If the moon could be called romantic, then that night’s moon would be it. No hint of clouds in the sky, the stars were shining like luminescent stardust and in their middle shone the full moon with all its majestic beauty.
The breeze was strong, and cold, and biting. One could feel it’s chill in their bones. But it was to be expected. Winter nights are the coldest, yet they could also be the most beautiful.
And that night was such a night.
A beautiful night.
A beautiful night to die.
Bindya opened her eyes.
Maybe wearing something warmer wouldn’t have hurt, she thought.
But here she was, in her nightdress, barely covering her body past her thighs, standing on the wide guardrail of the bridge, staring at the darkness beneath her.
Well, it won’t matter once you’re dead.
It was a small bridge that sat across a narrow depth that more or less looked like a crack in the hill that split it to its very bottom. Along the narrow crack flowed a small stream that originated in a small waterfall higher up the hill.
It was a beautiful hill. And also the largest amongst the many hills that surrounded the city.
She took a step towards the edge of the guardrail. Oh, she was nervous alright. The sound of water clashing with the rocks felt amplified at night. It sounded a little scary.
And she was definitely scared.
Ok, she could do this.
She could do this.
She could do this.
Just one more step and it would all be over. Just one more step. Just one more…
“Want a cigarette?”
A voice came from her right.
She turned and saw a boy sitting on the same guardrail, with his legs hanging outside of the bridge, looking up at the night sky as he smoked a cigarette.
Where the hell did he come from? she thought.
She had been there for some time and was all alone when she had arrived. Then how come she didn’t notice his presence?
“Who…Who are you?” she called out. Confusion and apprehension clouded her mind.
“Akash here,” he informed without looking at her.
But soon after, he slowly turned his face towards her.
The bright moonlight washed both of them as they stood and sat on the guardrail. Bindya could now see half of his face and most of his body in a blue-ish glow, while the rest hid in his own shadow.
A dark jacket covered his slim torso. He wore a pair of loose-fitting jeans and…were those sandals? She couldn’t tell. His face was narrow with a sharp jawline and a pointed chin. His head was blessed with thick but messy hair and his big puppy eyes looked as if they were almonds.
For some reason, he looked familiar.
“Are you… from my school?” she asked.
“Yeah,” was all he said.
Bindya scanned her memory for a bit and then finally recognized him.
He was the boy who never really talked to anybody and was always found hanging out with his huge friend, Dhruv, who was their school’s best football player.
The girls she was friends with did talk about them, especially the two boys. They were pretty popular amongst them. They thought the two boys looked cute and had a certain ‘bad-boy’ or ‘messed-up’ charm.
But they were also pretty infamous. The tall guy, Dhruv Kapoor, was considered a bully and short tempered while the other, him, was called xenophobic and anti-social.
She herself had seen Dhruv lift a dude by his shirt who had shoved Akash while they were having some kind of argument during their football match. The guy would have probably received a black eye had Akash not made Dhruv to calm down.
She had always found it odd how a quiet boy who sometimes just looked at you in a weird way—as if he was scanning and taking notes about you—and a tall boy who got angry at the slightest provocation were such close friends.
She would admit that she herself was sometimes curious about this handsome silent boy.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Same thing as you probably,” he replied. “I’m here to kill myself.”
“What?” questioned Akash when he saw her staring blankly at him.
“Can you do it like tomorrow?” she requested.
“What? Why?” asked Akash. He wasn’t expecting that.
“Can you die tomorrow?” she repeated. “Or maybe somewhere else? I would prefer if I didn’t have to share my dying spot, especially with someone I didn’t know.”
“But, you know me,” replied Akash.
“Yeah, I know you but not like know know you,” she said.
And they called him weird, thought Akash. Were they seriously fighting over not sharing the same spot to die?
“Umm…I don’t know any other spot. Besides, why does it matter? It’s not like we would care once we are, y’ know, dead,” Akash said plainly.
She didn’t respond to that. Both of them embraced silence for some time.
Another strong breeze went past them. Bindya’s nightdress fluttered elegantly. Moonlight reflected from her white dress, making her look ethereal. Her long hair blew in the wind making her locks dance along. They sometimes caressed her soft pale cheeks and sometimes kissed her soft full lips.
“… I still don’t want to die with a stranger,” she said, breaking the silence. “Do you realize how that would look? I don’t want tomorrow’s headlines to be something like ‘Teen couple committed suicide! A tale of forbidden love?’ I don’t even know you and we would be declared as star-crossed lovers!”
“You know, for someone who is about to kill herself, you are awfully worried about how you would look post-death,” pointed Akash. “Besides, What do you think people would say anyways when they find that the heir to the powerful Shah industries was dead under a bridge in her night dress? It definitely won’t be ‘A brave teenage girl committed suicide. She went in the flames of glory!’”
That deflated Bindya. How rude! But he had a point, and she didn’t have a counter to that.
“Can’t you kill yourself with throat cancer or something?” she asked. “Y’know with all that smoking and stuff?”
“It would take a lot of cigarettes and a lot of time. It would also be expensive,” he answered.
“What about slitting your wrist or your throat?”
“Train or Car accident?”
“Too dramatic, and it would also put some other guy in trouble just because I fancied to become a road kill.”
“How about Burning or Drowning yourself?” She asked.
“Again, too painful and as much as I don’t care about what happens to me after death, I have seen pictures of drowned corpses. I really don’t want to look like that.”
They both went quiet again.
Huh, people weren’t kidding when they said he was weird to talk to, thought Bindya, but then realized she was also being weird.
“Why don’t you do all the stuff that you suggested me?” asked Akash.
Same reasons as yours, thought Bindya but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t get hold of sleeping pills and she didn’t have a car of her own to try carbon monoxide poisoning. The only car she had was driven by her driver, who she knew wouldn’t allow her to do such a thing. Heck, she even came to the bridge on her silly little scooty.
“You want a cigarette? It’s kinda cold out here,” he said, bringing her out of her thoughts.
“Wait, what? Are you seriously offering me a cigarette?” she asked. “You do know it’s not good for your health right?”
“So is jumping off this bridge,” he replied.
She hesitated a bit, but then walked closer to him.
“Fine,” she relented and sat beside him.
He brought his packet in front of her, from which she took one out. He then replaced the packet with a lighter.
She lit her cigarette and took a huge puff.
A sigh escaped her as the cigarette brought some peace and warmth to her body. It was only a few moments later did she realize what she had done.
Her face turned pink with embarrassment.
“Huh, so you are already a smoker,” pointed Akash. “So much for that lame health warning.”
Damn, he caught me, thought Bindya.
“Sorry,” she said as she blushed. “But seriously, do you offer a cigarette to everyone you meet?”
“No,” he said. “But figured if you are stressed and depressed enough to kill yourself, then you wouldn’t mind a puff to calm the nerves. Before we extinguish our lives that is.”
They sat together for some time in the moonlight, enjoying the cigarette and the silent company.
“So uh, why do you want to commit suicide?” she asked, a bit hesitant.
He let out the smoke from his nose as he looked forward towards their city. It looked like a bunch of pearls scattered on the ground.
“Because I’m good for nothing,” he answered plainly.
Ok, thought Bindya and waited.
She thought he was going to add more to it so she waited.
It didn’t come.
“Wait, that’s all?” she asked. Okay, that might have come out as a bit insensitive, but she couldn’t understand why that would be reason enough to want to kill oneself.
Akash let out a deep breath. He leaned back on his arms and hung back his head, looking at the stars.
“It’s … hard to live a life knowing that you have done something wrong but not sure what. It’s hard to see your loved one act happy, and nice, and caring, but you know that deep inside they are in pain and you have this deep-seated feeling that it is you who might have something to do with it.” His body might be there but Bindya didn’t think his mind was anymore.
“And you can’t escape it and you can do nothing about it. It’s also hard to live a life seeing someone not giving a damn about the loved one, and you have to keep pretending that you have no idea what’s going on.”
Bindya could see moonlight starting to reflect from his eyes. “You try to at least make your family proud of you, to meet their hopes and demands, but you fail miserably at that too,” he finished with a small chuckle. That chuckle was probably the saddest one she had ever heard.
“Umm, have you tried like talking to them about it?” she asked. She wasn’t sure if she had any right to counsel him considering she was also there for what he was.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“They pretend as if they don’t know what I am talking about. They pretend that everything is fine and that I shouldn’t care. They pretend as if it’s all perfect. Dandy. Blissful. Peachy.” He threw the cigarette butt into the ravine before taking out another one. “It makes me sick. I am tired of such bull crap.”
They both again fell in silence for a moment as he offered another cigarette to Bindya, which she accepted.
“What about you?” he asked.
A surge of emotions swelled in her chest. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t even know if she could speak about it. She lit her cigarette and took a huge puff from it.
Then she looked at him.
Should she tell him about her heart’s deepest secrets? The secrets that she never even told Robin. He did, so it’s fair that she told him about her as well. Bindya looked down at the chasm below them and took another deep puff of the cigarette.
Well, if they were both going to kill themselves, might as well release the burden that had been weighing on her heart for so long.
“What do you know about me?” she asked him.
Akash hesitated but answered. “The most successful, famous, rich and good looking girl in school and maybe in the whole city. The scion of Shah industries, a multi-billion dollar industry which has its wings all over the globe. Everyone wonders what such a powerful family is doing in such a city as ours when they should be in New Delhi or Mumbai or London or New York.”
“This is my mother’s hometown and she prefers that I grow up here,” she informed. “So you know that I’m rich and famous, yet I only have one true friend. Funny isn’t it?” she said.
“Wait, what?” He asked, confused. “What do you mean one? You are always surrounded by girls and guys.”
She abruptly stood up and crushed her cigarette under her bare foot.
“Yes! The gorgeous! The sexiest! The smartest! The most popular! Miss Bindya Shah! The boys want her! The girls want to be like her! She has it all!” she shouted loudly which echoed beneath them. Her tone was mocking and she posed for an imaginary crowd in front of her.
“The ‘It’ girl! The rising supermodel! Or maybe a future business tycoon! What can’t she do? She is the dream that everyone wants!”
Her hands balled into a fist.
“All anyone wants is a piece of me.”
Her voice came out strangled. Her jaws tightened. Her teeth grit against each other and her nose was now burning.
“I am either a piece of meat for consumption or a mannequin for someone to dress up. And if I am none of those then I am a snobby, stuck-up, arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic bitch because I refuse the advances of perverts.”
Her voice increased as she continued. “How dare I refuse them? Oh, they went and got me expensive or rare flowers? Oh, they were being nice to me? Well then obviously I am now obligated to go on a date with them. Or sleep with them, despite me being underage and uninterested.”
She started coughing as she got out of breath. “When mum takes me to big parties or events in big cities, I see their looks. I can see it clearly what they are thinking, what they are imagining. They do not even hide it when my mum isn’t looking. I am the goose that lays golden eggs. I am a jackpot in bed and in their bank account. Oh, how they wish I turn 18 as soon as possible…”
Bindya relaxed her fingers and sat down. She was exhausted. “I am lusted upon by old men and young boys alike. If not, I am the target of others’ hatred and jealousy. Oh, she aced her exams? What a bitch. Oh, she is great at sports? What a bitch. Everyone is after her? What a slut!” Her voice lost its energy.
“And these people, they are everywhere. Everywhere I look, I see those eyes, I see those looks, I see the hunger. And nobody protects me from them. Everyone thinks that just because I am rich, all my concerns are invalid…”
Akash could see a drop of tear dangling from her nose. It shone in the moonlight before falling into the darkness.
“The one who should protect me and the one who I crave attention the most from…is never there for me. And I am tired of feeling vulnerable. I am tired of feeling alone.”
It was getting difficult to speak further. Her beauty and her social status had been nothing but a curse. The thought of sex did nothing but disgust her anymore because every time she thought about it, all she could see in front of her were the lecherous looks of old men, and young men, boys…
All of them.
She had tried to avoid everyone by immersing herself in sports and books. She tried to communicate with as less people as possible. But she didn’t know if she could go on like this.
They again fell back to their silence.
Several minutes passed by, and yet no one spoke a word. Both of them lost in their own thoughts. Both stared into the dark abyss beneath them where they presumed their bodies would be found the next day.
“Well this is it then,” said Bindya, finally. “How about it? let’s jump toge—”
“Don’t do it.” Akash interrupts.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“Don’t…Don’t kill yourself.” He said.
She stared at him.
“You… you said you have nobody to lean on to, no one to cling to. You said you don’t have anyone who protects you.”
His breathing became heavy.
“I … I have never felt wanted,” he started. “ I have always felt that I was the reason of everyone’s problems. That they all would be better off without me. That no one needs me.”
The breeze came again. It was cold. It was damp. Yet, both of their bodies were burning with emotions.
“Let me protect you,” He finally said.
Bindya was stumped. “What?”
Akash looked at her. He stared right at her hazel eyes. “Let me protect you. Let me be that person whom you could rely upon.”
“I…I…” she didn’t know what to say to him. She didn’t even know him.
“I meant,” he cleared. “That you can call me whenever you need somebody. I, I would like it if I mean something to someone, in any way that is.”
Bindya just sat there and stared at him. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. And she wasn’t sure she was processing the whole thing right.
“You want to be…my…”
He wanted to be the one whom she could call when she wanted somebody. What did that mean? What did that make him?
“Friend. Just a friend. I would like to be your friend whom you could rely upon,” he said. “I don’t have bad intentions of any kind, It’s just… I would like to feel like I have a purpose too,” he finally confessed.
Bindya kept staring at him. She was at a loss for words. She then again looked down at the waters flowing several feet below them.
That’s where her fate should have been by then. She should have already become history, a memory.
She kept looking at him, locking her eyes with him as he looked back at her.
She searched his eyes for that look. That very look that she had seen in all the men that she had come across. The look that always hid a predator within.
She…she didn’t see it.
All she saw was an openness in those eyes. She also saw a plea in them.
She also saw vulnerability in them.
Just like hers.
He…he seemed genuine.
She already had Robin as a friend, but, it was always Robin who needed her help. She never had anyone whom she could depend upon.
Should she accept what he was offering?
“Umm, can I hug you?” she finally asked. She was pretty sure her complexion went all red when she said that, but she was dying for someone to comfort her.
Akash was startled too.
“Uh…umm…uh…yeah sure,” he said, feeling the blush creeping upon him as well.
He scooted closer to where Bindya was sitting.
There was no longer a gap between them. Bindya looked at him and Akash looked at her. They were very close to each other.
Akash then realized something. He took off his jacket and put it over Bindya.
Only when she got the jacket did it dawn on Bindya about the current state of her and her partial nudity.
And the guy she was partially nude with.
Suddenly she realized how cold it actually was outside. She started freezing.
While simultaneously blushing like a tomato.
They both shared a glance at each other for another moment, before Bindya leaned onto him. Akash shifted a bit so she could have easier access to him.
Bindya rested her head on his chest and put her arms around his waist as Akash put his arms around her shoulders, covering her.
They both stayed like that for a minute.
She didn’t feel it.
She waited for some more time. But it did not come.
That repulsive feeling, that lecherous aura, she waited for any sign of them to turn up.
And Akash did not make any funny move at her either. He just held her. Made sure that she didn’t fall off.
“Yeah,” she finally blurted, still hugging him. “I mean… sure, I guess we can be…friends.”
Akash didn’t respond. He just held her and looked up at the sky.
“It is a beautiful night, tonight,” he said.
“Mhm,” she said, basking in his warmth. It was the first time she was ever hugging someone so close. It was the first time a hug felt so… safe.
“Want to look at them a bit more comfortably?” he asked
“Yeah?” she replied.
Akash then scooted back and spread his legs a little.
“Go on, you can put your head on my lap and look at the sky,” he said.
Bindya blushed hard again. Okay, maybe this was all going too fast. Maybe this was all too awkward. Maybe she should back out of all this. Or better, maybe she should just jump off the bridge and be done with all this.
She looked into his eyes again. Will that be the moment where he would make a move? Will that be the moment where he would show his true colors?
She couldn’t see any signs of such feelings in his eyes.
She laid her head on top of his lap and covered her body with his jacket. The heat emanating from his body and his jacket engulfed her. She felt warm.
She felt comfortable.
They both were again left in silence. They could hear the crickets in the bushes. They could hear the splashing sounds of the stream below. Other than that, silence.
But the silence this time wasn’t awkward. It was…nice. Friendly.
They both just looked up and stared at the stars. Some were really bright and some were not, some looked like they were moving and one or two looked like they were changing colors.
Bindya and Akash were so engrossed in it that both of them did not realize when Akash had started to play with her hair. His hand grazed through her locks, caressing her head on its own volition.
They didn’t know how long but time passed as they remained. Their hearts slowing down, calming down, both lost in the heavens above.
It was when Akash’s phone started buzzing that they both came back to their present reality.
Bindya sat upright immediately while Akash checked his phone.
It was Dhruv.
He picked up the call.
“Hey… no, I’m outside, just went for a walk haha… yeah, I know…” Akash rolled his eyes at something. “Yeah I’m not naked, I am wearing enough clothes… yeah okay …actually let’s not talk right now, tomorrow maybe?… no, I am fine…okay, see you later… bye.”
He cut the call.
“We…we should get going,” Bindya suggested.
“Y-yeah…” he replied.
The awkwardness was slowly coming back to both of them. Akash got off the guardrail and onto the bridge. He dusted the back of his pants and offered his hand to Bindya.
Bindya stared at his hand.
On one side was the cliff. She could just jump and all her problems would be history. She would be history.
And on the other side was his hand.
What did this entail? Where would this lead to? What was she setting herself on?
She looked at him. He really had those puppy dog eyes, but he also had the look of sincerity in them.
A look of hope and fear as well.
How will all this end up?
She didn’t know.
But a second chance might not hurt, right?
Or would it?
Que sera sera I guess, she thought.
And took his hand.