Story 44

He stared at the fragile body lying on his bed. He had been out with his friends and when he had returned home he had seen this girl sleeping in his bed, his covers pulled up to her neck, her brown hair spread on his pillow. This was not the first time he was seeing her, but looking at her now; looking so vulnerable sleeping in his bed, felt weird and different. It filled him with unexplainable pain when his sister told him about what had happened recently in her life.

He had always seen her as his younger sister’s friend, bubbly and full of life – always a smile on her face, mischief in her eyes. The sound of laughter that erupted from her throat sounded like a bell that marked the beginning of laughter in other people’s throats. When she laughed, almost everyone around her laughed with her. Her charisma won the hearts of many people, young and old, alike. She never let go any chance to help others, let it be helping an old lady to cross the street or feeding a hungry child begging on the street.

At that moment, everything that was true about her seemed like a lie. The only glaring truth that radiated was that she was in pain. The girl who made others laugh had forgotten how to laugh.

He felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned around. His sister looked at him with a question in her eyes. What was he doing, staring at her like that? How would he answer that unasked question? Well! How could he tell his sister that he was controlling his desire to go near her and take her in his embrace that would erase all the pain from her life!

He walked away from his room without looking back at his sister. It had taken him one look at her for his heart to be filled with desire; the desire to be able to wake up each morning to the girl sleeping in his bed now, the desire that could never be fulfilled because she was already married.

The last he had seen her was at the end of school when he had gone to pick up his sister at the farewell party. That night he had dropped her home. She had smiled. He had not thought much about it that time, but now, re-visiting that moment he realized she looked beautiful.

“She had a crush on you, you know … from since … like … the first time she saw you.” His sister said and he was back to the present.

“What happened to plain English?” he tried to change the topic. He did not like how the college crowd she spent time with, changed the way she talked.

“She had a crush on you since the first time she saw you. Now, don’t try to change the topic.” His sister spoke using the words her brother wanted her to use.
“Why are you telling this to me now?” He asked.
“She needs you.” His sister said.
He did not know how exactly he was going to help her but he was prepared to try.

“Hmmm” he said and walked away. He needed time to think.
Once he was out of the house, he lit a cigarette and sat on his bike, trying to decide whether to drive around with his friends or drive alone to some quiet place to think. He inhaled and then exhaled the smoke. He heard coughing; he stood and turned around to look where the sound came from. That’s when he fell in love with her all over again. She was standing at the window of his room, her brown eyes fixated on him. He crushed the cigarette with his shoe and watched her smile. She turned around and he thought she was going back to bed; but a few moments later he heard the main door being opened and she stepped out into the cold night, her arms wrapped around herself – he did not know whether it was to fight the cold or it was a gesture to protect herself. As she walked towards him, it was evident in her gait – the sadness, the pain and the hopelessness. He could not take it, sadness and pain he could understand but how could she feel hopelessness.

Yes, she had problems, but it was not end of the world.
It was only when she walked closer to him that he saw the mark on her face. He had missed it earlier as he stared at her beautiful face. How could he?
He wanted to rip off the arm of the bastard who had hit her. He would, if she gave him the permission, he thought.
“Hi” she said and he looked at her, trying his best to ignore the fingerprints on her face.

“Hi” he said and looked away.
She walked closer to where he was standing and then stood near the bike, her hand resting on the seat.
“Want to go for a drive?” he asked.
“Yes, sure.” She replied and moved back, allowing him to sit on the bike and kick-start it. She sat behind him on the bike and placed her hand on his shoulder. He accelerated and drove out of the compound. He drove around carefully, making sure that she was comfortable.
“I am hungry.” She said all of a sudden and he applied the brakes.
“You did not eat anything?” he asked.
“Let’s eat at that restaurant we three used to go to.” She said
He did not reply but started his bike again and drove towards the restaurant.

“I am sorry, I did not know you had not eaten anything.” He said, hoping that his voice was not lost against the wind. He did not turn around, he did not want to turn around to look at her. He did not want to see how beautiful she looked as her hair blew in the wind.

They reached the restaurant and they both got down from the bike. He watched her as she ate. It seemed as if she had not eaten since forever. Were they really mistreating her the way he had heard they were? Or was his sister exaggerating?
His sister had told him that this girl had a crush on him, but then she had fallen in love with someone in college and gotten married. Last he had heard, she had just returned from her honeymoon and was very happy. After that he had not bothered to keep tabs; there was no reason to. When exactly did things start going downhill?

“Excuse me!” she said and he realized he had spoken out loud.
“Do you want to order some juice?” he tried to change the topic. He knew he was very bad at it.
“Is this why we are out on a drive? Are you going to talk me into going back to him?” she asked him accusingly.

“No. Not at all.” He said. In fact, if it was for him to decide he would ask her to stay with him forever. But it was her life and she had to take her own decisions. He would be there to support whatever she decided. He made sure he told her that.
She seemed to relax a little after his assurance but the fear in her eyes was still very much evident. It was true then; what had happened to her. His sister was not exaggerating after all.

He paid the bill after she finished eating and as they started to walk towards the bike, the wind played with her hair again and that’s when he saw it. A burn mark on her neck. It was concealed again with her hair but he could not stop himself from walking towards her and holding her hair up exposing her neck. She turned around immediately but it was already late.

He had seen it and recognized it. He knew the burn mark was from a cigarette. She started to run away from him and he followed. He put his arm around her waist to stop her and she winced in pain. He moved back immediately. Obviously, he was not going to lift her shirt and see what had made her wince in pain but he knew what he would find if he did. His eyes filled with tears and he felt his pulse in his head. The throbbing headache was unbearable but worst was what he felt in his heart.

He started the bike and waited for her to sit behind him and then he drove. He drove at full speed and she held him by his waist. He did not stop as they neared his house; instead he drove past it and towards the outskirts of the city. Neither of them spoke a word. He could not see the road properly; his vision being blurred by tears but he did not stop. There was no traffic on the road, in fact there was no other vehicle on the road and he continued in full speed until he heard a loud cry.

His head was filled with so much fury that it had taken time for the sound of her cries to reach his ears but once he heard the heart-wrenching cry he stopped the bike. He turned around to look at her; her cheeks were soaked with tears and her eyes were blood-shot due to crying. She got down from the bike and rushed towards the side of the road and sat on a stone. He parked his bike and rushed towards her. He knelt down before her and without saying a word he kissed her.

Her immediate reaction was to slap him. She felt the wetness of his tears on her palm and realized he had been crying, too. She wrapped her arms around herself and continued crying. He waited for her to calm down and when she did not, he dared to move closer to her and embrace her. This time, she did not resist. She let him hold her and then she wrapped her arms around him. They cried together, in each other’s embrace. He moved back and looked at her; then he kissed her again. She opened her mouth and kissed him back; both tasting the salt of their tears.

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