the onion peel…

Chapter 10

Anshuman paced the confines of his condo like a hungry lion. He was sure he hadn’t mentioned Meera’s name to Kader. He consciously avoided taking her name because of the pangs of despair it always invoked in his heart. Back in Hissar, no one was allowed to take her name and once in a while when cousins got together, someone would just whisper a prayer for her. There was no chance it would slip out before strangers. How on earth did Kader know about Meera. Was he hiding something…? Was he just playing around with Anshuman…? But the million-dollar question remained… why…? Why after a decade…? By any chance was it just a mistake on his part…or did Kader know Meera…? Now that he looked back, Anshuman was certain he had seen Kader affected last evening on seeing Meera’s picture… His gut feeling now told him, Kader was concealing something and he had to find out…

First Manpreet was in danger then…Angie… here of all the places and she turned out to be Manpreet’s mom… and then Kader, out of the blue now under the scanner. He was going crazy.

He couldn’t sleep and only waited for morning to arrive. He had to see Manpreet and how he was doing. He wanted to speak with Angie too… He had felt the strong mutual attraction from 4 years ago. But why did she run…? As far as he knew she wasn’t committed to any man anymore. He sighed. When he had decided to move to Goa he didn’t even know what he was seeking… it was just something that told him to visit the place where his sister breathed her last. Most of all he wanted a break from his life which he had just been dragging for the past decade. He wished for solitude…where he could just mourn his sister in peace, where no one knew him. But just a fortnight here and it had been a hell of a roller-coaster. He had bonded with super-talented kiddo who reminded him every time of his deceased sister and the boy’s mother turned out to be the woman who had given him wet dreams ever since they first met 4 years ago. He still had the note she had left him that morning. He hadn’t known at that time whether she had meant for him to give up on her or his sister… if it was the latter, that meant Angie knew him and Meera as well… at least something about them. Now that he thought of it, she had come up to him that night in the club, as of looking for him.

There were too many questions ricocheting in different directions but he knew eventually they would converge in someplace with common answers. He knew he had to make a start and that was with Angie. He started his run earlier than usual to calm his racing heart and slowed down as he jogged towards the clove. He halted as he reached the house and looked up. As expected, only the roar of the waves colliding as they rushed to the shore broke the early morning silence. The chirping of birds in the clove added to the cacophony and he longed to meet Manpreet… and Angie.  He stood with hands on his hips trying to figure out if he could see anything. He thought he saw the curtain on the first-floor move a bit…

He walked away back towards the rock but Manpreet wasn’t visible. Worry engulfed him… was the guy OK…? He didn’t have any contact number and wondered if he should give Angie a visit at her workplace when the front gate creaked open under the weight of the creepers encroaching on it. Angie walked out in a t-shirt and shorts. She was without make-up and the morning breeze blew her hair in all directions. How he ached to hold the strands and tuck them behind her ears.  She walked towards him and stood before him. “Let’s walk…” She spoke softly and moved briskly towards the rock. He followed her and as they reached the rock cave she halted. She presented an erect stance and a serious facial expression as she spoke. “…Why Anshuman… why do you keep following us…?”

“…Angie… I mean Simrat… I just…Manpreet…”

“…STAY AWAY FROM MY SON…” She raised her voice and panted as she glared at him.

“…Simrat… what the hell… what did I do…? Manpreet and I are friends… he needs…”

“…I am his mother and I know better than anyone else… what he needs… so just stay away all right…?”

“…Don’t do that Simrat…he has problems and I can help him out… he is super talented….”

“…Don’t you think I know that Anshuman…? What we don’t need is some stranger out of nowhere interfering in our matters…”

“…Simrat… we aren’t strangers… are we…?” He purred as he moved closer. Her fresh mint scent, probably from the soap she had used to freshen up wafted through his nostrils.

She looked away but he could see the pulse at her neck throbbing. “…Anshuman… please let it go… let the past go… it was just a one night stand… just forget it happened…OK…? And please stay away from us…” She blinked away tears and he realized there was more to it.

“…Simrat… I remember that night as clearly as you do… I know there was a connection… deeper… that ran deeper than the surface emotions…”

“…there… there was nothing of the sorts…” Simrat looked away.

He held her shoulders and turned her to face him. “…Why are you doing this Simrat…? I know you are struggling with Manpreet… I just… I am not interfering… Manpreet and I met by chance… the boy is lonely and gets bullied… his confidence is low…he has trouble with his studies….most of which he cant do with the crappy internet here…And his drawing… he is a genius artist… Simrat….I just wanted to be his friend and help him…. That’s all…”

Simrat blinked back tears and bit her lower quivering lip and he knew he had hit the bull’s eye. He pulled her towards him and hugged her. “Relax Simrat… just let me help…I promise I won’t ask anything…please…”

He felt her stiffen and move away. “…My answer doesn’t change Anshuman… I can’t allow that… don’t make my life difficult by visiting us again… If you care then leave us alone…”

“…I am not going anywhere till you give me a reason Simrat…” he stood on his ground.

She didn’t reply but he continued. “…I need answers Simrat…this last decade has been a living hell for me… and now I get to know everything was a façade… Manpreet was the only silver lining…”

“….Manpreet is not any ‘silver lining’ for you…Anshuman…”

“…Simrat… don’t do this… please…”

“…getting close to Manpreet will only put the two of you in danger…mortal danger…” She spoke with eyes pleading to understand and before he could reply she stormed out of there.

Anshuman only looked on. What the hell was this now…? He…in danger…? The layers of the metaphorical onion were getting peeled only to reveal newer layers…

©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.

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