“He was sure that it was her…almost! He walked briskly down the pavement, overtaking several fellow pedestrians. She wore a white top and a flowing blue skirt. Her hair flew tantalisingly behind her as it used to all those years ago. The pedestrian bridge between them took him a few more seconds to come face to face with her .Indeed, he was not wrong. It was her, the same face of innocence that it used to be . All these years; her face must have added more glow than wrinkles. The two figures froze in frame as their gaze met amid the hustle bustle of the moving crowd. He could notice a few strands of hair on her forehead the same way that had made him fall in love with her nine years ago.
What had started as a minor flirt attempt nine years back turned into a passionate romance for full 3 years .In the next few silent seconds between the two , he recalled how his love developed from infatuation initially to madly in love in three years of togetherness till she announced her pregnancy . Unable to handle the issue at a young age of 21 years , he did what a son of a filthy rich businessman could do. He offered her a huge sum of money with the help of his father’s secretary .The secretary too was rewarded for showing his loyalty to his master’s son by siphoning the amount from his father’s cashbooks.
James got his taste of “Theory of Relativity’ when past nine years unfolded in flat nine seconds. Nancy ,too on her part, found herself in a roller coaster ride recalling the events of her life with and without him.
Before any one of them could realise, they were sitting in the roadside café .They had been through this ritual of meeting and spending time together in various eateries ordering the delicacies of Nancy’s choice while James always ordered a freshly brewed coffee with a choco brownie .However, the eerie silence this time was in stark contrast to the constant chirping and laughter that used to be a hallmark of their meeting.
“Six … Six long years Nancy , Where did you disappear ?”, James broke the silence “ Forgive me , for I am your culprit .I tried all means to locate you, but…. you just vanished .”A pregnant pause followed before the monologue continued “Please speak Nancy, all these years I had been yearning for your voice . I ..I was too immature at that time, I hope you understand. I made you suffer all alone .For God’s sake, say something .I was too selfish .I am your guilty.”
“No, You aren’t .” Nancy uttered the words first time as she broke her silence .She looked outside from the glass window at the Clock Tower. The hands of the Clock symmetrically divided the face of the clock vertically as it struck Six “You know James ..It was me who was guilty ,it was me who was selfish .”
“ I can understand the pain and agony in your mind .”
“ No, I am serious .” said a choked Nancy as she bit her lower lip to control the emotions .
The waiter appeared to take up the orders , giving her much needed pause to regain the composure
. “One freshly brewed coffee with a choco brownie.” Nancy passed the order without looking up at him.
“The same goes for me too.” He could not suppress a faint smile as she had remembered his choice even after half a decade .
She continued as soon as the waiter was obliged .” You know James ,being orphaned at the age of seven ,I developed my intutive sense faster than girls of my age , I faced hostile situations quite often and gained an uncanny attitude of coming out a winner in almost every situation.You ,James came as a saviour in my otherwise ruffled life and introduced me to a beautiful feeling called love.”
James was listening intently . The conversation was not going the way he had anticipated . She had never opened her heart out like this before .The aroma of fresh coffe hit his nostrils just before the waiter arrived and placed two cups of coffee on the table .
“Nancy , I loved you , I just couldn’t muster enough courage to..”
“You loved me, I know that .It was me who took an advantage of you. I sensed an opportunity in you …”
“ No, Don’t say that please . Whatever happened was our collective responsibility ,Your pregnancy ….”
“ I was not pregnant .”
The words were a bombshell for him. His face twitched a bit as his lips parted in disbelief . Her moist eyes wore a truthful look.
“ But the doctor told me …”
“Everbody has a price, James. However I emotionally sweet talked her into saying that . I convinced her that you were going to dump me otherwise.”
James went numb. “All this time , I had been carrying this guilt of leaving you in lurch and now you tell me I was cheated.”
“Me, James , Me. It was me who was bearing this burden of guilt .But no misdeed goes unpunished .”the moist eyes were flowing into tears. She continued “ I paid a heavy price for my deeds , I married soon thereafter and when the things around me had just started looking rosy ,we met a tragic accident . While my husband could not be saved, I was resuscitated and delivered a boy in the emergency room.”
It appeared James was not listening as he looked out of the side window trying hard to control his emotional tides . Nancy heaved a deep sigh , wiped the corner of her eyes , took a sip of water before picking up the cup of coffee to bring herself back from the past memories.
“ The cruel phase of the destiny was not over , James . My son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth .James looked back at her. A volcano of emotions was flowing
“I have learnt to live independently looking after my child .He is incapacitated. He is deaf , dumb, mute and paralysed below the waist . Life has taught me a lesson . I came to the city to withdraw all my left over savings in the SBI when you located me..Forgive me James if you can.”
The silence followed while she sipped the rest of the coffee.
“ You are a gentleman , There are a very few like you in the world , Stay blessed.” She picked up the handbag and walked out of the café alone .
He remained seated for few minutes after she left.With a heavy heart he got up , paid the bill and walked out in the street.
The message inbox of the Nancy mobile beeped at 10 pm that night.
“Your account No. XXXX with SBI has been credited with Rs. 25 lacs .”
Nancy burst into laughter . The conwoman was elated at her success once again . What made her more delighted was that she had tricked the same man twice.