The Come Back – Chapter 10
by Anita Menon
A young, scholastic – looking James Reed was reading his journal when he felt he couldn’t concentrate anymore. He could hear the tinkling sound of her anklets over and over again. He remembered bumping into her in her home a few days ago. Since then he hadn’t been able to get her off his mind. There was something ethereal about her; Her long black hair, loose and ending in curls. She made no attempt to tame them. The crook of her arm was delicate and he wondered what it would feel like to touch it just once. Her features were sharp with dark eyes that seemed to search a lot. She was curvy he had observed in those few seconds of collision and he had almost embraced her.. well almost.
He leaned back against the back of the chair and placed both his hands behind his head. He welcomed all the thoughts about her into his mind. It felt like she had come to live with him permanently and he could see her the way he wanted to, be with her at all the times. She had become his real-imaginary friend. But even in his thoughts he knew there was a barrier, a thick fog that didn’t let him see beyond a particular point. She was shrouded with mystery and that intrigued him beyond his own imagination. He had to know her better, inspite of the apparent differences in culture and upbringing. What would his conservative catholic mother say? Well his mother never approved of anyone he introduced to her anyways. That was probably the reason why he was still unmarried at 34. Not that he felt lonely; he had his research to keep him busy. He occasionally dated women who were intellectually superior to him so that he enjoyed the mental trysts with them. But after a while, he would lose interest because they showed all their cards in one go. There was nothing left to pursue and he admired a woman who was mysterious. She had that aura about her but the most sensual part of her was that she herself was unaware of it. There was no arrogance but a plain indifference towards the world around her. He wanted to explore that world and to see if he could be one of the elements in her world. He decided he was going to take the first step.
That evening he went to Prof. Iyer’s house and knocked on the door. He had intentionally gone there unannounced more to surprise himself with an encounter with his mystery woman. Mrs. Iyer opened the door and James did his polite namaste by bending more than was required. Mrs. Iyer shook her head and walked into the house without letting James know whether it was alright to step in or not. He stood there undecided for sometime but then the temptation got better of him. He stepped in and looked around but it seemed the house had only a single occupant who had just opened the door. He dared further and moved into the dining area which did not have a dining table. Prof. Iyer and his family sat on the floor to have their meals. He hadn’t been given the opportunity to have a meal with them yet. He imagined himself eating with the rest and all the runny food slipping away through his fingers. The thought amused him so much that he did not realize he had entered her room.
He heard a familiar twinkling sound of anklets and he got up to search for the sound. He walked up to the room and found her bent in concentration upon her desk, writing furiously. She did not have the slightest inkling of his presence in the room. She was playfully thumping her heel to the floor while she paused to think in between herwriting. Her hair, long and brown, ending in curls. He trod silently towards her but in a sudden movement she turned to face him. Her dark eyes rested on his face, expressionless.
He was taken aback by the sudden movement and wanted to apologize for the transgression. But no words seemed to make their way out. His mind had jammed up like a pen whose ink had frozen and refused to cough out a single drop of ink. He stood there transfixed and unable to move. She got up slowly and moved to face him, all the while glaring at him. Then she burst into peals of laughter and all he could do was guffaw with her. Slowly the tension left his body and he found himself relaxing. ‘God, she is gorgeous!’ , he almost thought aloud. She turned her chair to face him and asked him to sit down but James preferred to stand.
Thousand thoughts thrashed around in his head, ‘How could she not have questioned him about what he was doing in her room?’ But he thanked his stars that she did not seem offended.
” Hmm.. I apologize to have interrupted your work. I was here to meet the Professor but did not see him around.” James found it difficult to look at her, as he lied.
” That”s alright. I wasn’t getting anywhere with my work. Appa isn’t home and you should have called before coming.” she replied with a teasing tone.
“Err. Yes you are right. I should have called first. It was just that I was passing by and thought to say my hello to him” , said James, still not meeting her eyes and looking down at his toes.
” But you meet him everyday in the university.” Her tone taunting, now.
At this he looked up at her and thought, ‘ Goodness, she is so tactless. Least she could do was to be a little diplomatic about it’, but did not say anything.
She continued,” So tell me what REALLY brings you here?”
James looked into her eyes and felt a spark lighting all over him.
” You do.”
She remained unfazed by this admission and smiled a little. James found himself resisting the urge to go up to her and tell her how crazy she had been driving him all this time. How much he had thought about her. He had lost interest in everything and he felt he was truly in love for the first time.
His train of thought was interrupted by her taking the unoccupied chair and turning around to get back to her writing. He was puzzled by her reaction and felt like an idiot standing there all by himself.
” Emm.. what are you writing in that journal of yours?” he asked to break the ice.
At this she turned and replied smilingly,” I thought you did not have anything more to say to me and were on your way out. Well, I am writing a story.”
” That’s fantastic! Will you let me read it?”, he asked.
” I can’t really.” She replied.
” Is it autobiographical? ” James pushed.
” Yes and No.” she dodged his inquiry.
” What do you want to do with it? Where do want to take it?” asked James, not giving up.
” I want to be an author.” She replied with her eyes sparkling with excitement.