“Let’s go home,” my friend Sandhya said.
“Go home?” I asked perplexed, “No, that’ll be the last thing I’d do today.”
We were standing in our college canteen among our other friends who were busily chattering and a few like me were munching chocolates and drinking hot coffee on this cold rainy day.
“Why? Any problem?” she asked concerned.
“When there hasn’t been one?” I muttered.
I glanced at the sky through the window and sighted that dark clouds had found their position enveloping our college, indicating a heavy downpour for sure.
“So, you wanna go home late today?” she asked.
I nodded, slurping my coffee and enjoying its strong cocoa flavor. I’d never compromise those moments of relishing my coffee for anything, coz am coffee-crazy.
Before she could force me to narrate the fight I had at home, I heard Jacob wishing goodbye.
“Jacob, are you leaving home?” Sandhya asked, glancing at her watch.
I looked at mine too which showed 4.32.
“Nope,” Jacob said, “have an errand to submit Arjun’s assignment in the English department. Coming along?”
Sandhya shook her head saying, “It’s getting late. But I guess Niki might accompany you coz she’s free right now and will not leave home any time sooner.”
She then turned to address me with wide eyes, “What say?”
I squirmed to look at Jacob who had that same expression as mine: the one look that had mixed emotions of joy and uncertainty painted together.
Well, just four months into college I discovered that Jacob always nabbed my heart with his innocent looks and ‘never-hurt-others’ attitude. I found him interesting to study and soon I figured I was in love… with HIM…
But, every time I tried to initiate a topic to talk, I’d get muddled in between and spoil all romantic situations. Besides, being in a friends’ gang of 12, I never got a chance to be alone with him and even if I did grab that ‘once-in-a-blue moon’ offer, my brain’s CPU will dysfunction and turn blank altogether.
Flirting with Jacob was damn difficult for me and I guess he felt the same too with me coz I’ve hinted him throwing a concerned glance at me many times during the class hours.
“So, are you coming?” he asked finally, raising his right eyebrow.
I nodded gladly and then realised I hadn’t drunk my coffee yet and had missed relishing it while it was hot.
I threw the half full cup into the trashcan, quickly grabbed my satchel and followed him out, shouting ‘goodbye’ behind me.
We walked side by side in silence for about two minutes. I knew both of us were coming up randomly with absurd ideas to begin talking. And it was I who ended up with the most stupid one.
“Isn’t it cold today?”
“It’s raining na,” he said smiling.
“Oh yes,” I said realising the stupidity in me.
Another two minutes of silence.
“So, you like coffee?” he asked suddenly, out of nowhere.
“Yes, I love coffee.”
A group of students came walking over the entire stretch of the road and we had to step aside to pave way and I bumped into him.
“Oops, sorry,” he said and I blushed.
After that we both never uttered a word till we reached the department.
“Wait here. I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, giving a reassuring look and left me near the stairs.
I stood for a minute or two before I threw my satchel on one of the steps and sat beside it, racking my brain to find something romantic to talk to.
But, my thought process was hindered by the sudden pelting of the rain and I watched the immense beauty, mesmerised and completely forgetting where I was.
I saw the lush green trees enjoying its cold evening bath without any shudder. And a wind blew, changing the direction of the rain and it sprayed all over me. I shivered and turned to search my bag if I had brought my umbrella today.
I was busy searching when I suddenly realised I wasn’t getting wet anymore. I turned and saw Jacob standing in the direction of the rain, protecting me from it.
I looked at him astonished and he smiled meekly. I knew he was gonna get drenched soon. So, without any afterthoughts I reached for his hand, pulled him aside and made him sit beside me, to my right.
“More than coffee, I love the rain,” I lied.
I did love the rain, but the thought of getting wet in it was something I didn’t do often and have never formed an opinion about it. So, I dunno if I really lied or not.
We sat cramped together on the same step and yea; the mystique touch of his body over mine was magical. I couldn’t help smiling at the ‘God-created-this-romantic-situation’ timing.
“Didn’t you submit the assignment?” I asked, sighting it in his hand still.
“No, all the professors are attending a department meeting now,” he explained.
I again turned to admire nature’s gift to its new born plant siblings – the rain.
“Isn’t the climate lovely?” he commented.
“Yes, romantic too,” I said absent-mindedly.
“Ahem,” he said, clearing his throat.
I bit my tongue and mumbled a sorry embarrassingly.
“But it is indeed romantic,” he remarked.
I hid my blush behind my sheepish grin.
As the wind had changed its course, we weren’t getting wet now.
“Let’s stay here till the rain stops,” I suggested.
“Sure, I don’t have an umbrella. So, I’m not planning to desert this place anytime sooner.”
The canopy of trees above us shook their branches every now and then, and a few drops fell with a ‘pop’ on our heads. They sent a shiver down my spine and Jacob realised that my teeth were jittering.
“Shall we find a place somewhere inside to shelter?” he asked concerned.
“No,” I said immediately. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice this cosy place. “I’m feeling the touch of the rain after a long time.”
“What?” he asked confused.
“I’m denied of getting out in the rain. ‘You’ll catch cold. You’ll catch fever. You’ll get headache’ my mom would warn, prohibiting.”
He laughed when I imitated my mom’s voice and I was bewitched.
“Besides I like sitting here,” I concluded.
I felt a silent shift of Jacob’s weight cuddling against me to give me warmth. I relented to it, pushing myself even more into him.
“So, Jacob…” I dragged in a hopeful note.
“If you don’t mind answering shall I ask you something?
“I’m not forcing you. But if you don’t feel like sharing it with me, then you needn’t.”
“Out with it,” he ordered.
“C’mon, I’m not gonna scold you. Besides I’ll never get the heart to scold you especially.”
That was totally a surprise for me. I decided to ask him straightaway.
“Wh… what happened.. to your mom?” I finally took the courage to complete the question.
Everyone in our gang knew Jacob’s mother is not with him now. But no one knew what happened to her and he has never shared his past with anyone.
He turned silent.
I looked at him and he turned his face away.
“Shit!” I cursed myself and bent down my head shamefully.
“I’m sorry,” I apologised in a low tone.
In return I heard a silent sniff. I looked at his eyes that were filled with tears to my shock. I didn’t know how to react.
“Jacob,” I called out with uncertainty.
“Nothing, I’m fine Nikitha,” he said.
“Look at me,” I said, raising his chin by my hand. I saw his eyes glistening but he wasn’t really crying. It’s damn hard for boys to cry easily, but when they do, it means there is some genuineness and real reason behind it.
“You okay?” I asked.
He simply gazed deep into my eyes.
“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have asked that question.”
I let go off his face and placed my hands on my forehead.
He placed his left hand on my shoulder saying, “There’s nothing to worry. I’m willing to share it with you. Mind listening?”
For the umpteenth time he surprised me again and that’s why I found him interesting.
I sat upright while he poured out his story.
“I’m not gonna create a melodrama or an emotional scene here. I’ll tell it crisp and short.”
“My mom had a cardiac arrest and she passed away.”
“How old were you then?”
His voice had dropped low when he said, “12 years. I was in my seventh grade.”
I placed my right hand over his, saying, “Sorry to hear that. You still love your mom rite? Then, don’t worry she’s there beside you always.”
“Beside me, right now?” he said smiling at me. By that sarcastic remark I knew that he was mentioning me.
“Yea,” I said ecstatically.
I’m being shown the blatant truth gradually that this guy, whom I had thought had no feelings for me, had really been in the same ‘found-my-love-but-dunno-how-to-convey’ mental state.
“But sometimes I lock myself up in my room and mourn a whole day. It’s painful to let someone you love leave you altogether,” he said cracking up.
He removed his hand from mine and I expected him to shake away my hand from his lap but instead he entwined his fingers with mine and clasped them.
I pressed his hand strongly to console him. I then placed my left hand over ours and caressed his hand.
“You know, sometimes when you have parents who are so fussy and always concerned about you, it’s irritating,” I said, resting my head on his shoulder. He didn’t object.
“But, in their absence you’d yearn for all those concerns. Trust me.”
“Had a fight at home?” he questioned.
“With mom,” I replied.
“I’m not gonna ask what the problem is. Instead, I’ll just say value them when they’re with you. When you get married, you wouldn’t get time in this busy world to spend with them even though you ache for them.”
“You speak as if you wouldn’t let me see my parents after our marriage,” I said giggling and boxed his arms.
“Nikitha, what did you say now? Come over again,” he said nervously. His tone hinted a concealed happiness that knew no bound.
And that’s when I realised what I had said inattentively.
“Isn’t that the truth? You’ll marry me right?” I asked in a serious tone, lifting my head off his shoulder.
“If we don’t break up,” he answered.
“That’s a rude way of saying,” I said wryly, sticking my tongue out.
“No, I’m just being practical. It’s just that a few months had gone by since we met and half an hour since we began talking personally. I’m ready to test our relationship though,” he said.
I remained mute, uncertain whether to go ahead, though my heart had been longing to hear these words from him.
“I’m in! What about you?” he repeated again.
I placed my left hand again on our still-clasped hands, looked into his eyes and alleged, “I do.”
“That,” he said emphatically, “we’ll say in our wedding if we stay inseparable till then.”
He then laughed silently but then turned serious looking at my grim expression. He raised his eyebrows anticipating me to speak.
“Love you,” I whispered.
“You proposed!” he exclaimed.
“Yea, so what?”
“Nothing. I.. I..” he was overjoyed to express, “I just thought it would be a while before you’d decide to say that.”
“I had decided a long back.”
He grinned widely.
“Shall we go?” I asked, when the rain sprayed all over us again.
“In the rain, without an umbrella?”
“Who said I didn’t bring one?” I said, producing my pink umbrella from my satchel and winked at him.Now, it was my turn to surprise him.
The next minute we were shielding ourselves under the single umbrella, bumping into each other, without saying any “Oops, sorry” this time.