For the first part of the story, click Here.
I had no idea on why I was doing this but it just felt right. Here, I was sitting in the bus, with a stranger beside me and was speaking with him as if we had known each other from the day we both arrived on this planet.
There he sat, in his white shirt with the logo on his school, wearing navy blue trousers while his hair was tussled up with the habit he had- to run his hand through his hair. His bag lay across his lap while his tie hung loose around his neck.
His face. Damn, he had a chiseled face with high cheekbones, light yet sun kissed skin tone and his eyes were brown, which had streaks of gold. I found myself hesitating under his gaze, thankfully he never looked at me much, whereas I had already shifted a bit to look at him while speaking my story.
With a bit of hesitation and removing the hoarseness from my voice, I began, “Okay, so let me begin with how my family really is. Five years before, when I was a child, my elder sister eloped with her boyfriend. That had really shook up my family. They turned cold and over protective of me. They usually think that I am going to do the same thing that my sister did. There are over bearing and sometimes it gets a pain for me. Now again, why am I telling you all this?” I ended up asking stupidly and horribly realizing what I had just spoken.
Arjun fidgeted a bit and turned towards me. He looked into my eyes and spoke softly in that voice of his which made chills go down my spine. “Kritika, obviously this problem is bothering you. Please go on, remember I am a stranger and I would most probably never be meeting you after today- so let it out. Because both of us have faced a lot of crap. Everybody does, but I choose to listen. Please, I would love to know everything if that calms you down. It usually clams me down, so, yeah. You get my meaning right?”
How did he know me so well just after meeting me once? Had he done this kind of stuff before? I had no idea of that, and I didn’t wanna ask this out just in case this offended him. So, sitting there a bit unnerved and spooked, I continued, “ It is not that I don’t love my parents. I love them, but it all just gets a little bit too much sometimes – you know.”
He nodded sagely. What was wrong with him? Or what was right with him? That was the reaction that I expected. A reaction that expressed that he understood what I meant. Not what the other people did. No expression of sympathy or picking up some other topic. He just sat there silently, staring at his bag, waiting for me to continue.
Well, I was just getting into flow. “So yeah, where was I? My family wasn’t the same and of course, it shook me up after Anamika left – yes that is her name.
The day she eloped, my dad went out and didn’t come out for 3 days straight. My mother never came out of her room for the time my dad was out. And me? I had to handle my younger self myself. Me, a bloody 12-year-old kid had to handle the whole family myself. That should not be done, right? A kid shouldn’t handle the whole family herself.” I suddenly had a huge bout of doubt and looked out of the window. I could see the orange tinge in the sky. The setting sun sure had its benefits; it calmed my mind yet I didn’t pick up the story again. I could see the darkness at the horizon and was wondering whether we could prolong this journey long enough so that we could both be lighter with our burdens?
I felt him shift and take a breath, “Kritika” I heard him call out, “Are you all right? Do you wanna continue? Or do you want some time to yourself?”
Ah, I snapped out of my silence, flashed a smile at him and said, “Okay, I am continuing. So, when I was busy handling my family, I shied away from the events happening at school. I just didn’t care what was happening there. Some people used to come and talk to you and that was that. Most of them were guys- because they tried to make me happy, not use my life experiences for gossip. Who knew that I would be named as a slut and faceless bitch because of this? And this is the short summary of my whole problem. Of what I face and what not.”
There, I had said it. I had committed my self and had concluded it. I had shared my life experiences and the predicaments that used to come along with it with a random stranger.
Arjun had closed his eyes and I rather thought that he had drifted off to sleep and when he opened his eyes the fear that had coiled it’s way around my heart let out a silent breath of relief and waited for him to speak.
He looked at me and said, “And someone called you a- don’t mind me this once- a faceless bitch today? Is that what hurt you the most? Oh, I still don’t understand why did you step up on the bus when you knew that you were wrecked emotionally?” He waited for an answer.
How did he even come to guess that, I didn’t know. Yet, I answered his questions as honestly as I could. “You see Arjun, A girl from my class met me on the road today and called this out to me. That hurt me the most. And as for the bus? I was crying on the road and set out to see my best friend, Anamika – yes, my sister. We both have kept in touch yet never let our parents gather a single clue about it.”
His mouth opened in a stunned ‘o’ and then slammed it shut.
He nodded and said, “Now it is my turn, right?”
I nodded my assent. He smiled and replied, “It seems the bus is reaching my destination. I don’t wanna ditch you. There is a fair out at the next stop. Wanna walk and talk there? It’s a public area so you know that I am not a criminal neither have dirty thoughts which you believe every guy possess. I vouch on my honor again.” He said the last line with a cheeky grin. I grinned along with him.
I had been to the fair quite a few times myself so I nodded my assent again and he grinned happily like a schoolboy who had got what he desired.
He began, “Now begins the story of my life, one which is full of woe…”
And that was when I knew that this chap won’t break my trust.
She had told me her story. She had trusted me enough and that is why I guessed that I should reciprocate. I never let her gain knowledge of how I kept my eyes at her the whole time.
God, she was pretty and from the way she spoke, I somehow had realized that she had a mind which was way sharper than most of the people out there. I didn’t let her know about this for sure.
She was gorgeous. Greauty as I called her in my language, which meant “Great Beauty” it sometimes worked wonders to compliment people without any others apart from the intended person understood the meaning implied.
She had crossed her legs beneath the seat and her striped top had wrinkled up a bit while her slightly long blue and silver earrings dangled against the back of her neck. Her hair which were supposed to be in a bun had fallen down to her shoulders in an insane way which made her look like a person who had fallen off her bed- yet she managed to carry that look perfectly and looked like a perfect hip teenager with it. Her nose was short and perfect while her heart shaped lips made my gaze shift there frequently. I had to fight the urge to keep me from licking and moistening my lips.
Her skin tone was pale and fair yet had the red flushed beauty of a lively gal. I could have kept staring at her the whole day long, admiring her beauty for who she was. I would have done that- if not for my vows to my father or the way her eyes unnerved me. Her eyes, they were light brown with honeyed caramel mixed in between with a smoky and sultry pure black limbal ring. Her eyes made me flush with embarrassment because they made me want her.
I flushed my throat and began my story hoping that my nervousness dissipated by the end, “Now begins the story of my life, a story full of woe. But whose life is short of that, eh?”
She smiled at my sentence wistfully and I continued, “You see, my life has been full of up’s and downs. When I was five I had nicked my finger off the blade of a knife my father kept. No, this is not the problem of my life. I just needed something to begin with.” I said sheepishly.
She laughed out at that and I ginned ruefully, happy that I had made her laugh. It was a melodious sound and was like music to my ears. I couldn’t have any inkling why I was feeling happy when I was meant to be low. Maybe it was her charm that let me out of my shell. I didn’t know, nor did I want to know. I continued on with my story. “So, the real thing. When I was five, my brother was our age. Giving the competitive exams and all that stuff. When the results came out, they were devastatingly low. My brother became depressed and tried to move on. But when our dad got to know about this, he beat my brother with a belt. I am sure he must have regretted it. Whatever the case, my brother ended his life that day. He jumped off a building- or that is what my mother told me before she left.”
She drew in a breath and spoke so quickly that I had to give her all my concentration, “Left for where? Of course she did not take you like she should have, apart from that where did she go?”
I smiled wanly and said, “She left our house to go to her parent’s house. I now know that she has moved on and even remarried.”
I got up when I finished speaking that. I looked down at her- put forward my hand and said, “And on that happy note, our stop is here. Would the lady like to accompany me to the prestigious local fair of this homely city?”
She giggled and laid her hand in mine and replied, “The honor would be mine. Lead, my prestigious knight.”
And with that, her soft hand against mine, we stepped outside the bus. Like a perfect gentleman, I left her hand as soon as we got down and got two tickets for us.
We stepped into the fair and started roaming the muddy streets and kept walking past stalls. I suddenly stopped and said, “Gosh, you might have to contact your parents, right? Tell them where you are and all that?”
She hesitated at my question and replied, “Well, I might be able to tell them that I am out at the fair. But when they hear that I am with a boy, they will drive down here and snatch me away. And as it is, I don’t know you. I might look foolish to other people as to why I left and visited the fair with a stranger, but they haven’t stepped into my shoes nor have they realized how much better I feel after sharing my load. What about your dad, wouldn’t he worry?”
I shook my head and smiled wanly, “Well, that would definitely not come to pass. He usually gets home late and that too drunk on most of the days. The days he is sober- he usually hangs out at work. He never converses with me apart from providing me a home to stay in. They say some people understand the value of something or someone after it has left your life – well that certainly didn’t happen with my dad. Yeah, I have a fucked up life.”
And at that note, we began walking again. I picked up pace and continued my story again, “After that incident, my dad changed for the worse. From a jolly chap, he turned into a sadistic person who loved to go off into bouts of depression. And since them, I am living in the shadow of his ghost. And that is the end of my story. Short yet depresses me like hell. As for why I was sad today? I got to know some things about my dad and how I resembled him apart from his eyes in every single mannerism of his. My eyes are my mother’s.”
I smiled with a bit of pain evident on my face. Kritika smiled thinly, picked up my hand and said, “For the night, we both have escaped depression. We have shared our stories and obviously feeling a bit brighter and happier. Let us enjoy the night now! We are in the fair and have the cash to afford it. Let us enjoy.”
I grinned and said, “Miss Bansal. You have some wild ideas, but I like it. Let’s begin.”
We walked around and ended up doing some wild things. We ate pink cotton candy and she had laughed a lot when I called out this in the old name from my language. I smiled and felt happy again because I had made her laugh.
She looked like an angel with the pink sticky cotton candy sticking to her upper lip and how she didn’t take notice of that small thing. The sky was darkening around us yet we didn’t take notice of it.
I stepped there in front of her and wiped away with the cotton candy stuck on her lip with the pad of my thumb. I don’t know where I gained the guts, but it felt right to do that. She smiled and blushed and then stepped back a bit.
I smiled goofily and said, “You look better this way, and sorry if that surprised you. Apart from that, there are some photo booths, wanna have some pictures of this night?”
She nodded her approval and we both stepped inside the booth, we got some crazy pictures clicked together. Some with our tongues out of out mouth. Some with both of us pulling each other’s hair. One with both of us gaining a pink beard with the cotton candy. One with a friendly hug and the last one with me down on my knees as a knight gaining knighthood.
We got out of the photo booths with two copies of each picture. One for her and one for me. I just hoped she would keep her share of pictures.
I looked up at the sky and stared, hoping that this night with a new friend would go on. I heard her voice cutting through my reverie, “Arjun, wanna go up there?” I followed he finger and saw that she was pointing at a Ferris wheel. I nodded happily.
We got the tickets and sat in the car. Both of us alone and on the opposite seat. The ride started moving and we both got silent, enjoying in the view, as if it was some how liberating us both from our troubles.
Suddenly, our booth reached the peak position at the top and she said, “The city-lights seem so beautiful and peaceful from up here, as if they were carved by god and not mankind. It seems as if no problems would exist down there and it would seem like the epitome of hope for an arriving migrant and the worst city for a criminal. It would seem as if all the laws would seem to exist in this organized city and everybody would be pining just to enter this lovely city of ours.”
I was stunned beyond words at her ideology. I wanted to spend more time with her yet I replied, “And only the blind ones aren’t able to see that if it is too good to be true, it likely isn’t.”
She gave a huge sigh and said, “At last, I meet someone who understands how I feel but that bloody person has to be a stranger.”
I was shocked at her choice of words but didn’t comment on it. I smiled and just opened the door to our booth as our ride had ended.
We exited the fair and stepped outside at the enterance. We both knew that this was it. The end. I faked a smile and said, “So this is it, one of the best strangers I have met who happens to be the most enjoyable company I know and has the same crazy yet same mindset as mine. It was nice knowing you Kritika. I hope you find happiness in your life and find some solace in some another stranger someday. Don’t develop trust issues Kritika, as it would not suit you. You are perfect the way you are. It was nice meeting you.”
She smiled at my words, “Oh Arjun, you truly have a decent outlook towards life and I hope our paths collide again one way or the other. Apart from that, do what your heart wants to do. But before we part, here take these pictures we clicked.”
She gave me back my copy that she had kept with her. I smiled and stepped forward and gave her a slight hug and said, “Godspeed, Kritika Bansal.”
She nodded and turned around. She didn’t look back and I kept staring at her figure until she left my sight.
I sighed out loud and looked at the images in my hand. I went through them all and some tears leaked out of my eyes. Sigh, It was the worst moment in my life. I could just hope that we got back together again.
A huge gust of wind came and all the pictures slipped out of my hand. I snapped my head and ran across, collecting all the pictures. Only one was left, the friendship hug one. I saw the picture at one corner of the road.
I picked it up and saw something weird. There was something written on the back of that pic,
“Arjun, I had a fun time with you today. I would wish to meet you again when you want to meet me again. I hope you liked my company even though I looked horrible today. And, Lady Margaret’s students don’t believe in honor like you do, we can break the vow for our profit. So, do contact me, and after all, ‘A friend can appear and from any corner, when your hopes are the most bleak, you might find one there.’
She had given me her number and the hope that I can contact her once again.
The light of hope is once again alight in my soul.
The only thing I knew now was that I would be hers.
-Part II of City-Lights.
For the third part, go here