I stood behind Vikram, watching him thumb through a book silently.
“So this is what you do when nobody’s watching.” I said softly.
Vikram didn’t turn around immediately. He calmly placed the book back and pulled out another one and began to flip through it.
“You found me.” He said, still glancing at the book.
“Yeah. Why’d you come here?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.
Finally, he turned around to look at me. By the slight twitching of his mouth, I could tell he was trying not to laugh. I was suddenly aware of the fact that water was still dripping off my clothes and I had made a little puddle in the middle of the bookstore.
“Let’s get out of here, before they throw us out.” Vikram nodded towards the exit. Us. He had said “us”. Ecstatic, I followed him out.
He walked briskly. I smiled as I realized he was heading towards our coffee shop. My smile didn’t last for too long, he walked past it without a second glance.
“Vikram!” I called out. “It’s here!” I pointed at the coffee shop excitedly.
“I know.” He said, without bothering to turn around.
“Don’t you want to go inside? For old time’s sake?” I looked wistfully at the café.
“Fine. Let’s go.” He said curtly. By now, I was so happy that I had found him, I didn’t mind his curtness. I made a face at him and walked in. This time, the happy couples did not threaten me.
We sat at our usual table. I drummed my fingers excitedly, looking around, “awww”ing over everything familiar.
“Do you remember… ” I would start. Vikram would reply in monotones.
After a while I gave up. My upbeat mood, started to give way to the gloom his downcast fast was spreading.
Finally, both of us sat silently at the table, sipping our coffee.
I wondered what was going through his mind, but I dared not interrupt. I was content, just to have him around.
By the time the cheque arrived, I was harboring no false hopes. The way things were going, I was sure we weren’t going to kiss and make up today. I sighed. Vikram, left to himself, could sulk for days.
As I got up to leave, Vikram started talking.
“Do you know..” He started, “Why I asked you to marry me?”
I sat right back down. I knew then, that this was one of those make or break kind of conversations.
“I was hoping the answer was because you loved me.” I answered tentatively.
“I did.” Did he say “did”? Past tense? “But I don’t think that was why.”
“Why did you?” I spoke as little as possible, trying to ensure I didn’t say anything wrong.
“I don’t know.” He wasn’t making any sense.
“Why is this important now?” I asked.
“Because, if I had to do it again, I’m not sure I would.” He looked me straight in the eye.
I felt as thought the wind had been knocked out of me.
“Okay..” I said after a while, “I deserved that.”
“I’m not trying to make you feel terrible. I’m just saying is it as it is.”
“So what are you saying?” I could feel the delicate threads of marriage starting to fall away.
“I’m saying, maybe we need some time apart.” He suggested.
Was he talking about a separation?
“But..” I said hesitantly, “I don’t want that.”
“So now you want me back?” The sarcasm in his voice was stinging.
“Vikram, please. I know that the whole Anurag thing shouldn’t have happened. But it did. And there’s a reason for it! You are never around anymore!” I regretted it the moment I said it.
“So it’s my fault now?”
“No.. That’s not what I meant. I just meant, that things were less than perfect for me. Just because we are staying under the same roof doesn’t mean that we’re sharing a life Vikram. I need some of your time. Some of your attention. I do.. I’m wilting without it.”
“You know I have been busy! And you have been busy too. Why didn’t you just tell me?!” Vikram countered.
“How could I? You’re always so busy! Tell me the last time, my birthday not included, that we went out?” After a pause, I continued, “Can’t remember can you?”
Vikram stayed silent.
I placed my hand on his. “Let’s just try to work it out. I really want to be with you.”
After an eternity, Vikram shook his head. “I can’t trust you Anagha. How do I know, that the next time something goes wrong, you won’t find another Anurag?”
I winced, it wasn’t as though I had cheated on him! I felt my temper rise steadily.
“You don’t. You just have to trust me.” All relationships boiled down to two things, love and trust. I think we had the love, the trust, was another story.
Vikram didn’t even pause to think about it.
“I don’t think I can.”
As I watched him step out in the rain, I wondered how I had managed to mess up something which was so right. I waited, but Vikram didn’t turn around.
I knew he was going to come back, never in a million years, would he leave me alone. So I waited. I ordered coffee after coffee . But he didn’t come.
I checked my phone every three seconds to ensure that I didn’t miss any calls from him, not that any calls came. As the evening became night, I had run out of the desire to have more coffee. I pulled out the copy of Animal Farm which Vikram had bought for me years ago and started reading it again reverently.
Closing time came as I was finishing the book. Still no sign of Vikram. The café owner nodded sympathetically as she told me she had to close the café now.
“Just one more page” I told her. By now, my vision was so blinded by tears that I couldn’t read anymore. I gave up and let the tears flow silently down my cheeks onto the book.
And then I heard something in a familiar voice that made me realize that everything was going to be okay.
“So this is what you do when nobody’s watching.”