(Flash fiction entry, 500 words for the platform www.penmancy.com)
(Prompt: May I)
“May I… sit here?”
Shekhar’s deep baritone stirred her loins. The embers she thought had gone cold suddenly sparked alive, and that old flutter in her heart bore testimony to it. She pulled down her stole, covering her head further below, so it touched her nose.
He sat behind her, his back towards her. Perfect, so far as he didn’t see her face, it would be just fine, she thought, beholding the widespread children’s park spread before her.
“So, Roopa, what do you expect from your life partner?” Shekhar asked, straight to the point. She already liked him.
“Well… he should understand and respect me as an individual.” She spoke, her usually confident voice sounding like her friend Mehrunnissa’s mewing cat.
His voice closely resembled Kabir Bedi’s, and being a voice-over artist for years, she had the hots for such tonal qualities.
“Roopa, I have similar expectations from my partner. To share my life unconditionally…”
Wait till you see me…
Roopa pulled the remaining corners of the stole closer to her chin.
Her cousin, Jyoti had arranged this meeting with a prospective groom. Painful rejections with the choicest words thrown her way to last a lifetime, Roopa’s only condition to meet the guy was he would not see her at first.
“This is the last time didi…” she had told Jyoti. “…I am happy as I am…”
“You should meet this man, Roopa. I know him personally. He isn’t like your archaic misogynists…”
“But my condition stays, didi…”
Jyoti didi had agreed, and, true to her word, Shekhar only spoke. Not once did he ask to see her.
Before she knew Roopa was engrossed in conversation with an absolute stranger.
Shekhar was full of life and knowledge. She wasn’t even aware of the passage of time.
They met a couple of times in the similar manner. Never before had she felt liberated; her ideas and viewpoints taking flight with him being the wind beneath her sails.
But… would he change once she revealed herself… her face?
Five years ago, Roopa had been in a vehicular accident. Two of the four passengers in her share cab were dead, and her face had borne the brunt of the collision. In two years, multiple surgeries and rehabilitation processes got her back on her feet but left her soul scarred like her face.
Finally, a month after she met Shekhar, they mutually decided to ‘see’ each other.
With her heart threatening to run a marathon, she turned around, her eyelids tightly shut. Apprehensions at its zenith she felt his hand lift hers.
Basking in his warmth, she opened her lids only to see a part of his skull sunken, and in place of an eye, there was a patch. In addition, he had a pronounced limp, and three of his digits were missing.
“Roopa I was the other passenger who survived that day… do you still feel I won’t understand you…?”
Roopa smiled and instantly knew fate had planned their rendezvous from the start.