It had been almost fifteen minutes and still no sign of him.
Strangely enough, she felt disturbed by this fact. It was like she was almost
looking forward to meeting him.

The phone ring cleared her thoughts abruptly.

“Hello, no I will take another two hours at least. I am out
with Astha shopping,” she quickly ended the phone call.

Lying was the last thing she wanted to resort to, but
clearly Subhash was in no state to hear the truth.

Surely enough as soon
as Ananya placed the phone back on the table, he came.

He wasn’t very tall, but then what lacked in stature quite
made up in his dominant personality. One look at him and you knew he always
kept things under his control. A strange forbidding aura which made you feel
scared yet at some level secured as well.

“You seem to be excited to meet me. Girls being on time is
rare and those who reach before time, almost extinct. Must be my alluring
personality, I have that effect on people,” he spoke in jest while drawing the
chair to sit.

“Is nothing serious for you?” she asked more out of
curiosity than accusation.

He laughed throwing his head back, “Says somebody who used
my personal choices to gain attention, falsely. Where did you get that haggard
copy of Bhagwat Gita?”

She began to feel a little uncomfortable under the light of
this present train of conversation, but it was not so much the words as his
complete disarming smile which seemed to make her believe like he was
completely enjoying the banter.

“Don’t worry, I have completely put all that behind. For
starters, can we now get to meet the real Ananya? I love what you are wearing
today, trust me jeans and Tshirt suits your personality far more,” he said,
sipping the glass of water on the side.

She smiled, “And this shirt trousers combo sans the coat,
makes you look a lot less intimidating.”
“Thank you, thank you. So intimidating is not your type? But
from whatever little you have told me, this Subhash guy seems to be a pretty
dominating kind,” he said carelessly.

The soft, happy expressions suddenly got replaced by some
deep disturbing lines on her face.
“I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have said something like that.
Its something very personal to you,” he gushed embarrassingly.

“No, its fine. Its completely alright. Its not like you have
said anything wrong here,” she answered quietly.
“So mum has completely gone bonkers over you. You seem to
have become her hot favourite discussion off late,” he quickly tried to change
the course of conversation.

“I am flattered. But Dhruv, I can’t marry you. I love
Subhash way too much and I have never imagined my life with anyone else but
him,” she couldn’t speak any further but her choked throat and watery eyes
didn’t require her to continue.

He stared at her face for a long time, she looked so
innocent in that expression of love she was sporting. The whole idea was love,
not the man or the relationship but the love she had.

He waited for her to regain her composure before continuing,
“Ananya, I understand. After today, I promise there would be no more calls or
meetings. For the sake of making my mother happy, I asked you out today. There
will be no further pursuance from now on.”

                *                             *                             *                             *                             
                       
She probably had another ten minutes before they come
looking for her.

The last one month had swayed from one high to another low
and despite all her efforts she found herself at a threshold she had
desperately tried not to be.

She quickly picked up her bag and quietly tip toed out of
the room.

She must have waited barely for thirty seconds before an
autorickshaw stopped. She smiled to herself, how strange that is. But then she
is not surprised, after all its not everyday a woman in complete bridal attire
stands looking for a ride.

She turned one last time to see the house, it would probably
be another fifteen minutes before they find the letter. By that time she would
be far off from them.

“Bhaiya, Swastik apartments,” with these instructions the
auto roared out into the wide road.

                *                             *                             *                             *                        
                                 
“Ananya,” his voice startled her into suddenly getting up,
causing the delicately placed golden sequined duppatta to slip off the head.

“You look so beautiful tonight. Straight out of my dreams,”
he spoke softly.

She involuntarily blushed.

“Come here, sit next to me,” he spoke liltingly.
She quietly obeyed his polite command.

Clad in red and gold from head to toe she looked to be every
man’s unrelinquished desire. Desire, the word itself brought a mirage of
pictures for him. Perhaps suitable for a better time.

“Does he know?” he asked.

She didn’t speak, only mirrored her incomprehension in the
eyes.

“Does he know that you know about her?” he asked again, this
time with piercing gaze.

She shook her head but not before expressing utter confusion
on her face.

“You crossed my car today,” he paused for a few seconds
before continuing, “while sitting in the auto.”

She didn’t know what to say,
words perhaps were too little to salvage the situation now. 
                    
She smiled weakly, “I thought I was finally following my
heart. I almost ran all the way upto his apartments’ door. It was slightly
ajar. I could see her sitting in his lap and laughing. She looked so much in
love and happy, for a moment it didn’t hurt. I thought I should walk in, scream
and shout, expose his hypocrisy. But then I began feeling the pain. I again
looked at her, she was still laughing at one of his lame remarks. I thought I
can’t live, knowing I was the reason someone lost out on this feeling of love.
I walked down onto the street and took the first auto back home.”

Again the receding silence of the room filled up the space
between them.

She looked up at him, this time with slight confusion on
face, “how did you know about her?”

“Go off to sleep now, Ananya. Its been a long day. I promise
tomorrow will be a better one,” he spoke quietly.

                *                             *                             *                             *                             
                           
Beep Beep.

She was still wide awake when the phone rang. She looked at
the clock on the table, four thirty.

She rolled over to check the phone kept on the other side.

New mail alert on her phone. From Subhash.

“Its strange a feeling to be even texting you now. You are
someone else’s girl. Never imagined how that would feel. The past two months
have been taxing to say the least. And I have a confession to make, I have been
seeing someone else for a while. Nothing serious, but yes a girl in picture
alright. I know you must be feeling hurt right now, reading this. But we were
always so unhappy this last one year. Fighting, shouting screaming and what
not. I loved you a lot. In fact if I am permitted to say so, I still do. But I
had forgotten what it was to be in love and happy. I don’t know if you can
forgive me but I just wanted you to know the truth. If not love then maybe
sheer hatred can help you move on. I know I have been very mean to you but I
wish if I could tell you how much I loved you all these years. And you looked
gorgeous in the red and gold lehenga tonight. I asked Astha to send me a
picture of you.”

She realised that the screen was fast becoming blurred for
her, she blinked away the tears.

She almost clicked on the delete button and then something
changed her mind. While drinking the water from the glass kept on the table,
her eyes fell on the side couch.

Dhruv was almost shivering in cold there, she quietly walked
upto him and pulled over the blanket. All of a sudden, a book landed on the
ground with a loud thud. She bent over to pick it up, when she saw that
something had dropped out of it. A photograph.

The girl in the picture looked to be not a day over twenty.
Her free flowing hair and sunshine beauty seemed to almost beam all over the
frame.

“You are not the only one who has been in love with the idea
of love,” his mocking voice flooded the eerie quietness in the room.

She turned to face his calm expression.

“Are you ready to start our own cocktail of love stories we
have survived? The great love story of Ananya and Dhruv, who loved and lost and
then found each other?” he asked, still holding her gaze in his.

“No, there will be no love story,” she spoke quietly.

He looked a little taken a back at her answer.

“Only love, no story. Stories have ends always, often quite
bitter ones,” with these words she again began looking at the picture in hand.

He took the photograph from her hand and put it aside. He
then drew her close to himself and quietly whispered in her ears, “then love it
will be.”
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