Moving On...

A hurricane of thoughts clouded her mind as she drove back to her place after meeting him. It was the most unexpected meeting and she was not sure how to react when she saw him at the mall. His reaction on the other hand had been the most casual. A simple “Hi” sugared with his usual smile. Her heart skipped a beat as he approached her from the gents section of the shop to where she was standing, waiting for someone to come out of the dressing room.

Things were not the same before. She was always comfortable in his presence but today as he approached her she wanted to disappear. Things had changed… why?
She never wanted them to change. She would have lived like before forever, but it was not meant to be.
She failed to see the red signal and continued driving for a distance till she was stopped by a traffic officer. He asked for her driving license and she obliged, still thinking about him. The officer handed over the license to her and gave her a copy of the fine she had to pay. She opened her purse and paid the cash. At the same time she saw his visiting card in the purse. It was not meant to be there … or perhaps it was. She had thought that she was in control of the situation but once she had seen him unexpectedly, all the memories had rushed back to her.

Seeing her at the mall was a very pleasant surprise for Avinash. The moment he saw her all the times they had spent together came back to his mind and he felt something deep within. As he approached her he could make out her uneasiness and he had almost changed his mind. But something told him to go ahead. He tried to remain as calm as he could but he could not hide his happiness of seeing her. He had not expected her to be in town. As per what she had told him last she was leaving the country forever to stay with her uncle in France. He was definitely glad that he got the chance to see her again.
He was about to question her for being in town when suddenly a tomboy walked out of the dressing room calling out for Sneha. She froze for a moment after seeing Sneha talking to a guy. Sneha introduced her to Avinash as they talked on casual topics. Avinash did not want this to be the last meeting. There were many questions left to be answered and a few things meant to be cleared in between the two. He handed over his visiting card to her asking her to call him on his mobile. As Avinash walked away from the girls he could hear the other girl teasing Sneha.

Sneha reached her house and wheeled the car inside the premises and parked it in the parking lot. She got down from the car, Avinash’s visiting card in her hand. She was not sure whether she should contact him or not. What was the use of starting all over again? Had she not suffered a lot already? There were a few questions left unanswered but then she did not seek answers to them. She had to run away from everything, everyone whom she called her own just because she did not want to be reminded of him. She had left the country to stay with her Uncle in France but had it not been for the marriage of his daughter, Maya, Sneha would have never returned to India. It was a strange coincidence and painful all the same, that she was shopping with Maya in the same shop where Avinash was.

Sneha was not aware that she was standing in the parking lot for a long time. She had not even closed the door of her car. An elderly couple was staring at her as she continued to stare at the visiting card.
“Coming from somewhere or going?” The elderly woman asked, bringing Sneha out of her reverie.
“Hello Granny, Hello Grandpa” Sneha said, placing the visiting card back in her purse.
“Just returned from shopping”, she remarked, closing the door of the car.
“Where’s Maya?” The elderly man asked
“She’s gone to the beauty parlor”, Sneha answered
“She wants to be thoroughly prepared for the date” Sneha said and smiled
“But nothing is going to make her as beautiful as you are” the couple chimed in unison.

This was indeed true. Sneha was beautiful. Not only from the outside but also from within. The elderly couple did not have a family and were known to be rude in the entire society. Only Sneha knew the real people behind the mask they wore because of insecurity. There were already many cases of house breaking and murdering of elderly people. They were murdered by people who were good to them and this couple did not want to take the chance. But Sneha was an exception.

Sneha took the handbags from their hand and walked with them to their apartment. Then she walked to her apartment and opened the door with her keys. It was dark inside the house like the darkness in her life. Sneha put her purse on the table and sat on the sofa without switching on the lights. She wanted to enjoy the moments of silence before Maya returned. She had already asked too many questions about Avinash and Sneha knew that there were many more questions to follow.

After some time Sneha got up from the sofa and walked to her room. She walked to the bathroom and filled the tub with lukewarm water. She needed to relax for a while. The lukewarm water was inviting to her tired body. Sneha removed her clothes and slid into the tub. She relaxed slowly as the lukewarm water caressed her body.
She never meant to do this but unknowingly her thoughts went back to Avinash. She imagined how it would it have been if he was with her. She let that thought linger on in her mind for some time as she closed her eyes and relaxed further.

Sounds in the hall brought Sneha out of her reverie. Maya was home. Sneha heard Maya calling out her name and then there was banging at the bathroom door.
“Come out you bathing beauty, I have to talk to you.” Maya called out.
Sneha rolled her eyes and got out of the tub. She drained out the water from the tub and stood under the shower. The banging continued.
“Why don’t you come in? We will talk here” Sneha shouted.
“Not interested” Maya giggled and the banging stopped.
Sneha would have preferred spending more time in the bathroom because she did not want to answer the questions but she had to walk out.

The moment Sneha stepped out of the bathroom Maya asked, “So are you going to call him?”
“No.” Sneha replied wiping her hair
“Why?” Maya asked
“Because… I don’t want to call him up!”
“You want to … or else why would you have still kept the card with you? I saw you thinking for a moment at the mall. You were deciding whether to keep it or throw it but finally you kept it.” Maya said as she walked close to Sneha.
She placed her hand on Sneha’s shoulder and made her sit on the bed and then took the towel from her hand and began drying Sneha’s hair.
“Who is he?”
“A friend”
“From the past”
“Yes”
“I am not asking you, I am telling you… I can read it clearly in your eyes. You had that kind of look on your face as if you have seen a ghost. He too had the same look on his face when I saw both of you chatting. I was like, oh boy! Ghosts of the past hovering in the mall,” Maya said as she started combing Sneha’s hair.
“You are exaggerating”
“Ok, I am exaggerating. But I want you to call him up.”
“No I am not going to call him”
“You still love him, don’t you?”
Sneha turned around to look at Maya. Maya was smiling at her.
“He is the same guy because of whom you came to stay with us” Maya said
Sneha was silent.
“It’s ok, you need not tell me... I know it already. But listen girl, when ghosts return in your life, they return for a reason. Perhaps your role together is not over yet. There is something else that destiny has in store for both of you or maybe just you. Maybe a lesson or something …” Maya said looking into Sneha’s eyes.

Sneha was not sure what to say. She needed time. Seeing Avinash in the mall was already too much for her and now calling him? She could not even imagine doing that.
Maya was staring at her through the mirror. She shook her head and walked out. On her way out she asked, “I am ordering some pizza. You want one?”
“Yes.” Sneha replied.
They ate pizza pretending to watch television. Sneha was too occupied thinking about Avinash and Maya was watching Sneha from the corner of her eyes. Maya finished her pizza and walked to the kitchen. On her way to the kitchen she shook her head.

Sneha finished her pizza and went to the kitchen with her plate. Maya was cleaning her plate and as Sneha entered the kitchen Maya took Sneha’s plate from her hand.
“So, are you going to call him?” Maya asked and winked.

Sneha shook her head and walked out. She went to the balcony and let the breeze play with her hair. She wanted to call him, yes that was true. But at the same time she did not want to call him. He was married now and it was best for both of them that they do not contact each other. But what was destiny’s plan behind throwing them face to face once again? Sneha shut her mind to the thoughts and walked inside.

“Maya…”
“Yes?”
“I am going down…”
“Ok sure! And … please do me a favor.”
“What?”
“Ask them whether you should call him up.”
“Ask whom?”
“To whom you are going to meet.”

It was strange that Maya guessed it right that she was going to meet the elderly couple she had met earlier in the evening and yes she was going to ask them for their opinion. Sneha closed the door behind her and took the stairs to go to their apartment. Sneha thought for a while before ringing the doorbell. Yes, they would know it was her at the door because they had a code, which was that Sneha would press the bell once and then after sometime press it two times and then the door would be opened for her. What was troubling her mind was that she did not want to disturb them in what they were doing. The Thomson’s were very much in love and they spent time together enjoying each another’s company. They did not have family and often felt lonely but they made up by being together.

After standing there at their door for some time Sneha finally decided to walk back to her apartment! What right did she have to intrude into someone else’s privacy just to discuss her problem? Was it worth? Sneha had just turned around when the door was opened. Sneha turned around surprised!
“What are you doing here?” Mrs. Thomson asked as she held the door with one hand and a walking stick in another.
“I was just going back to my apartment” Sneha replied
“Going back? Why did you not ring the doorbell?” she questioned
“Come in … grandpa is waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me?” Sneha was surprised.
“Yes. He said you seemed disturbed when you parked the car in the parking lot. He knew that you would come. It is strange that he asked me to open the door for you as if he knew you would be here” saying so she walked inside motioning Sneha to follow her
Sneha walked inside. Mr. Thomson was sitting at his regular place and he smiled as Sneha walked to him.
“I wonder what brings you here?” he winked as he gave his hand to Sneha
Sneha held it and sat on the floor placing her head on his lap.
Meanwhile Mrs. Thomson walked to the kitchen to make some coffee.

Sneha was silent for a while as Mr. Thomson stroked her hair. Finally she spoke up
“I met Avinash at the mall today”
Then, silence once again.
“And?” Mr. Thomson asked
Sneha raised her head, ran fingers through her hair before speaking again
“He gave me his visiting card asking me to call him back”
“So what is the problem? Your phone is dead?” Mr. Thomson smiled as he said this. His statement was an answer in itself, answer to the question Sneha wanted to ask
“No. I mean … I was not sure whether I should call him up.”

By this time, Mrs. Thomson had returned from the kitchen. Sneha knew she had to bring the tray from the kitchen. Sneha got up, straightened her dress as she walked to the kitchen. When she returned with the tray the couple was sitting on the sofa and discussing something. Sneha kept the tray on the center table and handed the mugs to the couple and then took her own mug. She sat once again on the floor and took a sip of coffee.
“So, why are you not sure whether you should call him up or no?” Mrs. Thomson asked
“I am sorry for eavesdropping but it is not my fault if even at this age my ears are powerful enough to hear what is being said when I enter the room”
Sneha smiled. Both of them knew that Sneha did not mind that Mrs. Thomson heard what was being spoken.
She repeated her question for Sneha and yet Sneha did not have the answer. Sneha just stared at the mug in her hand
“You told me you had got over your feelings for him, right?” Mrs. Thomson asked
Sneha nodded.
“If that is so, then I do not see any reason why you should not contact him. Go ahead, call him up and see what he has to say. Use our phone if you want.”

Sneha waited for sometime, thinking deeply and then looked at the couple. They knew she would not call from their place as she wouldn’t be comfortable.
“I think you should call and see what he has to say.” Mr. Thomson said.
Sneha finished her coffee and told them that she would call him when she went home. They talked for sometime and when Sneha realized that Mr. Thomson was feeling uncomfortable sitting for a long time she took their leave.

As Sneha walked out, Mrs. Thomson looked at her husband and smiled. “Each chapter of life has to be closed before a new chapter can begin…” Mr. Thomson said as they both got up and walked to the balcony.

Part 2

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