Anshuman had the time of his life. Despite the sword hanging on his head, he loved being with Manpreet and Simrat. He rented a car and Simrat guided him as they traversed on roads not usually taken by the regular tourists. He didn’t even know they had existed though he had by hearted the map literally. Manpreet was chatting away to glory without a single stutter as he told some stories about the food, he had last night or how his mom clumsily fell tripping on the doormat today morning as they were rushing to his condo. Simrat sheepishly looked away blushing and Anshuman had a tough time suppressing a smile.
After about an hour of maneuvering traffic, they reached the Kakolem beach. Simrat knew a corner away from the usually scant but curious tourists. They spread out the mat and opened up their picnic basket diligently prepared by Simrat’s mother. Anshuman for a few blissful moments let go of his turmoil… he felt light at heart hearing Manpreet’s chatter amidst the cacophony of the sea birds scaling over their heads in the hope of landing a few crumbs. Manpreet tried to shoo them off and his antics brought about the much-needed cheer for Anshuman and Simrat. They ate their snacks and sat on the mat even as Manpreet rushed to the nearby natural clove to check out the little pup which had disappeared there. Simrat kept a watchful eye on him even as Anshuman observed the woman who had shown him different shades of her persona in a span of few days.
While in Mumbai 4 years ago she was a sex siren, here she was a strongly trained cadet with the SOP. She didn’t hesitate to spar with the enemy knowing that it would put her in mortal danger. At the same time, she had shown him her vulnerable side which had breezed its way into his heart. And at this moment she was the doting mother who was fiercely protective about her son. Anshuman was moved by her actions… As he looked at her retreating form as she went to check on Manpreet and get him back, he vowed to make them a family. He would go out of his way to convince Simrat to give him a chance to be a good husband she could rely on and a father to Manpreet. His heart swelled at the thought and right then the sea roared as if giving its consent… Meera’s consent.
They left the beach an hour later and Manpreet lay sleeping on the back seat holding his favorite little sketchbook. He never let it go. Simrat and Anshuman barely spoke each lost in their thoughts. Simrat jingled the bag of seashells Manpreet had gathered to make some project he yapped about on the beach. They halted at a place Simrat recommended for a late lunch. Manpreet now fresh from his nap relished the delicacies and Anshuman couldn’t help but smile at the way the boy chewed on the chicken bone as if it were the last one left in the world. His eyes filled thinking about Meera. His sister too loved to relish her food whenever she wasn’t in a rush to get back to her painting. She too chewed away her food to the last inedible bit. He blinked the emotions away… for the first time in a decade… he had felt a little at peace. Something told him, Simrat and Meera knew each other and he hoped to find out the facts soon… hopefully, today. He also saw Manpreets sketchbook when was away at the washroom with Simrat. Besides his obsession with Anshuman’s sketches, he also saw a strange kind of sketch… it had a huge rose and some strange wines around the rose. Where had he seen that picture…? He had for sure… but at the moment Anshuman’s memory failed him.
On their way back to Varca, Manpreet insisted on visiting the mall he had been to with Anshuman last time. The boy had probably not understood the gravity of the situation. But Simrat was visibly terrified to even refuse him and Anshuman promised to take him there someday while changing the topic. The boy who was constantly pleading with his mother instantly agreed and sat back to stare at the passing scenes. Anshuman insisted they come to his condo and have dinner with him, as they reached Varca after a long drive which he didn’t want to end. Manpreet was hopping away in happiness and Simrat agreed. She didn’t move away when Anshuman held her hand as they followed a jumping Manpreet to his condo. Later that night Manpreet slept off early being tired in all possible ways.
Anshuman and Simrat sat on the rocking chairs in his balcony staring at the sea which was distant yet so close. They sipped on the wine he had purchased recently. He had somehow thought about Simrat when he had been there and opened it to the sparkle in her eyes. He knew there was a lot behind those beautiful orbs and he wanted her to lay bare before him. After a couple of glasses in silence, Simrat sighed.
“…Yea…?” he drawled.
“…thank you… for today…it was… the best day in Manpreet’s life so far… I think…I have never seen him so… so happy or comfortable…”
“…Anything for you two…Simrat… I hope you know that by now… and it isn’t the wine talking…” he chuckled.
She sat upright and turned towards him. “…Anshuman… I like you… I really do… Manpreet loves you… he adores you… but…”
“…But what Simrat…?”
“…Anshuman… you don’t know much about me… my past… it isn’t good…”
“…I don’t care about all that Simrat… what matters is now… let the water under the bridge be gone… let’s look towards the future… you said this was your last mission right…? So let’s consider this after the mission…”
Simrat held his hand in hers. “…Anshuman… can you promise me something…?” He nodded as she continued. “…In case something happens to me… please take care of Manpreet… take him away from here… my mom can go back to our native to her brother’s home… but Manpreet…”
“…Simrat relax… nothings going to happen to you…”
“…Anshuman you don’t know those people… they are monsters…”
“…Then why don’t you delegate it to someone else Simrat…?”
“…That’s because it was triggered because of me… almost a decade ago… and I should be the one to see it to the logical end…”
“…You mean the sleeper cells activation…? YOU triggered it…? Come on…Simrat that’s atrocious…”
“…Like I said Anshuman you don’t know me at all…”
“…then tell me Simrat… what did you do… that you have been suffering for so long…?”
“…If I tell you… you are going to hate me for it…”
“…You came to me in Mumbai… on purpose right…? It wasn’t a chance meeting…” he suddenly spoke and Simrat stilled.
“…Anshuman…I …I …”
“…Simrat… just tell me one thing… was that all… that happened that night… real…?”
Simrat was silent for a while before she spoke. “…It was very real…Anshuman… not meant to happen, but real… and you are right… I had come there to warn you to put off searching for your sister as it would be dangerous for you…”
“…Then what happened to my sister, Simrat…?” He gripped her hand even as she tried to free herself.
“…Anshuman…” she whispered as tears swam unshed in her beautiful orbs.
“…Just… just tell me… if Meera is dead or alive…”
“…Anshuman…” her tears now flew freely.
“…Please Simrat… I promise I won’t ask you anything after this… is she dead…?” his voice cracked in the end.
Simrat freed her hand and rose. “…Don’t get your hopes high Anshuman… everything is just a façade… you have beautiful memories of Meera… let it remain like that for the sake of your sanity… please… I beg of you…when …when this is over you will know everything… every damn thing…”
“…please Anshuman… I am tired… totally tired… I have been at this relentlessly for 10 years now… fighting for what looked like a lost cause… but… but… now… I have hope to see this through… so … give me some time Anshuman… please…”
He nodded as he looked back at the sea. The dark horizon somewhere out there in the vastness promised infinite possibilities…
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.