Short Story

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HE PERFECT STRANGERS
He wanted to stand close to her, so near that no one else could cast an evil eye on her. He was making sure that there should be no harm to her in any way. He thought her to be the special creation of God who must have dedicated days to carve her. He noticed her, she looked hesitant. At first, he failed to understand the reason for the same. At that moment, his focus shifted and he realized the presence of someone behind her who seemed to be the source of the trouble for her. She was nervously trying to get away from that man. He immediately pulled her towards him. He swapped the places with her. He was now facing the man and staring him in the face. The man had not expected this, his next reaction to walk away from there. Before he could do anything, the arrival of the bus created a hustle in the background. The big red bus at that time of the day caught everyone’s attention. Their eyes reverted to the bus. It was more crowded than expected. He wondered whether they should take that bus or wait for another. He diverted his focus towards her. Their eyes met and she seemed to be pleading him to get aboard the bus. He understood the request perfectly. He took her hand and made a gesture at her to keep walking with him to the entrance of the bus. Amidst the crowd, he managed to get to the door and he slowly helped her get on the bus. He was engrossed in making things perfect for her. Even if that meant, taking the extra step and the extra burden. He was standing too close to her at that moment and looking down at her. She was staring at the ground. This sight made some travelers around them uncomfortable. They started speaking in hushed tones. The ticket conductor noticed this and came to stand near them. He coughed and gestured at them to buy the ticket. Manav looked up to face him. He realized the embarrassment he was causing her and to the people around. He moved slightly away from her. He bought the tickets and shifted his gaze around the bus and towards the ladies seat, if he could find any place for her to sit. Suddenly his face lit up and there was a smile on his face from ear to ear. Mehek noticed that expression and was puzzled at this. Then she turned to look in the direction Manav was staring at. His eyes were focusing at the far front area of the bus which contained an empty seat in the overcrowded bus. She was confused as to why no one had taken that place. She turned to look at him and then followed the direction of his finger which pointed at a scribbling painted in red above the seat. Then she understood the reason of that smile and wondered that how much he cared for her. She had been holding on to tears for long but this time when they made an attempt to leak out of her eyes, she made no attempt to stop them and looked down to avoid having Manas notice them. He again held her hand and tried to wade through the crowd. He wanted to be the first one to reach the seat. She quietly followed him without looking up. She winced due to the pain which arose suddenly in her ribs but held her free palm against her mouth from crying out aloud. Finally, Mehek heaved a sigh of relief when they arrived at their destination, before the actual destination. He made a gesture towards her to take the seat. She shyly moved across him. Her flowing hair brushed against his face. He couldn’t help but smell the fragrance her hair seem to radiate. For once, he closed his eyes and felt like getting lost in there. But this was not the time. She took the seat and looked up at him to express her gratitude. He gave her a quick smile and chose to stand close to her. He did not want her to feel uncomfortable due to the crowd around. Now, there was a pin drop silence between them. He just concentrated on her and she seemed to be lost in thought. She was playing with her hair. A strand had fallen off from behind her ear. She was winding circles of it around her little finger. At that moment, he watched her closely. She...
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