10 years earlier– (continued)
‘We are not yet open, Miss.. It’s after about two hours..,’ Rehaan said as he saw me enter the door. I had not thought of any good excuses yet but I attempted nonetheless,’ I know. But I have my school at that time…Umm… Can I just sit in the far end, in the library? I’ll make sure not to disturb you…’ My art of sweet talk was failing me here. There was a chuckle, or did I imagine it. ‘But I won’t be able to serve you the recommendations now,’ he said with a straight face, but his eyes crinkled with the pent up laughter. ‘Not at all a problem, anything will do,’ I knew was being childish not able to contain the excitement.
I took a seat near the romantic novels section. It smelt of room freshener and sanitizer wash. The aroma of the various concoctions was not yet present in the air. I put my fluffy overcoat on another chair. It was cold outside but inside was a bit warm. I was in my uniform, again. It’s not a date, I chided myself. Rehaan moved from one end to the other fixing things and arranging flowers. ‘Are you from Delhi?’ I asked as he assembled the books in the shelves around me. ‘No,’ he said. That’s it? He didn’t even name a place. That question usually worked, didn’t it? ‘You must be in college right? Or are you already graduated?’ I tried again. ‘Really, my looks tell you so? I’d rather let you make a calculated guess,’ he smiled this time. ‘College, I presume. Or did you drop out?’ No answer. ‘Where was your schooling?’ ‘A place far away from here..,’ I was blown over by these diplomatic answers.
‘You don’t have any friends here?’ -yet another attempt at having a proper answer from him. Why need he be so secretive? He’s playing with me, having fun, yes, he is.
‘Miss Rano, I think you said something about not disturbing me..,’ his teasing voice, chuckle and a raised eyebrow made me flush with chagrin. ‘Oh, yes, um.. sorry,’ I poked my head into the assignments and started writing without another word. Ah, I shouldn’t have come. I could hear unabashed chuckles from behind the shelves and cupboards. I really shouldn’t have come.
After about an hour, my assignments were completed. I was packing my bag to leave when he came with two cups of green tea. ‘Are you leaving, already? Isn’t it still an hour before your classes begin?’
‘Yes.. it is..’
‘So why don’t we ..,’ he left the rest unsaid pointing to the cups.
‘Yes, Ok.’ It was awkward to sit with him face to face. I had a lingering feeling that he was going to laugh at me again. I hate being laughed at.
‘You like this book?’ He pointed to Preeti Shenoy’s ‘Tea For Two and a Piece of Cake’ on the table. ‘Yes, she’s one of my favorites. I’ve read this book twice.’
‘Ah, sad the guys have not yet arrived, and we don’t have a piece of cake for our tea for two,’ he made a funny face. I laughed. ‘I like thrillers more and also coming-of-age novels. James Patterson is my favorite author, just after Agatha Christie,’ now he was answering my unasked questions.
We talked about hobbies and adventure sports; about movies and characters- damsels in distress and knights in shining armor. He had a good sense of humor and was good to talk to.
‘I should leave now. Thanks..,’ I got up picking my bag. ‘Today it was a complimentary drink, tomorrow it won’t be,’ he said holding my overcoat for me, before I could ask for the bill. He was expecting me to come again, welcoming me too. I didn’t reply to that. ‘You should come on Sunday mornings, we have tea ceremonies scheduled. It would be interesting to watch, I hope,’ yet another invitation. Ah, it’s good I came. ‘Sure,’ I said.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Rehaan and I met almost every day at TeaTown or outside in the Mall Road. I had tried all the flavors of tea within a month, I dare not tell this to my friends- they would have killed me of jealousy. Rehaan helped me prepare for the exams; at times he helped us all in solving mind boggling equations. I wondered what this intelligent guy was doing here in this quaint township. We helped him in planting the exotic flowering plants in return. We trekked together a few times. It was really fun. Malhar, Myra and Rehaan tried rock climbing and Jane and I watched them compete. We were a bit afraid of heights.
In such a short time we had created so many memories, captured so many moments in clicks. I knew I liked him, but didn’t know about Rehaan’s feelings.
One day he came with blue roses, orchids and lavender. The fragrance was wonderful. I held it possessively hugging it close. And then he spoke for the longest three minutes of my life.
“I am deeply and irrevocably in awe of you. I won’t say ‘love with you’ yet, as I don’t take love casually. I like every version of you- the notice-me you, the notice-me-not you, the geeky you hiding behind the book racks and peeking at me, the bemused you, the excited without reason you and the gossipy you. You are innocent enough to be corruptible, but you are resolute and fiery in situations that I almost think you can’t handle. You are an enigma. Allow me to be a part of your life.”
I wanted to vanish in thin air at first. Then I desperately wished the ground to shallow me before I could blush further. And then I wanted to feel the feelings unhindered, without doubt. I said Ok- a resonating stupid one syllable, Ok, stupidly grinning ear to ear.
Little did I know that the next week would spoil it all.