The Come Back – Chapter 22
by Anita Menon
The Christmas party was in full swing and the guests mingled among themselves with food and glasses in their hands. The atmosphere was jubilant and it was difficult not be affected by the cheer all around. The burning hearth provided much-needed warmth to all the guests in the large room. It was the University Staff Christmas party and James had brought Maya along with him, after great amount of cajoling. Maya, dressed in a mourning black sari and a long overcoat, gloves and a thick mustard coloured muffler, was a sight amidst the chic ladies and the dapper gentlemen in the room. She refused to let the coat girl take her overcoat or any of her belongings. James pulled her aside and explained to her that she needn’t wear it inside the room as it was sufficiently heated. Finally after a lot of explaining, she removed her coat and the other paraphernalia attached and the world saw her for the first time. Not meeting eyes, she trailed timidly after James towards the center of the room. The fire did not do anything to warm her cold body. She clung to James and he moved her around the room introducing her to people as her girlfriend/partner. People weren’t very gracious and did not really prod her to talk or be comfortable, so she took her chance and retreated to a corner.
James did not take notice as he got busy talking to his co-workers and enjoying his drink. Maya kept her glance down and wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to keep herself warm. Suddenly she felt, she had company and with great reluctance looked up at the person standing in front of her. Before he could extend his hand to shake hers, she removed both of her arms from around her and hid them behind her back. This reaction did not deter the distinguished gentleman and instead he smiled a bright smile. Maya looked at him and felt her arms relaxing and slowly she placed them on her sides but still refrained from shaking the stranger’s hand. James observed the duo from a distance and came bounding toward them as quickly as he could.
“Hello there. Have we met before?” , said James in an attempt to break the stare.
“Hello to you too. I am Dr. Abelhammer but you can call me David.” replied the gentleman without looking away from Maya’s face and extended his hand towards James.
Feeling left out, James turned towards Dr. Abelhammer and shook his hand more vigorously than he intended. After the initial introductions were made, Dr. Abelhammer seemed to cut off his stare and Maya seemed a little less transfixed as well. James learned that Dr. Abelhammer was the University’s revered Professor of Psychology and despite his achievements, James found him remarkably humble, and warmed up to him in no time. Even Maya seemed to smile on certain occasions when David cracked a joke or two. James was rather surprised to see Maya’s reaction to Dr. Abelhammer and for the first time he saw her looking into a person’s eyes while listening intently to what he had to say. He felt a bit insecure but at the same time felt happy for Maya for feeling so comfortable outside their home. She even took a bite or two from David’s plate and complained to him about the food being mostly non-vegetarian. After the party, when goodbyes were being said, David promised that he would be in touch and exchanged his card with James. On the way back home, Maya was more cheerful and talked incessantly. She rambled on about how the people were all blue and gave her the chills but David was a warm yellow and that is why it was so much fun talking to him. James found it a bit difficult to understand what she meant by blue people and yellow people. He attributed it to her fanciful imagination and because she was so painfully shy and reserved he never probed her unnecessarily. He knew she loved him and would never leave him and that unconditional love was what gave him the strength to tolerate her eccentricities.
He had more reasons to cheer now that Maya was pregnant with their baby. He was over the moon upon hearing this fantastic news but Maya seemed absolutely nonchalant about it. He did his best to take care of her by getting her to eat as often as he could manage. It became a difficult because of his long hours at work and after coming back at home, he had to manage Maya and her mood swings. His mother often called him to advise him to get out of the tiring relationship but he knew he couldn’t leave Maya because he had promised her that he would look after her.
After the Christmas party Maya seemed to have relaxed a little and smile a lot more. It seemed like the hormones were really doing their work. She looked radiant and that reflected on James’s demeanour too. He felt a lot at ease and found himself whistling and humming more than usual. Dr. Abelhammer paid them a surprise visit with a bouquet of varied coloured flowers and Maya danced her way to accept them. She twirled around room with them and arranged them nicely in a flower vase of the living room. James noticed that whenever David spoke to her, he spoke rather slowly and with great force which Maya seemed to appreciate. He did not seem to notice Maya’s awkwardness or her habit of staring blankly into space even when she was being spoken to. David seemed to understand her pace just as well as James did and to his surprise, he found Maya comfortably chatting away about her characters and their colours to him. He knew that David was a trained psychologist with many laurels to his name and that probably made it easy for him. But he did not discuss Maya with James at all. David became a regular at the Reed household and spend many mornings having breakfast at the patio with the couple or swirling scotch with James in the evenings. Maya seemed to have forgotten about writing and kept the men company with her witty remarks.
But one evening when James and David, who were now fast friends, were at their local pub, David told something very queer that James didn’t forget even after 20 long years.
” Maya is a very special woman, James. Try to keep up with her or you might lose her soon.”
James was quite drunk by then and couldn’t respond to this odd statement from his friend. He let it stay and decided to take it up at saner moment but that moment never came. One thing led to another and he lost Maya, just as the way David had warned him. What did he do wrong? He questioned himself numerous times but never got any answer. After Maya left, James rarely got in touch with David because it reminded him of all the wonderful time spent with Maya. Meanwhile David moved away to America for better opportunities that knocked his door. On and off, they wrote to each other discussing strictly, only their professional achievements. He knew, David had a lot to say but knew better than to say it fearing that he may hurt his friend. But today, 20 years hence, Professor Reed was waiting impatiently for his friend to visit him and provide him some answers. He had emailed David and explained to him his current situation and the earth shattering revelations about Maya. David, the professional that he was, confirmed all his doubts. He needed more explanation and so he invited David over for a few days to spend with him so they could go through the whole matter in a step by step manner. He even made David email the only person in touch with Maya and requested her to meet him. Maya it seemed, was ready to oblige and promised to visit him as soon as she could.
Professor Reed couldn’t wait for all the parts of the puzzle to fall into place.