The light was green, the bus was moving and had crossed the Zebra crossing as he looked at her retreating back vanish when she took a left turn in the first lane, and he was aware that with a sense of doom. He gripped the handles of the door tightly, telling himself that he has no business with her, she was just a co-passenger. He turned to get back to his seat and was about to sit when he saw something flash under the seat she had occupied minutes ago.
It was glinting in the sunlight, curious, he bent and crawled a little picking it up. It was a solitaire diamond ring; he has never seen one that big in his whole life. “Must have cost her a fortune? He thought,”Maybe it was a gift from someone, maybe from the one in the picture she tore away”. Suddenly he felt his heart fill with an Enthusiasm and he did a turnaround, grabbed his laptop bag tightly around his neck and arm and ran for the door. The bus was still moving slow when he got down and ran in the direction she had gone. Without looking this or that side, he ran at full speed dodging into people on the kerb road, saying a quick sorry to each shoulder he bumped into, taking the first left and squinting its length when he came to a crossroads. It was leading to three roads except the one he came from. He stood there a little breathless looking here and there for a sign of her which would lead him to her, but no, she wasn’t seen around. He climbed the overhead bridge to scan the roads from a height when he saw her emerge from a shop right ahead. He shouted loudly waving the hand in which he held the ring “Hello, Hello MA’AM, HEY YOU FROM THE BUS”, she looked here and there and then saw him up there. There was indifference on her face that was replaced by shock and then anger as she turned and walked real fast in the opposite direction. He saw her give him a dodge and got down the overhead bridge and ran after her.
He didn’t know why he was so desperate to return her the ring, to talk to her, to know what trouble she was in when she apparently wanted him to leave her alone. He ran at full speed as she too increased her pace but caught with her and snatched her wrist. She was made to turn in a circle with the impact as he went for a spin himself and they both fell to the ground. He was thrown to left and she to the right. He sat up and took few deep breaths holding the stitch in his side as she looked at him with obvious anger from where she sat up. They both got up simultaneously as he saw her come up to him. Her eyes were blazing with anger; he felt weak to see the smouldering eyes bore into his. “Who the hell do you think you are? Loafer! Romeo!, good for nothing stalker. How dare you follow me? A girl is never safe in this city. I will take you to the police and get you arrested for stalking” She said with hateful anger in one go as he let her talk, but he felt his anger boil up and surface when he showed her the palm of his hand and kept a finger on his lips, signalling her to stop talking. His action made her stop talking in reflex as she was hyperventilating in anger and he grabbed her right hand, and placed her ring in her palm, closing it back in a fist and threw her hand back to her side. She was speechless as she opened her palm again and saw the single, round diamond sitting in her palm.
She stood there looking at the ring as her eyes teared up once again, but this time he did not let her see his heart melt and walked back to the way he came. There was so much he wanted to say, to ask, but his self-respect was second to none, and she has just insulted him real bad without any mistake. He was walking briskly and went back to the red light and slumped on a side railing, waiting for the next bus. He never realised, but he was seething with rage. Looking at his watch, he cursed himself for being the impulsive fool. Now he will reach home late and miss the match. He has been waiting for the India-Pakistan match for so long. He had betted good money in this game. This was the only flaw in him, he loved to bet some money on matches, though he knew it was not right, the thrill to watch the game increased manifolds if he knew his money was on it. He was an ardent cricket fan and never had better money anywhere else in his whole life. The last match he lost all the money, but today he was sure to win. He was lost in thought when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned around to see who it was when he saw the same girl standing there. “You? Why are you back? I am a stalker and a Loafer and a Romeo Madam; please steer clear of me.” he spoke spitefully. She was quite as she held her head down and told a Sorry. It was hardly audible over the Delhi traffic, but he heard it loud and clear, the most heartfelt sorry it was which made him guilty instantaneously. He watched as two fat tear drop rolled down her face as she sniffed and wiped them off with a flimsy handkerchief. Looking up she gave him a weak smile and said “Thank you so much, I couldn’t afford to lose that ring; it was all I had to sell” her voice broke as she talked. “You saw me come out of that shop, I went to sell this ring only, but when I did not find it in my bag I was broken and that shopkeeper humiliated me as well. So when I came out and saw you, I was annoyed at the whole world. I knew I had lost it on the bus and had no hope to get it back. But thanks to you, you came back all that way to return it, and you missed your bus as well for me. And me, I am so ungrateful, I scolded you instead of thanking you” In one go she said it all and was resolved back into tears. He didn’t know what to say and how to react, “Do you always talk without breaks, not letting the other person speak ?” he said looking earnestly into her face and saw it broke into a warm smile as she wiped her tears, nodding her head in a no.
“Now that you have found your ring and I have missed my bus a second time, let us help each other. Would you like to share what is troubling you with me, maybe I can be of help ?” He said pointing to the bus that just passed the signal as she followed it. She looked at him as if sizing him up, deciding whether he is good enough to help her or share her problem with. An unsure look clouded the weak smile on her lips as she parted her lips and closed them back. He was quiet, he knew that this morning is not a typical morning, he knew some strange phenomenon had brought them together today, and he was waiting for the day to unfold itself as he looked at her keenly.