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A smile danced on Raina’s lips. A smile that touched the farthest corners and was dotted with naughtiness. She was sure, Mini did not know the rumors of the last few months.
It was the final decision; the one that would change Raina’s life forever. Forever for good, she hoped. Well, she made many good decisions earlier, and those turned out sour later. So, no wonder if this would end up being an embarrassment too. But not giving a chance to herself would be a cheating.
Adding a new chapter to life was appropriate. She thought.
But in her case, it was more like closing an old diary unfinished, and starting a new one in the hope to finish it. Or at least to reach a good curve.
The sky was dark, cloudy and moonless. All the stars perhaps wanted to avoid her horrific decision. Those bright stars were an alibi of Raina’s lovely companionship of two years. The same glistening silent friends accompanied her in the lonely darkness too for many years until yet. Now they pulled on themselves, the quilt of clouds to denounce her decision.
A bag in left hand and clutching a tender arm in her right, Raina adjusted herself in the window seat of the plane. With the flight taking off, she waved a goodbye to her old life. An old miserable life that gave her nothing but loneliness full of materialistic pleasures.
Arjun immediately fell asleep next to her. When the plane reached the zenith from where she could not devour her old city anymore, she browsed the chat history on her mobile to pass the crawling three hours journey.
The invitation to live in Bangalore with her old college friend, Raina’s denial, their arguments and then finally her acceptance – the incidents of last three months reeled back in her mind as if she was watching some movie.
She looked outside with a lamenting heart for leaving her husband behind. Uninformed! The dark night turned darker as the clouds rushed past swiftly. And the stars were nowhere in the vicinity.
Indeed, it would be the last of her darkest nights, of the marital singlehood as a lonely mother. The new job was as lucrative as it could be. The new phase would be as challenging as it should not be.
The swinging thoughts between past and future did not allow her to realize she was already in front of her new abode. The door opened at her light rap, and she hugged her old pal as if there would not be any next day to see the buddy. Her eyes twinkled with a hint of tears.
Putting a sleepy Arjun on the bed with the other two kids, Raina asked her friend, “How do you feel now, any better with me here?”
All she received was a non-wordy smile.
“Do you care for our college style ginger coffee?” her friend asked.
“Indeed! It will be a good toast to a new start,” Raina agreed with a sleepy husky voice.
While sitting on the swing in the terrace of a high-rise building, coffee mugs in her hand and dreams in eyes, Mini asked Raina, “Any regrets?”
“None, he won’t be missed for he was never available. You?” taking a mug in her hand and leaning on the balcony, Raina looked at the same bright stars cascading the glow to the infinity at midnight, crushing the darkness with their best vigor.
Would the stars be different here? She pondered and turned to her once best friend.
“Not for me too – I can’t regret for someone who was never around for years.” Mini looked into her eyes in the faint glow of the terrace’s light. “So?”
“So? So what? So why? So nothing!” Raina recalled the college days how they questioned every logic of mechanics and electronics like these numerous questions starting with a ‘so’.
“You did not change a bit. The same confident girl I met fifteen years back on the first day of the college.” Mini placed her coffee on top of the small pillar of the railing and gawked towards the endless darkness, standing parallel to Raina.
“Err… Your first day, not mine, remember? You were late by a full semester. It was a session gone when you joined and you have no idea, how my first term passed with no friends, fiery ragging and the most boring roommates.”
“Oh, why do I do everything so late, Raina?” Mini had a few creases on her forehead.
Raina cusped her shoulder with one hand. “Well because you are a tube light.”
They both laughed heartily.
“Tonight, sleep is elusive Raina. I don’t feel like hitting the bed.” Mini sank into the swing again. “Tomorrow, this house – the house I nurtured for ten long years with my efforts, sweat and blood, I will denounce it for a newer life.” She sighed.
“Sweat on top and blood on the bottom.” Raina chuckled remembering the pun of old days but instantly caught the pain in her friend’s eyes, so she defended their decision, “For the betterment only, dear, for the betterment. Don’t forget, would you?”
“Yes. And we will live together like soul mates. Like the old hostel days.” Mini twinkled at the memory of their college.
“Do you know, during the final year, the juniors conceived a notion about us?” A smile danced on Raina’s lips. A smile that touched the farthest corners and was dotted with naughtiness. She was sure, Mini did not know the rumors of the last few months.
“About us? Really? What notion… What was it?” Mini’s eyes widened like a child who was surprised seeing some funny but seemingly impossible trick in a circus. “And I thought, they were talking only about the hot couples of that time.”
“So, where are they – the hot couples? The Laila-Majnu and Heer-Ranjha of our batch?” Raina seems very interested.
“Laila and Majnu are well settled in Canada.” Mini sat cross-legged on the swing.
“Abroad, wow! Really?”
“Yes, with their respective spouses.” Both of them giggled like teenagers at the irony in the quiet and cool night.
“And Heer-Ranjha?” Raina asked curiously, Ranjha was the one she had a crush on, but she never dared to reveal it, and he tugged along with Heer, the college head girl. “Wait, I will make another coffee. Till then, hold your joke for me.” Raina was terrible in making their style of coffee. So, Mini scoffed but allowed her anyway.
Before Mini took the freshly brewed beverage from her hands, she yawned, stretched her body fully, and sprawled in an armchair.
Cozying up in the swing, Raina asked, “So, now tell me about…”
“Yes, so that Heer and your Ranjha,” winking at her, she continued, “have been happily married and live in Delhi.”
“Together?” Raina sipped her hot coffee and jumped after scathing her tongue.
“Together, of course. You still have a chance. Because there is a twist; they are getting divorced soon.”
Raina’s lips curled in an O. “I am not interested anymore in a man… any man. How do you know all the news?”
“I like to keep myself abreast with the latest happenings. After all, what would a boring housewife do all day at home apart from fostering her twins when her husband is oceans away, churning money like a vending machine, unconscious of his family?” A hint of sadness touched her eyes in the summer, making them glint.
“Come on, you are an entrepreneur. Your events are sought after by the kids and the parents equally.”
“They do. But I am still a stay at home…”
Raina placed her fingers on Mini’s mouth, “Let us not allow negativity to creep into our new life.”
Mini smiled and signaled her old pal to finish the coffee.
“The house we have rented is a bungalow in the outskirts. Four rooms total, two for kids and two for us. The school will be nearer for the kids, just your office would be 15 kilometers. Not too much to travel in a city bustling with traffic.” Mini hoped, her friend would not mind traveling. “But that is the best I could find. And my clients are in this area, I could not afford to lose them.”
Raina nodded in agreement.
“I will figure out the best route for you to travel,” Mini added.
“Never mind, I still have a month to figure out the roads and all.”
“Hmm…” For a few minutes, the women did not banter and gazed at the lounging night outside the balcony and how the moon was playing with the star. Raina looked at the clouds who traveled here in search of her. They might hide the stars now.
“So Raina, what did juniors talk about us in the final year… huh?”
“Hmm what? Eh?” She came out of her stargazing and mocked, “You are so aware with the current affairs, I wonder, you did not know the affair brewing between us in room 504 that time?”
“Between us… what are you saying? A what? An a-affair between us? As in…” Mini got up from her armchair, a hand covering her mouth and wide eyes full of amazement. A chuckle seeped out of her mouth, followed by a nonstop laughter.
They both were in a riot of laughter. When the fun subdued after some minutes, Raina said, “People assumed, we were a couple. For them we were lesbians…”
“Oh my God. That is some blockbuster news for me. You never told me.” Mini curled up in her armchair.
“You were already tending your broken heart; then your mom would have killed us both if she would know this. Your family was… mm, traditional.”
“Never mind the gossip. It is funny when the topic is someone else. It pinches when we become the gossip.” Mini added.
“Ah, I am just thinking what if this gossip will make a hill out of a mole now? Do you realize that?” Raina peeked into her eyes deeply. A silent lingered for a fraction of a minute.
“Well,” Mini hung on the balcony and started singing, “Kuch to log kahenge…”
“Logon ka kaam hai kehna…” Raina joined her for the chorus.
When the melody mellowed down, the laughter rose again. They were ready to bid adieu to the dark nights and determined to welcome the bright stars.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the Muse of the Month December 2018, but not one of the winners.
Image source: pixabay
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With a decade-and-a-half-long IT career, Rashmi switched to professional writing as
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