I was twelve when I first competed in a national level championship. I was the smallest rifle shooter in there and everyone was going ogles after the baby. Well they didn’t go ogles after me when I stood at the top with a small golden medal around my neck. That day I felt some weird sense of victory, not only because I had won the championship, but also because I had proved each and every one of those slut faced adults wrong.
Today, when I looked into those familiar brown eyes after ten long years, I felt the same sense of victory.
I had done it.
I had found her at last.
Even if it was too late...
For a second, she looked like she might throw up something- then straightened up and adjusted herself to meet my gaze.
“Rajeev?” She whispered, as if my name was a secret to be told, and never found out about.
I smiled, and brought my left arm around her tiny form to squeeze her in a warm affectionate hug. When had she gotten so tiny?
She looked up, her eyes still scanning my countenance. As if making sure that this wasn’t a prank. That this was real.
I was real.
We stood like that for a few seconds, that what seemed like several light years to me, after which I released her.Suprisingly, she sprang up and away from my form at once, and struggled her way out of the passage into the reception. I gaped after her.
When did she become that fast?
I watched her as she took – almost snatched- her library card from the poor old man, and staggered outside. I gave one look at the librarian, another at the loaded bookshelves behind me and paced out in a fitful stride in order to keep up with the newly athletic girl.
The girl was standing by the foot lane, her brown hair falling in layers over her blemish free countenance. She seemed to be worried about something; kept staring at her wristwatch and flipping her hair down to the back of her shoulders. Wait a second- what was that? A violet dye peaked out from behind the outer layers as she kept intertwining strands of her hair in her nimble fingers. Had the golden girl of Lakeview really gone bad? Or was this just my eyes playing tricks on me.
Slowly, I snooped up behind her in a position in which she could not run off easily without making a scene. And I knew her well enough for that.
“Hello again.” I said, making her jump violently and almost managing to throw the piece of paper in her hand in the nearby drainage line.
She flickered at me for a second, and then gathered up her things in an attempt to fly past me again. Uh oh woman- I’m faster than you at that.
I stood in her way again, and she went red in the face. With a laugh, I brought my right arm on her back to give her a pat but she turned away.
“Hey!” I called. “You know that behaving like that with an old friend is held as a formidable sin, don’t you?”
She looked at me like I had just proposed my yearning desire to have a dance with an alien.
“What do you-?”
I cut her short. “Look. You might’ve forgotten that once upon a time, you did have only your school friends at your side. Not that you care anyway, you big-”
“What? I don’t care? You just said that I don’t care about you all? You’re, you’re-“She groped around in thin air, as if searching for a strong enough word to define her sentiments.
“You’re outrageous!” she said at last, bursting with glee at her success.
“So you admit that you are indeed – Amaya Dastur?”
Amaya looked away, as if under a trance. Suddenly, she made a start towards my left. Wrong move Miss Dastur. I am still stronger than you.
“What do you want?”
“What have I ever wanted from you?”
She looked up, with such eloquence in her chocolate brown eyes that if I was not myself, but someone else, I would’ve pressed my lips against hers right then. Whoa, she’d grown pretty. When did that happen?
With a pang, I realized that she was still staring at me, and stumbled out of my daydream. What was she observing so intently? My jawline? Uh, I should’ve shaved well today. Wait, what the fuck was I thinking? No Rajeev- don’t even think about it. You know what will happen if you do.
“Please don’t stand in my path Rajeev.” She said. “Let me go.”
“Let me go or I’ll scream!”
I laughed. I knew this girl more than anything. If anything, she would never scream, let alone in public.
“Look, if I scream, they’ll take you away to the police station. I guess you are just a tourist here. So, if you are alone, you will have to stay here for four months on account of sexual harassment. So, just pray that your friends reach you on time.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“You want to see?”
I gaped at those flickering eyes, brimming with rage. When had Miss Amaya Dastur, aka, the shy girl in class, gotten so intimidating?
“Of course.” I smiled.
She looked around helplessly. For some seconds, it seemed like she was actually about to scream and send me to jail. But that never happened. She just stood there, looking here and there and trying her best to run away from the place. Finally, she opened her mouth to speak.
“Fine.” She sighed defeatedly. “Tell me what you want to hear.”
I chuckled amusedly at her defeat, earning a furious glare at her in return.”Okay.” I said, then directed with my hands towards the pathway.
“Walk with me?”
“Oh. Well, I don’t really have any other option, do I?”
I laughed and led her ahead of me. We walked in silence for some time, my eyes absorbing the intent beauty of Geneva. How had I not come here earlier? Maybe I could’ve met her earlier, and prevented the damage to happen. But now the damage was done. And there was nothing that I could do about it.
“You must’ve noticed a different name at the librarian’s log book.” She said, bringing me to the present.
“Oh, uh yeah yeah. I was really surprised when I found out it was you. That is another question that I have to find an answer to.”
She smiled, perhaps for the first time since our reconciliation. “What was the first one?”
“The first question. What was it?”
“Oh, It was that – where were you all these years? We have been searching for you, you know that?”
“Yes. Numerous social media sites- facebook , twitter, instagram. Everywhere. You were in none of them. We searched with your maiden name. We searched with every possible surname-“
“Possible?” she chuckled. “So you had a collection of people who could’ve married me, but none of them of them seemed to fit it.”
“What did you try- Bose, Mandal-”
“-Bannerjee.” I said.
It was a fraction of few seconds, when I looked at her face, and noticed that her face had gone pale; Smooth white as a sheet of paper.
Suddenly, she turned towards me and leaned in so that her mouth was near my left ear. Softly, as if frightened that someone might hear her and drag her away, she quivered in a few words that made a chill run down my spine.