"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie."
"How do you know me?", I ask her.
"You were at that party... weren't you? The one at Khaitan House?"
"Y-yes... I was! Were you there too?", I ask.
"Ya, but I wish I hadn't gone..." She took another drag from the cigarette.
"Me too...", I say. I regret saying the words almost immediately after they come out.
We don't speak for the next two minutes. I'm a little uncomfortable with the silence so I look up at the sky, pretending to be in deep thought. The only thoughts that come to me are the ones I need to run most from.
"Walk me to my car? It's just round the corner", she instructs.
"How far?", I ask uncertainly. The thought of walking the street at 4:00 am with a woman I don't know is a little unnerving.
"It's ok, you don't have to", she says.
"No no... I mean if it's far I can drop you in my car. Why do you want to walk?"
"I feel like walking, do you mind? It's not more than a kilometer"
"Ok, let me lock my car." I run to my car, pull up the windows and lock it. I run back across the road, almost panting.
"There it is...", she says, grabbing my hand.
She holds on to my hand till the time we reach the car. I don't sense any intention behind her doing so.
She leaves my hand to take out the car keys from her pocket. She unlocks her car and settles in to the drivers seat. She rolls down her window and says "Need a lift?"
"Yes. Of course." I smile and get into the car.
She drops me.
I get into my car and roll down my window.
"I hope you'll be ok?", I shout, hoping my voice reaches her despite the noise from the engines.
"Yes... I think I will." She smiles reassuringly. This time the smile is genuine.
I smile back. "Maybe I'll see you sometime, if fate permits..."
She doesn't reply.
Instead, she says "It was awefully brave of you... very few people can do what you did at the party tonight. I wish I could've done the same..."
Before I can reply, she drives off.
That's when I realise.
Ridhima! I tell myself. I should've guessed!
The moment Radha realised it was Varun, the smile escaped her face. For a brief moment, both of them stood transfixed.
"H-hi... Varun", said Radha, trying to force the smile back on her face.
"Hi Radha! How've you been? Long time...", said Varun, almost confidently.
"Oh... I-I've been good... you tell me..."
If Radha had any short coming, it was her fear of confrontation. Earlier, on the phone, she had told Varun very categorically, and curtly, that she didn't want to see him. Now here, standing before him, she was at a complete loss for words.
She wanted to say so much. About disappointment and hatred, about being let down and left behind.
In this time of poetic silence, the cruel rhyme of anticipation, most people in the vicinity found themselves a convenient excuse to clear the area. Radha and Varun were alone at last, much to His relief and Her worry .
While they stood there staring at each other, the last six years of their lives flashed in front of them.
How they had met, the artist and his muse. The coffees, the movies, the concerts, the parties, the cocaine...
How they had loved. Passionately, aggressively, hungrily, sometimes hurriedly...
How they had lived. In each other's houses, hearts, lives, dreams...
And of course, how it had all fallen apart seven months ago in the September of 2005, the month Varun had left for Paris.
He had left her behind, hanging on to a promise. In the last seven months the promise had been broken, again, and again, and again. And each time he broke his promise, a piece of Radha's heart had broken along with it.
"A million little pieces is what you've left me with Varun! When I think of you I feel nothing but malice!", Radha shouted. This was sometime in January, the last time they had spoken before tonight.
"I think you better move on Radha, this is not likely to work out.", Varun had said in response to Radha's outburst. Varun's tragic flaw was his inability to handle accusation. He too was an escapist, but of a different kind.
But today, 19th of March 2006, was going to be different. Atleast that's what Varun hoped, considering he'd come back to Delhi for good, just so that he could fall in love with her all over again. A chance which had outraged his parents, and many of his artist friends.
Varun spoke first, "Let's take a walk. Please. That's all I ask for."
He held out his hand, just like he used to. A tear surfaced on Radha's left cheek. She put her hand in his, and they walked. They walked for five minutes, hand in hand. Neither said a word.
Varun, as always, broke the silence.
"So I hear you've found yourself a boyfriend Radha."
"You're the one who asked me to move on."
"Then why are you asking me?"
"Just... so what's he like, this R-a-h-u-l?", he asked teasingly.
"Oh, he's nice... he's sensitive, and he takes good care of me..."
"Nice?", Varun said, cutting her short. "I thought you hated nice!", he said in the same teasing tone.
"What are you smirking for, I know the chick you've been fucking since you got back. She's such a bimbette, it's not even funny. Isn't she here? Aren't you going to introduce me?"
"Hmmm, do I sense bitterness and hatred in your voice?", he almost laughed.
"So where is she???"
"Probably drunk, and making a fool of herself. After speaking to you I kind of told her to mind her own business. I've always hated women who can't handle alcohol." Varun sighed.
"Anyway! Back to you and me!"
"Oh come on Varun...", Radha said defensively. "My fascination with the artistic, the eccentric, and you ended that day, when you told me to move on."
"Really...?, he said, looking at her straight in the eye.
There was a moment of silence, and then one of what Radha thought was madness on her part.
Radha pulled away and said, "I-I can't... you don't understand..."
"Shhhhh...", Varun said, placing his index finger on her trembling lips. "I'm here now..."
"I'm never going back Radha... never! I mean I'm here for good!"
There was silence again.
"You promise?", Radha asked, even though she knew every word he had just said was true. She knew him better than she knew herself.
They kissed again.
For the next hour or so, they spoke... kissing, hugging, touching at every opportunity.
"Wanna dance?", she whispered.
"Yes", he replied. "But right here."
They embraced, feeling each other's body, and fell into a slow, intense waltz. There is something about dancing without music that only lovers know.
They must have danced for about 30 seconds when they heard clapping. When Varun and Radha looked around, they saw friends and acquaintances cheering them on. They knew their's was not any love story, they were not just anybody.
From the corner of her eye, in the distance, Radha saw Rahul. There were tears in her eyes but he was smiling and clapping, just like everyone else. She went up to him and stood there, half guilty and half pleading.
"I knew", Rahul said. "I had always known.", still managing to smile a little. "I-I want you to be happy..."
"Thank You", she said, holding his wrist with both her hands. Then again, this time almost whispering, "Thank You!"
She ran back to Varun and embraced him.
While Radha was running towards him, Varun gave a thumb's up sign to Rahul, expressing gratitude.
Rahul replied with a same gesture and a smile.
Varun thought of his bimbette. He looked around, but he couldn't spot her anywhere. His attention went back to Radha, and he didn't think of anyone, or anything for the rest of the night.
"Poor Ridhima... she must be heartbroken!", Rahul heard someone say in the background.