For Another Day
For Another Day
Of all the places in the world, a Library was where he had chosen to hide. For one, no one would ever guess that he, the mighty Vikrant would be here stuck in this grim place stuffed with dusty books. He had always held a grudge against the written word. The warrior takes action while a coward hides behind the books, he often preached to his friends. Vikrant was the outlaw of the town, sticking posters outside government offices, drawing graffiti on unkept walls. Having an affluent father kept him away from being jailed, but the immediate repercussions he often had to bear.
While his friends accompanied him in his risky endeavors, they often managed to get away leaving him to fend for himself. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. It was his fight after all. The youngest son of the town head’s family wasn’t a role he was ready to accept yet. Big brother does a better job of upkeeping the family’s dignity, this had always been his justification each time he got into trouble.
The day had been just like any other. The constant nagging at home, the venting out at the public park where a politician had recently installed his pot-bellied statue. The crazy dash as the security guards trying to catch up. He had been saved by a Flash mob; what a save he thought as he dashed into the nearest building. Turned out it was the town library, one place in town he had never set foot in. At least nobody will expect to find me here, that’s for sure he thought as he settled between the shelves in the dark corner.
The library was one place in the town that was open all night, not that many people really came in to read. The librarian actually kept it open for the underprivileged in the town, allowing them to read, study and even sleep here at night. He had even arranged mats and blankets for them. Vikrant knew about the place as he had worked from behind the shadows in arranging the resources, but never once dared to come and see it for himself. Yet, he had finally ended up here. “Is this what they call fate?” Vikrant thought to himself as he rested in midst of the books, he so despised.
He didn’t realize when he fell asleep, but the much-needed rest was disturbed by someone tripping over him and a dozen apologies. Still, partially asleep only the voice had registered and through the half-closed eyes, he had seen the trail of a flowing dress accompanied by the distinct jingle of bangles and a faint scent that lingered for a while. He was awake now, time to get going he thought. As he walked out his eyes searched around for a dress, the bangles, and the voice, but the corridors that were empty when he had rushed in were now filled with children from the slums all, slouched under the lights with books in hand. A few ceased their reading to look up and smile at Vikrant as he walked out. He had seen those kids before in the street corners, selling duplicate toys, flags, and other knick-knacks.
The next day, he walked back into the library as if pulled by some unknown force. Hiding behind the shelves he searched for the one who had kept him awake the past night. The library in the late evenings was mostly filled with the town’s elderly. There were just a few unknown faces and amongst them the one that stood out quite evidently. A woman in her thirties, wearing a long flowery gown, her small face, framed by wavy auburn hair. Just a look and Vikrant had the feeling that if he went any closer, he would catch a whiff of the unknown yet familiar scent. He was happy, he had found her, but now what? What was he supposed to do? Go and introduce himself? Not a chance. While people saw him as a playboy, that was just a façade.
He was an introvert posing as an extrovert in reality. Days passed by and visiting the library became a part of his daily routine. She always sat at the same place, against that large glass window that faced the street. She would lean against the chairs as she read. At times she would keep the book aside and stare at the street and watch the performances, and smile ever so slightly at some instances. And each time she smiled; Vikrant’s heart skipped a beat. He had nearly been caught peeking once, but he had managed to hide just in time.
Almost a month passed and he was yet caught up in another chase, and he had hurt his ankle jumping over a wall. Somehow, he managed to make it into the Library, and run directly into the subject of his fascination.
“Are you okay.” She asked as Vikrant crashed uncontrollably into the chairs, and the sweet voice echoed through the deepest corners of his heart.
“Ya, my bad,” Vikrant answered sheepishly as he rubbed his ankle checking whether the bruise was evident.
She sat down and took his feet and said, “let me see.”
Oh! God, this can’t be happening. Vikrant thought happily. This had to be the best day of his life. Not only had he managed to drown the town hall, but he was also now face to face with her, “his angel.”
She had taken off his shoes and was now examining his foot as an expert would, checking for signs of a break. After a few twists, she set his foot down carefully. All the while Vikrant just stared brazenly at her, surprised by her uninhibited actions.
“Hey, you new in town?”, Vikrant finally asked.
She looked at him, reading his face as she tried to formulate her reply.
“Well, I am visiting actually. But have been here long enough to recognize the town’s trouble maker. You need to get this bandaged, you have sprained your ankle you see.”
“She knows me,” Vikrant’s heart did a back-flip.
“Thanks, I will do that. I am Vikrant by the way, and you?”, He asked.
She paused again, there was a commotion outside. The kids had started to come in and the security guards who had followed Vikrant were now peering in from the door.
“Himangi”, she said as she held out her hand and pulled Vikrant up. She dragged Vikrant towards the shelves behind them and stood guard as Vikrant slumped back, his pain quite apparent after the sudden movement.
“Wait here, let me get the first aid kit.” She motioned him to stay quiet as she expertly found the way towards the desk where the librarian kept the first aid kit to take care of the kids who came in bruised every so often. In the meanwhile, the security gave up the search after being pestered by the children.
She opened the first aid box, pulled out a bandage, and expertly wound it around his feet. In contrast to the loud shouts of children outside, the quietness between then seemed natural. But this was the chance Vikrant had been looking for. He mustered courage and finally said,
“No worries, I am glad I could at least help.” She said as she taped the loose ends of the bandage.
“All done, just take care while you walk back and no running around for a while”, she said again as she closed the first aid box and stood to return it to its original position.
“Coffee, tomorrow?” Vikrant blurted out.
She turned, “Would love to, but I am leaving town tomorrow.”
Vikrant was shattered. No, he had to ask her to stay. But he hardly knew her and how was he to persuade such a woman who looked so composed and acted so mature. His looks weren’t working for sure; he had concluded.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that”, said Himangi who had now returned and was gathering her belongings from the floor.
“Please, can’t you stay just for a day longer”, Vikrant asked as a last resort.
Himangi looked at him, her long eyelashes now lit by the light that hung above, her eyes the shade of blue staring back at the grey tear-filled eyes.
“I could stay for just another day I guess.” She smiled at him and picked the bag and walked out.
Vikrant crashed into the floor and smiled as he watched the long gown vanish slowly from the range of his vision.
Himangi sat at in the corner of the town’s only coffee shop as she waited for Vikrant. She had come to this town on a whim, trying to escape the madness of hospital duties. Working as the head nurse came with its perks and burdens. This was her long-awaited vacation and yet she had chosen to while it away in the small town, where people would at least let her be. The library had been her solace., and that is where she had noticed a boy who looked extremely out of place. She had seen him running around in the streets, often being chased. The calmness in his face, the unfiltered laughter on his face was captivating, and without knowing her eyes had started following him. Talking to him had never been her plan, but when he had asked her to stay for a day, she just had to.
“Staying for another day makes no difference anyway.” She thought as she smiled inwardly, watching Vikrant walk in, in the brown leather jacket he had worn when she had tripped over him in the library.