(Ok This is not my normal short story... but somehow i couldn't make it short.. so the story is written in two parts.. am completing the second part yet.. hope you enjoy it as well as my short stories.. happy reading..)
December’s misty morning had never felt so thick in Arjun’s life before. Driving his car through the thick fog was like the movement of thoughts in his depressed mind. Six years of relationship had lost its value, he never thought Vidya would turn out to be so selfish, mean and hard hearted. “Hard hearted” he gave a throaty laugh thinking “She doesn’t have a heart to harden”. He continued laughing, a big huge laugh, like he is trying to push out the hurt out of his heart. His car gave a lurch and slowed down and completely stopped in middle of no-where.
Arjun stopped laughing and got out of his car, he never knew how to repair a car and he was not going to try now. He looked around himself, only to realize that he had absolutely no idea where he was and how far from the nearest civilization. This was as lonely road as any could be found at the remote corner of any map. He collected his luggage, locked his car, mentally flipped and selected one direction and started walking towards it. After he had walked for around 2 kms, He found a bus-stop and a small tea stall beside it, he reached it to see that it was not open still. He checked his watch to see the time, it was still 4:45 a.m.
“Get up madam, your stop is nearing” called the conductor.
Arpita got up with a start and checked her watch “But, it’s still 4.45 a.m.”
The conductor gave her an ‘what-an-idiot’ look and said “I know, that’s why am informing you, we will reach your stop in 15 -20 mins”
Arpita rubbed her eyes and let out a huge yawn while thinking “What kind of place is this, where bus reaches so early”
She grabbed her belongings, checked if she left something back and walked to the front of the bus and stood there for an indication from the conductor that her stop had come.
Her mind wandered towards the various reasons why she came here. She thought “I need a break, after 3 years of study I need some break. And by the way I had promised Aruna that I will come to stay with her before I joined my job” then she came to the real reason “ I had to get away from Arul, I still can’t understand how I didn’t recognise him before. All those sweet talks and promises were just a scam. Aaagh I won’t think about him, this vacation is for me, only for me.”
While her mind was still wandering out there, the bus stopped and Arpita was out of the bus to find herself standing in a small bus stand in middle of no-where. She checked watch to find out that it was 5.05 a.m. still. She checked her mobile and grumbled “Great no signal”.
She tied her muffler more secure, pulled up the zipper of her coat and pulled down her soft white woolen cap. Still it was chilly, she picked up her bags and then she noticed that small tea stall beside the bus stop. She walked towards it thinking “I can ask for directions there and also have some hot hot tea, God it’s too cold here”.
Arjun noticed her from the minute she got down from that bus. She was vision in this cold morning, She was wearing a black jeans with light blue button down shirt, a blue muffler and Brown coat with a soft white woolen cap. He watched as she tried to pull up the zipper, pull down the cap and still chilly, maybe thinking where the hell she is, she picked up her bags and she turned towards the tea stall and walked towards him. Arjun was watching her while drinking his tea, he noticed she was very fair and her cheeks had pinked up due to the cold, her long brown hair was sparkling with dew drops, she had a pert nose and beautiful big eyes. He was pretty sure that she cant see him clearly from the direction she was coming, but he could see her, and every step she took towards him seemed like light was entering his dark world. He wiped those predatory expressions from his face; he didn’t want to scare her in this unknown place.
He called out “Chacha one more chai”.
He noticed she was putting down her bags, she hadn’t noticed him still. She walked up to chacha and asked him something and when he answered she gave him a big smile. Arjun’s heart melted seeing that beautiful smile; it had so much warmth in them. Impulsively he wished that if only she could smile at him in that manner once.
He smiled to himself when he saw how his thoughts were flowing; he scolded himself and said all this was because he was depressed and not thinking properly.
Chacha came out to give another tea to Arjun, her eyes followed chacha and settled on him.
Arpita was startled for a minute to notice there was another person there. She had not at all noticed him before. She took her tea and sat on the bench with her bags. She continued her scrutiny of the young man sitting opposite to her. He was not that classically handsome guy but he had an aura of charm in him. He sported one of those hairstyles which always looked like it was not combed, she hated those kind of hairstyles but somehow, she thought it suited him, made his face look more young. When she noticed his eyes, black, strong and directly looking at her, she immediately lowered her eyes and berated herself for staring at a stranger.
“Chacha do you have something to eat....” and at the same time even he called out“Is there anything to eat chacha ...?”
Both looked at each other and looked back expectantly towards chacha.He said showing his meager food “Am sorry, my supplies will come in the first bus of the morning, I have only one bun left from yesterday”
They both looked from chacha to each other and burst out laughing. Why they started laughing nobody knew and it didn’t matter.Arjun was still thinking how beautiful she looks while laughing and Arpita was amazed how the laugh softened his facial features.
With smile still in his features asked her “Do you mind if we share, I can’t be chauvinistic today and give you the whole bun, am sorry”Arpita was still smiling when she said “It’s okay, lets share. I have had my fill of MCP for one lifetime.”
Arjun divided the bun and while giving her half asked “MCP??”She laughed and said “Don’t tell me you don’t know MCP. It means Male Chauvinistic....”
He raised his eyebrow in a questioning manner when she didn’t complete it. He could see the she was surprised that he expected her to complete it.She had taken a bite from the bun and was giving a ‘I-Don’t-Believe-It’ look to him and said “....Pig”
He knew what was she finishing, yet he was compelled to prod her more “Are you telling me that if I had given you the whole bun, which would have obviously been a favour to you, I would have been a Pig”She was startled and thought how the conversation turned this way and she said “Yes... I mean no, not like that.. I didn’t say about you......”
Arjun couldn’t see her struggling anymore and he laughed out loud. That’s when Arpita understood he was making fun of her. But rather than being angry like most women he had met, she laughed with him.Arjun asked her “May I know your name?”
Arpita extended her hand and said “Sarita Mary Banu”He knew immediately that she is lying, but he didn’t want to call her out on it and surprising wanted to play along with her game. He caught her hand and said “Nice to meet you Sarita Mary Banu, Myself Rahul Ilias De’Souza”
They both had a huge grin on their faces. Suddenly they both didn’t have any idea as to why they wanted to make this journey. They felt like they just might have reached an unknown destination with pleasant surprises.
They finished eating their part of bun in silence. When Arpita drew a huge breath of fresh crisp air of winter morning, Arjun could just hold his breath and watch her with wonder.
He asked her "So what brings you to this part of the country. I guess you are not a local here"
Arpita considered as to how much she should reveal to this handsome stranger, "You seem to know about how locals look. Should I assume you are a local?"
Arjun just smiled and looked up to her for her answer to his question before answering her question. Arpita saw his wait, she wanted to make him wait and see who will win this tug of patience. Somehow this guy made her feel things which she didn’t feel from many years, she wanted to be teasing, joking, childish around him and amazing was she knew him from around 30 minutes.
She gave up her tugging and answered "Yep am not from here, this is my revival trip. Long overdue but suddenly in need" she gave a glorious smile to him, and arched her beautiful eyebrow up like urging him that it was his turn now.
Arjun had never felt like this. He was a serious guy from the time he remembered, even his Vidya; nah not 'his' Vidya, he corrected himself. Even Vidya whom apparently he loved couldn’t make him feel such freedom from himself. He looked at her arched eyebrow and bowed down to its power on him and said "If you assume that am a local then you would be way far from the truth. Let’s say we both are here on the same purpose. Long overdue emergency holiday. By the way this revival is needed due to your MCP I guess"
Arpita smiled at his use of the word 'MCP' and told him "Did anybody tell you that you 'guess' a lot. But to answer your question, He was not the sole reason but he was the tipping point". As soon as the words were out of her mouth Arpita was amazed as to why did she tell him all this. The ever reserved secretive Arpita suddenly had no filter between her mouth and brain.
Arjun noticed how her smile suddenly turned into frown and he had this unstoppable urge to make her smile again, so he said "Aah, I guess again, that you got bored of his chair pulling and bun sharing attitude. Or was it his calling you My Lady everytime he met you. No, I bet he sent pathetic, horrible love poems everyday to declare his love.....", Arjun went down on his knees and said "maybe he was so chivalrous that your heart couldnt bear the pressure" before Arjun could find out more hideous reasons, Arpita was laughing out so loud that her eyes were filled up with tears. At that moment Arjun felt that, no matter he didnt know this woman, no matter he may never meet her again, but at this moment making her laugh was the most pleasurable thing he ever did in his life.
Arpita was laughing so hard that her eyes were filled up with tears, she didn’t remember when was the last time she laughed so much. Somehow this stranger sitting in front of her, made herfeel free for the first time in her life. She was not thinking that he was a stranger but was amazed that somehow she felt secure like never before in her life. There was something in his personality which spoke to her, which connected to her and which told her that seeing her smile was making him happy.
Arpita never knew how fast those two hours went by talking to him. Her bus came and she was actually sorry that it came on time. But she knew she had to go, there was no other option. He was nice but this meeting was not enough to make her stay, she could only wish.
When she boarded the bus Arjun stood there waving her bye and thinking how he had wished that the time spent with her never ends. He knew that this was just a moment out of his lifetime, this can’t be extended for a lifetime no matter how much he wished, but he was sure that he could never forget those beautiful eyes and easy smile.
3 years later..................
Arjun was raking through his hair while he worked and talked at the same time on the phone “So when can I expect the designer Mr.Dutta ?” he listened to the answer impatiently and mentally calculating the time spent for this “Okay but please make sure you inform that they have to dedicate their whole time to my house, I have arranged for accommodations, vehicle and everything they might need. But I want this finished on time.” He set a reminder for himself to ask Shaila to recheck the preparations. “Mr.Dutta, Am paying for their time and when I am paying for it, I want 100% of it. Or else I can look somewhere else.” He enjoyed how he could set down some people with few words. “Good that we understand. Good bye then”. He kept the receiver or rather slammed receiver down and thought to himself a 100th time “Why the hell should I organize a party in an unfinished, unfurnished home of mine in such less time.”
Arjun Talwar didn’t think it through, when he extended invitation to an impromptu party in his new home to his business acquaintances. And never even imagined how the word would spread that ‘Arjun’ is inviting people to that house of his, which was under speculation till now. Soon the small group became enormous crowd of people, and reached a point when he could no longer withdraw or postpone his invitation. But Arjun didn’t come this far in business if he didn’t know how to use an opportunity, he decided to open his newest resort right after this party and this party would be like a launch -cum-advertising party for his new venture. Being in hotel business had its own advantages, he need not worry about food or people to organize his party, the only thing that bothered him was the interior design of his empty home, he had to get it designed before the party, his reputation as the owner of pose-savvy-resort chain would be in tatters if his own home is not up to the mark. Hence the threatening call to the country’s finest designer firm.
He pressed the intercom button and told Saila “Please recheck the travel and accommodation arrangements for the designer. Mr. Dutta said they will reach by tomorrow morning. But call Mr. Dutta and take all the details of how many are coming ok.”
“Yes sir, Shall I arrange for you to reach tomorrow or would you like to go later Sir?”
“Hmmm.. no make sure I reach by tomorrow evening there. I need to have a face to face talk with the lead designer and make sure they understand my requirements. But don’t cancel my meeting with Arora. I plan to be back by next day morning.”
“Okay I will arrange everything”
Arpita decided to drive to her destination and reach there by afternoon, while her team would reach the place in the morning itself. 3 years of servitude and finally she got a project that she can lead a team. Being a designer was not easy, she had poured every minute of her life, soul and creativity to make sure Mr.Dutta notice her. He was very anxious about this project and wanted only best for this. Hence Arpita Singh was promoted to lead a team of 2 designers and 10 Assistants. Arpita was wondering who owned this house which made Mr.Dutta to actually stand and shout orders to all of them. She was glad that she finally earned her place but apprehensive as to whether will she be able to lead this team into success she yearned to achieve.
She knew the roads well, she had travelled this way a lot of times now in past 3 years. She was smiling evoked by a fond memory when she noticed that she neared the tea stall. She was still smiling when she asked for tea and a bun. She sat there and ate the bun with relish, remembering every small detail of those 2 hours spent here 3 years back. She finished her bun and tea and started to drive to her destination which was just an hour drive from there.
After asking for lots of directions and lots of turns, when Arpita finally reached the big mansion, she was mesmerized by the view point of the house and was awed by the sheer volume of the house. It had lots of space and lots of windows. Looked like the owner really loved to live in lots of light and air. Mentally she already started making designs when one of her assistants came out and started introducing her to the house.
Arpita walked every inch of house and was ranting off the designs and details she would like her assistants to note down. When she was striding down the stairs she felt his presence and then she saw him. All male and strength squeezed into black suit and black shades. He didn’t take off his shades and she knew keenly that he was staring at her, but she couldn’t show her nervousness and make him think that she was not capable. So she slowly came down the stairs with as much confidence she can muster in her.
Arjun was really staring at her, actually gaping at her. He had never thought that he would see her again, much less actually meet her. How many times he had visited that tea stall in last 3 years with a small hope that he might encounter her. He could recognise her between 10,000 people. He knew he could never forget those features and those big beautiful eyes. But he was not sure she recognised him or even remembered him. And until he was sure she recognised him, he didn’t want to make a fool of himself and tell her that he ‘Arjun Talwar’ remembered a small 2 hour talk with a stranger 3 years back to till this day. So he just stared and stared at her.
As Arpita grew nearer she felt she knew him, but as his shades covered his eyes and most of his face she couldn’t place him. Maybe he is famous in page 3, as he is obviously successful. His manner showed his arrogance and pride in his success. But somewhere she felt, she knew him not from papers but personally. Then she reasoned maybe she is too much nervous at meeting the owner of her first project. Funny enough she thought nobody introduced them, but somehow she very well knew that he owned this place.
She came and stood before him and gave a big smile and extended her hand towards him “Hi, You must be Mr. Talwar?”
Arjun lowered his glasses and smiled at her while extending his hand to shake hers “Yes, I am Arjun Talwar. And you are?”
Arpita was still gaping at that familiar face and those unforgettable black eyes when she stammered “Sorry, Am Arpita Singh, Your designer”
“My designer?” He had a light smile on his lips,
She was confused as to what he meant when it hit and she stammered again “I mean interior designer for your house”.
Arpita was searching for some recognition in his eyes and when she didn’t find any, she was confused as to tell him or not. She didn’t want to tell him that she remembered a small meeting with him 3 years back and make herself look like some closet romantic idiot.
(To be contd....)
(Part two of the story can be read here)