Thursday 15 August 2013

Short Story 2013 Longlist, Ajinkya Raut


Ryan and Seema had exchanged their vows in a church in front of a pastor and amongst their kin and friends. Ryan, wore his best suit and looked his best. He had always been this charmer, with  dimpled smile, that could just please anybody who saw it. If there was a phrase that could suit him, it would surely be tall, dark and handsome. A phrase that summed his appearance completely.

To top it all, he belonged to the defence, he was quintessential man Seema would surely have dreamt of. He was her man in uniform, and he was as attractive as he could get. Seema, on the other hand was this petite, demure looking girl, with almond shaped eyes, that never needed any make up, they were just plain attractive. Apart from her eyes, if there was anything that was more attractive, it was her wit, her intelligence and her in innate ability to understand. This is what had attracted Ryan more towards her, or so he had said. It was an arranged marriage, though it took only two weeks and a meeting for Seema to say a yes, it was Ryan who took more than a month to agree to get married.
The pastor read some verses from the Bible and as soon as he pronounced them Man and Wife, there was hooting from Ryan’s friends, giggly cheers from Seema’s clan of friends and a merry applause from relatives of both sides. It was a joyous moment. Seema’s best friend and her clan of friends had gathered around her and made the air around her more cheery and bubbly. Seema’s best friend Alicia  had then hugged Seema so tight, that seema seemed to be gasping for some air. There, Sameer to had done same to Ryan, though he seemed to be whispering something into his ear and gave a sly smile and a high five and then a laughter, a naughty joke had been cracked.

When the time had come to dance, Ryan and Seema were pushed in first and the tradition be followed the Best Man Sameer and Bridesmaid Alicia were pushed in next. Later the couples and couples-to-be  followed. Sameer and Alicia seemed to be enjoying each others company, and it was Alicia who seemed to be chirpy otherwise, was quiet and seemed to be enjoying whatever Sameer had to say. They looked good together Seema had thought, though just in passing.

Gradually, people started leaving and it was only Ryan and Seema’s friend that had stayed back to bid the couple good bye. Everybody had some quirky thing to say to the bride and the groom before they left and it was fun for Seema to listen to Ryan’s drunk and tipsy friends. They all seemed so sober when they had come in, but now under the influence of alcohol, everybody seemed to be funnily insane.
“I feel the luckiest man today, that I have I got you. The vows I exchanged there in church are not really what I would like to tell you. I have written something for you, and I would like you to hear them. They are the vows I would like to take.” Said Ryan once they were in the bedroom and saying this he had pulled out a piece of paper from inner pocket of his tuxedo. Unfolding it he began “I Ryan D’costa, vows to be with you in times of sickness and health, in happiness and in pain, in winters and in rain, and in sunny summers too!!” he chortled. “But more importantly, I vow to love you with every growing day. I vow to be understanding, patient and caring when the need be. I vow be patient with your mistakes, and forgiving towards your follies. I vow not to stray, I vow to be only yours. I vow to conquer your heart and your mind with only love. I vow to please you with luxury and comfort as and when it comes. Though my profession won’t allow me, and we shall be separated by distance, I vow to be together, I vow to be around when you need me” he continued “I vow to kiss you when sad, make you smile when you low, please you when you need to be pleased, comforted and cared when you are hurt. I vow to grow in your love. I vow to build a home out of a house, a home that shall truly be ours. I vow an eternity of togetherness, I vow an eternity filled with love.” He concluded and looked up at Seema, whose eyes were now moist and no sooner than a second he had finished, she had thrown his arms around him and hugged him.

The next morning, they had left for their honeymoon, to Goa. They chose Goa for two reasons, it was nearby and the other, it was a beach place. Ryan was bored of being amidst the mountains always, he was always posted in the hilly terrain, and a beach would be a much needed change for him. So Goa it was. It was only a short honeymoon of 6 nights and 5 days. But it was the only time that they had got with themselves, for Ryan was supposed to report to duty day after.  So they had made the most of it. Every evening of their honeymoon, they would spend walking on the beach, hand in hand talking at length about so many things. First, about his school days, how he chose to enter the defence, how difficult it had been to convince his parents. Then he spoke of his parents and about how they need to be taken care of, their expectations from their daughter-in-law, their likes their dislikes. Soon the topic shifted to his workplace, Ryan told Seema about the conditions they live in, his training days, his adventures and his blunders too. He told about his comrades in his squad, about each and everybody. He spoke of Sameer, his best buddy, and how good they had bonded since day one. He mentioned every single thing that he could remember of. Seema patiently heard, and wondered how difficult life must be to live in a condition like that, and more importantly how it would be to  always be under someone’s order and command, to be disciplined. At the same moment, she felt proud of her husband and as soon as the feeling had entered, it was replaced by a little fear. Images of war had jus flashed in front of her. She shook her head to shake those images off. Seema didn’t want to even speak of a topic like war and its consequences. Seema just loved listening to her husband and told very less about her, she would always rather be playful with him, teasing him no end. Seema always loved the way Ryan would hold her, by the waist, it made Seema feel secure and loved at the same time. It just reassured her that how much he loved her.

The days of honeymoon told Seema more about Ryan, as a person, but it is only at night she saw Ryan, the lover. Passion in his eyes, always. His love seemed truer every growing night, as if he nurtured it through the day and it blossomed at night, spreading its fragrance, enticing Seema, making her fall in love more than ever.  She was content that she had made the right choice.

It was their last night in Goa. They sat by the beach in their resting chairs. “I refuse to let you go. You can’t go. How can you? What am I supposed to do here when you are away there, polishing your Gun, rifle or whatever? Please don’t go.” Seema demanded. Ryan laughed, cupped her hand in his palms and said “you are so cute, you know. My sweet little baby.” “stop babying me, its not funny. I am gonna miss you. Its freaking me out already.” Seema cried. Ryan got on his knees, sat besides her chair, held her hand and said “I know you’ll miss me. I know its freaking you out. It’s freaking me out too, I am gonna miss you a hell lot. But I am a little helpless soldier, I must go. And its only a good bye till we meet again. Its only a matter of 6 months baby and I’ll be back. Do you want me to quit? I wish I could, but I am bound.” As soon as he had finished saying this, he just re thought what he had just said, Quit? He had never thought of it until now, never. It was his passion. He thought it over again but he didn’t find a reason why he had said so, he didn’t find a reason at all, but then it had occurred to him, he was in love, he was. But there was still a question that was writhing in his mind, a question that was troubling him since a few days now.
“I am more than glad you said that. But no, don’t quit. I’ll be ok. And you better not forget your vows, or I’ll spank you. Get that??” Seema said playfully, and they both laughed. That night they made most passionate love. Made love as if there was no tomorrow.  They made love in candle light. Steamy, passionate love.
Next morning, they left for Mumbai, and reached home. Ryan rested for a while, and simply took his army bag, checked his stuff and packed it again. Seema had hugged him for one last time and had said with tears in her eyes “you better remember your vows, or you know” she came closer to him and whispered in his ears “I’ll spank you”. He had laughed and kissed her on the forehead. The army jeep had come to pick him up at the gate.  Punctuality was their virtue. As soon as they had come, they left, and Seema was seen long waving, till the jeep was no more in sight.
First few weeks were very tough to pass by, it seemed to Seema that time refused to move. It was still. She had received only one call from Ryan and that was after he had reached there. After that 2 weeks has passed and there was no call. She was more than angry. It was just then that the army courier person knocked at the door with a small looking parcel for her. She signed the receipt in hurry and a grin had jus appeared on her face and she tore the cover like a eager teenager wanting to know the contents of the wrapped gift. The parcel had a few photographs of him, and a letter. She kept asides the photographs for later, but jus tore the envelope open and unfolded the letter. The page bore emblem of the Indian Army in the centre and Ryan’s name on the top left corner. A sense of pride had just visited Seema.
My darling sweetheart,
Sorry, sorry sorry, very sorry my baby. I know its been 2 weeks since I am here and I haven’t called you since but once. But there’s nothing I can do you know. The weather is bad here and the phone lines have been disconnected. I am really sorry that I couldn’t call. So I sit at 3 in the morning now to write this letter to my beautiful wife.
Well, in case you haven’t seen the photographs and haven’t noticed the letter head carefully. I have been promoted a rank up. I so miss all of you. And I miss you the most, because there’s no one who can
give me the reward I need ;) So to celebrate my promotion, Sameer has organized a small party at the army canteen. It’ll be fun I know. But I’ll miss you too. Sameer seems to be more happy than me you know, I doubt its my promotion he’s glad about or he’s glad about the fact that he’ll get to drink and be merry.
I need to tell you, how much I miss you. How much I remember the nights in Goa! I do remember the days too…. But it’s the nights that I remember more, I miss you more because I know now there’s someone who awaits me back home, there’s someone who really cares, someone who loves me, though you have never told me that you do. Do you love me? I know you do and you will never need to say it, cos I just know. I miss those tickling sessions, when you used to tickle me till I had tears in my eyes out of laughing. I miss you honey. I miss you a ton. I want to come back right now and hug you straight and just tell you how much I love you.
I hope you’ll understand that time is a constraint here and we are always on the move. It’s difficult for me to write to you. But whenever time permits, I shall surely try to write to you. I can only say that this distance is terrible, it only makes me grow more fond of you. Love you baby.
Please give a hug to mom on my behalf, and tell Dad that I am fine and I reached safely. That I guess would be his primary worry. Take care of them. I miss all of you. Do tell them
Lots of Love and Lots of ….. XXX
She read and re read the letter twice and was happy the whole day. Then she showed the photographs to Mom and Dad and they were as proud as she was. They were soon sent for framing  and all relatives were informed of Ryan’s promotion.
A week passed by and she realized that she hadn’t met or spoken to Alicia since the time she was back from Honeymoon. She informed Mom and Dad that she’ll be back soon. She reached Alicia’s place by afternoon and Alicia like always took ages to open the door. Once the door opened, Alicia screamed at Seema “BITCH!!!, now you miss me, don’t you? Now that your husband is back to his loving army, you remember Alicia.” Seema just couldn’t control laughing, she got in and just hugged her and said “Sorry babes, it was just too good, to remember you, and why should I ? It was my honeymoon, for God’s sake, why would I even miss you?” They both laughed.
“So how have you been Seema? I need not ask actually, I can see the fucking glow, rather the glow cos of the ‘fucking’…..” she chortled. Alicia was just as corny as she could get, “Just tell me the details Seema, tell me tell me tell me, rest of life’s tyrannies can take a back seat for the moment. Tell me how was it?” Alicia literally prodded and pestered Seema into submission. Seema told the details of her honeymoon to a pair of eager ears and a pair of surprised eyes and wide gaping open mouth. She obviously skipped the most intimate details and yet Alicia had this look like that of an teenage girl, a girl who has just got to know the juiciest bits of somebody’s life. “It was too good, Alicia. Beyond good I would say.”, Seema told.
“Yeah, bitch I am sure, all your fantasies and straight out of Mills & Boons story is coming true, isn’t it?” Alicia had replied matter of factly. “I am really happy for you, a little envious too, cos Ryan is hot. Girl I am genuinely happy for you.” Saying this she had hugged Seema. They continued to talk till late in the evening. Alicia as usual was speaking of her boyfriend Austin, about how he wouldn’t even kiss her before marriage, how unreasonable he was time, yet she would end up saying that he’s the most loving guy she had ever met. She had always loved the pair of them, yet she was not very fond of Austin, for he was unemployed and didn’t really look as good as Alicia did. She remembered the day of her wedding, and thought that Alicia and Sameer definitely made a much better pair.
Alicia returned home, after a while. She dined with Mom and Dad and sat with them for a while before going back to her bedroom. There she again reread the letter she received from Ryan and she easily slipped into sleep with a smile on her face. That night she dreamt of they both making love again. She only woke up to realize how good a dream it was and suddenly a pang of longing struck her. But she forced her to sleep again.
Months had flown by and Seema always followed the same rut and routine of her life, at times cursing it, at times enjoying it and at times just for the sake of it. But now it was only a month left and Ryan would be coming after a month. 29 days to be precise.  She wanted them to pass fast, so much so that she would do everything in a paced manner and go to bed early too, as if that would make the days fly, shorten or simply vanish.
There, in the valleys, Ryan too was extremely eager to return. He had deliberated over thoughts of leaving earlier than the date prescribed for him to leave, but then that would mean not being able to meet Sameer before he left. Sameer was on leave, and Ryan would be relieved only when Sameer would return. There were still 4 more days for Sameer to return. And if Ryan left earlier, it would definitely bother Sameer. The next couple of days were a little uneasy, Ryan couldn’t concentrate and the same disturbing thoughts kept keeping across his mind. The thoughts that had been disturbing him since a few months now.
Sameer had returned from his leave, but they hardly got any time to meet, sit and talk. So Sameer had decided to come and drop him in the army jeep to the station. He had taken along a small bag to give Ryan, which had some food for the journey and a small parcel. Train was waiting on the platform, it would take him to Delhi to the nearest airport. “Ok, this is for you, small grub, and some more. You take care and have a happy journey.  And ofcourse I shall miss you buddy!” he had said, hugging Ryan. Ryan was only surprised that this was the only sentence Sameer had managed to speak since the time they had got into the jeep. That was all he wanted to say. It was a little akward, Ryan wanted to ask more, but then he had decided against it.
He got into the train but didn’t look back to wave at Sameer. The train moved and Ryan searched for his seat. He located it, just exactly in middle of the coach, a side lower berth. Ryan gazed out of the window, reminiscing and replaying a thought in his head. But he decided that he’ll not think of that ever again. He had left it long back, only wanting to erase it.
He opened the bag Sameer had given, and pulled out the stuff to eat. He also noticed that there was a letter addressed to him in the bag, he chose to open it later. He infact fought with himself to open it, because the way Sameer had behaved, he didn’t want to read the letter. But he did. He unfolded the letter, and read the letter in a hurry first, and then he read it slowly again. By the time the letter ended, he could only feel for Sameer, there was nothing he could do now, he couldn’t return and rectify his mistake and he didn’t want to. It was better left it at that. He quietly folded the letter and slipped the letter in his own bag. Closed his eyes and let the moistness of the eyes evaporate somehow. He was now just missing Seema, Seema’s thought visitied him. But the moistness still remained.
He reached Delhi the next morning and rushed to the airport in a taxi. The flight announcements were made, he was just in time. He rushed to check in and it was all done in a jiffy. He was glad he made it on time.
Flight landed Mumbai and he wished he had the army jeep to receive him and drop him home. But that wasn’t going to happen. He had to take a taxi and he did. He was a day earlier than what he had told. He wanted to surprise Seema.
Once the taxi dropped him, he rushed home and rang the bell. No sooner than the door had opened, Ryan had flung into Seema’s arms “I love you so much” he whispered in her ear. She was so pleasantly surprised that she didn’t have any words to say at all. She was just too happy to say anything at all. “SURPRISED? SHOCKED?” Ryan asked Seema. “Absolutely. Wow, this is awesome!!! So cute of you. Welcome home dear.” Seema said. “where’s mom and dad?” he enquired, to which she replied “they have gone to Natalie’s wedding. She’s getting married to her long time beau, Roger.”. Roger and Ryan had been childhood friends, though not close, Ryan seemed pleased to know about him.
She just couldn’t contain her excitement. They had lunch together and kept talking all afternoon. Ryan had so many stories to tell, about everything. He wanted to tell her everything, but he had held back a thing that was troubling him, but he was sure that sooner or later he’ll break it to her. He couldn’t live with it.
After dinner, Ryan spoke to Mom and Dad at length, and Seema still listened with rapt attention. Then they both got back to their bedroom and hugged each other tight, as tight as they could. “There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t missed you, you know. Its only me who knows how terrible this loneliness has been. I missed you no end Ryan. And there was nothing at all I could do about it. When your letter came, I wished I was there with you, to celebrate, to tell you how proud I am of you.” Seema almost choked. “Hey, baby now don’t cry, I am back, I missed you too honey. Its just that I can’t put my feelings in words now. I have so much to tell, but I am sure you’ll understand without me saying anything. I missed you, I really did” Ryan said. But he realized that though it was the truth there was some amount of guilt-laced lie in it. He had decided that he would tell her all about it, but only when the opportune time comes, only when he deems it correct. But he shall surely tell her. That night again they made passionate love, curling into each other, tangled legs, laced fingers and a lot of ecstasy had filled the sheets. For Seema, Ryan was the most understanding person she had met, a sensitive man who cared and loved her no end. Its not because he made great love, but she knew him as a person, he knew all about his heart now. For her, Ryan was a perfect husband she could ever ask for. There was no doubting that. There was never a second opinion regarding that fact.
Next morning, he got up late, and searched for Seema besides him, but she was already up in the kitchen. They had breakfast together and he headed back to his room for a bath. A while later she started unpacking his bag. She sorted the good clothes from the bad ones and kept them aside for washing. As she picked up the pile of clothes, a envelope dropped, envelope that was addressed to Ryan. She opened it and unfolded the letter. It was from Sameer.
I can’t rectify any of it I know. But I didn’t mean for you to quit. Because it’s me who has faltered, I think. It’s not your fault. I don’t know why it happened, and how it happened again. But you must agree, that I wasn’t the only one who had started it. We were attracted to each other. We were new then I know, and the first time was a mistake, and we should have stopped then. But why did you care for me so much even after that, even after that kiss why did you let me so close to you, why did you bother to be around? That kiss wasn’t when I was drunk, nor were you. What was it then? I only remember that I was the first one to make the move, and you had resisted but only once. And then you had given up. But then when I was wounded why did you again come so close, there was no physical intimacy between us, but the way you cared for me, nobody else ever did, I had many a boyfriends, but no one ever has been so close to me as you have. Why Ryan why? And then suddenly you decided to get married, out of nowhere. As if none of it had ever happened. You never brought it up. It was then I decided to put up a mask, decided to play along, because you had decided that you had to. And I guess you did choose correctly. You and Seema do make a wonderful pair.  So I was your best man, because you wanted me to be. And when you returned back married, you seemed to be more than happy. I had then decided to just maintain the distance.
Ryan, then why again, that day at the party, you caught my eye. I was drunk, but you weren’t. Why did you choose to take me to your room and why did that happen, I still wonder? You always have been more than a friend to me Ryan. With you my days, in this Godforsaken army dingy place have been better. Ryan, as a friend you have given me a lot. As a friend, I owe you a lot. When I sit back and wonder if you have taken a right decision to quit, I don’t have an answer. Did you fear that it might happen again? I don’t know. All I know is that I too was more than a friend for you, you just refrained. Now that you have decided to quit, I shall not stop you, nor call you back. I guess its more than right, cos you seem more than happy with her. I hope you are.
Please tear this off as soon as you read it. I don’t want it to get into wrong hands. I don’t want to be a reason. Now that you have decided to paint your life all over again, I am not gonna be stopping you, just wishing you luck and saying you sorry. Sorry for I never meant wrong.
PS: Please tear it off.
As soon as she had finished reading the letter, she writhed with anger, a lot of emotions suddenly filled her. Anger being the most prominent. Ryan straying away with some pretty girl, charming that he his, had occurred to her a couple of times. But never in her nightmares did she realize that her husband would stray for another man. Never. All her love had suddenly vanished and images of Sameer and Ryan crossed her mind. Heartbroken she felt, she felt betrayed, cheated and disgusted now.
Ryan got out of the bathroom and saw her crying with the letter still tightly clutched in her hand.
He opened his mouth to speak something but he knew there was nothing left to explain now. It was a secret that had slipped, or rather a secret that had peeped outside on its own. He felt exceedingly foolish at his mistake of leaving the letter behind in his bag. It was thoughtless of him to do so. But the damage was done and he knew it was beyond repair.
He went and sat besides Seema. As soon as he sat, Seema got up and Ryan knew that she was so angry that she could hit him with whatever she could lay her hand on. But she flustered and sat on the floor weeping. Ryan wanted to console her, but a lot of guilt had creeped in him, he himself felt disgusted to even console her, to touch her. But he did.
“How dare you touch me? How dare you? Just go away. I don’t need any explanation. Don’t even try to get close to me?” Seema said angrily. Ryan still tried to comfort her in vain. Seema had changed her tone now, she was angry yet firm, as if she had got a grip on the situation. “For now just don’t come close, just go away. Leave me alone. I don’t want to listen to a word. I don’t want you around. Do whatever but please don’t stay here. Just go. Or else I’ll have to call your mom and dad and tell them everything.” , Seema threatened.
Ryan got up to leave, but instead he went and locked the door and stood in a corner of the room, and in a low and weepy voice began to speak, but soon started gaining control over himself. “I know you don’t want me to be here, and if you don’t want, I shall not be. But before anything crosses your mind, I want you to listen to me, for once just listen to me. Please listen to me.
The letter speaks nothing but the truth, and I am guilty, I know and I accept it. But mere acceptance won’t set things right, I know that too. For you, you might feel that me explaining anything, is not going to change the past, I too know that it wont, but I assure you that this wouldn’t happen in the future. Ever.  I need to tell you one thing, that I have left it far behind, and I am a changed man now. I am ridden with guilt, and I know I have wronged, and nothing can change it, but I want you to know that I am sorry. There’s a lot more than I can say. But to you, at this moment everything would seem a fallacy, an irrational thought, a mindless speech. But what I say now is nothing but the truth. I have decided to leave my mistake far behind, I have decided to quit my job there and leave all that happened there, buried there. I am sorry. I really am.”
Saying this Ryan sat to the ground, staring at the ceiling, tears flowing from his eyes. Seema had started packing her bag, stuffing her clothes, ready to leave.
Seema first thought of going to her parents house, but decided against it. She thought, explaining parents would be easy, but how they would take it that their son-in-law had strayed for another man, is what bothered Seema the most. Then she thought of Alicia, her best friend.
She reached Alicia’s house and rang the bell. It took Alicia 5 minutes to open the door and when she opened she seemed groggy, and said “what man, why have you come to my place bitch? That too with a bag? You remember Alicia when your hubby is not there, or now, when you have fought with him!!!!” Alicia jokingly said. Seema had got in by then, and sat on the couch and started crying. Alicia closed the door and came closer to seema “What’s the matter dear, what happened?” Alicia asked curiously. “Wait I’ll get water for you” saying this Alicia went to the kitchen and fetched a glass of water.
Seema gathered herself and explained all of it to Alicia. When she was done explaining, the look on Alicia’s face was that of disbelief, and disgust at the same time.  She then just sat back silently, wondering what she could tell her friend, to console her. What could she possibly say, to a woman whose husband has strayed not for a woman but a man? But at the same time, that man had accepted that he had wronged and quit everything, to get back to her, to her wife. This was something that made Alicia think.
“What do you think the truth is? I mean you think it’s Ryan’s fault really? As I see it, he’s got back. Got back to you. He realizes his mistake. Maybe it was a mistake. And Seema you shouldn’t forget that he’s come back to you, and maybe he wanted to tell you and so he had kept the letter with him. And Seema, I need not remind you, I may be curt but I should tell you, you too have a past, that you have conveniently decided to bury and move on. Think about it. ” Alicia told Seema. Seema stared at Alicia, as if she had brought a real skeleton out of closet.
At night, they went to sleep. But Seema couldn’t sleep. Thoughts kept visiting her no end.
It’s difficult to digest the truth, especially when it slaps you hard in the face. It’s difficult when you are handed over the toughest and most unexpected question paper, and you see no solution to it. I would be lying if I would say that I never thought that Ryan could have an extra marital affair. Such thoughts do cross a girls mind if her husband is charming. But Ryan straying for Sameer, is what I hadn’t ever dreamt of.
The time when Ryan was away, I would think of how caring he was when we were together and how loving, and gentle he was while making love. He did that with so much of passion. He listened to whatever I had to say, and gave his honest opinions when I wanted. He just was so caring, and comforting. He could easily lessen my worries with ease. How I had decided firmly that he’s the perfect husband. But now, why have I been put in such a situation? But he has quit his job and got back to me. Maybe he really means it now. Maybe he’ll never go back. Maybe it really was a mistake. Maybe he really was sorry. Maybe. It’s a bad word. It leaves you on this no mans land. You are neither on this side, neither on that. Conveniently in the middle. But for now, this is the only path that seems correct.
Seema thought to herself. She had decided to let her mind rest and she went off to sleep with great difficulty.
“Alicia, I am sorry but I need to stay for a few more days, maybe weeks. If you don’t mind, Can I?” Seema asked Alicia. “Seema, you need not ask. I more than understand. I hope you did think about whatever I said. I wish the best for you. My opinions might or might not help you to decide, but I just want you to decide keeping certain things in mind. I hope you’ll understand and take a decision that’s wise.”
Ryan there was being questioned by his parents about Seema’s whereabouts, but he didn’t have any convincing answers for them. They were convinced only when he lied to them that she’s gone to her parents house. Ryan had no clue what he could do. He wanted to look for Seema but going to her parents and what if she wasn’t there….he wouldn’t have an answer for her parents too. So he first decided to call Alicia. He got to know Seema was there, and from Alicia’s tone, Ryan understood that Alicia knew. “I am sorry. I am. I don’t want you to tell that to her. But I want you to know. I don’t expect you to understand. I am just sorry. Please take care of her that this had to happen. Sorry.” Saying this Ryan hung up the phone.
Ryan was clueless about what he wanted to do now. He was sure of one thing. There was no returning back, either to the army or back to Sameer. He wouldn’t. He had promised himself.
It was difficult for Seema, to reach a conclusion, a decision that she seemed correct, didn’t make any appearance in her mind at all. She spent all day doing menial jobs at Alicia’s place and the nights she would be sleepless, staring at the fan so much so that, she would only sleep when she felt dizzy from it. Thoughts kept rushing in and out of her mind. The only thing that seemed possible to her was to let things flow with time, maybe time would show her the way, or so she felt.
It was close to a month, and Ryan so badly wanted to speak to Seema and ask her to return. He went to Alicia’s place and it was only Alicia who had opened the door. Alicia was perplexed, she didn’t know whether to ask him to come in or to ask him to leave. “I have been wanting to talk to Seema since long, but I don’t know if she would ever talk to me. I just want you to tel her that I had come to speak to her and I really care for her and yes I miss her a lot. Alicia, I can’t really explain you anything, nor can I say how much I regret, but I just want you to pass this on to her. Will you?” saying this Ryan handed over a letter to Alicia. Ryan didn’t wait for Alicia’s reply, he just left.
Closing the door behind her, Alicia rushed to Seema “I don’t know what to say Seema, but Ryan really looked terrible, he had come to meet you, but I guess he knew you wouldn’t. Anyway, he’s left this for you.” She handed over the envelope to Seema.
Seema just took it from her and kept it away. She didn’t feel like reading it, or even knowing what did Ryan want to say.  So she just left it under the pillow, with the thought of reading it later. But the same night she felt a strong urge to read it.
Dear Seema,
Its been 24 days now, that you are away. No matter how much sorry I say, it won’t change a thing. But I still say sorry, cos I mean it. I mean it completely. I write this letter in the midst of the night, after a day that I have spent analyzing every bit of my mistake and regretting every moment of it.
I have been trying to erase every memory of it, every sign of it. Not a moment passes by when I don’t think of how much hurt I have caused, and how much agonizingly painful it has been to you. I am sorry for all of it, and I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.
All I need is one chance to make up for my mistake. One and only chance is all I need to correct myself. And then I shall give you no chance or reason to complain
 I can’t tell you to come back, but I want you to. Not because you must, but because I love you. Its because I love you, that I am hopeful that you shall return. Its because I love you, I am holding on. Its because I love you, I am waiting.
She quietly folded the letter and went off to sleep with a thought in her mind. It were not Ryan’s words but Alicia’s You too have a past, that you have conveniently decided to bury and move on. Think about it. Suddenly her words seemed to make so much sense. Seema thought over it, and she knew Alicia was not wrong, Seema too had a past, that she had buried long ago and moved on, conveniently forgetting it, infact erasing it that she hadn’t even thought of mentioning it to Ryan, ever.  It was then that Seema thought of Ryan’s letter that she had received when he was there and what he had written I am a changed person now, you know. I need to tell you in detail about the changed part, it’s a little thing that I need to tell you, but now is not the time. I shall tell you when I am back.
When we falter, we always want to correct ourselves. But sometimes even with our best intentions we can’t. Yet Ryan had made those efforts to correct himself. He had quit and he had comeback to Seema. And maybe he really wanted to tell her about it. Maybe he was looking for the opportune time to break it to her. A time when he thought she could really understand, if not understand listen to his version in a way, that was not angry. Seema hadn’t really heard his version that day, maybe she did, but nothing had registered. Maybe. Seema thought that he deserved a chance, atleast a chance to correct him, everybody needs a chance, she thought. She had decided to return.
Next morning at the coffee table Seema spoke to Alicia, “I think I am ready to return to him. I thought about what you said, my past and how I have buried it conveniently. I too have a past which I don’t wish to reveal, ever. For me too it was a mistake. And I conveniently decided to bury it. And move on, without once looking back. It would be ungrateful and mean on my part if I let him go, he too has faltered, but unlike me he’s so ready to accept. He’s so meaningfully clear about it. He has erased it or atleast he’s trying to. Maybe he’s not that good with words, but somewhere I know he really is very apologetic about the whole thing. I am not sure, if I would be able to love him the way I did earlier, but I am ready to turn a new leaf.,like trying to fall in love all over again. Maybe I’ll start by being friends with him. I think he needs a friend for now. Love will happen eventually. I think I should just bury everything like he has. I shall.”
“But I need to thank you, for all that you have done. And most importantly thank you for reminding me that I am not perfect, and I too had once faltered. It cleared the haze more than anything else did. Without you, I wouldn’t have quite made it dear” Seema concluded.

Alicia bellowed. “Don’t give me sentimental crap, you better not. I just told you the truth. And hello? You don’t need to thank me. You better behave.” Saying this Alicia laughed.
“Ok bitch, I won’t!” Seema said. Alicia kept nodding while texting on her cell.
“I shall miss you and your coffee.” Seema told.
Alicia replied “Yeah, right! As if you stay so far that you won’t be able to pick your fat ass upto my place for cofeee. You better keep coming or else I’ll have to ask Ryan to throw you out of the house now and then!”
“That would not happen, he’s promised to behave. And he said he’ll not give me a chance to complain” Seema said mockingly.
“That seems pretty promising though.” Alicia laughed again.
There was a knock on the door, and Alicia asked Seema to open the door for her. Seema did.
It was Ryan. “Alicia asked me to come, everything alright? Are you OK?”, he asked. He waited for a reply.
Seema was surprised at Ryan’s arrival. It was Alicia who had texted him to come but had not said why.
“She needs a divorce.” Alicia bellowed from the kitchen. Seema was shocked. Ryan was terrified “No, please don’t do that. Please don’t. I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you. It was a mistake. You need to believe me. It was.”
Alicia was at the kitchen door, seeing Ryan pleading. She broke into a laughter and so did Seema. Seema just couldn’t control breaking into a smile. She laughed too.
Ryan was perplexed seeing both of them laugh.
“I was kidding. I was so joking. But it was so good to see you plead like that.” Alicia said.
At the mere mention of word kidding, Ryan looked furious and relieved at the same time.
Seema just stood there. Waiting for Ryan to take her back. But instead he went to Alicia.
“I would have killed you, if it was true.” Ryan said to Alicia.

He turned to go to Seema, but he felt Alicia tapping him and calling him back “Do take care of her, she’s a little broken. It’ll take time to mend. Nurture with patience. Be a friend. Hope you understand” Alicia told Ryan. Ryan nodded approvingly.
Alicia came to Seema and hugged her. She whispered in her ears. “You saw him. He pleaded. He really loves you. Take my word. He really does and I can say that. Forgive him if you can. And if possible, forget his mistake too. He loves you dearly.” For maybe the first time Seema had seen Alicia’s eyes moist. Seema smiled and whispered “Thank you for everything.”
Ryan took Seema’s bag and wanted to hug her but he remembered what Alicia told him. It’ll take time to mend. Nurture with patience. Be a friend.
And so he did.

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