It’s been seven years since you walked out of my life, not by your choice though. I stood by, watching you leave- holding the hands of your husband, feeling equally helpless.
I never thought you would come back one day, not even after Uncle Peter told me about Merina’s meeting with her editor. Seeing the clear shock on my face after he delivered the news, Uncle Peter told me to go home and take rest. But I shook my head, insisting that I want to stay. If at all fate makes a strange U-turn, I want to be here- the same place where I met you for the first time.
Eight years ago, you walked into the coffee shop where I was working and my heart fluttered at the sight of you- all innocence and angelic beauty. You wore a simple frock then, and your long black hair was held back in a ponytail. Even without a trace of makeup on, you were the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Still are...
I fell madly in love with you even though I knew nothing good would come out of it. My love is not real; it only exists on the paper- just like you and me. And knowing Merina, she would never choose someone like me-orphaned, poor, bad tempered- for a girl like you- innocent, pretty and rich. When I spotted the blue-eyed boy standing next to you, looking way too over confident- I knew what Merina had in store for us. He is the one who is going to end up with you. Impressive pedigree and all that nonsense. My heart murmured painfully.
I ignored you both after that painful realization. You sat in a corner sipping a fruity drink while the pretty boy kept chatting on and on. I knew you were watching me and I could sense your eyes tracking every movement of mine while I moved from table to table. At one of my weakest moments, I glanced up from my notepad and our eyes met. Then you smiled at me-the kind of smile full of unadulterated joy with a hint of interest. What would Merina think if she comes to know that her characters have a mind of their own too and some of us hate her for the games she plays with our feelings?
You came back the next day, and this time you were alone. Encouraged by Uncle Peter’s teasing words, I approached your table to take the orders. Instead of ordering one of those colorful concoctions, you leaned towards me and whispered- ’He is not my boyfriend.’ I was surprised at your forwardness while sadly reminding myself at the same time- that information is of no use. Our destiny is already written, by someone else…
You came back the next day and the day after that. Knowing it’s a bad idea, I still couldn’t ignore my feelings for you. Over your frequent visits, I learned more about you. You said you were visiting your grandmother on your summer break and the boy who was with you was Josh, your father’s friend’s son. Talk about a cliché.
One day you asked me if I want to go and watch a movie with you. And just like that we became an official couple, without verbally acknowledging our mutual feelings. We did everything couples usually did- texting each other all day, watching movies together, kissing under moonlight etc. It all sounded swoon worthy. I kept wondering why Merina is trying to push us together when she clearly doesn’t have any plans for us to have a happily ever after. There has to be only one reason. She loves the angst a love triangle brings to the story and she just wants me there for the additional drama. Then summer break ended and it was time for you to go back. As we said a tearful goodbye to each other along with promises to meet whenever possible, I knew the doom was just at the doorstep and all it needs is a push. The push eventually came in the form of your father. He has to be the cheesiest fictional villain I have ever come across. He took you away from me, to some place I couldn’t easily reach. And by the time I managed to do that, it was too late. I watched Josh holding your hand and helping you get into a Porsche with a ‘Just Married’ sticker in the back while your father stood with a smug smile on his face. I could envision the same smugness on Merina’s face too. The perfect couple and the perfect climax for a potential best seller.
Only Uncle Peter knows what happened to me after that. The months followed were like a blur for me except the part about alcohol and bruises. Even now I see him watching me sometimes nonchalantly and I almost want to ask him about my dark times. But I leave it up to him completely. Whenever he thinks I am ready, he will speak and I will listen.
When Merina started writing a sequel with me as the lead, I was confused about the role I would be playing. She seems to have done some homework with my character development and I am not that wishy-washy guy anymore. Seven years have turned me into a sobered, matured and successful man. I own Uncle Peter’s coffee shop, which I have transformed into a decent restaurant. What’s next? The possibility of her bringing a love interest for me gave me shivers. But do I have a say there?
Then Uncle Peter came bearing the news. Apparently Merina’s editor gave her an earful. Her story’ Happily Ever After’ with you and Josh earned her some good reviews from the critics. Heart breaking, soulful etc. were some of the comments the critics had about the ending. But it seems the young readers hated it. Fans of her previous books claimed that she completely ruined the book by not bringing you and me together. Serves her right, doesn’t it?
Anyways twitter is trending with hash tags to bring you and me back and that gives me goose bumps. The feelings we had for each other...the chemistry we shared...it didn’t go unnoticed.
So the editor gave Merina an ultimatum. Do damage control or forget the fandom. Merina would never do anything to damage her reputation. I am curious to see what she brings in this time.
A week later, I was in the restaurant giving instructions to one of my waitresses. I heard the front door opening and there was a familiar flutter in me. Without looking, I knew it was you. You look the same. The years haven’t changed anything...except your marital status. When I heard you are a widow in the new book, it broke my heart. Poor Josh...He didn’t deserve to die so early. And poor you...you didn’t deserve to lose your husband too early too. Yours might have been an arranged marriage, but I am sure you must have started loving him at one point. It agonizes me to know that you might have loved someone else...but that’s the way it is.
I want to hate Merina for what she did to Josh. But killing him must have been an easier choice than butchering his character. He was shown as a good guy throughout the first book, so showing him in a bad light in the sequel might not look convincing.
When you entered the restaurant, I sensed your searching gaze and I felt it when it finally landed on me. I stood, unmoving, my feet frozen...my mouth suddenly dry. For a moment I thought I was going to have a panic attack. You walked over to me in confident, but careful strides. Before I do something stupid, like hugging you...I extended my hand for an awkward handshake and you returned it, the disappointment at my formal greeting evident on your face.
I gestured at Lina, our waitress to show you to your table and you couldn’t look more shocked. Before the regret of my actions consumed me, I took the car key and walked out. You followed me till the car and insisted that I spoke my heart out. Despite trying to keep my tone indifferent, you weren’t ready to let me go without getting the answers. This was not the kind of reunion I expected. In my dreams, when we get back together, there would be music playing in the background and I would be on my knees declaring my everlasting love for you. Instead, I am a nervous, slobbering mess while you are looking like an angry lioness, your eyes breathing fire.
You came home with me that day and we spent our time talking about the years we were apart. I was glad to know that Josh treated you properly and never took my name to spite you. I evaded all your personal questions about my past and even laughed out loud when you asked me why I never got married. Yes, marrying someone else other than you would have been a laughable situation.
Weeks passed by, with us repeating all the couple things we did eight years ago, but this time there is clarity in us about how we want our relationship to progress. The young puppy love we had, has bloomed into something more secure and comfortable.
It’s time for Merina to intervene, pulling her strings. Your dad is back to his meddling ways, in his true villain spirits. He tried real hard to break us up again, with his emotional blackmailing and empty threats. I fought back hard too. But what really surprised me was your reaction.
Merina’s heroines are usually weak, feeble characters who always expect the heroes to save them. While I was very clear about the fact that she gave me a complete makeover in terms of my character, I didn’t expect her to do the same with you too. But she did. I proudly watched you, standing up to your father and fighting for our love. You called him out on his controlling ways. You said you despise him for snatching all happiness away from you. You should have seen his face that time. He looked shocked, not able to believe that his daughter had the guts to speak to him in that way. Then he walked away, from us, from all the troubles he was planning to cause- his head hung down in shame. I almost felt bad for him...but...no...he deserved it.
As Merina finished writing her closing line, you walked to me, held my hands high, gazed at me and said those three words I always wanted to hear… ’’I love you”.
This is just the beginning...