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The Sentenced: Part 11 (contd.)

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You in me??

The car had stopped at a traffic light. He was engrossed in the picture of the Indian model clad in a gorgeous saree. She was dusky but attractive although she was too decked up. I was driving, but I had noticed the magazine open on his lap and he had been staring at the unknown Indian woman for the last five minutes or more. His eyes were contemplative and it was as if he had been staring not at her really but at something beyond.

“Seems familiar?” I asked with half a smile.He didn’t seem to hear me. I touched his hand…. those long, artistic fingers…. and tried again.

“Anton? Is that someone you know?”
As I asked, it seemed rather absurd to my own ears. How would he know her?

This time, he heard me and shook his head slowly in a ‘no’. His eyes still had that faraway look in them and for a moment, I was worried for him. These past few days he had seemed a tad vulnerable, a bit sad and disturbed under that light-hearted, witty veneer. As if, he wanted to tell me something, let me in on a secret but then decided against it in the very last minute. He had not been.sleeping well either and at times, I would wake up in the dead of the night to see him sitting at the table in our small, cosy study pouring over his books or even just sitting up in bed, hugging his bolster and lost in deep thought.

I had not been living with Anton for very long but I had read his habits well. I knew his likes, dislikes, those little mannerisms that were sometimes annoying but mostly so endearing. He was a deep- sleeper and even though I fought with him regularly for his habit of going to sleep rather late, I had never seen him sitting up in bed before in the middle of the night. However, knowing him for almost a year, I knew he would not tell me anything until he himself wanted to, no matter how much I pleaded, so I refrained from asking.

Soon however, we reached the little joint which was our favourite for a late Sunday brunch. The air was chilly and I sneezed as the cold air tickled my nose. He put his arm around me and pulled me closer and I relaxed immediately. There was something about his touch… something indecipherable but almost magical.

” Becca? Have you ever tried Indian?” He asked as I laced my fingers through his. We had just ordered our food and the little diner was abuzz with the lively chatter of the Sunday afternoon crowd.

” No,” I shook my head, “people say its too spicy!” He smiled and again I felt that he was dying to tell me something. This was disconcerting and I decided to try my luck.

“You seem anxious about something…. for some days now. Mind sharing?”

He looked at me and momentarily, a look of surprise flitted across his face. Clearly, he had not realised that I had noticed. Anton himself wasn’t much good at noticing how people felt. I sometimes joked that his emotional capacities were as good as a toddler’s. At times, he would be rude to me without even realising that he was hurting my feelings and seemed surprised when I told him so. But then again, it was part of his charm. He drew a long breath and I sat taut. Something was coming.

“Its funny how you mentioned Indian food is spicy….I sort of had the same dialogue with someone, years back.”

I guessed it was a woman. Indeed, it was.

“She took an instant liking to me, I am not sure why,” he shook his head and I smiled.

Perhaps, a woman can never explain well enough why she likes a man. Why did I like this man with his intelligent blue eyes, thinning hair and rimmed glasses? Was it his witty banter? His easy-going and undemanding persona? His vast resources of knowledge that surfaced only when he spoke passionately about something? What was it exactly about this workaholic Math professor that made me go weak in my knees?

But Anton was talking and I forced myself to be alert. It was seldom that I got to peep in his past.

“I was telling this fine, young woman that I would love to try a few Indian dishes but they are usually too hot for me.”

He chuckled, reminiscing.

“She replied with an innocent face that so are Indian women. I laughed heartily…I still remember…”

I wanted to hear more but the food arrived and he clammed up. Back home, we relaxed on the couch while staring at the television but not really watching anything. It was still going to be a couple of hours before sunset and our living room was bathed with sunlight that drew criss-cross patterns on the floor. I leaned into him and drifted into a cosy siesta.

I do not know when he had laid me down on the couch and pulled the curtains close. His hands were pressing down on my shoulders and my eyes flickered open. I was ready as his mouth came down on mine and then slithered down to my neck. His stubble was so ticklish as it rubbed against my skin, it made me giggle helplessly.

Within minutes, he became more demanding. It was as if this Anton only emerged in the most passionate moments….. an aggressive animal, very different from the slightly aloof, reticent gentleman the world knew. As he took control, I lay under him with my eyes closed. My insides trembled in anticipation.

His lips were moving against my face, my ears…. whispering words of desire. Frenzied, my mind was a whirlwind…… and my soft moans answered his almost inaudible ones. I gathered him in a loving embrace and….

“Maya!”

My eyes shot open to see him with a ghastly expression on his face. Releasing me, he sat bolt upright, looking dumbstruck.

“Ahem, its Rebecca but agree ‘Maya’ is easier,” I tried to make a joke of it.

He slowly stood up and I quickly put my hand on his arm to restrain him. However, I was looking at his eyes. They wore that confused, disoriented expression again. Shaking my hand off easily, he left the room quickly and I lay there wondering whose name it was that he had called me by.

 

The Message…

‘Reached safely and off to bed,’ his message said.
She read it again, those few words, again and again
She smiled, delighted, and once more she read,
‘Off to bed now,’ the message said.

Closing her eyes, she could see
A solitary figure, fatigued and in great need of rest,
Unlock the front door and plop wearily on the couch
Now his shoes come off and he tucks them neatly away
Taking off of his travel attire, he heaves a sigh
He just wants a pillow to rest his head
But gently smiles, for there’s more to do yet
And picking up his phone, he types instead
‘Reached safely and now off to bed.’

He knew he needn’t, he knew she would know,
He badly needed sleep, it was already very late
But he wanted to assure her, he wanted to show
That he cared so much and sleep could wait.
‘ Goodnight my love, I miss you so,’ he wrote,
He laughed at his exuberance and shook his head,                                                                For a moment he thought, then those words he erased
‘Reached safely and sleep well’ was all he said.

His words hugged her in a soft embrace
Her eyes welled up, they were miles apart
And as she changed, she stared at the screen
Then sank in her bed, all satin and lace
‘Reached safely, off to bed’ she read, as she pictured
His lips forming those words, only for her
Hugging his words passionately to her chest
She closed her eyes, trying to rest.

Two people asleep in countries far
So distant, yet so very near
Bound by the magic in their hearts
That would not allow them to part.
One is ‘home’ and the other seeks
One is ‘need’ and the other gives
Who is which, they do not care
For an unusual bond they gratefully share.

For she lay peacefully now, in her bed
Lulled to sleep by mere words she had read
How had he known that she had quietly
prayed?
Why else ‘Reached safely,’ had he said?