city of fate : a novella by ch lady diana

We are happy a novella by Ch Lady Diana, as part of the series ‘urban body : entrapments & releases”

This project is supported by

Irish Home Fragrance & Converge mobile phone store

cover image courtesy Baisampayam Saha

liner

City of Fate – Dialectics

The short novella sees cultural and dogmatic entrapment that tends to disillusion an
individual. The recurring issues are pertinent to post-colonial literature. Some of such issues are identity crisis, community pressure, entrapment within a moral order, sexual dystopia, etc.

What the short novella attempts to reveal is the individual and his or her attainment of epiphanies which helps them lead their lives to their fulfilment.

Read the book by clicking here in epub format

This project

City of Fate

Alisha Barrow was a nice charming lady. She lived with her Indian mother, Samita who had married Richard Barrow many years back but the marriage had not worked out, things had turned so bad that Richard almost abandoned the mother and daughter. So, Alisha lived alone with her mother in a nice house in London.

She was about thirty three but nothing about her carried the tell-tale signs of aging anxiety. She was a successful architect running around the streets of London, meeting clients and designing houses for families.

Nothing gave her more satisfaction than designing a new home for families. Her clients ideas and dreams stirred in her the freshness of the morning coffee.

Often she used to be bent on a design in her room, in London, and her mother used to come in to check on her girl and deliver her goods made up of her hand-made cookies and a cup of strong tea.

On seeing her daughter work her life away, Samita used to at times drop on the bed and watch her laborious daughter toil. In some time, Alisha used to realise her mother hadn’t left her room and she used to turn around only to focus on her mother’s arched-eyebrows and worried face.

Oh no, she would say getting the hints of a conversation with her mother about her marriage.

“How long? Just how long will you stay like this?” her mother used to ask.

Mom!

“Your friends have kids now,” she would start exasperated.

But Alisha did not listen to her mother. She used to gently put a finger on her mother’s lips and hold her up by the shoulders and walk her out of her room.

Taking a deep breathe, she used to resume her work.

To Alisha, marriage was not a qualification to live life through like a graduation certificate. She told herself that if she at all married, it would be for love.

Alisha had met many men, but for some reason she was never able to stick around with them for a long time. She had fancied a boy in her class for two years and when finally he had asked her out, she had refused him. She had regretted her decision so much that if a guy asked her out whether he was blonde or black, she at least went out on a date with him. Everybody around her had started to recognise her as the girl who had commitment issues. Tired of dates and being pursued, she stopped chasing around for her Knight believing if he were to come, he would make it against all odds.

One fine evening, after she returned from work Alisha found in the kitchen a delicious mom-made chocolate cake. A big smile came on her face and she was prepared to hog it up.

When Samita entered the kitchen to meet her daughter, she was wearing one of her manipulative smile on her face.

Samita made a careful cut into the cake and pulled out a portion of it for Alisha. She fed her with her hands and smiled pleasantly asking how it was made.

Alisha eyed her suspiciously and asked, “ok what do you want ?”

Samita first tried to ignore the fact that she was caught but she gave it up and shamelessly confronted Alisha still smiling pleasantly.

“Your Aunt Padma called.”

On hearing the name, Alisha rolled her eyes up. “Oh no, no, not again,”

Alisha started chanting. “Just listen for once,” said her mother earnestly. “No ways Mom,” Alisha said very firmly.

“You will like it this time,” her mother tried to assure her.

“No! How many times do I have to tell you not to do this for me?”

Samita, as against the previous arguments, was not willing to lose it that time. She filled her eyes with moisture and suddenly she appeared a hundred years old.

On seeing her mother on the verge of tears, Alisha too, mellowed down.

“Mom please, don’t do this,” she almost requested.

“Is it a sin to want to see my child happy?” asked Samita dramatically almost choking with tears.

“No, no,” Alisha said and sat by her mother. Holding her hands she told her, “But I am happy Mom. I have you.”

“But I am growing old and what if something happens to me today, you will live alone tomorrow,” and at that thought she shed some more tears and sobbed endlessly.

Alisha felt she was cornered somehow. There is always one thing that all children no matter of what race or nationality or religion or legitimacy or gender canтt stand; their sobbing mothers.

“Will it hurt you if you just listen or give it a try for me?” Samita asked amidst her tears.

“No of course not,” said Alisha and she thought it wiser to give up as she did not want to see her mother more upset.

“Go on tell me,” she asked Samita.

The sad and withered face suddenly glowed with joy like she was some 18 years old teenage, sitting to gossip about boys in her school.

“Ok, your Aunt Padma called. She was telling me about her Nephew who lives in London, Jay. That’s his name, Jay Kumar.”

“How many nephews does Aunt Padma have? The last time she introduced me to two other guys, they were her nephews too.”

“What do I care,” said Samita and waved away her daughter’s sarcasm with a pinch of salt.

“So you want me to go and meet him?” asked Alisha.

“You won’t need to; I have invited your Aunt Padma and Jay Kumar to tea tomorrow.”

“What! You called them home? Without asking me? Mom I have work,” Alisha protested.

“It won’t hurt if you come home early for once,” Samita replied coldly and she left.

Alisha spent the next working day of her life cursing her Aunt. She hated every man her Aunt introduced her to. They were the sample pieces of a misogynist and patriarchal society.

One of them wanted a wife because he wanted someone to take care of his home and give him kids. The other one had come to meet Alisha without feeling the need of a woman at all. They all just wanted to meet a good lady and just settle down.

Alisha had a horrible feeling that she would vomit if she met Jay. She really tried to think of some excuse to cook up to get home late but her mother kept calling her up and she was reminded for every minute of the day that she had to reach home earlier.

When she reached home, she saw a nice car parked in front of her house. She knew the guests were already there.

She stood at the door unable to open it, holding and releasing the door knob time and again. Suddenly the door was opened from the inside and her mother appeared.

She ushered Alisha into the drawing room excitedly.

On the couch was seated a very handsome gentleman. He stood up when Alisha entered and shook her hands with a delighted smile and twinkling eyes. He was tall and he had dark hair. He was very charming to look at maybe because of those dark bushy eyebrows that complimented the dimpled smile. Alisha sat down among them looking at Jay with some curiosity.

When the guests were leaving, Jay gave Alisha his visiting card and said, “I do hope to meet you again.”

That night, Samita worked in the kitchen humming some of her favourite songs to herself. She did not need to ask her daughter, she knew something had clicked between Alisha and Jay.

Inside her room, Alisha was laid out on her bed. She kept looking at the card in her hand curiously as if wondering if Jay was the one. She wanted to meet him and get to know him. He seemed different somehow. He seemed a charming fellow. But she shied away from thinking about calling up Jay first.

She spent an anxious two days after her meeting with Jay thinking and imagining about him but she was unable to call him.

On the third day, her secretary let in a prospective client who took Alisha by surprise. The door opened and in walked, Jay.

Alisha stood up from her chair utterly taken in by his appearance.

“Hi,” he said with his attractive smile, “oh, I didn’t know you worked here.”

He approached her as if he was as well surprised to see her.

Alisha took her seat and laughed shyly, didn’t you?”

Jay took the chair opposite to her across the table.

No, actually I asked Aunt Padma for you,” he said laughing shamelessly as he revealed the truth. Both of them laughed as if there was something interesting working between them, some vibe or some chemistry developing.

“But,” he said, “I honestly have some work for you though.”

“Please say, how I can help you,” responded Alisha coming back to work.

“I want you to redesign my home,” he said.

Alisha looked at him trying to guess if he was working on a metaphorical way to propose to her but he sounded more business.

“Redesign the interiors?” she asked.

“Yes, ummm I have been living there for some ten years already. Now I want to make some changes and I need your help.”

“Ok, I need to have a look at your house. So let’s make an appointment for our next meeting shall we?” Alisha asked.

“If you have the time, we can go now,” he said urgently. “Now?”

But of course, Alisha had no issues in seeing Jays’ house. Deep down in her, she hoped it would turn out to be a good place and she secretly aspired towards sharing that space with Jay if things just went well with him.

Jay worked in a bank as a senior manager in London. His apartment turned out to be a very decent one. Alisha manoeuvred along the length and breadth of the apartment, there were two bedrooms and a huge drawing room attached to a very nice kitchen.

“It’s a very good space here,” she finally said,” why do you want to redesign it?”

Jay gave a naughty smile and scratching his head, he said, “Maybe I want to add your touch to it.”

Alisha found her heart already following him. She wanted to know more about him but she was also somewhat apprehensive on deciding anything for sure as she felt things were moving too fast for her. He came close to her and said, “Look, I liked you already when I saw you for the first time and I know itтs too early to decide on, you know, marriage and all. But I want to give all the time there is to you and me so that we can make up our minds and I want to make every moment of this time worthwhile. “So,” he said holding Alisha’s hands, “will you go out with me? Will you be my date?”

To such wonderful words, Alisha could not have said no. She looked him in the eyes and gave him a nod. She was nervous that Jay was going to seal the deal with a warm kiss but where kiss should have been, there was only his happy glance.

He broke away from her and said, “thank you very much, I appreciate. Let’s go for dinner tonight. I will come to pick you up from your office. Ok?”

Although she was nervous about the kiss, she became a little disappointed with the sudden call of practicality in the air, she said yes to him thinking maybe after a proper date, they were both going to feel more relaxed with each other.

“Excellent,” said Jay, “shall I drop you back to your office then?”

Alisha looked a little unsure of going right away as she wanted to linger on with Jay a bit longer. She wanted to get to know him and spend more time with him. She was disappointed with the way Jay had put the meeting to a halt abruptly.

She stood up lazily and walked out with Jay and with all the cordiality he opened the door of the car. In no time, they were standing in front of her office door.

As they bade a shy and reluctant goodbye to each other, Jay held her hands and sweetly gave Alisha a kiss on her hand.

I will see you at 7 darling,” he said and left.

After that rendezvous, Alisha was in fact ashamed that she had never waited for 7 pm more anxiously in her life. Her mind flew from one detail to another of the prospective dinner date.

When the clock struck 7 finally, her heart almost missed a beat. She went out of the office door to meet Jay but he was not there. She looked left and right but she was sure that he was not around. She kept looking at the people passing her by for that familiar figure but he was certainly not around.

She did not know what to do. She took out his card from her pocket and called him up but he didnтt receive her call. Was she supposed to go home or wait for some more time? She chose to wait for some more time and started chatting with some friends on her phone.

In about ten minutes or so, Jay came running up to her and he was extremely apologetic for being late.

“I got caught up with work, it came up suddenly and I had to sort it out before I left office otherwise work for tomorrow would be problematic.

“It’s OK. I understand, things happen,” she said with a smile.

She pushed away all her annoyance and pretended to be pleasant with him.

They drove away to Farringdon, and entered a really expensive restaurant.

“You will love the steak over here,” Jay told her with excitement.

At the door, they met an assistant who guided them to their table and discussed what was special about the place. As it turned out, Jay had booked a table for their evening and he had arranged some things for his lady’s delight.

A waiter brought out a huge bouquet of red roses, and while they talked away about themselves they pampered their taste to some good steak and French wine.

“So, tell me more about yourself,” he asked

Alisha shyly smiled and asked back, “what do you want to know?” And she sipped on her wine

“What do you like to indulge into when you are not working? Do you like to hike or swim?” he asked.

She laughed meekly and said, “nothing of that sort, I am a lazy person. I like to read and maybe take up a paint brush and canvas over the weekend.”

“I bet, you haven’t had the adrenaline rush in a long time then.”

“Oh yea,” she said and smiled embarrassingly but she was rather confused over why he thought painting could not bring an adrenaline rush in her.

“Perhaps, we can go horse-riding together over the weekend.”

“Yes perhaps, she replied plaintively.

After the dinner, Jay dropped her home. He stopped her at the threshold of her house and he put something in her hand. She held it up and she saw that it was a beautiful bracelet.

No, I can’t take this,” she started protesting feeling rather awkward with the expensive gift.

He went close up to her and he took the bracelet in his hands again and gently clasped it around her fair wrist.

“This is not just for you, it’s for a new beginning to us and to remind you of me when I won’t be around,” and taking some courage he went very close up to her and lightly placed one arm around her waist and with his other hand, he held her cheek.

“I had the most wonderful time with you tonight, I wish to live every night like this with you,” he said softly.

And in that most confronting moment, Alisha and Jay kissed each other for the first time.

Alisha entered her house smiling to herself. Her mother appeared before her with a naughty smile.

“So?” her mother asked her, “how did it go?”

“Mom, shut up, she told her walking away from her. “Oh c’mon”

Seeing her mother’s bright expectant face she was forced to admit with a smile, “Yea it was nice.”

“Just nice?” Samita asked.

Alisha smiled at her with that look saying mother-you-are-impossible and she said, “It was wonderful. He is a nice guy.”

“So everything went well and you both liked each other and he is a great guy?” Samita summarised it all for her daughter.

Then Alisha showed her hand up to flaunt the bracelet.

“Oh my God, this guy treats you like a princess,” her mother exclaimed.

Alisha laughed at her mother’s excitement and said, “Yes, he does know how to make a girl feel good.”

It was a pleasant night, Alisha and her mother talked till late into the night. Her mother was finally hopeful that Alisha was going to get hitched that year and she happily started day dreaming about arranging for the marriage. Many a times, she woke up in her sleep saying, oh its lots of work how will we manage if we don’t start now?

But when she discussed the matter with her daughter she got a sharp reply from Alisha saying there wasnтt a proposal and approval yet.

That fine day, Alisha received a call from one of her friendтs from college.

“Hi Alisha, its Annie. I have a get together in my place tonight at eight. I would be really happy to catch up with you so why don’t you get along and join the party?”

Alisha was just wondering whether to attend or not, and suddenly she received a message from Jay.

It read as, Hey sweetie. Good Morning

Just as soon as she replied to his message, she received a call from Jay. After talking to him for about five minutes, she replied to Annie that she would love to join her. After two hours, Alisha received a message from Jay again. It read as,

Missing you”

Alisha smiled to herself and she told herself with a little delight and amazement, “This guy already misses me?”

The entire day, Jay made a lot of his presence apparent to her. At lunch, he made someone deliver to her chocolates. For every hour of the day, he messaged her and if he was going to be busy he messaged her that he was going to be busy for the next hour or so.

Alisha’s friend and colleague Fiona came chuckling to her asking, “So who’s this new guy?”

When Alisha showed to her his photograph which he had sent from his office to inform her that he had reached office, Fiona could not help whistling.

“Charming fellow!” she exclaimed and gave Alisha a thumps up and wished her luck.

In the afternoon, Alisha called her mom to let her know that she was going to reach home late.

“Are you going out with Jay?” Samita asked happily.

“No Mom, I am going to see Annie,” she replied puncturing her expectations with many stabs.

“Well, you ought to use your time more wisely,” Samita advised her.

When she was leaving, there was a drizzle. She rushed to her car and started driving. Annie’s place was not a long way from her office but the drizzle had turned into a heavy shower and it made driving difficult for everyone around.

When she was happy to be finally in front of Annie’s building, she heard a bang behind as she was hurled forward with a jerk. She went out of her car and checked on her broken baby. There was a dent on the trunk and the tail light was broken too. The car that came up from her behind had hit her.

A man came out from the car, holding his coat over his head to save himself from the rain.

“Hi,” he said, “I am sorry, extremely sorry for the mess Ma’am,” he said apologetically as he stood in the rain with her.

Alisha looked at her car and at the rain around, she held up her hands as if things could not have been worse.

That man took out the coat and gave it to her,

Here you take this and I will get some help for your car. Please sit in your car,” he told her and opened the door and made her sit inside.

He went back to his car and he took his phone and dialled a number. Thereupon, he parked his car and came to Alisha and took the keys from her and parked her car too safely.

Who are you? – she asked in amazement and disgust, you show up suddenly from nowhere and take control of things around me.

“I am really sorry,” he said as they were seated inside her car, “I have called for help. They will be here any minute; I will take care of everything.”

Alisha couldn’t help but stare at that weird guy.

Do you even hear to what I am saying? she asked in anger.

I believe people get shocked when accidents happen and we ought to remain calm before we worsen things, you know,ц he told her turning his head behind with a great ingenuity.

She could not believe her eyes, Do you understand English?

“I won’t say no”,he said with a smile. The smile irritated her even more.

“I am Dovey, Dovey Collin,” he introduced himself to make a conversation with the lady so that he could safe himself from being executed by her staring anger but Alisha did not say anything. She stared away from him, trying to look at anything and anywhere but him.

Just then, the mechanic’s truck arrived and they took the cars away for repair. Dovey made the payment for both the cars and gave one of the receipts to Alisha for her to get her vehicle later on.

“Just who are you?” she asked infuriated, “you hit my car and ruined my evening. You came from nowhere and you kept me in your coat. And now you are paying for my car, just who are you?”

“I think I told you, it’s Dovey,” he said coolly.

Alisha flung the coat at him and prepared to leave.

“I wouldn’t be so angry if I were you. I haven’t met anyone in the rain before, I haven’t had such an interesting meeting with anyone before because believe it or not, I have never hit anyone before, and so if I have hit you it means, you know, we were meant to hit upon each other. But yea,” he said and looked up at the sky as if he was talking to someone above, “it could have been less drastic and dramatic.”

Alisha told herself that Dovey Collins was not only reckless but he was crazy too. She snatched the receipt from his hand in anger and walked away from him to enter the building. She could not believe when he started walking with her. He entered the elevator with her,when she pressed for the third floor he didn’t react. He simply stood there with her. When the door opened and she rushed out, he followed and when she came before Annie’s door, he was walking by her and stopped in front of the door with her too.

She knocked hurriedly and rang the bell many times.

“What’s wrong with you?” Dovey asked confused.

“What’s with YOU? Why are you following me?” But before Alisha could say anything more, Annie opened the door to them.

“Oh my God, Alisha!ц she exclaimed and hugged Alisha happily. Then she saw Dovey and said, “Hey, so you made it?”

Annie had a great connection with India. Her grandfather had served in the British Army in India for many years and her parents used to take her regularly to India to bestow homage and respect to the memories of her grandfather. Her parents had a good house near the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun in India where her grandfather had lived. Her grandfather wanted to be burnt on a pyre like a Hindu man, he also had many loyal friends in India who kept up with being good friends with Annie and her parents and since the funeral of the grandfather Annie and her parents had taken a lot to Hindu religion.

Her apartment was decorated with peacock feathers, Lord Krishnaтs paintings and the miniature of the Taj Mahal was also in her drawing room. The couch in her room was covered with an exotic looking cloth and the corners of her apartment had art pieces of tribal culture of India. She wore pretty earrings, dangling from her ears which were sent especially from India for her.

“Well, are you coming in or not?” Annie asked Dovey.

“Never mind,” Dovey said moodily and entered the Apartment.

He picked up a glass of water and fell on the nearest couch.

Alisha entered the room a little confused, and she saw a sombre party was laid out. She caught up with some of her former college friends and Annie introduced her to some of her colleagues.

Annie worked as a student counsellor in a college and she introduced Alisha to some of her colleagues. There was an administrator, another was a student counsellor like Annie herself and there were two or three teachers of which Dovey was one.

“Do I need to introduce him to you because I am under the impression that you know each other?” she added mischievously.

“Ummm I don’t know him,” Alisha added awkwardly.

So Annie happily introduced Dovey to Alisha, “Alisha, he is Dovey Collin, he is a professor in visual arts in our college.”

“And I am not a habitual offender and I don’t stalk women,” added Dovey lightly.

“What?” asked Annie a little confused.

“Nothing,” said Dovey.

Then Annie went to attend the other guests and left Dovey and Alisha to do their own cleaning.

“I am sorry,” Alisha said, I had misunderstood you over there and….”

“I really had the impression that I was good looking, I donтt know, how did you see a stalker in this face of mine?”

Alisha looked at him and she was trying to ascertain whether that was a joke or the swollen ego of an arts professor. But when he winked at her, she realised he was having fun after all. Both of them laughed a bit and they were relaxed to talk to each other. They sat down and talked about their work.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“Oh I am an architect and I basically design houses,” she replied. “So, what kind of houses do you design?” he asked.

“Well, it depends on my client actually. They give me inputs and I design accordingly adding some more detail and expertise.”

“Oh wow that sounds interesting!” he said.

“Yea, it is. It’s wonderful to know how people shape their dreams up for a perfect house to live happily. All their ideal ideas for a good home.”

“Yea, so what’s your ideal design?” he asked suddenly, “what kind of a house do you visualize where you would like to spend the rest of your life?”

“Mine?” she asked taken a little aback, “I am sorry, I have never really thought about it because I have never been asked such a question,” she said and laughed a little, “but ideally I like a house that looks like a cottage. Small and cosy with lots of light and wood work inside and a green sprawling lawn in front.”

He looked at her for over a minute when he heard that, “What?” she asked.

He nodded his head in acknowledgement and said, “You appear to be talking about the house that I have designed,” he said and chuckled a bit.

“Wait, you designed your own house?” she asked astonished.

“Yea, well I tried and I worked at it,” he said coolly.

“That’s,” she was lost for words,” that’s very creative of you. “

He laughed and said thanks.

“Not more creative than you.” he added.

She laughed pleasantly and said, “oh no, nothing like that. So, what do you besides teaching?”

“I try and read. And most of the times, I take up the paint brush and a canvas.”

It was turn for Alisha to look at him enigmatically. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she said, “it’s just that it’s the same answer I tell people.” “This is crazy,” exclaimed Dovey with amusement.

When the party was over, Annie wished a very sweet goodnight to everyone and she conveniently closed her door to retire to her bed. It was nearly midnight and most of the visitors drove away in their cars. They were almost in a hurry to hug their beds, a couple or two planned to carry on the party in their places where probably they would make out and either forget each other the next day or start seeing each other.

Alisha stood stranded on the side of the road, trying to catch a cab. From nowhere again, Dovey halted before her in a cab.

From inside the cab, he called out to her,

“You know, since you had to do away with your car because of me I would really feel like you have forgiven me if you,” he now said mockingly, “bestow upon me with the privilege of your presence by my side in this cab.”

Alisha laughed and got in the cab to take the ride with him. On reaching her home, Dovey wrote his address on a piece of paper and handed it to Alisha.

“Here is my address,” he said, “if you want to catch up some other time or come to see my cottage. May be you can give me some suggestions to make it better. If you do plan to drop in, just give me a call and try on weekdays. I know it’s difficult, I am just saying.”

Alisha took the piece of paper from him and she wished him goodnight as she stepped out of the cab.

“Hey,” Dovey called out to her again.

She turned around to listen to what he had to say. “You mind having dinner with me,” he asked casually.

“I am seeing someone,” she said promptly, with no yes or no.

“Oh, that’s not a yes or no” he said, but he didn’t seem disappointed or sad.

Alisha rolled her eyes up laughing to herself, “You are impossible Dovey.”

“I am sorry,” he said.

“Sorry for what?” she asked with a half-smile.

“Well, you missed a chance like me,” he told her winking at her. Alisha gave a hearty laugh,

“Dovey you are impossible,” she said laughing and waved at him to show him that she was going inside.

The next morning Jay called Alisha up rather early. “Where were you?” he asked anxiously.

“Oh, sorry. My battery died last night and I was at my friend’s place.”

“Friend’s place? You didn’t tell me,” he asked icily.

Alisha became a little annoyed; however she composed herself and told him, “There was a little get together. I forgot to inform you.”

“If you had told me, I could have gone with you to meet your friends,” he said almost reprimanding her.

Alisha was getting irked now, “you mean to say if I want to meet a friend, I am supposed to inform you from now onwards and take you along with me too?”

Jay suddenly sensed the alarm ringing so he had to check himself, “no dear, not always. I just want to know you are OK and I like to be in touch with you.”

There was a long silence between them after he said that, then he broke the ice and asked her, “do tell me about your friends? Did you enjoy the party?”

Alisha hardly wanted to talk anymore, but she didn’t want to sound rude to him.

“Yea, a get together of some bunch of college friends.”

“Oh that sounds fun; I haven’t met my friends in a long time now. I guess I should catch up with them. Would you like to meet them?” he asked.

“Of course,” she said faking her pleasure, “listen, I have work, and I need to go.”

That was the first time she was really fretting over Jay. She almost felt like she didn’t want to see him in a long time.

When she was leaving from her office, she saw Jay waiting for her outside her office.

“I thought we would spend some time tonight.” he said and opened the door for her to enter the car.

“Jay I haven’t been home since two nights, I need to call my mom first,” she told him.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I called your mom and she was happy that we are going out.”

Of course, Alisha thought, why wouldn’t she be happy and I had to think only of her as an excuse?

“I have arranged an evening for us,” he said smiling at her and touching her hand.

Yea, it better be good, thought Alisha.

Jay drove to his apartment and announced he was going to make dinner for both of them.

Alisha could feel her stomach rumbling already, she couldn’t help asking, “I am sorry how long is this going to take?”

“I went home earlier and prepared stuffs already so give me some ten to fifteen minutes. I have got it all ready and under control.”

When Alisha entered the apartment, the entire aura was really different. Jay had lighted the entire apartment and he had decorated the corners of the house with flowers. She could not take her eyes from them. Suddenly, all her annoyance and irritation evaporated in thin air.

Jay took her coat and carefully hung it over the stand. He looked at Alisha happily as he could see his labour had paid off. Alisha was truly pleased to see the surprise.

“It’s like it’s almost Christmas,” Alisha told him happily.

“Well I got my gift early on,” he said and held her by her waist. Clearing some hair away from her face, he kissed her softly again and again.

“Well, you must be hungry. Let me bring the dinner out. I just have to cut some salad,” he said and he went into the kitchen.

Alisha peered in at the kitchen and she saw Jay cutting the salad like a professional chef. The whole kitchen was steaming with the smell of fresh vegetables and fresh spices. Then she went around and admired the lights a bit more, flattering herself that he did it all for her.

Then she came across his bedroom, and a funny tinkling feeling came into her mind.

Is this the night? She asked herself. In a while, she heard Jay called out her name.

She quickly approached the dining table and found it all laid out with various mouth-watering dishes. Both of them cordially ate together. Alisha could never have believed that Jay could cook so well.

“You are an amazing chef!” she complimented Jay, “how did you learn all this?”

“Well, I had a girlfriend. She was a chef and she gave me the interest to cook. She was French,” he said coolly.

Later on, they picked up their plates and cleaned them together talking delightedly about the good food they had.

“Dessert?” he asked.

Alisha could not help smiling to herself, ‘Dark Chocolate’ she told him.

From the refrigerator he pulled out a huge mug of dark chocolate ice- cream and they sat before the TV to have the dessert and watch a movie together.

They sat at each ends of the couch moving forward to only dig out a spoon of ice-cream from the mug. They had an idea of something strange that was working on their minds but they ignored it. It was not easy to snuggle up to each other.

Jay cleared his throat and said, “You liked the food?”

“Yea,” she told him and she went silent again twisting her fingers in anxiety.

Jay was apprehending her anxiety; he took a step forward and sat beside her.

“It’s a little cold here,” he said smiling embarrassingly, “You wonтt mind snuggling up a little, will you?”

She looked at him smiling with some mischief and she hugged him lightly.

After the first contact, they were put at ease.

“How was your day?” she asked him resting her head on his shoulder.

Jay started talking about his day; he was telling her about his job in the bank.

“It’s interesting, my job I mean. I work with so many people and meeting customer satisfaction can be taxing and above all the security of the bank is always a major issue.”

Jay browsed the channels while he was talking. Suddenly, he saw Arnold Schwarzenegger and he got all excited,

“You watch this really closely, this is the most interesting scene of the movie,” he said and he started biting his nail.

Alisha was lost for words. She got confused. There they were, a couple spending a romantic night together and the guy preferred watching Terminator to talking and laughing with her.

“Have you seen this movie?” he asked excitedly. She smiled awkwardly and said, “ah no, I don’t like action movies.”

“What?” he asked with some excitement, “You should watch this then? You will change your opinion.”

Alisha looked at him with some amazement. She wanted to make things a little more romantic for both of them. She didn’t just want to watch Arnold and his guns. She had to take things under her control; she took the remote and put the TV off.

“What?” exclaimed Jay with displeasure.

She leaned herself on him seductively and said, “Will you tell me some other things?”

“Okkkk,” he said smiling at her and they started kissing each other.

They started kissing really passionately and as Alisha started feeling the pleasure of his lips, he suddenly broke off and said, “Oh I forgot to tell you something interesting about the day.”

They were still in a hug and Alisha could not believe he could actually think of something else too.

He started kissing her neck for a while and when Alisha began to imagine he was focussed on her again, he broke off again.

“You liked that?” he asked and, she nodded to him with dreamy eyes.

“You know I like to talk when I am with my woman, even when I am making love. I just like to talk, it makes me feel normal about making love, you know, makes me feel its part and partial of a relationship like connectivity, like talking.”

He started kissing her again and then he broke away.

“I had an interesting day, I met a client today who had withdrawn half of her earnings for some charity and I was actually awestruck by her.

She had told me she really loved children and she wanted to use her funds for educating poor children because she is not married and she doesn’t have children,” he said.

He smiled and kissed her again, and he went down on her neck. He tucked his hands underneath her shirt and felt her back. Then he broke off again and said,

“You know I want to have lots of children,” he said smiling again, “three at least and I want us to go on a tour together.”

Then he began kissing her again.

He took his head out and started saying, “you know baby, I really want us to be happy and I really want to make you happy in every way you know- emotionally, materially and, physically.”

At this, they kissed some more and as things started to move faster, he took out his head again and said,

“You know what, this feels amazing. It means a lot to me, and I want the first time we do it to be really special. You know, create a moment with you and decorate the bed for you.”

There was something boiling up inside Alisha, she could not stand him anymore. She slightly pushed him away and stood up. She could not handle being with him and doing the things he was doing anymore.

“I am sorry if I have ruined your mood, forget it. Let’s just get back to what we were doing,” he said

He stood up and pulled her to him.

“You know what, this has got me to realise that I am awfully late, my mom must be sick worried and I have to go.”

She approached her coat and as she was wearing it Jay caught her arm softly and pulled her to him.

“You are angry?” he asked concerned.

“Oh don’t be silly, I am not,” she said and prepared to leave.

Jay turned her towards him to appease,

“You don’t have to leave you know. I meant we can create a moment together, we can do impromptu too but itтs just that, I don’t know, I want to make it memorable for you and me.”

“Its fine,” she said and left the apartment.

“Wait let me drop you,” Jay yelled out from behind her but she did not bother to listen to him. Whatever she was starting to feel for him made her madder at him, every moment he was creating only made him fade more and more.

There is something missing here, she told herself.

As the idea of confronting her mother struck her, she did not want to even return home to her. So instead of taking her course towards home, Alisha chose to drown herself in whiskey and made her way to a bar.

Once she was before the whisky glass, there was no stopping her. She actually felt her anger melt away when she began to be a bit tipsy. She was alone with her drinks and she kept laughing at people around her.

Then she had a few more of those glasses and she satisfied herself saying she was finally happy. But she remained in her chair as she could not get up own her own and she was afraid of asking for help.

She thought if she somehow stood up, she would be able to walk away. So she forced herself to get up and she faltered. As she fell down, she caught at someone who was just entering and both fell down together.

“What on earth are you doing here and like this?” Dovey asked surprised at her and as he helped her on her feet, he realised she was just too heavily drunk, “Are you OK?”

Alisha put a finger on her lips and signalled him to shut up. Then she started laughing.

“Ok guys I am really sorry, you will have to carry on without me I have to drop her home,” he told his friends and holding her by her waist he brought her to his car.

Alisha kept singing some tragic songs all the while.

“I didn’t expect to see you like this,” Dovey said as a matter of fact as he opened the door of his car for her.

Alisha got angry on hearing him say so, “why? Do you also think that people should get drunk after creating moments? You frustrate me,” she told him with her forefinger at his chest, хyour lot frustrate me. I donтt understand.”

“No sweetheart,” he said and gently placed her inside his car, “but you shouldn’t be drunk.” He shut the door and he himself sat behind the steering wheel to drive.

As he drove away, Alisha stayed loyal to her sad songs and when he pulled up his car before her house she suddenly started beating tantrums.

“No I don’t want to go inside,” she started thumping her feet on the floor of the car, “I don’t want to see my mom, I will not go inside, take me anywhere please.”

Dovey was at a lost. He couldn’t push her inside her house and dump her there, at best he thought he could take her to his house and after an hour long drive he reached his place.

Alisha had slept in the car so when he called out to her, she couldn’t hear him. Dovey, therefore, pulled her out gently and carried her in his arms. She was not exactly the feather material, so he swaggered left and right trying to balance both of them. It was when he kept her on the floor to open the door that she woke up and she made tantrums like a baby to be kept up in his arms.

So whether he could handle it or not, Dovey took her all the way upstairs to his room, staggering here and there but he didn’t let her fall from his arms.

Finally, when he reached his bed both of them dropped down on the bed. Dovey was panting heavily.

“You know, I have never done this much of exercise in all my life,” he said smiling. Then as he got up, Alisha nailed him down under her and kissed him violently. When she finally let him go, she stared at his amazed face and turned over and started crying.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Dovey asked concerned, he tried to turn her head around to face him but she resisted his touch in every way and kept crying.

He tried asking her in every way but she only hid her face in the pillow and kept up with her crying. He made a cup of coffee for her but she refused to drink, and then be brought some chocolates but that too, she refused to take. He offered her water but she refused even for a sip. Dovey kept pacing to and fro about her not knowing what to do but she didn’t show her face.

After an hour or so, Dovey touched her again to try again and appease her but she didn’t resist him anymore. He cleared the hair that was covering her tears ridden face and he saw she was clearly asleep. She was breathing normally and she was tired out.

Dovey couldn’t be more glad.

The next morning, when Alisha woke up clutching her head, she couldn’t recognise the room where she was sheltered.

In a few minutes, a lady walked in with a tray full of saucers and cups.

“Oh good morning,” she said brightly, “Dovey told me we have a guest and I couldn’t resist pouring you my special tea.”

She poured some hot tea in a cup and offered it to Alisha. Embarrassingly, she took the cup and thanked her.

“Are you his mom?” she asked the lady awkwardly.

“No dear,” she beamed at her again, “I am his nanny. Dovey’s parents died a long time back, since then I have been taking care of him and I donтt live anymore here after I was married but I have never been able to leave Dovey and so I come here every day to look after him.”

She took the tray up and showed her the washroom where she could get fresh and left her.

Alisha could not stand her clothes; she was stinking like a drunkard. She thought of changing but she had no spare clothes. She was also reminded of her behaviour the other night so she thought it would be best for her if she made her exit at the earliest.

As she stepped out of the bed, the door opened again and she saw Dovey enter.

“Good morning,” he said brightly.

She could not look at him. She could not move her limbs when shesaw him.

“Sit down, sit down,” he said calmly and when he saw she wasn’t sitting, he held her shoulders and pushed her gently on the bed.

“How are you feeling?” he asked. “The same,” she replied plainly.

“Good then, I can expect that kiss again,” he told her naughtily.

Alisha was however worried, “look I don’t do that normally. It’s just all that whiskey and all….”

“Well you should drink more often then, do it with me,” he said huskily. “Wait, are you flirting with me,” she asked trying to sound amazed. “You have any doubt,” he asked cockily.

First, she tried to appear angry then seeing his face, she burst out laughing.

“I thought you would lecture me on impropriety,” she said relaxing herself.

“Oh no,” he told her, “I am an adult too.”

She looked at him understandingly, and said, “Thanks.”

“But you know what?” he asked plaintively.

“What?” she asked back.

“Please don’t be drunk again, I would rather be wrestling somewhere with some goons than to handle you being drunk,” he said pleadingly.

Both of them laughed their hearts out and Alisha was actually glad of her drunken decision of not going back home.

“Now that you are here, let me show you the house,” he said.

So, Alisha Barrow roamed around Dovey’s humble abode and she found it better than Jay’s well decorated and spacious lighted rooms. The drawing room was small with a hearth that made everything look cosy.

There was no TV in the room as drawing rooms tend to generally have but on the left there was a huge window that looked out to the green lawn which had some flowers growing in it and on the right there was a reading cabinet which contained lots and lots of books. She ran her fingers along the length of the books and smelled them.

“I am sorry,” she said laughing a bit, “you must be finding it weird but I like the smell of books.”

“Especially the old ones,” he said as if he wanted to complete her sentence.

She looked at him and smiled, “yes, especially the old ones,” she repeated.

“Come, let me show you something else,” he said taking hold of her hand and he led her to another room. Like little children holding each other’s hands and running around the house, they ran and came to a still in another room which was full of paintings.

That room was full of paintings and fresh canvasses. Dovey had painted some scenic beauties, the picture of wild horses running on a beach and there were more sophisticated paintings of African tribal art and mystical art.

“They are wonderful!” she exclaimed unable to contain her excitement.

“Really?” he asked, “you like them?”

“Yea,” she said brightly, “you should put them at an auction or something.”

“Nah,” he said disdainfully, “they are not for sale. I want them here. Let me show you something,” he said.

And then he showed her a sketch. It was her sketch. It was all in black and white but she had never seen herself more clearly before. She also had never been as full of colour as that sketch represented her. It was just half of her face sleeping on the bed with the bad dishevelled hair around her.

Alisha was left speechless; she touched her image and said numbly, “somehow I look beautiful in this.”

“Well, you are beautiful,” he said clarifying her. “Nah,” she said.

“I am thirty three,” she said shrugging her shoulders, “I have never had a stable relationship till now and my mom keeps nagging me for marriage. Relatives keep arranging a date for me now and then. I mean, I am hopeless.”

“Well, that sounds really bad aaawww,” he said mockingly.

Alisha laughed and slapped his arm gently in a friendly way. There was something about Dovey that made her laugh even in the most miserable complaints she made about herself.

“How old are you anyways?” she asked him bluntly. “Thirty, itтs a playful age,” he said grinning.

“Well, you ought to call me ma’am then.”

“Nah,” he said, “I can take on women of any age so no Maтam for me.” “God, you are such a pervert,” she told him and both had a laugh again.

They came out from the room and Alisha wanted to leave because she didn’t want to be late for work.

“Let me drop you,” he asked. “No, just get me a cab.”

So, Dovey called for a cab for her and bade her bye. Inside the cab, Alisha circled her fingers around her phone in her pocket and she took it out. She had put it on mute before entering the bar and she saw there were some 50 missed calls.

Over 22 calls were from her mom and the rest were from Jay. She slapped her forehead and decided to call her mom first.

“Hi mom,” she said.

“Alisha, ARE YOU INSANE? WHERE WERE YOU? HOW DARE YOU DIDN’T COME BACK HOME THE WHOLE NIGHT? DO YOU KNOW HOW SICK WORRIED I WAS ALL NIGHT? AND WORST YOU LEFT JAY ALONE?”

“WHAT?” Alisha couldn’t help bring out her rising anger. She hung up on her mom and called up Jay.

“Why did you call my mom?”

“Honey, I was worried I wanted to know you have reached home and you weren’t taking my calls,” he tried explaining to her.

Alisha was going to blow up if she didn’t stop talking to him. So she hung up on him too. She received his messages all day long, messages that were apologetic and when she didn’t reply to them he arranged for some flowers to be sent to her.

There came a point of time during her day when she felt like Jay was stalking her around. She banged her hands on her table and kept banging on it moving her head up and down with frustration as she kept yelling to herself saying, “I don’t want this guy in my life. What do I do?”

Jenny, the receptionist, came in her room to check on her. “Everything alright Ma’am?” she asked.

Alisha had to compose herself and she reminded herself that she was in the office.

“Yes, I am fine,” Alisha told her.

When the office got over, he actually showed up to meet her.

They sat in a nearby coffee house and started arranging for a truce.

“Look dear, I am terribly sorry. I have made you upset and I know I was immature,” he said earnestly confronting his mistake.

Alisha was in no mood to be pacified.

“C’mon, I will make it up to you,” he said assuring her. She was no stubborn girl and she had a look at his sorry face. Alisha decided to move on.

“So, where were you last night?” he asked sipping his coffee.

“I was sleeping over at a friend’s place,” she answered, disinterested in giving away the details.

“Who friend?” he asked faking his scrutiny as curiosity.

“Dovey Collin,” she answered.

“You slept over a guy’s place,” he asked frozen, “how long have you known this guy?”

Alisha got worked up all over again, “how long have I known you? But I am still trying things out with you right?” she said.

She got up to leave; she just wanted to get away from that guy as soon as possible. But before she left, she wanted to fully end whatever it was with Jay.

“I was very upset and so I got myself drunk in a bar. This friend of mine took me home but I didn’t want to go home to my mom all drunk so I asked him to take me anywhere but my home. That’s why he took me to his place and he took care of me. But you will not either believe me or make a speech of what’s proper and improper. But you know what; I am done trying things out with you. Every time I meet you, I end up getting frustrated I donтt know why. I donтt care what you think about me, a sex monger or an ill-behaved lady. But you are the sort of man who gives a tail to a lady when she enters into a relationship with you. Good Day,” she unleashed her words and made a grand exit.

Jay was left petrified by her new avatar. He thought it better to remain seated hugging his seat rather than to say something lest the new angry lady was going to hurl the hot coffee on his face.

Alisha went back home, dejected yet furious.

“How dare he lecture me on who to trust and whom not to? Who is he to be suspicious of me?” she kept mumbling to herself.

She was willing to even confront her mother. She opened the door and slammed it shut. Her mother came running to her.

“Alisha?” she exclaimed, “Are you alright child? What is all this? Where were you?”

Alisha kept pacing the room until she was calm enough to think for words,

“Mom,” she started saying with gritted teeth, “never again, never arrange a guy for me.”

She uttered a few words and hurried away to her room. There she shut herself in her closet and cried till all anger was transformed into tears and tears emptied from her heart.

Her mother brought to her the dinner but she was not in her room. As she knew her daughter, she opened the door of the closet and found her daughter curled up among the clothes. Alisha set up when she saw her mother had discovered her, she wiped her tears and stepped out of her closet to sit on her bed.

“What’s wrong sweetie?” Samita asked her daughter sitting by her, padding her head, spreading her arm around Alisha’s shoulder.

Alisha dropped a few more tears because of the tenderness she was receiving from her mother,

“Mom, I canтt do this anymore?” she said and cried again. “What can’t you do?” Samita asked.

“Dad left us when I was thirteen; I mean he got married again. I haven’t seen him since then because I was always angry with him and I could never forgive him for leaving you, us. He is totally happy wherever he is, he has forgotten me and I canтt reconcile myself to the fact that there can be anyone out there who can stick to me for life. I mean all these guys whom I meet, they are just interested in wooing the lady, and they are not interested in the lady, they donтt think about my likes and dislikes, what I would like to do being together. I am not a bad girl, I mean I would like to make that somebody I love happy in every way but I donтt want to do it because I have to or because I am engaged to him or married to him. I want to do it because I love him. But, these guys, they do it so spontaneously. I mean it’s the hit and trial strategy they can apply to any lady they meet.”

“Oh honey,” Samita said consoling her daughter, “Dear, it’s difficult to explain what had went wrong between your father and me but we are all different people and what I had been through, you need not go through it yourself. You might be doubly happier than me or you could turn out to be the happiest woman on earth. But the point is, you will not be able to explore the limits of your sorrow and joy until and unless you walk into that trying realm.”

“I don’t want to be tried,” Alisha said disinterested.

“Oh you need to be, you see I have always known that why you failed in your relationships is because you were afraid. You have always been afraid and after a certain point in a relationship with a guy, you retract yourself from the one you love and you push him away deliberately. But Baby, you have to keep going on, the best of trying times is not just about facing the worst of situation, it’s also about bringing out the best of you and it’s the worst that sharpen you. Itтs the worst that always brings the best remember. You felt sorry for us that we had lost your father, but you never realised I had come to have something far better. You”

Alisha looked at her mother like she had never seen her before.

Samita continued brushing Alishaтs hair gently with her fingers, “I had not only grown as a woman after your father had left, but I learned I was a mother and I had earned for a lifetime a companion and I was never alone because of you. So despite of what happened, I only counted you and counted on you, and nothing else. You see, a man becomes a husband and he may remain one but a daughter, she becomes the gem in her motherтs life who talks to her when no else does, who mentors her when no else does, who heals her when on else does because she also becomes a woman with time.”

Alisha listened to her mother for a while and said, “I really donтt feel the need to marry Mom.”

Samita laughed and said, “I didn’t say all this to dissuade you but to tell you that I was not afraid throughout. I have been happy and I had my pool of experiences. Now, I want you to have those moments, happy or sad whatever it is. I want you to go through it and you know what, in the end of the day you know you have a mom who will sit by you all night to listen about all the things you have to say. You will tell me like they are stories you have been scripting you know.”

Alisha cheered up a little after the long conversation she had with her mother.

“Mom, how come you never married?” she asked Samita.

She looked at her daughter trying to discern the best explanation but she could only give her a metaphorical answer.

“It’s not the hurt darling, itтs the pain that leaves a scar and scars donтt heal. I donтt want you to live with a scar.”

That night, after weeks she slept peacefully. Jay had become a nightmare. His messages stalked her, his weird ways to surprise her or keep in touch with her or even to remind her of him had begun to petrify her. When she thought over how he preferred to make love, she had to shake herself up a bit to let her come out of the frustration.

But the good part in all what was happening to her was that she got to finally talk to her Mom the way they had never talked before. She always imagined her mother was miserable after her father had left them for another woman but she actually felt proud that she was around to support her. She had never realised that she was such strength to her mom, but now that she was aware that she had dropped that baggage of remorse, she was willing to move on to endorse whatever was coming and she was more than willing to make choices.

The next morning she went to work, she had a plan to go out for dinner with her mom so she had to leave early. She left some thirty minutes earlier and she surprised her mother with a box of her favourite chocolates.

Suddenly, amidst the laughter, the doorbell rang and to Alishaтs utter disgust Jay was standing before her. She could not greet him but her mom came by and ushered both of them inside. She brought them inside their drawing room and she started making excuses to leave the room so that the kids could talk their stuff out.

“Please stay here Ma’am,” Jay requested, “I want to apologise to both of you. I have been the cause of much stress to you both lately and I am very ashamed. I wish to amend for the damages I have done and I am here to only ask for another chance to make you both happy. Please Alisha.”

Alisha was nonchalant as her mother looked at her and winked at her encouragingly to give Jay another chance.

On seeing Alisha was still angry with him, Jay suddenly fell on his knees.

“Alisha, I am ashamed for doubting you. I will never distrust you again. I really like you and I really want to be happy with you, and since yesterday when we haven’t been talking to each other I realised how much I have grown to love you. Please give me another chance; I will make it up to you.”

Alisha found it very awkward to accept his proposal yet again but she was willing it to give it one last shot. She was not afraid to make choices anymore; she told herself сI will have to kiss many frogs to check if a prince comes by me.т

“Ok,” she told Jay.

Jay got to his feet utterly happy with the progress he had made and he was also under the impression that Alisha too liked him as much because of which they were willing to give me a chance all over again.

“Let’s go out for a dinner together,” he announced.

“You kids go out, I have no business with you young people,” Samita said trying to refrain from intruding upon the couple.

“Oh no, you must come along with us. Tonight we will go out as a family,” he said.

Samita found Jay very adoring, she could not understand why Alisha couldnтt like a guy who was not only providing but who kept coming back to her no matter what. She thought it showed how committed he was. Samita saw Jay make out time for Alisha, and she also saw how Jay worked to gain Alishaтs attention. So, Samita could not understand her daughter on this matter, she wondered what Alisha was searching for.

He drove them to a nice restaurant where Samita and Jay were chatting with pleasure about Alishaтs childhood. Samita was having a gala of a time going back to the memories again and she took extreme pleasure in the fact that Jay was not bored with the stories but he asked each and every detail, laughing with her and yearning for more.

Through the door, walked in Dovey with Annie in the same restaurant. They saw Alisha and went to greet her.

“Well, this looks like a nice family time,” Annie went and met them. She introduced herself and Dovey to Jay and hearing Doveys’ name, Jay stood up and properly shook his hands.

“Thank you for taking care of Alisha the other night, I owe you for a lifetime now,” he told Dovey gratefully.

Dovey politely said itтs alright and he told them they didn’t mean to disturb them and left them to dine together. Alisha could sense he was disturbed and she was embarrassed to meet him when Jay was by her side, she didn’t know why.

Over the weekend, Jay came early one morning when Alisha was not even out of her bed. He took a lazy Alisha out to Hyde Park and he told her they were going to pursue horse riding together. So, Jay got them two horses and he started wearing the gears for horse riding.

“ummm, Jay?” Alisha called him, “I am not too sure about this. I have never been on a horse before.”

“It’s easy Alisha. I will teach you,” he told her as he was helping her to wear the gears. He taught her how to remain stable on a horse, theoretically explained to her how she can take a turn with the horse. Then he walked a few paces with Alisha on the horse and let her move around on the horse herself.

“Well, see itтs easy. Now you can make it run too,” he told her and he took to his own horse and said, “c’mon lets ride away.”

“You go on, I will just make it walk a little more and catch up,” she told him.

So, Jay in his eagerness to show her his expertise in controlling horses, made an impressive exit. He swiftly rode away and was out of sight.

But Alisha was having a difficult time trying to manoeuvre her horse around. She tried to make it walk but it appeared to be very uncomfortable with her. She then tried to make it run calling out сhiya, hiya, hiya boy, to the horse but it was disinterested to obey her.

Somebody laughed behind her. When she turned around, Dovey was standing.

“It finds you very unattractive,” he remarked amusingly.

“Well, I can’t help it,” she said feeling tired of her pursuits, “what are you doing here?”

“Well, itтs a nice morning. I brought my canvas out in the park for some life-painting,” he said and pointed at a canvas that stood

somewhere nearby.

“Where is your boyfriend?” he asked.

“Enjoying with his sexy horse of course,” she replied dully. “You really want to ride this thing,” he asked.

‘I think so,” she replied unconvincingly.

“I would have ridden around with you but unfortunately I can’t ride a horse as well but I can walk around with one,” he told her.

So, Dovey took the rein of the horse and walked Alisha around with the horse. They talked about nature and about their favourite colours.

“Of all the things I like about nature, I like the rain most,” he told her. “Why?” she asked.

“I don’t know, it’s really romantic to me. I can sit for hours watching the rain. I often dream of falling in love with a woman I have met in the rain,” he said smiling naughtily.

“Now you are flirting,” she said reprimanding him.

“No, seriously and I have had these dreams before I have met you. I never thought I would meet you like that,” he said smiling at her, “it was beautiful but a little dramatic,” he added laughing.

“Yea, I could have killed you that night,” she said with a mocking anger.

“Well, I was the one who hit your car in the first place so, actually, I could have killed you,’  he told her.

She thought for a while and she said, “I have never said this to anyone but of all the things in nature, I like snowfall the most.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I don’t know, it’s romantic to me and as a teenage I used to think I will fall in love with someone during the first snow fall of the season,” she said as they came to a stop and halted where they had begun.

Dovey caught her by her arms and brought her down gently hugging her meanwhile so that she would not falter and fall, “But if it snows when you meet me again, will you love me?” he asked.

“Oh, there you are?” Jay exclaimed with great relief as he found Alisha.

Alisha was still lost in Dovey’s question as they unclasped each other, she might have wanted to reply to him but she never got a chance that day since Jay quickly exchanged some pleasantries with Dovey and carried her away from him.

The next day, Alisha was in a profound mood to examine her life. She asked herself, what do I want?

Her receptionist entered with her schedule for the day and in entered Fiona too.

“Why are you so tense?” asked Fiona.

‘Tell me something both of you?” Alisha started, “When would you start thinking about marriage seriously?”

Fiona and Jenny exchanged a glance with each other and they were really lost for a definite answer.

“I need help. I am serious,” Alisha emphasized before them.

“Well, I am just twenty-five. I wouldn’t think of marriage now,” Fiona told them.

“When will you start thinking?’ Alisha asked. “Maybe, around 30,” she replied.

“And what will be the eligibility criteria for marriage?” Alisha asked.

“Only Love,” said Fiona proudly.

Alisha turned to Jenny and told her, “The same questions, please answer.”

Jenny was a little lost for words but very timidly she made up her answer, “I beg to be a little different from Miss Fiona. I had started thinking seriously about marriage after I was thirty years old and now I am thirty-five and I am more than serious about finding myself a good guy. Today, my eligibility is not just love, I am bound to think I can create that, but I should just find a good human being with whom I can spend my life doing the things I want to do,” Jenny replied.

“So before thirty, we don’t think and after thirty we think too much,” Alisha summarised confused.

“Does it matter to you that your affinities should match with the guy? What if you don’t love him but you like most of the things he likes?” Alisha asked.

“Oh well,” smiled Jenny in confusion, “I don’t know much about that but I can surely tell you that affinities do count a lot. I mean I would love to have a guy who cooks and loves children because I love children too. I would love to have them horse-riding around and going for a hike with them and certainly decorating the rooms with lights over Christmas,” Jenny told Alisha.

“Well, you sound familiar,” Alisha told her hiding some horror.

“I don’t think so Ma’am; I am going a little insane because I am losing my hopes to settle down. So, I did the craziest thing the other day. I took out most of the money I had saved for my marriage and gave it to some charity which is looking after kids. I thought if I am not going to have some, I should help some other unfortunate kids.”

Jenny revealed her inner most turmoil and wiping a few tears she walked out alone from Alishaтs room.

At the end of the day, she called Jay up and asked him to meet her in the evening. It was a chilly day and Christmas was approaching. It was going to snow anytime soon. She went through her work without a worry and she prepared to confront Jay in the evening.

She had called him to come in the same coffee house and so after work she quietly waited for Jay in the coffee house.

After Jay had come, she ordered coffee for him and they started talking.

“Everything is well?” he asked.

“Yes,” she told him, “Jay? I want to open things up and for this I really need that you and I should be honest about it.”

“Okkkk,” he said with some subdued alarm in his voice.

“Why you think you want me or say to be very precise, what do you see in me that we should work on the so-called us to think about a prospective married life together?” she asked.

Jay remained silent for a while, and then he looked at her and asked, “Why such questions all of a sudden? What are you at?”

Alisha smiled at him and said, “Because if we explore this question honestly and inquisitively then I think we might arrive at a good answer.”

“You mean whether to marry me or not?” he asked with some rising sense of alarm.

Alisha smiled yet again, “you don’t think spending our lives together is a much stronger challenge that is posed before us than getting married?”

“Hmmm,” he said, “well, I see you as a very smart modern day woman, sensible and open minded, somebody who will shoulder life and its responsibilities along with me.”

“And?” she further asked.

“And?” he asked back confused.

“Jay?” she said unconvinced, “London is full of modern women, lots of them are sensible and open minded and most of us earn and are smart enough to shoulder responsibilities with their men, but is there anything specific that you like about me? Anything that will differentiate me from the other women because from the credentials you have counted, you just need a good and sensible woman for marriage. A good lady, not necessarily me.”

Jay was lost for a while; he tried giving a different answer. But he grew frustrated,

“I can’t understand you,” he said at last. “Exactly,” she replied.

“No, I can’t understand that I have tried all that I can do to make you feel good and loved, yet you end up questioning me and my feelings for you.”

“You have done everything yet, you canтt seem to think of anything specific about me that defines me and define my presence in your life?” she asked calmly.

Again, Jay was lost.

“Look, I am thirty-five,” he said at last, “and I can’t keep playing the boy-chase-the-girl game. I want some seriousness in my relationship because I want to settle down in life now and have a family. I am done dating women and checking them out for their credentials of being marriage material or not, I have come to realise that I need to make a choice and stick to it for life because there is no one person who doesn’t have faults. This doesn’t mean that I am desperate to get married, I still want a sensitive partner and I find that you are perfect for me.”

Alisha looked at him in a thankful way for his honesty but she had found her answer, ‘Jay, you and I don’t even think alike or there isn’t

anything we like to do together. How are we going to survive together under a roof? Have you thought about that? I have a different experience however; it’s not about making a choice and sticking to it for life. When you are not happy with me and I am not happy with you and when we can’t laugh together or spend time together, you will never be able to stick to me.”

She took a break and resumed talking again, “I always wanted to marry for love and make a living out of love. I need someone who takes interest in me, not because I am a marriage material but because I am simply his girl who wants his time and attention. The

fact that you have just said everybody has faults; I want him to cherish the bad girl in me as well. I just donтt want to remain a good woman because it will kick up a storm when that image fails, and it will eventually fail now and then because I am only human.”

There was an air of something lost or done and Jay did not pursue to argue anymore. He remained seated in his chair and kept his head down.

“I am sorry, but I don’t want you to waste your time on me because,” she said for the last time as she drew out the bracelet from her pocket and kept it in front of Jay, “I don’t think I love you.”

Alisha stood up to go away, “I hope you are alright?” she asked calmly.

“I think this coffee house is jinx,” he said and stood up to leave as well. He took out his hand and shook her hands and wished her a good life.

“I, however, have a small surprise for you,” she added earnestly. She went out and called in Jenny and Jay recognised her.

“You are that lady whom I had met the other day,” Jay smiled amusingly.

Jenny smiled to him shyly and Alisha left them together in a conversation in the coffee house.

Alisha had never been that happy in her life before. She went out and she decided she didn’t want to go back home, she decided to give herself some time so she called her mother and told her she was going to be late.

“Why, are you with Jay?” Samita asked with curiosity. “No mom,” Alisha said, “I am with me. Don’t worry.”

Alisha walked around as it was getting dark. She went to a bar where she had a few drinks and she walked out of there in perfect condition. She then headed for the St. James Park and walked lazily for a long time enjoying the chilly air on her face. Christmas was coming soon.

She sat on the bank of the central lake in the park, plucking the grass with her hands and humming some song to herself.

“Hey,” there came a voice behind her. When she looked behind, Dovey was standing behind her.

“Hey,” she said and smiled to him.

He came to her and sat by her on the bank of the lake. “What are you doing here?” she asked a little surprised. “I was stalking you,” he replied and she laughed.

“Nah,” he said as he sat beside her, “I saw you go out of the bar, I was concerned because the memory of your last drinking adventure is still fresh on my mind. I thought you are upset thatтs why you were drinking so I followed you till here because I wanted to be martyred.”

Alisha kept smiling as she listened to him; she had never been so relaxed in her life. If she had been an author, she thought to herself, this must be how it feels like to start writing a new chapter.

Everything was filled with a sense of peace around her, and as they were silently sitting together conversing with unheard voices and unutterable words, Alisha felt a tiny white mass fall on her hand and out of nowhere, perhaps because of the magic she was feeling in herself, it started snowing all around her.

“Now this is really crazy!” she exclaimed with joy, “it’s unbelievable!”

Alisha laid herself out on the grass and she let the snowflakes fall on her. She smiled peacefully as Dovey came beside her and felt the snowflakes with her. Alishaтs face got covered with tiny white mass of snow and she deliberately kept it there, she turned to Dovey and it made him laugh. Gently he started cleaning her face and in the tenderness of that moment of joy, Alisha found herself wanting to be with Dovey for all that night. She didn’t want to go or let him go anywhere. She felt his warm breath on her face and she drew herself closer to him.

Alisha kissed him softly and as she felt his hands caress her head and then her lips, she drew herself close to him again to kiss him.

As their faces were against each other, Dovey said softly, “I want to tell you something.”

But Alisha put her finger on his lips and hushed him up, “don’t say anything tonight.”

So for hours Alisha stayed in that park with her new lover, deriving from the warm of his arms and love and tenderness, the courage to beat the cold of London.

They were laid out on the green pasture covered with the coldest and the fairest quilt but it was magical because when shared it was also the warmest.

They had left the park in the wee hours of the morning, they were reluctant to leave but separation in love is as much important as the union. In being separate, lovers yearn for each other and in the union, they cherish each other.

The warm empty bed in her room made her wish for Dovey. The few hours that she had slept alone, she dreamt about him. She dreamt he was painting something and in the dream, she saw his clean hands move softly and artistically to make a picture.

When she woke up, she was wondering when they were likely to meet again. She kept expecting Dovey’s call but his call never came. The day ended, it was even time to get back home but Dovey’s call didn’t come. It made her even angry to think that the night they had experienced meant nothing to him.

She went home and waited till dinner, then she waited till she was ready for bed but he didn’t call her. She kept checking her phone but he hadn’t left a message too. When she tried calling him, his number was switched off.

Alisha grew impatient. She wanted to know what was wrong; somewhere she was worried and wondered if Dovey was alright. Maybe he caught cold or something? Thinking about it she smiled to herself and she decided she will go and meet him after work the next day at his place, even if it meant driving for more than an hour to his place.

So the next day, she was again hoping Doveyтs call somehow but the day went by again without getting his call. So, she took to driving and headed for his place to demand for an answer. She reached his house when it had got really dark, the snow around had made her driving very difficult. The snow covered house in front of her with the smoking chimney and warm yellow lights emanating from the house made the house look like an abode of love.

Carefully through the slippery passage, she walked herself up to the threshold and knocked on the door. No one came so she knocked again. When the door finally opened to her, Dovey was not there.

There was a very pretty lady standing before her who had red hair and she was wearing an elegant make up.

“Yes?” she asked.

Alisha got startled to say anything wondering who the woman was, and then instead of asking for Dovey she mumbled something like, “who?”

In a minute Dovey appeared at the door and Alisha was so glad to see him, all the more because he was well.

Dovey however turned white on seeing her, “Alisha?” he asked, “what are you doing here?”

The woman looked to and fro between the two, so Dovey introduced them to each other.

“Emily, meet Alisha. A,” he said with great discomfort, “friend of mine.”

So the woman happily shook Alisha’s hand and said, “ohh so nice to meet you. I am his wife.”

Alisha froze at that precise moment.

God only knows how she had really tried not to falter, how she had to make up lies about why she was there to see him and how she made up excuses for not entering the house and taking their hospitality.

When Alisha heard the door shut behind her, she made a run for her car and shut herself inside. Her hands shook, her tears would not stop and her heart could not bear the lost and betrayal she was suffering.

Somehow, she drove away home to her mother and as soon as she reached, she fell in the comfort of her mother’s arms.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Samita asked her daughter.

But Alisha had lost words, her only expression became her sorrow and her tears. Samita took her to the kitchen and seated her on the chair. She made a nice chocolate drink and made Alisha have it.

As Alisha was filled with the warmth of the drink, she found herself back to discovering words for her pain.

“Mom, I met this great guy and I really thought there was something between us,” she said controlling the rising mount of sorrow again, “but he has a wife mom.”

She could not help but cry again and through her tears she said, “Why didn’t he tell me he is married?”

Samita could not believe what she was hearing, “My goodness, what a crook. To cheat on his wife and you together.”

Samita took an extreme dislike for the man immediately. She decided that he was an awful person and she advised Alisha that she should stay away from that man. She even told Alisha that she was lucky enough that she got to the truth before it was too late.

By accusing Dovey and frightening Alisha with what the consequences could have been had she really fallen for that man, Samita consoled her daughter away from her cave of depression.

But when Alisha was alone in her room, she could not help thinking about Dovey. She was reminded of how he took the responsibility of the accident and paid for the repair of the cars. She was reminded of how she was drunk and how she had behaved. It would have been very easy for Dovey to do something wrong to her if he wanted to.

All her strings of attachment pulled her towards Dovey and made her believe that there was a missing link she did not know.

She went to the office the next day and she really tried working herself away. She took more projects than she could manage, met more clients than she could give her time for and she slogged herself away for a week or so.

In the end of the week, Dovey showed up in her office. She was taken by surprise when her secretary ushered him into her room.

For many minutes, both of them sat still in her office, not looking at each other and not able to talk. But Alisha had decided that she did not want to be his mistress. She remained silent, in pain and in anger. Dovey, however, had come to clear the air and whatever it was he wanted to convey it to Alisha.

“Alisha?” he started speaking, “look, I know you are very hurt and I have no words that can heal things right now and the other night when I was telling you I had something to say…….”

“I didn’t let you say so you are now going to blame me that I was stupid to imagine everything on my own?” she interrupted.

“No, what I mean to say is that,” he attempted to finish again.

“That you are married and I am to be blamed that I fell for you,” she interrupted again with rising anger.

“Will you let me finish?” he asked in a mixed tone of frustration and request, “there are a whole lot of things you donтt know, just let me tell you everything and then you decide.”

“I don’t want to know anything, you lied to me,” she yelled at him and she stood up and walked towards the door to open it so that she could ask him to leave immediately but Dovey was determined to tell her that she has come to mean everything to him. He stood up and forced the door to shut and nailed her against it. Alisha was astonished beyond a reason but she could feel at that moment, that her breath was mixing with his and both remained numb in that union again. Dovey held her face with both his hands and with eyes closed he touched her forehead with his.

“If love is something you fall into, then I have never been at this depth,” he said softly, he then raised his eyes to look at her, “please believe me when I say I love you, I never meant to hurt you I can’t think of doing that Alisha, because no man can shatter his dream with his own hands and you have come to be my dream from which I donтt want to wake up.”

“Leave me alone,” she told him amidst tears and pushing him off she walked out leaving him behind.

Alisha felt she had never been in a more difficult situation; she was reminded of the day when her father had left her and her mom, the days when her mother used to be in tears day and night; and the days when she used to miss him and he was never again in his life. Alisha had a fear that if she conceded to Dovey out of sheer weakness, she was going to take her motherтs place. Her heart wanted to follow him and trust him but the encounters she has had in life made her sceptical.

Unable to think about anything to move out of the stagnation, she thought of going back into her room and if she found Dovey in it still, she was only going to ask him to leave very politely.

But Dovey had left and she gave a sigh of relief when she found her room totally empty. But Dovey had left a note for her on her desk. It read as,

Dear Alisha,

Forgive me for the pain I am causing you. But if the night, we had spent together brushing the snow away from each other’s face, meant anything to you then please meet me once. I will never ask you to be second to anyone.

Dovey.

Two days Alisha kept thinking again and again over what to do. The mention of Dovey’s name irked her mother so she could not discuss anything with her. Sleeping and awake, she was nothing but Dovey. The mystery that shrouded over his marriage left her restless because she was so sure he was a single guy who lived alone as she had been to his place.

One evening after work, she decided to visit the park again to relief her heavy heart. She wished talking to Dovey was simple and less complicated. She wished she could have another night with Dovey in the park.

She reached the place when it was nearly dark, when the sky was marked by its red galore and one could not distinguish between the day and approaching night. To her utter surprise, she found a figure pacing up and down beside the lake. It was no other than Dovey.

She approached him reluctantly, surprised and hiding her delight. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I can ask the same thing,” he replied.

She looked away from him and went and sat by a bench watching the lake. He went to her and sat beside her.

“Alisha, there are so many things I want to tell you,” he said. “Go ahead then,” she replied calmly without looking at him.

“I,” he started but he was in a lot of discomfort, “I have been married for the last four years,” he said at last.

Alisha remained silent.

“Emily used to be a very close friend and we started liking each other. But Emily is very different, at least different from me. After knowing each other for three years we got married but a year later, Emily could hardly reconcile herself with me. She started living with her mother in Liverpool a year later and she used to come and meet me over weekends or something. She took up a job there itself and she frequently leaves the country for work reasons. I still don”t have any idea why she did that. I have really cared for her and I have really tried to make her happy whenever she has come to me but she leaves me after spending a day or two with me. I have been waiting, thinking that she will come to some reason and realization but nothing has happened so far. And then, you came and you made me feel the need to come out of this helplessness. You made me feel I can still be with the one I would love and who would love me back.”

Alisha remained silent.

“Don’t you still want to give it a chance? Don’t you still want to know what went wrong?” she asked at last.

“I do,” he said quietly and it was the truth. Although he had stopped feeling for Emily a long time back, he still wanted to know what had went wrong between them, why it felt easier to be with Alisha than with his wife.

“I don’t want to be the reason why you should divorce your wife,” she said after a while, “especially when you have nothing against her.”

“I know,” he said silently, ” and I will never denigrate you before her. I just didn’t want you to feel that I cheated you. I couldn’t help liking you and grow in love with you.”

He stood up with a firm determination and walked away with heavy shoulders while Alisha remained seated in that bench for another hour or so, feeling helpless over her situation.

She went back home and told her mother, “Mom I will never marry Dovey.”

Samita was surprised to hear Alisha make such a final statement after coming from work, she suspected Alisha had met Dovey but her better understanding told her that she was not going to probe into the matter and open her daughterтs wounds.

Alisha tried to spend her days as normally as before, she did not want to be a martyr in the love story that was never meant to be. Marriage was far from her heartdom now.

Dovey, after spending that afternoon with Alisha, had gone back home. He stepped inside his lonely house and with drooping shoulders he went inside the drawing room.

In the arm chair, he sat for a while staring at the hearth and as if something kept boiling over that non-existing fire, it burst out from within him and he yelled out loud. He yelled several times and every time he yelled he wanted to yell better, higher. Finally, when he had lost his breath he was compelled to stop.

After much thinking, he called up at his work place to say he was not well and he was not going to come for the next two days. Then he called up his wife but she did not take his call and he left a voice message telling her he was not keeping well and he needed her to be with him.

Dovey knew his wife was not going to come to see him; he had the experience of many years of being left alone to himself when he needed her.

He spent the two days alone in his house, painting his time away. He took up the brush and every time he sat still to think of something to paint, his mind only pictured Alisha. His entire mind, imagination and his hands only wanted to see her come alive before him. So, unable to think of anything else he thought of painting Alisha but he only ended up painting very fragmented pieces of Alisha as fragmented as her presence in his life. Without eating or drinking, like a monk who was obsessed over his God, Dovey painted a picture of Alisha that looked like a reflection on broken pieces of a mirror. It was terrifying, she looked like a ghost but thatтs what she was in his life, a mere ghostly presence. Nobody, not even Alisha, would be able to recognise the image on the painting. Every aspect of the image was on fragmented pieces, the eyes somewhere, the lips were split, and the hair was divided into many pieces. But only Dovey knew, that image was Alisha’s, his Alisha.

At weekend, his wife came back home.

“Oh baby, I am so sorry I couldn’t come to see you, how are you darling?” she asked hugging and kissing him.

“It’s ok, I am better now. What kept you so busy?” he asked.

“Oh you know, work and travel,” she said accepting the glass of water from nanny with a smile.

“But you couldnтt even call me?” he asked persistently.

“Honey, you know how it is to be travelling and working all the time,” she said casually.

“But I called your office, you weren’t travelling out of the country,” he told her plainly confronting her.

Emily looked at him with seriousness perhaps the first time since she had arrived,

“You were checking me out?” she asked with some rising temper.

“Of course I was, I want to know what’s keeping my wife so busy that she can’t come to see me when I am ill,” he said standing up and slamming the book that was in his hands on the table.

“I was not travelling out of the country, I was travelling around here, in the same country where you live and I was constantly in meetings.

How can you think I don’t care?” she asked with pretended annoyance.

“Because you don’t,” Dovey told her and left her alone. He went inside his painting room and shut himself up to paint in piece.

At Dinner, Emily and Dovey had a quite dinner. They sat in the drawing room for a while enjoying the fire in the hearth silently, sipping on a cup of tea each and after the tea, without asking Emily for sleep he went upstairs and prepared to sleep. Emily felt the need to appease him. She had never seen Dovey so annoyed and angry. He was usually the flexible husband who could adjust to anything and refrained from saying a ‘no’ to her.

She followed him upstairs and while he was almost lying in the bed she stood at the door watching him with some enticing eyes.

“The big boy is going to sleep early?” she asked.

Dovey did not feel the need to respond to her in any way. But when Emily kept standing at the door and she kept switching on the light he had switched off, Dovey felt he needed to address her.

“What is the matter with you?” he asked calmly.

“I won’t let you sleep,” she said approaching him with a naughty smile. She got on the bed and standing on her knees, she started unbuttoning her shirt. She took her shirt off and bent over to kiss Dovey.

Suddenly, Dovey pushed her away and got up from the bed.

“If this is the way you think we are going to patch up then let me tell you woman, you are sick. No man needs his woman’s love by charity,” he scolded her and left her semi-naked in the room, humiliated.

Emily followed him to the drawing room again and caught hold of him.

“I said I am sorry,” she said almost pleadingly, “why do you have to punish me and humiliate me like this?’

“Because you deserve this,” he said sitting on the chair.

“And what do I need to become to deserve your love again?” she asked.

Dovey remained silent.

She went to him and sat by his legs,

“Tell me Love, what must I do to deserve your love?”

Dovey wished he could say she had to become Alisha but he could not ask for it. Emily could never be Alisha.

He melted down a little before her pleadings.

“Look, honey. We have been married for years now, if you are not happy with me I will only promptly ask you to move on with someone you will be happy with,” he said tenderly stroking her hair gently, “I still care for you a lot and I don’t want us to be unhappy in anyway.”

“But I am happy with you,” she said assuring him, ‘it’s just that, you know, I really want to work. Oh Dovey, you know how much I like to live life, we can’t share the same passion for everything I know that. But I want to travel, meet people and share experiences. It’s a wonderful world, Dovey. You wonтt believe how exciting it is to go on camping in a forest and to face challenges. I cannot sit in a room and read a book. You follow the lines of words in the books and thatтs what you like. I mean it’s no issue with me. But I want to follow the roads, the world is my book.”

So Emily, in speaking her heart out, felt Dovey mellowing down to her. With all the differences of their temperaments, Emily felt a great space was needed to keep them together. But she did not realise that space was slowly transforming itself into a hollow hemisphere that came to preside in their hearts over time.

Emily was apprehensive about a divorce; she knew Dovey was a good man. He gave her the kind of commitment that every woman wants. His presence was some kind of a security to her, an assurance that if things went wrong somewhere, she still had him. She was scared of losing her best friend over her husband.

But Emily found living with Dovey very difficult. She had tried for the first one year, she had truly tried to reconcile her likings with Dovey but even when he gave her ample space to pursue what she wanted, she still missed a like-minded companion who could share her enthusiasm. Therefore, depressed and suffocated with managing and managing and more managing in her marriage, she had decided tomove out and stay with her mother. Somehow, her marriage needed lots of energy and patience but for that she knew love was the only glue that could keep two people together in all trying times. But that glue, she had begun to realise, was missing in her life. Dovey appeared to love his art more than her. He could sit before a painting for hours but with her, he found reasons to go back to work. Elders counselled her to have patience and to keep managing, but for Emily the name of marriage had changed from marriage to management and that was the time she had felt she needed to escape to keep herself sane.

The day when she had left him, Dovey was left with a broken heart and since then he has been waiting for some miracle to reconcile him to her but the riff only became wider and wider.

But that night, both Emily and Dovey were put on a watch. Both realised, especially Emily that somewhere a clock was ticking. Dovey had made up his mind that his love for Alisha was not going to hinder his marriage, he was willing to give Emily as much chance as fate and destiny entitled her.

He took his wife on his lap and said, “Let’s try and work this out, I know we can do this.”

He kissed her and leaving behind all complaints, he took her upstairs. He put her in the bed and kissed her good night but Emily held on to him.

“I want you,” she said softly, “don’t leave an unfinished business.” So Dovey decided it was better to cheat himself and betray his

feelings than to cheat his wife. For some time he remained thinking, stroking her head and almost compelling to make himself believe that she was his wife, it was proper. He bent down and kissed her and he felt her hands move on his back in pleasure. She held his head and directed him to kiss her neck and in a few minutes, Dovey had covered his wife in his love. He felt her breasts as he kissed her white body. As she moaned with pleasure, he felt her pleading hands. They were pulling him to her, yearning his body to be in unison with hers. But Dovey felt, he could not go beyond that. He felt his interest wean away and disgust rising. He rose up from her as she looked at him in disappointment.

“I am sorry, I am a little weak from my illness it’s just that I am not able to bring myself to do this,” he confessed to her.

“Oh,” Emily said in disappointment and she pulled him gently to make him lie down beside her. She rested herself in his arms and fell asleep. But Dovey could not sleep a wink. Somehow, Emily being in his arms felt very strange to him. He felt, either that woman was not his wife or that arm on which she was resting was not his. Dovey had been able to keep up with her desires but that night, he realised he was not capable of feeling for another woman and making love to another.

Dovey was expecting Emily was going away the next day but she did not leave.

“I applied for leave for a week. I will spend some time with you,” she told him smiling pleasantly to him.

Emily made Dovey take leave from his work also and both decided they needed to give some quality time to their marriage.

“You know what I was thinking,” she suggested happily, “Let’s plan for the week. We will spend the first three days doing the things you want to do and the other three days doing the things I want to do, and we will do it together and spend the Sunday at home cooking and spending time over a movie together or whatever, what say?”

Dovey felt it was fair enough and so he agreed to it.

The first three days, they spent the time in painting and reading and visiting libraries and art museums. Dovey showed her around Westminster and detailed her over the writers who were buried there. Emily kept up with him as much as she could. By the second day, she started waiting for her turn to start. For her, it was like Dovey was dragging her around to some arts classes.

At night, when Dovey asked her what she was planning to do, she said naughtily, “Just wait and watch.”

The next day, Emily packed some clothes and she took him and boarded one of the boats of Thames for a cruise. Emily took him to their room overlooking the bright London Bridge and she shouted in excitement,

“Surprise!”

She clasped her hands with enthusiasm and she stood in anticipation of some reaction from Dovey.

He stood almost aloof, rather amazed with whatever was happening. “Ummm. Wow,” he said, “I never thought you could be so creative.

This is excellent, I can sit the whole day here writing something or painting. It’s so peaceful here.”

“Yeah but you are done doing the things you wanted to,’ she said cautiously.

“Of course,” he said and he laughed a bit, “So what are your plans? I mean what can we do here?”

She came close to him and placed her arms around him and said, “This is our second honeymoon darling. We will party here for three days and we can stay locked up in our room and do things, you know.”

Dovey finally got it that she planned to spend the three days living the meaning of romance for every moment. The boat began to move slowly. Emily pushed him on the bed,

“We can start right now and there will be no one to disturb us,” she said huskily.

“Honey, I am hungry. Let’s go and catch something to eat first.” So, they changed their clothes and went to the dining area to have

their meals. Dovey took Emily around the boat, watching the splashing water and feeling the wind at their faces. Dovey got a bottle of wine from the bar and they went into their room where he knew Emily was expecting to make love.

She went in for a shower, while he drank himself hastily from the bottle. She came out wet wrapped in a towel and stood before him luring him to make the advances. A tipsy Dovey stood up and caught her by her shoulders and pushed her on the bed. He took his clothes off and jumped into the bed. He took her towel off from her wet body as he kissed her passionately. He covered her in his embrace as he kissed and licked and bit her. She moaned in pleasure and she moaned in pain. She felt her marriage revive in the flame of that passion.

After some time, Dovey felt she wanted him to enter her, she was almost growing tired of being kissed.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked confused over why he had stopped himself from love making.

Dovey sat up and gave a sigh, it was embarrassing for him.

“Something is wrong,” he said, “I can’t make myself to enter you, nothing is happening to me,” he put it bluntly.

She sat up as well and they were both naked, awkwardness filled up the emptiness of their lives and she suddenly felt the need to cover herself from her husband. She took the quilt beside her and wrapped herself in it again.

“This is the second time,” she said plainly, disguising her disappointment.

Dovey was filled with doubt, he wondered if he was growing impotent. He got off from the bed and went in the bathroom to take a shower and when he came out to confront his wife again, she was not there. The quilt had been thrown off recklessly and the bed was empty.

Emily had gone for a drink in the bar.

She sat alone in the bar as the bar man served her a drink. She took off her ring and played with it between her fingers. There was music all around her and some people were dancing slowly grooving to the music with their partners.

Emily sat alone in the bar, around the music and among the happy dancers, pitying herself beyond reason. She knew she was the villain in Doveyтs life. But she had done it all to survive, to survive the stagnation of unhappiness and suffocation.

Why, why can’t I just walk away from him? What am I waiting for? She asked herself.

A tall guy with blond hair came walking up to her.

“May I buy this lovely lady a drink?” he asked flirting with her.

She looked at him and couldn’t believe her luck, she laughed to herself and told him, “And where were you four or five years back?”

“Excuse me?” he asked unable to understand her. “Never mind,” she said distractedly.

He saw the ring in her hand and asked, “So you are married?”

She gave a sarcastic laughter and said, “Honestly, I don’t know anymore.”

“OOhhh,” he said comprehensively, “I like confused women, especially the damsels in distress.”

Emily found herself laughing again,

“You are wrong, I am almost always very sure of what I want. I am neither confused nor in distress,” she told him and holding him by his hand she took him to the dance where they became one of the couples who were enjoying the evening.

“So, your husband is a crook?” the guy asked.

“No,” said Emily dancing with him intimately. “So whatтs the problem?” he asked.

“I donтt know,” she answered recklessly. “Why don’t you divorce him?” he asked.

At that question, Emily stopped dancing and told him, “You know if he were a crook I would have divorced him and told myself good riddance. But he is a good guy and the fact that we both don’t know what’s wrong with our marriage makes us stay together in some stalemate,” and she grew emotional as she said, “like something will happen suddenly and all that laughter will be back again.”

The music distracted her from her woes and she asked, “You want to take me to your room?”

Dovey waited the entire night for Emily, but she never came back. The next morning she came back to her room a little shaky but nevertheless very happy.

She saw Dovey and said brightly, “Oh Hello! Good morning dear!”

“I have been waiting all night, where were you?” he asked concealing his frustration under the guise of care.

Emily closed her eyes tightly and in annoyance, “Apparently, only you have been waiting. You don’t think I wait too.”

She raised her hands in anger and entered the washroom. In a few minutes, she had washed herself and she came out to try some dresses.

“Where are you going?” he asked her. But she didn’t answer. She changed herself into a dress and prepared to go out. It gave her pleasure that she was doing all that in front of Dovey, to leave him in fear and frustration helped her in soothing herself over her own fear and frustration.

She walked out of her room with an arrogant gait and left Dovey alone. She told herself it was not the first time for her to cheat on her marriage with delight and pleasure. Because she was never happy with her husband, she somehow got drawn to men who coaxed her into a relationship with her or into bed with her. At times, she blamed Dovey without confronting him over it for the monster she felt she had become. But it was easier to reconcile herself with that monster than with Dovey.

She never told Dovey that since the last two years she was sleeping with a man who was her colleague and with whom she was immensely happy. They had gone to camping in a forest, hiking, horse -riding, skiing, and everything that gave her an adrenaline rush.

She was able to explore her wildest imagination with him; making love in a tent in a forest, going on a tour with him to Switzerland and staying locked up with him in a wooden house amidst the snow for days on. He looked forward to make love with her possibly just anywhere, on the beach, around the river, beside the fire, just anywhere. They went to different places and munched on different cuisines of the world.

Both were very foodie and they even tried making some exotic dishes at his house. They tried everything that they felt was exciting. Both loved to travel around and meet people.

His name was Eric. He spoke six or seven languages. But when he had popped the marriage question to her, she was never able to return back to him. She was almost afraid that, their relationship too was going to stagnate into fear and frustration once it entered the marriage vows. Whatever she had with Eric had been pure fun, but when she saw Eric was serious about her she began to be afraid ofhis emotions.

But the more she grew angry with Dovey the more she thought about him. She wanted to break loose from the boat and land herself beside him. She began to wonder if it was at all too necessary to keep up with Dovey. Both were waiting for each other to take that first step to end it.

God only knows how the remainder of the two days were spent on the cruise. Dovey felt miserable, he feared he was impotent and his wife had disappeared after whatever had happened the other night.

He did not want to face her again; perhaps he never wanted her back again in his life. Some confused feelings filled him up, some mixture of affection denied or love betrayed or frustration. But it was a mixture of all the unfortunate feelings and it made him feel worse about himself. For the first time, it appeared to him that maybe he had never been able to satisfy Emily. He began wondering if both of them were estranged not only because of their difference in temperaments but also because the kind of love and vigour that Emily desired for could never be satisfied by him.

Disappointments and restlessness filled him. He only waited for those two days to get over as soon as possible.

When the two days got over, no couple had left the cruise the way Dovey and his wife had left. At the moment the boat was anchored and at the dock, he took his bag of clothes and without waiting for Emily he went home. As he was coming away, he saw Emily in the arms of a tall blonde guy; they were kissing and hugging each other like lovers. He simply turned away and rushed home.

After an hour or so, Emily also reached home and both of them spent their time avoiding each other in different rooms. Dovey told himself, that it was going to be just another day and Emily was going. Just then Emily entered his study room,

“Hey,” she said awkwardly, хsome work has come up I will have to leave tonight.”

Dovey gave a sigh of relief. There came a phone call from the drawing room and Emily rushed to the away to receive it.

“Hello” she answered.

“Oh my God, is it Emily?” the caller asked.

“Yes, who is this?” Emily asked confused.

“Emily it’s me, Annie. I work with Dovey in his college and we met some two years back remember.”

“Oh Hi, what a pleasant surprise, how are you?” Emily conversed faking her happiness.

“I am absolutely fine, I called Dovey on his cell phone but he isnтt receiving it and I have been trying like since the last two days.

Anyways, I meant to tell him that I am going to India, I mean I will settle there now.”

“OH that’s wonderful,” exclaimed Emily growing envious of her, “you are getting married or something?”

“Yes,” she said laughing, “I was in a relationship with a guy from there. We kind of met when we were really small and then we met again some years later on but by then we were all grown up. He was studying here in London when we were together and he just proposed for marriage and I am really happy. I am going to India to meet his parents.”

“Oh it’s good, that sounds great,” Emily replied.

“Yea, anyways I called to invite both of you to a dinner which I am hosting tonight. I thought I wouldn’t be able to see Dovey because his number was coming unreachable but it’s a bonus now because I will get to meet you too.”

“Oh,” Emily replied with some disappointment, “I don’t know, Dovey can come but I am leaving for work, you know I live elsewhere and I go after weekends so…”

“Oh c’mon,” Annie requested ardently, “Come just for a minute or so and you can leave after the dinner. I really want to see you both.

Please.”

It was a difficult situation, Emily really didn’t want to go anywhere with Dovey but Annie was leaving England so she conceded. She informed Dovey about what had happened.

“Oh, ok,” he said and not a word more did he utter to Emily. Emily went upstairs and remained there till evening.

Annie had called Alisha days back and Alisha had asked her, “Who else are coming?ц

Annie had counted a few people on her finger tips without mentioning Dovey so that had made her ask Annie if she hadn’t invited Dovey.

Annie had told her that she was trying to reach him but then she had also told Alisha that Dovey had called at the college that he was

taking leave for a week and Annie knew he was spending time with his wife. So Alisha had made up her mind that she was going to go the dinner party without being insecure about meeting Dovey.

That night when Alisha had stepped inside Annieтs apartment, she had expected the least to meet Dovey and to worsen things, to meet him with his wife.

Alisha froze on seeing them together; she remained almost at the door. Emily had recognised her and she gave her a lazy smile. Alisha returned the smile and she took a seat at some far end of the room. Doveyтs heart was beating very fast, as if it wanted to race with him to reach to Alisha first. He felt the every Thump Thump Thump of his beating heart as if he had forgotten his heart could also beat.

His eyes did not leave looking at her and as a slow music came to be played, Annie approached the couples around and pulled them on their feet to dance slowly to the music. A Miserable Dovey and Emily stood in the middle of swaying and kissing couples, they were struggling how to hold each otherтs hands. Annie approached them again and glued them together in a hug,

“Don’t be shy,” she yelled at them happily and left.

Awkwardly but shyly they started moving slowly to the tune of the music. Emilyтs eyes were filled with some tears as she hugged Dovey and tried dancing with him. On the other hand, Dovey’s eyes read only Alishaтs discomfort on seeing him with his wife. Alisha for some time avoided every space where there was Dovey but when Dovey was hugged by his wife and when they were dancing together, she could not help but look at them enviously. Her eyes met Doveyтs for the first time and she became afraid. She became petrified that the wall within which she had kept herself with a lie that she was fenced out and safe from her feelings began to falter about. She could not hold herself anymore, she could not stand the scene anymore and a deep feeling of guilt engulfed her as if she was being evil eyeing a perfectly happy married man.

Alisha stood up and went over to Annie, she apologised that she had to leave early but she really had to go. Getting her coat, she rushed out of the room with her face ridden with tears. Just as soon as Dovey saw Alisha leaving, he could not restrain himself any longer. He knew if there was anyone who could pull him out of that miserableness, it was no other than Alisha. Suddenly, in that one space where the three of them were present, choosing became instinctive to him.

He broke himself free from Emily who was in tears and left the room as well. Emily was too busy hiding her sorrow; she could not see why Dovey had left. She quietly went and sat down with a drink.

Dovey followed Alisha as she stepped out of the building wiping her tears. She kept running leaving behind her car as she only wanted to keep running from everything.

“Alisha!” Dovey called out to her.

She looked back on suddenly hearing his voice but on seeing him in real; she turned away and kept running. She wanted to run as far away from him as possible.

“Alisha stop,” he called out after her.

But Alisha only kept running, as if she was running away from a nightmare.

She hit at the moving people but she did not stop running.

After running for a long distance, she halted herself panting for air and clutching her hips with her hands. When Dovey caught up with her,she turned to him and told him,

“I want to stop running from you, I am tired of running away from you.”

Dovey looked into her eyes and there was an aura of some finality and mutual acceptance between them.

“Let’s go from here,” he said and they took a cab.

They reached Dovey’s house, after a silent journey in the cab where none of them spoke to each other.

When they entered the house, Alisha went inside the drawing room and sat beside the hearth. So Dovey burnt a fire beside her and took a place near her on the carpet.

“Do you want a blanket over you,” he asked not knowing what to offer her to drive her out of that silence.

“I want to stop running,” she said again at last looking at the bright fire, “I want to stop running from you.”

Dovey remained silent.

“Can we stop meeting each other or thinking about each other?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but I can’t stop thinking about you,” he said looking at her tenderly, “if I were to die, you would be the last thought I would have.”

She looked at him trying to ascertain herself that he loved her and she loved him and nothing around mattered to them anymore. “Why do you like me?” she asked plainly.

“Because you are the only one who could make me laugh even when I was angry, your face and your smile, your eyes kept me alive in my miseries. I am an artist Alisha; I am boring to most women. I canтt even make Emily happy and I still wonder how you stay happy with me or how we can both feel we are special with each other. I look at you and I see myself reflected in your eyes and I discover you and I are both only one. You are the only person whose presence inspires me with more imagination, the one person I enjoy being with and with whom I donтt have to think when I talk whether she will like the topic or find it boring. I have many a time concluded that I am in love with some women whom I had met and I could reason out why I liked them. But with you, I still donтt know why but I love you, and I donтt want to know why because I want to discover it every day being with you. Let my whole life be a journey to discover why I love you so much Alisha.”

All the heaviness in her heart which Alisha had been carrying all that time suddenly left her. She moved her hands to hold his but he was reluctant to touch her.

“But I am scared, what if I make you unhappy? What if I can’t satisfy you with anything?” he asked her, “how can you be sure that you love me or be happy with me, a man like me Alisha?”

Alisha moved closer to him and held his hands, she replied, “Because you are the only man who can handle me, in joy and tears and even when I am drunk,” she said with a smile.

“Something connect me to you Dovey,” she continued saying, “Our likeliness and temperaments perhaps I donтt know but I do know this that if I want to stay happy I can only be that with you.”

They both kissed for the second time and that night, they kissed never to be apart again.

“Wait,” he said interrupting the flow of love, “I need to tell you something. Something has been happening to me lately. It’s such a wrong timing I know, but I have not been able to feel anything these days,” he said and put his problem bluntly, “I am afraid if I have some medical problem.”

He was embarrassed to the core to admit it before the lady he loved and he had just acknowledged his love for her. He was afraid she was going to turn him down. But before he disappointed her, he felt it was important that she should know.

Alisha simply smiled and laughed naughtily at him. “Wait here,” she said.

She went to his painting room and picked up the colours.

She came back to him sat beside him handing the colours in his hand. “I know how to arouse you,” she said.

“Honey, I don’t think you understood completely about what I was saying,” he said a little worried.

But Alisha knew what she was doing.

“Can you please take my clothes off?” she asked calmly.

Dovey looked at her and asked, “You sure you want me to do it?”.”Yes,” she gave a clear and definitive answer.

So he put the box of colours down and started undressing her. Carefully and gently, he lifted her shirt off and unhooked her bra. He pulled away her jeans and stopped.

“I want you to take off everything I am wearing,” she told him.

So Dovey removed not only the jeans but also her underwear. Alisha took hold of a small pillow that was on the chair and put it on the carpet. She laid herself out resting her head on the pillow.

“Now paint on me,” she said softly.

Dovey was taken by surprise, but it was a surprise that took him not by fear as Emilyтs surprises tended to but it filled him with some joy of creativity. He stood up, went and switched off the light. The room went dark and only the light from the flames illuminated his vision.

He stood over her and admired her plump fair body; it was yellow in colour because of the dancing flames beside them. He raised his hands and touched her, from her neck to her belly. He ran his hands smoothly over her again and again. It felt like touching a fresh canvas.

He took the colours and started painting on her body with his fingers.

He knew exactly what he wanted to paint. He drew the Tree of Life on her chest; the mounts of her breasts became the green branches, from between the breasts a bark came down with its roots. The root of the tree was holding a huge capsule that almost looked like a water droplet that covered most part of her abdomen, he coloured it bluish white and inside it he painted a foetus. The Foetus was upside down and seemed almost ready to come out into the world, he placed its head at almost between her legs.

With the dancing flame, the painting too came alive and as if a life was born something stirred up inside Dovey too. He bent on Alisha carefully and kissed her, he kissed her that night like he had never kissed a woman before, and he loved her that night like he had never loved a woman before. He was able to enter her and that night, clasped to each other beside the hearth, they made love again and again until the sun came intruding upon them with the wakeful day.

Exhausted from the night they lay in each otherтs arm, talking and teasing each other. A bell rang and Dovey got up to his feet calmly. He did not care if it was Emily. He helped a nervous Alisha to change into her clothes and went and opened the door.

Emily entered a little sloshed with excessive drinking.

“I spent the night in a bar,” she said as she entered giggling to herself and then she saw Alisha in the drawing room, “obviously; you were busy and did not bother to think about me.”

She promptly went upstairs and came downstairs with her suitcase and walked out of the door.

After Emily had left, the morning was filled with fresh happiness for Alisha and Dovey. He had called up his nanny and asked her to take a leave. He made breakfast for Alisha and both fed each other. After the breakfast they went into the drawing room and as Alisha rested on the couch with her head on his lap, she lazily listened to him read a romance novel to her. About lunch hour, she told him she wanted to cook for him and both stood in the kitchen, applying the little knowledge they had and cooked something distasteful which they ate with lots of laughter and excitement.

As a lazy afternoon approached after lunch, Alisha coaxed him upstairs to his bedroom and there, they made love again.

Around evening, Dovey received a call from Emily. “Can I meet you?” she asked.

So Dovey dropped Alisha to her home and promised to come back as soon as possible to meet her and her mother. From there, with some worry and lots of determination he went to meet his wife.

They sat in a small restaurant and both could not start anything to say.

But Emily knew the better; she pulled out her ring and gave it calmly back to Dovey.

“This is the best we can do right now,” she said, “I wish we could have been happy but I am happy for you.”

Dovey could not say anything, although he was happy to be with Alisha some sadness filled him in seeing Emily so sad.

“What about you?” he asked.

Emily smiled at him and she made a face of uncertainty saying, “Well, I will be fine. I will see what I can do. If you are not afraid to move on, I should not be too.”

She stood up and wishing Dovey all the joy in the world, she went to Liverpool not to her mother but to knock at the door of the man who had borne her absence without being given a reason for.

Emily stood at the door and knocked at it and in some time, a man opened the door. He was surprised to see her.

“Hi,” she said almost afraid. The man did not say anything. “Can I come in?” she asked.

“What do you have here that you want?” Eric asked her.

“Please” she said calmly and he stepped away from the door letting her in. They went inside the drawing room where the man seated himself on the couch without asking for the lady to take a seat. He sat holding his chin with his fingers and waiting for her to begin to talk.

“Look,” she started, “I know I have done you wrong and I can’t amend for the hurt I have caused to you.”

“First of all, can I just know why you are here? In short, that is,” he said rudely.

“I am here to say I am sorry,” she told him almost in tears.

“HA,” he laughed sarcastically, “We have been perfectly happy for two years with each other and one day I happen to suggest you have to get out of your marriage so that we can be together and you walk away without giving me a reason, do you even know how I have been the past one month? Have you ever thought how I felt when you got yourself all missing from my life without a speck of reason? Was I the sort of man you had to guile your time away and you come back again with a sorry just like that? You treat me very pettily Madam and it’s not fair because I have invested my time and emotion in you.”

Emily was moved to tears and she stood there crying and she was unable to defend herself.

“I know,” she said at last, “I know I don’t deserve kindness from you especially because what I have done to you is unforgivable. But, if there is a man who stands by all my errors that’s you Eric. Because in the end of the day, when I would be done running away from and fighting with the whole world, I would only be coming home, to you.”

Eric remained silent, willing to let her finish, he began to develop interest in what she was saying. Emily was very bad at expressing her emotions, words were not her favourite tools but rather action was.

So if Emily was saying something, it got Ericтs attention.

“I was scared, when you asked for marriage because I thought marriage would end us. But I am not scared anymore because I have seen people taking courage to seek love for themselves. So, trust me if I am saying this please because I am here to stay and make it up to you and make US happen, I am not going anywhere.’

Eric’s anger tower started breaking in bits, he looked at her and instead of making her force enter his heart by her words he actually wanted to open the gates to his heart by himself and for that he had to ask that final question and if she provided the correct password, the gate was to open own its own.

“Why do you want me? Now?” he asked.

“Because somehow we are the same people, we make up dreams and fantasies and we live them together and I canтt do this with anyone else.”

****One Year Later******

It was April in London. The snow laden city was cleared to give way to a bright London with drooping branches blossoming flowers all around. A sweet fragrance filled the atmosphere and humming bees sang a doleful music. Wedding bells rang in the churches around and Alisha attended the marriage ceremony of her friends with delight.

Jay got married to Jenny and both lived happily ever after, they were seen horse-riding in Hyde Park on weekends. Jenny was a happy woman, unlike most women she never had to worry for kitchen chores. Her husband was adept at cooking and both loved spending time in planning for an adventure or watching action packed movies. They had one girl child later on and taking up the adrenaline rush in her family she took to boxing as her career.

Emily never married Eric, Eric Benton. It was a conscious decision which Eric had taken to keep his lady love away from the fears of domesticity and conventional living. He left it to her whether she wanted it or not and he was fine that they were going to be just two of them for the rest of their lives as long as he had her. They wanted to fill their lives with themselves and they were happy about it.

Alisha was the last to marry because it was hard to convince her mother for Dovey. It took much time and convincing power to move her mother to agree for Dovey and for a marriage in a church. But before Alisha married, she had one last thing to do to leave a life of loneliness and complaints behind.

She had an address of a house in Manchester in her hands and she wanted to go there. One fine morning, she woke up earlier than usual and headed towards Manchester with Dovey.

When they had reached, she was very nervous about what she was going to do.

“You want me to come?” Dovey asked.

“No, I want to do this alone,” she said and she left him inside the car after giving him a kiss.

She went up to the door of the house and she gave a very determined knock.

A white man in his fifties opened the door, “Yes?” he asked.

He had grown old. Richard Barrow. Alisha nearly cried when she saw him again.

“Dad,” she said softly.

On hearing her, the manтs face became serious. He tried very hard to appear unmoved before her and standing by the door he remained silent watching his daughter.

“Ummmm, I am getting married,” Alisha said with a shaky voice, “and before I moved on, I really wanted to tell you that I have been angry with you. I have been avoiding you for leaving mom behind. But I understand today why you had to do what you did,” and wavering her voice a little more she said, “I forgive you Dad.”

On hearing those words, the manтs face broke into tears and he went up to Alisha and hugged her. He lifted her in his arms and hugged her so tight as if he feared she was going away again.

A woman came out and she was surprised to see them, “What’s going on?” she demanded.

The man suddenly became conscious and put her daughter down. Then turning towards the woman amidst happy tears, he said, “Rose, its Alisha.”

On hearing the name, the womanтs face burst into a pleasant smile and both her father and her step-mother, took Alisha in the house where she spent an hour or so talking to them and telling them about her marriage.

On the D-Day, Alisha was anxious and nervous. She had never thought that she was going to get married. But as she was finally going to get married she thought it felt unreal. She bit her nails in a fit of anxiety for which she was scolded by her mother. Her mother left her alone when her ex-husband and Rose entered to meet her.

“I know you are nervous but you are going to be fine,” Rose told her. “How did you manage all the nervousness?” she asked Rose.

“Well, I was nervous but then when I took to the aisle I saw your father. You will know what I am talking about,” Rose said and winked at her.

A call came for the bride and Alisha stood up saying “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god” but her father held out his arm and asked her to come along.

“You look beautiful don’t worry,’ he said.

So, Alisha walked along with her Dad with jittery steps to approach the aisle. She was anxious of whether Dovey was going to like her looksor not. But as she faced the church with the people sitting inside it, she saw Dovey standing at the far end near the altar dressed as the one man she was meant to be with.

His face lit up on seeing her, his eyes did not stir away anywhere else on seeing her and every smile of Dovey, every glance of his was meant for her.

She recalled the morning conversation she was having with him after they had made love to each other.

“Dovey?” she had asked timidly, “Do you find me pretty?”

Dovey has screwed up his face in a mocking way, pretending he was thinking about something serious.

Then he had asked, “by what standards do you define being pretty?”

“You know, if you like my hair, my face, if you find me attractive?” she had asked back in return for a question.

Dovey had got up on his elbow and looking at her he had told her, “You know, a few days back I had made a painting of you. But it’s a painting in which no one will be able to recognise you because it appears like images on a broken mirror. Someone who sees it will say it can be any woman because it has got the same hair, nose, eyes, lips as any other man or woman but you know what, only I know that itтs you because there is no one else like you in this world when looked through my eyes. This hair can only be yours,” he had said touching her hair and then touching her nose and lips he had told her, “This nose can only be yours, these lips can only be yours. I don’t need you to be beautiful for everyone around, because I know you are beautiful for me.”

She smiled to herself as she heard the words of the memory of that morning. So she glided on the aisle towards Dovey, ready with all her will to be his woman for life.

Before both of them knew, they had already said, ‘I do’ to each other and they kissed each other to fulfil the promise of unity they had not only made to the Lord but above all to each other.

THE END

Chapter: 3 – Ch Lady Diana

Ch Lady Diana graduated from the University of Delhi and is settled now in Delhi. Her book Lovin’a Hero was recently awarded as the Best Manuscript Award at Lit-O- Fest, Mumbai.

Diana is a lover of Literature, she is also an argumentative Indian and she likes digging into facts and asking a lot of questions. She is a published author and a keen learner as she likes to explore into new subjects.

 

 

Chapter: 4 – Urban Body : Entrapments & Releases

A note on Urban Body : entrapments & releases

70 years after freedom, India is clearly an important part of the global development paradigm. The trajectory is gradually but surely moving, tending towards an universalized architecture of  urbanity.  Yet pathways to future seems to be determined but not self -determined. The position of liberties which freedom offers are constantly evolving through a continuous discourse amongst diverse forces.

The urban spaces meanwhile are mangled, chaotic, polluted, dystopian – much an result of sudden influxes and accidental growth rather than of planned development – merely factories and supermarkets of bodies in motion – plugged effectively to a matrix which is centralized and oriented towards productivity.

Urbanity – symbolic of progress is also the colonization of the body, mind & soul. It is the desecration of the soul, deconstruction of the body and remolding of culture. 70 years after independence the urban body is entrapped, colonized, by powers which are invisible yet more efficient.

Hence we look at writings which examines this entrapment and the quest for release – to liberate.   Writings which helps us to negotiate, envision and determine  – to love , to live and progress as individuals & as a collective, in and from – this urban dystopia.

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