Today she just wanted to hang out for some more time. She remembered those days, when she had taken such good times for granted. Her colleagues urged her to have one more drink and maybe she had enough for today. Life was so calculative now, moving on with just limited resource. She no more could afford to splurge. She never had been brought up to be reckless or carefree. Guilt always haunted her, whether she was right or wrong.
She laughed with others at work but her eyes did not sparkle anymore. At home she was a doting mother to her son and loving niece to her aunt. But other than that her life was barren and unenthusiastic.
She called for a cab and stepped out of the smoky bar. She felt a little light headed with the cool breeze touching her gently. While she waited on her feet she swayed slightly to the dim music floating from the bar. Today after a very long time she had a drink. She felt nice but conscious of what her aunt would think of her if she saw her now. Her parents still did not know that she drank, it’s a secret best hidden. In their culture it’s a taboo for a girl to drink. They would be ashamed of her. But that they already were weren’t they?
Her aunt had taken Ved to one of her friends place in another town. She was all alone for a week and could not believe her luck. She had been standing at the outside the bar for a long time waiting for the cab. The bar door opened and she thought her friends would step out and take her inside. She turned to see and saw someone else instead.
She quickly wished she could disappear and hoped he had not recognized her. He would not have she was wearing her hair short and clothes were different as well. It was almost four years since they spoke or even met.
“Lakshmi! Is that you?” he asked coming closer to see her.
She quickly turned around trying to look busy with her phone and ignored his question. She could not face him, what could she say? Why had she disappeared from everyone’s life? Moreover no one knew she was here, not even her parents. She started walking away in search of cab, completely ignoring his plea to stop. She was almost running now hoping she could quickly hop into any cab. Miraculously the yellow cab just stopped next to her and she quickly got in.
“Where do you want to go?” the cab driver asked her.
“Rua da Palha, just drive” she ordered. She looked out of the window and saw him sprint after the cab and then stop.
That was extremely close and she escaped it. But she wondered for how long? What if he lived in this city? That couldn’t be, he was supposed to be working in Philippines. But that was some three to four years ago. He could be on a business trip to Macau. She had not thought about it that way. Anyway he would have by now realized that she was not Lakshmi. Lakshmi would not have fled that way if she was meeting him after many years.
He stood there looking at the retreating taxi. He could have sworn she was Lakshmi. Last he had met her when she had delivered Ved. He had soon left the country for a better opportunity and their communication had not only diminished but had come to a sudden stop. He tried calling all her numbers but they were all disconnected. He even tried calling her husband Vivek but even he had not answered his calls. He did have the premonition that something had gone wrong. He dared not to call her parents at first but when he could not reach her anywhere. He called them.
It was a strange conversation. Her parents seemed not to know her whereabouts. They were not only vague but somehow he felt they did not want to talk about her. That was unlikely as they were a strong knit family, always stood and supported each other. Earlier a day would not go by where Lakshmi would have at least one conversation with her mother or sister. So what had gone wrong? He did not like this, not knowing if she was fine. But he had exhausted every possible connection to her. It seemed she had simply vanished from face of earth.
When he took a trip home during Christmas, he had gone to her place in Vizag, India. The door had a lock and upon enquiry with her neighbors he had learnt that her husband had sold this flat and left. They did not leave any forwarding address with them. He had then lost any hope of finding her.
He had recently been promoted and transferred to Macau for a project. Now after years of living abroad he had no trouble settling down in any new place. He worked hard during the day and then partied all night on most weekends. He had been with many girls but no one ever fancied him for more than few weeks. He loved travelling by his own discovering new places in strange lands. He always attracted attention with his unusually sweet smile. He wore his hair neither short nor very long but looked like it always needed a cut. He was not very tall but yet just right for any girl. The soft voice and pleasant drawl mostly charmed anyone. He had abundant friends everywhere but every morning he woke up feeling a void slowly growing with each passing day.
Tonight he had plenty to eat and drink. Today the din of the bar and chatter of friends left him feeling the need for some fresh air. He had stepped out and immediately their eyes had locked for few seconds. He had seen the gleam of recognition in her eyes. He called out to her but she quickly walked away almost running. He had followed her but she got in to cab and left. He did not understand why?
Upon reaching home she felt breathless and completely alone. She wished Ved was here running around her and her aunt fussing over her ill eating habits. But the windows were closed and the house had a musty smell. She quickly opened her bedroom windows and let the night breeze flow inside. In the dim moonlight she saw herself in the mirror. How much she had changed? Her rough hair cut short up to her neck in some recent style. This style made her look chic. Her mother would have never approved of such short hair. This was the way she liked it now since her hair was now more manageable. Her small stature and big eyes always made her look innocent. She had grown considerably thin after moving here from what she was after Ved’s birth. She remembered how Vivek had always ridiculed her about her weight after pregnancy. She could not afford to think about those painful memories. She had overcome them she reminded herself.
Next day she woke up with a slight headache and a cup of coffee could definitely help her. She called out to Ved and then remembered he was not there. She called her aunt and checked on their whereabouts. She chatted with her son; he had grown big so quickly. They were due to come home next Sunday. She looked around and found her fridge stocked well. Quickly she cooked up something simple for her and made a strong cup of coffee.
Outside was beautifully sunny, just the way she liked it. She wore her jeans and a cute top. She wore her most comfortable shoe and her favorite sunglasses. Today she would shop and meet her only friend she had made here at a café on the beach.
She took her small car out and cruised along the hem of the beach. She could not believe life could get this better. She parked and went about her shopping. She was light on her feet and humming a song she looked around the stores with a smile. Her smile vanished as soon as she spotted Charles. She remembered last night’s episode. Quickly she got into a shop right next to her hoping he did not see her. It was in a jewelry shop and store keeper was asking her what she would like. But her gaze kept searching for Charles outside.
“What would you like to see, something in diamonds?” the store keeper asked.
She was never too keen about jewelry. She quickly said no and left from there. She headed for her car with quick steps. Someone stopped her by the shoulder and she turned around. She was partly scared and partly angry for being followed. It was her friend Neeta, whom she was going to meet at the café.
“Why do you look so angry?” she asked.
“I just thought you were someone else.” Lakshmi felt relief that he had not seen her.
“Who? Is someone following you?” Neeta looked around angrily. Looking at her friend, Lakshmi smiled. She had become so close and protective about her. Lakshmi often went on a guilt trip about this or that, but Neeta always encouraged her to be herself and not feel guilty all the time.
“No, come let’s go to the café, now that I have met you already.” Lakshmi took out her car keys and they both headed to the beach.
At the café Neeta asked her what happened at the square and why was she so angry. Lakshmi as usual became vague and did not answer the question. They both ordered their favourite on the menu and chatted their heart away about work and then some about movies.
“Lakshmi, what are you doing here?” asked Charles finally confirming his doubts and confronting her.
Neeta looked curiously first at Charles and then at Lakshmi. Her face was completely closed and devoid of expression. Her lips thinned with determination. Lakshmi just managed to icily say, “Hi Charles.”
Neeta had never seen her friend so rigid and withdrawn before. Somehow she got her answer to the question about Lakshmi’s strange behavior at the square this morning. But in spite of all things she could not help liking Charles instantly.
“Where have you been?” he asked incredulously. He reached out to hug her just like old times. He could not believe his relief of finally knowing she is fine. But Lakshmi remained seated refusing to hug or budge from her seat. Looking at him after so long not only brought an overwhelming feeling inside her but a strong reminder of her previous life. She was looking at her closest friend, someone she blocked away along with everything else. A friend who had been with her, besides her always and right now she wished he had not met her here at all.
“Hi I am Neeta, I am Lakshmi’s friend.” Neeta introduced herself looking at the awkward situation. She gestured for Charles to sit.
“Hi, nice to meet you. Are you from India?” he asked politely but keenly watching Lakshmi at the same time.
“Yes I am. But have been living here for more than ten years now. Do you live here as well?”
“Yes I am temporarily posted here for a project.” He asked Lakshmi again, “Where have you been?”
Lakshmi abruptly got up, “Please excuse me Neeta, and I have to go. I remembered something.” She looked at Charles and said, “It’s nice meeting you after such a long time.”
Both of them continued looking at her dumbfounded. She collected her things and left. This was the third time in two days that she had escaped Charles. He got up but Neeta caught his hand.
He was confused and angry. “Why is she behaving like this?”
“Even I don’t know, but maybe you yourself can explain it to me much better.”
Charles had not realized he had spoken loudly. It felt better telling Neeta, a complete stranger his story and frustration.
A sob rose within her as she hurried from the restaurant. She had hurt him with her behavior and she knew that. She had not only been rude but inconsiderate towards his feelings.
On her way home she kept thinking about the whole incident again and again. He had been worried about her all these years. In her heart she knew he would have been so. She felt adequately guilty for disappearing from so many lives for whom she had meant something, especially to him.
She had not just let her parents down but also many of her friends. She went home and sat down blank eyed. She wanted her baby, Ved, close by so she could hug him and feel secure in his embrace. He was the living reason for whom she sacrificed everything she thought was hers. She took out the bucket of ice-cream from the refrigerator and distracted herself with the idiot box. She did not know when she fell asleep on the sofa with the bucket of ice-cream melting on her T.V. Table.
The shrill of the bell woke her up. She saw the milky puddle near her feet when she wobbled out of the sofa. The T.V played the yoga program. She cursed herself for being so lousy and careless. The bell kept ringing continuously; she was scowling when she opened the door.
“Good Morning, Lux. I hope I did not disturb you.” He said with a smile which no one could resist. Not even Lakshmi in her present state. Her hair tousled and her clothes dishevelled. He looked at her and she could not have been more real. She simply stood there gaping at him while he took the opportunity and entered her home.
“I thought you would be hungry. So I brought some breakfast.” He said looking pointedly at the milky puddle of ice-cream.
She just managed to say “Huh! How did you know?” she thought for a while and only one name came to her mind who would have given Charles her address, Neeta.
He located the refrigerator which was at the far corner of the house with a modular kitchen. It was spic and span like that of an Iyer family. He kept the melting ice-cream into the fridge. He quickly set the package in his hand on the kitchen top. Quickly he scanned the kitchen for all the necessary things he wanted. She followed him into the kitchen still in state of confusion.
He held her slender shoulders and said, “Lux, please go and freshen up. I will fix the breakfast in the meanwhile.” Hearing her old nickname brought smile to her face.
“You shouldn’t be here.” She mumbled.
“I know.” He said with twinkle in his eye, “but right now you need to be back in the kitchen in exactly 10 minutes, so go.” He gave her slight push and she left without another word.
“I know.” He said with twinkle in his eye, “but right now you need to be back in the kitchen in exactly 10 minutes, so go.” He gave her slight push and she left without another word.
He quickly fixed some filter coffee and laid down the plates with steaming hot idli’s and sambar. The brewing coffee quickly brought Lakshmi back to her kitchen. She was surprised at how he looked at ease in her kitchen. He poured the coffee into the cups and sat down next to her.
“Where and how did you manage to get idli’s here?” she asked incredulously.
“When there is a will there is Charles.” He laughed. But when he saw her eyes narrowing, he quickly lied, “There is a small Indian kitchen to the south of Macau, which I was able to locate and it’s really expensive. In India I could have at least 4 plates for the price of one here.”
She laughed and he laughed. They heartily ate the breakfast talking about the food they get in Macau. They both admitted they were home sick and for the food in India. She admitted she still could not think of her day without coffee. She had to hunt a lot until she met a South Indian colleague who manages to get her filtered coffee from India. However she knew the Indian kitchen was a lie, she knew he had gone to lengths to manage this breakfast.
“Would you like another cup” she asked, offering to make it herself this time.
“Sure why not?” he said.
He went into the living room and strolled looking at various picture on the mantle. He guessed the boy with her in the pictures was Ved. An old lady in some pictures must be her aunt with whom she is staying. Nowhere was her husband to be seen. Neeta had not known much about that either, she assumed she was separated and never asked Lakshmi about it.
She came back with steaming two cups. She had stopped drinking coffee in small glasses like she used to right from her childhood. It felt strange to drink from the cup early in the morning at her aunt’s place but then she had gotten used to it now. She looked at Charles eyeing her pictures with Ved; she knew he had lots of questions to ask. But she did not want to indulge into them now.
“That’s Ved, whom you visited when he was just born.” She said
“He has the same eyes and smile like you.” He admitted. He pointed her aunt in the picture and looked questioningly.
“She is a distance aunt, living in Macau after her husband passed away for more than 15 years now. She was looking after an old lady here from whom she inherited this house.” She offered as an answer.
“That’s nice luck! I wish I could inherit something like this, it’s a pretty place.”
She had forgotten how easy it was to talk to Charles. She did not have to weigh her thoughts before she spoke.
“Well, I have to get back to work. It was fun to have breakfast with you.” He smiled his easy smile and headed towards the door.
Lakshmi wasn’t sure what to say other than “Thank you”. Just before he left he hugged her and lightly kissed her on the cheek.
He quietly said to her, “I am glad to see you are okay.” With that he left.
Later Lakshmi did not know whether she was crying, knowing that someone cared for her or whether she realized how much she missed him.
That went well he thought to himself. As Neeta had suggested he had gone easy on her without asking too many questions. At least she had not thrown him out of the house. Looking into her eyes he had sensed that she had missed him as well. Just like her not to admit such things. He had to slowly somehow make her feel comfortable in his presence. That was the plan to start with, he was glad he had an ally on his side.
Holding her and hugging her was out of his plan but he was pleased with himself that he did it. He felt a little sleepy now that he had woken up so early to arrange for this special breakfast cooked by a colleague’s wife. He believed that it was always good to know people who can cook well and you will never go to sleep starving. Of course now he owed to his colleague and his wife.
He had even looked up a small island that they could visit on the weekend. The only big task was how he would get her to agree to go with him, all by themselves.
With that thought in mind he attacked work and within no time it was evening. He thought of calling Lakshmi and checking on her. To gauge her reaction after his surprise visit today, he called her up.
“Hey Lux, what are you doing?” he asked casually.
“Hi, nothing much, I am at home watching TV.” She said surprised that he called. She was hoping he did. She felt quite comfortable after their morning encounter.
“Oh how boring? Would you like to go to this small restaurant near the chapel of Saint Francis?” he kept his fingers crossed.
She took some time before she could answer.
“Only if you would not bore me with your work stories” she said with a laugh.
They met at the chapel and Charles was careful not to ask any personal questions and let her just be herself. She was boisterous and carefree, just the way he had known her to be for a very long time. They joked and laughed as they dined at this small restaurant.
“I am sure the waiter could not believe that a girl could eat as much as the guy she is with. He would not just serve me, did you observe?” she said laughing, “he kept asking to serve you and I kept saying please if you can serve that to me.”
“I am glad to see you have not lost your usual appetite.” They were walking towards her home.
“And neither have you, Charlie.” she said laughing.
“Hey don't call me Charlie. He is an old buffoon from the Charlie’s angels. You know better.” he said.
They almost reached her home when he asked, “Till when do you have leave? I had something in mind.”
“Oh until next week, why what did you have in mind?” she asked cautiously.
He crossed his fingers while he asked, “Well the weekend is right around the corner and there is this amazing island which I wanted to visit.
She was expecting something like this from him. But how could she? She kept thinking and he did not probe her further, giving her time to answer.
She was walking on a tightrope right now. She was inclined to go with him and let loose. At the same time this would lead to complications ahead. For so long she avoided any kind of relationships that she was weary of them. But how long could she go on like this? This was Charles, not some random guy. Least she could do is spend some time with him.
Finally when they reached her home she surprised him by saying “What time on Friday are we leaving?”
Charles could not believe himself, he was prepared to hear a ‘no’ from her. He quickly told her before she changed her mind, “meet me at the port and we will take the last ferry from there.”
He lightly kissed her cheek and left.
On Friday evening, Lakshmi kicked herself for agreeing to this whole plan. Neeta had called her, she was expecting her call after the abrupt departure from the restaurant that day. But she had been kind not to scold her about Charles. She in fact agreed that catching up with him on the weekend was a good idea. But why was she agreeing, Lakshmi thought, she did not even know Charles.
She was not sure where they were staying or what outfits to pack. She gathered some of her best in the wardrobe. She had rarely been to the other side of the island. It was more like a sleepy village. She had by now picked up some vocabulary living in Macau. However her aunt was extremely fluent Cantonese and Portuguese speaker.
She waited for him near the Taipa terminal as instructed by Charles.
There he was sauntering inside the terminal, perhaps looking for her. She signalled him with a wave of her hand.
“Fantastic, shall we begin the journey?” he asked.
It was a short ride of twenty minutes. In the ferry ride he told her that he had booked them in a Banyan Tree Hotel. She had raised her eyebrows at the name as it was one of the famous hotels in south Macau.
Once they entered the hotel, she could not help but notice that the grandeur was dreamy and yet modern in the hotel. Her room, which was adjacent to Charles was extremely beautiful. She felt like a princess.
“Lux…” he clapped his hand to get her attention.
She smiled dreamily, “Thank you Charles, this room is fantastic.” And making a funny face she asked, “By the way who is paying for such luxury?”
Charles laughed, “Don’t worry, I get corporate discount. This hotel is one of our client.”
“Now do I like the sound of the word discount?” Lakshmi said.
She quickly jumped onto the fluffy bed throwing her handbag in a corner chair. “I am just loving it”
Charles just stood by the door looking at her and enjoying her reaction. He was till now very pleased with how everything was working out.
“Charles look there is a Jacuzzi in my room!” she exclaimed. “I don’t even know how to use it.”
Charles laughed, “Let me know when you want to use it and will show you.”
“Ok cool, let’s try it now, its big enough for both of us.” She gestured for him to change and come.
When Charles returned, Lakshmi was in her shorts and a t-shirt. The Jacuzzi sat right next to the bed adjoining the washroom. He started the jet and she gingerly got in. God definitely was helping him out today, everything was falling into place wonderfully. He could not help feeling steadfastly attracted to her, was it her long absence in his life or just that she is different now. Suddenly he was splashed with water.
“You are awfully quite, what are you thinking?” she asked “Come on in and forget about all the worries.” She invited.
They were enjoying the view out of the window, their room was on twentieth floor. They planned things they would see the next day, meanwhile Charles opened a bottle of red wine to sip while they enjoyed the hot jets. There were lot of splashing of water and laughing. Charles told her funny stories of his travels. She held his hand and looked at him dreamily.
“This is really nice Charlie” she said endearingly into his ears and kissed him. He could not believe it. She had not called him Charlie in ages. That was her teasing nick name for him. He kissed her back confidently, feeling totally relaxed in her company after a long time.
Their hands travelled on each other’s bodies finding new places to caress. Soon he was tugging her t-shirt away. Lakshmi hadn’t felt this way in a long time. She felt so comfortable in his arms. He was her buddy and a go to friend. Suddenly for last few days she has been extremely attracted to him. He has lost all of his chubbiness and formed good muscles. His eyes are searching, always something in her. She could not stop herself, maybe it’s the wine she thought, making her act all wild.
Her lacy bra was thrown away and now he was nibbling at her breasts. She moaned with pleasure and touched his hardening penis. She felt being lifted up and she squealed. He shushed her laughing and wrapped her in towel and jumped onto the bed finding her breasts with his mouth. She struggled to get his shorts off.
“Oh Charlie, get this off, please” she begged, tugging at his wet shorts. He locked his lips on hers and skilfully removed his shorts and hers. Lakshmi’s mind was whirling with desire as Charles was kissing her away at her most private part. She wriggled and sighed as he lay next to her touching her down and kissing her everywhere but on her lips. This was driving Lakshmi crazy, and then he left her side was on top of her and inside her at the same. She could feel him deep inside her, at first gently rocking back and forth. Then he was thrusting into her fast, she closed her eyes.
“Please Charlie, please.” She begged. He lowered himself and she claimed his lips biting softly as they came together at that moment. They rocked together holding each other lying on the bed with wet towels. She held on to him while he was still panting. They looked into each other’s eyes and acknowledged the beauty of it all.
“Should we shower?” he asked. She smiled and said “No, I like it just this way.”
“Come on, Lux.” He said. “I just did.” She winked and they both laughed.
“By the way Charles, were you planning to starve me in such a beautiful place?” she asked.
“Oh crap, I forgot about our dinner reservation in Belon at 8:30 PM.” He said.
“Oh wow, what are we waiting for, let’s get dressed. Thank God I got a dress.” She got out of the bed in a jiffy, “race you to the shower.” She said. He ran after her.
They showered together kissing and laughing together. She got dressed and waited for him. She had to literally kick him out of the room because after shower he just sat and watched her getting dressed.
The table was reserved at the secluded section of the restaurant with candles. The wall hanging and the décor gave the restaurant a magical sense.
“I must say you are doing this really well. You have had practice I am guessing.” She said.
“No, not many, but I am glad you are liking it.” He said. “What will you like to drink?”
“I already had enough wine” she complained.
“It’s okay, just enjoy, and now tell me what your favourite drink is? Is it still long island ice tea?” he asked winking.
“You remember.” She exclaimed, “You guys were bad, fooling a paavam girl like me. Telling her its iced tea and I had no clue how iced tea tastes. While all of you just kept laughing. Thank God, you told my parents I was staying with Srishti for our project. I was out of my mind blabbering rubbish. I can never forget the next day till date.”
“Oh yes, Srishti. She had gone home, she did not stay with us in our flat with everyone. It took Praha and me to put you to sleep.” He remembered.
They placed their order and she said, “It’s all rubbish, exaggerated story by you and dragged poor Praha in it.”
“You never believed it, why would I lie to you? You remember you did not speak to me for three months after that day. How much I had apologised but you were stubborn even then to accept.”
“What do you mean by even then?” she glared. “Of course I was angry, how you could fool me like that when I trusted you completely.”
“You were so worried about the exams I had thought you could relax a bit, but had you known, you would have never allowed it. But why am I explaining it all over again?” Charles was feeling guilty again and only she could make him feel like this again.
Those three months she had not spoken with him weren’t so bad as compared to the feeling that she found him untrustworthy. He did not know which was worst.
“Hey!” she held his hand, “I know, don’t explain. You are sweetheart Charlie, but thanks to that day I found out how much I really liked Long Island Iced Tea.” She laughed.
They spent the entire evening catching up on their friends and old stories. They enjoyed the delicious meal and headed for their rooms.
Once outside their rooms, she said, “Charles, I think you surrender your room anyway you are going to spend most of your time in mine.”
Charles kept looking at her incredulously, this bold Lakshmi, he was curious to know more. He will have to tell Neeta he got more than his expectation.
He went in her room and they made love again. This time with gentle teasing and slowly fell asleep.
Charles woke up and heard Lakshmi talking to someone over the phone outside in the balcony. He waited just inside of the balcony. From the conversation he knew she was talking to Ved. She looked at him and smiled. Soon she said her goodbye and promise to see him on Sunday when he returns.
“Good morning sleepy head” she was in his arms, he nuzzled into her nape. His beard bristling her skin. “You are tickling me” she said.
“Last night you did not complain.” He said. She blushed and it was fun for Charles to see her this way.
“Okay, I am ready. Showered and in my best. I have checked the breakfast is open only till 10:30 AM. So be quick it’s already ten.” She commanded wriggling herself from him.
“You showered?” he asked, “When did you get up?”
“Not important, I am an early riser. Come on get ready fast.” She scolded. Charles quickly went about his business. They had the wonderful breakfast spread they had to offer. Lakshmi was a much better company after being fed her breakfast, Charles thought. As they came out a small red Vespa was parked at the far corner of the hotel. “Is this our ride for the day?” she asked, disbelieving her eyes
“Yes I rented it, I love the colour of the Vespa.” He said admiring it like a small child.
They rode into the sleepy town of Coloane, it’s the most southern island of Macau, which remains untouched by the casino craziness.
Charles loved the way she held him tight more out of fear than possessiveness. Lakshmi did not know they were going on a scooter, her hair would tangled up by the time they reach. She did not even know where they were going. She will be better prepared if she knew. Thank God, she packed her shades in her bag.
“Where are we going?” she asked him over the wind.
“We are heading to the Hac sa beach, I have heard from my colleagues that it’s a beauty. They have small shacks where you can sit and chill with a cold beer.” He said excited.
“I just heard Beer, and all the excitement in your voice. Reminds me of our time in Goa.” She said. He laughed.
At the far end of the road she saw shimmering water in the sun and dark sand. She had never seen sand so black in colour. They parked the scooter under a makeshift palm leaves parking lot near the beach. From here you went on foot. The breeze further tangled her hair, she just tied them into a pony tail. Charles looked at her questioningly and she shook her head. She took the lead and he just followed her, she looked much younger with her hair in a ponytail and way prettier than he remembered. He caught up with her and held her hand.
The sand was soft and dark, a different kind of beach. A contrast of shimmering water on the dark sand, making it a beautiful scene. They both looked at each other and kissed. She broke from him blushing and pulling him towards water. She splashed water like a child and Charles joined in to play. Half wet from all foolhardy, they held each other and walked the beach until they found a small shack. They sat down and ordered beer for him and cocktail for her.
“So Ved is coming Sunday?” he asked her.
“Yes, would you liked to meet him?” she asked him closely looking at his expression.
“Of course, last time I saw him he was little.” He said.
“He would love to meet you. We hardly have visitors apart from my aunt’s friends and Neeta.” She said.
“Oooh, I have to get him something and you will tell me what right.” He asked.
“No you don’t have to, I want him to meet people without building an expectation that they should get something for him.” She said as a matter of fact.
“What do you even mean by that?” he made a face, “He is a child and I am meeting him for the first time. I will buy him something and you will tell me what he likes.”
“Please Charles, please don’t spoil him. You just meet him and I am sure he will love you without any gifts.” She insisted.
He knew they were heading towards an argument, he remembered how stubborn she gets in what she believed. He was meeting the child for the first time and he could not even buy him chocolates. That was ridiculous!
Their drinks arrived and they sat quietly looking at the ocean.
“Okay, just this time let me get something, I promise next time I won’t get anything.” He said. She kept looking at him pointedly. “There will be a next time right?” now he was not sure, with her it was such a challenge to know what she is thinking.
Lakshmi had a reality check and she did not want to think of anything. Nor her past or her future at this moment. She was here in this beautiful surrounding sipping her cocktail with gorgeous Charles. His eyes were again searching, searching for answers. She wanted to continue in this happy world for today. She could not believe she was behaving like a teenager with Charles. They have been buddies since college days and best of friends but she could not imagine she would behave like this with him. He was a good and caring man, I can’t hurt him. With Vivek, he minded his business and she minded hers. They hardly spoke to each other, hardly shared a bed as lovers. Sex was a need they both fulfilled and along came Ved. She always had soft corner for Charles right from the college days. Three months that she had not spoken to him were the hardest in college. He had broken her trust and she knew he cared deeply. Thinking about it after so long feels stupid. But right now she was falling for him.
He could not take in her silence anymore, “Lux, what are you thinking?”
“Nothing, lets enjoy the view. It’s beautiful Charles, isn’t it?” she asked. “Yes, it is.” He answered but he knew just this moment something had changed.
They later had late lunch at Fernando’s, they had really delicious food. It was just like this sleepy town, laid back in their service. They chatted about their friends, he gave her update of whatever he knew. He wasn’t much in touch with them, just occasional chats and posts on Facebook. He later took her to Lord Stow’s bakery which was famous for its egg tarts.
“This is delicious, not too sweet and crispy” she said relishing it.
“My team members recommended all these places.” He said gleaming that she liked it. “Should we head back to the hotel?” he asked.
“What have you planned for the evening?” she asked sheepishly.
“Just a table by the sea in La Gondola, simple Italian food.” He said.
“Wow, Italian I love pastas. Perfect planning, at least I know what to wear.” She teased. She held his hand and kissed his fingers. She was being foolhardy but she could not help herself. He had planned well, everything till now. She would not have believed if someone told her Charles could plan such things. She always took him to be someone who made plan on the go. She was rediscovering him and totally liking it.
They returned to the hotel and had another round of dipping into the Jacuzzi and this time they did not bother with clothes.
Charles was having a hard time controlling himself not to bite her lips away. The more he kissed them, the more he wanted them. Her tits were calling him, teasing him every time they brushed his chest. He touched them gently at first, they were taut and aroused. He pinched them hard while he had locked his lips on her mouth. She gasped and he pinched them harder. She screamed in pain and begged him to suck them. With one hand he grabbed her nipple and sucked the other hard. She moaned pulling his hair. He continued giving attention to both of them equally. Her hand found his penis and held it hard, squeezing it, not knowing what else to do. She was going crazy with pleasure. Why had she never felt this way before? Vivek always had been in and out till he climaxed, that’s all she knew. She shouldn’t think of him now. She was enjoying far too much to think of useless things.
He slowly pulled her hand away and held both her hands in a strong grip. He bit her slowly on her inner thighs, she shuddered almost wriggling her hands out of his grip. His tongue was exploring all the areas near her vagina. He slowly moved his tongue towards her now aching below and found the exact spot she wanted him to touch. She screamed his name loudly and she did not know how many times. His hand kept holding her hands as she trembled under his touch. She felt something exploding inside her. He kept on going harder, she lost count how many times she orgasmed till she felt she will melt away. She brought her thighs closer near his face and begged him to stop in between her long breaths. He quizzically looked at her, “But why he asked? You were enjoying weren’t you?” he asked doubtfully.
He left the grip of her hands and stood up. She motioned him to lay next to her. As soon as he did she hugged his warm body and he put his wide arms around her. They lay in the quietness for a long time.
Charles looked at Lakshmi’s face while she snoozed off in his arms. She had a sheen on her face and the dim lights made it look angelic. She was thinner he remembered than her last time he saw her, of course then she had delivered Ved. He could not take his eye of her face, he touched it lightly and outlined it. She opened her eyes and kissed him. He had completely fallen for this new bold Lakshmi. He was in love with her even in their college days, but he knew it was never going to be long term for them. She had been very clear what her future in this matter was. As soon as she completed her masters she will be married off to some guy of her parents’ choice. He never told her anything about his feelings, she was too focused on her studies so he knew she wasn’t into him.
Soon after college, they both started working. While he got an offer to work in Philippines, she was working with a big consulting firm. Before he left for Philippines she had met him at his house. She had seemed teary and emotional that he was going away so far. Within a year of him going to Philippines, she informed him she was getting married and moving to Chennai. They exchanged many emails, he was asking her why Chennai and she had replied it was her parents’ choice. She sent him the invitation card and asked him to come. She was marrying a guy called Vivek, whom she had met just twice before they got married and some phone calls. He could not bring himself to attend her wedding and made excuses.
He did meet few girls in the next few years, but however they always fell short of something. Then he learnt that she was expecting a baby, they had kept in touch via emails, chats and sometimes even video calls. He always felt she was not herself, not her happiest self. Luckily when Ved was born she was in her parents’ home and he was back home as well for holidays. He had been to meet her and see her child. She had been distant busy being a new mom. They chatted whatever little time she could spare. He met them couple of times that holiday, once he was able to meet Vivek. They had polite conversation having nothing in common. When he returned to Philippines, there was an email from Lakshmi, apologising for not able to give him enough attention while he came to her place. She was always feeling guilty for no meaningful reason. The conversation between them through any medium became sparse. He assumed she was busy with Ved, she had quit her work to be a full time mother. He always admired her focus and dedication, her spirits. Few months had passed by and there was absolutely no conversation. He then began to get hold of her and started to worry about her.
And now here she was lying on his arms with no care in the world. He cannot imagine his luck. He was sure of one thing, she was definitely separated from Vivek or else she would never imagine being with another man, be it him. He will give her time to be comfortable to be able to tell him why she was here. He woke her up gently. She grabbed him tighter and looked up. Her eyes were glistening but she remained quiet, he did not know what to do. He kissed her forehead and mumbled incoherent words. She quickly left the bed and stood in front of him, “I am sorry Charles.”
“Why?” he was thoroughly confused. What was happening?
He held her shoulders and she hugged him. On his nape he could feel her tears, he tried to pull her to face him but she would not budge.
“Tell me why?” he demanded.
“I have not been a good friend and you have only been kind to me always.” She wept.
“Shhh, enough. Everything is for reason Lux.” He replied calmly.
“I treated you so badly when we met. I shouldn’t have, you had been so worried.” She continued, “Yet look at us, you have embraced me without any questions.”
He pulled her hard to face him, she was still crying. “Why are crying Lux, isn’t this good? I am just plain happy to see you after two years. No one was able to tell me where you are, not even your family. I have been worried sick. Imagine my relief when I saw you outside the bar. I could not believe my eyes.”
He wiped her tears, “Imagine you in Macau, if anyone would have told me you are here. I would not have believed them.” He smiled.
“Why wouldn’t you believe?” she asked suspiciously.
“What do you eat here? There is hardly anything vegetarian.” He laughed. She hit him with her fists and the tension melted away. He wasn’t yet ready to hear and nor was she to tell. It could wait.
They showered together, this time there was no teasing but only admiration of each other. She insisted on getting dressed without him looking. He wasn’t too happy but he agreed. He patiently waited for her. He was dressed in his denims, loafers and open casual white shirt, a classic combination.
He whistled when she came out of the washroom. She was looking stunning. She wore a flowy white dress up to her knees teamed with a short denim jacket and long white dangling earrings. She was wearing white pumps, making her look as tall as him.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, “Now we look like a band.” He laughed only after realising why she said that.
“Please don’t change, you look beautiful.” He said. “Now I wish I had booked a table at some fancy restaurant”
“Oh common on, flattery doesn’t suit you.” She mocked him.
He suddenly grabbed her and kissed her hard, she melted in his kiss. When he broke the momentum she was left wanting more. She couldn’t imagine she could feel like this bashful and yet full of desire.
He found it funny that she looked hurt that he broke the kiss. “Let’s go…” he pulled her out of their room.
“Please tell me Charles we are not going by Vespa. The time I have taken to manage my tangles, you cannot imagine.”
“No I have ordered a cab.” He rolled his eyes, women and their funny problems.
Lakshmi could not help but admire that he looked good. His hair got a bit ruffled during their kiss, the V that was visible of his chest was so desirable at that moment.
“Are you checking me out?” He asked her. She blushed being caught in her act.
“In your dreams.” she chided.
They naturally held hands and were lost in thoughts on their way to restaurant. The restaurant was like a dream. She was glad she decided to wear the short jacket, the breeze was chilly near the sea. They got a table facing the sea and a candle light. They ordered drinks and some food. He sat next to her and they both relaxed with their foot resting on stools.
“Let’s take a picture together.” He said. They took couple of shots with the phone camera.
“Charles can I ask you something?” she said, “don’t get upset. It’s wonderful all of this truly.”
“What?” he asked cautiously.
“Why haven’t you got married yet?” she asked.
He smiled, thank God, that was an easy question. “Just, did not find any right girl.”
“Really?” she asked. “Yes, really, why do you have a doubt?” he asked.
“You are good Charles, any girl would be lucky to have you.” She said beaming.
“And do you feel lucky then?” he chuckled
She got quiet and looked at him strangely. “Am I lucky, Charles?” she asked him softly.
He turned to look at her, should he answer this honestly, he did not know. Is it too soon? Or has he already lost enough time.
His hesitation confused Lakshmi, he is doing all the right things, is it all a show? She hasn’t told him anything, she should not judge him this way. He has all the right to know he has been her closest friend.
“What are these funny questions are you asking?” he laughed “I think the wine has got to you.”
“Yes I guess so.” She replied falsely. “Let’s walk on the beach, what say?”
She shivered slightly as they walked along the beach in the moon light. His arms protectively encircled her arms. In the distant they were playing the Spanish guitar at the restaurant. It was truly a magical evening. Their feelings were in an upheaval and yet they wanted to be in this magical evening without it turning sour. The rhythmic sound of the waves were calming their nerves.
“Lakshmi, why did you leave Vivek?” he finally asked the most difficult question.
She looked dismayed as the magic was over and reality dawned. She had to give him answers. She had now gone ahead and made their friendship complicated as well.
“You know I married him as my parents wished for it. We had nothing in common. He was the marketing head in the IT company and I got transferred in Chennai, lucky me. At least I got to go to work to a different environment every day. Weekends were bad. We only argued over everything. We barely had sex, he won’t even get close to me. I lived in self-doubt and then loathing that there was something wrong with me. My parents started asking me to do everything traditionally maybe he liked it that way. They said maybe I was too modern for him. I cooked all meals as per his likings, celebrated all small and big festivals as it should be done. On his birthday, I got him a bat which was autographed by Sachin Tendulkar.” She paused.
“Yes you had mentioned and I remember you paid a bomb for it.” Charles said.
“Life just went by in silence and self-loathing. On my birthday, he did get cake and a perfume bottle for me. Silly me, I was just happy with that gesture. I still remember on the day I told him I was pregnant, I hoped things would change. He just saw me blankly and asked how I will manage with my work. That question broke me, I asked him what is wrong with us, especially me? He found it funny that I thought something was wrong. My pregnancy was miserable, I had no support from him when I used to feel sick nor he had any interest. Once I had to be in Bangalore for a conference and he was already on tour. I could not even reach him to inform him I will be in Bangalore. Trust me Charles I tried, really hard to make the marriage work.” She said. He nodded and squeezed her had reassuring her that he understood.
“My office had booked me in one of the prominent hotels and at breakfast table guess whom do I see, Vivek with another man. I rushed to meet him, I could not believe the coincidence. I was six months pregnant then, already walking the duck walk. He was so surprised to see me that he fumbled while introducing me to his colleague. His colleague eyed me funnily and asked me how long before I was due. I had found that conversation strange. Vivek later scolded me that I should have called him, was I even fit to travel he had asked. I was moved by his concern that I ignored to tell him that I had tried but he wasn’t reachable. He said he had already checked out and going back home. I begged him to stay with me and take some leaves. He said he could not and left. I had quit my job and gone to my parents’ home for delivery. We barely spoke and my parents were surprised. My mother assured me, after the baby he will change and we will have blissful life. He came Ved was born, at least on that day. He seemed genuinely happy to see our baby, he even hugged me. I was so happy. He stayed with us for few days when you had met him. Those days were erratic, I had no clue how days went by, the only thing I kept doing was feeding Ved. Finally after few months I left for Vizag with my mother. She offered to help me out initially. Vivek had come to pick us up, he was an ideal son in law. My in laws came in to help as well. They are old but sweet in nature. I hardly met Vivek during those days, I would catch up on sleep whenever I could. He had started coming home later and later. Once I left Ved with my mother and went out. I had to buy new clothes, everything I owned had become smaller in size. I was passing a hotel on my way to a mall when I saw Vivek with the same colleague I had met in Bangalore, entering it. I immediately went after them to say hello. As I soon as I reached the entrance I saw them checking in to the hotel. I was confused, he had told me he was flying to Hyderabad for work that day and will be back the next day. As they left the reception desk, I saw Vivek walk with this man to the elevator. I was hidden by a small pillar, I was transfixed. I could see them walk towards the elevator and then they got in. Before the elevator door closed completely I saw Vivek press his lips on to this man. My world had shattered, I was shattered. I was furious with myself. I could not believe what I saw. I lived with him for almost 4 years and I never even guessed. I only blamed myself.” She sobbed, Charles held her close. This news was shattering, he could not believe.
“I had to tell my parents, they did not believe me. I told his parents and neither did they believe me. They agreed to meet at our place and confront Vivek. When he came home he was surprised to see all of them. When they asked him, he lied and blamed me instead for lying. He said that I was not happy in this relationship and so I was making up stories. He showed us the boarding pass. Both set of parents were angry with me and counselled me that I should come to my senses. I called my sister, she believed me but could not influence my parents. In meanwhile Vivek was at his worst and warned me if I continued my charade he would snatch away Ved from me. That was the last straw, I had made up my mind to leave him. I read about all the laws involving a separation with a child. I got in touch with my cousin sister who was in Australia if I could come and work there. But that did not work out. Day by day I was getting desperate to get out of this awful, lying and threatening relationship. One of my aunt, with whom I am living now called me just casually. I broke down and told her everything, she was worried about me. She offered to talk to my parents and I refused. Instead I begged her If I could come and stay with her. She really liked the idea. In a few days she had spoken to her lawyer and he had offered me a job in his office and help with the visa. Ved had turned 1 and we had a small celebration. Vivek had the cheek to call his colleague and introduce to both set of parents as a very close friend at work. He was teasing me, instigating me to cry foul. I had to keep my Macau plan hidden. I had already started the process of separation and filed it in the court. When Vivek was sent the notice at work to appear in court he was furious. He called me twenty five times before he came to the court. We had to just sign some papers, thankfully my auntie’s lawyer had good friends in Chennai. They helped me constantly and Vivek was forced to sign the final separation documents. They had blackmailed him about the colleague with whom he was having an affair. Later I came to know his name was Raman. My parents disowned me and said they never wanted to see my face again. I stayed with my cousin in Chennai in all this turmoil. She was living alone in company quarters but I managed to keep even from her my plans to completely relocate the Macau.” She sighed.
“All this prolonged for almost six months, I knew Vivek had moved to Bangalore living with Raman now. He had called me to make arrangements to see Ved, but I denied it. I could hear he had broken something on the other end of the phone and I had to move away fast. I was feeling bad lying to my sister who sheltered me for six months but there was no other way. I told her I had found a job and moving away, part of it was true. I landed here and my aunt became the support I needed from my family. I really owe her a lot, she is the sweetest and one of the most influential in the Indian community in Macau.”
Charles was flabbergasted with the entire story. He felt her struggle, confusion and helplessness. He kissed her gently, “You are one brave woman Lakshmi and I love you for it.”
On their last night at the hotel, Charles held her close in bed, “Lux, I have a question to ask.” He said.
“This is the night of revelations, ask away” she smiled, while she inhaled his essence.
“Why didn’t you even think of telling me any of this? Why go through it all alone?” he asked her.
“Well, please try to understand I was at my lowest point in life, my self-confidence was at its rock bottom. I did not want to disturb you, you were so far away. If I would have mentioned anything of this, I know you would have immediately flown in to meet me. Also this was my fight against everything I believed in, everyone I listened to and that nasty man, I believed to be my husband.” She chocked.
“I am really sorry you had to go through this alone. I am here now and I don’t intend to ever leave you alone.” he said, holding her in a tight embrace.
“Why?” she asked simply. Lakshmi realised she had been yearning this whole weekend to hear this answer. Why was Charles so hurt, why was he going to such lengths for her, is it more than their friendship? She was going to get that answer tonight.
Charles knew he could not run away from this anymore, he had been since college. Now the situation was different and she is different.
“You know why, and I think you have always known because I love you, I was in love with you for a long time. You know what else I have madly fallen in love with this new, bold Lakshmi.” He said kissing her lightly on her lips.
She kissed him back and said, “I love you too Charles and I have just started discovering the most wonderful side of you.”
Heightened with love in the air, they both made love that night declaring again and again how much they loved each other.