"Its a new life", Meera said to herself perhaps for the hundredth time and looked up just in time to see the bus coming her way. She waved for the bus to stop, got in and paid for her ticket. She looked around, trying to find a comfortable spot since she'd always hated sitting right next to the window or next to the wall and in the instances when she'd had to do so she'd felt claustrophobic. Often, people have been glad to sit next to the window and have let her sit in the corner unlike Rahul. Today, she told herself she needs to change her ways and perhaps for the first time willingly sat next to the window. She settled down and looked outside. She liked what she saw. Spring.
She loved the colours of spring and immediately remembered her visits to the park with Rahul soon after they'd moved in together. The sweet scent of flowers, combined with lush green grass around them, their many happy pictures together, it all came back to her, the very things she tried to forget.
The bus halted at the next stop and jerked her back to reality. She looked at her watch and realised she still had an hour to pick Anya up from nursery. She looked out the window again and felt a tingle at the nook of her neck. She didn't like the feeling, the feeling of being watched. She turned around just in time to see a guy in the far back turn away from her. Even from the distance he looked a little familiar but decided not to give him much thought.
It’s been nearly two months since she moved to Surrey, London, with Anya, far from her memories and loved ones; and it was just more than a year after she decided on the adoption of Anya. From day one since she laid her eyes on Anya, she couldn't help but wonder how anyone could ever think of abandoning this beautiful baby, but also couldn't thank them enough for doing so. She knew she was smiling now, thinking of her little girl, her naughty wee devil. She couldn't imagine a life without Anya now, just like how once she couldn't imagine her life without Rahul.
Rahul, he was something. Just thinking of his name brought back memories she had been trying to run from. The many late nights she had cried herself to sleep, fear of his anger, his rudeness and sarcasm, everything came back to her. She didn't have many memories of him showering her with love and affection after they started their life together. It was true, their honeymoon period was over before they even began their life together. She'd often wished things could go back to when it all started, the good times before they started living together. Those were the times she still cherished.
Rahul was her best guy-friend who she loved very much. She had known what she was getting into and wished many times later that she needn't have been such a brave girl. "Meera, will you marry me?" he had asked on her birthday, the very first year after their friendship escalated to mutual love and she was happy as a clam when she simply said a "Yes!!!”.
"Excuse me dear, are you alright?" came the voice of the old lady seated next to her. She hadn't even realised that someone actually had occupied the seat next to hers, when she was so lost in her thoughts. Meera struggled to get her words out. She simply nodded a 'Yes' to the nice concerned lady, just realising she had tears tricking down her cheeks. She deftly wiped them off and looked at her watch. There was still time enough for her to get down at the next stop and walk around the park towards the nursery to pick up Anya. She thought that would give her enough time to calm down. She could already picture Anya waiting happily with her backpack and big pal who also happened to be the security guard. Yes, she was a very friendly charming little girl.
Meera got ready to get off the bus and thanked the nice lady for her concern. The nice lady replied, "He doesn't deserve you honey! You'll find someone better. You first end up meeting all the wrong ones so you'll know when you have met the right one!". Meera was astounded but she just smiled in answer and got down from the bus.
She was smiling to herself thinking about what the nice strange lady had told her. She had indeed met a few right ones, those who loved her dearly, showered her with all the affection and were ready to do anything for her. But, Meera, she wasn't interested in the ordinary. She knew she'd have had a comfortable life if she'd chosen any one of them, but there was just one problem, she was never in-love with any of them. They were all her close friends and she couldn't think of any of them in any other way. She'd had a crush on Rahul since the first day she met him and she hadn't felt like that with any of the others who were crazy about her. There was Gautam, whom she knew since her teenage, her best friend since school. He was crazy and would always try to please her. He'd been her best friend since they were both 14 years old. They'd talk for hours, laugh and play and then, they grew up! She wondered whatever happened to him since she'd lost touch with him after her wedding with Rahul.
Then there was Sidharth, an old friend of hers from college, who she was close to until after she met Rahul. He expressed his feelings for her and she simply said no only because she couldn't think there was anything but a mere crush that he had on her. She'd told him it'll pass and that he'd find someone better than her. She was right. He was still a friend of hers, happily married and with children.
There was also another person she still remembered, Karthik. He even asked for her hand in marriage to her parents, because he was tired of waiting for her to lose interest on Rahul. Karthik knew Meera through a mutual friend and he liked what he saw in her. He was well off and settled in life and just waiting for the right girl to complete the vicious circle when he'd laid eyes on her. He had thought they were perfect for each other but she had other plans, plans to study, go abroad, experience life. He used to send her a text every morning, the first thing after he woke up just to let her know she was on his mind. He was a romantic but Meera initially wasn't and that was exactly why she fell for Rahul. Karthik moved on too after a while. He married the girl his parents chose for him and she assumed he was happy with her, well, she thought, who wouldn't be happy with him? Any girl would have been lucky to be with him.
There were a few more that came and left, but they had never mattered. Most of them moved on but she knew Gautam wouldn't because she knew very well that she was a part of his life and it was very hard for him to forget her. She'd been there for him and vice-versa, at every stage in each-other's lifves and everything was going perfect until she felt her crush on Rahul escalating to love. If only she hadn't hurt Gautam in the process, she would have felt a little better and tried to talk to him again. After the things she'd said to him, to hurt him, she never could imagine seeing him again.
Meera looked around her in the park. She saw couples sitting on the benches, some of them walking their dogs, few of them watching their children play. She told herself she'd bring Anya to the park on their way back home. She would have to just walk for two more minutes and she'd be at the school in plenty of time. She knew Anya would love to play on the swing and would want her to push her as high as possible. She could smell the grass and was very tempted to sit down but then she told herself she could sit and watch Anya play after she picked her up. So saying, she brought herself to walk round the corner towards the Nursery. It was mobbed with all the parents waiting for their kids. It was nearly time anyway and so she went towards the gate.
The security guard saw her and said "You are early today!". She simply smiled at him and said "Yes, I am early today". He smiled back at her and directed her to the building where Anya's nursery was. She'd only been to right outside her class only twice and its always been the security guard or Anya's older friends who took her to her class because Meera would have been running late for her classes. She was patiently waiting outside Anya's class when she saw few little heads popping out of the door, eager to get out and run to their waiting moms and dads and friends. She knew Anya would be one of the last few to leave her class. She knew her mommy was almost always late and she used that time to talk to her favourite teacher, Lady Beth. Every day after school, all Anya would talk about was her "Mommy, she drawed this picture for me and she gave everyone sweeties, I got one green one but wanted the red one ... and so on ".
Meera moved aside to let a little girl from Anya's class run towards her daddy or so she thought. "Meera? Is it really you?" came a voice from behind. She turned just in time to see the person whom she had dreamt she'd never face again. That little girl Melinda, from Anya's class was in his arms. That was an even bigger shock to her. "Aren't you going to say hello to us even?", said the voice. This time she knew there was no mistake. "Hi Gautam, How are you? It’s been a very long time" said Meera.
"Mommmmmmmmyyyyyy" came the squealing voice of Anya from behind her, hugging her Jeans and clinging on to her. Meera pulled Anya to the front, to face Gautam and her friend. "Is that your daughter? She's beautiful", said Gautam. Meera just managed to say a yes and introduced Anya to him and asked him if Melinda was his daughter. Gautam just laughed and told her "No, Of course not, I'm not married yet, this is Preethi also known as Melinda in School. She also happens to be Arthi's youngest daughter. You know Arthi, right? My sister?". How could Meera forget him or his sister or even her husband Mukund, how could she forget the times she spent in their house, playing as kids, growing up and his sister's wedding too. She could never forget any of it.
"Yes, Of course, I remember Arthi. Mom told me she had heard from your mother that Arthi had a son few years back and that's the last I'd heard about her. How are you? What a nice surprise to see you here! So we meet again far from where we were raised!" and as soon as she said that she wished she hadn't brought it up. It was awkward for the both of them. He gave Anya a chocolate and told Meera that it would be nice for them to visit Arthi and everyone sometime. He also told her that he was there in London for a project on behalf of his company and that he would be there for another 6 months or so. She was proud of him because he was also the Vice President of the company. She asked him to convey her regards to everyone at home. He said he would do that and added that he'd seen her earlier in the bus and he was travelling with her but he couldn't believe it was actually her.
That made sense. That feeling of being watched! She laughed really loud, uncontrollably. She told him then that she thought she was being followed and watched. They both laughed. Little Anya didn't understand what all the fuss was about but she liked to see her mommy laugh. She kept herself busy munching on the chocolate and thanked Gautam for it too. The four of them started walking away from the School towards the park and just then Gautam told her that he had to take Preeti home soon, since they had to go to a birthday party later. He told her he'll see her again tomorrow.
Meera had butterflies in her stomach. She had never been this happy in a long time. She had never laughed like this in years. She couldn't wait for tomorrow. She was happy walking Anya to the park. Anya being the little genius she was, noticed the sudden happiness in her mommy. She was happy too. She left Meera's hands and ran towards the slide. Meera looked around for a spot to sit down and settled herself and Anya's back-pack under a shady tree. She could see Anya so happy, fearless of the unknown, no worries in her mind. She was a good kid, never a problem, not even when it came to her food as long as she got them on time. She wasn't fussy at all. Only one thing had troubled her, the day Anya wanted to know about her daddy. Well, technically no one knew who her biological father was but Meera couldn't tell her that. So she had told her that her daddy was far far away where he can't come back from. Anya just accepted it and never again asked Meera for anything more. Meera had longed to tell her that if only things had gone well, Rahul could have been your daddy.
Like every couple, Rahul and Meera, were happy too in the beginning. They spent a lot of time together, talking, laughing, holding hands, roaming around. He helped her in every way he could. He was dedicated to her. He'd pick her from her classes and drop her home, talk for hours on the phone, chat online till late and what not. First it was just the jealousy. He couldn't take it that Gautam was her best friend. That had to stop. He wanted her to be happy only because of him not because of any other guy. Then it was about her ambition. She had dreams and he was between her and her dreams, but she somehow managed to go abroad and pursue her studies. Later it was all his lies and false promises, his lack of interest, his lack of trust in her, communication gap and the distance between them. So he came to live with her too. They got married right in the middle of all their misunderstandings, just to please both the families. Like many love marriages, their honey moon period was over just before they were married.
After their marriage, their fights focussed on one constant thing, his ego. He could never bring himself to apologise or make up to her after whenever he hurt her which was almost always intentional. He constantly made her feel small, picked on her for small things and lost respect for her. For Meera, it was additional responsibility. She had no social life. Whatever time she had left after her efforts to please him and soothe him, she used for her studies. She told herself that was the one thing that she needed to concentrate on. Once her exams are finished she'll have more time to spend with him. He'll understand. It never once occurred to her then that it wasn't her fault. She'd blamed herself for everything that went wrong. She always wondered if she'd done things the other way they wouldn't have fought. As days went by, she was getting more depressed every day. Many nights she'd cry and lie beside him. He'd not even hold her or bother to wipe her tears away. Then it slowly dawned on her what she was inflicting upon herself, plain guilt.
Meera suddenly remembered a phone conversation with her mother, when her mother realised her daughter wasn't happy. That was the last straw. Meera couldn't take it any longer. She poured her heart out to her mother and remembered what her mother told her that day, "You are a good girl and you have always been. You should understand that you are married now and you can't expect to be pampered and spoilt. This is reality. Your father has never done anything for me either. You should know to take care of yourself and your husband too. He must be tired and worried about something. It'll pass". That hurt Meera more than ever. Even her mom couldn't understand. She had absolutely no one to talk to in that strange place, thanks to Rahul. She was alienated from her friends circle and he always had his own friends whom he always hung out with. She was never invited out with him.
All the butterflies she had earlier in her stomach passed. It was clear to her now. She'd been hurt by one guy whom she truly loved and worshipped. In fact she knew she still loved him. She was weak. Every time he came back into her life she'd simply accepted him back and the cycle repeated itself. It took a great deal of her strength to leave him and start a new life. Her life was a mess and now it has just started to look better.
She told herself, the broken rainbow is beginning to mend. She was still healing from all her psychological wounds and yet she had hopes for a brighter tomorrow. She told herself she'd never let herself be treated like that by anyone else again. She had decided she'd never let any guy be a priority in her life, she knew very she'd never be able to commit to anyone else again. She'd never be able to trust another guy. She'd carved out her future in which she had place only for her daughter Anya. That was how it was going to be.
Meera looked up to see Anya still engrossed in her slide and wondered if she'd ever get tired of going up and sliding down at least fifty times. She was tired and now a bit confused. She looked up to the sky, "Why God, Why did I have to meet Gautam after all these years? Is it for him to mock me? I never wanted him to see me like this, a failure. He'd warned me about Rahul so many times but I never listened to him and he's now come to rub it in? To tell me "I told you so?", Why God?, I was doing just fine, or is this a sign for me to accept Gautam? A second chance?".
Meera looked at Anya and pictured Anya in Gautam's arms. She began to picture the two of them playing and having fun just like father and daughter. She knew Anya would be happy to have a father. Thoughts of whether Gautam will accept her and Anya ran across her mind. She immediately brushed the thought away. "How can I trust any guy to take care of my girl?" "No, I've been there, done that. Not again. Gautam doesn't deserve me. He surely deserves someone else. What if he already has someone? Stupid me, for thinking so far ahead." Yet, the very thought of meeting him again brought a smile to her face.
Anya was tired sooner than usual and ran to Meera. They walked to the bus terminus and got into the bus. All the while Meera's mind was occupied with the thoughts of meeting Gautam. She talked herself into hoping for nothing yet she felt herself happier than she'd ever been in years. "Mommy, you are smiling at who?" came Anya's sweet voice looking around for the reason for her mommy's smile. Meera just hugged her little girl and told her it was her who made her smile and she hoped against hope that it was that. They got back to their cute little cosy place what she called home. She gave Anya a quick shower, fed her, recited a bed time story and put her to sleep. She fell asleep too and slept peacefully in a long time and before she knew it, it was already a brand new day.
The day couldn't have gone any quicker for Meera because she was already walking towards the nursery to pick Anya up and today she was late just like other days. She was walking inside the gate when she spotted Anya warming up to Gautam. For a moment, she wished that what she saw was real, a moment that'd never end even after she separated them. Her heart ached for it. She suddenly wanted a father for Anya and her best friend back in her life but was it that simple? She knew that what she saw now and cherished was simply asking for too much. She couldn't go through with the whole relationship thing again and let alone Anya go through with it. She decided she'd had enough of men. She wasn't over Rahul yet and she never would be and to think of Gautam now wouldn't be fair to Gautam himself. She wouldn't do that to her best friend she told herself. She slowly walked towards them.
Gautam turned and looked at her admiringly. She blushed even though she knew she shouldn't have. She realised she'd even had her eye shadow on today, which she hadn't bothered with in years and wondered if she'd already made a fool of herself. Gautam suddenly shook her hands and congratulated her and she wondered why. Seeing the frown and confusion on her face he giggled and told her that Anya was bragging about her "Doctor Mommy" and "Teacher Mommy" and "Nice Mommy". He told her he was proud of her that she'd come so far in life. Meera didn't know what to say. " So, how is Rahul? Is he still jealous of me, eh? Did you tell him yet that you met me yesterday?". She didn't remember what hit her but all she could manage was "Yes, Rahul is fine and he's still the same and always will be. We better get going now then and I have a lot of work to get done. See you some other time Gautam. Convey my regards to Arthi and your parents too".
Meera and Anya said their farewells to Gautam and Preeti. She knew then that for atleast another six months she'll have to lie to her best friend or make some other arrangements to pick Anya up. She didn't want to give him any hopes nor did she want to know if there was anyone special in his life. She didn't want to know anything at all about him because she didn't like the way her heart fluttered around him. She didn't want to go through all of it again. Never! A broken rainbow takes a long time indeed to heal and sometimes never actually heals.