A Year of Love

A Year of Love

Author’s Note
This is the sequel to my work, “This Chemistry Between Us” .
https://penmancy.com/this-chemistry-between-us/
This can be read independently as well.
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April

Sidharth looked nervously at his reflection in the mirror. 

He worked as a chemistry teacher in a school and had developed feelings for his colleague, Neena, who taught English at the same school. Today, he was taking her out for dinner. 

Neena wore a blue dress and had let her hair down. She looked like an angel.

“You look……amazing.”

She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.

She kept chattering away – about the school, about the children, and about the play she was organizing. Sidharth barely heard any of it. He kept staring at her, enchanted by her aura. It turned out that Love not only made you blind, but it also made you deaf. 

They ordered dinner. 

“Are you sure you want to eat that gunpowder chutney? It’s spicy.” She asked him with concern written on her face.

He wasn’t a fan of spice but wanted to impress her. 

“Of course!”

He shoved a big spoon into his mouth. Seconds later, his insides started burning. He felt that he was engulfed by the flames of hell. Tears fell from his eyes and nose. He turned an avid shade of crimson.

Neena came to his rescue. She handed him a glass of water that he hastily gulped down. She had an antacid in her handbag, which he swallowed.

Sid’s diary entry:

True love isn’t the kind that just sets you on fire, it is also the kind that douses the flames.

May

Sid sat in the front row. The hall was full of parents, students, and teachers, all assembled to watch the play, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. He knew that Neena had worked extremely hard on this production. He ardently wished that it would be a roaring success.

The play was progressing well until one of the actors forgot their lines. A teenager in the audience, a sibling of one of the actors, started booing. Some others in the audience joined the booing.

Sid jumped up and used all 6”1 of him to glare at the troublesome teenager who had started this smear campaign. The enfant terrible cowered under his fearsome gaze and promptly stopped.

“May I request the audience to watch silently? The students have worked hard for the play!” Sid growled. “And the teacher who organized this play is the potential love of my life”, went unsaid.

There was pin-drop silence afterward. The play went well, and he was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek from Neena, later that evening.

Sid’s diary entry:

Standing up for the person you like, can be rewarding!

June

Parthavi, Neena’s colleague, cornered her in the corridor.

“What is cooking between you and Voldemort?”

“Eh?”

“Don’t use the ‘we-are-just-friends’ line on me. Yesterday, when I wished him, he smiled at me! Can you believe that? He exercised his facial muscles! This is your magic.”

“I like him!” Neena confessed. “Keep it hush-hush. We are just figuring this out.”

“I have seen how he looks at you. You seem happy.”

“I am.”

“Good for you! You will have cute Voldemort babies with your hair and his scowl!”

Sid’s diary entry:

My social circle has expanded. Parthavi is quite tolerable!

July

“You are insensitive and mean. I don’t want to talk to you ever again!” Neena screamed at Sid.

“Fine with me!” snapped back Sid.

Neena slammed the door and left.

An hour passed. Sid looked at his phone. No message from her yet. A pit formed in his stomach. Had she meant it?

Another hour went by. This was it. He had ruined it. He had lost the one good thing that made life worthwhile. He tried messaging her. The message didn’t even get delivered. Had she blocked him?

It was midnight. He couldn’t sleep. He caught a taxi and headed to her house. He rang her doorbell.

He would beg. Plead. Grovel. Do whatever it took to win her back.

She opened the door, all sleepy-eyed. He demanded answers.

“What messages? The phone switched off. I kept it for charging.”

“I’m sorry. I am. Do you want me to go?” he asked uneasily.

She hugged him, told him not to be an idiot, and asked him to come in instead.

He kissed her on the forehead tenderly. “I love you.”

“Siddy-Bear. I love you too.”

Sid’s diary entry:

She loves me!

August

She was curled up on the sofa. Her eyes were red-rimmed. She had taken a sick leave. He had panicked, applied for half-day, and rushed to her house.

“Sweetheart, are you OK?” he asked anxiously

“I’m fine” she sniffed. She was lying. 

“What’s wrong?”

“My parents passed away on August eighth, fifteen years ago. It’s an emotional day for me. I will be fine. Just give me some time.”

His heart ached for her. He had never seen her like this. He fetched her a glass of water. He paced up and down.

“Wake up Neena. We have to go out.”

She protested. He paid no heed.

He hailed an auto, and it sped along.

“Where are we going?”

“Surprise!”

“A pet shop?” she squealed.

“Yes. I’m getting you a puppy.”

The minute she saw the orphaned puppies she gasped. They flocked around her, curiously sniffing, and licking at her. Neena spent hours with them.

“You need to choose one,” he reminded her.

“How do I choose? They are all adorable!”

“Eeeks. This one peed on me!” Sidharth cringed.

“That’s the one I want!”

They brought the puppy home.

“I’m naming her Poppee. Short for Potassium Permanganate.” She grinned wickedly at her chemistry teacher boyfriend.

Sid’s diary entry:

I love both my girls- Neena and Poppee.

September

“Wake up sleepyhead! Breakfast is ready.” Sid grinned.

Neena sighed as she got out of the bed.

“What is this?”

“Avocado toast.”

“This looks slimy and too green. I rather have chocolate cereal.”

“Absolutely not. Processed sugar is not healthy. Have your juice.”

“Eeks. Why is this so bitter?”

“Freshly squeezed, no added preservatives or sugar.” He yelled from the kitchen.

She tried offering the toast to Poppee, who turned her face away.

Neena sighed as she bit into her avocado toast. Love made everything better. Well except avocado toast and bitter orange juice.

The healthy eating didn’t help Sid. A week later he was down with a cold. He claimed it was allergies.

Achoo!

“Here, drink this!”

“What is this vile concoction?”

“Tomato pepper soup.”

Sid’s diary entry:

Neena can’t cook to save her life! Her soup worked anyway. I’m sure the bacteria in my throat committed suicide.

October

Sid was unusually quiet. Neena looked at him sideways, from her menu card. Something was bothering him. She had shown him a video of Poppee doing a new trick, but he had barely grunted. After dessert, they ordered cold coffee. Neena liked hers with whipped cream.

“Siddy-bear. What is bothering you?”

“Nothing. Just have your coffee.”

“I’m not until you tell me.”

“Stop it, woman! Just have the coffee.”

“Fine.” She replied indignantly.

She scooped up the cream with a spoon and stuffed it into her mouth and choked.

Sid shot up and patted her on her back. He considered performing the Heimlich maneuver, but thankfully she spat it out.

A ring.

“I wanted to ask you to marry me. The internet said that this would be romantic.”

“Which part of killing me is romantic?” she screamed.

“I thought you would sip your coffee like lady, not stuff yourself! The ring was supposed to settle down at the bottom.”

“You call me a tramp and expect me to marry you? Dream on mister!”

Sid looked sheepish. Not a good time to ask her to wed him.

Sid’s diary entry: 

Never trust the internet. And oh! The opposite of lady is tramp, says the English teacher.

November

“Sidharth, why did you ask me to come to the chemistry lab? It’s time to go home!”

Neena entered the lab. The lights were switched off and it was dark.

Then she noticed the glowing and the shimmering. Several beakers, with bubbling-simmering liquids in shades of pink, yellow, and brown, were positioned throughout the lab.

“So beautiful” she whispered.

And from within, a voice sounded.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 I love thee to the depth and breadth and height…” 

Neena gasped.

Sid emerged, ring in hand. 

“Ohno! I can’t remember the rest.”

Neena giggled at her hopeless lover.

He got down on one knee.

“Neena Sharma, Will you marry me?”

“Yes, I will. But on one condition. Learn this sonnet before our first anniversary.”

Sid’s diary entry: 

She said Yes!

December

Sid spoke to the Principal.

“Sir, I would like to resign. Thank you for this wonderful year. Your support has helped me move on. My parents and I are so thankful to you for this opportunity! I would like to try something new. I have found a job with the R&D team of an MNC company.”

“Very good my boy! Say hello to your parents from me. Between, are wedding bells ringing?”

Sid blushed.

“Yes. I’m marrying Neena.”

“Ah, excellent choice. A real treasure!”

Sid’s diary entry: 

Here is to a New year with new beginnings!

January

Neena smoothed her hair. She was going to meet Sid’s parents for the first time. She felt nervous. What if they didn’t like her? She had heard that they were a rich and influential family. Sid’s ex-fiancée was the daughter of a politician. And here she was, a penniless orphan.

Sid squeezed her hand. “They will love you.”

He didn’t let go of her hand throughout dinner. Uncleji was warm and welcoming. Auntyji, less so. She had a stern expression on her face, and she interrogated Neena, throughout the evening.

Neena excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. She washed her face. That was when she noticed Auntyji standing beside her.

“Auntyji, I know this wasn’t the marriage you wanted for Sid. But I love him with all my heart.”

Aunty’s stern face dissolved, and she hugged Neena.

“Oh, Neena! After the first experience, I was so scared. That witch of a girl abandoned my son at the mandap. I thought I had lost my son forever. He battled severe depression; wouldn’t smile, wouldn’t eat. I had given up hope. I see him now. He looks so happy! I was skeptical when he told me about you. But now I know why he fell head over heels for you. Promise me that you will take good care of him!”

“I promise, Auntyji,” Neena said, all teary-eyed.                                                                               

“Call me Ma. Not Auntyji.”

Sid asked anxiously to his father. “They have been gone for a long time. Do you think everything is alright?”

“Son, I have been married for thirty years and I still haven’t figured your mother out. I say we worry about that later and order dessert.”

Sid’s diary entry: 

Mummy-Papa loved Neena. Thank God, they didn’t find meet her when she was young. They would have adopted her for sure, and then what would I do?

February

The couple was hunting for a house. They wanted a house that would be equidistant from the school and Sid’s new workplace. This was the third house that the agent had shown them.

Neena fell in love with this house. They stood in the hallway. Sid twirled her around and she laughed. Memories flooded through her. Of Mama and Papa. And their little dance.

They signed the papers for the house.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart!”

“Aww! You got me the full Harry Potter set and a toy for Poppee…..you are the best!”

“I can’t do roses and I don’t want you eating sugar, so books instead.”

“Here is your gift!”

 She handed him a bright tie.

Sid’s diary entry: 

I have hidden the tie in the closet. If she asks me, I’m going to say Poppee ate it.

March

It was the day of their engagement.

Sid slid the ring onto Neena’s finger, as friends and family clapped. There was music, dancing, and feasting. Sid’s parents had spared no expense. 

Neena took one look at Sid and knew something was wrong.

He looked pale, and his hands were cold and clammy.

When she got a moment, she slipped away. He was on the balcony, looking ashen.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do this Neena. This is déjà vu for me. I got engaged. I went through a big fat wedding. And halfway through she left. I was shattered. I love you. I want to be with you. But I don’t want this wedding. No! I didn’t mean that.”

He started panicking. Neena held his hand, trying to reassure him, till they were called in again.

Sid’s diary entry: 

I told the girl I love that I want to marry her, but I can’t. What is wrong with me?

April

It was April first.

Sid’s doorbell rang. It was Neena.

“Why are you here so early?”

“We are getting married today!”

“What? We are getting married on April twenty-seventh. That’s what the invitation said, the last time I checked.”

“Yes, but you had a panic attack during our engagement. Imagine how that will look in the wedding snaps. I have booked an appointment at the Register office today. We are eloping!”

“What?”

“I figured that if we married in advance, you wouldn’t break down at the actual wedding. Even if I ran away from the mandap, and I don’t plan on that, I would still be your lawfully wedded awful wife. “

“You are crazy, you know that?”

“Crazy about you, Siddy-bear. Now get dressed! Unless you want to get married in underwear.”

They got married. Parthavi was one of the witnesses. 

Sid even tried telling his mother. She laughed it off saying it was an April fool’s prank.

Surprisingly, it helped. Sid felt calmer, on the day of his actual wedding. The bride winked at him as she garlanded him. 

Suddenly, the previous rejection didn’t matter. Hell, he felt thankful. Else he would have never met Neena. His beautiful, crazy, perfect wife.

No diary entries. Sid is occupied, elsewhere.

May

“Hurry up darling. It’s getting late! We need to be in time for Parthavi’s daughter’s birthday party. When we get back, we have to complete the honeymoon bookings.”

 “This the first time we are stepping out as a couple after the wedding. I need to look good. Give me a minute.”

“That means ten.” Sid sighed. “Neena, I have memorized your sonnet. Finally!”

“Let’s go now. You can recite it to me at the party.”

“OK, Mrs. Arora.”

Neena clasped her husband’s arm and they stepped out, as a couple, into a new future. 

They lived happily ever after!

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