(Continued . . . )
He stepped down the train. Clad in blue jeans and a pink T-shirt, with white overalls, he looked like any other modern guy entering the town. He had brown boots, and a sling back across his shoulder, he also had a backpack. Hair ruffled, and eyes sparkling with joy, his lips broke into a smile as his eyes fell on me. Or was it, Aunt Maggie?
Uncle Mark and Aunt Maggie stood fixed. The umbrellas they held seemed to be of no avail, as their hands were quivering. Filled with excitement, their eyes glistening with moisture, they remained at the spot. It seemed as though they were afraid, if they moved, the dream would break and their only son would vanish from their view. Aunt Maggie’s hand pressed mine harder and I knew she was filled with anxiety.
Sullivan waved his hand, and then he rushed towards us. The bags, the rain and the people in between couldn’t stop him. His face had a huge grin and his sparkling eyes showed how happy he was to be home. He was home to his parents. To his people. To us. To me. There were disguised tears that fell from my eyes.
He got into a manly hug with Uncle Mark and laughed when his father hit him hard on the back, complaining how weak he had become.
He stepped towards Aunt Maggie. She raised her hand, the other one, and caressed his cheek. There were tears falling uncontrollably from her weak and loving eyes. He kissed her palm and wiped her tears away. He bent down to her and embraced her with gentleness and she reciprocated it with all love. Aunt still held onto my hand with the other hand of hers. He had still not seen me in the eye, and I was nervous about it.
He raised his head and then all his attention was towards me. His soft eyes, those brown eyes, matched his hair. His features were the same, they just turned more manly. We were literally children when we had last seen each other in person. In three years, he looked so much bigger, stronger, firmer and….. I could not bring myself to it, but yes, he looked as handsome as ever.
He gazed at me, as though in sheer shock. His eyes passed over me, from head to toe. I wondered what made him look like that at me. He took a step forward, he picked up a few strands of my loose hair, which were wet and swinging across my face. He rubbed his fingertips at their ends and then his hand moved swiftly to cover his mouth as he let out a loud gasp!
Janiiiiiiiieeeeee?? That’s you? he cried in complete shock.
Sullivan. What’s wrong? I softly answered, totally embarrassed at his outburst.
What’s wrong? Just look at you!! he spoke the words and started laughing. He laughed as though I was a clown in front of a child, who had never seen one.
Stop it Sullivan!! Aunt Maggie scolded him tenderly.
I glared at him. Trust me, it was hard to learn how to control my anger and curb my naughtiness. And with Sullivan in front of my eyes, it was taking all the strength of my body and will power. It looked as though they had left and had now returned with him.
It took a few minutes for his laughter to subside. Uncle Mark looked at me and Sullivan. He quickly moved Sullivan away from me, as though I’d rip his head off. Well, that’s exactly what I would have done, if Sullivan had done this three years back.
Uncle Mark snatched away his backpack and handed Sullivan a white umbrella. He held another one, which he clicked open and proceeded to take Aunt Maggie and me under it. With both of them under it, there was no room for me.
Hey J! There’s place here! I heard him say from behind me.
I looked at him and wondered what he would say now. There was no Uncle or aunt to come for my rescue. Another fact was that I didn’t want to be alone with him. Somehow, I felt something between us had changed. I wasn’t aware what and why, but there was a huge change of things between us.
I’d like to if you promise not to laugh at me! I hissed through my teeth.
Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna laugh now. He replied back. His sling back attached to him, holding that white umbrella over our heads, he slowly kept walking by my side.
We neared the parking space, and kept walking towards Uncle Mark’s car.
Just then a car sped by my side. The wheels swished, spraying all the water on my skirt. It was all drenched.
What’s with you and water, J? He asked when I looked at the water splashed across my skirt aghast.
It looks like it’s the spell you’ve cast on me! I retorted. I signalled him, he walked with me, as we kept moving towards the end of the sidewalk. The car was still quite far. I didn’t want to sit all wet and cause a puddle in Uncle’s car.
Once at the side, I lifted one end of the skirt and started to wring it, trying to drain out the water from the skirt.
Ohh these guys! They just don’t see where they’re going! I grumbled.
Oh cmon J! Don’t be a spoilsport. You like playing in rain and water, don’t you? He asked casually.
I used to Sullivan, I said softly, now I don’t like playing in it, though I still love the rain.
What?? He looked confusingly at me.
I giggled at him, Nothing Beast! I don’t want to get wet here now!
He looked at me, and something in his eyes told me, his devious mind was on work!
Beast, eh?? And suddenly, he started walking away with long strides. With the umbrella. The clouds seemed to have joined hands with him and they poured more water than they had been pouring till now.
Sullllllliivaaaaaan!!! I shouted.
He was already four or five feet away from me. He turned. There was a grin on his face, and that devilish joy.
Suddenly as his eyes met mine, the sparkle changed. Now it wasn’t what I had always seen in his eyes. It was something different. Very different. A warmth had settled in there. I was taken aback. His eyes had never been like that, for me.
In a few steps he was close to me. I was back under the umbrella but now it made no difference. I was already completely drenched. He moved a little more closer.
Wet hair clung to my face, as though veiling it. His right hand came out of his pocket. He moved those wet strands with his long forefinger, and placed them behind my right ear. As his fingers touched my skin, I felt a strange tingle in my body. His touch was warm and dry.
What happened to you, J? He asked softly. It was just whispers.
What do you mean? I asked with my heart pounding in my chest.
When did you really become this Janie? This….. Beauty? He said with the palm of his right hand now caressing my cheek.
Oh stop Sullivan! You’re just making fun of me again. I replied.
He raised my head, lifting my chin to see in his eyes. The warmth was still there and the world around us seemed to have become nonexistent.
J, can’t you see? Can’t you feel? Have you never felt? he asked me.
The butterflies in my stomach were doing unrecognizable dance moves, my blood was moving in my veins like a storm let loose. Was he serious? Did he feel the same?
Sullivan, what do you mean?
Do you know why I suddenly came back J?
You said, you had forgotten to do something. Something you wish you had done earlier. That’s what you told me when we last spoke.
Yes! I came for that. Something I should have done earlier, before I had gone. Something which I feared would be lost if I delayed it further. And I am going to do it right now.
What is it S? What are you talking about? Do I know anything about it?
You know it, but I won’t wait for you to realize or understand it. I’ve already been a madman to wait, been too slow to realize. And YOU are everything about it!
What do you mean Sullivan?
I mean it J. I mean every word which I say now. And trust me, it isn’t because I saw you like this. It’s been since I left this place.
I couldn’t place what he was talking about. Which secret was he going to tell? Was he in love with someone I knew and wanted me to help him? God! That made me shudder!
In that moment of panic, it hit me, I wanted Sullivan for myself. I wanted to be his. I wanted to live my whole life with him. I loved him!!
Sullivan? What do you mean? What is it?
J, I left this place with a desire to make a mark for myself. I know it was hard on all. Mom, dad, me and also you. After my parents, you’re the third person I call mine, my family. I want to make that a reality.
I looked at him confused and lost! He put down the umbrella and we both stood with the water from heaven falling on us.
After I left, not a moment passed when I didn’t think about you. Not a single day, when my desire to do well was driven by the aim to get back to you. Not a night have I slept without thinking and dreaming about you. Not a moment went by, without thinking how I would tell it all to you. And as soon as the exams were over, I rushed to the phone and told mom and dad about it. They were more than happy. You have always been part of us.
I deliberately stayed away from you. I wanted to test myself J. I wanted to know if this is really love or was I being mad. I thought this was madness, because I was missing my friend. But trust me, the joy I felt taking each step coming home, coming to you, was proof enough to make me know that it was right, all along!
J, let me tell it all. I want you to know, I spent three years away, but there has been no girl in my life. I knew what I wanted and so, I didn’t want to even think of any other. I just know one girl, one person who means a lot to me.
Suddenly he took out a big red rose and held it close between us.
Janie, I have loved you before I went, while I was gone and now when I return. I have a feeling, you do too. Trust me, I will love you for now and forever. I may have been a trouble for you all along, but I will always protect you from any trouble that steps near you. If I am Beast then would you be my Beauty? I love you J!
The sudden confession, the depth of his words, the ecstasy of love was engulfing me.
I will Sullivan, I replied, tears falling from my eyes, I may not be able to tell when this happened, but the love that nested in your heart had grown in mine too!
He took me into his arms and kissed the top of my head. A few silent minutes passed, he mumbled my name.
There’s one thing!
What S?? My heart skipped a beat. What now? Was he fooling me? Oh please!! He raised the rose towards me. Holding it tight between his fingers.
I raised my head. I looked at him, nervy about what he would say now. He took a step backwards.
It’s just that…… You know…… How do I say this……
Spit it out Sullivan! I shouted anxiously.
It’s that……ours won’t be a Happily ever after kind of love! He said sadly.
Why do you say that? I asked him.
One of his foot moved backwards and he lifted the rose to my face.
Because I’ll always do things like this…………. He screamed and there was a spray of water that gushed out from the center of the rose and hit my eyes and face.
He started running. I bent down and unstrapped my sandals. The heels weren’t needed now.
You better run Beast! I am so gonna kill you for this!! I shouted as I ran behind him, I may have changed a bit in my appearance, but inside I am still the revengeful Vampire!
He turned back though he kept running. I ran behind him, unconcerned about my dress and skirt.
As our laughter filled and echoed in the rain.
And that’s how we’ve always been, the uncommon couple.
Madly in love and mad in deeds!!