A Reality without a Shadow- A mist descending.

Maya does not love being helpless. It’s the last thing she prefers to be. She closed her eyes, and tried to calm herself down, pressing her eyelids hard, as if desperately trying to erase the gloominess that is slowly crippling her. She knew something else was going on. She instinctively opened her eyes. There he was, with a wide baby-faced grin. She never fails to notice that. “Prakash!” she exploded.

“I just thought I shouldn’t bother your meditation, or whatever it is,” he replied. “You gave a bloody start,” she said, as her left hand caressed her heart slowly. Prakash was still smiling. “Won’t you stop smiling? Even at a time like this? For god’s sake man,” she reached out to fetch a brown file from the right side of her desk, and opened. She released a weak sigh, and with that landed her head on the table, cupped by her arms. “Haiyo,” she groaned with skirmish, almost girlish face. “You look so Indian when you do that,” he said, now seated on the chair across the table. He pulled the file to his side of the desk, from under her buried face; and flipped around for his viewing. “Intriguing,” he said. Her face scorched up. She shot him a venomous look. “I swear…,” she started. He immediately grabbed the file, stood up, and walked to the door. “I’ll study it at my own peaceful desk, without an angry but beautiful monster to contend with across the desk, and come back to you when I have something to share,” he said, half sarcastically, and disappeared in no time.

Maya sighed. She needed help. And there’s only one person she would call now to ask for that help.

“Damn,” she said, walking to and fro the sofa once again, as Yuva sat calmly, watching with a slight grin. She stopped and looked at me. “Is that a guy thing or what?” she asked, exasperated. “What is?” he asked back curiously. “You are doing it just like him, smiling while I’m baking myself here,” she said. “Who, may I know?” Yuva took interest in this new diversion this conversation was having. His smile got wider. “Shut up and solve this issue for me, at least help me solve it,” she snapped. He wanted to know more, his interest definitely lies in the other topic now. She raised him and stopped him before he could even ask anything further. He knew she would not answer, and sighed. “Ok, I’ll do it, which idiot can commit murders and think he’s smart enough to escape my glances?” he started walking, and grabbed his sling bag. “It might be a woman you know,” she said ignorantly. “You feminist,” he retorted. “You chauvinist,” she said, and accompanied it with a mocking giggle.

Yuva walked down the pavement, and while he was at it, decided that he would at least have a look at the file one more time, to see how really he can help Maya with this new mysterious case. He took the clippings out of his bag, and munching a bread, read whatever that has been written, said and found about the case so far. The enthusiasm with which he took the file out of his sling bag soon dissipated as he tried to read further. He immediately closed the file, place it back where it came from, grabbed a chair at a café he was passing by, and took his seat. He steadied himself, and that temporary chagrin at not being able to comprehend the case was erased as he returned to his normal playful smile. “So?” he asked enthusiastically across the table. Sipping on a cup of coffee, looking all worn out and tired with a sling bag of her own; was Priyanka. She hesitated a moment, but continued sipping her drink right after that. She placed the cup down and looked at him. “Want a drink?” she asked. A small sarcastic smile appeared in his face, and she did not have anything to say about the smile that she obviously had noticed either.

“Deviation. The oldest trick in the book,” he said, tapping his fingers on the glass table. “It’s only been a week, please do not speculate,” she said, though not dropping any other concrete hint either way. “And this is our third date already,” he finally got himself to order something to drink as well. “Please, don’t…”

“You have to admit it Priya, it is a date, the previous two were dates,” he kept plugging on the issue. He needed to hear something concrete from her side. “You are being extremely impatient,” she said, letting off a sigh in exasperation. Yuva looked at her, but he knew that she was being persistent. She would not come forward to clear the air about what she actually thinks can happen between them. How far she likes him? How far does she think this can go? She won’t tell, because she’s not sure for herself yet first of all. But was Yuva sure? Is he sure how far he believes this can go?

“You are sweating,” he said, slowly, as if not trying to offend her. He knew the rules. No sweet talking allowed. He adhered to the rules in the first two dates. But he had to say this. “You look quite horrid, your hair’s all messed up,” he added, as she looked intriguingly at him. “You might have done that on purpose so that I’d leave you alone. Or maybe it is the way you are after a tiring day at work, dancing your ass off,” Yuva wasn’t about to pause what he already started. “But,” he had to look in her eyes when he says this. He forces himself to keep focused. “But, I still like looking at you, something so charming about you still. I know you are neither the best dancer nor the prettiest. But I do know that I can’t take my eyes off you, and that’s why we are here now.”

With that, Yuva took a quick sip at the cup of tea that was just served in front of him. The drink burned his tongue, but Yuva allowed it to go on, and only stopped after emptying half a glass. He looked at her, she seemed calm. He was defeated. How could she be unmoved by his carefully constructed words? Is it because he broke the rules? “By the way, I wasn’t sweet talking. I was just being honest,” he said before that matter could even be raised by her. Her expression did not change. Yuva can feel restlessness consuming him to the core. He stood from the chair. He tried to say something, but walked away. No words, nothing. Priya turned to her right, away from the direction in which he was walking, and a wide grin appeared on her face. She tried hard to cover it with her hands. Her right hand reached out for the cup of tea Yuva just drank from. She touched the cup from outside to feel the heat. The grin re-appeared. “Looks like somebody’s shy afterall,” she whispered to herself.

When Maya glanced at her office, she knew for a certainty that today would be a horrid day. She hasn’t slept all night long, and this case that has been taking her sleep away must definitely put to rest sooner rather than later. Her eyes were burning.

“Maya,” Prakash was standing in her way as she wanted to head to her desk. She looked up at him. She neither could ask him anything nor tell him off as she usually does. “A third one has happened today,” he said, ending her misery. It’s now descending into a full blown professional nightmare.

To be continued…

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