The Come Back – Chapter 8

by Anita Menon

To catch up you can read this.

Ash waited outside her Papa’s door for a bit before she turned the knob to take a peek. She saw him sleeping soundly with his mouth open and hands peacefully resting on his stomach. She saw them moving up and down as he took deep breaths intermingled with small ones. It brought a smile to her face when she recalled many afternoon siesta sessions when she was younger. She closed the door behind her, thinking of how she played by her father’s bedside with her figurines and dolls, while he rested. She used to quietly place her tiny dolls on his belly and observed them moving up and down, all the while imagining them to be at sea. When he breathed deep, there were larger waves and the dolls bobbed high up and sometimes, smaller. His deep-throated snores became the frightening thunder until he changed sides and her dolls fell down. Sometimes he woke up to find all sorts of toys all over his body arranged in a fashion of a play in progress. He feigned a shock to scare Ash and then both of them fell into a fit of unstoppable giggles. Ash snapped out from her reverie when Mrs. P called out to her to come to the Kitchen. Standing at the kitchen door, she attempted to comprehend what Mrs. P was trying to tell her. She just nodded to whatever it was and made her way out of the house.

Ash ached for a smoke.  It surprised her that the enormity of the situation made her forget, that she needed to smoke every hour. She did not have any cigarettes on her and cursed the moment that she chose to flick the pack away without a thought. Despite the tension, she felt good to be home. She felt nourished from Mrs. P’s sumptuous food and satisfied by the wonderful time she was able to spend with Papa again without any recrimination. The only part that needed some work was her relationship with Anna. In the last two days that she has been in the house, Anna simply chose to ignore her very presence. She knew Anna could be the ice princess if she wanted to but she also had an unending capacity to love and give her all. She knew she needed to earn her trust again. She could start with an apology but  knew that all the time lost can never be got back.

But did she feel truly apologetic? She couldn’t really think from this point onward.

Suddenly she realized, lost in thought, she had traveled quite a few blocks and was staring at the main road that had a rustic old pub ‘ Fox and Hounds’. She decided to step in for a drink and smoke though she very well knew that it was a geriatric den. She entered the pub with a deliberate nonchalance so as to not really reveal  how uncomfortable she felt. She headed to the bar, bought a drink and a cigarette. Then she headed out for a smoke since it was not allowed to smoke inside the pub anymore. She was annoyed by this ludicrous law that prohibited smokers from smoking inside the pub. Outside, the chill at just started to set in and she took a large swig and felt the alcohol  calm her body. Then the cigarette helped her get into her element. She felt like the world was a normal place again. She thought of Greg and cringed at the thought of the drama that ensued after her refusal to accept his offer. But right now she was in no position to get into a relationship. It was all going well until he had asked her to move in with him into his swanky Upper East Side apartment. That sounded the alarm bells and she knew it was time to move on. She needed her freedom to be creative and to enjoy life. She couldn’t just be somebody’s girlfriend and God forbid, somebody‘s wife. She was having a time of her life, being independent, doing what she loved doing, being creative and meeting new people. She wouldn’t have it any other way. Her independence was precious to her. With this thought she emptied the last of her drink.

She went back in to get another round and came back out to find her space was occupied by somebody else. She stood a distance away and pretended to look in some other direction but it was the person’s demeanor that distracted her. He wore a dark blue thick denim shirt, thick cargos and heavy boots. She felt tempted to take one look at his face and noticed an irresistible stubble. She turned around to take a good look and at the same time the stranger did too. Their eyes met and Ash felt weak in her knees. He was handsome and looked younger than her. The stranger looked at her and smiled which surprised her since she wasn’t the type who would invite smiles at the first glance. She wasn’t conventionally beautiful so to say. But most of her boyfriends stuck around because she made them feel comfortable and wanted. She was short, painfully thin and hunched a little. She had dark hair that was straight just like her father. But she had a dazzling smile that could penetrate the walls of the most staid of hearts. Her manner was casual and nothing about her was threatening in any way. Boys took to her like a buddy and then fell in love with her over a period of time. But this was different, as here was  a achingly beautiful guy smiling at her. She turned around to check whether he was smiling at somebody else but there wasn’t anybody around and that meant he was smiling at her. Ash felt encouraged and walked down a few paces towards him. They met half way and so many conversations transpired between them without uttering a word.

“Hi, I’m Ash.”

He smiled and extended his hand. Ash noticed that his fingers were long and beautiful with perfectly manicured nails. She had a thing for men with beautiful hands. She took his hand in hers with a firm grip and shook it ever so lightly, absorbing his warmth.

” Hi, I am Jai” , the stranger answered with a smoldering smile.