She stood next to him, leaning on the parapet wall, overlooking the deep blue waters.
Both of them kept their blank gazes focused on the slithering silhouettes of the fish. She was conscious of his nearness; they were just short of touching. The fabric of his shirt and her duppatta were immersed in a playful revelry of their own.
She was looking at him from the corner of her eye, when he suddenly turned to look at her full in the face. Startled, she looked away hastily, but not before noticing a naughty glint in his eyes. She felt like a thief caught red handed. Her mind raced trying to think of some small talk. He was about to say something, but stopped short of uttering the words.
Unspoken thoughts lay saturated in the pink twilight mist.
When it began there was no lightning, no orchestra. Neither the faintest suspicion as to what was happening. It had been creeping upon them slowly, stealthily. Only they had not noticed it; or maybe, they had sensed it approaching but chose to ignore it.
Thoughts and ideas had simply flowed between them unhindered. She knew his past and he knew her present. They had just woven their notions, opinions through the frontiers of time unfettered by emotions.
A web was being spun and they seemed to be getting enmeshed. Feelings had entered silently; words that emerged from the mind took a detour through the heart and got lost at the lips.
And eventually, when it dawned on them, it left them baffled. The realization shook them up, and they initially went into the denial phase. Silence loomed large.
The horizon was tinged red.
It was all a matter of not being at the right place at the right time, and being at the right place at the wrong time. Pathetic!
There had been no confusion…until now. Him and her- they were the clowns on the stage of life. Behind their painted smiles, the salty tears would flow.
The skyline was turning grey.
He lifted his hands to reach out, to touch her face. She stopped breathing, and then at the last moment, he held back. That pain in his eyes would haunt her forever. They fought their raging emotions, the conflicts of rights and wrongs, morals and ethics as ingrained through generations of conditioning.
He abruptly straightened himself. Folding his arms resolutely across his chest, he gazed beyond the horizon. They just had to just forget that they ever met.
Without looking at her, his voice barely above a whisper, “It’s getting late. You better get back. I too have to leave. I’ll get you a cab.”
He turned and started walking. For a moment, she stood looking at his receding figure, then wrapping her duppatta closely around her, she stepped forward, “Please don’t bother. I’ll take a rickshaw. There’re a few waiting over there.”
She hurried ahead without a backward glance.
The chill dusk was closing in.
His life had been incomplete, she came along – the picture was complete. But she could not stay.
They had been meant to keep company but for awhile. They knew they had no morrows together. A quirk of fate; a fatal flaw.
It was nobody’s fault. They just had to trudge along with a piece missing.
The wound would never heal. The scar would show but they would hide it and nobody would ever know.
He turned back again to look at the darkening skies trying to discern shapes in the clouds.
The darkness descended creating a burlesque of shadows.
~ Nirmala Varier | Edited by Aashna Sharma