Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Gentleman's Promise

Looking up to the sunshine, in the hopes of a beautiful day!
The night was dark, just like that phase of her life was. She was on the phone, talking in as hushed a voice as possible as her cousins were asleep in the adjacent room. The guy on the other side asked her repeatedly to speak loudly but she was scared, of one particular cousin to find out that she was talking to a guy other than him, that too to a guy he disliked as he had some sort of premonition about him taking this girl away someday.

The person who was on the other side had just proposed to her the previous week. He was in Army and had a busy working schedule. He tried to keep up with pressures of new-found love by calling her regularly, but what he thought was regular for him was uncomfortable for her. For instance, he called her at odd hours, sometimes from a desert where he was lodged for the night, sometimes from a tent or a truck. Some days he would not call at all and later when he called, he told her he had to walk a few kilometres to another sand dune to get cellphone reception.

She had learnt to keep her phone close to her at all times in the past week, as she would wait for him to call, just like all other girls in her hostel did. The girls teased her to no end since she met him, and never failed to mention his name, as if they knew all along that eventually they would come close, and she responded with fake irritation, smiling internally. They were in contact for a few months now, after reuniting on a social network after almost 10 years. They had been together in school, and she tries to think even today how  it would have been if they had fallen in love then! 

She was sitting on the mattress on the floor, looking over her shoulder for the signs of this nasty cousin, trying to keep the conversation on as she could hear the wind howling on the other side as he spoke. Trying to understand what he was saying, she bobbed her head to the left asking 'What?' and instantly turned right to see the cousin standing there, like a monster from a nightmare, his raging eyes almost burning her down. She gasped, but regained her composure somewhat, as she realized that she was still on phone, with someone she regarded very special to herself.

'Who are you talking to?' he asked, breathing heavily, his whole body shaking with rage, though he knew the answer clearly. 'That ***? '
She tried to come up with something, anything that could save the moment, but random sounds escaped her lips, as she thought of the guy on the other side. 

In one instant, baring teeth like a rabid dog, he snatched the phone away from her hands and smashed it on the floor, sending its parts flying across the room. She was numb with shock and fear. But only for an instant. She was now worried about her boyfriend and what would happen now to their one week old long distance love affair! He would have heard this and would find it very rude that she hung up on him. After all, army guys are well mannered, and they expect to see good manners in return too. He will break up with her now. Oh, the only guy she ever liked so much would hate her!

In tears, she collected the phone parts from all over the room, and sat down on the mattress to join the pieces as she wished her shattered love story could also be simply assembled like that. Watching her sobbing and trying to put the phone together with shaky hands, the cousin sat by her side and took the phone from her. He put all the parts in place and gave it back to her. 

'Okay, don't cry now. Call him.' Of course, she was already dialing the now most important phone number of her life. The phone was ringing, but he did not pick it up. She tried calling many times, but it was not answered. Something she knew already. It was certainly the worst phase of her life, already bleak, ridden with multiple bouts of sickness, repeated failures at building a career of her choice, and now this, a heartbreak, which she had least expected.

Crestfallen, she put the phone on the mattress, as her cousin tried to console her. She could not register what he was saying. All she could say to him was 'He will never talk to  me again,' between her uncontrollable sobs. 

Her cousin had once been her best friend. He assumed himself in the place of her guardian since she arrived in this city to study. With time, this love took skewed parameters as he obsessed over her. He would pressure her to visit him every weekend, he came to meet her almost daily on some or the other excuse, talking to her on the phone when not visiting, keeping a tab on when and where she went, even with her girl friends, what she was wearing on these outings without him etc, which would make her feel stuck in a cage. Despite of her severe admonitions which were sometimes borderline threats, he would never stop trying to control her life. To add to her woes, he also tried to act like her boyfriend. Friendless and lonely, and mostly naive, she listened to him and laughed off his romantic advances thinking he is only joking. He never liked her talking to her male classmates or any other guys. The fact that she had a real boyfriend now obviously made him mad with jealousy.

Though he was apologetic the next morning, she packed her backpack and told him in a cold voice, 'Nobody has a right to tell me who should I talk to or fall in love with. Not even my parents do what you did. Whatever happens, I am not setting foot again in this house. You suffocate me.'

'Oh, but you say that every time you get angry. You will visit next weekend, of course.'

But she hoped to keep her resolution this time. A hope that was on the verge of being snuffed out.

Later that morning, as she was finding it utterly difficult to concentrate on the lecture with burning eyes and scorched heart, her phone started ringing. To her utter disbelief, it was the boyfriend. She rushed out of the class, excusing herself. What would he say? would he be angry? how would she tell him about the cousin? She was breathless with all the effort of carrying the ringing phone with such great expectations and an audibly beating heart. 

'Hello?' It came out as a question.
'Hi,' his sunshine filled voice replied, as she pictured him smiling. 'How are you? All well? I saw your missed calls last night. Sorry, I just walked up to this road, there was no connectivity in my tent.' 
'So, you are not angry with me?' The warmth in his voice was already melting away her fears, resurrecting her hope.
'No, why?'
'Because the call got disconnected last night.'
'Yeah, that was abrupt, but the connectivity is so bad in this area, I thought I will call you back when I reach my camp. But there was simply no network.'
'But why didn't you pick up when I called?' 
'Oh, we had started from our halt, and I could not hear my phone ringing over all the rumble these tanks make.'
'Ohh,' she sighed with relief. So in all its likelihood, the bad network had saved her love story.
'Achha listen,' he said, ' Forward me the number of your cousin, I should talk to him. He seems to have a big problem with me, I don't see why, and I should get it sorted out.'
There, her heart skipped a beat. So, he had heard it and was still not breaking up with her.
'Hello, what happened? Do not worry. I knew something was quite out of place when you first told me about him. Remember, I will not judge you, ever. It is a gentleman's promise.'

Oh, she fell even deeper in his love. There were people like him, who took it upon themselves to sort out the anomalies created by others and there were people like her cousin who did not even have his own life sorted out.

Her life suddenly started looking beautiful. She finally had found the right person who she could actually love like she loved her family, strength to overcome the cousin's pressure and hopes for a future where she could be free, to do whatever, go wherever with anyone she wished, wear whatever clothes she liked. In a few months she would out of this city and this cousin would be a matter of the past.

She gave him the number, he called, as she had expected the cousin did not talk to him after he introduced himself. The cousin kept visiting her and calling her while she stayed there for the duration of her academic tenure. She kept her promise and never went to his place again. She moved to a far away city for work, gradually the communication with the cousin became scarce and died down as she had intended. The army guy had become her knight in shining armour by just being there like an anchor.

Written as a post for the prompt 'Look Up Stories' for