He needed to smoke. He desperately needed a cigarette. Would she mind that? "well"......he thought, "it is a little beyond that point now :)". He leaned over his king sized bed and grabbed a pack of his beloved drug, and sat up a little - doing this meant that her head slid from his shoulder. She looked up.
Her expression ..... what was that expression, he couldn't figure that out. Was it an expression at all ? he wasn't experienced enough to know that. He was a "noob", his thought process switched to the good old day's of computer gaming. "the Noob that I am" he thought, "totally pawned by her ...... :)". He was smiling to himself, he swung his arm from beneath her, carefully putting her head on the pillow.
His "Zippo" was a little farther than the pack, and he leaned further to get it. "click" sounded the lighter and he lit up the cigarette. first puff tasted a little of lighter fluid. he quickly took a couple of more puffs to get the "taste" back to normal. He started re-collecting what had just happened. A cold shiver ran through his spine.
He had always observed that jump starting a romantic relationship was governed by the limited availability of options in the person's proximity. He had never observed a relationship starting off with love at first sight between strangers. It was always between people who were forced to be confined one way or the other in a particular proximity. Class mates, co-workers, cousins (yeah he was living in a typical Eastern society), neighbors, and even regular commuters :). That sometime pitted unlikely partners together, and he had seen his share of odd couples over the years. What just happened to him ..... was not only new to him, but felt a little dreamy as well.
"I barely know her .... what just happened here?"....it was true that she gave out an impression of a strong woman - he knew that was his weakness as well - It was true that her unfortunate break-up and subsequent divorce sometime ago was topic of conversation of his household women.
He started to re-collect the events in immediate past. She came in asking for her friend - his sister - who wasn't at home. At that time he was trying to sleep. He knew that electricity won't be gone for next couple of hours, and the air-conditioner would be UN-interruptedly pumping cold air for that long. The temperature will be bearable enough to for a typical afternoon nap, at-least for two hours of electricity and a half hour after that, before the summer heat takes over and he would wake up sweating.
"She isn't here" he had replied, "her in-laws came to pick her up - they are out shopping. there is going to be a marriage in their extended family, and they have invited her " ..... "oh yeah she mentioned that - good for her", her face frowned a little. "Just that I wanted to take her to the market myself - I needed to do some shopping as well"...
"nuhhhh " he thought out loud, a little too loud in fact. That prompted an inquisitive expression from her. "You dont seem like someone who is a shopaholic or some one who likes spending time window shopping or bargaining for hours with shopkeepers without an intention for actually buying, I was trying to convince myself you are not kind" he justified.
A smile broke on her face, a broad smile, the kind that can make someone's day. That was just perfect, arrangement of her teeth, the cut of her upper lip, her high cheek bones were even more prominent and they along with her perfectly straight hair took one's attention away from the light circles under her deeply positioned eyes. "Actually I am not, I just got accepted and need to do some shopping for academy".
"Academy ?" ......
"Yeah, you don't know that? The result for interview has been published. I am accepted"
"accepted to what? "..... What academies did women in Pakistan got accepted to? they started accepting them in Air Force recently, did she got accepted there? but he didnt thought so. She was probably in her late twenties, an age bracket much above the military's recruitment preferance. He knew, he had applied once. What else? Air Hostess ? that would be a shame, the second hand knowledge that he had of her, she was a qualified lawyer, and since now she is divorced, she should have persued a career in law rather than serving food trays on airplane aisles.
"Array baba .... I got accepted in PCS services, I will be a civil servant in an year or so! " she said excitedly. "Ohhhhh " he was genuinely releived. "Thats great, congrats". he extended his hand which was warmly accepted with both hands and an even wider smile. That was a little odd he thought momentarily, women don't get physical with men in this society, especially the ones who are not related. But, guess in her overwhelming happiness she forgot so. "So when does that starts ? " he threw the obvious question "I don't know for sure, but it will probably bew a few weeks, may be a couple of months .... dun know for sure ".
That was awesome. It was absolutely perfect for his image of hers as a strong woman. A career oriented civil servant .... wow !!!! That was good going. Especially considering the fact that in this society with its own peculiarities regarding women( their careers, relationships and marriage) and that too for divorced women, meant that it will be quite sometime before they can steer it to a meaningful direction. She was already doing that. She was definitely a strong woman, a rarity in this society.
"Well best of luck, and may be when you are in that powerful position you can kick your ex husband's b--t .... might even get your son's custody back !!! " ...... that was said in light-hearted way, but, he forgot that it might instill a painful feeling in her heart. That is exactly what had happened. The deep-set eyes started to fill in, she gazed away from him to try and hold them back. He instantly felt guilty ... "I am sorry, I didnt meant that .... all I wanted to say was that what you've acheived is .... !"
She looked back at him, staring square in his eyes ..... he could see that her effort to control her outburst of tears was unsuccessful, she probably thought it was of no use to try to hold'em back as well. She wanted to break down in tears and cry. And as a consolation effort what he did next, gave her pre-text to do so. He gently touched her on shoulder .... "heyy i didn't mean that, I was just saying......" By that time she was practically sobbing which turned into downpour of tears.
He could swear he had never seen such tears. "They are like pearls ... " he thought "I am wicked" he thought to himslef, "She is crying and is hurt because of my careless choice of words, and anything that has my attention are her tears ??? " ... "Listen I am so sorry" ..... what could he do, how to make her stop crying, how does one do that? he was definitely a noob in such matters. If he had to console a friend of his, he would simply pat them on the back or light up a cigarette and pass it to them or turn the conversation to something else and divert their attention. What to do with her ?
Perhaps he could make a physical gesture like holding her hand or wipe the tears of her face .... His mind ws racing, she didnt minded shaking hands with him or when he touched her on shoulder. That can work, that should work........
Wrong move, he realized that as soon as he followed his thinking, the next thing he knew was that she was in her arms, his hands tighly held by her, and she was putting all of her body weight on her arms, holding his hands down in his lap.