Chapter 17

“Is everything okay? Are you all right?” Her mom enquired, squinting at her silhouette in the dark.

“I think so”, Ashi replied mechanically.

Her mom pared the distance between them as she continued, “Doesn’t look like though. Let me tell you that you’re looking like a place that’s undergoing an aftermath of a flood or an earthquake.”

“Want some water to steady yourself?”

The calmness in her mom’s voice gave her an unknown, unexplained steadiness.

“Coffee please.”

Saying so, Ashi shuffled off in her bedroom without uttering a single word.

Dropping her ankle-length, black stiletto-boots on the floor that met the ceramic floor with a clatter and her clutch on the side table, she lay down on her bed staring fixatedly at the ceiling. Closing her eyes and taking some deep, long steadying breaths she tried to centre her senses and recollect the ado she’d caught herself into. She’d completely forgotten about the threat call by then. All her thoughts revolved around and centered on the fact that she’d big time messed it up between her and Rihaan.

Opening her eyes after what seemed like forever, the first thing she saw was her mom staring at her, with a coffee mug in her hand, from a distance.

“Mumma, stop with all the stares, will you?” Ashi said refocusing her gaze on the ceiling.

“You kissed Rihaan. Is it?”

“No! Mumma please!” Ashi sat upright in her bed sounding completely offended glaring at her mom with what looked like disgust.

Her mom sauntered along the ceramic floor reaching near her bed.

“Why are you feeling offended, Ashi? It’s not something bad or wrong. It’s completely understandable when it happens between people of your age, especially when they like each other.” Her mom’s voice was as calm as still water.

“That’s not the point, Mumma. Point is, we didn’t kiss today.”

“That means you kissed him last night?” She said disposing the coffee mug on the side table.

Ashi rolled her eyes.

He has something for you. That’s for sure. The way he brought you home wrapped in his arms, holding you close, face etched with a concern, worry, you know…..”

“Wrapped in his arms? Face etched with a concern? What?” Ashi stared at her mom agape with bewilderment; her brows knitted together to form a frown.

“You. You were there wrapped in his arms. He’s worried for you. I’m not that good in all these, but I can tell you that he’s gravely worried. For you.”

“Mumma, if you’re trying to make me feel better then let me tell you precisely that this isn’t helping me anyway.”

“I’m not. I’m telling you what I thought because it seems like you’re giving up on your hopes, in his case.” Maintaining her voice as calm as possible, her mom settled on the edge of her bed, beside her.

Pausing a little before moving her hand through Ashi’s curls she asked, “What’s the matter?”

Ashi closed her eyes agonized by the fact that it made her experience everything again.

“I told him what I actually feel for him. And he told me that he’s not interested. That’s it. End of the story. Long story short.”

“Did he actually use these words?” Her mom continued in her calm stance.

“Not actually. But whatever he said meant that he and me, we are impossible”, Ashi continued, her eyes still shut.

“Can you tell me what he said, as in his words?”

“He said that he is a mess. And that I should stay away from him.”

Ashi’s tears made their way out through the corners of her closed eyes.

“That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you, Ashi. He said something else and you’re simply interpreting it in your own way.”

Ashi opened her eyes and stared at her mom hopefully.

Her mom slightly sighed and continued, “Men are confusing. They’re confused and confuse us too. They take time to understand, evaluate and deduce things that we women do very easily. Therefore there exists a lot of gap between understanding levels. We’re prone to and are okay adapting to changes because we’ve always been doing that; throughout our lives. Men on the other hand aren’t used to changes. They are extremely systematic even while doing the most unsystematic things in the world. They like order and routine. Great admirers of those they are! This is about men, general men. Coming back to Rihaan, Darling, he lost the only woman he’d in his life when he’s thirteen. Thereafter he’s raised by a man who’s a businessman himself. There has never been any woman in his life till you stepped in…”

“Mumma, he’d had many girlfriends before I stepped in”, Ashi said looking away unable to meet her mom’s gaze like she was guilty on behalf of Rihaan.

“Maybe those women never touched his life the way you did. Maybe those never evoked that change in him and hence he never felt the way he’s feeling now. Maybe that’s what making him to react. You’re changing his routine, his ‘an illusion of systematic’ life and he can’t take in the fact that this is affecting him so much. We human beings never react under stagnant conditions, Ashi. We need something dire to react, to retaliate, to oppose, to defend, to embattle. I think Rihaan is just caught in this cloudburst of emotions and reactions. Let him understand it. Give him some time. If it’s true it will definitely come through. Love can’t be kept hidden for a very long time. It’ll absolutely find its way out, through loopholes. Just remember that it’ll take many forms before finally evolving in its true form. Patience is the first key. Don’t force him to accept the change. Don’t even try to poke him with questions about the change. Second key is realization. Let him realize. Self realization is the best.

Ashi’s gaze fluttered a little before settling on her iPhone. She briskly stretched her arm and reached for it without much strain.

With the iPhone still locked, it displayed,

Rihaan: Eat something. You really need to.

Ashi hurriedly unlocked her iPhone and read the messages.

Rihaan: Did you reach in safely? I mean, in single piece, with those beautiful things your feet were covered with that seemed to have cut off the blood circulation? Did you eat? Eat something. You really need to.

Ashi checked the time . It’d been ten minutes since she’d received the messages.

Ashi’s face gradually lit up a little in the dim lights of her room as she faced her iPhone’s screen.

“I’ll leave you and your ‘iPhone’ alone for tonight. Looks like it fixed that smile I was trying to fix all this while.”

“Did you say something, Mumma? I mean just now?”

Her mom smiled wisely.

“No. Nothing important. Goodnight.”

Just when Ashi tapped her screen to reply, her mom continued,

“Don’t reply if it’s Rihaan at the receiving end. Let him call you. Your generation is coward. You people hide emotions behind this ‘texting’ thing of yours.”

Ashi quickly exited and locked her iPhone clinching with the wisdom her mom had filled her with.

“That doesn’t mean you’ve to attend his call when he calls. Let him realize what you actually are to him. Your ignorance and silence will speak volumes.”

“What if he doesn’t call?”

“Then you deserve a better guy than him. And he needs to find someone that will suit him and his needs.” Her mom replied solemnly and exited the bedroom pulling the door behind her.

“Everyone is talking in puzzles. Looks like life is playing a quiz show with me this time.”

Ashi sighed heavily, collected her pyjamas and made her way to the bathroom.

Laying down in her bed that night, she trans-travelled the entire day and sadly thought about the last words that rang in her mind distinctly, “You deserve a better guy, if he doesn’t call.”

Ashi closed her eyes and with a heavy heart made a note to self, “Yes, he didn’t call.”

And with that last thought, her mind and conscious self could possibly sense, Ashi drifted off to sleep.


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