I’m getting married, I thought as I twirled the engagement ring around on my finger.
I looked at him from across the room, making lame jokes with Pappa, both of them trying not to feel out of sorts and I only saw the cute boy I fell head-over-butt-over-heels* for in the first year of college. Nitin had grown up, I smiled at the thought.
Nobody had expected us to last a month; when we did until the end of college, they said marriage was out of question. Now here we are, the very same people, wishing me all the joy in the world and checking out my jewellery, promising that they’d come for the wedding.
He was the one who made it work, though. I gave myself no credit for the volatile, moody, opinionated, ambitious, idealistic brat I was. But he’d proved time and again that he was here to stay, take all the shit I threw his way, make me hurt for the very same shit and keep me grounded. Nitin was the one who came home and asked Pappa for his daughter’s hand, true old world style. He was the one who put up with the whiplash tongue of Mummy’s when she riddled him with questions about her eldest daughter’s future. He was also the one who never let me go once during the whole time I’d gone to meet his parents.
He still held my hand while crossing the road, bought me golguppas from the ‘unhygienic’ stalls and never came to see me without a Crackle and a brand new book. Ever.
Yes, I’d gotten lucky. So very lucky.
But it still nagged me. Nagged me like a tiny worm in the apple, at the corner of her heart. Nagged me that I still dreamt, thought about him. Sometimes. Maybe it was just the incompleteness of it all; it ate away at my happiness, in wee little bits.
I hated myself for it and knew that Nitin would be infinitely sad if he knew about this – it was the only secret I had from him. Only.
I got down from the bus and tied my hair into a messy ponytail before hauling the backpack on. I stood there for a minute, a full minute, questioning my sanity. But this was something I’d meant to do for a full eight years now.
Firming my resolve, I took out my phone and dialed.
“Hey.” I tried to keep the automatic smile out of my voice.
“Does Fernandez ring a bell?”
“Fernandez!! Long time, dude. Whaddap with you? New number?”
“You are in Bangalore? Where? For how long?”
“Just for the weekend.”
“Business or pleasure? Is naacheez se milne ka koi iraada hai kya?”
“Btw, you remember you owe me something? I’ve come to collect, Mr. Naacheez.”
“The ride?! You still remember?” His deep throaty laugh sounded at the other end.
“YOU still remember. I’m surprised, Shiv. Very surprised”
“I don’t say things aiway, Ms. Nina Fernandez. When are you coming to collect?”
“Now?! Didn’t you just get here?”
I didn’t say anything.
“Where exactly are you?”
“Next to the bus stand, in front of a Wills Lifestyle showroom.”
“Don’t move. Bye.”
My hands shook slightly as I put the phone away. Now there was no looking back, he was coming. I brushed off thoughts about Nitin and steeled my will.
Damn, I’d forgotten how handsome he was. Devilishly hot – a term he redefined. Right from those beautiful, commanding eyes that had first drawn her gaze to him, and held, to the floppy hair that still was floppy to his impeccable sense of dressing that made him swoon-worthy. The trademark smirk was already in place by the time he parked his Avenger in front of me, “Hellloo, Nina. Long time… too long I should say” and gave me the Once-Over.
“Uh hmm… You look exactly the same as in college, you know?” was all I could manage without making a fool of myself.
“And you look faaaiyyyn, girl. Planning for a wedding suits you, I suppose,” he said with a wink.
“Shameless, still,” I quipped with a genuine grin this time. “Are we going to stand here talking all day?”
“What’s stopping you from getting on,” he came back. “Where do you wanna go?”
So I got onto to the bike and held on for dear life while he weaved in an out of traffic like he was born on a bike.
We sat on the cliff top munching away at the channa he’d got for us.
“So what does it feel like? Getting married and all?”
“I don’t know, honestly. I’m kinda numb now, waiting for it to hit me still…”
“Isn’t this what you have been wanting to happen since you got together with that Douchebag?”
“He doesn’t like you either, so I let that slide.” I huffed.
“Yeah, well, I’ll never forgive him for stealing you away”
I looked at him startled, sure that he was kidding.
He’d never said anything like this before, not in all these years of intermittent contact, the occasional texts and the very, very rare calls. Nothing to indicate he’d ever considered even going out with me.
Not that it would have made a difference, though.
He was looking at the sunset which was apparently far more interesting that my flabbergasted face. “Oh, close you mouth, I’m not that good looking alright?”
It was all I could to not hit him. “Jackass” I murmured.
A few moments of silence and he turned and looked at me, “You never knew?”
“That I broke up with Anagha because of you?”
“She caught me staring at you one time too many…”
I was lost for words; I sat there with my mouth open for the second time.
“Stop looking like an adorably brainless goldfish and get your tush up, it’s time to go.”
We got up and made our way to the bike and he took me back to the bus station like a good little boy, I didn’t have to pray this time.
“Chalo bye, I don’t think I’ll make it to the wedding, but do NOT cut the cake at the reception until I get there or there’ll be hell to pay, Miss Fernandez.”
And he kissed me.
The world didn’t stop, the skies didn’t fall down but I felt it with every frayed nerve ending. It was over before I could even start processing it for what it was.
“For old times’ sake. For old flames sake. You take care”
And he rode off. Ironically, into the sunset.
“If you were single when I met you. Or if I were single when you met me.
Maybe things would have been different.
A story that ended before it even started.”
* expression copyright Varun Nanda
P.S: Viya, I kept thinking of you while writing this, I have NO clue why:)
Edit: It is ENTIRELY fiction. Resemblance to living characters is not regretted though.
Bangaloreans, please excuse my poor knowledge of the city as well.