PS: This is an episodic romantic story. Every week, a new episode will be published.
First Part. Second Part. Third Part. Fourth Part. Fifth Part. Sixth Part. Seventh Part. Eighth Part. Nineth Part. Tenth Part. Eleventh Part. Twelfth Part.
A note crept toward her book. From the corner of her eyes, she could see the hand that was pushing the note. Simmi warily lifted her head from the book to take a look at the pusher, and promptly wished she hadn’t. The last couple of months had been hell for her and she wasn’t ready to speak to Arpit.
Almost daily she called up Darpan uncle because at some level she sympathized with him for having Arpit for a son. Headstrong, stubborn and stupid, if not self-centered. How could a father be happy with such a son?
Trying to understand Arpit was beyond her. She had accepted it and so she didn’t even want to try anymore. She just wanted to get on with her life. The first step was staying away from him during this semester. In the last semester, his drug stunt had caused her to lose her top ranking. Her embarrassment had been acute when she had passed the first semester with just a first class.
Simmi tried to ignore the note but Arpit was persistent. To avoid making a scene in the library, she snatched the note, throwing a furious glare at him.
“I need to speak to you privately.”
She couldn’t believe Arpit’s temerity. How dare he try to speak to her! He didn’t deserve a time of her day. At all.
“No.” She furiously scrawled at the bottom of the note and pushed it away.
“Because I don’t want to.”
“If you don’t, I will start talking here. It’s only for you, I have been reduced to the primary school-level tactics of trying to talk through notes!”
Simmi didn’t doubt at all that Arpit would start talking loudly in the library. He had already done that in the first semester. Nobody could accuse him of being shy.
Reluctantly, she closed her book, gathered her purse and other books, and walked out of the library. Arpit followed her closely. Even though he wanted to grin, he didn’t dare. He didn’t want to annoy her. He was trying to win her over, not drive her away.
Even though he still hadn’t figured it out why he wanted Simmi to like him, but he wanted it. A lot. He wanted her attention. He wanted her eyes to light up at the sight of him. He wanted her eyes to follow him the way his did whenever she was around.
“So what do you want now?” Arpit admired Simmi’s spunk. The way she had crossed her arms over her chest, tapping her left feet in impatience, who would say that she was a shy girl?
“I want to talk with you about whatever happened couple of months back.” Arpit knew very well when he should eat a humble pie.
“Well, I don’t want to. Now can I go back?”
“No. Because unless you give me a chance to talk to you, I’m not going to leave you alone. I will follow you.”
“Then I will file a complaint against you for harassment.”
“No, you won’t.” He replied with a gentle smile.
Simmi knew Arpit was right. She would never make such a complaint. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have a spine to report bullies; she just didn’t want to lie. If she started lying, she will lose her high moral ground that she loved to flaunt against Arpit.
“Okay. Where to?”
Arpit didn’t like the defeated slump of her shoulders but then beggars can’t be choosers. He just hoped one day she won’t feel like this for spending time with him.
“You like Pau Bhaji, right?”
“Let’s go to R.K. I’ve heard they serve lip-smacking Pau Bhaji. Have you tried them?”
“No, I haven’t but the outlet is in the downtown city. That’s too far. I will miss my next lecture.”
“For once, can’t you miss a single lecture?” Arpit couldn’t keep his exasperation out of his voice. “Anyway, after that lecture you are done for the day. Miss that lecture. I will drop you home if you don’t have your Scooty.”
Simmi stiffened at Arpit’s high-handedness. She didn’t even like his tone. “Yes, missing a lecture is too much for me. Unlike you, I have to graduate and I have to earn. Not everyone has the luxury of doing what they want. Not everyone is insensitive enough to hurt their parents with their blatant callousness.”
Arpit felt as if Simmi was flaying him alive, and the worst thing was, he couldn’t fault her for it. In last couple of months, his life had a taken a turn. A turn for better. But sometimes, some things aren’t meant to be. He had learnt this lesson very well in last couple of months. Maybe Simmi was one of them. Just because he wanted to speak to her, it’s not necessary that she would like to.
Without uttering a word, Arpit started walking away. But before he turned, he threw a regretful look at her. A look that stunned Simmi. She had never seen Arpit looking so longingly at anything or anyone. It was a look that made her feel ashamed for being petty and small-minded.
“Stop." Changing her mind, Simmi ran. "Arpit, stop!”
Hearing Simmi’s shout, Arpit stopped and looked back. Even though when he saw her running toward him, he found no pleasure. He was no longer sure of what he was doing. Maybe he should stay away from Simmi. Maybe he will become her downfall, giving her the same pain that he had managed to give his dad.
“Ok ̶ ay.” Taking huge gulps of air, Simmi managed to snag Arpit’s attention. “Let’s go. You lead, I will follow because I haven’t seen the café.”
Without arguing further, he got on the bike. In no time, they found themselves sited in the air-conditioned café. Being late afternoon, the café was nearly empty, save couple of teenagers at the end.
After placing the order, Simmi sipped on the cold water while wondering what Arpit was up to. As she stared at him, she realized that he looked different. For a change, he wasn’t looking disheveled. He looked…neat, for the lack of better word. He was shaved, his hair were properly cut, and his shirt was ironed! Simmi had never seen him in anything but rumpled clothes. Something was definitely up.
Even when Pau Bhaji and Thums Up was served, she continued to study him.
Arpit grinned when he noticed her intense stare. It was so easy for him to make out what she was thinking. That’s what he liked the most about Simmi. No games. Whatsoever.
“Okay. I won’t keep you in suspense for long. First of all, I wanted to thank you. Dad told me how you were there for him throughout my stay in the hospital.”
Simmi wasn’t used to gratitude. Especially not from Arpit. It made her uncomfortable. However, it seemed he was oblivious to it.
“Secondly, I wanted to apologize. Dad also told me how I had created a scene in the college. I know how much you hate attention, and I imagine how scared you must have been while dealing with me. I promise I will never put you in such a position again.”
When Simmi didn’t say anything but continued to look at him with wide eyes, Arpit laughingly threw up his arms in surrender. “I know it’s difficult to digest but I’m trying to change. I have started psychiatrist treatment to get my mess straightened up. So you can totally believe what I’m saying.”
On the mention of psychiatric sittings, Simmi sat straighter. For a second she doubted him because Darpan uncle hadn’t said anything about it. But the doubt lasted only for a second because this new Arpit seemed honest. Honest and upfront.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Simmi didn’t have to fake her happiness for Arpit. “What are your plans now?”
“I’m thinking to complete my graduation this year and then think what I want to do for life.”
Simmi never thought she would see the day when Arpit would be seriously contemplating his future. It seemed wonders never ceased.
“So do you forgive me for everything I did in the past semester?”
“Of course I do if you are sincerely trying to make positive changes in your life. In fact, do let me know if I can help you in any way.”
“Well, I was hoping you would ask that.”
Although Simmi believed in Arpit, she didn’t trust his new devilish smile that sparked a glint in his eyes. Just when she took a sip of the chilled Thums Up to wash down spicy bhaji, Arpit announced:
“Will you be my girl-friend?”
And her Thums Up was sprayed all over Arpit.