The Come Back – Chapter 12

by Anita Menon

Ash lit up a cigarette and blew out a smoke ring. The weather’s been clement today and just right for a smoke and salad outside at a bistro. She looked around her and saw many couples staring into each others’ eyes and there were others who did not have anybody with them to look at. She started to wonder what was she doing here with him. She had no business being out with Jai, sharing a lunch and a cigarette. But here she was doing the very thing without a bout of regret. She shifted a bit on her seat and turned to face him. She couldn’t help but marvel at how good-looking he was. His perfect features, the golden tan, the buffed up body and charming lopsided smile just made her mind run in giddy circles. She should be back home, tucking into a good meal prepared lovingly by Mrs. P and hitting the sack. She had to be back at the hospital at night so that Anna could get some rest. Her father was in the ICU battling for his life, and here she was dating her sister’s ex boyfriend. But why is that she didn’t hate herself?

She was all of 25 and Jai was only as old as Anna and she shouldn’t have accepted his date request. But she did, because she felt impelled to.

After the whole fiasco with Jai dumping Anna, Ash was terribly upset about it for a while. Just then she received a text from him asking her out on a date. She fought her impulse to reply with expletives.  Something told her to wait and wait she did. By the next morning her cell phone inbox was flooded with Jai’s texts. He explained, how she had taken over his mind and that he couldn’t eat or drink or sleep. He lived in London with his stepmother and was going back to Cambridge to start his new semester. He had only a few days to meet her. He begged and pleaded with her. Strangely, Ash started to like the power she had over him. She texted back a few non committal replies that further inundated her inbox with his beseeching. She knew she had to fight her impulse and thought she had succeeded, until she found herself walking to the city center bistro without any warning. She knew she had to stop and anymore indulgence would mean her relationship with Anna would be beyond repair. There was that little rebel inside her, that made her walk to bistro and wave at the handsome Jai like it was the only choice she had. What made her flirt with such danger when she knew her sister’s emotions were at stake. But she had to know what it be like to be with him and to see for herself, why he liked her so much when Anna was the prettier of the two. To find answers to such inconsequential questions, she sat and played her game. She could already feel her mind drawing tattoos out of inspiration on Jai’s body. She smiled a little through the smoke and tucked into her leafy salad.

Jai looked like a little boy who had a crush on his teacher. He looked like a pug who was eager to please and was waiting for some kind of a cue from Ash. He waited on her every word, gesture, smoke ring and breath. What was so mesmerizing about her? He had  dated more beautiful girls in the past, but none so mysterious. All her tattoos seemed like they might just come alive on touch. Such exquisite tattoos can come from someone with the most alluring of auras. He had to know her better and for that he was willing to do anything.

Ash flicked her cigarette butt on the floor that Jai promptly picked up and stubbed in the ash tray. He then in a single quick movement, lay his hand on hers and waited. Ash did not react and encouraged, Jai took her hand in his and held it tight. No words were needed to because a thousand conversations happened within the milliseconds. Ash trembled as she never felt so jolted before. It seemed like it was meant to be. It felt comfortable, warm and a happy place. A happy place; the place that had eluded her for so long.  She had come to the bistro to manipulate a situation but fates had something else in store for her. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Jai hadn’t taken his eyes off her since then and they continued to stare into each other’s eyes like all the other couples in the bistro. This is the stuff that love was made of, Ash finally understood.