A Stamped Love Story – Chapter 7 (The Final Stamp)
Hi, new to Anney’s A Stamped Love Story? Not yet read the previous chapters? No worries, here are the links Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4 , Part 5 & Part 6
“I think Joshua is a bit hesitant because you are really outspoken Maggie. He may fear rejection” I said as I helped her put up the Christmas decorations. The tree was already done and all it needed was the Star of David to complete it.
“Hmmm…how do I know what he feels exactly? I mean…there is Julian to think about…” she said as she hung mistletoe in front of her room.
“Are you confused about your feelings?”
“No…it’s just that I am not sure on where both the men in my life stand…”
“Why don’t you ask Julian about Joshua?”
“What if he does not like him?”
“Well, then there is nothing to go forward on…you need Julian to love him, right?”
“Jenny, I think… no I mean I know that…..”
I waited with baited breath. Maggie spent five years putting her life back on track. She resisted every guy who tried to woo her, offer help or even propose marriage. She was pretty but not stupid. She wanted to be completely independent. This was the first thing people saw in her. I guess that was what Joshua saw in her, too. The curious part of this story was that, she did not refuse his help and loved to be with him. I had to see if she could say the three magic words.
And she did. “I love him….”
I clapped my hands in glee.
“How do I tell him?”
“No! Joshua! I think I can count on Julian being in sync with me.”
“Ok…here is the plan. I help you and you help me”
“Help you in what?”
Maggie looked at me for a moment. She was surprised.
“I know I said that it didn’t matter…but it does now. I want to find him. “
Maggie hugged me….” Let’s get our Prince Charming! It’s a deal!”
* * * *
“Am not sure about this” Maggie said as she looked at the mirror. Her hair was pulled back and done in curls. She wore a black ankle length skirt with a knee length slit. Her velvet red top complemented her fair skin and emphasized on her delicate neck. She looked lovely despite being nervous. We were all set to go for Caroling. Our neighborhood was having a carol filled evening and everyone was out to sing.
“What if he does not notice me?” she asked nervously.
“If he doesn’t look at you like you are a scrumptious apple…. I will ask Ian to kiss you!” I blurted to reassure her. Jealousy strikes quick emotions.
Maggie blushed. Ian’s ears reddened. Maggie’s declaration of love helped me to accept Ian as a good friend. He seemed genuine from everything that she spoke of. I guess I began to trust his instincts. Ian knew that Joshua hated people interfering in his affairs. Maggie would have to be subtle in get him to confess his feelings for her. The party after caroling was ideal for encouraging him come to his senses. Other men vying for her attention without her intending it to be so, was definitely the way forward, according to Ian.
The party had lots of couple activities and promised to be a fun affair. Joshua and Ian were our escorts for the night. It was good PR for our business and hence Joshua had to stick by Maggie to navigate through sticky offers. Ian and I kept our fingers crossed, hoping to bring them close. We had to wait for the magic to happen.
Julian sang heartily along with his friends while all of us watched and applauded. It felt lovely to sit under the gay little bulbs and star filled night. I loved the Christmas celebrations.
“What is your best memory of Christmas?” Ian asked out of the blue.
We were sitting knee to knee as the bench was jam packed.” Nothing particular” I said as I shyly tucked a rebel strand of hair behind my ear.
Ian stole a glance at my face. The scar was visible, but I didn’t mind him seeing it. He never seemed to judge it. It was comfortable to just sit with him.” Come on…there has got to be at least one memory!” he exclaimed playfully.
I sighed in mock defeat. “Well, I guess it’s a lot of small things…The Christmas dance…my parents dancing on certain occasions. My dad was always travelling. He came home for Christmas and they would always find time to have a tango or a slow dance. I loved watching them.”
“My Grandpa loved to regale me with his Christmas memories with Grandma Stella and I loved that part too in every Christmas.”
Ian’s smile broadened. “ I loved to hear my mum talk of how she met my Dad.” He volunteered.
“Is that your best Christmas memory?”
“Yes…she met him at a Christmas ball in Paris. She would show me pictures of them at the ball and it was really special to have her share it since Dad passing away long back. Christmas was a painful period for her. I loved to hear about Dad and his charming ways.”
“Do you miss your Dad?”
“Yes…my world was grey for sometime without him. He died when I was young. “
I touched his hand as a gesture of comfort. I knew the feeling of loss.
He covered my hand with his. The warm touch felt nice.
“How old where you when you made your first cake?”
“Ten..” I answered as I laughed at the memory.
“You are laughing. I have never seen you laugh.”
“Well, there is a reason for it…the cake was a disaster for all who shared it!” I could not control my mirth. “I put salt instead of sugar when I made it. My folk were quite sensitive to my moods and did not tell me of the faux pas. I ended up sharing a batch of my experiment with ….” I was stopped by the standing ovation and clapping.
The crowds around us were involved in cheering and the choir was not the recipient of the wonderful reaction. “Say yes!” someone near me yelled. A wolf whistle followed. Ian and I stood up to look. There was something happening at the far end of the park. We pushed through the crowd to get there and observe.
Joshua was down on one knee and Maggie was flushing red with embarrassment.
“I have to think about it…” Maggie said as she tried to pull her hand back.
The crowd booed. Joshua was obviously enjoying the scene and refused to back out.
“What’s going on?”I asked Ian as he seemed amused.
“Isn’t it obvious? He is proposing.” Ian replied as he watched.
“Think about what? “ Joshua persisted.
“Well, for starters you chose to tell me who you are only after I discovered it….” Maggie said with a pout.
“True…” Joshua conceded, “But that’s because I was not sure if I would be jilted again!”
“Don’t be silly, whatever does that means?!”
“Maggie, my knee is hurting, so I am going to stand up for the explanation. I will go back on the other knee to propose when I finish.”
Maggie’s face showed a small smile. She was not immune to his charms. With a raised eyebrow, she listened. The crowd cheered as the Joshua stood up.
“I know I took Jac’s cake to impress you …but you were really a spoilt brat back then. You ditched me on the basis of the horrible cake that Jenny sent him. I was hurt.”
“Serves you right for lying! You didn’t stop there did you? You kept me in the dark about who you are! I never thought skinny Peter would came back, especially after that incident”
“ Well Jac did tell me, countless times, that I was too good for you…and then you dumped me over a small matter…what was I to think?”
“Stop right there Peter boy!” Ian said as he stepped forward. “You were 12 years old at that time! Maggie is a gem of a Lady now. She is the reason, we are here.”
“Hey! Whose side are you on anyway? You are supposed to convince her to marry me! You promised!! ” Joshua said as he glared at Ian.
“Well, it’s the truth. She was too posh at that time. Who else would hit you with a designer bag in that time and age? And it’s not like you are innocent either….you managed to get her to think you are unapproachable with my help. She took my help to change your mind. I would say that settles the score on who is too good for whom”
“So there” Joshua declared as he proceeded, “ Ian Jackson George or Jac as we all know, is the reason I waited to reveal myself. He wanted to convince Jenny that he was a genuine guy but as we both know…both are taking their time at this process!”
“Shut up Joshua!” Maggie said as she looked horrified. Joshua had just let the cat out of the bag in his desire to justify himself.
Joshua looked a bit miffed. Ian turned to look at me with a sheepish expression. All of them had forgotten that I was there. So this game plan was not to help Joshua woo Maggie, but to help Ian/Jac to woo me???? I did not know whether to feel elated or angry. The crowd began to whisper around me.
I had to run away. It was too much to digest. My dreams were actually telling me of Jac. How could I be so stupid? I turned and ran. I heard Ian call me, but my distress was too great for me to heed.
I stopped once I reached my home. I had to think quietly. I sat down by the mango tree in the centre of our garden. It was a calm place to sit in. Maggie and I had put in a few potted anthurium flowers around the old tree along with a lamp post so that we could sit there to watch the stars in the evening. It was a beautiful spot. I sat there many evenings, reading Jac’s letters. Why did they hide it from me? And Jac…no Ian…how did he find me?
The questions swirled in my head.
“Can I join you?” Ian asked as he stood in front of me. He had apparently followed me. It was dark in the garden except for the lamp which cast a soft glow around me. I nodded. He sat down beside me and leaned back on his arms.
“Why?” I asked as I looked at his silhouette.
“Why?” he paused to think and then replied, “Because you refused to fade away from my mind. I thought of you, everyday. Your letters were a lifeline for me in my time of need and you cared even when you were unaware of Jac’s complete identity. You refused to meet me … I was hooked by the stamps that brought me such an interesting pen pal….do you need more reasons?”
I was not sure on how to respond. “How did you find me? I was careful not to leave anything that could trace me.”
“You underestimate the power of Love Jenny. Maggie is a wonderful person. Her letter is what brought me here. “
Ian smiled. “By the way, she has accepted the proposal…or shall I say the proposal of Joshua Peter Gomes … and Julian beat her to the Yes, I do! part”
I burst out laughing. Julian was fond of Joshua and it was not a surprise that he didn’t wait for his mother to object to the one thing he wanted the most…a father. Ian laughed with me.
I felt better. The burden had been lifted. Jac knew me for what I am. There was no pretense. I didn’t have to hide from him.
“How would you feel if I told you that you are exactly how I imagined you to be?” Ian asked.
“I don’t know…did you imagine the scar?” I asked as my hand unconsciously touched it when I looked down. My hair would curtain it off as usual from anyone’s view.
“No” he said as he gently lifted my chin to have my eyes meet his. “But it did not change my image of you. Actually, it was what added to your charm, Jenny. When Maggie wrote to me about the details, I was horrified. I felt helpless. When I met you for the first time, I realized that you were all that I imagined and much more. Maggie filled me in on the gaps but meeting you in person was a-dream-come-true.” His hand dropped to the space behind me and his eyes searched my face for a reaction.
“ What about Joshua?” I asked. I felt shy.
“I kept Joshua’s identity a secret as he wanted to woo Maggie. “
“When did she find out?”
“At the last exhibition for my collection. “
“Oh! She is really brave. Sometimes I wish I was like her…”
“You surprise me! You fought off a lunatic welding a knife and you think she is brave?!”
“It was self defense…not bravery! The attack before was just….” The very thought horrified me.
“I know ..It was horrifying. But the Jenny I see has no flaws…even if she thinks otherwise”
I smiled. The one thing I noticed about him from Day 1 was his acceptance of things that were different. He never questioned me on the scar.
“The Jenny I see… is also grounded and loyal, that’s the reason why I love her.”
Did he say love?!
“I came half way across the world to ask her if she will be mine forever…”
“Yes… forever… and this time I won’t take NO for an answer” He said as he put an arm around my waist and pulled me close.
“That sound interesting…but…I have to demand for a stamp that says ‘FOREVER’ to agree “
“Lady! You drive a tough bargain for a simple yes!”
I chuckled. “Is that a deal?”
“How can I say no? I am stamped for life! ” he groaned as he hugged me tight.
Stamped forever… Romance shall live in the hearts forever. Hope you all liked the 7 part story.
A Stamped Love Story – Part 6
Hi, new to Anney’s A Stamped Love Story? Not yet read the previous chapters? No worries, here are the links Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5
A smile and a quick nod from me ensured that the infamous Mr. Ian was in safe hands. In the few days that he was in town, Ian managed to get the respect of the security and the local police. I tried not to roll my eyes at the obvious baiting for a sarcastic reply. A quick visit to the hospital confirmed that there were no serious injuries. Sans the huge bulge on Ian’s temple, he seemed absolutely fine. Once Joshua took over, I was relieved.
“Do you know him?” I asked Ian on our way home.
Ian’s jaws clenched before he drew a deep breath and replied “An artist whose reputation I ruined… he was excellent until he stole the work of other struggling artists.”
“How did you find out?” I asked curious to know more.
“He stole one of mine.”
“I exposed him at an international event when he exhibited my painting. He was ruined. Goodbye art. “He said mirthlessly.
I shivered. The attacker in the dark was frightening. I thought he was about to attack me.
“I am sorry you got caught in between Jenny. I saw him here at some of my exhibitions recently. I should have warned everyone. I didn’t think he was harmful despite his threats. “
“Jenny, you were brave today. I didn’t expect you to save those paintings. There are special to me…someday, I hope I can explain to people what I see in them.”
I looked at him in surprise. His words struck a chord in me. An unexplainable feeling washed over me. I needed to diffuse what I was feeling. The car stopped in front of our house.
“Looks like the knock on your head was hard. Please get some rest. “I said as I got out with Maggie. “Good night Ian. Good night Joshua”
Ian smiled and nodded. Maggie winked at Ian before she wished Joshua goodnight.
My head was all muddled up. I went home and cried. I had conquered my fear; fought a shadow and won. The paintings filled my dreams all night with shadows dancing around the stranger who began to visit me every night with an unknown face.
Maggie was worried and began to hover around Ian to keep tabs on him. I felt irritated when I saw her checking on him. Joshua looked a bit lost and I could not muster courage to ask why. Three weeks before Christmas, all the sold pieces were packed and dispatched. Joshua was busy with work and Maggie seemed distracted. The bakery began to pick up business for Christmas and I was busy with all sorts of orders. Maggie was present physically but her mind was elsewhere.
Ian began to travel as soon as he felt better. Both Joshua and Ian called Maggie during the evenings. Julian began to put on the pre Christmas weight he usually had when I had him tasting my cooked batches. The little chap insisted on helping me with the cookies and frostings and it was a shame to say no to him when he did a random sampling.
“Aunty Jenny!” He said as I was putting away the Christmas orders one evening, “There is a parcel for you!”
I ran out to see the postmaster standing at the main gate. “How are you? “He growled.
“Hi, Mr. Abraham…it has been a long time since we met.” I loved talking to him. He was the elderly neighbour from next door who gave me the heads-up for mails from Jac.
“I heard you were busy with some events in town” he said. Years of smoking had worn his voice to a gruff.
I smiled. “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea…I have masala tea…your special…” I knew that he could never pass up an opportunity to have my tea. He loved to sit down and talk of the old days with a piece of cake and piping hot tea. I loved listening. He reminded me of Grandpa.
He nodded as he walked in. “ I was just telling Julian that there is a parcel for you at the post office. Go and collect it tomorrow.”
I nodded and walked in to the kitchen to begin brewing the tea. Julian sat down with Mr. Abraham. Both of them helped him to some hot puffs.
“So, business is doing good, eh?” he asked as crumbs fell on his shirt.
“Yes, by the grace of God. Maggie is doing some interior decoration also, so we are quite busy now.”
“Jenny, you must think of yourself also. A young thing like you should be married. You should have a good husband who would take care of you like a queen.”
I nearly rolled my eyes. Mr. Abraham loved to think he was the voice of wisdom. As the tea got ready, I thought of his comment and said“I have a man I love…”
“Who is it?!” asked Julian and Mr. Abraham in the same breath.
“Well I can’t disclose his name…but, he is taken.”
Julian’s face showed disappointment.
“Well, what is he like?” asked Mr. Abraham as I poured a cup of sweet tea.
“He is ….eh…older…”
“ Pah! Age is nothing…does he love you?” His first cup got over quickly.
“Well … I am not sure. Do you love me?”
“What sort of a question is that, child? You know I do…you remind me of first sweetheart…”
I stalled a bit.” He has a wife”
“What!? Good lord Jenny! What is his wife like?”
“A witch I bet…that’s why he is leaving her for you! ”
“Well, a witch is not what I would call Mrs. Abraham…. And you never did mention that you would leave her for me, did you?”
There was a moment of silence before Mr. Abraham realized that I had pulled his leg. “Jenny…” he roared, “You never fail to pull my leg…” Julian burst out laughing.
I could not contain my mirth. I joined in.
Once, the tea and cakes were happily consumed, Mr. Abraham left me with a word of advice.
“Don’t be afraid to care. You are wonderful as you are. Eleanore Roosevelt once said ‘We are afraid to care too much; for fear that the other person does not care at all’. Take a chance to be happy, Jenny.”
For a second, it felt as though my Grandpa was talking to me. I missed him. Maybe, he was right, I needed to take a chance.
* * * *
The parcel at the post office looked like the one I had helped to send for Ian. I did not recall Jac’s address on any of the sent items. I nearly ran home in my anticipation to see it. The outer covering with Jac’s handwriting was carefully opened behind closed doors. I did not want Maggie to make any comments. She would urge me to meet him if she knew about his gift.
Nothing had prepared me for the gift. It showed the silhouette of a woman looking at the eclipse. What caught my attention was that the eclipse looked like the copy of the stamps we had exchanged and the lady resembled me, except she was different. She was beautiful. The night sky in the picture suggested the finishing of the eclipse. In the distant horizon, there stood a man watching. At the end of the eclipse there was hope that both man and woman would be revealed.
A thousand questions ran through my mind. This was Ian’s picture for sure but it was not at the gallery. Did Ian know Jac? Was he here at the gallery? Does he know me? How? Who told him? Was I careless in hiding myself?
I took out my stamp collection and looked through the stamps…the eclipse was a match to the stamps. I ran out to find Maggie. I needed to talk to someone.
“Maggie! Maggie!” I yelled as I ran from room to room looking for her. I was panicking.
“Am here in the kitchen…..what’s wrong?” Maggie looked frightened.
“Who’s Jac?” she asked as she looked baffled.
I took a deep breath. In my panic, I had given out his name. I took another deep breath. I needed to be free. It was time to tell Maggie about him.
“The Prince Charming you referred to , his name is Jac.” The dam exploded. The secret came out. I did not realize how deeply I cared until I showed her the painting. Tears poured out uncontrollably.
“What does it mean Jenny?” she asked as we looked at the detail of the painting. “Was there a letter with it?”
I shook the parcel covering. A letter dropped out. There was no address written just my name. My hands trembled as I opened it. His words spoke to me.
How shall I begin? For years I wondered on how to tell you of my feelings. I believe this painting will tell you of my anticipation. The eclipse will soon pass. The shadows will fade and then there will be just you and me.
If you close your eyes and take a deep breath, you will know who I am. I have seen you and I have felt your insecurities. It is your resilient approach to life that has captured my heart. Even if your answer is no to meeting me at Christmas, please know that my heart comes to you with this favourite picture of mine.
Maggie and I took a deep breath. The scent of the aftershave caught my attention. It was oddly familiar. I could not trace it. Maggie read the letter twice before she smiled.
“Call Ian, Maggie. He may know who brought this painting.” I said breathlessly.
“Call him yourself. “ Maggie said as she smiled. “I‘ve got a man to woo.”
“What are you talking about? Did Ian say no to you?” I asked in surprise.
“No to what?” Maggie looked surprised.
“Your heart…” I said with a shy smile. Ian was really a catch, even if he wasn’t my type. Then again, I did not know my type.
“You goose! Ian is already taken….he is in love with this girl whom he has known for years. Apparently, he is planning to propose soon, according to Joshua.”
“What!!? But I thought…you said…well you winked…and he was …Oh Lord, I am confused. “
“Why? Isn’t it obvious, I am head over heels for Joshua?”
I started laughing. I was not sure if it was relief or pure stupidity.
“Ok…so Joshua said no to you?” I felt stupid for thinking it otherwise. The man was madly in love with Maggie. I saw it in his face.
“Not exactly….he needs help.”
“Look, he has not said the magic words and I asked Ian to help when I realized that Ian was perceptive to this development.”
“So the wink…and the calls…” and then it struck me. That was what he was doing. He was coaching her and making Joshua nervous while he was at it. I started laughing. This was going to be fun. Ian would have to help the both of us.
Romance shall continue…
A Stamped Love Story – Part 5
Hi, new to Anney’s A Stamped Love Story? Not yet read the previous chapters? No worries, here are the links Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 & Part 4
The last exhibition was from Ian’s personal collection and very special to him. The guests at this viewing were more in number than expected in the afternoon. I got busy with the backup for food and lost a track of time. Maggie popped in from time to time, checking on me and filled me with details of the guests. Based on her comments, I predicted as to when the crowd would thin out.
But late evening, Maggie came in with something on her mind. I was exhausted but Maggie looked like she needed to talk.
“Jenny, am confused about this….” She began as I took a sip of apple juice.
“Of what? The juice?!” I asked choking on my drink.
“No you silly! My feelings….am confused over them”
“Oh…for a second there, I thought the juice was bad and the feelings part was coz of the finger food just served!”
“Ha ha, Funny Jenny…” she wasn’t even grinning. Her eyes were staring into the ceiling and her fingers were twiddling. Something was bothering her.
I smiled. She loved my jokes. But her moods were oscillating since the past week. She was either thinking or just rushing to do things without a thought. I chalked it up to the Joshua factor. “Ok, what is it?”
“What do you think of me being in love?”
“Was that an answer?”
“Ok…let me try again….I think it is a decision.”
“Do you think I take my decisions rashly? I mean, I did with Charlie…but otherwise…”
“Charlie was a loser, Maggie. You did well when you got rid of him. I say, good riddance to bad rubbish!”
“Jenny… ex husbands make you doubt your feelings….after Charlie, I feel like I can’t trust myself around anyone.”
I understood her confusion. I let her talk. The guests were now n the process of leaving slowly. The boys could handle the few that were still lingering.
“I feel special around someone. I can’t explain myself. He makes me feel like there is no one else when he is around. It’s like a drug. I can’t think of anything else. I feel scared. Am I stupid?”
“Was that how Charlie made you feel? Special?”
“Heavens, No! With him, it was all hormones. Once the hormones settled, I felt stupid for having settled down with a loser. I tried to be a good wife, Jenny…I really tried….but when he cheated on me, I just lost it. I sacrificed my ambitions for him. I don’t want to make the same mistake…”
“Maggie, you are a grown up woman. I trust your judgment on a lot of things. So, who is the lucky guy?”
“Someone you know. I will tell you when am sure. Ok?”
I nodded. ‘Lucky Joshua’ I thought to myself.
Maggie walked out with a determined stride. With luck, I would hear the good news tonight. She was lucky. Joshua was crazy about her and Julian.
The party wound up at seven in the evening and the boys took off after clearing the place. Joshua and Maggie had disappeared. I took off my heels and let my feet touch the marble floor. It was cool and soothing to my tired feet. The lights were dimmed as usual and music was still playing in the background though no one was in sight. I looked around at the different collections that Ian had placed. All of them had a sticker showing sold. I walked up to each painting and just looked for a while. Each painting showed the silhouette of a lady.
The lady in the paintings looked sad and charming. Her eyes spoke volumes. I followed the of placement order from the beginning. The first set of paintings showed a lady standing behind a veil. Her face was not clear but the paintings seemed to suggest her waiting. The second set showed more focus on her charming smile and dreamy eyes. She had a dream….just like me. Her face was in the shadows but her body revealed her eagerness to step out. The third set of paintings showed a man who was clearly loved by her… trying to reach her. The paintings were beautiful. They made me think of Jac. Maybe, if I let go of my fear of rejection…I could have him see me. Ian’s paintings touched a chord in me. I stood in front of the last painting, lost deep in my thoughts.
A shadow fell in front of me. It was so sudden that I froze in shock. A hand touched me. My fear got the best of me and I reacted without thinking. I screamed. The shadow closed in on me as a heavy platter of fruits found its way into my hands. Protective instincts took over, the platter landed heavily on the shadow maker’s head. A heavy thud was heard before my arms were pinned in a steel grip. The painful grip made me slip down and I landed heavily on the attacker. A knife gleamed in the shadows.
My nightmares were becoming true. Suddenly, I was 15 and trying to fight off the men who were attacking Grandpa.
‘NOOOOO’ I screamed in my head; I was petrified. The man was strong. His knife was aimed at the last painting that I did not notice. I kicked the floor to wriggle free. The knife was getting closer. The painting needed to be saved; I wriggled and screamed to get him to loosen his grip. He pushed me suddenly and ran forward. The knife glinted as the soft light reflected off the moving blade.
I ran as he lurched forward. The next few minutes were a blur. I remember making a dive for his waist when someone caught his hand simultaneously to disarm him. The impact made the attacker loose balance and fall on his knife. He yelled in pain. The knife sliced through his shoulder and blood gushed out. He was not going anywhere for the moment. The painting was safe.
I looked at the attacker, and then at Ian who had tried to disarm him. Ian had hit his head on the display railing in the struggle. He lay motionless. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Will he suffer from a concussion? Maybe, I should Google concussion to be sure of the after effects….will he need a CT scan….memory loss. Tears clouded my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to rouse him. The commotion had brought in the security and police.
Ian stirred slowly as I sprinkled water on his face. A bump was surfacing on his left temple. My arms hurt from straining to pull him to my lap. “Are you ok?” I couldn’t stop my tears. I was scared and the adrenaline was just wearing off. Ian gave a crooked smile.
“Do you rescue men along with party cakes?” he asked with a wince.
“I try to, in my spare time” I replied sarcastically. He was ok. I was relieved. The man had a possible concussion and yet he wanted to know my job scope. He was strange.
“Glad to see that Jenny the Master Chef is also a Master Black belt.”
“Shut up, Ian. We need to get you to a hospital” I said before I thought of it.
He looked at me, surprised. His grey eyes looked into mine before he smiled. I have not seen Ian smile. He was always pleasant with everyone, but the smile seemed to be reserved for people who needed to be charmed. I could see why Joshua thought his persuasive skills were excellent. That smile could knock any woman down to her knees within seconds of exposure. Luckily, I wasn’t any woman. “Looks like head injury is not going to score points with Ms. Jenny” he said to the security who assured everyone in hearing distance that I was taking care of Mr. Ian.
I cringed. Ian was embarrassing, his humor made him all the more charming. All eyes were trained to my face for a reply.
To be continued…
A Stamped Love Story – Part 4
Hi, new to Anney’s A Stamped Love Story? Not yet read the previous chapters? No worries, here are the links Part 1 , Part 2 & Part 3
“It is! “ Joshua exclaimed as he slapped the shoulder of the gentleman in front of me. Grey piercing eyes studied my face as I looked for signs of familiarity. He looked unfamiliar and odd. His cream tailored suit and midnight blue shirt spoke of taste and class. I couldn’t take my eyes of him. He looked like an Indian but not completely. The dimple chin gave him a devilish charm. I blushed at his unwavering attention. I was sure Maggie would call him handsome.
“This is Ian George…my business partner.” Joshua said as he watched Maggie for signs of awe. I had to smile at his look. It showed a bit of insecurity and love.
Maggie smiled and showed no signs of noticing my blush or Joshua’s look.”Hi, Mr. George. I am Maggie and this is Jenny, my cousin. Did you like the cake?”
“Call me Ian. “ he said as he shook hands with her. His grey eyes glinted as he continued “ I loved the cake. I wondered on the secret that made it so special; it had an interesting mix of tastes. ”
Maggie nodded in agreement. “Jenny loves to try different things out. Don’t you Jenny?” she asked as she nudged me.
I felt hot as I nodded. This guy, Ian, was making me uncomfortable.
“We have more surprises for the upcoming events…” Maggie said as she began to sell our ideas.
I excused myself politely as I noticed Ganesh peeping out from the kitchen. There was more trouble from the looks of it. I had to get to the kitchen. I wanted to get away from Ian. His eyes made me feel like he saw everything about me.” I will just check on the food for a bit”. I nearly ran to the kitchen to get away. It was my comfort zone. Ganesh had mixed up the boxes of vegetarian and egg puffs. All I wanted to do was stay away from the party. I smiled as I took over to remedy the mix up; “Go and serve the guests. I will take care of this”.
The party was a great success. There were no more accidents. Maggie had charmed the guests and secured a few deals to keep us busy until January the next year. Joshua was a savy host. He was witty and knowledgeable on all aspects of his guests and their business. Maggie looked happy with him.
“Jenny, the party was a success!” Maggie said as she hugged me after the guests left. I felt her happiness. I laughed as I twirled her around in the kitchen. “Maggie, you goose, nothing can stop us when we are together!”
“Joshua says that Ian has a few high class exhibitions in town. He wanted us to cater for it. I think it is a great idea…what do you think?” Maggie asked as we began to stack the dishes for the boys to wash.
“Am not sure, Maggie. Are we up to doing fancy exhibitions?”
“Jenny, we will have less hassles. Besides, these are like collector items. Our menu will be fancy canapés and finger food.”
I thought for a bit. “Sounds interesting….how many of those do we have?”
“Well, seven in one week itself.”
“It’s worth a try…but we have to take advance…70%, ok?”
“Eh…ok, let me tell the guys. Am sure they would agree that it is fair.”
“Yes, Ian and Joshua! Ian was not sure if you would agree. Joshua says that it is a great idea; we will have a good exposure and a nice fat pay for it ….I told him that I needed to discuss this with you before I said yes.”
When did she get so friendly? I wondered. The Maggie I knew was weary of people helping her. Joshua was clearly helping her and yet, she didn’t seem to mind. It was interesting to see how he managed to get her to trust him. “Maggie, will he pay upfront?” the realist in me was always asking practical questions. I did not trust Ian. He looked like a charmer.
“Yes! Ian is great. He even volunteered to show us the places where the exhibition would be and promised to have the necessary arrangement as per our instruction. He loved the ideas I gave him for the interior and suggested I do the same for these too. So we are a package deal. Oh Jenny, I am so excited!”
I was not so sure. Ian looked like the snake oil salesman to me. I had no idea why he rubbed me the wrong way. Tomorrow, I would go to the exhibition to think.
We went to all the locations the next day. Ian was familiar with the city and Joshua was always sharing titbits on each location. Maggie was enthralled. Ian was successful in collecting items that people perceived of value. His exhibitions were on various items mostly antiques, paintings and old coins. The visitors to each one varied in style and taste. I was hooked the moment we got paid the advance. We spent our mornings for the next few days cooking various canapés and having sessions on shopping for the interior decoration. I suggested that Joshua drive Maggie around town for all the things she needed. It proved to be a success for Joshua. Maggie began to talk non-stop about him at night.
It was always Joshua said this and Joshua thought that. I could see that she was falling head over heels for him. Julian loved having Joshua around and hung on to his every word. Everything was coming together except for the fact that I was weary of Ian. Once the exhibitions started, I sensed that he was not who he claimed he was. According to Joshua, Ian was a ladies’ man. He was well travelled and hated to be tied down. He was also pretty good at getting people to do things his way. Joshua had benefited greatly from his persuasive skills.
I saw much more. Ian was amused by the attention women gave him. He flirted openly yet, it felt like he was waiting for someone. At the opening of each exhibition, he talked of passion and commitment that his collection evoked. He spoke of how valued the pieces were in terms of history and emotions. His speeches were never the same and I was drawn to those thoughts. It spoke volumes of what kind of a person he was. There was something so endearing and dangerous about him. It attributed to making his exhibitions truly moving.
Each exhibition was unique. Maggie and I worked on giving each place a different ambience and a menu to match. The antiques got a combination of warm and moist food, while the paintings and coins got trendy and unique tasting treats. Every night after the closing, all of us would sit down to discuss the outcome for the day. Ian was always gracious in thanking us. I looked forward to just hearing him talk. Joshua would grab some wine and turn on the music to unwind with Maggie. She loved the attention he was giving her. I loved to watch them dance. My parents enjoyed dancing on some occasions and it was always a treat to watch them. It made me feel romantic. It also reminded me of Jac’s letters. I wondered if I would able to get over my fears or even have that special moment.
Ian loved dim lights and would always sit down next to me to enjoy the music. At first, it was very unnerving for me to have him just sit beside me. He never made any small talk or even tried to probe about my scar. His quite presence felt reassuring. After a few nights of the same ritual, I realized that I felt drawn to him. The silence between us and the music felt soothing. I found comfort in just sitting beside Ian with no questions and a glass of wine. Every night, I dreamt of a stranger declaring that he loved me. The closer I got to seeing him clearly, the farther he went from my dreams.
To be continued….
A Stamped Love Story – Part 3
If you have missed the part 1 & 2 of the story, please read the begining of the stamped love story here and here
The smell of a freshly baked cake always made me feel wonderful. I smiled in darkness at a cake box that Rajiv, my delivery boy had placed on the counter top in my kitchen. The power outage in India was of no surprise to the Indians. Everyone learned to find their way to the lamps in darkness. Due to the rains, I had assigned my nephew, 5 year old son, Julian to check on the emergency lamp and oil lamps that we had. He was quick to turn one on when the lights died out. Today was no exception. He walked in with lamp and placed it next to the box.
”Jenny, why are you smiling….did you have a mail today?” Maggie asked, as she appeared out of the darkness in the hallway. I tried to stop smiling. It was hopeless. She knew it. My cousin had a knack of picking on the right things. I ignored her by putting the finishing touches with a cake knife to the cake’s frosting. It would be prefect for the party tomorrow.
“Can I have a piece?” Julian asked he spied on the cake in front of me.
“Nope! It’s for the party. Go and check the fridge…” I said as I shooed him off.
“Well???” she asked persistently. My cousin’s knack of reading my thoughts was disturbing at such instances. ” Ok..spill! What does Prince Charming say now? ” she asked as she licked the frosting on the knife.
“Maggie!!!..We agreed….no more questions” I replied trying to keep a stern face.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Jenny, I know you have a soft spot for the secret Prince Charming!”
“We are not discussing anything. I have no time for soft spots. It is a silly notion for lazy people.”
“It’s nice to see that you believe it.” She replied sarcastically.
“I do.” I said, trying to stop the conversation.
“Does that classify me as lazy too…coz I believe in love! ”
“Maggie! You nut; I could never call you lazy! You are my life saver.”
“Jenny,… don’t let the past ruin the present.”
I worked in silence. I moved to the south to run away from the past.
“The accident at Christmas eve was not your fault. You know that…right?”
“Maggie, …. Pleaseeee….drop it”
“You have blamed yourself for 15 years now! You passed up every chance to be happy…I won’t drop it. You need to listen”
“It was my fault. I am to be blamed. Our life will never be the same. ”
“It was an accident. Why do you insist on using it as an excuse?”
I took a deep breath. ” If I had only been careful….the door would have been locked and everyone would have been safe….”
“Jenny, you were 15! What were you suppose to do? You did the only thing you could do…”
“If I had called Grandpa Sam, or your dad to protect us….”
” Look here…” she said as she turned my face and looked into my eyes. ” It was not your fault. Your dad’s fortune was irresistible for people. The attack that night was the fault of men who wanted another man’s riches. They attacked everyone who resisted and you were the only one who called for help. You were brave enough to hit the man who tried to hurt your grandpa and you ran for help”
“I did not do enough…”
“Nonsense! The cops told us that had it not been for your courage, they would have never been identified.”
“Maggie, I was so pre occupied with calling him…I lost my head…I vowed to never do that again.”
“Jenny, don’t be silly. You fought with a guy twice your size and saved your grandpa from being stabbed in the chest. Your fight was the biggest surprise those thieves got. You have no idea how you looked when I opened the door…You were attacked…and bleeding in the face…it never crossed my mind that Jenny the mouse would fight like a lion.”
“My parents….they were never the same after that…”
“I know…no one ever was” she said quietly.
We sat down in silence. Each of us was lost in our thoughts. I boxed the cake silently and put it in the fridge along with the other things I made. She was right, everyone changed. I was not the shy girl of fifteen. I faced life as it came. My parents faced life with fear. Grandpa’s health failed him. I missed the opportunity to meet Jac that Christmas and my courage failed me …we would never meet.
The scars of the battle showed on my left cheek as a reminder. It took years of practice to stop jumping at any shadows in the night. I hated what my fear did to me. It made me weary and conscious. There was an excuse every year to justify why I could not meet him. My parents were in most one of them until they passed away.
”Jenny, did you tell him of the attack?” Maggie asked as she looked determined.
“Maggie! Honestly, what has gotten into you? I don’t want to discuss this.” I responded angrily.
“You didn’t …do you!” the truth dawned on her.
“Not in many words….there was no need. ”
She looked at me and shook her head. I had seen that look and knew what it meant. She had decided to help me whether I liked it or not.
”No Maggie! I don’t need help…let it be. He will be happy as he is. There is no beast in his memories. Let it be….” I begged.
“Beauty is in the eye….”
“Shut up! “ I shouted angrily. She struck a nerve. My face was as ugly and the scar made me look beastly. Jac loved beautiful things. I did not belong there.
Maggie pouted and left without a word.
After Grandpa’s death, I began a small business of my own at 25. Maggie decided to become my partner after she failed to get a job that would give her time with her son. She was a cousin from Grandma Stella’s side and we got along like a house on fire since the attack. Her husband ditched her for a new wife and Maggie divorced him for a new life. Together, the bakery became our life and our home. When business began to pick up, we employed four of the neighborhood boys as our staff. There was no turning back after that. I decide to remain single and Maggie decided to mingle.
Joshua, a handsome charter accountant from town, recently purchased a house in our vicinity and was looking to settle down. His skills became handy to our small business when he took on to being our financial advisor. One bite of our Crustly Love Cake and he was hooked. The housewarming party at Joshua’s house was his idea to open us to opportunities in nearby cities and towns. It was our first major event since the opening five years back. It promised to be huge. He insisted that I cater to the clientele he would have from the city. He wanted to dazzle them with the lovely country side and ambience before hitting their stomach with the gastronomic delights from our eatery. He had convinced Maggie to stand by him as he marketed us for the events upcoming for Christmas. Maggie was blissfully unaware of the looks that Joshua gave her when she talked. She was excited at the prospect and I decided to let Joshua woo her. After all, I did have a soft spot for love.
I was weary of meeting people and hated the spotlight. Jac’s letter unsettled me but determination was what had me survive. I was not going to let a small thing like fear defeats me.
* * * *
“Wear this Jenny! It looks lovely on you” Maggie said as she came in with a lovely plum colored suit with a black skirt.
“Am not sure…..” I said as I fingered the coat. The party was in 4 hours. I was nervous.
“Try it…please!…I want us to look gorgeous…I got Julian to stay with Mrs. Thampi for the night. It’s our night to show our magic Jenny…Pleaseeeeeee! ”
I smiled. I could never say No to Maggie, especially, when she said Please in such a cute manner.
“I ‘ll wait…please try it on right now!”
“Ok! Ms Pushy pants! ” I said as I laughed. She had me sitting at the hairdresser and had my hair done in bangs. The resultant look put a smile on my face as it covered my scar well. I wondered why I never thought of it before. The suit felt smooth and seemed to cover the weight I put on after my 30th birthday. I felt a sudden rising of excitement when I looked at the pretty reflection staring back.
“Oh my God, Jenny!!” Maggie shrieked.
I froze. I looked like a beast….
“You look beautiful!!!!” she said as a tear dropped to her check.
“Really?” I asked in a whisper. I was afraid to look back at my reflection.
“Julian…come up and have a look at Aunt Jenny. I need a 2nd opinion!!!!”
Julian came up and looked suitably awed. I had to smile. Maybe, tonight, I could be the beauty and not the beast.
The crowd at Joshua’s place was a mixture of young and old people. The ambience was lovely. The house was decorated for Christmas and the theme was red and gold. It looked amazing. Maggie had clearly outdone herself in assisting with the decorations. Joshua looked smart in the black suit he was wearing with a crisp white shirt and Maggie looked elegant in her golden satin sheath suit and matching plumps. She was led to meet interesting people and quickly established contacts with many upcoming event organizers. I kept my eyes and hands busy on the catering and managed the confusions at the kitchen. Rajiv and the gang needed my presence to coordinate smoothly.
The cake made for the party center piece had a small accident with Ganesh, the new boy employed for the party, swiping his arm on it by mistake. There was a collective gasp in the kitchen as everyone looked at me. The boy paled and looked ashamed. It was a lovely creation and took a whole day to perfect. I was not sure on how to correct it. There was no time to loose my marbles. I smiled and set to correct it immediately.
“Go on guys…serve the guests! This will be ready in no time! “I said as I began to run to my pastry kit for remedies. There was some magic in the evening. My hands began to create and the shape changed from a beastly gap to a beautiful pond with sugar rose and green wines covering the damage. The guests loved it. We secure a kitty full of orders for the whole month. Maggie was delighted.
The evening was long but my heart felt light. I walked in and out of the party checking in on the guests and managed to talk to a few people along with Maggie, on the food presentation and cake arrangements.
“Do you love working on pastries or appetizers?” The questioner was looking at Maggie but the question seemed to be directed at me. He was staring.
I looked at my lovely shoes. I was always in the habit of looking at my shoes whenever a question was directed at me. It helped to conceal the scar with thick hair cascading down my cheek.. I felt hidden and safe from prying eyes.
“Pastries…I guess.” I answered shyly. I felt a blush climbing up my checks.
“Interesting, I thought your specialty was Cakes, Jenny.“
It was the way he said my name…I felt sparks running up my spine. I looked up temporarily forgetting my scar
A Stamped Love Story – Part 2
If you have missed the part 1 of the story, please read the begining of the stamped love story here
Thunder woke me up from my daydreaming. I made another cup of tea and opened the letter without damaging the stamp. China was a nice addition to my collection.
Am back! As promised, the stamp from China is delivered. I wonder why you still chose the snail mail over face book. Anyway, China is too crowded for my taste and one can get lost in the crowd.
I had an accident yesterday. The cat is out of the bag. The whole family knows about you. Alana, the little magpie would not keep her mouth zipped and I am being subjected to 20 questions from everyone, including Mom. Her mind is as sharp as it was when she was 30.”
He was still the same. His letter brought life to words. He would never understand that ink and paper had a strange way of arousing emotions. Facebook would mean that he could track me electronically. The letter was routed to me ….no one would know.
” The secret is out…. am not gay!” I laughed at his declaration.
” They have confirmed that you are a lady friend and not a guy! So much for the plan!! Everything had changed. The stakes are high. They are planning a huge Christmas party at Bangalore with prospective brides. Come and rescue me.
Please save me from that fate and say yes. Your voice still lingers in my ears.
Say Yes Jenny
I remember the first call asking if I was Jenny. A strange thrill traveled from my feet to the tips of my hair at the sound of his voice. I loved his voice. I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.
* * * *
” Jenny, did you like the stamp?” he asked.
“Which one?” I whispered as I looked around cautiously.
” Yes, thanks Jac.”
” Are you scared?”
I wanted to say No…” Yes, if dad sees me on the phone, I will be spanked.”
“What is your dad like? Mine died when I was 10 yrs old. “
” I thought your Dad was alive”
” I mean my real dad is no more. He was a great guy.”
” Mine is strict. He is a business man. Reputation is everything. If I am caught talking to a guy, he will be ashamed….”
” I don’t remember mine being strict. Mom re-married when I was twelve. My step-dad is a great guy. But no one can replace my Dad. I miss him”
I felt sad for him. I had no clue as to who was on the other side and yet that thought did not scare me. As a worry wart, I worried about everything. What people thought of me, my father’s reputation, why people would talk to me…yet this stranger made me feel safe. I trusted him.
“My grandpa says Heaven required a lot of lovely people at different times. Am sure your Dad is in a good place.”
“After my Dad died, I used to be angry. I hated everyone.”
“I don’t know. I felt hurt, I guess. When your letters came, they made me smile.”
There was a smile in his voice. I could feel it then.
“Is that why you called me special?” I wanted to hear him say it.
“You are special. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.” He was so sincere.
” Why am I special?”
I bit my lip. Silence stretched.
” Coz no one makes salty cakes like you do!” his voice cracked with a laugh.
I burst out laughing.
“Jennyyyyyy, where are you? Who are you talking too?!”
My heart froze in fear. It sounded like Dad was walking up the stairs.
“I got to go!” I whispered frantically.
” No you can’t! You have to give me a number to call back!”
“Then promise me you will call back!”
” I will try!”
“Jac..Dad will be up any minute! Please!” I begged. I could not put the phone down.
I was exasperated, ” Look, I promise to call you.”
” What if you don’t?” he asked coolly.
I was stumped. We had kept each other a secret for 5 yrs….one wrong move and Dad would have me punished. I would be humiliated. He considered me responsible.
“What do you want me to do?!”
” Meet me face to face.”
I could hear my mother calling….”Jenny…. Come down.”
I resorted to begging” Please… I got to go…”
“Ok…then promise me….” He whispered.
Even while I was stressing, it gave me a strange thrill. “What….” I whispered hiding by the curtains near the phone. I prayed no one would notice me.
“If I don’t receive a call from you before I leave, you will meet me…”
“I can’t call you! This was the only time…”
” Ok, then I have your address…I will come down to meet you!”
” Promise me…that you will meet me and I will keep us a secret”
” That’s blackmail! “
“Nope. Promise to meet me and I will honor my promise”
” When? When, do you want to meet me and where?”
” There is time…say, next year, 16th July? I shall tell you the place.”
I could hear my mother calling….”Jennyyyyyyyyy…. Come down.”
“No,” I hissed ” let’s meet around Christmas…” I could not believe I was saying that. Christmas was far away but it would give me enough time to plan.
At this point I saw my mother’s face and panicked. I wanted to run away and said the first thing that came to my mind before slamming the phone.
“Yes, I promise. Meet me for Christmas”
* * * *
Promises were made to be broken…..
To be continued…
A Stamped love story
The postman dropped my mail by the gate. The rain had not stopped pouring since yesterday afternoon. I grabbed an umbrella and walked to my mail. Thunder roared loudly as I sat down on returning to my cup of tea.
There it was a blue envelope with the same postmark and a new stamp. This one was pretty. It looked like he went into a lot of trouble to ensure that the weight of the letter would get him this stamp. I smiled. Twenty years since the first stamp touched my hands…it made me smile shyly to think of it. No one would have ever thought that a 10 yr old could be so passionate of stamps that she was willing to write letters to all her relatives whatever be the occasion. In return for her lovely gesture, the reply posted to her would have the latest and most colorful stamps to add to her collection.
In her hurry to post a letter one morning, she penned down a digit less and it sealed the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He received the letter along with his favorite magazine. The address stated his name, but the sender was unfamiliar. He had to pay a fine as the sender had put a stamp of insufficient value for posting. To add to his dismay, the content to the letter was even stranger.
Hope this letter finds you well. I loved the butterfly but I wish you had sent me the deer instead. I know it cost 2 Rs more, but can I have that one? I promise in my next mail, I will include pictures of my birthday party in class.
P.s., I stuck Gandhi as I didn’t have change. Sorry for the Chellan you may get!
A week later, a reply with Gandhi stuck on it came back.
Dear Ms. Jenny,
I paid the Chellan for your letter. What sort of deer are you looking for? It is costly to post a big deer in this envelope. Hope you are not crazy. I am returning the favor of Gandhi. Hope you have change to pay.
Yours sincerely, Jac
The memory brought back a flush. His cheeky reply was really annoying. After a few Gandhi stuck letters with fines were exchanged, a beautiful card came one Christmas with a packet of new and beautiful stamps. The message was heart touching.
My mom says that it is rude to send letters with Chellan purposely. Sorry. I know you like stamps, so hope these are what you were looking for. The deers on them are nice. I had to exchange my new magazine with Peter for these.
Its Christmas next week. Hope you have a nice cake. My mum is a lousy cook.
Pssss don’t tell her that though!
The first stirring in my heart, it brought butterflies in my stomach. I got a card….from a boy…and he gifted me stamps! It is hard to forget the first time you were thought to be special. I was touched. I did not know his age, nor had I seen him. But the stamps spoke volumes. I learned to bake my first cake that year. Everyone loved it…or so they said. I saved a piece and parceled it to Jac. His reply ….
Thanks for the cake. I think it got spoilt by the time it reached me. It tasted horrible! Thanks for the thought!
I was so upset, I cried all afternoon on seeing it. I did not mail him for a week. How dare he criticize my cake. Everyone one knew that the cake would not spoil. I am used to cakes from Aunt Alan by parcel. Stupid Boy!!
It was by accident that I overheard the actual verdict of my baking. My grandfather was who was an expert at cooking told my mother, “Teach Jenny the tips. She put a pinch of sugar and 4 tablespoons of salt for that cake. Lord knows, I tried to eat and keep a straight face despite knowing that the cake would shoot my BP to Hades!”
” Shhh, Daddy. She is sensitive to criticism!” my mother said as she hushed his comments. I was hurt all the same. The guy was honest and rude. I shall never write to him, I promised myself. Promises are made to be broken.
Did I upset you? Have you been busy? Why don’t you write?
The fellows here are envious of the letters I get. They think I have a gal. What do you say? I am 12 yrs old and I think it’s nice to have a gal.
By the way, hope you don’t mind; I gave the rest of the cake to Peter and told him that the cake was special and that’s why it tasted different. He gave it to his gal saying that he paid all his pocket money to get her a special cake. She hit him on the head after tasting it and called him a moron for spending the cash. Ha ha ha!
Poor Peter, I had tried convincing him that she was too posh for him. He would never listen. Thanks to your special cake, I have my friend back!
You are special Jenny. Do send more of that cake, please add more sugar.
For the next three weeks, Grandpa and I sat to nurse my mother who had chicken pox. My father was always traveling would drop in from time to time and regale me with tales of the places that he had visited. I was always in awe of him. His business gave me a chance to increase my stamp collection.
One day, he gave me a few stamps with the Mexican eclipse on them. A colleague had gifted it to him when he came from abroad. I loved the stamp. It was unique. I wanted to share it with Jac. That was when I realized that it had been 2 months since I wrote to him. His last letter to me reached a few weeks late as there were strikes and bandhs in between. When I read his letter, I felt the first stirrings of something strange. His words gave me such a shy pleasure. He asked me to be his GAL! I wondered what he was like. After days on contemplating, I decided that I could not be anyone’s gal. My parents would have my hide. I was from a traditional Syrian Christian household and an affair of any sort would cause a scandal. I was sensitive to what my folks would face. Nevertheless, I posted one stamp from my eclipse collection to let him know that I valued his friendship. I loved the letters and I reasoned that I could never say NO to a secret stamp supplier.
Weeks began to fly and then months. Jac and I began to exchange stamps until his 17th birthday. He was due to study in a prestigious engineering college. He wanted to meet me, he kept insisting on a picture. I was painfully shy. At 15, I was easy on the eyes, but conservative in my approach. Internet was just becoming popular and my parents would warn me often of speaking to strangers. Jac was no stranger, but he was a stranger. It was strange that we wrote to each other for 5 years and we never exchange pictures. We sent each other cards, gifts, and stamps.
I am going off to study in the USA. My flight is scheduled on the 1st of August. It is a great opportunity. Dad and Mum will visit me after I settle down. I shall miss you Jenny. Before I leave, can I speak to you?
I know you are weary of strangers. But I wish to hear you voice before I leave. I promise to keep it a secret and you have a gentleman’s word on it.
You can call me on the 16th of July. It’s a Tuesday and am home alone. Don’t say no. Give the number a ring before you cut it. That will be my cue to know you are calling. I am free in the afternoon from 2pm -4 pm.
You are protected from a stranger and no one will be wiser…I will expect your call.
My heart pounded like a thousand horses. Behind the letter, his number was written in bold ink. 16th was a week away. He had ended the letter is a new way. Should I call? Everyone would be taking a nap during the afternoon. A tinge of anticipation caught up with me. In my heart, I knew I was curious. If anyone heard my call, all privileges would be cut. Two years back, my mother got suspicious and I had to stop writing frequently to avoid a warning regarding strangers. I began to collect my letters from the post office directly, thereafter. Ms. Mary from the post office was fond of my cakes. I had become an expert at baking and loved the smell of cakes. I would often give her a small cake from my latest batch to feed her sweet tooth in return for the letters to be kept with her until I checked in on them.
I spent two days thinking of Jac’s request. He was like my secret diary. One could write anything in it and it would never reveal your secrets. The plus point in this instance was that I would receive a reply and stamps in return for the writing. My mind was filled turmoil. I turned to my grandpa for advice.
“Grandpa, what did you do when you first met Grandma?” I asked, knowing well that his marriage was a love arranged marriage.
“Why do you ask Jenny? Did you meet a good fellow?” there was a twinkle in his eye.
“Dad! Don’t fill her head with stories!” my mum retorted as she heard him.
Grandpa let out a loud rumbling laughter. I loved to hear him laugh. ” Maria, my love for your mother was no story, it was a fairy tale! You better believe it! “
He winked as he continued. “I met her at a church fair for Christmas. I had never seen a prettier woman. I was hooked by her smile and her dimples. It was love at first sight. Do you know that you have Stella’s looks? The dimples … and the reassuring smile.” I smiled.
“I took a nice bouquet of flowers from Sam, her brother, and went over to propose at the cake stall. I was such a fool. I had no idea that such things were to be done in private. I remember the blush on her face and then a hard fist knocking me out! “
” Oh! What happened? “I asked surprised. Who would dare to hit someone with such a romantic proposal?
” Sam! He was defending his sister’s honor. It was quite a blow. Seems she was promised to some merchant from Bombay. Well, I had the swelling for days but the spirit refused to let her go. Yes it was love. “
“What did you do?”
” I climbed up the mango tree that was shading her window and put in a paper rocket with a red rose early each morning before she woke up. The rocket had my initials on it for her to know that I was a die hard Romeo. I sat there until she woke up and watched her look puzzled for a few days before the tree branch broke. That was when she realized who the rose was from. It was also the end of the paper rocket.”
“Did you give up?” I asked laughing.
” No young lady! Never!”
My mother rolled her eyes.
” I sat by the bus stop where she would walk by each day to watch her pass by before I started my day. The pleasure it gave me was…eh…well, where was I ? …yes…she would smile when she saw me and then vanish. She feared loose tongues. After a week of watch her, I befriended the stable boy to pass small love notes to her.”
” But you did not know her Grandpa! Don’t you tell me not to talk to strangers?”
” Jenny, all is fair in love and war! My heart knew her, she was no stranger. She was already the air that I breathed. One can never call that a stranger……”
That was my answer. Jac was …special to me. If Grandma Stella was no stranger to Grandpa, Jac was no stranger to me. I felt relieved and anxious at the same time.
Read the Part 2 of the story here
“What do you see?” she asked in a quaint and innocent voice.
“Oh, tell me fast what you see down out of the window” she couldn’t hold her excitement any longer.
“Ha ha calm down, calm down my dear sis, whatever I see it’s beautiful” replied her sister Clara.
“Hey you cannot tell a bride on her wedding day to calm down silly, and now you are going to kill your lil’ sister if you don’t tell her how is everything outside and then you’re going to be chased by cops as the official bride killer ha…ha” mocked Liz.
Clara and Liz always had this sweet and sour relation. They were five years apart but were like a twain. Always supportive, always understanding, they enjoyed this sisterhood since its very beginning. Best friends, best advisers, best partners-in-crime, they were anything and everything one could imagine…sometimes even like a mother and daughter.
Clara was thirty two years old and was married for seven years. She had three adorable brats: two boys and one girl. Liz was always the one to spoil them royally. Clara was a strong person, she always had been, right from the time their mother died when they were kids. In spite of her father, she felt it was required of her to take the lead for her baby sister. If it hadn’t been for Clara, the relation between Liz and herself wouldn’t have been this smooth and comfortable and a joyous one too.
While Clara was the older one, Liz enjoyed all her liberties and privileges of being the youngest. Smart, beautiful, confident, fun-loving and yet she had that peculiar and complacent nature that distinguished her from the rest of the crowd. She was as innocent and appeared as fragile as an angel. With a soft countenance, she was the type that required to be handled with care. Forgiving was her nature, but only to some extent. She made her own decisions with a little help from others but it was her heart that made decisions of her life more than her head.
“OMG! and then your doppelganger will haunt us all (considering it won’t be so easy to kill you after all) haha” chuckled Clara when Liz spanked her head.
“Ouch, that hurts. Ok, ok, my lil drama-queen, I see something really beautiful and magical outside. It’s perfect. Just like you wanted it to be. I see a lush green lawn sporting an emerald green colour overlooking a serene and rejoicing lake. I see long draperies in hues of golden and red flying effortlessly from the tall golden roman pillars ( I guess all we require now are some ducks and hens and the poultry effect will be complete haha ).”
“you jealous old woman”
“Haha and oh! the aisles are intermittently decorated with clusters of Asian lilies, sunflower and orchids just like in fairy tales. Guests in different shape, size and costumes are chattering with each other and (ha ha) oh I see your lovey-dovey down there too.”
“Hey why don’t I get to see him ”
“Coz you’re the bride remember. And now after browsing through the floral settings, my eyes finally are reaching to your much-awaited gazebo in white decorated with blossoming orange roses. Oh Liz, everything is just like a dream. I’m so happy for you (that you’re FINALLY moving away from us)” and Clara juggled between expressions of laughter and shedding tears.
“Aww Clara, it sounds just like heaven, and c’mon don’t cry (and laugh too), I won’t be that far after all to haunt ya” and she found her sister and hugged her after wiping her tears off.
“Well, on a serious note, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Yep go ahead.”
“You are sure you want to do this, right? I mean with your current condition, your eyes, your health and everything? I’m sorry I’m just a little worried Liz. I want you to be happy, really happy after all that you’ve been through.”
“I know things haven’t been quite the way they normally should with me, but maybe this is the way they were supposed to happen with me and that might not be normal for others but it is normal for me. In fact it’s more than perfect for me Clara. This is what I want. This is what I really want...”
And she trailed off at the approach of footsteps. It was Charles, their father. Both Clara and Liz stopped talking. Their father wasn’t a big fan of Jason. To top it more, he didn’t even trust Jason with his low financial status, his small house and everything and him striving to become a writer of which Charles didn’t approve of.
“When will this writer of yours start writing for good and start earning something huh Liz?” he used to often say because Jason was still a struggling writer. And it were these very reasons that made Charles oppose the wedding from the very beginning, but who would go against Liz ?
“Hey dad” Clara said.
“Hey kids, so Liz how you feeling?”
Liz looked in the direction of the voice and with an awkward but warm expression replied that she’s feeling good with a mixture of wedding jitters and fully loaded excitement.
“Not getting cold feet are you?” he asked with the obvious pretense of a joke, but everyone knew that he secretly wished for Liz to get cold feet and she would re-think her decision.
“No dad, not with this one”
Her dad looked away, he didn’t have much to say, especially after the epic quarrels battled in the past with this wedding and Jason, it was awkward for him to say anything more. He could no more see Liz go through another series of troubles.
“I’m happy dad, if that’s what’s worrying you. I know you don’t like Jason and you are just worried what the outcome might be, but I want you to let go off your worries now. Jason is not perfect, no one is, but together we, him and me, we are perfect in our own way and that is what counts, isn’t it dad?”
“I know sweetheart, but it’s very difficult for me to give you away to someone whose future doesn’t seem so bright. How will he keep you happy Liz?”
“Dad, for once try to see Jason as I see him. Try keeping all the materialistic factors at the side for a moment and look at Jason for the man he is, for the man who knows how to live his life to the fullest. He loves your daughter very much dad in spite the fact that she has almost lost her vision now” and a roll of tear left her fragile eyes.
“Dad, I am happy and it’s Jason who makes me so happy. Even though he doesn’t have much wealth but he’ll never be poor. He will never be poor, dad, because he has stocks of love, respect, warmth, care, affection, understanding and trust in his heart for everyone. Where can I find anyone like that who makes me feel special in spite of my disability? Where can anyone find a person like him anywhere who raises your self-respect and worth every time you are stuck in a fall? I love him dad and I want you to at least try to get to know him without your pre-conceived notions about him, without you being bias and judgmental about him. It’s still not too late. At least for my sake, dad.”
“Jason, hey since when have you been standing here? Its bad luck to see the bride before the marriage” said Clara in a mild shock and Liz composed herself too.
“Uhm just the part where Liz spoke up in my defense. Hey, Mr. Charles how are you?”
“How can a father be at this time, Jason?”
“Still the same. Mr. Charles I want you to know that I will keep your daughter very happy.”
“That is what they all say, but who knows the truth.”
“Dad” both Clara and Liz shot up.
“No he’s right Liz. A father can not be too sure about his son-in-law if he marries his daughter who has a disability. It’s but natural that he will always fear and be concerned about her, or if her hubby’s treating her well or not otherwise why else would one marry someone who cannot see when the guy can get any other girl. Maybe the guy has ulterior motives. Is it the wealth then? Or what could it be, isn’t that right Mr. Charles?”
“Well, finally I see something sensible out of your mouth huh.”
“Yeah well your daughter has been of utmost help to me in that department. Uhm can we talk somewhere in private?”
“Yeah sure,” and they left the room and headed towards the guest room.
“So what is it, let’s get this over with,” said Charles.
“My feeling exactly. So coming to the point, life is too short to make the wrong decisions especially when it comes to love. All you see is me marrying your daughter who has lost her vision. But what you don’t see (or rather don’t want to see) is I am marrying your daughter for what she is in spite of her vision. I understand your concern for Liz as a father whose daughter is getting married, but what I don’t understand is your incessant doubt about this relation. I don’t know why everyone is making a big deal about Liz’s vision when for me that does not even reside in the same vicinity as my love for her.”
“I respect Liz for who she is, I love her for what she is. I’m not marrying her out of pity but because I have known her in and out and that is what I love about her. I never wanted to give this explanation to anyone because for me, this wedding does not require an explanation. Why should I explain? But you have been persistently pushing the envelope so far that I had to justify myself time and again. Liz is the most amazing person I have ever met Mr. Charles. She is incomparable. She makes me feel alive, special. She instills positivity, faith in me. She showed me what it’s like to love, to support, to care. I see my best friend in her. That best friend with whom I can share anything and everything and with whom I want to spend the rest of my life with. You can keep your wealth Mr. Charles because I really don’t care about it. But because of your doubts I don’t want to lose my Liz because losing her will mean losing myself and I can’t afford to do that. I believe in raising mountains if you have love, but I don’t believe in raising wealth if you don’t have any love. We have been through these discussions many a times and there is nothing more that I can do to make you believe and trust in me but to let time unfold my words in reality. I have tried every way to make you believe in my words, in my feelings because you are really important to Liz and I wouldn’t want her to get hurt if you are not happy with us. I LOVE your daughter Mr. Charles and I will really like it if you give her away today with some satisfaction and content in your heart. That will make Liz happier than your expensive Harry Winston necklace and these grandeur gifts. I won’t take any more of your precious time and wouldn’t keep you waiting to meet your daughter. See you at the wedding” and Jason left with a muffled smile and a disturbed expression
“What happened, is that old-filthy-rich-always-opposing-dead-man still causing troubles?” asked Jason’s cousin in the hallway paces away from the room he came out from after observing the whole scene.
“Hey watch your language Larry, there’s no reason for abusing and name calling. He is Liz’s father and I want you to respect him.”
“But he’s never been nice to you.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s not nice. He’s just worried for his daughter and that’s justifiable. Now enough with the argument. You are not abusing him and that is final. I’m going down to meet the guests. See ya later.”
“How can you be not angry with him but save his image Jason ? You’re one weird guy” Larry said to himself after Jason left.
The scene was set, the bride was ready, the groom awaited impatiently. The band started playing “You and Me” by Lifehouse. It was this song by which Jason had proposed to Liz. Jason stood there smiling to himself and muttered, “this is our song Liz” and almost as if Liz could hear him from the end of the aisle, she replied, “Yes it is, just you and me,” and she continued walking the aisle with her father.
They reached the spot where her man was waiting for her and she turned towards him. Everything was good…till now. The bridesmaids and the best man were all pretty and smiling. The priest welcomed the guests and asked if anyone had any objections to this union? Jason, Clara, Tim (her husband), her kids, aunts, uncles, all but Liz looked at Charles expecting him to object just like the usual. Instead, Charles smiled and nodded in denial and surprised everyone. The vows were read and it was time to exchange the rings.
“I, Jason, give you, Liz, a piece of my heart in the form of this ring as an eternal symbol of my love and life to you. Please handle with care and don’t knead dough with my heart hahaa” and they chuckled and exchanged rings and the priest announced, “you may now kiss the bride” and both Jason and Liz sealed their love and union with the eternal kiss.
“You are smiling. So, is it safe to say that you’ve had a change of heart?,” asked Clara in a teasing manner when she found her dad seated and admiring the newlyweds dance happily.
“What, I’m not smiling; I’m just, you know, just just…”
“Just happy. So what brought about this change dad?”
“Well, as much as I would hate to admit, but your old man might have been just a stubborn ass after all. Maybe I now see what Liz meant by weighing Jason not by his bank balance but by his heart. Just noticed an incident with Jason and Larry, that’s it. There maybe a lot to know about Jason I guess. I hope I’m not too late.”
“No you’re not, dad. Better late than never what say “and they both hugged each other just when the newlyweds came to take Clara and her dad to the dance floor.
“I’m happy for you, and for him too. You both have my blessings” Charles whispered in Liz’s ears while dancing with him. Liz smiled with gratitude and affection and hugged her dad.
“Hey, what’s a dance without the family” jumped in Jason and started dancing with them.
“Is it too late to make a fresh start Jason ?” blurted out Charles loudly in the loud music that was playing.
“Nope you’re still on time…dad” and they just hugged each other with Clara, Tim and the kids joining in too.
“Who wants the bouquet?”
“Me, me, I, me, me” came the chattering replies.
Liz threw the yummy and colourful bouquet behind her, only to find it caught by a well deserved recipient standing away from the crowd, her father.
“See ya at ya wedding dad, ciao” with laughter Liz and Jason left in their “Just Married” blue car…
The clock was ticking towards 2’o clock, and I was staring at the door, listening for footsteps or any sound of a car parking at our doorstep. My 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter were fast asleep. I considered waking them up, but what was the point. He had been late before, but not this late. I tried his number again… I heard the operator’s voice on the other side “The number you have dialled is currently switched off or out of range”… I cut the phone…
Earlier in the evening, I had called up his office; I was told he was attending a conference on behalf of the company in a 5 star hotel. When he didn’t come home till 9.00 in the evening, I picked out the hotel number from yellow pages and called in to enquire if the conference was over. It was over at 8pm itself… Where is he?
I started pacing. I tried not to panic, but try as I may, I could not keep out horrible thoughts from coming into my mind. Car crashes were so common…Some drunken driver…or unruly youths in fast cars… it may not even be his fault. Should I call the police and enquire, No, I am getting simply hyper. I should just be little more patient.
I am not usually this hyper. I am used to his work schedules. It has been 10 years since our marriage, and he has always been home, sharp at dinner time. He did not like being disturbed at work, I called only when he was not home by dinner time.
Ten years, sound like a really long time, but these years just passed in sheer bliss. Ours was a typical arranged marriage. I was 22, working and independent. During my youth, I wanted a love marriage, or at least marry some one I knew. How do you live with a person you met for few minutes? How do you decide who is the right? Does asking a few typical questions that came to mind at that insane second help you to judge?
I argued, day and night with my parents and the elders. The only reply I got ” You will know my child, when you meet the rite person” Yeah, Right!! … Kuch kuch hota hai version … typical….. So, I waited. And prayed for the Cupid to strike me and say here is THE ONE!!
After a zillion Proposals, fashion parades in saris and tea trays, his proposal came.
I still remember the day, coz it was so funny. I was at a good friends’ place, with plans to spend the day out till late evening. Her marriage was already on the cards and she wanted a spinster party. We decided on a Girls day out, I was excited. As we were about to step out of her place, my parents called up. They wanted me home immediately. A new proposal had come; the boy worked outside and was travelling today, his family wished him to see me before he went. They were already on their way. I tried to argue, but failed immediately. Irritated to the core at the inconvenience caused and postponed the party plans, I travelled back home on my scooty. I had to drop off another friend at her place. I was purposely riding slowly to delay my arrival. Who wanted to parade in front of another family, I was so sure that even this was not going to work. I had to comply with my family’s wishes.
I reached my friends place, and we stood outside chatting. After few minutes a Red Maruti Suzuki stopped beside me, the tinted window by the driver’s side rolled down with a good looking chap looking perplexed.
“Excuse me ladies, could any of you tell me where the 37th street is?
“Sure”, my friend volunteered, “go straight, take the 2nd left, then the next right and then left… and then third right.”
The guy looked at her as though she had just spoken Latin, I giggled, and chided my friend,” You might as well have told him to go around entire colony till he finds the 37th street, stupid…” I could hear laughter from inside the car. The car was full of people; I caught a few faces looking out through the dark panes.
Deciding to be the Good Samaritan, I volunteered “Boss, I am headed in that direction, why you don’t just follow me.”
He smiled and nodded” Thanks, that would be really great!”
”Bye, see ya later, got to get ready for the moron who is coming to see my fashion parade” I said as my friend wished me luck. I zoomed off in my bike making sure that the car followed me. I rode carefully keeping them in sight. On the way, I waved to my neighbour aunty, called out to the kids playing cricket and responded to snide remarks from the local youths. When I reached the mouth the 37thstreet, I stopped. The car stopped beside me. ” The 37th street begins here” I said as I waved at a grandpa next door. The driver thanked me before I shrugged and moved on.
My house was the last one at the corner of the street, just before the beginning of the next street. My mom was waiting at the entrance, all red faced and fuming. I ignored her and casually parked my bike, humming a tune. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA, HOW MUCH TRAUMA I WAS GOING THROUGH TILL NOW. DO YOU WANT ME TO GROUND YOU TILL YOUR WEDDING?!”. “ Sure, sure… if you want me stay single for the rest of my life” I responded.
“Go inside and get ready, FAST! They will be here any minute now!” She muttered as usual, under her breath, “This girl is becoming more and more unmanageable by the day; I don’t know what she will do in another house….”
Her qualms will never end, I sighed. When I was in diapers, she was worried how I will fare in school, when I was finishing school, she worried on how I will fare in college, then it was how I will do in my work and now this… her worries just got bigger and bigger.
So, I locked myself up in my room and relaxed in my bed. Barely a minute had passed, when my mom softly knocked on my door, “Are you done, they are already here”. I jumped up from the bed shocked,” What, already?!”
“Yes, come out fast” she hissed. I hurried through my lipstick. There was no point in changing. What they see, is what they get! In less than five minutes, she was rapping on the door again.” Coming mommmm!” I said taking deep breaths trying to calm myself.
As I entered the hall, I froze, and then nearly ran back to my room. Seated there was the Direction Guy with the same people who looked out of the car. I stared; I had called him “A Moron”. He looked surprised and then amused at my discomfort. A small smile was playing up at his lips and one of his eyebrows arched up. Why didn’t the earth just open up and swallow me alive!! I was surely a worth candidate for it!!
I stood rooted to the spot; I had gone red in face and could feel my heartbeat race. I looked around once and then stared firmly at the floor. His family looked amused. His younger brother, who looked like a school goer, was grinning from ear to ear. My dad was surprised at the sudden change in atmosphere. Something was amiss. Everyone was smiling, like they were sharing a secret that he was not in on. He slowly asked, “Err, are we missing something?”
His father, whom I had seen sitting next to him in the car replied, “No, it is just that, we had met your daughter on the way here. She had so generously showed us the way. Since we had not seen pictures of her, we didn’t recognise her”
My Mother looked like she would faint; I was wearing one of my most fashionable attires, tight jeans and a cute top with deep neck and body length that stayed above my waist. I was all dressed up to freak out with my friends in city hangouts. Decent for me, indecent for my family. The boy’s family had seen me in that! This proposal was already being disposed or written off already in her mind. Poor mother. I was waiting for her to swoon.
I continued to stare at the floor; unable to look at anyone in the face, there was going to be hell and more to pay for this after these people left. The dressing sense was surely considered moot by the old folks. Good bye freedom!
Small conversations continued between our families. I could feel heavy stares directed at me, but I continued to stare at the floor, still red at face. Nobody asked me anything, so I tried to calm myself instead. Its ok, it ok, relax, relax…I chanted in my mind. I was about to finally relax for a second before my father asked, “So if your son and my daughter would like to speak privately, they could move to another room”. NO!!! I screamed silently. I silently led the way to another room. My heart began to beat in double speed and my face was all red again. There was absolute silence for few minutes; I was again trying to calm myself. I could not look up to his face and I could feel him staring up at mine. He was probably waiting for me to speak; I didn’t know what to say. I was trying to think of someway to start a conversation. But I could not remember any questions that I had used on my suitors before.
Finally, I conjured up enough courage to look up at his face and ask something. His expression stopped me short, it was not amused. I was rewarded with an understanding smile, like that of a mature man who looked on at the attics of a mischievous child. He took a deep breath, “I am a person, whose career and ambition keeps him out of the house and on his toes all day. I love my family and love to spend every possible moment with them. It is difficult for my parents to understand my passion and it is difficult to live with me without understanding my freedom. But an independent person like you … would probably understand my life style. Do you think you can handle me… as a life partner??”
The clock struck 2 am, waking me up from my reverie. I went to window looking down at the empty street below. Few cars passed at this hour. I tried his number again, no response.
It is good thing tomorrow is a weekend, at least I don’t have to go for work, else I would be yawning away in office. He never encouraged me to stay awake like this. He would always say “Please don’t play typical orthodox wife. Eat when you are hungry and sleep on time. My work spoils my health; I don’t want your health also to be spoiled. So whenever I am late, I will manage my own dinner and will sleep when I am done. You don’t have to stay awake for me”.
If only he could call and tell me how late he is going to be, I would have relaxed a bit. Initial days of marriage had been as difficult as he had warned me on the day he came to see me. We had shifted to the place where he worked. He tried his level best to reach home on time and spend some quality time with me. Everyday was a new revelation for both of us. Each day we learnt something new about each other. Some good things and then some bad. After all, no one is perfect. I found myself a job thereafter, and then it became easier. I spent majority of the time in office and when I reached home, I would finish off housework, before he reached home. And when he came, we would sit chatting away, for hours till midnight, relating each other’s office experience and problems. He was a person with whom I could share anything, and I found his experiences fascinating.
I have heard of friends becoming life partners, but for me my life partner became my best friend.
We were gifted with a son and then a daughter. Life was perfect, with a few fights and arguments over the order in the house and cleanliness. Some days were even more difficult than others. I had good job and money was getting good. Days became shorter to get all the work done and chores got bigger and worse. I would return after a tough day at work to find broken vases, dirty clothes strewn on the floor and a relieved maid hurrying to leave the house. I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the children’s homework and cook a special dinner before he reached home. By the time he was home, he would be even more tired than me and finding our house in a mess would initiate cribbing, “Is this house a garbage dump or what?” “What is all of THIS?” he would bellow. His temper was really explosive.
He would then throw whatever he would find into the nearest garbage bin, while we would be running around to pick and save valuables from under the sofa or behind the curtains. If spotted during the cleaning parade, they would be lost forever. When the temper had ridden its course, he would inevitably retreat into the bedroom. We would noiselessly retrieve all valuables from the dustbin and arrange it neatly in proper places.
Dinner was always on time. Two things that I learnt foremost about him were that he wanted a clean house and a hot dinner ready when he reached home. Absence of any would ensure a lost temper. When he was fully fed and satisfied, he would be his good jolly self. Best friend for the children and a romantic partner for me. It was always fun to watch him playing with our children, he was closer to them than me. They would sit and relate all school stories for the umpteenth time and he will listen patiently. Some days, when I am exhausted with work, I would doze off in the living room itself only to find out that he had put the children to sleep and carried me to off to bed.
I missed him when he was not there. Our home felt empty when he went for his business trips? Even the kids would be gloomy when dada was not home. He tried not to be away from us for long. I couldn’t understand what was keeping him today. Was he hurt? Should I call the police? Did I miss a call? I debated mentally
The phone rang…I jumped to pick it up…”Hello? ” a male voice spoke on the other side.” Hello, Madam, I am calling in from the traffic Police. Is Car kl-4-25368 your husband’s car? “.. My heart stopped beating” Yes”, I whispered. “Your husband had an accident…..”.”Nooooooo”
I woke up with a start…. It was 2.30am. I had dozed off on the sofa; it was only a dream… I was sweating.
I heard the door close behind me. I turned slowly. My husband was standing at the door, with his coat and tie and suitcase in his hand. One minute we stood staring at each other and then I ran to him headlong nearly knocking him on the floor. “YOU MORON….WHY IS YOUR PHONE SWITCHED OFF…WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME IF YOU WERE GOING TO BE LATE…WHY ARE YOU SO LATE?! YOU DON’T EVEN CARE !! SOMEONE LIKE ME IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME…”I rated as relief set in and tears poured out.
“Shh…shhh…sorry, sorry…My phone went dead in the afternoon, no battery, I forgot my charger in office when I went for the conference and on my way back, my car broke down….at a deserted place…..no place where I could call you… had to wait for 3 hours before I found someone for me lift…. so sorry… I didn’t realise you would be waiting for me….sorry love….” He pacified me….I was crying heavily into his shirt, but we stood there like that for few minutes…till we heard my son call out…” Dada…Mom…Where are you…” all my screaming had woken up the kids …
“Rite here baby” their dad called back…and he pulled me slowly into the room with him into the little perfect part of our wonderful Life…
I & Her
‘I’ entered the 11th standard A section class room of his new school and looked around with contempt. I adored his previous school, he didn’t want to leave it and come here but he had to. He went inside and silently sat on an empty seat besides a guy in third row. He didn’t have friends in this class; he looked around hopefully for friendly faces.
“No one is friendly, I’ll show them in exams” he thought in his childish prejudice.
Then ‘her’ entered the room. I saw her. “Man, she is beautiful!!” I thought.
Her went on to sit next to a girl two rows from I. He kept looking at her. Enter the physics teacher and I’s day dream ended. Classes continued one after another and I kept taking notes religiously. But in between he’d steal a glance or two towards her. Finally after the last class of the day as he stuffed his books inside the bag, I remembered about her. He turned to look at her but she was gone. Little disappointed, he went home.
Next day as I got ready for school, the only thing he was looking forward to was meeting ‘her’. He reached school and in the assembly line for prayer, he was searching her. But I was the tallest in the class and her was one of the shortest in the class- he couldn’t find her there. After prayer, as he entered class, he saw her- sitting there, where she sat the day before. He looked at her- she was a typical small town girl from UP, nothing special about her. She had a triangular face. Her sharp pointed nose parted those big beautiful black eyes with a hint of surma. Her long black hair was tied in a pony at her back. I fell in love. It was not the first time that I had encountered such effortless elegance, but it sure was the first time that I had acknowledged it. I was floored.
I wanted to know her’s name but he didn’t dare ask her directly. Who else to ask, he had no friends- you can’t go a stranger and directly ask him “excuse me, can you tell me the name of that wonderful lady sitting over there?” No you don’t do that. So I inferred – first he’ll have to make friends. And by the end of the day he was friends with the guy sitting next to him- S. As luck would have it, even S was a new admission and didn’t know her’s name. Another day had passed- I’s insides ached- I wanted to talk to her but he didn’t know where to start.
The next day same routine continued only that the last two classes were lab classes. The class was divided in groups and each group had been assigned an experiment. I went towards his experimental setup and waited for the other group mates to arrive. Just as I was about to study the experimental setup, he saw her coming towards him- walking, with all the divine grace that divinity could probably muster. Her came and stood besides I, silently.
“Have you too been given this group?” I asked.
“idiot!! Isn’t it obvious, why else would she be here?” he cursed himself mentally immediately after asking this.
Her nodded in agreement and I’s heart leapt.
“Hi I’m I” he introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m her” she introduced herself and the friendship began. I came to know her was Muslim. I was a Hindu. “Who cares anyway” I thought hovering in the completely alien cloud of emotions.
Classes continued, 11th standard got over and 12th standard arrived- friendship grew from lab sessions to class room and from class room to after school long chats and I’s feelings for her only kept getting stronger. I could still not tell her. “Man, she’ll say no” he’d think.
School days were about to end. I still didn’t have the courage.
It was the farewell party of 12th standard and overcome by emotions and with a sudden surge of inspiration- I got up and went to her. He took her to a quieter corner and told her all the feelings that he had for her.
Her listened and no, she didn’t say no. “I too like you I. But you are a Hindu and I’m a Muslim. We can’t do this. This is not to be. We can get into this now but it will only bring tears l for us both later. Let us please don’t get in this than regret later…”
Beyond that I couldn’t listen he lost the track of what her was saying. I took it as a No. He couldn’t fathom how the hell did that matter? He couldn’t understand why on earth did she care this much for the society? I couldn’t see the obvious but her did. The typical sensibility of the small town UP girl prevailed above I’s typical recklessness.
Eight years after, I opens TV and watches a debate going on the topic whether there should a Mandir or a Masjid at a particular place and he thinks “if only… her, you had shown a little more courage, we would have shown these morons!!”
But then suddenly I understands. Her did the right thing- in favor of her and his families. I feels proud of her- she had been both bold and sensible. Then suddenly, I feels pity on himself. Then he feels even more pity for his society “Unfortunate people- still held in petty issues of religion. Blissfully ignorant of the larger picture- love!!”