Wednesday, November 23
When she woke up, he was sitting next to her, face in his palms.
She sat up and he noticed her, standing up abruptly. She stood up too, feeling terribly awkward.
“I… I hm… I’m…” She stammered. “I’m s-so–” But what was the point ? What could she possibly say ? There was no proper explanation to this.
He looked so serious. She sighed in frustration and turned around to leave.
She was leaving.
Do something, idiot !
She was leaving.
Say something !
“Meenakshi ?” He breathed out.
She came back running with a hopeful smile on her face. How pretty she was when she smiled.
“Please stay.” Stay with me. “Don't go.”
She looked at him, visibly listening intently.
“Come with me…” His mind was in panic. “Please.”
He knew her name. He knew her name ! He knew who she was ! And he had just asked her to stay !
She had no idea if she was in one of the many dreams she had had of him, but this made her beyond happy. And stressed, because they were about to talk, their first talk being on her engagement day after she had followed him all day. Frankly speaking, she imagined this moment to be very different.
“This is my father’s factory. He left it to me when he died four years ago.”
She didn’t pipe a sound. He really didn’t know what he should say or how to say it.
“My mother wants me to take care of it but…” He didn’t dare look at her. “All I can do is paint.”
She was quiet, her gaze focused on him.
“So I’m in school in the morning, I paint in the afternoon and I’m here at night.”
What to do now ? What to say ?
“What about your family ?”
She stopped breathing for a second. She who could usually talk for hours, he intimidated her so much.
“Hm… I have my parents, my grandmother and my little brother…” She answered hesitantly. “But they want me out.” The last part almost whispered.
“What ?” Her eyes widened. “Nothing.”
He nodded and they both kept quiet for a minute.
“By the way… I asked about you in college…”
The hairs raised up his neck.
“They told you about the alcohol, right ?”
She nodded, visibly embarrassed. “I’m so sorry…”
“You should’ve asked me.” The words slipped out of his lips, surprising himself in the process.
She didn’t answer, staring at her hands.
“They can say what they want, I don’t drink.”
“What’s the point anyway ?” He added. “I mean…”
She nodded quietly, not knowing what to say. She didn’t believe the rumors but was still relieved to hear it coming from his mouth.
“Anyway… do you like your job ?”
“Not too many annoying students ?”
“Well…” She hesitated. “You empty my shelves…”
“Me ?!” He gasped. “I’m an annoying student ?”
“I didn’t say that.” She smiles cheekily. “That’s your interpretation.”
“And what’s your interpretation of that behavior ?” He asked again. Why would you ask that in the first place though ?!
She seemed to be thinking. Truth be told, her silence made him a little nervous.
“Maybe you haven’t found what you were looking for yet ?”
“Maybe…” He tried to form a smile but was pretty sure he had that resting angry face still.
“I often saw you painting around the campus.” She said.
“You did ?” He pretended not to know. But how not to notice someone like her.
She nodded shyly then looked straight into his eyes and smiled. Oh.
“Never thought you could have that many shades of blue.”
He let out an awkward laugh.
“They’re beautiful.” She went on. “They look like they have so much to tell.”
“Just like you.”
His heartbeat sped up. Uh oh.
“It’s getting late.” He eventually said.
“Hm hm ?”
“Maybe you have somewhere to be ?”
Flashes of the engagement party she was supposed to be at crossed her mind. She shrugged.
“Still, it’s late.”
“I know…” But she didn’t want to go.
“Let me drive you home.”
She didn’t want this moment to end. She didn’t want to say goodbye.
“Wait for me here.” He said before leaving to take his scooter.
“Yes.” She nodded.
He walked away and that’s when he started freaking out. Because they had actually talked to each other, and she was so gentle, and she had come all the way here… for him ? For him. When she had that other guy who seemed respectable in every way. When she was too good for him.
What should he do, what should he do, what should he do ?
He felt stress rising up inside him while pushing the scooter forward. Bringing him back to her.
“ Nāṉ uṉṉai …”
He stopped. Her back was turned on him, she hadn’t heard him coming back.
“... kātalikkiṟēṉ .”
“Huh ?” She gasped as he came back pushing his scooter. Had he been here for long ? Had he heard her training to confess in Tamil ? And what even was she thinking ?
“You were saying something ?”
“No, nothing !” And that sounded a little too panicky to be true.
“Okay.” He nodded. “Ready ?”
She sat on the scooter behind him. Should she hold him ? Should she not ? Was it too much ?
He drove off.
Rah, never mind.
She put her arms around his chest, only not to fall, she told herself. Only not to fall.
“So… how’s it like to have a brother ?” He asked while driving. “Asking for a friend who’s an only child.”
“That friend being… you ?” She asked back.
He smiled. “I’m busted.”
She chuckled before replying. “Well, my brother is a little crazy.”
Her chin resting against his shoulder.
“A little crazy ?”
“Well, imagine the little brother who likes to annoy you; then add an undying love for dogs to it. And that’s my brother.”
He outright laughed. “Undying love ?”
“He has five of them !”
He laughed some more.
“But he took them off the street, so I can’t really blame him for being kind, you know ?”
“He sounds like he’s something else.”
“He is. I guess that’s also why I love him.”
He smiled to himself.
“Wow ! There’s no one, it’s like we’re all alone in the city.” She exclaimed. “Just the two of us.”
“It’s just us, two people in the city, at night, on a scooter that smells of gasoline.”
“It doesn’t smell that strong, does it ?”
“No, it’s just me.” She answered. “I have a strong sense of smell.”
And this man smelled so good. The smell of incense stuck to his clothes, and it felt like a safe haven. As if she would risk no danger if she stayed with him. She wasn’t getting tired of it.
He nodded again.
She had been afraid of talking to him all this time, because she was scared of being disappointed or even worse, rejected. But he was so kind and good ? She wanted to know everything about him, she wanted nothing else ! She didn’t know one could fall harder for someone, but here she was. She was completely whipped.
She didn’t want to go back. She wanted this trip back home to go on and on. Forever.