Footprints

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Chapter 15

“If you got leaving on your mind, Tell me now, get it over

Hurt me now, get it over, If you got leaving on your mind”

The silence of the room hummed along to Patsy Cline’s voice.

He stood there silently watching. He shifted his weight onto his right foot and leaned against the door frame. His lanky frame stood out as a silhouette. His hands were balled up in his pockets and his legs were crossed. And that’s what he felt – crossed.

He stood there almost invisible. There were too many things that he was thinking about. His heart was a myriad of feelings. He had too many questions and too many contradictions.

“If there’s a new love in your heart, Tell me now, get it over

Hurt me now, get it over, If there’s a new love in your heart”

There were too many contradictions around him and he had to sort them out. He had questions and he needed answers now.

He watched her as she rested her head on the huge pillow placed on the armrest of her queen chair. The chair was her favorite place to sit down and just unwind with a good book or some melodious music. This was her favorite place in the world. She had dozed off just a few moments back.

He watched as the melancholic piano notes drifted over her body like a lover’s sigh. He watched as she lost herself subconsciously to the way Patsy Cline belted the lyrics in her unique style.

“Don’t leave me in a world, Filled with dreams that might have been

Hurt me now, get it over, I may learn to love again”

His insides twisted. A gagging feeling overcame him. He felt nauseous. He shuffled. He was indeed left alone in a world filled with dreams. And these dreams had weighed him down. He had tumbled down into the abyss of despair and loneliness. And now to get out of this abyss he had to make one final push. He would have to learn to let go of his past and learn to love again.

“Hurt me now, get it over, If there’s a new love in your heart”

He knew it was going to break his heart. But it had to be done. He had to get it over – just like the song.

He walked in noiselessly and stood right in front of her. He watched her closely for a few seconds before going down on his knees in front of her.

“Hey B”, he whispered softly and ran his hand lovingly over her head.

She stirred lightly in the chair but didn’t wake up. Instead she adjusted herself deeper in the chair, getting more comfortable.

“Hey sleepyhead, wake up”, he whispered again and repeated the hand gesture.

This time the woman came to senses. She lifted her head a little and looked at him with eyes that were still partially hidden behind heavy eye lids.

“Wake up my sleeping beauty”, he teased.

It took her a minute to understand what was happening. The traces of sleep were very much visible on her face. Her mind was grappling to make sense of things.

But once she had her senses back in complete control she couldn’t control the natural smile that overcame her.

“Benji, hey”, she greeted him warmly.

“Hey sleepy”, he punched her lightly over her head.

“Was I snoring”, she asked him.

“Not at all”, he replied.

“Was I drooling”, she asked again.

“Uhm a little”, he used his two fingers to show the measurement.

“Gosh I am such a mess”, she wiped her face and got up.

“So Patsy Cline it is today huh”, he questioned as he picked up her iPod connected with the speakers.

“Oh yeah I was in the mood”, she replied.

“Good, I was too”, he shuffled through her playlist.

“Oh yeah, how come”, she asked him.

He didn’t respond. Instead, he selected a song from the playlist and put it on.

“Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely, I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue

I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted, And then some day you’d leave me for somebody new”

Once again the country singer set the tone of the room.

“Worry, Why do I let myself worry?

Wondering what in the world did I do?”

“Dance with me”, Benjamin held out his hand in front of the photographer.

“Aha”, Bethany laughed and placed her hand in his.

He pulled her close and started swaying with her slowly.

“Oh, crazy for thinking that my love could hold you

I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying, and I’m crazy for loving you”

The melody and the melancholy of the song was heart wrenching.

“Did you hear that”, he whispered in her ear.

“Hear what”, she asked trying to pay attention.

“Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you

I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying, and I’m crazy for loving you”

He finished that last part of the song singing along with the singer.

Bethany froze in his arms. He ran his hand over her back and whispered, “Please don’t stop”.

“Benji”, she whispered and tried to get away.

“Don’t”, he held her tighter. “Hear me out, please”, he pleaded.

She didn’t say anything. Instead she just nodded.

That was all the encouragement that he needed.

“You know very well that I love you. You have always known”, he started. “I am not saying that you led me on or anything. But you always had an idea that my feelings for you were more than just friendship.”

“Hmm”, she chose to just hmm this time.

“I was honest with you, wasn’t I”, he continued swaying with her.

The music had stopped. The room was silent once again. But they continued to sway to an imaginary tune.

“Yes”, she accepted that he had never lied about his feelings.

“Then why can’t you be honest with me”, this time he stopped swaying, pulled back and looked straight into her eyes.

“Haven’t I been”, she asked him.

“Yes, you have”, this time he let go of her and stepped back, “you have always been honest about what you did not feel. But you have hardly been honest about what you feel.”

“I don’t understand where this is coming from”, she turned her back on him and tried to walk away from him.

He held her hand, “B don’t walk away this time”, and pleaded.

She turned around and looked at him.

“Come on B, do me a favor here please. Put me out of my misery”, he let go of her hand this time.

“Yes”, she whispered and looked down.

He closed his eyes and let her answer sink in.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you”, she apologized to him.

“Give me a second please”, he held out his hand to stop her from talking. “I am struggling here”, he admitted his pain.

She didn’t say anything. She just looked down and shed a few silent tears.

“Wow, finally its out”, he tried to joke and rubbed his nose vigorously.

“I don’t know what to say”, she said.

“At least you can appreciate my intuitive skills”, he joked again.

“Benji….”, she placed her hand on his shoulders.

“No, no I am fine”, he pulled back. “In fact you have done me a big favor. Now at least I can move on. I got my closure.”

“Sorry bud”, she whispered to him again.

“Good that you kept a poker face in front of Saahil. You almost fooled me as well with that”, he said.

“They have a good relationship. I don’t want to mess that up”, the photographer picked at some imaginary thread on the sleeves of his sweater.

“You did the right thing”, he appreciated her effort.

“She loves him, very much and I am not going to do anything to change that”, she accepted. “I have found a better existence with her. She has given me a purpose in life. She has inspired me. But that does not mean I wreak havoc in her life. She is happy with him and I am ok with that. She will always have a special place in my life. But I will not be a permanent fixture in her life. She has a family and a devoted loving husband. She belongs there with them. For me, just knowing her is enough.”

“But that does not mean you stop”, Benjamin pointed out.

“Not at all. I will move on from her just the way you will be moving on from me. I will learn to love again”, she smiled at him.

“But what about Saahil and this gossip in the newspapers about an illicit affair”, Benjamin asked.

“Saahil trusts her. That’s why he never questioned her once. He came here and questioned me. So there will be no trouble in their paradise. He will never get to know the truth. For him, what I told him will always be the truth”, she said confidently.

“And I have an idea on how to handle the paparazzi”, he told her.

“What is it”, she was curious now.

“Let’s get you home first”, he said and started packing their bags, calling it a day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Let’s get you home”, Saahil said as he dragged her bag and loaded it in the cab.

“Guys, I can really board a flight on my own”, she told the couple who was now helping her with the check out process.

“Yeah we know that but we would still like to help”, Adah told her as she carefully checked the hotel bill.

Bethany let the woman take charge. With her purse and hand luggage well settled on her shoulder, she stepped back and watched lovingly as the other woman completed her scrutiny of the bill.

“Ok this looks good”, Adah finally handed the bill over to the photographer.

“Satisfied”, Bethany asked as she took the bill from her.

“Yeah this looks ok”, Adah nodded.

“Can I make the payment now”, she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Be my guest”, Adah curtseyed and stepped back.

“Here you go”, Bethany fished out her credit card and handed it to the front desk executive waiting patiently.

“So….”, Adah tried to initiate a conversation to fill in the silence that had descended upon them.

The silence was not something that they had just noticed. It was something that had established itself between the two ladies right from the moment they had left the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. All of a sudden there was nothing left to be said between them.

“So…”, Bethany didn’t add anything extra.

“You two ready”, Saahil came up to them and asked.

“Yeah just making the final payment”, Adah told him.

“Will it take time”, he asked.

“No, I have checked the bill. They are now just completing the payment process”, Adah told him.

“Ok, I will be waiting for you guys outside near the cab”, he said and started walking back.

“Will be there in a minute”, Adah yelled back to him.

She then looked at the photographer was now checking the receipt. Once done she folded the piece of paper and tucked it into her purse.

“Beth, I wanted to ask you something”, Adah started tentatively.

“What”, the photographer looked at her with curiosity.

“What’s wrong between us”, Adah asked her directly.

“What do you mean”, the photographer was definitely taken aback by the question.

“Why do I feel like you are avoiding me”, the woman asked.

“I am not”, Bethany refused.

“Then why does it seem so”, Adah continued asking.

“I don’t know what you are talking about”, Bethany replied and started walking away.

“See, this is what I am talking about”, Adah held her hand to stop her from escaping.

“Adah, what has gotten into you”, the photographer asked laughing nervously.

“That’s what I am trying to find out”, she responded. “Since last two days I have been noticing that you have been avoiding talking to me. You don’t make eye contact. You don’t stay around for long every time I turn up. Am I repulsing you?”

“Gosh, no not at all”, Bethany was really shocked at what she was hearing now. “Are you crazy? How could you even think that?”

“Then tell me what’s wrong. Why are you creating this distance between us”, Adah asked for an answer.

“I can’t explain. You will not understand”, Bethany rubbed her forehead.

“So there is something”, Adah sounded relieved that at least the photographer had admitted to there being something wrong.

“Just let it go Adah”, Bethany requested.

“Tell me”, Adah was not going to give up so easily.

“You won’t understand”, Bethany tried deflecting again.

“Try me”, the woman was determined now to find out the truth.

“Are you sure”, Bethany asked.

“I am”, Adah nodded and folded her arms to pay attention to what the photographer was going to say.

“Ok here we go”, Bethany took a deep breath. “You think that I am avoiding you because I am repulsed by you. On the contrary it’s quite the opposite.”

“What do you mean opposite”, Adah got an inkling of where this was heading.

“I am attracted to you”, Bethany said it out loud now.

Silence ensued between the two women. None of them knew what to say next.

“See I knew you won’t understand”, Bethany said dejectedly.

“Did I ever do something or say something wrong”, Adah asked sounding confused.

“No”, the photographer replied.

“Then how”, the other woman questioned.

“Adah, there is no what or why or how over here. It just happened. I don’t usually feel this way when it comes to other people in my life. With you it just happened”, Bethany explained.

“Beth, I am getting married to Saahil soon”, Adah was still trying to come to terms with the revelation.

“I know and I am not asking you for anything”, Bethany replied. “Saahil is a good man and he loves you very much.”

“And I love him”, Adah added.

“Of course you love him. I am not asking for anything here. You wanted to know so I told you”, Bethany was looking a bit offended now.

“Don’t you feel weird about it’, Adah asked.

“I do. But I would have felt weird if I felt the same for any guy as well”, Bethany admitted.

“I don’t know what to say”, Adah ran a hand through her hair now.

“Don’t say anything. Just leave it at this. I will go back today and be out of your life. You don’t need to worry about anything from me”, Bethany adjusted her purse on her shoulder now, albeit a little violently.

“That’s not what I meant”, the woman tried to explain herself.

“I get it”, Bethany didn’t let her complete. “Come on now, Saahil is waiting for us at the cab”, and with that Bethany started walking out.

“There you are”, Saahil beamed at seeing Bethany walk out the door. “Where’s Adah”, he asked not seeing his fiancé first.

“I am here”, Adah replied from behind.

“Come on, let’s go”, he opened the door for the ladies.

“Saahil, you really don’t need to come to the airport. I can manage on my own”, Bethany said.

“I know you can but we would still like to come”, he insisted.

“She is right Saahil. It’s not the first time that she is traveling alone. She can manage on her own. Besides we need to be back home on time”, Adah said.

“Listen to your woman Saahil”, Bethany told him, feeling slightly hurt.

“I know you can manage on your own. But this is my way of stealing extra few hours with you Beth. We had such lovely time with you in the past few days. I would like to extend our good time by a few hours”, he sounded genuine. “So let us please be with you for some more time.”

“Ok”, she couldn’t deny any further. She got into the back seat of the cab. Adah looked at the woman for a minute and then got into the back seat from the other side. Saahil settled down on the passenger seat next to the driver.

The ride to the airport was awkward, at least for the two women. They hardly spoke to each other. Every now and then Adah would steal a glance at the photographer who it seemed was hell bent on avoiding any eye contact. Saahil did all the talking while the two ladies responded whenever needed.

Before long their journey ended and the trio stood at the airport.

“Alright guys, I will go inside now and collect my boarding pass. Why don’t you two head back home now”, Bethany said.

“I guess this is it then”, Saahil said.

“Yeah, this is it. We end here”, Bethany nodded and looked at Adah.

“No we don’t. We will stay in touch”, Saahil didn’t buy the photographer’s suggestion.

“You were lovely hosts. Thank you for making my trip such a memorable experience”, Bethany thanked the couple.

“The pleasure was ours. We had a lovely time with you”, Saahil placed his hand on his fiancé’s shoulder and pulled her closer.

“I wish you both a very happy married life”, Bethany shook their hands.

“Saahil, can I talk to Bethany in private for a moment”, Adah asked.

“Uh ok. I will wait for you near the cab stand. Once you are done just come over”, he said. “Alright Beth, leave us a message once you reach home safely”, he hugged her one last time and started walking away.

“Adah you don’t have to do this”, Bethany told the woman who was waiting anxiously for Saahil to be out of earshot.

“I do, please. I didn’t mean to offend you earlier”, she started. “I just didn’t know how to react”, she explained her behavior. “I don’t want you to think that I hate you or anything.”

“It’s ok I understand”, Bethany smiled.

“I just want you to know that I never intended this to happen”, Adah explained.

“Neither did I Adah. You don’t have to worry about me. Meeting you and getting to know you has been such a wonderful experience for me. I got what I wanted from you. Now I can live the rest of my life more meaningfully”, Bethany completed.

“What did you get from me”, Adah asked sounding confused.

“Inspiration. You have inspired me in so many ways. You have changed me as a person. You have made me better. And that is something that I will always carry with me. So no matter where I go or what I do I will always be better because of you. You will always be present in my art. And that’s more than enough for me”, Bethany smiled.

“I don’t know what to say”, the woman was rendered speechless.

“Don’t say anything then”, Bethany moved forward and took her hands in hers, “thank you for being you. I will always cherish these memories.”

“Come here”, Adah pulled her in for a hug.

Bethany buried her nose in the woman’s hair and took a deep breath. Once satisfied she had enough for the rest of her life she pulled back.

“Alright then, we are done here”, she stepped back.

“Stay in touch”, Adah asked.

“I will”, Bethany nodded.

She then picked up her bags and crossed through the departure gates. She checked in her luggage and collected her boarding pass. She then proceeded for the security check. Once all the formalities were done, she picked up a coffee for herself and settled down in the waiting lounge. She pulled out her iPod and started playing some music.

If you got leaving on your mind, Tell me now, get it over

Hurt me now, get it over, If you got leaving on your mind”

Patsy Cline crooned making her smile with melancholy.

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