Aakash woke up to the sound of late august downpour. It was a light drizzle but it felt great.
At the breakfast table he was more of a chatterbox, surprising his father and sister.
At last, he just hugged them both. “You know, mom is around us, watching us. She is waiting for us to get over the loss. She is asking us to be happy and we’ll do her the highest honour if we just try and stay happy. That is what she would have always wanted. That is what would make her content.”
His father heard those words between the tears that he didn’t realise had found their way down his cheeks. So was his sister as she clung to both of them.
“We’ll stay happy. For each other, for her.” They mouthed.
And Aakash knew it was just the beginning.
He walked inside the institute, slightly drenched and saw her in the same state, a little more perhaps.
And why it would not be? She had driven to institute on her scooty.
He walked past her as he saw her fidgeting with her wet clothes and hair.
She glanced at him and he shook his head in greeting. She acknowledged his greeting with a little shake of her head.
Now, this confused Aakash. Not a reception he had expected, not after the conversation last night.
Next moment, he again cast a surreptitious look at her. This time she caught him too and smiled. The smile that said, “Look it’s all fine. We have our little secrets safe.”
Aakash knew that it would be a long journey to her heart. But it was just the start. And a start was all that he needed.
It was a hustle of activities at the institute for the next two months. There was a rush to complete the syllabus, there were numerous counselling and form filling sessions and above all, those never ending doubts and paper analysis sessions. But anything that had Aastha’s involvement, Akash was undoubtedly present. Now he had found an added advantage. He could call her at odd hours on pretext of some doubts, or to present some new material that he had come across through his sources, or so he would claim. The chat sessions that began with some study material would continue with some random talks. He would often coerce her in talking more about that unknown person, he would call as X. Sometimes she would completely steer the conversations away from this X while at some really low times, she would share the emotional distress she felt.
One thing that Aakash knew from these conversations was that Aastha never made any visible effort to call Mr. X. She had resolved not to call him and he helped her stay firm on that resolve.
November turned out to be sweeter than usual with his late night conversations almost becoming a ritual. It happened every other day.
It was all work-related from her end, like solving doubts, taking up new questions or may be some pep talk to motivate him. All that mattered for him was, she was speaking and speaking to him.
One such night, as they were in the middle of a conversation, she almost stopped him.
“I need to hang up, please… will call back in sometime.”
And with that began a restless night for Aakash. Why had she abruptly ended the call? What had happened? Was she alright?
While possibilities flashed in his head, he had no other option but to wait. For her call. And he did wait. He knew she would call. He was sure.
He stayed awake all night, waiting for her call.
As he opened his eyes, consciousness seeping in his veins, he realised he fell asleep at some point while still waiting.
OMG! What if she had called?
He immediately searched for his phone and checked it.
There were many messages, but not a single one from her.
She had not called.
The suspense was getting on his nerves now.