Story 50

The silent room had started to suffocate him. He walked to the window and opened the curtains and a cool breeze entered through. He stared at the setting sun. The orange yellow colour spread across the sky might have seemed to be romantic to her, but for him, it was just an end to a day, another day without her!


The suffocating gloominess of the room lessened a little as he thought of her smile. She still managed to brighten up his life. Still. Even after so many years.

Unconsciously, he moved towards the desk and opened the drawer; full of her memories. From the first letter, she had handed over to him to the last letter he found under her pillow, he had them all, neatly kept in a scented wooden box. He opened the first letter. College memories! He smiled. Smell of fresh coffee wafting from the kitchen filled his nostrils. It seemed so real. But, there was no coffee on the burner.


Her first day in college, he remembered. She was subjected to mild ragging but she could not take it and started crying. Seniors apologised, and she felt embarrassed. He saw everything from across the hall and instantly fell in love with her. He walked towards her and ended the awkward moment. The seniors nodded and walked away. They respected him. He was their senior. He gave her his handkerchief to wipe the tears, which she took without looking at him. "Thanks" she said handing over the kerchief and looking at him for the first time. Another embarrassing moment for her…

At the end of college that day, he offered to drive her home as she was scared to go by train. Railway stations, yet another place common for ragging. She knew. She said she had called her brother, but he could not make it and so, he offered to drop her home.
It was his first time in her house and there was no one else other than them. She made coffee for him.

The next day, she had written a letter to him, an apology letter. It was a part of ragging that she had to convince the guy staring at her to drop her home. He had laughed out loud unable to believe that he got fooled.


He laughed again. The memory of that day still fresh in his mind. They had become friends. They spent a lot of time together in college canteen. He had sort of become a private tutor for her. She appreciated his help. He was thankful that he got to spend quality time with her.
She wrote him another letter a few days before her exams. This time it was a thank you note for all the coaching that he gave her. He smiled, remembering how she had smiled after handing over the letter to him. His heart had skipped a beat then and it skipped a beat even now, in the present, as he visualised her.
After the last paper, as she walked out of the examination hall, she ran towards him on seeing him and had almost hugged him. She stood frozen, very close to him, so much that he could smell the shampoo in her hair. But then she moved back and held his hand instead and they walked to the canteen. Coffee time. Time to make some more memories.


Her friends had planned an end-of-exams outing but she refused to go saying that her mother wanted her back home early. He came to know later that it was just an excuse given to her friends. They watched a movie together only to be caught by her friends who had come to watch the same movie. “Will plan something better next time” she whispered in his ears as she finally walked out of the cinema hall with her friends. He smiled.

He never shared details of their friendship with any of his friends but he was sure his friends would have said that it was an open hint she had thrown at him indicating her interest in him. He decided not to take her for granted. He wanted this to be the way it was right now. No rumours, no teasing, no taking for granted, no red roses. But, he was soon disappointed as the following Valentine's day someone gave her a bouquet of red roses with his name on the tag. It was an awkward moment for him and she was furious. She knew it was not him, she trusted him enough to know that he would never do anything like this. Amateur expression of love was not his style. She was pretty sure it was someone from her class, some friend of hers who had done this after seeing them together in the cinema hall. People looked at them wherever they went. Girls giggled, and guys looked at him with jealousy. They left college early that day. She wanted to go out somewhere, wanted to spend time alone with him.


“Can’t we let this be just the way it is?” Her words, his thoughts. He understood what she meant. “Do we really have to label this relationship?” she complained, tears starting to form in her eyes.
That very moment he wanted to go back to the college and beat up the person who had done this to her, to them! His own eyes filled with tears.
“Please don’t cry.” He pleaded.

“I love you” she told him, looking deep in his eyes.
“I know” he wanted to say. His friends would have considered sneaking out for movie together as a hint, but he knew her better than that. He knew she would have gone to the movie with him even if she considered him only as a friend. But, he knew she loved him. He knew her well.
“Are you listening?” she asked, and he had snapped out of his thoughts.
“Sorry”
“Forget it. Let’s go” she stood up to go.
“What happened?” he asked, confused.

“Nothing. Can we just forget what happened today? Or what I said just now?” She asked looking at him but avoiding eye contact. He tried to read her face. What had he missed when he was deep in thoughts and not paying attention?
She never told him. Not then and not even now, after all these years. He had tried to find out many times but she skilfully avoided talking on that topic. He did not have to know because in the end what really mattered was that they were together but still, he wanted to know. The thought that he was missing a part of the moments he spent with her bothered him even today.


It was dark inside the house. She always complained when he did not put on the lights on the right time in the evening. He closed the box and put on the lights in all the rooms. He walked to the kitchen and made tea for two. Four months, it had been four months since she had gone but he had not gotten used to it. Like all the other days, he drank the tea from both the cups and washed the cups immediately. He knew she would have wanted him to do that. He wanted to do, and almost always did everything that pleased her. He wanted things to be the way she always wanted it to be. He did the laundry every day, ate on time, slept on time. But, he could not stop thinking about her, the way she wanted him to. No, that was not possible. She had told him that it would affect his work and yes, it was affecting his work, but he could not stop thinking about her.

He walked back to the bedroom. Instead of opening the box again he opened the wardrobe and kept the neatly folded clothes inside. He cleaned his desk. Wrote a few checks to pay the bills, returned the missed calls and then lifting the wooden box he walked towards the rocking chair.
“Happy Wedding Anniversary”, the words carved on the rocking chair brought back the smile. It was a gift from her.

He moved his fingers over the carving, remembering their anniversary. Only then, that day, he had completely forgotten it.
“Who forgets their first wedding anniversary?” she asked angrily.


He had no answer. She was right. Who, other than him, would forget their first wedding anniversary? She loved him despite all his flaws, so it had not taken much time for her to forgive him. He was lucky to have her in his life. Someone who completely understood him! A woman, who even after becoming his wife continued being the friend she once was.
He sat on the chair and closed his eyes. The movement of the chair was comforting to his disturbed mind. He wanted to call her, hear her voice, talk to her and tell her how much he missed her. He even took out his mobile phone from his jeans pocket and was about to press the speed-dial for her number, but he changed his mind.

The valentine day remained as an invisible barrier in between the two of them for quite some time. She easily ignored the looks the students gave her, but it was difficult for her to ignore the look in the eyes of her professors. One of the professors even ‘talked’ to her stating that she was a bright student and she should not waste her time in ‘all such things’.


Things changed a bit after that. She started to avoid talking to him in college. He was fine with that only because they spoke over the phone every evening and went for a walk together at night. Her parents knew about them. This was a plus point. By now, at least he had gotten serious about his feelings for her. He never questioned about her feelings because he knew it. At the same time, he prepared himself for the day when she would come and perhaps say that there was no future for them. Thankfully, that day never came. Holding-hands-while-walking stage of their relationship was soon replaced by hugs.

The third letter to him was during his final semesters. It was just an All the Best letter, but for him, it implied that she would be a part of all the important events of his life. And, that she was.
It was the third day of his examinations when he got a telegram from his father mentioning the death of his mother due to illness. He knew he would have been a lost case had this girl not been there for him like a strong support. He cried in her arms the whole evening. He was even invited to sleep over at her place. She did not want to leave him alone. So, instead of walking back to the hostel he had accompanied her home. Her parents were supportive enough and that meant a lot to him.

Their first night together in the same house, they spent the entire night studying for his exams. The roles were reversed for the night. She was the teacher and he was the student. Her mother was kind enough to make some tea for them. 
In her letter, which she had to post for the first time because immediately after his exams he took a train to his house in Cochin, she mentioned her views about the status of their relationship.


He opened the box and took out the letter. This one was written on a different kind of paper than the earlier ones and was the longest letter she had ever written to him. The other letters were more like notes. He had read this letter so many times and he knew it word to word.


... continued as Story 51.
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