Kavya was staring at him again.
The familiar aroma of tea and samosas, coupled with the stench of urine made up the entirety of her nasal journey. But she wasn’t concerned. After all, her visual journey was of much more interest to her.
He sat in front of her as he had always done, his head leaning back and black hair covering his forehead, mouth slightly open, hands on his knees, buds in his ears and eyes closed, right hand holding a small camera.
She always wanted to know what colour his eyes were.
When he stirred slightly, her eyes frantically focused on a random point outside, her cheeks heating up at the prospect of being caught. She knew she was not committing a crime of any sorts, but it sure felt like it. The thrill that rushed through her body whenever she looked at his sleeping figure was always the same, and she was hungry for that thrill she never seemed to get with anything else.
If her roommates knew about this, they would refer to it as a crush. A small infatuation with a stranger she had only seen from afar. It happens, they would say. The part that was left unsaid was the only part Kavya knew.
Nothing could ever come out of it.
So, all she could do at the moment, was stare. Stare until her eyes burned and the image of him was imprinted on her mind like a depression on the other side of her bed. Stare until everything she saw after him would be just a transition, something she would have to bear until she caught sight of him again, the next morning on the train to her classic eight-hour shift on the other side of the city.
Today was different.
If it were any other day, she would have reached her workplace, and gotten up with a heavy heart, stealing one last look at him before getting off. After that, her job would be blurry, filled with talking to people she couldn’t care less about, and she would go home on a different train, her eyes closed and head pounding. She would enter her dark and quiet house and fall asleep the second her head hit the pillow. Then the cycle would begin again.
But as mentioned before, today was different.
She was staring, that was the same. The train was moving, that was the same too.
That is where the similarities ended.
Vansh was not asleep today. Only later would he reveal to her that he never slept on the train ride. He was wide awake, her gaze on him always compelling him to open his eyes. But he always stopped himself and kept up the pretense. Maybe he liked the feeling of her eyes on him. Or maybe he didn’t want the spell to break. Maybe he enjoyed that the beautiful lady sitting opposite him thought that he was worth looking at. Maybe he didn’t want her to feel embarrassed and stop sitting there, maybe he didn’t want to lose her quiet company.
Today, when he was sure that she was staring at him intently, he opened his eyes as quickly as he humanly could and stared back.
Brown eyes, the colour of coffee beans.
The blush that spread across her face was gradual and barely visible in the early morning light, but it was there, clear for him to see. She looked even more beautiful with his eyes completely open; her round face framed by curly strands of hair. His lips quirked slightly as Kavya cleared her throat and looked outside again, almost as though nothing had even happened.
When she reached her destination, she almost tripped and fell on top of him in a hurry to leave and be anywhere but there. But he didn’t miss her smiling to herself as she got down.
The next morning, Vansh was ready, and so was Kavya. He got on the train and spotted Kavya adjusting her ponytail. He sat in front of her and extended his hand.
“Hi, I’m Vansh,” he said, and Kavya stared at his hand. He wondered whether he had got it wrong completely. Just as he was about to retract his hand, she firmly clasped it.
“Kavya,” she said with a nod, and Vansh smiled at her. The tips of her ears reddened, and she looked away.
“So Kavya, why do you keep staring at me? Is there something particularly interesting about my face?” he asked, and her eyes widened.
“There is something, isn’t there? What? Are my ears too big? Tell me,” he asked, stifling a laugh.
She mumbled something slowly under her breath, and Vansh leaned forward.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” he said.
“It’s because you’re really good looking,” she said loudly, and a few people opposite them looked at her in mild amusement.
Vansh let out a snort of laughter.
“Is that so? I’ve always known it to be true, but to have someone else say it is quite something,” he said, and Kavya glared at him.
“Don’t flatter yourself, it really doesn’t suit you,” she retorted.
“Of course not, you can just do it instead,” he said, and she scoffed, a faint smile on her lips.
She could not believe it. She was actually talking to him, the man on the train. The attractive stranger who was supposed to be asleep like always, was making jokes and laughing along with her. It was incredible what a little creepy staring could achieve.
“You take this train every morning, just like me,” she ventured, and he nodded, gesturing for her to go on.
“Where do you go?” she asked.
A man came by that moment, asking if they wanted tea. Vansh bought himself a cup while she declined. Taking a sip, he sighed in relief.
“The tea they sell here isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be,” he said.
“You haven’t answered my question yet.”
Vansh scratched the back of his neck.
“There are these places I like to visit every morning. I change them up every time, but there are a few I tend to frequent. I go there for the sunrise,” he said, and she marveled at the ease with which he said that.
He looked to be about her age, and the fact that he didn’t have a job that demanded his presence in a stuffy room every morning reminded her once again of the dullness of her own life.
“What do you do, for a job, that is?” she asked, and he let loose a surprised chuckle.
“If I tell you, will you turn your nose up at me?”
“You clearly have a job you enjoy a lot more than me, and that means you get to turn your nose up at me, not the other way around.”
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m a photographer – I guess you could call me a freelance photographer,” he said, and she was dumbstruck once again.
A photographer? He just became ten times hotter with that revelation. That explained the camera he carried too. She could see it in her mind’s eye, him sitting on his knees and trying to get the perfect shot.
Vansh snapped his fingers in front of her face.
“Did I just lose you? I knew I shouldn’t have told you; people usually have a lot to say about my career choice, and they’re usually not very nice about it,” he said, and she shook her head, a wide smile on her face.
“No, you did the right thing. I am actually very impressed,” she said.
He tilted his head, and looked at her, trying to catch if she was being insincere. She could feel her cheeks heat up under his gaze, and now understood how it must have felt for him to have been stared at every morning by her.
“Tomorrow is a holiday if I’m not wrong. I’ll be visiting one of my favourites, you can join me if you like,” he asked.
“Like – like on a date?” she asked.
Vansh’s head felt light.
“Yeah, if you want it to be one, that is,” he said, trying to sound casual.
“It’s a date then,” she said, a wide grin on her face.
The next morning, she wore minimal makeup, and left her hair loose. Wearing a blue top paired with a flowery skirt, she left the house with her roommates still asleep, a note lying on the kitchen counter explaining that she was on a date with the stranger from the train.
This time, when she entered the train, it felt different. Good different. She felt comfortable, unburdened by thoughts of work, and thrilled at the prospect of a date with him.
She craned her neck, trying to catch a glimpse of him when he got on. When she saw him, she sat back down immediately, trying to calm her beating heart.
Maybe it was just Kavya’s imagination or her nerves, but Vansh looked even more handsome today. Wearing a blue checkered shirt with the top two buttons opened, black jeans and hair looking wavier than usual, a camera bigger than the one he usual carried slung on his neck, he gave her a smile as he sat down.
That goddamn smile.
He opened his mouth. It took him three tries for her to realize that Vansh was talking to her.
“Sorry, what were you saying?”
“I said that you look beautiful. And by the look on your face, I believe you think the same of me,” he said, and she bit her lip, cheeks reddening.
“Where are we going?” she asked, anything to change the topic.
With a mysterious glimmer in his eyes, he looked out of the window and set his jaw, determined not to tell her.
When they reached Kavya’s workplace, she instinctively almost got up, but then realized that for the first time, her destination was Vansh’s destination.
After a few stops, Vansh got up, and gestured for her to follow him. Kavya held his hand as they got down, a silly grin on his face at her unconscious action.
“Close your eyes, I’ll tell you to open them when we get there,” Vansh said.
“How do I know you’re not going to make me step in cow dung?” Kavya asked, and he snorted loudly, earning confused looks from passersby.
“Do you trust me?” he asked. She was surprised to find that in her heart, she did trust him, even though she barely knew him. She nodded.
“Then trust me when I say that I’m not going to make you step in cow dung,” he said.
“Of course, your eyes need to be open when that happens,” he added, earning a shove from Kavya.
“Alright, I’m sorry. Just trust me, okay? Close your eyes,” Vansh said, and she did.
Holding her arm gently, he led her through a series of graveled paths, the sounds of birds chirping and a slight fragrance of flowers the only thing she could sense. After a while, Kavya noticed that they were climbing a slope, the land rising higher and higher and the pressure dropping with every step.
Soon they reached the top, and Vansh asked her to open her eyes.
The sight that she beheld was unlike anything she had ever seen.
They were on one of the highest accessible points in the city, a hill that tourists climbed to pose for social media. Dark green trees covered more than half the expanse that was underneath them, their leaves shining with fresh dew. At one point the trees stopped, and the houses started, little boxes filled with little people, painted in pastel blues and pinks. From the hills nearby, the sun slowly rose, its bright yellow and orange rays enveloping the city in its warm embrace.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“It really is,” Vansh whispered back, and she turned to look at him, only to find him looking straight back. He picked up his camera and with a flash and click, took a photograph of her, bright red cheeks shining with the fresh rays of the sun.
They stood there, hands clasped together, taking in the moment. Kavya felt one with nature, and she didn’t need to ask to know that Vansh felt the same.