“Come here, you slut! Haven’t I told you not to utter a word when I’m in the mood?” Suresh’s voice bellowed as he dragged Priya unapologetically from the kitchen. Priya was terrified and she began to shiver. The storm that brewed in his merciless, beastly eyes threatened to destroy her. His hand squeezed her so hard that she squirmed with pain.
“Suresh, please! Don’t do this to me. Please!” Priya’s pleas seem to fall on deaf ears.
Pinning her against the wall, he unzipped his pant and tore her dress apart. Her strength to defend was no match for his. In a matter of few seconds, he satisfied his pent-up wild desires with exhilaration, oblivious to the brutal pain that she was experiencing. Her muffled screams witnessed by the shut windows ensured the dark side of their married life remained safely concealed from the world outside. Such torturous episodes only continued, scarring her gentle body and mind with unhealed wounds…
A deluge of tears trickled down from Sneha’s eyes as she typed out her story with the names changed – the story of her past, tumultuous married life. She shuddered as she thought about the twelve bitter months she was with her vile husband. Their marriage was arranged. He had been the perfect man to everyone else except her. When he came to know that she did not wish to stay married to him, he tortured her even more. However, one day, she was relieved after a phone call. He had met with an accident and was gone – forever. Despite being married to him for a year, she did not shed any tears because of all the ghastly things that he had done to her. After his death, her parents suggested that she move back with them but she refused. She wanted to lead an independent life so she rented an apartment and resumed working.
Though it had been a year since his demise the painful memories ricocheted in monstrous form, metamorphosing in several ways. Writing was her hobby and passion, and she hoped that writing her story in the name of fiction would free her mind one day from the indelible past. The hour-long commute to her workplace was a blessing in disguise because it was the only time when she could type out all that she wished to.
The honk from the bus driver shook Sneha from her reverie. The bus halted to board passengers. She paused her fingers that were typing incessantly and shifted her gaze outside. She saw a couple sitting outside a Café. Their eyes seemed locked. The man gently caressed the woman’s hand and she blushed in return. Sneha’s heart fluttered as she watched them. Her mind slipped into thoughts as the bus left the stop.
She resumed her writing…
“Priya, You Bitch! Where are you? Should I remind you about manners?”
As she typed, her heart seemed to squeeze with extreme agony. And then, a surprising thought crossed her mind, having seen the couple outside. And she pressed, Select All and Del.
Writing a story about my harrowing past would only make them more vivid and unforgettable. How can I ever get rid of them if I think about them constantly? A happy fictional story, about a romantic couple, would distract me. Why did my myopic brain not think about this earlier?
And she began a new story, with fresh characters. It was a totally new version. She wrote the first chapter and this was how it ended;
Beneath the moonlit night, Deepak and Maya sat next to each other. Their eyes exchanged furtive glances. As he gently held her hand her heart skipped a beat. His fervent lips kissed her forehead. She could feel a million cells lighting up within her body. And when he inched closer, he sensed some hesitation within her. He immediately withdrew and said, “Maya, my love! Only if you are ready… We have all the time in the world.”
As she finished typing a few more lines, she had a strange feeling she was being watched. When she raised her head she saw a man standing next to her seat. He was about six feet tall with a dusky complexion and chiseled features. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up exposing his well-sculpted arms. He smelled of heady cologne- it was overpowering. As Sneha stared at him longer than a few seconds, he initiated a conversation;
“Ahem, Yes! Is there something you want to ask me?” He asked, pretending to clear his throat.
“Excuse me? I had a feeling I was being watched,” replied Sneha.
“Ha ha! Your nimble fingers were busy typing something. Texting someone? Or is it a story, poem?”
“Mmm, yeah! It is a story. I’m working on it.”
Now, why am I answering all his questions? I’d better cut him off. But I have to admit, he is divinely handsome. Sneha thought to herself.
“You might want to sit. There’s an empty seat in the front. Someone just got down,” she said, to stop the conversation from prolonging.
“I get it. I will not utter a word more. You carry on with your story,” he replied with an infectious smile and left.
Sneha continued typing a few more lines before her eyes searched for him but he was nowhere to be found. She assumed that he had gotten off at the next stop.
After reaching the office, she got busy. Client meetings to attend, project deadlines to chase- it was the usual routine. Being glued to the desk for a long time she decided to take a short break and head to the cafeteria. As she sipped her coffee she saw a man filling his coffee mug. When he turned around Sneha was startled. It was him- the man she’d met on the bus. He waved at her.
She waved back at him.
“Hi! Do you work here?” Sneha questioned him. The building housed several other companies.
“Well…Yeah,” he replied with a wide smile. The dimples on either side of his stubbled face made him seem very attractive.
“I see. Ok, Take care. Gotto go,” said Sneha. She had a weird and unsettling feeling after bumping into the same person once again.
“Good luck with your story. Take care, writer,” he said and left.
Sneha didn’t reply. Why would he be so concerned about my story?
She hurried back to her cubicle and tried to focus on her work, however, thoughts about him kept popping up.
What’s wrong with me? He’s just a stranger.
Sneha had a dull, pulsating headache. She decided to call it a day and head home.
Luckily, there was a bus at 4 pm and she took it. She sat in a seat next to the window. She removed the band that was holding her hair back into a pony and let it loose. Her layered tresses fell on her shoulder. Her almond eyes appeared exhausted and her fair face was a little jaded. She searched for the bottle of axe oil in her handbag. As she rubbed a few drops on her forehead, a past incident flashed across her mind;
“So you have a headache and can’t serve me food? I know how to make the pain go away.” Sneha’s husband scarred her with a burning cigarette butt. Sneha screamed with pain. But he just laughed and said ‘This pain will make you forget your headache, my darling!’ ”
A lone tear trickled down her cheek. And she scratched those scars beneath her sleeve. She scratched it hard enough, hoping those memories would shed along with the skin.
No! I should not think about it. I must try and distract myself.
She decided to continue writing the story that she had left midway.
While Maya loved weaving words, Deepak was in absolute awe of her skill. He would often urge her to narrate the stories she wrote to him. And while she did, he watched her beauteous face in quietude, absorbing every single word that evoked a plethora of emotions within him. Though his euphoric heart longed to touch her, he resisted himself. He did not just want her body- he wanted her soul, the whole of her, for which he had to wait until she was ready…
As Sneha was deeply absorbed in writing the story, she didn’t notice the person who came and sat next to her. Suddenly her phone slipped off her hand and she bent down to pick it up. Before she could, the person next to her handed her the phone.
It was him, yet again.
Sneha was shocked.
Was it just a coincidence?
“Yes, it’s me. Heading home? So early?” he asked.
Looking at her hesitant face, he said, “Hey! I see a window seat there. Lemme go grab it.”
There sure seemed some enigma surrounding him. But Sneha couldn’t figure out what it was. She could still smell his heady cologne. She felt a tingle as the scent lingered in the breaths she took. She assured herself that it was just a random feeling and let it pass. She started typing from where she had stopped. The traffic delayed the commute further but it was a blessing in disguise since it gave her more time to write. Her eyes searched for him after a while. But he was nowhere to be found.
Before heading home, she decided to go to the neighborhood library to check out a few books. Her headache had subsided by then. And while she entered the library her tormenting past came chasing after her;
“Reading a novel? You seem to have too much free time.” Sneha’s husband grabbed the novel from her and threw it in the garbage bin. “It’s game time! I will throw first, you throw next,” he said and forcefully made her throw away all the books she owned. He had rejoiced to watch her sob.
Sneha shuddered. Her hands turned clammy.
He is no more. He can’t do anything to me now. I can read all the books that I wish to.
She wondered what books to check out and then made up her mind.
Mills and Boons it shall be! Just something breezy, easy on my brain. Something to elevate my mood. Hot romance…
As she was grabbing a couple of books from the rack, she felt someone from the other side pulling them too.
“Hey, who’s that?” She questioned.
“It’s me.” The voice sounded familiar.
When she pushed the books aside she could not believe whom she saw.
The same face for the fourth time.
Is he following me? Not sure…But he seems ubiquitous.
And then, she asked, “And yet again we meet. By the way, M&B? You? Seriously?”
“Madam, Is there a written rule that men shouldn’t read them? Please enlighten me,” he asked with a sweet smile and a certain sarcasm in his tone.
His sonorous voice seemed to do strange things to her body. It permeated within her magically. She closed her eyes for a moment.
“You don’t wish to reply. Nevermind! You can have all these books. I can read them later,” he said and as he handed the books to her, his fingers brushed past her palm. She could feel a wave of desire traveling across her nerves.
Sneha’s mind was filled with mixed emotions. Too many things were happening too soon and nothing seemed to make sense.
I’m overthinking. It’s all just a coincidence. He means nothing to me.
She assured herself that as long as she didn’t meet him again, there was nothing to worry about. Though she didn’t want to meet him, deep within her heart, she found it difficult to hide the truth- he had done something to stir her emotions.
After reaching home, Sneha took a hot shower. She ate some rotis and dal- leftovers from the previous night and snuggled on the couch with a book she had borrowed from the library. She read a couple of pages. Though she wanted to continue reading, her fidgety fingers wished to type. It felt unusual to her. She usually never wrote anything at night.
Unable to resist the urge she began typing. Words flowed like a river…
The petrichor from the rain wafted across the air. It smelled heavenly. Maya heard someone ring the bell and opened the door.
It was Deepak. He was completely drenched.
“I was heading home. Visibility outside is very poor. Can I wait here until it stops raining?” he asked.
“Sure. Come on. Let me get you a cup of coffee,” said Maya.
Maya brought two cups of steaming coffee. They both sat, conversing with each other for a long time. But after a while, it was not their lips but eyes that spoke.
“I’d better leave now. It’s getting late.” He blew her a kiss and walked towards the door. He didn’t want to take any advantage of the situation.
But Maya’s hands grabbed his.
“You don’t have to,” she said and hugged him tightly.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes, I am. I want you Deepak. I am ready and I want you badly…”
After that, there was no stopping. Deepak gave her a passionate kiss and lifted her, proceeding towards the bedroom…
“Whoa! I will stop for now and continue later. My story is proceeding toward uncharted boundaries. How exciting!” exclaimed Sneha and switched off her phone.
She went to her bedroom and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. A stream of thoughts ran across her mind. After a while, she brushed her long hair diligently before braiding it. In the next few moments, his ubiquitous face seemed to flash across her shut eyelids every time she blinked. She gasped and gulped a glass of water. And as she was about to switch off the lights, she was startled by the reflection that caught her attention.
It was Him, admiring her reflection.
Sneha wondered if she was imagining things.
Has my mind turned insane? What am I to do now?
Sneha choked to find her words.
“You…You…Why have you been following me everywhere? Who are you? You are driving me crazy. THIS is definitely not a coincidence. You couldn’t have come here unless you followed me.”
“Relax! Maya, I’m not here to scare or hurt you. I will not come anywhere close to you in future. I’ll leave, don’t worry.”
“No, STOP! I’ve had enough. Tell me, who you are? Wait a minute! How did you just address me?”
“Maya? That’s a character in my story. This doesn’t make sense. Who are you?”
“Don’t you still get it? I’m drenched don’t you see? Can I wait here until it stops raining? Won’t you get me a cup of coffee?” he winked.
“I don’t get it. And stop mincing words.”
“Maya! I am Deepak, your muse. The same Deepak who is deeply in love with Maya. You created me. Your thoughts gave me life. You poured out your feelings as Maya and longed for that kind of love. Your feelings for Deepak are deep. Aren’t they?”
Deepak? My muse. Sounds bizarre. What’s happening to me? I haven’t shared my story with anyone. How does he know the details unless…
“I shall leave now and never come back. I will not make you uncomfortable anymore.”
Sneha hesitated. She could feel his warm breaths as they both were standing a few inches apart. His dilated eyes looked straight at her- he had nothing to hide.
“Wait…Deepak! How can this be real? It’s very hard to believe.”
“Real, Unreal, Bizarre! Stop straining your brain. What do want and wish for? Don’t conceal your feelings.”
Sneha went silent for a few moments and then spoke.
“I wish for that kind of love. I wish to be loved truly.”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
Deepak gently stroked her cheeks and tucked a few tendrils of her stray hair behind the ears. His ardent lips longed to kiss her but he held back.
“Maya! I will not come an inch closer. Not until I know what you want.”
But his words and touch lilted her heart and Sneha felt aroused. She had never felt so alive before.
“Deepak, don’t stop. Please don’t stop. I want you.”
“In that case, where did your story pause … After that, there was no stopping. Deepak gave her a passionate kiss and lifted her, proceeding towards the bedroom…”
Sneha’s eyes tuned wide hearing him narrate the lines verbatim.
Deepak embraced her petite waist with his strong arms and placed her on the bed. After undressing her, his tongue traced imprints across the nape of her neck and traversed every curve of her body, lingering longer at places few. She moaned with pleasure. And when she was ready and could no longer take the heat, she surrendered to him completely. They rocked in resonance until he gyrated and she unfurled ecstatically to sway like a wildflower. After a few moments of their blissful union, Sneha spoke;
“Deepak! Is this even real? This has been the happiest day of my life in the recent past. My past can never torment me anymore.”
“Real? Why do you bother? Did you enjoy it, My Love?”
“Yes and I don’t wish for you to go.”
“My existence here is ephemeral. But if you come with me as Maya to the parallel world, we can be together, always and forever.”
“A parallel world? What will this world conclude if I leave?”
“The world will come up with a thousand conclusions. Why bother? Your happiness is of primal concern. Do what makes you happy.”
Sneha took a deep breath and without any second thoughts, she said, “I wish to be Maya! Take me to your world.”
The ethereal sky lit up with a million stars. Deepak and Maya’s love story had just begun.
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