Story 39

She stepped out of her posh office on the thirteenth floor and walked towards the elevator. The sounds of her heels clicking on the tiles echoed throughout the silence of the entire office. Everyone left early. Actually, she always left late.


Since there was no one to question her about coming home late she preferred working late hours into the office and even though no one could question her about coming late to the office (who could question the boss?) she reached office right on time.
She was rich, successful, beautiful and single. People envied her. 


She called her chauffeur from the elevator phone and when she reached the ground floor, her car was already waiting for her. She smiled at the security guard on the way out and got into her car. The moment she was in the car she took off the heels and after massaging her feet she put on simple sandals. She wiped off the make-up and let her hair loose. She unbuttoned her shirt and took it off to reveal the t-shirt she was wearing inside. Her chauffeur was trained not to look. It did not make any difference, the chauffeur knew about it already. It had been the routine for past few weeks. She walked out of her office in a suit and out of the car in casuals.


The chauffeur parked the car at the spot where he had been parking it for the past few weeks and she nodded as he looked at her through the rear-view mirror. It was unspoken instruction for him to drive home without her. She opened the door and stepped out of the car. She scanned the crowd for a familiar face worrying that she would be spotted getting out of a Mercedes. When she was sure the coast was clear, she stepped in line with the crowd returning home from their work. Her car cut through the traffic and was gone when she turned around to scan the crowd again. Her face lit up when she saw him. She rushed past slowly moving people and climbed the stairs to reach the platform where they were supposed to meet. 


She reached the platform in record time and she smiled as she came face to face with the kid who she saw every day. His father polished shoes for the commuters and the kid played around. She took out a chocolate from her trouser pocket and gave it to the kid and ran her fingers through his hair, the kid grinned ear to ear and thanked her for the chocolate. He started eating immediately and a few minutes later, chocolate still in his mouth he said ‘aa gaya’. It did not take much time for her to understand what he was talking about. She felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned around to face him. The same man she had seen outside the station, the same man whom she was supposed to meet here at the platform, the same man who had changed her life, the same man who made her think ‘what if’? The man who did things to her, which had quit happening to her since high school when she had a crush on her senior.


“Hi” he said clicking his fingers to get her attention.
“Hi” she replied with a broad smile.
The kid cleared his throat and ran away. She turned around to watch him play with a kid at the bookstall.
The train arrived and they both got into the train, like they always did – holding hands, trying their best not to be separated by the wave of people climbing out of the train and the crowd trying to get it.
They found their way into the first class gents’ compartment, he holding her in his protective arms and she, conscious of the way her body touched his. The train started to move and they were still stuck at the entrance, the crowd slowly filling the gaps available inside the compartment. 


The train had started picking up speed when she saw the kid running towards the train and climbing into the second class ladies’ compartment. She made a mental note of scolding the kid for climbing into a moving train.


“Let’s move inside.” He said, his arm still wrapped around her. She nodded and they tried to walk past the people who were waiting at the entrance to get down at the next station. It felt good, his body close to hers. This was the moment for which she agreed to go through the torture of commuting in a crowded train when she could easily reach home in her air-conditioned Mercedes. 


It was not pleasant the first time. Her car was in garage and there was no cab on the streets thanks to the strike of cab drivers. The preferred mode of transportation was the trains because the frequency of buses from the office to her house was less; she had come to know that when she had enquired about the bus route to the bus conductor. Since she was the last person to walk out of the office, the possibility of asking for a drive home was out of question.

She’d been scared to climb into the crowded train and had left two trains already. Making up her mind to climb into the third train she got rid of her heels and wore her handbag across her shoulder, the way she had seen another woman do. She had already tied up her hair. She did not have eyes for anything else other than the train. Unfortunately, she had miscalculated the location of ladies’ first class compartment and had to get into the gents’ compartment at the last moment. She was half in the train and half on the platform when the train had started to move. She had then felt an arm pulling her inside the train and the same arm wrapped around her waist to hold her steady.


That’s when she had seen him for the first time. Close up. So close that she could smell his perfume mixed with sweat, so close that she could feel his sweat soaking her shirt and so close that she could not look at him without squinting. Even in that scenario, she had fallen in love with him.
Love at first squinted sight, that’s how she described the happening of that day, every day.
That day had changed how she looked at life. She was single and happily so. In her late thirties, she thought she had her life planned out, she believed in setting a target and achieving it well before the deadline; she had always been confident of getting things done the way she wanted.
This, however, felt different. This made her worry – what if? The confidence she showed in work, disappeared when she looked into his eyes and sought to reach his soul. She was unsure, for the first time, what her future would be like. 


When the train neared the next station he had instructed her to get down and run towards the ladies’ first class compartment. He had then looked down at her feet and asked her if she had lost her sandals. ‘I took them off’ she had told him and he had laughed. She still heard that laughter in the silence of the night and it echoed throughout her huge and empty apartment. The laughter stayed with her for every waking moment for a long time, until it was replaced by another memories. A handshake, holding hands, a hug and a kiss.


The moment he had let go of her hand so that she could climb out of the gent’s compartment and find her way into the ladies’, she had made up her mind that she would meet him again; even though it meant going through the torture of being pushed and pulled around.
The next day she had seen him waiting at the platform and she had walked towards him. He’d told her that the ladies’ compartment would stop a little further from where they were standing but she had simply smiled and he had not said anything after that. He had helped her into the train and they had started to talk. 


She did not set a deadline for this; she was ready to wait for as long as it took for him to fall in love with her and her patience was soon rewarded.


“What’s wrong?” the words pulled her out of the past. She realized they were standing towards the end of the compartment. How had she reached here? She did not know. He had moved towards the back and she had moved involuntarily with him, their arms wrapped around each other. 

The train stopped at a station and almost half the crowd climbed out of the compartment and then she saw the kid climbing into the compartment. She was about to ask him what the hell he was doing but before she could open her mouth, the kid waved a magazine in air and said, ‘auntie, aapki photo chapi hai magazine mein’. She looked at the magazine and remembered her recent interview with the editor of a renowned women’s magazine. She closed her eyes momentarily and prayed that he had not heard what the kid had said. She tried to move but she could not as he continued to hold her against his chest, one arm still wrapped around her waist and he extended the other arm to take the magazine from the kid.


She felt the grip of his arm loosening around her waist and then felt the space between them as he moved his arm from her waist and moved back. He held the magazine in both his hands and read the cover page and then opened the page to her interview.


The moment he opened the magazine, she felt her life taking an ugly turn, she felt the chill run down her spine, and the fear of her lies being exposed choked her. Her heart raced as he looked up from the magazine and at her. That moment, the crowd seemed to vanish into thin air; it was just him and her and when she saw the look in his eyes it was only her – and the darkness.

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