The narrator, Neil, tells us through his narration of the woman he falls in love with, Sarah. The short story is about how Sarah gives a second chance to love.
It was the twentieth day of June. I was standing by the window, watching the rain-water fall. The light of the lamp-post which was a few steps ahead from my window and it allowed the visibility of the rain-water falling from the sky. The monsoon was truly one of my favorite seasons of Bombay. I was always desperately waiting for the rains to come. A lot of my close people always said how much I romanticized the rains because I always erased the mess it created. The rest of the colony was dressed in darkness which had made it difficult to actually see the rain. The sound of the rain was the only indication that it was pouring outside.
I was standing by the window with my glass of whiskey. It was half past 10 in the night. I was tired of entertaining the guests outside. I wanted a few minutes to myself. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me. Hey, can I join you? I turned around. It was the silhouette of a woman. The darkness in the room and in the area outside the room, didn’t allow me to make out who she was, exactly. She stood still near the door, waiting for me to say something to her. Could you please switch on the light? The switch board is to your left. The second switch on the top. She replied back saying, yes, of course! She took a step inside the room to switch on the light. The dim light embraced the entire room, in an instant. I closed my eyes, giving my eyes a few seconds to take in the light. I opened my eyes and saw a beautiful woman standing before me. I noticed her earlier, during the party but we didn’t get the chance to speak. Our eyes kept meeting each other while we talked to other people and danced and ate and drank.
I’m sorry for disturbing your alone time, like this. It’s just that there is nobody my age out there, except for a few who seem to be having a mini party of their own in one of the other rooms. I tried talking to them but I felt like an outsider intruding, so I got out of there. And I’m not in the mood to simply amongst the older people and listen to tales about grandchildren and how unbelievably different this generation is! I chuckled a little. She simply went on talking without stopping, to take a breath. She returned my chuckle with another chuckle.
Would it be inappropriate or weird if I said that, I feel you? She half smiled and said, No, not at all!
She took another step inside the room. She was wearing a long maroon colored kurta over black straight pants. Long black earrings were hanging down her earlobes. Half of her hair was neatly clipped and the rest of her silky black hair, falling below her shoulders.
I got tired of answering the same questions and my mouth hurts from smiling at everyone. She chuckled a little. I realized that I hadn’t asked her to sit.
Hey, I’m sorry to keep you standing, like that. Please come sit.
No worries, no worries.
Please sit, really.
I pulled out the chair, kept near the tiny round table and placed it facing toward her.
Only if you do. She pulled out the chair next to the one I pulled out for her and she kept it facing toward me. The both of us sat down at the same time. We smiled at each other as we sat facing each other. I noticed the glass of wine wrapped inside the palm of her hand. She hesitated to keep the glass on the table.
Do you have a coaster or something? I do not want to leave a ring on your table.
Hey, no. That is completely okay.
Are you sure?
Okay, then. She placed the glass on the table. To make her feel less guilty, I placed my glass as well.
You’ve got a beautiful place here.
Well, thank you! It’s all mom, actually.
She’s got good taste in furniture and the décor and stuff like that.
She sure does! She used to do this for a living, at one point in her life. She has her own business which my sister handles, now.
Is your sister any good?
Yes, most definitely. But obviously, no one can compare to my mother. My sister is just very different from her. Good different, I must say.
She pressed her lips together and gave a wide smile. That’s nice.
Her uniqueness and she being different from my mother is allowing the business to grow and expand more than it had, earlier which is good.
Because usually when a child takes over, it doesn’t always do well.
Yeah, yeah…but touchwood it’s all going well!
Touchwood. She said this putting her palm on her head.
So what do you do?
Well, I’m a professor.
What do you teach?
I teach Sociology.
Is it, now?
Yeah, it really is. The professors I usually meet, teach English or Economics. I can say with a lot of confidence that you are one of the first Sociology professors, I am meeting.
I feel special.
You must! Both of us laughed together.
What do you do?
I am professional photographer. I work for this travel magazine.
Wow, that’s pretty cool!
Yeah, that’s how most of everyone reacts when I tell them what I do, professionally. Although, when I did tell our wonderful older folks at this party, they looked disappointed. They looked as if I’d decided to take up begging on the streets, professionally. I laughed. We remained silent for a few seconds.
Your parents make an amazing couple. They complement each other, perfectly well.
Yeah, they do. I still cannot believe that it has been 30 years! She simply smiled and did not say anything.
How do you know them, anyway?
I don’t, my parents do.
Our parents know each other because of our fathers. Your father and mine walk together every evening and play cards together, sometimes.
It suddenly felt like the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were coming together. Are you Jacob uncle’s daughter?
So you are Sarah? I realized that we hadn’t revealed our names to each other, in the minutes of our conversation.
Yes, I am!
I gather you already know me?
Not too much, actually. Just that your name is Sarah and that you’re Jacob uncle’s daughter.
Oh, okay. She sounded a little disappointed. But she brushed away the disappointment and we continued talking for what was almost two hours. We did not move an inch and just talked and talked and talked.
We suddenly heard the voices die down. I looked at my watch. It was half passed twelve. I think we should go outside. Although I said it, both I and she weren’t enthusiastic about the idea but we knew that we had to. We lifted ourselves up and walked into an almost empty living room. Our parents with my sister’s in-laws and another couple, were sitting chatting.
She and her parents along with me and my parents after some minutes, walked toward the door, saying our goodbyes.
It was nice talking to you Neil.
It really good talking to you.
See you around.
Sarah and I were sitting on a bench, in the park of our colony. It was Sunday, late into the evening. It had been exactly three months since our conversation during my parent’s anniversary party. We did end up seeing each other. At first, we used to end up bumping into each other in church or in the train station or anywhere else. We exchanged numbers eventually, one day and started meeting each other more often.
We live in the same colony, just a building away from each other. How come we never got to know each other, much earlier?
That’s because it was only a month before we met at your parents anniversary party, did I move back in with your parents.
Why, where did you live earlier?
I was still living in our house, even after my husband passed away. I found it very difficult to leave that house. It felt like I was going to lose him more than I actually had.
How old were you when you got married?
She just looked at me and said, I was about 23 when our parents started our match-making process. We were family friends. We knew each other, but not quite well.
Honestly we got to know each other intimately when during the course of all the match-making. He was 25 years old, then. We told our parents we needed a year to really decide whether we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with each other. We liked each other and wanted to see where all this was going. They had no qualms and encouraged us to go ahead with our decision. I was 24 when we got married and he, 26.
When did you realize that you were in love with him?
It was months into our marriage. I opened my eyes one morning and just watched him sleeping. In a few seconds, his eyes opened and we just gazed into each other’s eyes, smiling so much, that it felt like a hunger was permanently taped to our mouths. I still remember how happy and content I felt in that moment. And in that moment I realized how much I love him. I simply smiled. Words failed to express how I truly felt in that very moment. It was a very bittersweet moment, for me. Words half failed me because part of me didn’t know how to react to what she was telling me.
Have you ever been in love with anyone else, after him? She turned to look at me. There was this unexplainable feeling breathing between us when we looked at each other, in that moment. It said so much and yet it said so little. She then turned away.
It’s been two years since his passing. I don’t know, I’m scared to fall in love with anyone else. It’s something I find difficult to do. I placed my palm on the back of her hand, which was like a bridge which separated us. We did not say anything but simply sat there in silence.
We were sitting on marine drive, watching the sunset before us. My hand lay on her shoulder and the fingers of our hands remained intertwined. The breeze made the strands of her hair which did not end up in her pony tail, dance freely, sometimes kissing my face gently. I loved the manner in which the strands of her hair kissed me, like that.
I love photography. It’s my space where I’m all on my own. I don’t share it with anybody and I honestly love it that way. It’s scary but it’s the most beautiful of things I possess. It is one of the very few things I care about immensely and one of the very few things I’ve been sure about. It was one of the few things which helped me through with the difficult time I was having.
Teaching is exactly that for me. Teaching Sociology is more secondary. Teaching for me was the main goal I wanted to reach and when I finally did, I was so happy that it created this fear of losing it someday.
Fear is like a package deal that comes with everything we love. I laughed a little and said, Couldn’t possibly disagree with you on that.
You know Neil, after he passed away, I got to know that I was pregnant with our child and in a few months I lost the baby as well, in a miscarriage. I didn’t know what to say to her. I pulled her close and gently kissed her on her forehead.
I love you very much, Sarah. I whispered into her ear. And if it’s possible, I have fallen in love with you more than I did, yesterday. A tear rolled down her cheek. She kissed me gently almost on my lips, the way she usually did when we said our goodbyes every time. Only this time, it felt different. It felt like she wanted to say something through that kiss but I could not understand what.
We were dancing on a slow song, whose name I cannot quite remember, that night. It was just us and one other couple dancing. It was Riann’s house party. Riann didn’t really need a reason to party. All he needed was an empty house, people, booze and the other paraphernalia.
How long have you and Riann been friends?
Since we were sixteen. He’s been one of my only constants all this while.
Everyone else was sitting or standing and talking. After the song got over, Sarah and I moved to the balcony of the living room where surprisingly no one else was there. We stood facing each other. She lifted herself up to kiss me gently. I kissed her back. Her arms slowly wrapped themselves around my neck and I held her tighter than before. We slowly pulled each other from one another. Still standing close enough, I put the hair back which fell on her face and kissed her gently on her forehead.
I’m scared Neil.
Of admitting that I’m in love with you. I took a step back and just looked at her with an expression which was a mixture of happiness and surprise on my face. We hadn’t spoken about it, that time when I told her that I love her. I never asked anything and she didn’t say anything, either. For a few seconds words refused to come out of my mouth and stammering I finally asked, Wwwhy?
I’ve been in love with him for all this time until you came into my life. I used to feel his presence everywhere I went. It was like he was walking with me. But you changed everything. I was beginning to not feel him around me, anymore. It is one of the scariest of feelings because I was so used to being in love with him. I hadn’t gotten used to that. It was so familiar. It was home to me. Then you came along and you have become home to me, now. I have already lost so much and I was scared and still am, of losing you, now. You have given me one of the best one year of my life. I’m so scared.
Hey, don’t be. I’m here, right here and will always be. When I told you that I love you, I didn’t expect you to say it back to me because I already knew that you did. I wanted you to say those words when you are ready. You’re one of the few people I love and I will do anything and everything to never let you go.
I love you. I pulled her close and we kissed.
We don’t have to rush into anything, Sarah. We can take it slow. I’m not going anywhere.