"Shalu, will you marry me?", Anand asked. He looked very serious. He did not have money to buy a ring for her, so he thought he would just ask her. He had fallen head over heals in love with her. She was HIS Shalini. Only his. He noticed the silence which had suddenly come in between.
He asked her again, "Tell me..."
She smiled. "Ofcourse I will marry you." And she giggled.
He was happy. He hugged her tight. And he kissed her hard. He knew that he was still 15 years old and she was 14. But he had fallen in love with her the day her family moved into that big house near the river. Her father was rich. And she always wore good clothes. Even her lipstick tasted so sweet. He could never match her standards. He knew that. But he couldn't control his love for her.
"Take out your sandals and put your feet here", he pointed to the small rock in front of her.
She obediently did that. And he took out the silver anklet and slid it over the soft skin on her ankles. He saw the glea in her eyes. He knew that she had loved it.
"I will always wear it. No matter where you are, this gift will always remind me of you", she said with tears in her eyes.
And he hugged her. For five minutes both of them fell silent. And then she asked, "Where did you get the money from?"
"Maa gave it to me"
He had lied then. But only because he had loved her, That was the first gift he had bought for her. And then the gifts continued. And the money never came through him. He looked at her. She was no longer on the bed. He had been lost in his thoughts for too long. The teak wood dressing table next to the bed had a huge oval mirror above it and she stood there watching herself.
He wanted to dash towards her. He really felt the urge. But what would he say. How could he prove his love when he was guilty of the crime he committed 13 years ago. Her father had handed him over to the police. He had been caught stealing that gold necklace which belonged to her grandmother. He wanted to sell it and buy gifts for his Shalini. But he was caught. And today, after spending 13 years in the jail, he was finally a free man. He came straight to her house. He wanted to see her. 13 years he had spent away from her. And today she was standing right in front of his eyes.
"Mansi", a female voice called out. Standing at the door of the room was a women with a big red mark on her forehead and a baby in her arms. "Mansi, I am back". And she rushed towards the dressing table.
He was confused. Mansi turned away from the mirror and opened her arms to greet the woman.
She looked at the baby in that woman's arms and exclaimed, "Look at him. Sound asleep in his mothers arms." She smiled and looked at the woman with the baby, "I am so glad that you came, Shalini"