She was trying to focus on her books when she was suddenly jolted by the announcement of her name on the public announcement system at the hostel. She wondered who was calling at this time of the evening. This was not the time her parents usually called.
She quickly walked down and picked up the call. “Hello. Who is this?”
There was a pause. Then slowly the receiver came to life. “Is it Sarah? This is Phani.”
Her heart skipped a beat. It was the first time she was hearing his voice ever since they had started corresponding.
“Are you there?”
His voice sounded anxious.
“Yes,” she replied. There was so much they had to say to each other but words had clearly deserted both of them and they found themselves fumbling for the simplest of words.
“Well, did you get my last letter?”
He waited for her reaction. But none was forthcoming. So he continued.
“I got this weird letter from someone claiming to be your friend.”
Her heart sunk. This was not sounding positive at all. Had her friend’s brilliant idea not worked out? She had no clue what to say. So she remained silent
He waited for her reaction and after a while spoke up again. “Are you still there?”
“Yes. Tell me,” she replied in a feeble voice.
Her lukewarm response was beginning to infuriate him. “So you have no idea about this so called friend of yours?”
“No. No. Rachel is my best friend.”
“So you only asked her to write the letter?”
Now where was this heading? What was she to say?
“What happened now? Cat got your tongue? If you are not interested in speaking to me, tell me. I will keep the damn phone down this very minute.”
“No. Please don’t keep the phone down.”
“So you finally found your voice, eh? Let us leave the topic of your friend. Did you get my last letter?”
“I did,” she said after a short pause.
“And so what is your response?”
“Don’t you think we are rushing things? Shouldn’t we take some time and think things out?”
“Is that supposed to be a no? You do not wish to marry me?”
“You have been such a good friend to me,” she said weakly.
“The usual just friends dialogue, eh? So it was never love at all this while? I should have known this was coming. You girls do this to guys all the time, right? Make use of us when you need us, play with our emotions, build up our hopes and then finally say that we are just friends!”
His voice had by now hit a feverish pitch. He was fuming with rage. Even from such a distance the heat of his fury was seething her. She had never seen him like this. It frightened her to see him like this.
She broke down into sobs. “Please, don’t say such unkind things to me.”
He was completely disgusted. These women! She had answered none of his questions. Whenever logic failed, they had their favorite weapon. They would just turn on the tap and bring the men to their knees. But he knew better. He was not bowing to this emotional blackmail. He had enough of her. He slammed the phone down!
He was fuming even after he got back to his room. He had to smoke a full pack of cigarettes before his nerves calmed down a bit. Then he noticed a large envelope lying near the door of his room. He wondered what it was. He opened it apprehensively. He wondered what knew trouble it heralded. The moment he read its contents, his spirits soared to the skies. His application for Masters in Physics at the University of Stockholm had been accepted! It seemed like a sign from heaven. Physics was his true love. He had lost his way the past three years blinded by love. Now his vision had cleared. This was the opportunity to bring his life back on track.
She wept the whole day. She did not know what to do. A week passed by with no communication from him. One day as she sat brooding over Phani, suddenly her name was announced on public announcement system. She ran to the phone excitedly. But it was not Phani. It was her mother. Her parents had got a marriage proposal for her from a distant relative based out of UK. He was willing to let her finish her studies and was willing to support her higher studies in UK as well. It was a dream proposal as far as her parents were concerned. She was in a dilemma. She could not think of any reasonable objection as such. With things about Phani so uncertain, she saw no reason to upset her parents. So she did not raise any objections. The next couple of days, she tried to call Phani a couple of times. But he was always unreachable. She was not sure if he was busy or purposely avoiding her. But there was only so much she could do.
Time, they say is the best healer and add it to the good news of his application for higher studies being accepted, Phani’s mood had greatly improved. He felt probably he had not been entirely fair to Sarah and decided to speak to her again. He called her up at her hostel. After a long wait a new female voice greeted him. “Hi, I am Sarah’s friend. She is not here this weekend. She is in her hometown for her engagement.”
The news hurt him. But in a way, it gave him a sense of closure. It kind of freed him of guilt. As far as she was concerned, she was back to being the obedient, dutiful daughter. It was not in her nature to go against the tide. But a sense of loss and sadness would prevail in the depth of both their hearts forever.
Beginning of the Series : Four Letters and a Phone Call - I
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