Chapter 1 – The Blue-Eyed Boy
The coffee was brewing on the stove. The toast was getting roasted in the toast-maker. I sat down on a chair in the kitchen of my posh two-bedroom Bandra West flat and tried to enjoy a light breakfast. There was one hour left for office to start and I was ready in a beige skirt, red blazer and brown high heels. I was working on a case related to intellectual property rights. I opened my laptop and updated my knowledge of trademarks and logo registration. At 29, I was a successful lawyer who worked in a reputed firm. My earnings were 10 lakhs per annum.
People also told me I was beautiful. With my considerable height (I’m 5’7), slim figure and long black hair, I guess I am attractive. However, even though I have found a fair success in my profession, I faced emptiness in life. I tried not to dwell on it.
I presently finished browsing and breakfast, locked up my flat and walked down to the car park. I spotted my orange K10 parked in my slot and drove east-wards to work. Wadia & Wadia’s was situated in Wadavali Village, Chembur East.
Throughout my half an hour drive, I was vaguely aware of admiring male glances in my direction. However, my heart had space only for one guy—Ashraf Syed. As Ashraf’s fair face, hazel-brown eyes and glossy brown hair barged into my vision, my heart fluttered excitedly. It had been 18 long years since I had laid eyes on Ashraf, yet his memory had an intense effect on me.
“Don’t do this to yourself, Sylvia George”, I told myself firmly, “Stop thinking of the 14-year-old boy you had once loved. Many years have passed. You have more important things to focus on now”.
Yet the past came to me, unbidden. I was a tall gawky 14-year-old girl, who was running the 5km interschool race in the general category. Both girls and boys were allowed to participate in the race. I had trained hard on my speed and endurance by using techniques like hill sprints, tempo running and other workouts. Since 5 kms was medium distance, I kept my cadence to 180 steps/minute. The music that I heard through the earphones played at 180 bpm to help align my steps with its beats.
I had nearly run all the distance. The finishing line was about 100 meters away. I was certain I win this race. I maintained the same cadence, already imagining my victory.
Just when I had imagined receiving the trophy, someone overtook me with long graceful strides. As my competitor turned back to flash a slightly apologetic smile at me, I realized it was Ashraf, the new boy in my class. Though I had known him for only four months, I had great admiration for Ashraf. He was very good in academics and had finished second in the quarterly examination concluded recently. He was a bright boy who excelled in quizzes, debates, elocutions and other extracurricular activities. Unlike the other uncouth boys in class who teased the girls, Ashraf was always polite and courteous.
I now realized that Ashraf was a good athlete too. I finished second in the race and graciously congratulated the winner. I didn’t mind that I had been beaten. Losing to this charming boy was something of an honor!
Ashraf accepted my congratulatory wishes modestly.
“You had nearly won, Sylvia”, he said, “I just took longer strides in the end”.
“You are being modest”, I said.
I was acutely aware of Ashraf’s muscular legs, sinewy arms and manly demeanor. Strong musky scent emanated from his body. He was a young healthy animal in its prime, albeit with human courtesy. The combination was a deadly one. I felt my knees turning into jelly.
I don’t know if Ashraf was aware of the impact he was having on me. If he was, he didn’t show it. He talked normally, as he would to any other human being. His hazel eyes gleamed as he spoke.
Ashraf asked me out to coffee that evening. I chose my favorite red dress for the occasion. Ashraf had arrived at the chosen café before me. He looked dashing in black jeans and a matching polo-necked t-shirt. His gleaming eyes brightened further when he saw me. Ashraf waved and rushed to hold the cafe door open for me. He escorted me to one of the tables and pulled the chair out for me. Over coffee, he and I spoke about everything under the sun. Ashraf had a great sense of humor and I found myself giggling almost continuously. I had never enjoyed myself so thoroughly before.
When the bill arrived, Ashraf insisted on paying it like a true gentleman.
“There’s no need”, I said, “We’ll Dutch”.
“No, we’ll round Robin”, said Ashraf spiritedly, “I pay this time, you pay the next!”
As the implication of Ashraf’s remark struck me, I felt myself blushing. He wanted to go out with me again!
“Alright”, I agreed shyly.
Ashraf and I started dating. We met regularly after school at the coffee shop, the beach or my home. Ashraf’s parents worked in the Middle East, so he stayed in a hostel. Four months passed in the blink of an eye.
Whenever I thought of my boyfriend, I felt a strange delicious sensation at the pit of my stomach. I had begun to realize that the feeling was sexual desire. However, my feelings for Ashraf weren’t only physical. I loved the essence of the boy: his kindness, his humor, his heart and soul.
I know Ashraf felt the same way about me. I could feel it in the loving way he looked at me. However, Ashraf was too decent to take advantage of the situation. He never tried to get physical with me. For four whole months, my boyfriend and I went no further than holding hands.
On Christmas Eve, he kissed me. It was just a brush of the lips, but carried more passion than a voluptuous full-fledged kiss. I felt delicate fluttering in my heart. Ashraf was too much of a gentleman to go beyond mere touching of the lips. But I wasn’t a lady! I kissed him back passionately. Soon Ashraf was reciprocating. We found ourselves in each other’s arms. Ashraf broke off and said a tender, but firm “good night” before the situation could escalate. He went away to his hostel which was walking distance from my house.
I slept blissfully that night. I enjoyed Christmas with my parents and relatives. I thought of Ashraf often, but never got the chance to phone him at his hostel number. My family demanded every minute of my Christmas.
I woke up the next morning and energetically got dressed. Two nights ago, Ashraf and I had moved to the next stage of our relationship. I visualized us dating for many years. We would also marry early; the very year both of us turned 21!
There are people who lived for years, dated several people and didn’t find the right person. Here I was, only 14 years old, and had already found my soul mate.
I climbed my school bus eagerly, expecting to see Ashraf’s brown hair gleaming in infiltrated sun’s rays. However, his seat was empty. I plopped on my seat, disappointed. I had been so eager to catch up with my beloved. I had sorely missed Ashraf on Christmas day and had yearned to see him.
Ashraf didn’t appear at school for the next few days. As New Year’s Eve grew closer, dread gripped my heart. I approached my class-teacher, Mary Ann and enquired about Ashraf.
“Ashraf has changed his school”, she said, “Apparently, his father decided he should study in the Middle East”.
I froze in shock. Ashraf had planned to join his parents in the Middle East, but hadn’t let me know. He had kissed me two nights ago as if we were inseparable.
My young heart really suffered.