Story 15

He liked who he became when he was with her. She was the only person who knew the real him. For others, he put up a face - a mask. She saw him for who he was behind that mask. People knew him as a spoilt brat who liked dangerous sports, who loved the adrenaline rush.


She knew him as the person who needed the adrenaline rush to remain sane.
They were best of friends and he did not care what other people said about them.
His soccer friends told him that a guy and a gal could be part of a friends group but they could not be just friends and he told them that it might not be possible in movies but in real life it was. 



She loved books and spent most of her time surrounded by them. If she was not in the class, she was in the library and after college she was always to be found in the bookshop across the street. She worked at the bookshop. His friends told him that she needed the job to support herself and since she was tired of working she started hanging out with him; she was with him for money - because he was rich. He knew why she worked in the bookshop and it was not for money, at least not only for money. The bookshop belonged to a family friend and she was helping out because the family friend was short on staff, plus she loved books - getting to spend time amidst books was a great advantage - the payment was the bonus.


She did not care the way his friends looked at them when they walked out of college together. He would have loved to react - punch their faces and fulfil his desire for adrenaline rush but she always stopped him saying that’s what they wanted and he should not give them the satisfaction. 
They traveled together by bus when she was not working in the bookshop. He had a car and he had offered to drop her home in his car once, which she had refused saying that she preferred the bus. On being asked why she said that she loved watching people, they taught her so much.


He knew the reason for not accepting the offer was because she was affected by what his friends said and she did not want to give them the chance to gossip. He respected that and that’s why next day onwards he stopped bringing his car to the college. He started to travel with her by bus.
She worked at the bookshop twice a week and those were the days when he travelled back home alone. He had the option of bringing his car to the college on those days but he did not want to imply that he missed travelling in car. So he stuck to the bus routine even when she was not with him. Those journeys were boring in the beginning but he found a way to make them interesting. He started reading people; their body language, the way they talked or the way they looked at others. 


He shared his reading with her and she admired his ability to read people. He had a gift she had said. Then why, he wondered, had she not trusted his reading on the dude she was dating. 
This guy came into her life all of a sudden, at least that’s how it was for him. She introduced the guy to him on the last day of college. His first thought, his instinct was - the guy was bad news. He had refrained from telling her then and there. His friends had made fun of him, had taunted him that she had ditched him and clung on to the next rich guy because he was so interested in being a nice guy when her desire was to roll in the sack with him.


Since she had left with that dude and was not around, he had finally got his chance to release his anger. He punched the one who made the comment and then he punched anyone and everyone who came in his way. It felt good.
Back home he had thought about why he had been so angry. Was it true what his friends said - was he angry because she went out with other guy? Or was there some other reason.


His doubts were cleared when the next time the guy and he met. The guy asked him to keep away from her and that she was not one of his possessions. He had the urge to beat up the asshole but he had not. Instead, he had gone to her and told her about his reading about the dude, which unfortunately she had not believed. She even accused him of having feelings for her. She said that his judgement was biased because he was interested in her and he could not see her with another man. He did not say a word. Perhaps he should have. He should have repeatedly told her that the guy was not good for her. Had he done that, chances were she would have finally given in and trusted his instincts but he had drifted away from her. He had left her alone to make the choice. He had not been a good friend. She had disappeared, had not even come for on graduation day, she did not care about the result, she did not care about the certificate and it hurt to know but she did not care about him. The last thing he had heard about her was that she had eloped with the guy and married him. After that he had stopped keeping tabs on her life.


---


It had been a surprise when he had seen her at the mall after more than two years. He could not recognize her immediately. It was only when she had smiled after seeing him, did he recognize his once best friend. This woman standing in front of him was nothing like her. She was pregnant. She was weak. There were black circles around her eyes. She looked malnourished.
It took a while for him to realize that she was not out there shopping. She was working at the mall. 
They met for coffee after her shift and she told him everything that had happened in her life after she walked out of him. 
She had finally realized he had been right about the guy. He was bad news. One day he vanished from her life taking away her savings just when she needed him the most.


He looked at her and wondered how her life would have turned out had he not given up on her. It was strange how she could still read his mind. She told him that it was not his fault; she got what she deserved. He had done his part of warning her and she had ignored. 
He knew there was nothing he could do to change what had happened but he intended to be there for her in future. 
No one gives up on your best friend, he told himself.
He made up his mind that he would do everything possible to make her happy. 


---

He kept his promise of being there for her. He took care of her. He found her a good job, and a better place to live. He helped her in shifting. He was there with her when she had the labour pains, when she delivered and he was the first person to hold the baby. 
He introduced her to the man he thought deserved her. He arranged for them to meet, he took care of the baby when she went out on a date. He was there, standing next to her as she got married; to a right person this time. 
And then - he moved back into the shadows; watching her live her life because that’s what friends do. Friends are there for you when you need them and at other times they are in the shadows watching over you, he told himself.


The truth was that he did not want to be actively involved in her life because he did not want her husband to feel challenged in any way. He did not want her husband to tell him to stay away from her because her husband felt threatened that she trusted him more than her husband.

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