Story 5

She saw him for the first time while going to college. She had missed the regular bus she took every day and ended up taking the next one. He was one of the few people in the bus. First look, he was just an ordinary guy. Average looking, medium built and regular height. The only unique thing about him was what he was doing that made her look at him for the second time. He was sketching. There was an old woman sitting across him, two seats away and he was making a sketch of her. And – for her, that she came to know later when before climbing out of the bus he handed over the completed sketch to the woman.

“Thank you.” He said. She wondered why he was thanking the old woman; as if reading her thoughts he added, “For being the inspiration.” Just before he stepped out of the bus he looked in her direction and their eyes met and then he disappeared.

The next day she missed her bus on purpose and climbed into the one after that, hoping to see him again and there he was – sitting exactly on the same seat, his head bent down, and his hand moving over a sketch pad. He looked up, perhaps to glance at whoever his inspiration was for the day and their eyes met. He continued staring at her, his gaze penetrating her eyes to reach to her soul. She looked away and found a seat at the back from where she could watch him sketch. He did not look in her direction again. To be able to sketch the way he did in a moving bus was amazing. This time, his inspiration was a pregnant woman sitting across, two seats away. He followed the same routine, handing over the sketch to her and thanking her. Just before he stepped out of the bus he looked in her direction and he disappeared.

The next day she walked towards the bus stop before hers and climbed into the bus in which she could find him. She had to figure out where he boarded the bus from. She could not shake off her desire to know him better. She could not sleep at night and she imagined him making a sketch of hers. 
Each day the same thing happened, they saw each other, he sketched someone and she saw him sketch; he got down at his stop but not before looking in her direction.
Once she even tried to figure out where he went but after climbing out of the bus he simply disappeared into thin air.
Each day she boarded the bus from the previous bus stop and finally on the fourth day she found the bus stop from where he boarded the bus. She saw him get into the bus but she skipped climbing into it. She did not want him to see her.

The next day she boarded the bus from one stop before his stop. She occupied the seat which was occupied by his daily inspirations. When the bus arrived at his stop she saw him climbing in. Almost immediately he looked towards the ‘inspiration’ seat and smiled when he saw her. She tried not to smile but her face was radiant. She was going to be his inspiration for the day. With much efforts she avoided looking in his direction, she did not even know whether he was sketching her or not. When it was time for him to get down, she could feel her heartbeat in her throat. Any moment now, he would come walking towards her and hand over the sketch to her. From the corner of her eyes she saw him getting up, she looked up at him when he reached her seat but instead of handing out the paper to her, he handed it to the little girl sitting in front of her. He had changed his ‘inspiration’ seat because she was sitting on it. She was hurt. She looked away and avoided eye contact with him as he got down from the bus.

The next day she took her regular bus to college. It was weird, the kind of affect he had on her – a man whom she barely knew, a man with whom she had not even spoken one word. Getting rid of his memories was difficult. She went through her day with lack of interest. Despair filled her mind and she did not know what to do. Should she get hold of him and talk? Or should she let it go? The next couple of days she travelled in her regular bus and tried to get him out her mind. 
One day, as she climbed into her regular bus she saw him. He had changed the bus, taking an earlier one than his regular. She walked past him without acknowledging his smile however she could not discard the image of his that she had captured in her mind’s eye as their eyes met. The man was glowing. He was happy to see her.

When she walked past him and sat in the back; he got up from his seat; came and sat next to her. She shifted nervously. “Hey” he said. She continued looking at her hands. “If you are free today, I would like to show you something.” He said. There was something about his voice that made her look up. It sounded as if he was choking with emotions. 
His dark brown eyes were mesmerizing and she found herself diving deep into them, trying to find her way to his soul.
“Would you come with me?” He pleaded and she floated out of his eyes. 
“Yes.” She said even before she could realize she was saying the word.

They both got down at his stop and for the first time she saw where he went after getting down from the bus. He walked to a nearby garage and the huge guy sitting on the stool outside the garage walked in and brought out a packet and handed over the packet to him, which he put inside his bag. 
“Is this where you go every day after you get down from the bus?” She asked and immediately regretted asking. It was none of her business. 
She could sense his hesitation. “No” he said and added, “Let’s just go.”
They walked a few blocks before he walked through a gate. She followed. He took the elevator to the top floor and opened the door to a studio apartment, which looked more like a workshop.
He took her hand in his and without saying a word he walked towards the corner – by the looks of which it was evident that it was his sketching corner. There were a few blank canvases and one veiled canvas on the stand. He asked her to unveil it and as she moved to unveil it she felt her heart hammering on her chest wall. She knew what was behind the veil. 

“You are so beautiful that it was impossible for me to make a sketch of you in the short time on the bus. Each day I looked at you and memorised your face so that I could sketch you in the silent of the night.” He explained.

She could not hold back the tears. She started crying, looking at her own sketch. It was amazing. She believed her looks did not do justice to the sketch he had made. She was so engrossed; looking at his artwork that she did not notice him walking closer to her. It was only when he placed his hand on her waist did she saw him move closer and then kiss her on the lips. Almost immediately she responded to his kiss. Her body shivering with anticipation. Not willing to move away from her, he continued kissing her as he stepped back and towards the bed. He made love to her and as they lay in bed in each other’s arms he whispered, “Now I can die.”
 She looked at him, confused.
“There is nothing I want from life, now that I have had you.” He said and kissed her and then he made love to her again.
He told her not to find him in the bus the next day and take her regular bus to the college, he had some plans for the day and promised to meet her at her college.

She was happy. She was in love. She was in love with the man she hardly knew.

The next day, as he had told her she went to college in her regular bus; waiting in anticipation for her day at college to be over so that she could be with him. However, during their first lecture they heard the news of multiple bomb blasts in the city. One inside a cab, one at the railway station, a few inside buses. 

She could not breathe when she found out more about the blasts in the bus. One of the buses was the one he regularly boarded. She made her way to the site to find out more about the blast. The view was horrible. From the people around the site who were talking about what had happened she learned that the source of the blast was assumed to be a backpack. The survivors of the blast told the police that it belonged to some sketch artist who was a regular in the bus. It seemed that he had forgotten the backpack near his seat, had almost climbed down from the bus but had later come back for it.

“Now I can die.” His words echoed in her ears before she fainted and collapsed on the road. 

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silent whispers

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