Return – Chapter 4

As I walked back, I pondered on how she would feel if she knew of this. She had always been patient when it came to listening to stories about Shaena. She was beautiful. We were beautiful. Irtiqa. When we first met, we had talked for a couple of hours before we exchanged our names, and by then it had been too late for us to back out. How everything went after that, and what it led to, only we knew. Irtiqa, she said, meant progression. She had kept the entire thing afloat, and somehow I had felt it was her who I owed so much in my life. But life is a strange affair, and we were meant to not be. If she were here today, she would probably have walked with me, discussed if it were right, whatever I was doing, and maybe even encourage me a little, boost up my confidence, that pretty smile that changed everything, those instantaneous hugs and pats on the head… it had been a good time together.

I sat in the drawing room, waiting for Shaena to come downstairs. On the opposite wall, there was a poster, which reminded me of a stanza which she had read out to me ages ago.

“For when the sky is dark,
The rains will come,
And when the rains do come,
The dust will wash off,
And when the dust washes off,
New dust will settle,
Until the sky turns dark again.”

It seemed so true and so clearly untrue at the same time. Indeed life was a circle. Not one big one, but many small circles. You kept going round and round unless you found the way out. For me, I still hadn’t discovered the way, and was engulfed in it, round and round and round. I looked up at the ceiling, the fan moving persistently, in slow circles, never tiring. I wondered what would happen if the fan rotated counter clockwise instead of clockwise, and whether it would just break out of the ceiling and fall on my head if I were to close my eyes. I kept my eyes open. Irtiqa kept interrupting my thoughts. I thought of the day when I had finally decided I would ask her out, and then the tumultuous events that led to me deciding for once and all, that it was never meant to be. Once a while I looked up the stairs to see if she was coming down.

After half an hour she did. She looked mesmerizing. It would have been wrong to say she looked just pretty, or gorgeous. She looked different. Different from how she looked yesterday, when we met for the first time in years. Of course, she didn’t realize she was talking to me then. She had drank more than she was capable of. We had talked as if we were strangers, until Saeeka turned up. Things changed, and I instantaneously left that place. But how she talked today didn’t really suggest she had any idea of what happened yesterday. And maybe that was for the good, because it would have been the worst possible reunion I could have imagined if it were to happen that way. But things happen, they just, happen. They are not always under your control. Two years back, when Irtiqa and I first kissed (and it was the last time too), it just happened. We never talked about it again, pretending as if it never happened. Could it be Shaena was pretending too? Whatever it was, I decided to let it be as it was. She came down the stairs. “Let’s go?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied, and we walked out.

On our way, she chattered consistently. It felt nice to listen to her, after such a long time. The wind blew through her hair, so she took it up all in a bun, but then she saw the dismayed face that I had involuntarily and unintentionally made, and she left it open again. It was only after she smiled that I realized my face was crooked. “Have you read A Song of Ice and Fire?” she asked. “Oh yes, it is one of my favorite series,” I replied. It had been fifteen minutes since the last time I spoke, and so I had to grab this opportunity. But she didn’t let me. Instead, she prattled about her friends, college, life, thoughts, plans, wishes, memories and what not. Even so, it felt good. The winter wind on my face, the damp sun after the rain, and the snowy streets, all reminded me of times long gone by. We crossed a pond, where in the summer you would spot lots of fishermen trying to grab their lot of fishes for the day. Now, however, it was covered with a sheet of ice. The trees were white too, as if they had white leaves. The aroma of Christmas floated. It was less than a fortnight away. “I have a friend, her name is Irtiqa,” I said. “Oh, nice name,” she said, before continuing with whatever she was talking about. It was five minutes later that she realized I wanted to tell her something, and then she finally stopped talking. It was my turn.

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