Written for a short story competition. Looking for reviews and tips to write better.
|As if the fact that he was making her feel like an insecure teenager all over again was not
enough, her mom calling her every few hours to find out if they had made up after their last fight
was making her feel way too raw deep down. Sharmee felt like no one understood her and her
feelings anymore. Not that her mom did not actually care or understand her, but her opinions
came from her old-fashioned belief that a woman needed a man to lead a happy life, as if that
was the only measure of a woman's success. But today's world was considerably different, at
least that's what Sharmee wanted to believe.
She willed herself not to check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days
now. She hated that she was constantly checking his 'last seen at' status and yes, he had
logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn't stop herself. This sinking feeling to find
absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her
ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn't know if he was
joking or not. What was this?
Unconsciously she moved to the window of her bedroom. The sky was overcast with dark
clouds giving the impression of an impending doom, just like her mind which refused to accept
that he had split up with her through a damn SMS! Seriously? She wondered where did they go
wrong. She could not help her thoughts go back to the day she first met him.
It was a pleasant sunny day and she had decided that cycling over to her swimming classes,
through the lovely valley roads she had come to associate with as her ‘area’, was
as good an idea as going on a picnic. She was a die-hard fan of working out and never once did
she miss her exercise ever since she was a kid. The rush of adrenaline that made her muscles
sing seemed to give her a high that no other activity gave. Being slim-built with beautiful topaz
green eyes, so deep they seemed to have a story of their own to share and hair that was so
silky soft that it refused to stay in place in spite of the multitude of stylish hairpins she used, she
was always a pretty sight to behold. She was proud to attribute her enchanting looks to her
great great grandmother who happened to be of German origin. She had moved during Hitler’s
period to avoid war and had fallen in love in India and with India.
She might have reached on time for her swimming classes if she had not lost herself in relishing
the beauty the valley had to offer - lovely flowers, enticing fragrances, pretty butterflies and the
like. So much so that she failed to notice the car coming from the opposite side before it hit her.
And before she knew she woke up in a hospital. The kind nurse updated her on how Gaurav
had brought her there after she was hit by his car and that she had fainted due to shock, but now
that she had regained her consciousness, she would be fine soon enough to go home, most
probably by evening. She told her that Gaurav was waiting to see how she fared and if there
was someone she would like him to inform. While they were busy talking, Gaurav came in.
He saw Sharmee and was mesmerized by her topaz green eyes. Oblivious to the fact that
Sharmee and the nurse had stopped talking, Gaurav kept staring at her, taking in all her beauty.
In spite of being in a hospital, she looked lovely and he couldn't help looking at her. But before
he could follow his train of thoughts, he heard a slight cough from the nurse and unwillingly, he
took his eyes off Sharmee. He asked the nurse about Sharmee and then apologized to
Sharmee for the accident.
It was not as if Gaurav alone felt the magnetic pull from Sharmee and her eyes, but Sharmee
was equally struck by Gaurav’s looks and charms.
Gaurav had one of the most perfectly chiseled faces on earth, with a day old beard that added
to his rugged look and made him look like he was the devil incarnate. Little did she know that he
might as well be. Dark brown eyes and black hair that looked dark brown, when the light from
the window filtered through it, added to his charm. He had a physique that could put any model
to shame but that kind of did not seem to occur to him at all. Either he was used to all the
gawking females or was pretending he didn’t notice them at all. Whatever it might be, there was
little denying that he looked hot to her.
She felt it didn’t matter anymore where she was or what brought her here but, all that mattered
was that she find some way to know Gaurav better, to be with him. She thanked him for his
timely help and outspoken that she was, she didn’t hesitate one moment before asking him out
for coffee. Though shocked at Sharmee asking him out, Gaurav was more than willing to be with
her too and he nodded his approval. Then, one thing led to another and before they knew,
Gaurav had asked her to move in with him in a live-in relationship.
Dating Gaurav was one thing but moving into a live-in relationship was an altogether different
ball game. Not that she didn’t like him anymore but over the last couple of months, some
quintessential quirks of his nature did bother her. He definitely was well educated but his
mind-set was set in the 1700. Looked like he wasn’t a sucker for women's-rights and liberation
and the idea seemed way too outrageous for him to acknowledge. He was pretty well-behaved
most of the time but those moments when he did step on her self-respect or hurt her, it didn’t
seem to occur to him until she pointed it out and even then he would only defend his action.
Many such instances came to her mind all of a sudden, choking her with the sheer emotional
force that always accompanied the memories of those occasions.
Like that one time, when they had visited a friend, who had invited them to dinner on their
marriage anniversary. During the course of the discussion, Sharmee had asked Manasi where
she worked when, Gaurav interrupted even before Manasi could reply and said it was foolish for
women to pursue career after marriage, when all they were required to do was look after their
husbands and children. It had led to a big fight between Sharmee and Gaurav that was never
ever fully resolved; just pushed to the back burner.
Then there was this one instance when Gaurav’s mom had come to visit him and Sharmee had
accidentally gone to visit him too in an ultra-modern dress, a spaghetti top with denim shorts,
her favourite. Disaster hit when his mom tried to imply that her attire was like that of a woman
conniving to trap men and Sharmee lost her composure. Though she did give his mom a piece
of her mind, she was shocked to see that Gaurav remained quiet and almost-approving of his
mom. There were many instances like these that made her wonder if Gaurav doubted even her
chastity; especially since she had trusted him and been honest enough to share details of her
past affairs. She thought no true relation could last on a foundation of lies and lack of trust.
Not only did he not react before his mom that day, there were days when he even insisted on
deciding what she wore and what she shouldn't. He was also possessive and was very critical of
whom she met or spoke to, all the while citing his true love as the reason for his
She felt as if slowly she was being converted to someone she was not.
They both did like each other and in instances, he would go miles to make time together really
romantic and special. He profusely vouched that he loved her and would be glad to marry her
but, somewhere Sharmee had her own doubts. She loved him too and thought this was the true
love she had long been waiting for but, what gnawed at the back of her mind was her
unpreparedness to compromise at each and every step of life. She needed some time to think
through their relationship and that's what she asked when he proposed they move together.
It had started out as a beautiful evening. There was a gentle chill in the air, like the one that
preceded the lovely winters of the valley that always reminded her of the cozy family dinner
times near the big fireplace in her house. They had just had a sumptuous dinner followed by the
house wine when Gaurav broached the topic of living together. Sharmee fidgeted with the
woollen balls on the knots decorating her lovely sky-blue coloured sheer dupatta that covered
her tight sleeveless kurti that left little to imagination.
Sensing her hesitation, he pushed her further, “Oh come on Sharmee. This is very common
these days. It will give us more time with each other and to understand each other. We can do
lots of things together like eat, watch movies, hang out with friends at home. You can also cook for me. It will almost be like we are married but without actually being. We can also do other fun
things that married couples do, you know what I mean right?”
There it was out in the open. More than getting to know each other, it looked to her like all he
cared was to lay her. “I know, but...is this all just about sleeping with you? Yes, in love, this is
almost always the next obvious thing for many, but I am someone who believes marriage is a
prerequisite for this. Plus there are still so many things we don't think alike about, which makes
even our being together questionable. I am sorry but I need some time to think.“ And, from
there it all went downhill, with both of them finding faults with each other and soon the evening
reeked of the ‘doomsday air’. It seemed like the mini-World War III would never end but all of a
sudden, Gaurav walked out of the restaurant leaving Sharmee to deal with the bills and stares
It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking her phone for
his messages until the message that pronounced the death of their relationship came. She had
to pull herself out of the stupid stupor to finally gather guts to make her choice.
She had to make her decision. She had to choose between her self-respect and the desire to
get settled with the man she loves and who she thought loved her too. It was getting increasingly
difficult for her to distinguish the fine line that separated true love from a mirage of true love.
Indeed what she thought she shared with him felt like true love but, was it? Is it so impossible for a person to exercise the right to his/her opinions or to take decisions or to choose to differ
respectfully from their partner's opinion and yet be able to love his/her partner whole-heartedly? She also worried what society
might think of her. Would they consider her too stubborn and arrogant or headstrong for having
stood for herself or a slut who used the ‘innocent gentleman’? She wondered if this would be
her last chance at finding love and declining to accept it with wide-open hands meant she had
pushed her luck too far and would now have to resign herself to a life of loneliness. Did it even
matter that she was scared that, apologizing for standing up for herself and trying to get back
together with him, might deny her the only opportunity she had of living her life happily on her
own terms and that living with him would mean a life of compromises and adjustments that
might eventually rob her of her own identity?
It had been raining cats and dogs but the incessant rainfall only helped her detach herself from
her world, just long enough to let her weigh the consequences of her decision, to streamline the
chaos in her mind that had become the norm of the day for the past few months. And, as the
skyline cleared to show a pretty sun, peeking from behind the now white clouds, she knew what
she wanted to do. She had finally made her decision. Yes, she chose to love herself more than
a life of compromises based on the assumption of love! She chose to move on with her life than
fretting over a relationship that was set up for failure since eternity.
She knew that there was more to her life than this ‘Illusion of Love’!