[This is the story of Parul, a girl I knew, a girl whom I loved, a girl who hated me, a girl whom I will love till my final breath, a girl who will hate me till her final breath.]
Parul was a touch poignant. She craned her neck to look heavenwards but the clouds were thick and large. The night seemed sombre, the darkness was complete and moonlight was faint as a couple of rays peeped out of the curtain of clouds. She was all alone at the terrace as the clock chimed 2 am. Unable to find solace in sleep, she had come up silently even as her parents and young Rahul slept soundly. After all, destiny had rolled its dice; fate had conspired against her.
It was some 2 years ago that she had bumped into Chiraag at Riya's birthday party. He appeared amiable and honest and had been exceptionally cordial when Riya introduced her to him. Smiles were exchanged, hesitant hands finally shaken and a soft 'Hi' spoken. As the evening grew on, some lines interchanged lips....mostly a few murmurs...some tentative whispers...some diffident words. The final straw came when he walked alongside her to the bus-stop to drop her. The night was deep and silent and they were all alone as they stood under the shade of the bus-stop waiting and waiting, and hardly speaking. But when the bus arrived, the parting seemed strangely unbearable....Parul took her seat but her head kept glancing out as Chiraag had turned to go....going...going...gone. The bus moved on.
The week that followed was agonizing. She kept tossing on her bed each night re-living that evening in her mind over and over again as if afraid to lose a sweet memory.
Rain had begun to trickle down in droplets throwing Parul back to the terrace as she gazed at the gloomy void that was over her. How wonderful it had been at the time when she had made the first move. Parul had summoned courage, battled nerves and telephoned Riya asking her Chiraag's number. How a spine-chilling thrill had run through her nervous body as she saw her trembling fingers pressing the keypads of her cell. His voice seemed divine. She could feel him smiling warmly as he caressed her through his soft-spoken manner. She fumbled as he asked her to reach the Sunshine Cafe at 6 pm. Oh my God, this was going to be their first date. But, what is it a date or just a casual meeting? As she hung up, she sensed a tinge of excitement enveloping her entire body. Yes, for the first time in her life, she could feel the goose bumps at the back of her neck.
In her excitement, Parul reached the Café at 5.30 and had to wait for what seemed like eternity. She ordered a coffee for herself and kept glancing at her watch every 2 minutes. Time seemed to have slowed down. It was 5.45 (fifteen minutes to go), 5.55 (five minutes to go), 6 (it’s time). But he was nowhere to be seen. Has he forgotten or is he merely late, she wondered!
‘R u coming,” she sent a text and waited. After around ten minutes, her phone beeped. ‘Yup’ was the brief reply. Oh, how she hates waiting, she told herself! But strangely enough, today she didn’t mind! She could sit there and wait till eternity only if she knew that he will turn up. She took a huge sip of her coffee and looked up. There he was striding down towards her, handsomely dressed in a black shirt. My God, he looks devilishly handsome in black!
“I thought you are not going to show up,” she said in an accusatory tone.
“I always keep my promises, you know,” was his confident reply.
“But you are late,” she shot back.
“Only by 20 minutes,” he smiled mischievously.
“Oh no, that’s 22 minutes,” she checked her watch and managed a wicked smile.
“In fact, 19 minutes and 54 seconds, by my watch,” he suggested.
“You and your watch….both are lazy and late.”
And then they broke out into a loud laughter and kept laughing and laughing and laughing till it was time to leave.
They bonded over the next few days. They watched movies, headed for amusement parks and Parul even made him hold all her bags one day during which she was in a particularly good shopping mood. They shared many common interests and that was one of the reasons why they got on so well. Both of them were avid readers and were amateur authors with a sincere wish of getting their own books published some day by a reputed national publisher like Penguin India.
Chiraag was a freelance content writer whereas Parul was in her final year in the college. They had an age-gap of 5 years but that hardly mattered to them. As weeks turned into months, they became each others’ best friends.
Many months trickled by and their friendship only deepened with time. Chiraag had joined a content writing company while Parul was doing her internship for a Chartered Accountancy firm. Despite their hectic schedule, they talked regularly even if not daily. He usually texted her after 10 pm and they would chat over texts till one of them rolls over and falls asleep. Their office life did not allow them the luxury of hanging out together since Chiraag had to work 7 days a week. But Parul was adamant that they meet pretty soon and it was decided that they would catch up later that month when Chiraag would be able to squeeze out of office a couple of hours earlier…….
Parul’s eyes looked for her friend as she stood waiting. Chiraag was late again but she was ecstatic that she would be meeting him today after 2 months.
He came attired handsomely in shimmering black. Yes, he still looked his best when he was in black. He nearly hugged her as smiles were exchanged and hands held; the two friends meeting in jubilation after two months. They began to chat about this & that as they walked beside a breezy lake. Parul was anticipant as Chiraag had promised her a special surprise. They soon found a green bench as they indulged in brisk gossip…..Parul blushed as he teased her. Soon a couple arrived and sat beside them, thus jamming the bench…. A wave of thrill passed down Parul’s heart as her body brushed against his. Thanks to the couple’s arrival, they were now sitting glued to each other.
Chiraag playfully held her hand and began to survey it. He feigned to observe her palm-lines and remarked, ‘Hmmm… You are unlucky in love.’ There was a teasing hint in his voice and Parul knew he was taunting her… But she didn’t pull off her hands. She let him play with it and make his stupidly childish observations.
The couple beside them began to indulge in some unabashed kissing and Parul felt a tad uncomfortable. Was Chiraag expecting her to offer her lips? But thankfully, he broke the silence, ‘I have a huge surprise for you dear. Just wait a few more minutes.’ He whiled away his time throwing stones in the lake as she kept pestering him to reveal it. But he only chuckled, rather enjoying her impatience. What was the surprise, thought Parul excitedly!
Evening grew deeper and it began to drizzle…. Sun was sinking and amidst the shadows of dense foliage, a figure appeared and stood before them. Chiraag’s face lit up, ‘Parul, meet her. Aditi, my fiancée…. Surprised na.’ Parul silently took the hand that Aditi offered and numbly noticed a ring on her index finger……Perhaps, they had a prior appointment because Chiraag now waved her goodbye and walked away with Aditi.
Their silhouetted figure thinned as they walked away & away…..Parul hadn’t moved. Her eyes welled up as a trickle of tear mingled faithfully with the rainwater. She was soaking. She looked at her feet and found something glistening lying there.
It was Aditi’s engagement ring. It must have slipped off. Parul picked it up and pocketed it in the hope that it would give her an excuse to meet Chiraag sooner….Then, as an afterthought and an intense wave of desire, she took it out and wore it in her finger. But the ring didn’t fit her thin finger….It slipped out, as if obedient & loyal to its true owner…..’Yes, he was right’- Parul thought… ‘I am indeed unlucky in love.’
A bolt of lightning split the sky as Parul returned to her senses. She was standing on her terrace beneath the dark sky. The army of clouds above had conspired to keep the stars away from her. How she longed to look at those glittering gems and hunt for her love amidst the gloom. Her insides were screaming which the roaring cloud craftily muffled and the rain carefully blended with her tears.
As she wept, memories whirled past her! She had frantically dialled his number the next day.
“Please, meet me today. I have something important to say to you.”
“Can’t it wait till later this week? I have a really busy day at the office today,” Chiraag said over the phone.
“No, please, please. It’s very urgent. Meet me just once. You don’t understand. My life depends on it.”
“Okay, alright! I will meet you at Sunshine Café at 8 pm then. Don’t be late,” Chiraag hung up. Parul smiled subtly. It was strange of Chiraag to ask her not to be late when it was he who always…. (she smiled again).
Parul had decided to confess her feelings to him. For two years, she had held back her feelings shut in her tiny heart. But now she must tell him or else she would lose him forever to that Aditi girl.
She reached the Café at 7.45 and waited and waited. It was 8 and then 8.30. Perhaps, his office work was holding him back for a longer time. She waited for him till 9 but he never showed up. How could he when he got run over by the bus.......
Parul wept bitterly as clouds wept in the form of torrential rain. All the stars were buried behind the clouds. A memory twitched. ‘I always keep my promises, you know’- he had said. ‘NO, NO, NO’- She screamed at the clouds. ‘You failed to keep your promise this time………..
[Author's Note: This story was written and submitted for Ravinder Singh & Penguin India's Love Story contest. But it failed to make it to the top 25 :'( ]