Right Choice

Happy Valentines Day to all the readers of Straight From The Heart!
I received a few mails with request for a new love story for the occasion. But, I could not come up with anything and, I did not want this day to go without a post :)
So, please enjoy the story I had written and posted exactly one year ago!

Right Choice

Her house echoed with “Happy Birthday to you” as she blew the candles of her birthday cake. Her parents, friends and her relatives including her cousins who were crowded near her started clapping as the last candle was blown out. One of her friends whispered something in her ear and Anna gave an artificial smile. She was supposed to be happy but she was not. For the nth time she looked towards the door. She was expecting someone. Obviously, he had forgotten her birthday just like last year. She remembered his birthday, the day they had met for the first time, she also remembered birthdays of all his family members and anniversary of his parents. She never expected him to remember so much but she expected that he would at least remember her birthday! It was not too difficult. Her birthday coincided with one more important occasion for people of her age. Her birthday coincided with Valentine’s Day.

She looked at the door for n+1th time. She wanted to call him and remind him but then she thought no, I am not going to call him, there is no need for me to remind him. It was okay earlier when they were just friends but now things were different, they were not merely friends. They were lovers. They had spent a few memorable moments together, sharing something special as they made love in the cottage he had rented recently so that they could spend time together. She had expected that he would propose marriage to her on her birthday, i.e. on Valentine’s Day but he had not even called up to wish her, forget coming to the party to spend time with her.

Her friends screamed in her ears thus bringing her out of her reverie. It was time to cut the cake. A few faces in the crowd looked at each another, secretly smiling as they understood that she was waiting for someone. Finally she decided to cut the birthday cake. She cut a big piece from the bottom layer of the multi-layered cake and offered the first bite to her dad, then to her mom and then to her childhood friend and he made her eat the last bite. She cut another piece for her friends and a few friends smeared her face with the cake, she tried to smile but the expression on her face made her look like a clown and the kids of her cousins started laughing at her. She cut few more pieces from the cake and distributed it amongst the other guests. When it was time to fill her plate she took the part on the top, the one with red rose icing. That piece was meant for her as per what her friend had whispered in her ear. A few kids looked at her with how-can-you-be-so-selfish kind of look.

As the crowd dispersed with their plates filled with snacks, Anna took a bite from her piece of cake. The moment the red rose melted in her mouth, her lips curved into a smile. She kept her plate down and removed something from her mouth. Something that was hidden inside the cake she was eating. She knew what it was. In the softness of the cake she could feel the hardness of the ring.
Holding the ring in her hand she looked around, searching for him…
She knew he was somewhere close. Why was he hiding from her? She walked towards the door and peeked outside, he was not there. She searched for him running from one room to the other as the guests enjoyed the party.

She had been so wrong. He had remembered her birthday; he just wanted to give her a surprise. When she could not find him anywhere the expression on her face changed but then she smiled again. It was not the time to be sad. He had just gifted her diamond ring and she knew what it meant but why was he not around? She decided to call him.
As she dialed the number she failed to see a familiar face amidst the crowd, which was staring at her. The moment she had found the ring that face had been the most glowing face in the room but as she rushed from one room to the other searching for someone that face had lost its glow. The person had realized that she was not looking for him the moment she had walked past him without even glancing in his direction as if he was invisible. That night, he did not even exist for her. She was the whole world for him.

He was her friend since childhood. Their friends called him her bodyguard because he had beaten up a few boys during school days just because they had made fun of her. He had even picked up a fight with tough guys of the college finally landing up with a fractured arm and a black eye. Anna had been a late bloomer and as Dan and she had walked past a basketball ground the guys had commented on her flat chest and Dan had lost his temper. Without realizing that he did not stand any chance against the guys he had jumped in the ring for a fight.
Anna respected him, confided in him and cared for him as a friend. But he loved her. Anna had been the only woman in his life, of course other than his mother who had died last year. All his life, Dan had been a believer but his faith had faltered as his lady love searched not for him but for someone else.
Dan had wanted to propose her since a long time but could not gather enough courage. When his friend had told him about Robert, Anna’s new friend, fear of losing Anna had gripped his mind and he had made a decision. He was going to propose marriage to her on her birthday. But, standing in one corner of Anna’s house, Dan knew that he had already lost her.

Anna waited with baited breath as the call was connected. The bell rang for a long time but there was no answer. She redialed the number. After a few rings it was attended.
“Hello, who is this?”
Robert sounded exhausted as if he had either run for a long distance to attend the call or he had been exercising.
“Hi, Anna here”
“Hi Anna what a surprise”
“I should say that … what a pleasant surprise that was! Thanks!”
“What are you talking about?” Robert asked breathing heavily.
“The ring, I am talking about the ring. I just saw it. It’s beautiful”
There was silence on the other side of the phone. Robert did not say anything. The silence was broken by the voice of a woman
“Come on honey, you cannot just leave me like that…”
Then Anna could hear muffled voices on Robert’s end. He was talking to someone with one hand tightly pressed on the mouth piece of the telephone.
Suddenly, Anna knew the reason behind Robert’s exhausted voice. She disconnected the call.

Dan saw the look on her face and he knew she was hurt. He wanted to hug her but decided otherwise. He stood there, in the corner, looking at her. He knew what she was going through. His heart understood her heart. The protective friend in him wanted to go and beat the man who had hurt her. The lover in him wanted to go and console her, wanted to kiss her, wanted to confess his feelings for her. But he did not do anything.
She wanted to disappear somewhere and she could turn to only one person in this situation. Her best friend! Her childhood friend who understood her more than she did! She looked around the room, searching for Dan. She found him in a corner, for a moment she thought he was staring at her but then she felt she was wrong. He was standing in the corner, silently enjoying the delicacies in his plate. She walked towards him.
Dan’s heart skipped a beat as he saw her approaching him.
“Can we go out somewhere?” Anna asked straightaway.
Such was their friendship. No pretensions, no formalities.
“Sure” Dan said keeping his plate on the nearby table.
They both walked towards the door. As they walked out of the door, Anna slipped her arm in his and they vanished into the darkness.
Anna’s parents saw them walking out and they smiled.

As Dan and Anna reached the seashore, Anna moved away from Dan and after walking a few steps she fell on her knees, the fine sand sticking to her legs. The waves wet her white dress but she did not move. Dan stood at a distance looking at her, his fingers curling into a fist and a cold tear wetting his cheek. The lump in his throat made it difficult for him to speak and hence when he called out her name it sounded more like a croak. He cleared his throat and called out again. His angel turned to look at him, her eyes red and cheeks wet with tears. Her soft hair dancing on the song of the breeze and the music of the waves! The moon peeked through the dark clouds witnessing what was happening on the seashore.
Dan was dazzled for a moment. Anna had never looked so beautiful. He had never looked at her the way he was seeing her today. It seemed as if the painting of Anna that he had painted in his mind had suddenly been changed by swoosh of a magic wand.

Her doubts were confirmed when Anna saw Dan staring at her. After knowing that Robert had not given her the diamond ring she could think of only one person who might have placed it in the icing. Dan. But, from the experience of the many years of her life that she had spent with Dan, she was unsure. He was not the person to fall in love. With her, out of all the people!
As Anna had entered the world of womanhood she had been temporarily attracted towards Dan as a result of surge of hormones. She had once told him that she loved him and Dan had made her understand that it was not love that she felt for him. He had explained to her that it was natural for her to feel so because of the changes taking place in her body. She had accepted it. Their friendship had grown beyond that attraction and if she could trust any man, blindfolded, it had to be Dan. Then, Robert had come in her life. A complete stranger, who had become her friend in a short time and then her lover! For reasons unexplainable she could not tell Dan about Robert. She was waiting for Robert to propose marriage to her. She intended to tell Dan after Robert’s and her relationship was official. But that day had not come.

Dan walked towards Anna and knelt down besides her not bothering about the sand that spoiled his new trousers he had bought especially for Anna’s birthday. He placed his arm around her shoulder and Anna placed her head on his. Anna told him about Robert, about the time they had spent together and about what had happened as she had called him up. She told him that she would never be able to forget Robert. Dan stared into the distance as the waves continued to wet their clothes. Anna lifted her head from his shoulder and looked into Dan’s eyes. Then she uncurled her fist and the diamond ring glittered in her palm. Dan stared at the ring, not sure what to do with it. There were several options, like he could take the ring and throw it into the sea or he could simply swallow the diamond or take the ring and put it back in his pocket and wait for another woman to come in his life and then offer the ring to her. The last option seemed less likely to happen. He tried his best to hold back his tears. He did not want Anna to know that he loved her. If he confessed his feelings at that point, Anna might feel that it was not his love for her but he was merely feeling sorry for her and was trying to make her feel good. Still staring in his eyes, Anna took his hand in hers and handed over the ring back to him. Dan closed his fist and looked at the moon. It seemed to be laughing at him.

Five years to that day, Anna still remembered it as if it had happened just yesterday. Today, as she woke up and turned to look at her husband she knew she had made the right choice. Dan smiled at her as she moved closer and placed her head on his chest. He wrapped his arm around her and wished her happy birthday.
Anna lifted her head and kissed him on his lips. The kiss had the same effect on Dan as it had when they had kissed for the first time at the seashore, five years ago.
Dan knew he would carry the memories of that day to his grave.
After handing over the ring back to Dan, Anna had stared at him for a long time. Then she had extended her hand and smiled. Dan had then realized what she wanted him to do. He had then slipped the ring in her finger.
Not being able to understand whether it was reality or just a dream, Dan had stared into Anna’s eyes. Anna had smiled knowing that Dan would not take the initiative. She had then leaned in to kiss him and as they had kissed passionately with moon as the witness, they both had known that they were meant to be together, forever.

Fiction (c) Arti Honrao, 2008. All rights reserved.