Vineet’s hand shuddered as he rang the doorbell. He fidgeted nervously, adjusting his shirt and watch, a last minute check to see if his hair was ok and whether he smelt nice. He cleared his throat several times and waited for Sandhya to open the door. He poised the bouquet of red roses ready to be given to her.
He thought of the first time he had come to meet her here 6 months ago. He had been as nervous and fidgety that time around too. He went back to the memories of that day.
Sandhya opened the door, a shy smile spreading on her lips making way for him to come in.
He wondered whether he should give her a hug or a handshake and then did neither, preferring to settle on the couch nearby.
“Hello Sandhya”, and then a pause, while he noticed how ravishing she looked in her blue saree, “err… umm...h… how…how have you been?”
“Helooooooo….How are you?” Sandhya was her usual chirpy self.
“You look like your tails on fire! What’s with the stammer?” She giggled.
“Nothing, I’m umm..sorry, its actually such a long time that…” he stopped for loss of words.
“These roses... for me?”
“Oh yea, I meant to give it you as soon as I came, but…” more loss of words as he handed her the bouquet.
“Thank you. You remembered that I love red roses? Mmm...they smell great! I’ll just be back. Some water?”
As she disappeared into the kitchen, he admired how gracefully she walked, and what a lovely smile she had. Was this the same Sandy he knew 15 years ago? The same Sandy who had been almost geeky, gawky, bespectacled, scrawny girl, was now standing before him after 15 long years, looking spectacular and ravishing! His thoughts went back to his college days when they were best buddies.
She had been the brightest girl on the campus and yet charming in her own ways. It helped that they stayed close by; they would often travel to college together and had become best buddies. He had secretly taken a liking to her but never mustered the courage to tell her that for the fear of losing a valuable friendship. He never knew what she thought about him though.
They had stayed in touch for quite some time before they got married and got busy in their own lives. The phone calls had dwindled over the years and they had been completely out of touch for the past 4-5 years now.
It was while visiting his friend Anurag, and browsing through his wedding pictures that he saw Sandy and was glad he found her again. What a happy coincidence it was that they were in the same city!
His thoughts were disrupted by Sandy, who walked in with a tray full of samosas and jalebis.
“Lost in thought Vinci?”
Ah! How good it felt to be hearing that, she had nicknamed him Vinci after the lovely paintings he made and no one else called him by that name but her.
“Hmm…traveled way back to college…!”
“Still find time to paint?”
“I have not held a brush in my hand after I got married” he said with a matter-of-fact look on his face.
He told her about his wife and kids, what they did and how he had found out about her. “I was so happy to know you stayed here. Imagine! My best friend staying in the same city and me not knowing about it!”
“I thought I’d never find you again.” She sounded a little somber this time.
“But I found you, didn’t I?” he laughed.
“I am glad you did.” She sat close to him and he saw her eyes starting to moisten.
“Is everything ok, Sandy?” he asked taking her hand in his.
To his surprise she burst out into tears holding him in an embrace. He felt her warm body against his, her warm tears trickling down his shoulders. He let her cry till she felt better to speak.
“What’s wrong?” he asked wiping her tears. “Is it your family? Your parents? Your husband? Are they ok?”
“I am separated from my husband; I had enough of his slapping and kicking. Neither my parents nor in-laws believed one word of what I said. Even my bruises couldn’t convince them that I was being hurt. I am all alone now. Oh, how I missed you Vinci, having no one to share my grief and pain.”, she sobbed.
Vineet’s heart went out her and he wondered how someone could have been so cruel to such a delicate and charming wife. She was a gem, a great friend, a greater human being. He had always known her to be kind and helpful to everyone. She always had her trademark smile on her lips no matter how difficult things might be. It pained him to see her cry like this.
He thought of his own wife, who was a constant nag. She could never find anything good about him. There was always something to complain about. Thirteen years of marriage had left him completely exhausted and drained. As Sandy softly sobbed on his shoulders he wondered when was the last time he had sat so close to his wife. She never seemed to have the time for him. She was always rushing about her job and the kids and the housework. She had time for everything but him.
He felt Sandy move away and quickly compose herself.
“I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have brought this up now. We were meeting after such a long time; I wished I had been more pleasant. I’m so sorry Vinci.”
“Don’t be, Sandy. What are friends for? I don’t know what I can do to reduce your hurt and pain, but now that we’ve found each other I’ll do my best to cheer you up.”
They made plans to meet up later that week.
They kept meeting every weekend after that and he saw her become chirpy and bright again. She cooked his favorite dishes when he came and made him paint again. Picking up his brush and dipping it into paint was never so exciting before. They listened to their favorite songs and chatted away. He discovered the lost Vineet who had gotten concealed under the routine of his life. He was happy to be in her company.
Five months had passed by and another one of their lovely weekends had come to an end. It was time for goodbyes, when he walked to her.
“Sandy,” he held her hands in his and looked into her deep brown eyes, “I want to tell you something. I have been in love with you ever since we were in college. Somehow I could never tell you this; I didn’t want to lose your friendship. But I want you to know this now.” He looked at her with love. “You have made my life complete.”
“I wish you had said this before, Vinci. I was so in love with you too. And now you complete my life too.” She looked away with sadness tinting her voice. “But isn’t it a bit too late for you to say this?”
“It is never too late, my love. I am not happy with my marriage too, I want to talk it over to my wife and end it all. And then we’ll be together forever. Let’s meet again in a month’s time. I’ll need the time to initiate the proceedings.”
They held each other in a long embrace, he wondering how he would break the news to his wife, and she wondering if it was the right thing to do.
He had been waiting almost for 15 minutes lost in their whirlwind romance for the past few months of their life. He had not realised that Sandy had not yet opened the door. He had been standing frozen in time as he heard footsteps nearby. Was it Sandy? He wondered if she had not been at home and was just coming in. But it was her neighbor, Sarika instead.
“Vineet bhai, Sandhya has left this letter for you.” she handed over an envelope to him.
“Thanks, where’s she?”
“She didn’t tell me.”
Vineet tore open the letter, hands trembling, hoping all was well with her. His eyes moistened as he read.
“My dearest Vinci,
I have been thinking about your proposal for the last 1 month. Initially it made me very happy to know that you were back into my life and exactly how I would have wanted it 15 years back. But slowly I realized what a fool I was. There’s a world of difference between wanting you 15 years back and wanting you now. Maybe seeing you after such a long time and my loneliness brought us closer, but I realized that is not really what I want.
You make me so happy, but we would be better off as friends than as life partners. The space we give each other makes our relationship beautiful. Let us be the way we used to be. Moreover, I don’t want to be the one responsible for breaking the hearts of your wife and lovely children.
However I still want you to be my best friend. I will call you once I know what you have to say about this.
Vineet smiled and folded the letter and put it into his pocket. He took out an envelope from his bag and handed them to Sarika with the roses.
“Give this to her when she comes.”
After Vineet had left, Sarika rang the bell again and this time Sandy answered the call.
“He’s gone?” she asked
“Yes. And I gave him your letter.”
“He smiled after he read it and gave me this envelope and flowers.”
Sandy smelt the flowers, they seemed to smell like him, and she smiled at the thought.
She read his letter.
“My sweetest Sandy,
I may sound like a pig once you read through this and you may even want to kill me for saying this. But I thought about my proposal to you for the past 1 month and almost kicked myself for what I was about to do.
I had always complained about my wife and what a nag she was, how she was not devoting her time to me. But when I was about to tell her about us, I decided to be nice to her for at least a couple of weeks before breaking the news to her. I tried helping her out with her chores and spending time with her and the children. I was being courteous and polite to her. She was thrilled and her nagging stopped almost miraculously. We were spending more time together and I found out that she shared my love for painting.
I realized that every single minute of her day is devoted entirely to me and our children. Poor soul, she is so exhausted that she could not even afford to sit with me for some time.
So I had been the one not been making any real effort to make our marriage work, it was never her. I could not bring myself to tell her about us.
I am so sorry; I am breaking your heart like this. But please forgive me. I feel so rotten that I cannot say this to you looking at you in your eyes. Call me if you’ve forgiven me after reading this.
She smiled and picked up her mobile. She was happy her friendship had survived the test of time.
“Helooooooo….How about coffee, say at about 5, Vinci?”
(image courtesy: google)