“The Outing” a short story :
Once the cab dropped her near the main market, the driver excused himself stating that he had an errand to run and would be back in approximately two hours. This meant that she had enough time to explore the market. And that’s precisely what she did. She strolled on the streets of the city, in a market full of people. There were tourists, newly married couples, college students, school children, in fact, everybody who could be out at that time, was in fact out and enjoying.
There was nothing in particular that she wanted to buy but the fact that she was able to spend so much time without anybody with her was interesting enough for her to have made up her mind for the little sightseeing. She was crossing the busy market street using her phone for navigation when all she heard was people screaming around her and felt someone pushing her to the pavement. And soon, a truck laden with construction material passed the very spot that she had been standing.
And there he was. While people inquired whether she was alright or not, he was looking at her with eyes that looked as if they have lost people and witnessed too much pain. Tall, not so dark, healthy but not muscled, a man with a brooding quality to his persona that makes you want to care for him. His hair appeared like strands of black silk threads and she wished she could run her hands through them. A man, whose eyes could see the dark depths of her soul, her vulnerability as a person and the loneliness that she hid behind all that glamour.
She brushed the dust off her as she got up and thanked him, smilingly. He too smiled and it lit up his face. He had subtly prominent front teeth and the corners of his eyes crinkled a bit when he smiled. As she walked away, she noticed that he was walking along with her. As she chatted her way to the other end of the road, she realized he was indeed one of those silent types who answered just by nodding his head for a yes or a no.
She loved the fact that with him she did not feel the need to speak at times. She could be herself without having the need to explain or answer questions. She could just be silent and he would respond at the right time as if he could read her mind. She loved this proximity, the fact that he was close to her touch. There was an eagerness to feel him all the time and yet there was also a feeling of being sated.
As the snow crunched beneath their feet, they were making their way through this dense swarm of people coming their way. Though it had snowed a few days back, the sky opened up to more sunshine. And people were enjoying all that warmth. Clad in 5 layers of clothes, this was the best trip of her life and she hoped the same was true in his case as well.
A road went up towards a clearing where people could sit on the benches that were rooted to the ground. The smell of the roadside eatables slowly wafted in and hit their noses. She crinkled her nose in silence and looked the other way. He excused himself promising her that he would be back in some time. He asked her to hold his pair of gloves. While she thought he had gone to attend the nature’s call, he actually was just behind her, a few steps away, ordering food. He knew she would be craving something to eat as she had told him. A foodie by her own admission, she could constantly think about food.
As they waited for their cab to arrive, they stood outside the medical college that was indeed a landmark of sorts. Also a hospital, it was packed with people of all shapes and sizes and ages as well, who had come to seek the consultation of some sort. Just outside the building was a parking lot which looked as if there was no concept of proper planning whenever it was constructed. People had parked their vehicles wherever they could manage to find a place.
Monkeys, from the nearby trees wreaked havoc with their persistent jumping on the rooftops and well as the car tops and bonnets. They were swinging from the corridors as well as from the branches of the nearby trees, heavy with the still remnants of the snowfall which happened a week ago. Amused, both stood outside on the road on the gravel mound, near the main entrance of the college.
To allow more students to stand outside the college and wait for the college bus, they stepped back a few steps near to the curve of the road. She turned around just in time to see a mama monkey holding a few wheat tortillas or rotis and perching herself on a branch just thick enough to hold her weight. Towards the trunk of the tree but well within her reach, was a tiny fellow. This baby monkey was being fed well by the mama monkey.
She was amused by the scene unfolding before her. She was narrating the scene to him. People around her were watching her talk so animatedly that many giggled as they passed by. But she was unperturbed. All around her, she could see just the mountains and him. He was simply gorgeous. There were winding roads with snow on the edges mixed with mud as far as she could see. There were little sprouts of ferns drinking water which trickled from the pipes hanging precariously from the walls. There was cold wetness in the air, like the way you feel on a rainy day when it has just stopped raining. The tall trees were lined with snow and it all looked like a Christmas postcard had come alive.
It was the rude honk of the cab that took her mind off the interesting scene before her and she quickly sat inside the cab, while he was holding the door. She mentally took a note of it and was impressed. “I thought chivalry was a thing of the past”, she mentally noted. The cab was all ready to go. The driver set the radio to a local station. It was a song from a movie from the 70’s era. As the cab stated moving, she checked the song on her mobile and searched the name of the movie and also took a screenshot for future reference.
As the cab started snaking its way on the road slick with mud and ice, she was witnessing something truly magical. The sun was a mesmerizing mix of orange and reddish hues intercepted by cottony clouds. All around the valley she saw colorful cardboard houses as if they were a part of some crafts project. Together, they had witnessed the most spectacular sunset of their life, she hoped.
As the cab neared the hotel that she was staying in, she asked the driver how much she had to pay. After transferring the amount via an online payment application, she requested the driver to stop near her destination. She requested him to drop the gentleman in the cab to the hotel where he was put up. She had completely forgotten to ask him where he was staying.
When she bent down to ask him his hotel, she realized there was nobody. She asked the driver about the man who was with her. And the driver replied in negative. He said, “Madam there is nobody with you and you were smiling and speaking to yourself all the time. I thought it was the Bluetooth and therefore I did not disturb you”. She smiled weakly at the driver and hurried off to her hotel. “Where did he go? How come the driver never noticed him?” Did he vanish into thin air or was he just a figment of her imagination. She had never believed in the folklores, even the ones in the local area according to which there appears the mysterious spirit of a man when someone’s life is in danger and disappears when he has them safe.
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