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 on that it was just an excuse given to her friends. They watched a movie together only to be found 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 rumors, no teasing, no taking for granted, no red roses. But, he was soon disappointed as the following Valentine day someone gave her red roses in his name. 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 of this sort. Amateur expression of love was not his style. She was pretty sure it was someone from her class, someone from her friends who had done this, after seeing them together in the cinema hall. Everywhere they went people looked at them. 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 going 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 took him only as a friend. But, he knew she loved him. He knew her really well.
“Are you listening?” she asked and he had snapped out of his thoughts.
“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 traveling in his thought-world?
She never told him. Not then and not even now, after all these years. He had tried many a times to know. 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 in 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. Only 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 sat on the rocking chair.
“Happy Wedding Anniversary”, the words carved on the rocking chair brought back the smile. It was a gift from her.
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