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Here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Those emerald green magnetic eyes were flashing before Arunjeet every two minutes, taking him over like a Tsunami. ‘But she snubbed me’ thought his saner mind. ‘Nah.. She was just being cautious.’ Even as his mind was oscillating between these two emotions, he ran back to the book store and started browsing through books written by Meghna. His hands found ‘The weird little octopus’. Written by Meghna Ramesh. Illustrated by Priya Selvam. He fist pumped in the air as if he’d just got a ten at the range. His range was the last thought on his mind right now. He’d got even more precious things than his range.

Meghna was totally disoriented at her meeting with the publishers. Did she do the right thing by not giving him the number? Why was she not able to zone out the thoughts about Pranav? May be, I should ask Anna for Arunjeet’s contact and apologize for being such a snob. But what will he think about her if she called her on her own? That she is an over-enthusiastic pile-on? No way.. If he’s the guy who’s going to sweep me of my feet, then this universe will conspire to help us meet. Why am I even putting the onus on the universe when I can get it sorted out myself? But am I ready for another relationship yet? Shhh.. She shut her thoughts and tried to concentrate on what her publisher was saying. But that smile of his was appearing before her like a half-stuck DVD. This was pure torture. But, she was liking that torture.

Arun could not wait for the night to pass and the next day to dawn. Sharp at nine, he picked up ‘The weird little octopus’ and began shuffling through it. He had read through the book at least fifty times over the night but he had to be doubly sure before the actual act. With bated breath and clammy hands, he dialled the publisher’s number.

Someone picked up in the last ring. ‘Hello.’ He sighed.

‘Hi. I am calling regarding the book the weird little octopus. My five year old son loves the book and would like to speak to the author. Can you give her phone number, if you can? And, also her address please? The author is Meghna Ramesh, right?’ There was no necessity to say her name but he wanted to utter it anyway to feel the twitch in his stomach. The feeling was beautiful.

The voice at the other end searched and rattled some papers looking for the phone number. He hoped and prayed they’d give him the number. Finally, after what seemed liked eternity, the female voice said, ‘Can you please note it down?’ He thanked her so many times that he wondered later if the publisher would’ve doubted that he was calling with some malicious intent.

With trembling hands and a beating heart, he dialled her number. ‘Hello’, said the voice from the other end. He instantly recognized it. It was the one which smiled and spoke and sang and snubbed him the previous day. He didn’t know how to begin; but talk to her he should. ‘Hello’, the same voice again. ‘Is anyone on the line?’

‘Yes. Arunjeet. Arunjeet Atwal.’ He stressed a bit on Atwal; in case she’d forgotten Arunjeet, at least Atwal should help.

On the other end, Meghna went limp on her knees. She’d assumed he’d connect in some way. That was a given. But this soon? The next morning? Really?

‘Are you there, Meghna? Or have you gone weak on your knees already?’

Huh? What was that? How does he know what I am going through? Or is he going through the same thing too? ‘What? What makes you think I’d go weak on my knees as soon as you call, Mister Arunjeet Atwal?’

‘Take that effing Mister off and call me Arun, will you? I ain’t your boss, am I?’ Gosh.. Why am I being so rude to her? I should stop myself.

‘Of  course, not. But I generally have the habit of addressing strangers with Mister.’ She made sure she stressed on the word stranger. ‘Anyway, tell me, what’s the purpose of your call?’ She was getting into her ‘don’t mess with me’ mode.

‘Ma’am.. I read your book called The weird little octopus and found it really..’ He gave an intentional pause. He had prepared his answer in advance for this question.

‘Really?’, she persisted.

‘Really inappropriate for kids. You know, you teach them all the wrong things.’

Is this man for real? He fishes out my phone number from somewhere to call and complains about a book intended for a five-year old. I know why he’s called. I should just cut him off right here. ‘Listen Arun. I think you should stop messing around and tell me why you called. That would make things easy for both of us.’

‘Right. But before that, tell me this. You just said you address strangers with Mister. Why did it become Arun now?!’ His voice was teasing. Almost like laughing at her plight. He didn’t let her answer his question anyway. ‘Listen.. I am leaving to Chandigarh now. I’ve written a letter and posted it to your address that I got from the publisher. You will get it in two days. Read it. I know you don’t like being disturbed like this. Sorry for that. Bye!’ He banged the receiver down.

A hand-written letter at this day and age? What is he, a dinosaur? That was her initial reaction. But deep down, the thought of a hand written letter gave the romantic in her a little kick. The only downside was that she had to wait another two days to read it!

******

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