You still don’t bolt your doors. Did you expect me?
Her eyes had thick kohl linings. Her short cropped hair did not quite go with her dress. The bright flowers on the long lengha looked out of place. Her fetish for leather was evident. Yet another pair of long suede leather shoes and a new Hide-sign bag. Her lips were parched.
What brings you back? I thought this story had finished. I wasn’t a character in your fantasy anymore.
You see I am writing a sequel. Will you play along she said flirtingly.
Why should I?
She dropped the bag on the floor and undid her shoes. Her feet were fair and fragile. As she walked towards the fridge I could see the arteries of her feet. That lissom, almost cat like movement. You would never know when she would walk in and out of you. The art of walking!
Are you a Gemini?
Yes, why do you ask?
You got gems in your stride. What May.
27th, Won’t you ask me the year too?
I am not interested in your years. Do you have a past?
I buried it long ago.
Her hair was long then. She had tied it but only casually. She wore no makeup. In her left hand she held a glass of red wine. A brown tanned leather bag hung over her shoulder.
Do you drink?
Why do you ask?
What, she pursued with her line of questioning.
How old are you?
How old do I look?
Can’t you answer straight?
Do you smoke?
Yes but I can’t lend you any. I am out of them.
Do you want to smoke?
If you lend me one.
The air outside was humid. I took out my pack of cigarettes.
Gold Flake. Is that your brand?
I smoke what I get. I am not loyal.
Is that your style?
No, loyalty isn’t my trait.
Do you have a light?
What do you do?
There is nothing in the fridge. She shouted.
Not even your beer.
I don’t drink anymore.
Oh you are a chameleon.
What difference does it make it you?
Have you sold all your furniture?
I did not want to live with it .I buried my past. You included. I am at peace now.
Do you want me to leave?
You can do what you please. The door is still open.
How if I say I still love you.
I didn’t know if she was playing, pretending or being truthful. She sat close to me. The marble floor was glistening under the sunlight. She was in a sleeveless kurta. Her underarms were shaven. I was still not looking at her. I did not want to look at her. She would always emerge a victor in such situations. It was this shame of imminent defeat that I could not summon the courage to meet her eye.
So you don’t want me anymore.
The conversation was going nowhere. Her fingers were making small circles on the marble. The sunlight was shadowing the circles.
Are you seeing someone?
Do I have to answer you?
I have come here to give you something.
I don’t want anything from you.
It is a book. The one you have been looking for.
Can you pull that bag?
She was an adept at wrapping gifts. Sometimes she would take more time and put in more effort in buying the right wrapping paper and ribbon than she would spend in choosing the gift. It was an obsession with her. It isn’t what we give but how we give, my love is the layers of the gift paper she would say.
She took the book out. It was wrapped in a maroon coloured handmade paper. She handed me the book.
I kept it aside.
Don’t you want to see the book?
I will see it later.
She came closer to me and took my left hand in her hands. Her hands were bony. Her nails were long and bare. I pulled my hand away.
The hills are beautiful, aren’t they?
They were enveloped in the morning mist. We had barely crossed The Timber Trail near Kalka when big drops of rain started hitting our windshield. She started singing , Aaj Mausam bada Beyimaan haan .She put her right hand on my lap.
Will you look at me please?
I can either drive or look at you. I can’t do both.
The weather is pleasant for a kiss.
The weather is never unpleasant for a kiss.
Why do you argue so much?
I love arguing with you.
She leaned towards me possibly with the intention of kissing me. Suddenly a truck over took us and the driver screamed .Bahut Garmi ho rahi hain to hotel chale jao.
Isn’t that a good idea?
Yes but we already have a booking at Chail.
Chail is four hours away. I don’t want to wait that long. Can’t we just check into some hotel on the way? In any case we won’t make much progress with the wet road.
Do you remember me sometime?
No I don’t. You have given me no reason to.
My door bell rang. A small man was at the door.
Madamji left her phone in the car. It is ringing he said.
I took the phone from him and he left.
Your phone. Your husband must be looking for you.
She took the phone, wore her shoes, picked up the bag and walked out of the door.
I tore the wrap and started reading, The Mill on the Floss.