“What have you been thinking?” The lady wearing a long, floral dress with silver stilettos asked the man standing in front of his office window; gazing the clouds in the sky, he seemed to be lost in his own thoughts; hearing her voice he turned his face toward her; the man answered: “I was building our own universe; look at the sky, it’s beautiful today.”
The lady looked to be in her mid-thirties but exceptionally beautiful; her chestnut skin with dark eyes and long dark hair in the back floating in the mild air caused by the air-conditioner poured jasmine scent into the whole room creating a mist of lust and desperation. Her sparse arms could be seen as she wore a sleeveless summer dress; she was a tiny lady of not more than 5 feet with a complementary figure; she carried a silver handbag with herself which matched her shoes. The man himself looked to be in his late twenties; charming with fair complexion; firm arms with a height of about 6 feet. His brown eyes looked innocent and pure; filled with affection, he kept looking at her; she decided to take a seat. She pulled a chair out and put her bag on the table and sat with her legs crossed.
“We cannot do this anymore Omair; I cannot do this,” she said in a careless manner while going through a magazine that she had picked up from the table.
“Do you not want me anymore my love?”
“You know I want you, I have always wanted you but things are not simple anymore.”
“Then why are you here?”
“What do you mean? You asked me to come by…”
“Yes I asked you to come by but you’re only here because you pity me”
“Pity you?” The lady raised her voice up a notch “Do you understand what it means for us to continue?”
“Don’t shout Priya, it’s my office, not one of those hotels,” he said the words quite arrogantly.
The lady said no more; she looked at him for about a minute with furious rage in her eyes; later stormed out of his office. He tried to hide his pain by pretending to check the papers in a file that was lying on the table but inattentively kept looking at the door expecting her to come back any second.
“So you’re not seeing Priya anymore?” A young fellow of about the same age as Omair asked him as they sat facing each other in a little coffee shop; both sipping Mocha; seemed to be friends of each other.
“Good; she was never meant to be with you anyway,” he tried to sound considerate.
“Nikhil what do you think, did she ever love me?”
Nikhil seemed to be a bit reluctant to answer the question “Man! I don’t know her that well but come on dude she’s older than you and married; that never would’ve worked out you know”
“..But they’re getting a divorce” Omair replied quickly.
“They are?” Nikhil asked in a very surprised tone.
“Yeah, why do you sound so surprised? Don’t you know? Nikita hasn’t told you yet?”
“Nikita said they went to Goa but nothing about the divorce.”
The sarcasm was quite clear in Nikhil’s voice.
Omair didn’t seem to be interested in further conversation so he got up from his chair and said “I’ve got to run; have a meeting with the new clients. You enjoy your coffee”
Nikhil nodded his head. Omair went out of the coffee shop in a disturbed mood. All the way to the parking lot he kept thinking about what Nikhil said; “They went together, it only means that Priya lied to me…” After reaching his car he searched all his pockets for the keys “Darn, I left them at the café,” he murmured. He turned and went back to the coffee shop. Nikhil was still there sipping his coffee; a young girl had joined him. Seeing Omair by the door, he waved.
“I knew you’d come back for them; here they are and meet Reeha; she’s new in town and she works in the nearby BPO,” as he mentioned her name she smiled and forwarded her hand to Omair saying “Hi Omair, I already know your name; Nikhil told me”
Omair shook her hand and smiled but he had the least interest to talk to her or getting to know her; he realized it was only Nikhil’s plan to set him up with her.
“Hi, nice to meet you,” Omair greeted her lazily.
“Same here,” Reeha replied quite promptly.
“Well I’m running late so see you later which I’m sure I will; thanks to Nikhil,” Omair said it with a sarcastic tone in his voice but Nikhil accepted it graciously. He gave a big smile and said “Absolutely”
An idle Sunday afternoon; raindrops sliding down the windowpane; Omair was sitting in his room watching the rain pouring in; he was thinking about Priya; the first day they met. Omair was at an art-exhibition and Priya happened to be one of the visitors; they talked for almost an hour in front of that black and white portrait of the old lady. Omair fell in love with the painting instantly and he bought it later; it also went quite well with his drawing-room’s monochrome décor. He and Priya talked about art but mostly about how the painting reflected emptiness on the inside such as themselves. She was 35, married with no children and he was 28, a successful businessman yet single; they went along well with each other with one mutual factor – Loneliness. Priya’s husband was too a businessman who barely made time for his wife; deep inside Priya wanted to be loved by a man like Omair; how much she missed a man’s touch or a passionate kiss on the lips. Omair was the perfect lover for her as they shared the same interests and mutually they were both vulnerable for a little bit of love in their lives. He had a hard time finding a match for himself perhaps he wanted his lover to be just like Priya; although their religious differences took a toll on their affair in the beginning but somehow they were destined to be together. The affair lasted for about a year and the relationship in between them grew stronger with time. Priya was ready to divorce her husband Pradip who happened to be Nikhil’s sister Nikita’s close friend. Everyone knew about the affair perhaps Pradip did too but he never paid much attention. He neglected Priya’s extramarital affair with Omair as much as he neglected his marriage with Priya. Their marriage was an arranged one as Priya came from an orthodox family. Pradip himself had several affairs but he provided well for Priya. She wanted to reveal everything to everyone but her parents’ beliefs and insecurities caused her to keep their secrets to themselves although she was absolutely honest with Omair; she loved him deeply; there was not a single doubt about that. After almost a year, all of a sudden she decided to break up with Omair; it definitely came to him as a shock; after spending several sleepless nights Omair still couldn’t figure out what changed her mind.
There he was, alone, at last, abandoned by his beloved. He longed to see her face; to hear her voice; “What if we could go away? Is it our religious differences that she fears; is she afraid about the society; about what will people say,” suddenly these thoughts in his head provoked him to dial her number. She didn’t pick up; “Does she really want to leave me?” He asked himself but failed to find an answer to that question because he believed that she loved him truly and it couldn’t have been otherwise.
The phone was ringing; the picture of the caller made Omair rather excited; Priya was calling.
“Omair, you called?”
“Yes, how are you, my love?”
“Are you okay? Is there anything important?”
“I’m fine, I just wanted to hear your voice; can we meet?”
“No we can’t and we can’t talk anymore, I’m hanging up”
“Wait! Priya what if we go away…far away from here? Are you afraid of the people or your parents? They’ll understand eventually”
“Look, I told you we can’t talk; don’t call me anymore,” she hanged up. He kept looking at the screen in a dilemma “Should I ring her?”
A week had passed and Omair didn’t hear from Priya; he didn’t want to bother her, he decided to let her go and live just with the memories of the times he had spent with her but as the days passed without being by her side made him realize that life without her was insufferable so he was ready to take one last chance. He wanted to know about exactly what happened that caused their separation; he was ready to fight it.
“Meet me today at 4 by the Old Bungalow Road for my life’s sake,” he texted Priya; in return, he didn’t receive any text from her but he decided to leave it all up to fate; it was a risk ought to be taken.
It had been an hour but Priya didn’t show up; Omair’s faith was dying inside; he grew impatient and kept on checking his phone more often; still, there was no sign of her. He got outside of the car and started to move about the area; a reddish aura was all around; the sun was about to set. He was startled by a car’s engine noise; he turned and saw the silver BMW pulling up by the road. As Priya got out of the car his face lit up with happiness. She wore a pink sequined saree; full-sleeves traditional blouse leaving her hair untied. She walked up to him.
“For your life’s sake? I expected more from you,” Priya said politely.
“Tell me what happened Priya? What went wrong?”
Priya hesitated to speak up, perhaps uncomfortable with the truth. She sighed; turning her face away from Omair she said: “I got pregnant.”
“What?” Omair was in awe; he didn’t know how to react to the news; pulling himself together he said “Well isn’t that good news? It’s our baby, we can start a family together; let me take care of you both”
“What is wrong with you Omair? That can’t happen, what will I say to Mum and Dad? That I am pregnant with your child?”
“What else are you going to say? It’s the truth, isn’t it? You cannot hide the truth, you have to tell them”
“Have you gone completely insane? They’ll never accept this, I can’t hurt them”
“Well, then you should have thought about it earlier, before starting our relationship; before playing with my emotions. No one was there for you Priya, I was; I made you feel like a woman again, what do I get in return? Betrayal from you? Is that the price of my love?” Omair said the words a bit rudely.
Not paying any attention to his tone Priya said very calmly “Forgive me, I am truly sorry but we cannot be together anymore”
“What if it hadn’t happened? You would have continued spending time with me?”
“What if we hadn’t happened Omair? We could live our lonely miserable lives and that’d have been okay for the people, they don’t care about us; they don’t care about me; they don’t care about our love, they don’t understand it”
“What do you mean Priya? Tell me what are you going to do with our baby?”
“I’ve already taken care of it. I’m moving out next week; I can’t tell you where I’m going for your own good but we must never see each other again”
“No,” his shriek caused her goosebumps; her pain too could be felt; her eyes teared up but she pretended to be the stronger one holding back her tears.
She stood there like a lifeless carcass; a smile, a small gesture, or a warm embrace could do the job but she decided not to fool him with her essence. Her long hair created a labyrinth of despair which also filled the air with the smell of mild jasmine; it used to be her scent to him. She turned away and moved towards the side of the road where the car was parked; with one last glimpse of him she went inside while he dropped on his knees throwing his hands up in the air; he uttered “Allah, don’t take away my reason to live,” he was sobbing; tears running down his cheeks. The car passed him blowing his memories in the dirt while she murmured inside “I’m a coward, a selfish coward.”