“You always do this! Every time I ask you about Valentine day celebration, you choose to ignore my question,” the girl’s angry, though, whispered voice drifted in John’s ears from the seat behind him.
“Every day is a Valentine day, my jaan..Love should be celebrated on a daily basis and not singled out for a particular day. We are going to Lonavala. That’s celebration,” came the placating voice of the boy.
The girl was unrelenting in her attack. Out came another scathing remark. “Oh! You and your philosophies. All my other friends who are in a relationship, get flowers and balloons and expensive gifts.. they all show off on Facebook and what do I have to show? A trip to the over-commercialized, tried and tested Lonavala?”
John could not help but chuckle at the nagging and the placating of the couple seated behind him in the bus. As the wind from the window caressed his face, his mind went back to his most beloved memory; of Maggie.
His Maggie. The effervescent, charming, beautiful; Maggie. The heart-throb of college, Maggie.
40 years had passed, but the moment he first saw her was still clearly etched in his mind. She, entering the college gregariously, giggling and talking with carefree abandon. Just one look at her and the sound of her laughter, were enough for him to fall in love with her. For her though, it was different. It took her one whole year of college to even take cognizance of him. But he had always prized patience as his best virtue and had waited for the right moment to confess his love for her.
The bus braked and so did his thoughts. The conductor’s voice boomed through the bus, “We are halting for a small snack and restroom break. There will be no stops hereafter till Lonavala. Please finish all your businesses here itself.”
He felt he should relieve himself, before the bus moved again. What with his old age, he never knew when his bladder started acting up.
Turning to get up from his seat, he noticed the young man from the couple, also getting up, whereas the girl sat with her arms crossed staring out the window; clearly still upset about the unromantic valentine day celebration.
His wobbly knees ached with the effort and a scream of pain left his lips. “AAhhhh..”
“Let me help you,” the boy said, while lending him a hand.
“Thanks, will you please help me get down the bus. I need to use the restroom.”
Leaning his weight on the boy, holding his hand he managed to walk towards the Dhaba.
“You are traveling to Lonavala all alone, Sir?”
“Yes, I go there every year on this date… to pay obeisance to my love.” His voice choked in her remembrance, as he held the young boy’s hand more tightly.
“Oh! I am sorry to hear that, is your wife buried there?”
“Yes, she lays at rest there. Today was the day when I lost her,” his cracking voice couldn’t hide his emotions.
“The day of love, as they say, and on this day to lose someone is sad.”
“I had no choice in the matter .. but you .. why are you losing your loved one?” He regained his cheerfulness. It was not a time to regale in old stories when new love needed his intervention.
“Why do you say so?”
“Seems like your lady love is upset with you.. I .. overheard your conversation in the bus.”
“Ohhhh!! That! Well…to be honest with you,” he smiled sheepishly, “I have something special planned, I am just trying to normalize the occasion, so that it’s a big surprise for her.”
“Now that’s interesting. What have you got planned?” he couldn’t contain his excitement. Here was the love story he was looking forward to today.
The boy’s face flushed red with shyness. “I am going to propose to her today.”
This little piece of news reinvigorated John and he knew that he had to help in bringing this couple’s story to its desired conclusion.
“Really! That’s some surprise. Wish you all the best, lad. Where are you planning to pop the question? Ambience, my boy, is important in such matters. I know of a lovely place in Lonavala where you can propose to her. It overlooks the valley and during sunset it is the most romantic place to profess your love. I too used it as the backdrop for my proposal.”
The boy, couldn’t contain his happiness. “Thank you so much Sir, I had planned to do it at Lion’s Point. But I would rather have a private serene place than the touristy view point. Anything to make her say ‘Yes’.”
John was ecstatic, the opportunity to honor the memory of his love had presented itself, unlike all the other years when he had to scout for couples to help them with their love stories.
“Great! So when we reach Lonavala I will hire an auto to drop me to the point. You hire another and follow me. That way it still will be a surprise for your girl.”
The remaining journey, he dreamt of reliving the day of his proposal once again, a sense of purpose rushing through all the cells of his body.
“Sir, will you please shoot a video while I propose her?” The boy had asked him.
The setting sun had splashed the sky with hues of red; the silhouette of the couple enjoying the sunset in each others arms made a perfect picture.
“Just a little more towards the edge..” John had them positioned for the best effect . And then came the fall. A slip to death; just like Maggie’s.
After Maggie had rejected his proposal, what option was left with him but to push her down the cliff; and ever since, one couple every Valentine day met with the same fate. After all not all love stories needed happy endings, some needed to remain unfulfilled just like his.
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The above story is an entry into the writing event(Feb. 02nd – 20th) hosted by ArtoonsInn: #PullTheRug #UniK-3
Event rules and guidelines: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/pull-the-rug-unik-3-writing-event/
Check out Divisha’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/author/divishaagrawalmittal/