And That’s What You Call Love

“I DON’T CARE. I WANT YOU HERE BY 8!”, he shouted and banged the phone on her. Anna stood in the restroom, trying to control her tears. She had an important meeting today but Sam, her boyfriend, wanted her to skip it. 

Sam was an amazing guy, handsome, well settled and caring. There were still times like these when she had her doubts. She shrugged the thought, composed herself and walked out.

She immersed herself in work unaware of Viki’s watchful eyes.

“Are you fine Ann?”, he enquired. 

Vikrant and Anna had joined the office around the same time and hit it off instantly. They were each other’s confidante and the best of buddies. He had seen Sam’s and hers love bloom and she was there for him when he had had a heartbreak. 

“Let’s take a coffee break.”, he recommended.

They sat at the café sipping coffee. Anna seemed lost in her thoughts. Vikrant was decent enough to give her the space she needed. He knew she would tell her if she needed to get it out of her systems. He really adored her. Anna was tall and had quite a nice figure besides being smart and extremely sweet. He hadn’t had a chance to meet Sam yet but from what he knew about him from her, he felt they were perfect for each other.

“Sam wants me home by 8. But with the presentation, I don’t know how I’ll manage”, she suddenly spoke. 

“That’s it? “, he asked. “Don’t worry I’ll manage”, he assured her.

“You sure?”, she enquired. 

“Yes silly!”, he replied. 

She thanked him and they returned to their desks.

Vikrant was an amazing guy. He had a boyish charm around him and she was always at ease with him. He was smart and hardworking. He was shattered after his break-up and she had taken it on herself to take him out of his shell. She prayed for him to get into a relationship again. She knew the girl will be extremely lucky to have him.

Anna excused herself around 7 and rushed home. She quickly showered and wore a nice blue bandage dress which complimented her figure.

Sam was punctual and arrived precisely at 8. He gave an audible gasp when he saw Anna making her blush. He hugged her. “You look amazing.”, he whispered in her ears and engaged her lips in a kiss before she could respond.

He took her to an uptown restaurant. They ate, chatted and enjoyed themselves. Later in the night, Sam dropped her home. She wanted him to stay the night but he had clients coming over early the next day so he refused. She was disappointed but knew arguing with him was fruitless.

Next day at work:

“How was the date Ann?”, Vikrant teased Anna. Anna blushed and replied, “It was great. What about the presentation?”

“It was fine. We have the final presentation day after so let’s finish everything.”, he replied.

They worked tirelessly for the next two days. Their presentation left everyone impressed. Vikrant and Anna were incredible as a team. They managed to bag the client just as was expected of them.

“This calls for a celebration!” Vikrant suggested. He badly needed a break. Besides, the two of them hadn’t gone out in quite some time. Anna hesitated for just about a second before agreeing. She missed hanging out with him.

They went to a casual dining place. Anna had had quite a few shots. She was her crazy self, laughing and talking loudly. Vikrant couldn’t help but smile. 

Post dinner, they were strolling outside. Anna was a tipsy and bumped into a pole which had a nail coming out. It pierced through her top and gave her a nasty cut. She shrieked in pain. Vikrant rushed her to a hospital. After the dressing, Anna told him she wanted to leave for her place. 

“I’ll drop you”, Vikrant offered.

“Don’t be crazy. I am fine. Besides, you didn’t even get your car. I’ll take a cab.” 

Vikrant agreed reluctantly. He waited for her cab, and then hailed one himself. 

Anna lay on her bed recalling the evening and smiling to herself when the doorbell rang. Frowning, she went to check who it was at this hour. 

“Hey!”, she said seeing Sam and let him in. 

“Hi baby”, he replied. 

They sat in the living room. “Have you eaten?”, she enquired.

“Yes”, he replied.  “I wouldn’t mind some dessert”, he continued with a mischievous grin making Anna go crimson.

“Catch me if you can”, she said and ran, playing hard to get. Sam charged after her. He soon caught hold of her. He scooped her up and dropped her on bed. Without wasting any time, they began kissing. He started unbuttoning her shirt and feeling her. He then moved his lips to her exposed breasts and started relishing them while quickly unbuttoning his own shirt. He soon, undid the rest of her buttons and moved his lips back to hers while his hands explored her further. His hands fell on her bruise and he looked up. 

“What’s this?”, he asked tracing the wound.

“Just a scratch”, she replied.

“How did it happen?”, he enquired, sitting up. 

“Viki and I were celebrating after bagging that project. I was tipsy and didn’t realize”, she replied, pulling him closer.

Sam pushed her away angrily. “How careless! Why do you drink if you can’t handle yourself? And what’s with this Vikrant? Why do you have anything to do with him after office?” he fumed.

Anna was shocked at his outburst.

“DO I EVER GO OUT WITH ANY GIRL ALONE?”, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN MY LIFE! WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO BEG TO BE THE ONLY ONE IN YOURS?”, he was now shouting at her.

“Sorry baby”, she begged trying to hug him. He shrugged her off yet again, picked up his shirt and barged out of the house. She tried calling him but he didn’t bother answering. She lay there crying untill sleep engulfed her.

Next morning, she got up with a throbbing head. She realized she was half naked and last night’s event came back to her. She checked her phone but was pained to see that there was no reply from Sam. She curled up on her bed again and cried her heart out. She called in sick that day.

Vikrant was worried and called her up. He even dropped her a text. But she was in no mood to talk. All she wanted to do was make up with Sam. He had this effect on her. He had left her high and dry last night but she considered it her fault. She kept calling and sending apology texts but Sam ignored them. 

“Let her realize what I go through when she meets other guys”, he thought. “I will visit her in the night. But let her feel miserable so that she doesn’t repeat it.”

Anna spent the day in bed crying. Sam replied with a text in the evening which read: “Will be there after work”.

It was a little over 7 when the doorbell rang. Anna flung open the door expecting Sam but was crestfallen to see Vikrant instead.

“May I?”, he asked making her realize she was holding the door. 

She sighed and let him in. She looked a real mess. She had puffy red eyes and resembled a lost child. Vikrant’s heart went out to her. He embraced her in a hug. She broke down once again. She then narrated last night’s incident. He was shocked to hear it. At that moment, he wanted to do nothing but punch Sam. “How could he?”, he wondered.

Vikrant looked at her and seeing her broken form, he couldn’t help but hug her again. She felt relaxed in his arms. Without realizing, he bent down and locked her lips in his. They hugged and they kissed as if in a trance. The bell rang bringing them back to their senses. Anna pushed Vikrant away. She was both angry and upset. Vikrant scolded himself for losing his control. She was an amazing friend and they both wanted it that way. He convinced himself that he got carried away in the moment.

Anna ran to open the door. 

“Sam”, she said, the color draining from her face.

Hearing her, Vikrant quickly took out some files from his bag and lay them on the table, finishing just as Sam entered.

Vikrant extended his hand. “Hi.” Sam took it hesitantly. 

“Anna talks a lot about you.” Vikrant continued. He then looked at Anna and said “Please have a look at them. It has to be submitted tomorrow so I had to come and drop these off. Bye”, he said and left.

Sam took Anna’s hand and they sat. He started lecturing her on how what she did was wrong. Anna was too lost to comprehend anything. Until a while back, all she wanted was for him to forgive her but now she just wanted to curl on her bed alone again. She felt drained and did not trust herself any more. 

“Are you fine? asked Sam, jerking her. “I forgive you. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again”, he added.

Anna smiled at his audacity. “Sam thanks. I really want you to stay but I have a splitting headache. I have to get up early and look at these documents too. Can we call it a night?”.

Sam was taken aback at this. In their relation, it was always he, who called the shots. “Are you sure you don’t want to continue what we left incomplete last night? You were dying for it yesterday”, he smirked.

His words pierced her like swords. She gave a soft smile. Feeling triumphant, Sam hugged her and started kissing her. She was anyways not in the mood and this just reminded her of what had happened a while back. She tried to break free but he held her tight, his lips forcing themselves on hers urging them to respond. But for once, she didn’t give in. She felt guilty, she felt disgusted.

Sam realized something was amiss but how could he let her have the upper hand?

“You are filth. I had lost my mind. In spite of your stunt yesterday, I chose to forgive you. But you do not deserve it. You are so immature. Grow up! you kid”, he bellowed and stormed out.

Anna was drained and resigned to her room. 

“How could Viki do this? How could she let him do it?”, she wondered. She was mad at Sam for what he said. But she had almost cheated on him. She decided she had to fix this. She quickly dressed and left. She felt miserable. 

 “Hey!”, Vikrant exclaimed letting her in.

Anna slumped on the couch and looked at him accusingly. “I am extremely sorry Ann”, Vikrant told her as if on cue. 

“Viki, how could you? You knew I was vulnerable?”, she asked, the hurt in her voice quite evident.

“I know I shouldn’t have done it.”, he said looking at her apologetically. He wasn’t sure whether he should open up to her. After leaving her house, all he did was think about her and he was certain that he was hopelessly in love with her. But he knew she would never break up with Sam. He cursed his luck. 

He sighed. “Sorry. I couldn’t tolerate the way he treated you. Seeing you this way today scared the hell out of me. You looked so old. I like the bubbly you, the crazy you and I wouldn’t want to lose the child in you for anything in this world.”, he replied. He told her the truth, albeit a part of it.

The words left her stumped. They were the exact opposite of Sam’s words. Tears formed around the corners of her eyes yet again, threatening to break free.

Vikrant looked at her alarmed. “Ann did I say something wrong? What can I do to make things better? Name it and I’ll do it. Please don’t cry”, he pleaded with her.

“Get me food”, she blurted out. 

“What?”, Vikrant asked. Not sure if he heard her correct the first time.

“Food you idiot. I haven’t eaten anything all day. Get me something to eat before I pass out”. 

“So sorry. I have a few sandwiches. You’ll have? Or I’ll call for something…”

“I can gobble you. I am that hungry. Get something quick”, Anna cut him midsentence.

Vikrant was taken aback by her choice of words. How he wished she meant it the other way. He smiled and shook his head. He got her sandwiches and watched her eat. She had spilled the sauces all over and he found that extremely cute. He wanted to kiss her then and there but he knew that was never happening again so he settled for just admiring her. Anna was too busy eating to notice anything. She was glad she had come here instead of going to Sam’s. He wouldn’t have approved of her uncouth eating. She still had to fix things with him but that, she thought could wait until tomorrow. For now, she just wanted to relax and be her usual self and she knew Viki was her go to person. No pretense needed. She loved him for this.

“Do you have any booze”? Anna asked suddenly. 

“Umm…”, Vikrant hesitantly looked at her. 

“Oh, stop acting like Sam”, she blurted out. She looked up guiltily and mouthed the word sorry. “Please?”, she requested. 

Vikrant relented to her wishes and got her vodka. He didn’t trust himself around her anymore so he didn’t join her. He watched as she swallowed glass after glass. He tried to stop her but she shrugged him off. 

After she was finally done, she looked up at him innocently and said “You know, what we share, you and I? I really love that. I wish it was the same with Sam. You always encourage me and I can perform so much better when you are around.”

Vikrant opened his mouth to speak but she shut him down and continued her monologue. “With him, I am a different person altogether. I feel dumb around him whereas I am a confident woman when you are around. I wonder why? He makes me feel like shit at times and when we fight, he makes me feel like the guilty one, like he is kind enough to put up with me and like a love-struck puppy I do what he asks me to like I have no dignity at all.”, she went on ranting until she exhausted herself and dosed off. 

Vikrant couldn’t do anything about it. If only he could tell her how much more she deserved, how he was dying to have her. He picked her up and lay her on his bed. He then made himself comfortable on the couch in the living room.

Anna got up with a start in the middle of the night. It took her a moment to realize where she was. She couldn’t recall much of the evening but she did remember parts of her monologue and was embarrassed. She was high, no doubt, but she had spilled out her secret, something she knew but was scared to voice out. Sleep betrayed her that night as she was bombarded by an endless stream of thoughts. She knew she loved Sam and she knew Viki was just a friend but why was she having second thoughts? She wanted to run to Sam but it wasn’t safe to venture out alone at this hour, so she just lay there thinking and waiting for the morning. 

Next morning Vikrant got up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. He saw Anna working effortlessly in his kitchen and yearned for her yet again. Feeling his eyes on her, she turned around and gave him an embarrassed smile. She came to sit next to him and offered him coffee. They sat sipping their coffees in silence.

“Why did you kiss me yesterday?” she asked him point blank.

Vikrant was stunned at this sudden question. He helplessly tried making excuses again.

Anna raised her hand to silence him. “Are you being absolutely truthful about it?” She enquired.

Vikrant looked at her earnestly and spoke “Ann, I have badly fallen for you. I have been trying to figure out how and when but at the moment I am clueless. All I know is I love you dearly and I cannot see you hurt”. He wanted her to react but she sat there with a poker face.

“I have never felt this way for anyone before”, he continued, “I will be better behaved when I am around you. Trust me on that”, he said with tears in his eyes.

 Anna could see genuine love in his eyes, the love she longed to see in Sam’s. She closed her eyes, trying to absorb the truth. She had given it enough thought last night and she was absolutely certain about it.

Anna replied after what seemed like an eternity, “What if I don’t want you to behave yourself around me? What if I want to see your wildest side?”

Vikrant couldn’t believe his ears. He wondered if she was joking. 

Anna moved closer and gave him a peck on his lips. He sat there frozen, still unwilling to believe his luck. She tied her arms around his neck and started kissing him passionately. Vikrant too followed suit leaving all his inhibitions behind. It was a kiss neither would forget for years to come, it was a kiss of breaking free, a kiss of awakening, a kiss of love.  It was the most liberating feeling ever. She knew now, that a relation can survive only if there is mutual respect and admiration. If you do not bring out the best in each other, then it isn’t love.

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