Is love the only magic pill to make a relationship work?
She willed herself to not 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?
He wanted to meet her because he wanted to discuss something important with her. His message read "Sheetal I have been thinking hard for the past few days. I really need to meet you and talk to you about the future." Dare she hope that it is what she thinks it is? Or should she read between the lines and assume that it is just another way of Dev breaking up with her? Sheetal stood there just outside her bathroom with her phone in hand feeling waves of hope and despair hitting her alternatively. As she shook her head to clear it, her eyes happened to fall on the clock; it was already 7.30 am. She still had to make and pack her lunch and get her breakfast going before getting ready for office.
Methodical and organized, Sheetal was one of those people who liked to plan her day and finish any work before it was due. The only deviation to her nicely ordered and organized life was Dev who made her breath catch in her throat and for her cheeks to be flushed with excited color.
As she ran around the home organizing her day, her thoughts kept going back to the time she had met Dev. To think that they had known each other for 8 years now! They had met on her first day of college, her, a fresher and him, a final year student. The attraction had been instant for her, and she had blushed as she answered his questions at their welcome party.
Even as she was developing a crush on Dev, she realized that the chances of their getting together were slim; he was dating the beauty of his class - the exotically named Firoza. They made an attractive pair as they walked around the campus holding hands; he so tall, dusky and handsome and she so fair, so petite, and beautiful.
Though Sheetal longed for Dev to pay her some attention, she also knew that she was nowhere near as pretty or as talented as Firoza. What is more, she like all the other juniors in her class adored Firoza, who was a role model for most of them being good in studies and extracurricular activities as well.
Sheetal was good at her studies, and she intended to make the most of her college years by studying hard and ensuring a good career. Having been orphaned at the age of 15, she considered herself lucky that her parents had provided for her education and that her maternal uncle was kind enough to take care of her finances for her. She knew that the only way to ensure her future was by studying well and securing a good job.
Which is probably one of the reasons that she never got involved in the romance and dating scene at college. Though considered funny, smart, and attractive, by many of the boys in her class, she did not get asked out a lot. According to her friends, this could be due to two reasons - one was the cool and independent vibe that Sheetal gave out and the other being the way Sheetal tended to treat boys firmly as friends and nothing more even when they expressed interest in her.
She had spent the first year of college filled with longing for Dev, which was unrequited. She had even for one wild moment, contemplated telling Dev about her feelings especially during the farewell party that the first and second year students had arranged for the final year students. In the years between then and now she considered the single dance she had with Dev as one of the most exciting moments of her life. She knew she was looking very good on the day of the farewell party and had been very hopeful that Dev would notice her and he did. He not only noticed her but complimented her and asked her to dance with him.
But once the dance was over, he went right back to Firoza and they danced to all the remaining songs with eyes only for each other. It was during the alumni meetings did she manage to catch a glimpse of Dev and also learned that Dev and Firoza had broken up and that she was married to someone that her parents had chosen for her.
Sheetal had felt sad on hearing that, but could not fully squelch that glimmer of hope that rose in her. After her graduation, she moved on to IIM Bangalore for her management studies. She was placed in a good company in Mumbai. Sheetal found that she enjoyed the corporate world where her innate sense of responsibility and the need to be organized were recognized, appreciated, and rewarded. It was only a matter of three years before she got another job in Delhi, the city of her graduation years – a job with higher pay and more perks.
Since she had no attachment to Mumbai, she was glad to shift to Delhi. Being of a practical mind, Sheetal decided that it would be best that she invested in a flat of her own. Having saved quite a bit, she also had some money that her parents left for her, which she used to make a hefty down payment for her flat; the rest of the amount was availed as a loan.
It was during her search for a flat that she had run into Dev. Meeting him at the real estate agent’s office had seemed like serendipity to her. After exchanging pleasantries they caught up on what was happening in each other’s lives. She learned that Dev was handling his father’s construction business, which he had joined after his graduation. He was impressed to hear that she was doing so well in her work and that she was planning to buy her own flat. Soon one thing led to another, and they had made plans for dinner.
Sheetal was so thrilled to have Dev back in her life that, she never thought of much beyond being relieved that he was not married yet. Sheetal found that Dev seemed to want to spend a lot of time with her and for her it was like a dream come true. The day Dev kissed her in the cinema hall where they were watching a movie was a day that thrilled her no end. Soon he started spending nights at her flat and though he never talked about a long-term relationship, he was very tender and romantic with her.
Sheetal was thrilled with the way things were falling into place, but there was a part of her that was concerned that Dev never talked about taking the relationship to the next level or about the future. It was only by sheer chance that she found something about Dev that gave her pause. Since moving to Delhi, she had fallen into the habit of attending any alumni meetings that were organized by her alma mater.
She found it was a good way to keep in touch with old friends apart from being friends with them on Facebook. It was only during one of the events that she was surprised to see Firoza. It had been almost seven years since she had seen her last as Firoza had not attended alumni meets in the past. It was with mixed feelings that she approached Firoza, who looked as stunning as she used to except for a bit of added weight, which suited her.
On the way to work, Sheetal could still remember everything that happened when she greeted Firoza.
Sheetal, "Hi Firoza! How are you? Are you visiting your parents in town?"
Firoza, "I am fine… Sheetal isn’t it? I remember you; you were one of the best students in first year and a pretty girl too. I must say that you look really good and I heard that you are doing well too. As for visiting my parents, I am back permanently. You see, I am going through a divorce."
Sheetal, "What? I mean I am sorry that things did not work for you. And thanks for the compliment! So, what are your plans now?"
Firoza, "Well, I plan to help my father out with his garments business and concentrate on my kids’ education. It has been rough time but I am glad it is all settled."
Sheetal (with a sinking feeling in her heart) "Any plans to get remarried?"
Firoza, laughing a bit "No! Once was more than enough and in any case, what is the use? Dev is engaged, isn’t he?"
Sheetal, "What? Where did you hear that?"
Firoza, looking at her closely and then saying, "I thought everyone knew. Dev’s father always wanted him to marry their family friend’s daughter. In fact, that was one of the reasons for our breakup, though he got engaged only recently, about six months ago."
Sheetal was flabbergasted, she and Dev had met five months ago and he had not mentioned anything about being engaged. She barely managed to control her emotions and got through the party somehow all the while seething inside.
Coming back to the present with a jerk, she thought back to how the confrontation between her and Dev had gone after she had found out about his being engaged. She remembered going back to her flat that night to find Dev waiting for her. She found that though she had a thousand questions to ask Dev, she was not really `prepared for this confrontation but knew she had to do it.
"Dev, why did you not tell me you were engaged?" Sheetal asked as soon as she stepped into the flat and closed the door.
Dev had the grace to look a bit uncomfortable before saying, "I did not tell you because you never asked me."
This infuriated Sheetal no end and she found that she could barely restrain herself from screaming at him. After taking a deep breath, she asked him "Then where do you think this is heading?" pointing at him and then herself.
Dev seemed taken back at how aggressive she was being and shook his head and rubbed his hand on his face while saying " I have said that I love you, isn’t that enough? What is it with you women and wanting to define every relationship?"
Sheetal was stunned and said, "Do you not realize that you are cheating both of us? Me and your fiancée?"
Dev looked at her and said, "If that is what you think of me, then why are we even together?"
Sheetal retorted, "You are the one who got engaged and forgot to tell me and I only came to know now. I am not too sure that I can be with you till we sort this out."
Dev left the flat without saying anything and since that day Sheetal had been constantly looking at the phone hoping he would call or message. Today, after eight days, he had finally messaged her saying that he had made a decision and that he wanted to meet her. She wondered what he wanted to say even as she replied saying that they could meet in the evening at her flat. After all, it was Dev, the one love of her life or was he? She decided to hear him out before deciding on anything.
She was a bundle of nerves as she stepped into her flat that night. She was both annoyed and relieved to see that Dev was not waiting for her. As she paced up and down waiting for him, she realized that she hated waiting for someone else to make the decisions regarding her life.
It was around nine that Dev stepped in. As soon as he stepped into the flat, he held his palms up and said, "Sheetal please listen to me before you say anything. I am confused and unable to decide. If I break my engagement, then I will lose my family and my place in the business. But I like being with you; you are smart, capable, independent and well-settled. What is more, we are also sexually compatible!"
After pacing up and down for a couple of times, Dev turned to her and said, "Now you tell me what to do?"
Sheetal looked at him sadly and shook her head. She then smiled and said, "I don’t know about you Dev but I have made my decision. I choose me."
As Dev opened his mouth to say something, she held up her hand to silence him and continued, "I heard what you said and the one thing that struck me was that you never said anything about love. Or the fact that you cannot imagine life without me. It is all clear to me now; while I love you and always will, I love me more. That is why I cannot be with a man who will not be honest with me or is not confident about starting a life with me. I hate to think of you spending time with me while having a fallback option all the time in case things didn’t work out. Goodbye Dev and have a happy life!"
As she shut the door with tears streaming down her face, Sheetal knew that she had done the right thing.
A few weeks later:
Sheetal opened the curtains in her home with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. She knew that she had done the right thing by breaking up with Dev. As she was thinking that it was remarkable that she got over Dev so soon, her phone rang and it was Firoza on the other end. After a lot of hesitation, Firoza said "Sheetal, did you know Dev is getting married?"
Sheetal, "No! But I am not surprised. He was engaged to be married, wasn’t he?"
Firoza, "And you are not upset about it? I knew you guys were seeing each other."
Sheetal, "Actually I broke up with him a few weeks back. And no, I am not upset at all."
As the words came out of her mouth, Sheetal realized that she meant them.