She stood in the balcony looking skyward. The full moon was shredding its white rays on the earth making it glow like silver. Her face lit up with a faint smile, reminiscing the turn of events over the last few days.
Ash’s family is coming home. Tomorrow is the day.
She’s known Ash for the last three years; Ash as in Ashwin. They’d worked together. Sat in the cubicles next to each other. Spoken about things essential and not. Wandered late at night for want of an edible dinner. Had chai from the road side shops innumerable times. Traveled outstation on assignments. Teased each other. Laughed their hearts out. Offered their shoulders to each other when in pain.
Yet, they were not dating each other. They were close colleagues. Good friends. Not even best buddies. Just good friends.
Once, when Ash’s brother’s engagement was called off, he couldn’t find anyone trustworthy enough to share the news with. But, she sensed it right away. ‘What is wrong, Ash?’, she inquired. He was taken aback by her scrutiny, although he was more than happy to find someone to share his agony with. Things would be better, she assured him. And so, it did. She attended his brother’s wedding in the next few months.
Every time, Ash’s mom had to talk to him, she did so on her cell phone. Ash didn’t want to have a phone of his own. Too much trouble, he’d say.
Once, on a trekking expedition, Ash was bowled over by her fitness. ‘You know what?’, he boasted to his friends, ‘this girl.. she needed no help whatsoever to climb this steep phase. Good going!’ He patted her on her accomplishment. She blushed.
On a get together at a party, she was forced to sing. She put up a decent show considering that a cold bug was troubling her a lot. The first clap came from him.
Yet, they were just friends.
A year passed and they almost lost track of each other. He had moved from the city and come back again while she busied herself with a higher role. That was when, Ash’s dad approached her parents with an ‘alliance’.
She was over the moon. She knew him enough. He was a nice guy. She might not accept this even to her own self, but deep down in her heart, she liked him. She was sure he did too.
She caught hold of a common friend and asked him about Ash’s whereabouts. ‘I am not too sure. He is not in touch with me too!’, came the reply. ‘Don’t you worry. I’ll trace him and speak to him about this!’, her friend assured. Something was amiss. Yet, she was excited.
The day dawned. Caught in the moment, she dressed herself up and was bubbling with energy. The door bell rang. It must be Ash’s family only. She rushed to see who it was. Only his dad was there. Her look wandered around the door for half a minute. No one else accompanied his dad.
Ash’s dad was in the house for about half an hour. Talking about family history. His business. Customs. Culture. His older son and his wife. How they are still a joint family. How his sons worship their parents. And on. And on. Then, he left.
Something was nagging her. She didn’t know what to point the finger at.
For the next one week, she voluntarily kept herself busy with work. But, there were memories that came flooding from the past. As much as she pushed them with vigour, they came rushing in like a wild stream.
One fine morning, the telephone rang. It was Ash’s dad. ‘I like your daughter very much. She would be the perfect the Daughter-in-law for the family. Next Sunday, we will come as a family with my son to ‘see’ your daughter!’
In a couple of hours, her friend called. ‘Ash knew that his dad was coming to meet you. He says he’d do whatever his dad asks him to do. He wouldn’t talk anymore about this to me!’
She walked to her bedroom and threw herself on the bed. She didn’t know for how long she was lying in her bed thinking about the ‘good old days’. Finally when she got up, her ears were wet with tears; her eyes shone crimson. With that, she erased all memories of Ash. She had made her decision. She went to her dad. ‘Pa.. Let us not proceed with this. I don’t think I’ll be happy in that house!’