when we first officially met, atop the Sunka lake hill, because you had not an inch of make up on you that day. But I’d also noted that there was a correlation between your make-up and your confidence. The more the make-up, the better the confidence, and the more care-free you were. So I had stopped minding it. I thought maybe it was a girl thing.
That night you had your painted face on, and I knew why it was so.
The moment I opened the door you flung yourself at me and I caught hold of you as if you were a life-line. You were never this weak. I had perhaps never come across a girl so brazen and strong as you in all my limited experience. If you wanted a kiss from me, you would take it, without a care if the world was watching. If you wanted to admonish me for something , you would do exactly that without caring for my ‘feelings’. If you wanted to call me names, you would call me the snarkiest and dirtiest of things that only gunda-mawalis used. I think I’ve said before you were a girl like no other. You weren’t a girl. You were quicksand. One had to only touch you once to be sucked right in.
Then who was this trembling girl in my arms? This was a side I’d never seen and it worried me that it was because of me.
“Pihu, it’s okay. Nothing’s gonna happen to us.” I tried soothing you with that, but did I believe it myself? I lowered us on to the bean bag. I put you across my lap, the most intimate we’d ever been, our vulnerabilities bared to each other.
“It’s been so long… I needed to see you”, you breathed the words onto my neck, your breath tantalizingly hot on my exposed skin. But we didn’t have time for those things.
“Pihu, I think it’s best if I don’t see you or call you for sometime. We can’t do this…” Silence and heavy breathing from you.
“I know the Police has interrogated you…”
You jerked your head up from my shoulder, “What did they tell you about me?”
“About you? What? Nothing!”
You relaxed visibly. Your taut eyebrows smoothed back down to their lovely curves. Your head slowly sunk back onto my shoulder and I cradled you back in my arms again.
“Look, no matter what it looks like, you have to believe that I didn’t do it…”
“I believe you”, you sounded matter-of-fact, “I know you could never. You would never hurt anyone. You’re too good”
Well, you got top marks for being the trusty girlfriend. But it seemed you still had more to add, “But you’re right. We can’t do this…”
When you said it like that, unemotionally, my heart skipped a beat. That’s not the way I had meant it. Oh shit! What? Does she mean a break-up?
You continued, “I can’t meet you. It’ll only complicate things for you.” What?! Were you running away from me?
You rose up from my lap and started slowly pacing the room while you explained, “See…”, you sounded troubled, like you were grappling with something difficult in your head. That was a first. You were generally very straightforward. “I… That officer… he knows my Father… and when he found me involved in this, with you I mean, he…”
“Told your Father?” Dammit, I’d had it with overprotective fathers!
“No… he threatened to tell him…”
“He threatened you?” I got up from the bean bag worriedly.
“Look they’re close enough to always watch out for each other… I’ve begged him not to tell my Father about you, or else…”, you stopped and cupped your face with your hands.
“Or else what, Pihu?” Blood had begun to color my cheeks. Red, hot blood. I wasn’t about to lose you like this, when it wasn’t even my fault. I knew what was coming but I had to hear it from you.
“Or else my Father will call me back. He’ll force me to drop out of college from here and and force me to stay in my hometown. I can’t go back there! I hate it there! He’ll never let me lead a normal life…” There was real horror in your eyes. Clearly you didn’t want that to happen.
I tried to wrap my head around this. I could feebly understand that he’d want to keep his daughter safe and I could even understand that, given how things had gotten with me, why a father would want his daughter away from me, but dammit, I wasn’t about to lose another woman in my life because of an overprotective father!
And… why were you so afraid of going back? Isn’t hometown meant to bring up fond memories? Or were you like me?
“Pihu, look, stay away, sure, for sometime. You should. In fact, that’s what I feel too, but… not forever. I… I can’t part with you. I love you too much…”, the closer I stepped towards you, the closer you inched towards the door.
“So do I, but my Father… he’ll never let me be happy if he found out… about this, I mean. He’ll wrench us apart anyway. You don’t know him.” You started backing away from me towards the door, as if I was going to cage you and never let you go. By God, I wanted to do exactly that, but not like this. It hurt to see you scared because of me.
No, no, no, no, nooooo, not again! My mind screamed. If I lost you I knew I’d never find love again. I would just give up on it altogether.
“Pihu please, don’t leave me. I haven’t done anything. You have to believe me. You should believe me, you know me now.” I shouted at you for you to stop and see sense, as if raising my voice would bare the truth to you. But you didn’t. You reached out instead to the latch on the door and said, “I’m sorry. But I love my freedom more. You don’t know what I’ve had to give up to get it back. I never meant for it to be like this… Never!”
One solitary tear rolled down your cheek. That was it. The last goodbye.
The door was thrown wide open, but not by you, by Sushant who had the locksmith with him. There was a moment of bewilderment in our eyes, mine, yours, and Sushant’s. But then I saw a transformation.
You two looked ashen, like you’d seen a ghost. But you… you had pure, unadulterated terror in your eyes, which had doubled up in size and were threatening to pop out of your sockets. Your hands were cupping your mouth again, as if they were trying to hold back the screams, that I could imagine choking up the veins popping out of your neck.
You two knew each other, and not in a good way!
“You….” Sushant hissed as he pointed a finger at you, “What the heck are you doing here?” He was trembling in sudden rage. He stepped further into the living room and you hurriedly backed away, avoiding the very air around him. Then Sushant looked at me, “How do you know her?” Then he looked back at you again, “How do you know him? I asked you WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” With each angry question, his voice rose another notch, and so did my confusion. What the fuck was going on between you two?
All you did was give him a hard push on the chest that caught him by surprise, and run out of the door, before either of us had the sense to catch hold of you. I made for the door after you but Sushant caught hold of me, and I hollered at him, “Lemme go! Whatever it is between you two I have to hear it from her.”
“Let her go…. Forever! It’s best that you do.” Then he talked to the locksmith, handed him some money and bade him leave without fixing the lock. He slammed the door after him and turned to me, “You care to tell me who she is to you?”
“Dude, she’s Pihu… my girlfriend!”
Sushant was incredulous….no, shocked and, scared it seemed. “She’s Pihu!”
He looked back at the door as if he would find her standing there.
“YES! You care to tell me what the fuck is going on?!”
He turned back slowly and shook his head. I could see his head was trying to make sense of something. The mystery was seconds away from being dispelled but the wait was driving me up the wall.
“Dude…” he looked up at me ominously, “of all the lies she must’ve told you, this must be the smallest. She’s not Pihu. Her name’s Payal… Payal Shrivastav… and she’s not what you think she is.“
To be continued…
Copyright ©2017 by Pradita Kapahi.
All rights reserved.
Image Credits: ghwtog at pixabay.com