(Note: I’m writing a story after quite a long time. Hope I didn’t run away with the length and I hope you guys like it. Feedback plij!)
She knew he loved the beauty of the breaking dawn. She’d lost count of the number of times the two of them had sat on this terrace and watched the sun rise over the city. She knew it cheered him up no matter how low he felt. She just hoped for the same now.
She turned to watch him as the first rays touched his hair. His chiseled features were brought to life by the light playing on them. She sighed. He still wasn’t smiling.
“Hey…” She whispered…
He didn’t turn but a single tear rolled down his cheek. Then without a word, he buried his head in his arms and gave in to a wave of misery. Silent sobs shook his hunched figure.
She sighed and put her arm around his heaving shoulders, holding him close, trying to comfort him as best as she could.
Eventually, his sobs subsided a little and he raised his head, wiping his face on his sleeves, muttering an apology. To the world, he was the tough guy. She knew that she was the only one who he’d show his tears to.
He nodded slightly, very evidently still holding back.
“You need to talk… Why won’t you talk to me?”
He shrugged, “There’s nothing left to talk about… she left me for another guy… what do I say?”
“Well… you could abuse her a little… it helps!” she said, making an attempt at a lighter note.
But he just shook his head. “Maybe it isn’t her fault… maybe I was wrong for her in the first place…”
She hated the defeated sound of his voice. “Maybe, she’s a bitch and she couldn’t see that she had the best guy in the world…” she said bitterly.
“You’re just sayin’ that to make me feel better..”
“No… I’m saying that because it’s the truth…”
At that, he looked at her, his eyes still clouded. “Then why..?”
She sighed. She didn’t know how to respond to that. “I don’t know Karan… I wish I did… But I don’t…”
His arm snaked around her and his head dropped on to her shoulder. She held him tighter, resting her cheek on his head. They fit together perfectly; like each of their bodies had learnt the shape of the other’s and knew how to fit.
So they sat there for a little longer till the sun came up nice and proper and the noises of the city below hailed the beginning of the day.
He sighed and got up. “I must go… you probably have to go get ready for something… I’m bad company anyway… Let me not bring you down…”
She held his hand as he made to move away. “Never say that.” She said, standing up as she did. “Never ever say that.”
“Well… I am kind of a sob story right now… “
“Whatever story you are… you are my story…” She said, injecting all the possessive pride she felt into the ‘my’.
He hugged her.
“Now don’t you dare say ‘thank you’ or some other bull crap like that… ok?”
“Ok..” He mumbled into her hair and she could feel that he was smiling too. “But you do know that I’m glad to have you as my best friend, right?”
She sighed. Her heart sank a little.
“I Do…” She said. “I’m here for you… as your best friend… always…” It hurt. It hurt a lot even to say it.
He pulled apart and smiled down at her. “What would I do without you..?”
She wrinkled up her nose as she looked up at him, hoping as hell that her hurt didn’t show in her eyes. “Nothing, I guess..!”
He laughed. It was a beautiful sound, his laughter. “Yeah… I guess you’re right. I might even have jumped off from some cliff if it weren’t for you…”
“Don’t!” She said, the very thought filling her with a dreadful feeling. “Don’t even think those things, Ok…”
“I won’t. I promise.” He said, putting an arm around her shoulders as they headed for the elevator. “Why would I? When I have you as a friend?”
They went back to her flat and she busied herself in making them a breakfast.
“Scrambled eggs and bread or Maggi?” She called out. There was also bread and jam, but she knew he didn’t like to have sweet stuff in the morning.
“Maggi..!” He yelled back from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth. For fourteen years now, he’d been keeping a set of clothes, a toothbrush and a towel at her place. She’d shifted three houses but his stuff had always come along in the packing cases.
When he got to the table, she places a bowl of the steaming noodles and sauce before him with his mug of tea just the way he liked it; a little too sweet with a lot of milk.
He started on the noodles, pausing occasionally for a sip of tea. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she had her black coffee and toast. Finally done, he put his fork down and fell back in his chair, heaving a contented sigh.
“Better..?” She asked, eying him. He looked a lot calmer.
“Hmm…” He said.
“Can I ask you something..? Promise me you won’t get upset..?” She asked cautiously.
“Go ahead…” He said, a little warily.
“Did you watch the sun rise with her..? Was that why you…”
She nodded. He sighed and got up from the chair with his mug. For a moment she thought he may not answer but he sat on the window ledge and sipped his tea, as if to strengthen himself, then said, “Yes… at first… before things went, you know…” And he gestured a downhill motion with his free hand.
“She used to cuddle with me, often wanted to make out with me as we sat there. At first, it was all hot and sizzling but later, I realized that she wasn’t that into watching the sunrise as I was. She always wanted to do everything else but watch the horizon. You know,” he looked at her, “Like we do. Just sit and watch the light changing… Then once we had a fight; she wanted to sleep a little longer and wanted me there. I wanted to go to the terrace and I refused to get back into bed. That’s when things started to fall apart, I guess.” He looked at her, the pain evident in his eyes. “A sunrise.” He grunted out a harsh laugh. “That’s what we fought over. She accused me of valuing the sunrise over her. I told her she always wanted things her way and didn’t value the things I did.”
He sounded distant, like he was digging these memories up from some deep, dark place inside of him. She didn’t say anything, she didn’t move. Now that he was finally speaking, she didn’t want to do anything that would make him stop. He needed to talk; to get this out of his system. And she had to hear him out, even if it sliced her heart to ribbons. She owed that to him. As a friend.
“We didn’t talk that day.” He continued, talking into the space outside the window. “That was the first time we didn’t talk. We patched up by evening. I said sorry. But then, we fought again. And again. It was a different thing every time; the way I have my tea, the way I wear my hair, my choice of toothpaste, the way she cooked Maggi…” he glanced at the empty plate on the table and added, “I’m used to the way you make it, you know. She over cooked it. Always. And when I told her not to, she insisted that it tasted better her way. So we fought.”
He moved back to the table, keeping down his empty mug, staring into thin air, contemplating. “Then we fought over my mother. She called and I took the call when we were watching some romantic movie. I hated the movie but I was watching. Then Mom called and I took the call! But apparently, I was supposed to value the time we spent together enough to tell mom to call later. So we fought again.” He absently ran a long finger over the rim of the mug, lost in thought. “We kept fighting but we’d eventually make peace. I thought that’s the way it is supposed to be. You fight but you stay together. So I roughed it through, waiting for the bad patch to be over so that we could get to the good bit. But I guess that only happens in stories, huh..?” He looked up at her, throwing a sad smile her way. “You’ve always said I’m an idiot idealist… I guess I’ve learnt my lesson. She didn’t want to wait for the good bit after the rough patch. She wanted her good bit right here and now. So I got home last week and I found her letter on the table.” He looked away, out of the window again. “She’d always been clever with her words; that’s how she’d win those arguments. She’d always leave me speechless at the end of every spat. And that letter… well, that left me speechless alright…”
She couldn’t sit any longer so she got up and moved to stand behind him, a hand on his shoulder.
He covered her hand with his own and laughed a short, humorless laugh as he said, “quite a mess I am, huh?”
“Yeah…” She said ruefully. “But I’ll sort you out. Just you wait.” She gave his shoulder a squeeze and moved back around the table. “Tell you what, I’ve got my office party this weekend. Come along as my date and I’ll show you some better women. Trust me!” She went on enthusiastically as he threw back his head and laughed. “I’m serious! You’ll fee soooo much better!”
“You honestly want to play match maker with me? When I’m this mess..? Trust me, I’m the worst kinda guy right now… no girl would want to be my date.”
“I would,” she said earnestly. A little too earnestly, she realized belatedly and hastily covered up; “I mean, a heart-broken guy is the easiest target! Didn’t you know? The chicks in my office will worship me for the rest of the year if I throw you into the mix! Handsome heartbroken hunk! Where would they get one of those anywhere else? Trust me, you’re a catch right now..!” She joked on and they both laughed for a few more minutes.
“No, but seriously…” He said later. “I don’t think I want to jump back into the game this soon. I need time…”
“Then just come as my date. No match making. I promise!” He threw her a suspicious glance till she said indignantly, “What! You want me to do the cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die act now?”
He laughed, “Ok… I’ll come. But I’ll leave the moment you decide to get up to one of those sly tricks of yours! If I dance, I’m only dancing with you and you are forbidden to leave my side. No washroom excuses. Done?”
“Done” She said, smiling. Just then, the door bell rang and she went to get it.
“Manan!” she said, smiling at the tall, wiry man standing at her doorstep.
“Hey Kaavya…” he said, pushing his glasses up his nose and hitching a folder higher under his right arm. “I know it’s a Sunday and we’re off work but I wanted to go through those articles one more time with you before we present this in office tomorrow…”
“Of course!” She said, stepping back to let him in, “Come on in. You’ll have some tea?” she offered brightly.
Manan had stepped in and seen Karan. “Hey!” He said, keeping his folder down on the coffee table and walking up to Karan to give him a friendly hug. “Nice to see you back in civilization buddy! How you holdin’ up?”
“Pretty Ok, I guess..” Karan grinned back, “This woman out here is kinda putting the pieces back together for me…”
Both men turned to look at her; Karan’s appreciative, warm, thankful gaze and Manan’s more cynical, almost cold look.
“Yeah… Kaavya, the agony aunt” Manan muttered, but jerked himself back into the moment, slapping Karan on the shoulder he said, “Impressive job, I must say! But good riddance dude… no offence but that babe of your’s was a piece of work.”
Karan didn’t respond to that and she quickly moved to change the topic. “more tea Karan? I’m making some for Manan…”
“Actually,” Manan interrupted. “I could come later, Kaavya. I mean, if you guys want to, you know… talk?”
She wanted to take him up on that offer but before she could open her mouth, Karan moved over to the couch and picked up his satchel from there. “Nah.. “ He said lightly to Manan, “I was on my way out anyhow. You guys carry on, I wont keep you from the real work.” He winked at Kaavya, “Later then?”
“Yeah” She said weakly, then remembered, “Don’t forget about Saturday!”
“Won’t.” He flung over his shoulder on his way out. “It’s a date… with you!” He winked at her one last time and closed the door after him.
She turned around to find Manan glaring coldly at her, his arms crossed tightly in front of him.
“Yeah…” said, dragging a hand through her hair, avoiding his eye. “I’ve invited him to-“
“-the office party. I figured.” He cut in, coldly.
She tried to dodge the topic and get to work but he kept giving her his cold look.
“What!” She finally said, exasperated. “He’s low, Manan! The man has just been dumped! He’s hurting!”
“Yeah?” He asked skeptically. “And what about you? You’re all cool with playing the agony aunt, huh? Putting the pieces together for him?”
“Yes, I am!” She said vehemently. “He’s my best buddy!”
Manan snorted derisively, “Best buddy, my ass… You’ve loved him since you knew what love is, woman! And..” He raised a hand, stalling her protest, “I’m not blind. I’ve known you guys for ten years now. There is nothing plainer than the fact that the man means more to you than a just a friend. I see it. But you won’t show it to him. Why? It’s beyond me! You guys are as compatible as it gets! You practically read each other’s minds, for heaven’s sake!”
“He’s in pain, Manan…” She said slowly. “he needs my help to get back on his feet…”
“And you’re gonna do that and torture yourself? For how long? Kaavya, you can’t keep going on this way! You can’t do this to yourself…”
“Watch me.” She said resolutely, raising her chin defiantly. “He trusts me to put him back together and I’ll be damned if I let him down. I’m gonna do what it takes- whatever it takes- to help him through this.”
“Even if it hurts you? Tears you to pieces?” Manan said softly, his eyes kind and worried for her.
“Yes…” She whispered back, letting her shoulders slump. “What he needs right now, is his best friend. And that’s what I’m gonna be… his best friend…” She looked Manan in the eye, not trying to blink back the lone tear that silently slid down her cheek.