Santosh Chauhan climbed up the majestic banyan tree that adorned his garden. The aerial roots created the ethereal canopy that was his sanctuary. He gazed into the intricately carved windows of his haveli, the geometric designs showcasing the craftsmanship born of consummate skill, patience, and unwavering love.

Seventeen-year-old Santosh carried the swag of his teenage years and the aura that was a perquisite his social strata granted him. He waited impatiently for Veda Rathod to emerge from next door. They were the same age and had journeyed from babyhood to their teenage years as playmates. Veda was the love of his life, and he couldnt imagine a life without her. Santosh wanted to be a doctor and Veda, a lawyer.

Santosh jumped down, the sweeping movement of his lithe body poetic in its grace. His dark eyes set deep in his fair face, and the toned muscles gave him the nimbleness of a deer.

Padosi!” He called over the fence. She turned around, smiling. Her eyes were attractive, mysterious pools. She looked resplendent in her yellow dress.

Your feet are never on the ground, are they?” She asked, laughing.

"I have something to tell you. Let us go to our tree.” He beckoned.

We have a world of memories here, Veda.” He said this as they sat down. Do you remember the time when the red ants bit us?”

Veda giggled. Gosh! Yes, and I buried your favourite toy car under that apricot tree. You almost killed me!”

Santosh looked sheepish and then turned serious.

I love you, Padosi. Will you be my girlfriend?

Veda looked aghast. Padosi, you are my dearest friend, but I have never thought of you as a boyfriend. I am seeing Vinit from my college, and we plan to pursue law in Delhi.”

Santoshs face turned pale.

I dont want this to ruin our precious friendship, Padosi." Veda pleaded.

Never! He was silent and then broke into a smile.

Will you share a snack with me like we used to, every day before you leave for Delhi?” He asked.

Of course, Padosi,” Veda promised.

Santosh opened two identical snack boxes of cut apricots sprinkled with almonds and pistachios—their favourite childhood snack—and held one out to her.

Thank you, Padosi. I am so glad I can talk to you about Vinit. He is really sweet. She chirped, munching happily.

Santosh nodded, though his eyes looked sad.

I have been feeling fatigued and feverish of late, Padosi.” She said.

Just rest, my friend.” He looked concerned while he hugged her.

Four weeks later,.

The light had gone out of his dark eyes, and he was slumped beside Vedas cold and motionless body. Life had seeped out of her an hour ago.

He looked at the powdered raw apricot kernels in his palm that he had been lacing her fruit with. He did not need the cyanide it contained anymore.

Thank you for the last four weeks, my love. Mine forever," he whispered, kissing her forehead.

Photo Credit – Zach Reiner Unsplash

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