Run back to me!
“Please come in, Maya,” I called aloud, swiveling in my chair to face the door.
Earlier that day, I had emailed her requesting for a meeting. She walked in, smiling but quiet. None of those exuberant greetings that I usually associated with her. As I gestured her to sit, she stood opposite me and looked straight into my eyes. For a fraction of a second. Then she turned away but I could see the shadow on her face now and the guarded look in her eyes. She knew what I was about to say.
Although I have never revealed this to anyone, I have always believed that Maya had an uncanny ability to tune into people’s feelings, even thoughts. She could read people. That day, I knew she had read my mind when her face took on an uncharacteristically unfriendly look. She stared at her painted nails as her fingers tapped ever so gently on the glass tabletop.
What would I not give to hold those hands!
However, I realised that she was impatient for me to start.
“Maya….” I cleared my voice. ” Maya… see there’s just a few things….” I couldn’t find the words and she was staring at her nails resolutely.
“Err…about this matter I heard making the rounds.. actually, I’ve noticed it too. Your….I mean you and the Italian Proff…”
She didn’t let me finish. She looked up at me with shy eyes, all smiles and ecstatic.
“Isn’t he wonderful?* she gushed.
*Am sure he is… but Maya this is an educational institution… Of course I understand. We are all adults here but Maya… I just…want you to be careful…” I blurted out after feeling tongue tied for so long.
Silence. Her face was turned to her right so I could see only a side view of her face. Her eyes seemed to be darting to the door every now and again…as if she would make an escape soon.
I have to do this, I thought. I was somewhat jealous but more than anything else, I was concerned. For her.
“Ok… here’s what I got to say. First of Maya, even though this is a university and the students are mostly adults… still,,,, I mean seeing you on his arm all the time… can be a bit…u know…”
“I don’t…..that’s not true!” Her voice was cold, defiant. “And not to be rude but Mr Sekhawat, my feelings are very personal to me…I really don’t….”
I held up my hand to pacify her and she stopped. I was silent as well, watching the corners of her petulant mouth. They started to twitch in an unbecoming sort of way and she hastily turned her face upwards to the ceiling to stop her tears from rolling down her cheeks.
The tears fell anyway. I sighed, my heart sinking. How could I make her understand!
Minutes passed and now that she made no effort to hide her tears from me, they fell faster. Maya rubbed her face with the palm of her hand, her eyes puffy and the tip of her nose pink. She was a picture of misery… endearing and heartbreaking at the same time. I pushed the box of tissues towards her.
At length, she seemed to calm down.
“Maya…” I ventured.
“I love him!” She blurted out and immediately blushed.
In spite of myself, I smiled. “And?”
I wanted her to keep talking, I wanted to know what was on her mind. I wanted her to stay as she was before… before the arrival of Anton. I wanted her to be out of harm’s way!
She looked up with questioning eyes.
“Maya, do you know if he loves you?” My tone was grave and she did not answer at once.
“Yes,” her voice was barely audible.
“You’re sure of that?” I asked, my temper rising. I could clearly see that this was one-sided. She wasn’t even sure of him!
Trust Maya to plunge headlong into something like this!
“Of course!” Maya replied forcefully, trying to bring on a semblance of a smile.
“He told you?” I pressed on and the gloom that immediately clouded fer face was the answer.
Leaning forward, I touching her fingers gently.
” I hope you really know what you’re doing, Maya!” I heard the desperation in my voice. Did she not hear it?
There was a loud knock on the door. She stood up, looking flustered.
“It takes a lifetime to know people, remember that!” I urged. She had almost reached the door. She paused, her eyes averted from me.
“Thank you… for caring,” she quipped in a small voice and her moist eyes smiled slightly as she looked into my eyes. For a moment she hesitated, as if debating whether to run back to me. Then she was gone.
I came to know the week after that she had moved in with Anton.
That night, I just could not sleep. Maya’s face etched with misery and those red, puffy eyes appeared time and again before my weary eyes.
I had failed to protect her!