And Then We Spoke

The first part of this story was written 2 years ago. Read that HERE before you proceed.

“I hope you realise that all the alcohol in the world can’t bridge it.”

I almost fell down. After a yearlong tumultuous uncommitted, unspoken relationship she had finally broken the barrier.

“Bridge what?” I asked, trying to seem unaffected.

“This chasm of unspoken emotions between us.” came the reply. “Come, let’s take a walk.”

As we exited our cubicle and walked towards the door, I could sense eyes shadowing us. But all I could see was her lustrous hair, her supple skin and oh those eyes. I always knew I was in love but today was the first time that my denial had taken a backseat.

We walked into the neighbouring coffee shop (the same one where she avoided eye contact) and took a seat.

“One Cappuccino for me, with 2 sugar sachets and an Americano with milk on the side with no sugar for him.” she said to the server.

I was taken aback. All this while I’d been deducing ways to tell myself that this woman didn’t know me and didn’t love me…and here she knew my exact coffee order like the back of her hand.

After what seemed like a long silence of around a minute she took my hand in her own.

“I like you. A lot. And I know you share the same feelings. But what you don’t understand is how difficult it has been for me to accept this. Since childhood I’ve been ridiculed and poked fun at due to my dark skin. At an early age, I built a cocoon around myself and never let anyone in. It may not be the best defence mechanism but it worked. And then I met you. It took a lot of courage to come to terms with the fact that someone could like me for who I am. In a society obsessed with the notion that women should be fair, it seemed like an impossible dream. Especially because you’re fair. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and didn’t want to take a chance for fear of being hurt. But I cannot see you drink yourself to death just because both of us were too afraid to be open about our feelings.”

A small tear escaped her eye and her grip tightened.

“I’m so sorry. I’ve been extremely judgemental about you in my mind. Yes, I like you a lot. But I lacked the courage to approach you; and then as time passed I interpreted your behaviour as a ‘stay away’ sign. Never did I try and understand how you actually felt.” I croaked. I could’ve sworn that my usually confident voice had got stuck somewhere in my gut.

As we sipped our coffees, we spoke about the coffee shop episode, the accidental nudge at the water cooler and a lot of other previously unsaid things. This time too our eyes met…and spoke…but the language had changed.

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The Unsaid Words

For the first time yesterday, I saw her eyes. And they spoke. A lot.

I’d been observing her mannerisms, for quite a while. Since we shared a 4-seater cubicle we used to greet each other cordially. But that was it. None of us had made a move beyond ‘Hello’. It was almost as if both knew that any further words would lead to the unimaginable. No, not attraction. Pure, unadulterated pain taking shelter in those unsaid words. Neither had the courage to face that intense pain.

The only time that we had coffee together was as part of a larger group, working on the same assignment. As fate had it I was seated opposite her. But she shielded both eye contact and conversation with the help of sunglasses and a book. I didn’t take that nicely.

Over the course of the last year, I observed her and made critical judgements in my own mind. Criticising her for things she’d not said, things she’d not done and things she’d not thought. All the while, conveniently forgetting that I was equally to blame. She had become the central object of my mean disposition; and I, her subject of torture. Or so I thought.

As time consumed our better emotions, I took to extreme bitterness. She, to outright reclusiveness. Still we’d give each other the occasional glance, when the other was not looking. It had become an unhealthy commitment without being committed.

I thought it’s best to move ahead with death. Because moving ahead with life was something I’d tried and failed at. Miserably, if I may add. Starting with a peg a day, I soon vanquished a full bottle in two days. Such was my dedication towards self-destruction that one day I sat for an office meeting in an inebriated state. When my boss tried reasoning with me, I invited him to drink with me.

Then, almost surreally, time stood still. It was a Monday morning. I came to office, a little less drunk from the earlier night. Bloodshot eyes but walking and reacting perfectly. By now, most people in office used to avoid me. And the only reason I was still employed was because I was making the company richer. I walked into my cubicle and saw her sitting. Almost as a knee-jerk reaction I was about to turn away (I had no idea where I was going to go) when she turned in her chair and looked right into my eyes. And there it was…the very pain we both feared. But she had mustered up the courage to face it. I? I was still grappling with my own miserable existence called a life.

For the first time yesterday, I saw her eyes. And they spoke. A lot.

Super Short Story 6

The final goodbye

The final goodbye

Super Short Story 5

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

Super Short Story 1 – 4

2 neighbours. 2 religions. 1 kind gesture.

2 neighbours. 2 religions. 1 kind gesture.

One life-changing decision can lead to countless new emotions.

One life-changing decision can lead to countless new emotions.

Which can does she pick?

Which can does she pick?

The 'Real' Miracle Worker

The ‘Real’ Miracle Worker

iL Caro – Part VI (Final Part)

The festival was a two-day event on the outskirts of Tuscany. The organisers had kept it on a weekend to get maximum attendance and make the festival a success. There was wine tasting, a talk on wine appreciation, a wine cooking show, games based on blindfolded wine tasting and a lot more.

The judges came by their stall, tasted the varietals and one of them said ‘Interessante’ when he gurgled their Chenin Blanc….one that they had worked on so much and were extremely proud of.

The time of the result announcements came. Her heart was beating fast. He was still insensitively busy clicking snaps. Though inside his heart, he was extremely anxious. But egoistic that he was, he would never show. Alberto was standing with her waiting with just as much anxiety. After all this was his baby too.

The judges discussed among themselves who should announce the results. Then one of them came up on stage. It was the same person who’d said ‘Interessante’ to their Chenin Blanc. Her heart began beating like a racehorse’s and she was sure everyone could hear it over the noise the crowd was making.

‘The first prize goes to La Montina for their brilliant Franciacorta Brut 2007.’

Everyone clapped. There was loud cheering as someone from La Montina came up on the stage to receive the prize money and a trophy. Her heart skipped a beat. She felt a hand on her shoulder and to her surprise it was he. He’d stopped clicking pictures and had been looking at her expression for a while now, unknown to her. ‘We’re going to win. Rest assured.’, he said, a certain confidence in his voice.

‘The second prize goes to Ca’ Marcanca for their superb Bolgheri Camarcanda 2008.’

Again there was a loud uproar. She looked at him with almost in tears. He soothed her by holding her close. ‘It’s the last prize now’, she whispered almost inaudibly. ‘And we are going to win’, he whispered back. Even amidst that incredible moment of sheer tension, he was able to make her smile broadly.

‘And this year we have no third prize’. Her heart sank. Her head stooped. He was just looking at the judge in shock.

‘This year,’ the judge went on ‘we have a new category altogether. The prize for the most innovative, creative and different wine goes to iL Caro for their most interesting Chenin Blanc.’

She looked up as if lightning had struck near her. She looked at him with her big round eyes in amazement. He just looked right back into them and said ‘Yes. We did it sweetheart.’

‘Will the lady in the pink blouse and black skirt please step up on stage?’ said the judge looking directly at her. She felt all eyes moving towards her. Every single vinery owner, every single guest, every media person had their eyeballs focused on her. ‘Time to be strong’, he whispered into her ear.

With a big breath, she took his hand in her right hand and Alberto’s in her left hand and began walking towards the stage. Amidst claps she could feel her heart racing like never before. But she was not afraid. She was not reluctant. Today was their day. Today was her day. Today was his day.

They went up on stage and she accepted the trophy and prize money.

The judge handed her the mic and said ‘Ma’am a few words please’.

A small tear escaped her left eye. Almost chocked with emotion she pointed to Alberto and said ‘Thanks for saving my life’. Alberto smiled. He was on top of the world as well. His wine had made it big. She then looked at him and said, ‘ Thanks for teaching me how to breathe’. He looked at her, tears in his eyes. ‘I love you’, he said.

Then he took her in his arms and they kissed for what seemed like an eternity.

iL Caro – Part V

They met up with several oenologists and finally decided to consult Alberto Giacchino, an Italian oenologist cum vintner with a sound knowledge about winemaking, the enthusiasm of a child and the patience of a scarab beetle.

Considering both of them were experts at Viticulture, the harvesting and destemming process was not that challenging. But making a world-class wine was a different ball game. This was where Alberto was a ‘killer’ as he called him.

Alberto gave them solid knowledge about the crushing, fermentation, pressing, stabilization, etc. Maceration in large oak barrels was another difficult but exciting stage. Alberto supervised every stage and took back samples at various stages for lab tests. Finally the filtration and SO2 injection was done and they decided to use corks and not screw caps. Alberto recommended corks since he opined that they lent a traditional touch to the look. And to make sure that corks taints did not spoil the long effort everyone had put in, Alberto ensured all the corks were coated with an inert chemical.

Nine months were almost up. Both had not realized how time had flown. They’d been so busy running together for a pleasant change that neither had realized that they were actually beginning to get back to their real selves. The initial days when they met and drank wine till they got silly were often a part of their conversations during these nine odd months. Alberto too had become a close pal more than a consultant. He’d really helped them get closer by infusing their lives with the common interest they once had. Wine.

The day of the festival arrived. The three of them traveled to Tuscany. She had already filled in the forms and couriered them. It was quite a grand event. Set in an open lawn, were close to 50 kiosks with various vineries setting up their stall. Bottles, bottles and more bottles everywhere. He looked at her with a glint in his eyes. Both remembered their first meeting, almost a decade ago.

He had been tasting a Chenin Blanc at a well known winemaker’s stall. As he went to ask for a refill, a soft hand brushed his arm and said ‘Excuse me, I’d love some of that wine as well’. She then tuned to him and said ‘I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to push past you. No hard feelings’. He was barely listening to her. Those big round eyes, that tiny wisp of hair that fell across her left cheek, that sweet smell of lilies. He was hypnotized. ‘Hello?’ she said tapping him on the shoulder. ‘You smell like a forest of lilies’ he said. ‘Excuse me?’ she said perturbed and rather annoyed at his bohemian approach. ‘Oh! I’m so sorry ma’am but that was for the wine’. She quite liked that come back. Most men she had met were pathetic at come back lines and positively no one had subtly told her that she smelt like lilies. There was something about him……that tiny stubble, that deep voice, those mischievous eyes and that super deep dimple. The next thing, they were sitting together sipping wine and chatting nineteen to the dozen.

********************to be continued*****************************