Tainted Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
About a girl who is confused about her feelings for a stranger.

Submitted: October 17, 2014

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Submitted: October 17, 2014

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When Natascha woke up that frigid Monday morning, she felt an unmistakable sense of urgency tinged with excitement. She looked about her room trying to remember what might have caused this furor. She felt uneasy but even then, it was a welcoming feeling. She couldn't put her finger on it and wondered why she felt the way she did, an undeniable mix of frenzy accompanied by fear and most of all, adventure.

 

She got up from her bed, mindful of the growing pit in her stomach and walked to the full length mirror by the window and saw a disheveled but a comely figure staring back at her. The eyes were dilated from the inexplicably mysterious feeling and the mellow rays streaming in from the partly drawn lace curtains accentuated her light brown eyes. She stared back at the reflection in a stupor. It didn't feel like her own. And yet, it was her.

 

She reached for the window and threw the curtains apart and drew in a deep breath of the crisp winter air. The neighborhood was still waking up to the morning. Other than a few hurrying pedestrians, and an occasional school bus, the street wore a deserted look. The deathly silence amplified the rumbling sounds of the subway train grinding on the metal rails in the far distance. She took in every bit of the serene setting, all the while wondering at her rather fragile state of mind.

 

And then it struck her, like a bolt from the blue. Just as she was walking away from the window, she heard the long, hollow horn of a train traveling through the dense cold air and it all became clear. In a flash, just like that. She stiffened, stopping in her tracks.
 

Yes, today was the day she decided she would speak, say something, or smile. Even if it’s just a smile. Something.

 

Suddenly, her life had a new purpose. She dug her toes in the soft carpet, heart pounding. Today, she would pull out her little vanity case of maquillage stashed away in the deep recesses of her closet. She would wear that Christian Dior perfume, gifted by her brother years ago and saved since then to be worn only on exclusive occasions. She would wear the prettiest dress she had with her 3 inch heels even if it meant stumbling and getting a few sores.
 

She would look her best.

 

She hurried, with a spring in her step and heightened senses. She listened to the spirited chirping of the tiny warblers, the merry whistle of the wind through the bare branches and oddly enough, even the heavy footsteps of her neighbor upstairs felt like they were dancing to a tune. Nothing perturbed her. 'Oh! How I wish everyday would be like this!' She filled her lungs with the neighbor’s warm saccharine smell of waffles wafting in through the open window and when her toasts popped from the toaster, she spread an extra layer of the herbs and garlic cheese. She wrapped her long fingers around the warm cup of coffee, eyes closed and took in every bit of the warmth.

 

Oh Joy!

 

And when it was time to get dressed, she felt giddy with happiness. 'Should I put on my makeup first or the dress or vice-versa?' She couldn't make up her mind. 'Bothers! What difference does it make? I'll be the prettiest girl there has ever been!' she sighed.

 

Oh Joy!

 

She wore her reddish brown tweed dress, a subdued yet stylish garment. It had a pretty belt with a big buckle in the center that sat firmly on her tiny waist. After carefully drawing the eye liner over her eyelids, dabbing pink lipstick and patting some foundation and blush, she let out an impromptu happy cry. She did look Vogue worthy – the cover page! Her hair was tied in a high pony tail, revealing her high brows, and cheek bones, her kohl lined eyes and her perfect mouth. She threw on a matching scarf, slipped into her heels and stood in front of the mirror with her Coach bag. She felt a million dollars.

 

Oh Joy!

 

When she stepped on the pavement, the cold air cut through her like a sharp knife. She shivered, gathered herself and continued her suddenly-not-so-arduous walk to the train station. The city was limping back to life. Cars whizzing past, a bevy of school girls waiting for their bus, the newspaper boy on his round flinging newspapers onto driveways, yellow taxi cabs dotting the city progressively and the chattering of early morning walkers. She didn't normally look up at passerbys and smile, but today she nodded at at least a dozen.
 

She could take on the world on a day like today.

 

'Why am I so excited now? It's only on the ride home that I see him.' But she didn't want to spoil the magic and kept up her buoyant mood. 'It will prepare me for that opportune moment.' 

 

The train ride to work was uneventful and passed by quickly. She wasn't lulled to sleep by the sound of the wheels on the tracks. She was wide awake, au contraire, and watched the landscape turn from sprawling fields bathed in mellow sunlight to a bustling city with its familiar sights and sounds.

 

At work, she moved feverishly through her assignments and when it was lunch hour, she slipped out alone for a soup and salad combo. A big change, eating alone! She couldn't ever imagine eating out alone. She felt out of her depth and awkward. She never understood people who sat alone in restaurants and ate without feeling self-conscious. She would rather go hungry than go alone and secretly admired people who were so comfortable in their skin. Today, she was one of them. She got her tray and sat confidently in a booth near the window. She watched people and conjured up stories about their lives between succulent morsels of clam soup and fresh salad. All the while thinking of her ride back home. She dug her toes into the soft cushion of her heels. 'It will be ok. It will be better than ok.' she reassured herself.

 

When she got back to work, she felt numb with anticipation for the hour was drawing closer. She couldn't concentrate and her mind kept going back to the events that led up to today.

 

It was about two months back, two months too long. She noticed him standing at the other end of the rail car holding on to the bar. A tall, lithe figure in checked green shirt and blue jeans. He had a denim jacket with him, she remembered. Staring vacantly ahead, her eyes had caught hold of the jacket, which he held lightly in the other hand. It's sleeve had fallen from his grasp and swayed with the movement of the train. It was the sleeve that held her attention. The gentle sway, the light blue color and the metal buttons at the cuffs.

 

She didn't make anything of it at first but in the days that followed, she noticed him regularly. He would get off one stop before her but she didn't know where he got on. He had a soft look, always smiled, made way for people and would give up his seat to the elderly. There was a look of pathos in his eyes, she felt. He needs someone to make him feel less of a stranger in an unfamiliar city. For she thought he was new to the place. She wanted to be that person. One who'd hold his hand and tell him, 'It's ok.'

 

He started to grow on her. Everyday, she'd peel her eyes to seek him out. He stood out from the crowd; his refined ways set him apart from the others like no other. He was effortlessly smart and sophisticated. He was always so well put together, his clothes, his mannerisms. An alluring man! Yet there was nothing exaggerated about him. His hair was mostly drawn back neatly but sometimes it wore a ruffled look, maybe from the wind. It suited him though, made him look rakish. She wondered what was going through his mind, who he was and where he lived. All she could do for the moment was try and make up a story - something she would do to pass those dreary hours of her long commute. She would let her imagination run wild but not with him. With him, she was careful. She couldn't make anything of him but watched and admired.

 

She looked forward to the ride home and never missed the 6 'o' clock train. And there he'd be standing on the platform waiting to get on. He never shoved or pushed, just waited patiently. There was something about him that was so vulnerable and endearing that she wanted to take care of him. It wasn't love. No, it wasn't, it was just her need to be his friend, to protect and nurse him. She wished he would stand next to her but it never happened. She started worrying that he'd just disappear one day and not know her. She had to make him know her. But how? Every time, she thought of going up to him, her mind drew a blank, her knees buckled and her mouth would go dry.

 

So after two months of watching him, she had made up her mind to go up and say 'Hello'. Would it work? She had no clue. But she felt hopeful. It had to be done. She didn't want to live with that regret.

 

When it was time to leave, she brushed her hair, neatened her dress and re-applied her lipstick. Suddenly, she didn't feel as cheerful as she did in the morning. She didn't want to come across as too loud and lightly wiped the extra layer of lipstick.

 

Her stomach was in knots when she got on the train and almost wished he never existed – at least not in her life. When the train screeched to a halt at his station, she looked frantically for him. There he was, standing tall and handsome to one side. She felt nervous and waited with sweaty palms. The train lunged forward and gained momentum, its wheels making those repetitive patterns of predictable sounds. She kept summoning courage, looking for the right moment to go up to to him. Nothing felt right. 'What if I appear desperate and silly?' She agonized over it and at one point, almost gave up. But when she saw him looking placidly out of the window with a bored expression, she thought they might have something in common.

 

She got up, determined in her resolve. She made her way through the motley crowd of men and women. The train was overcrowded and she got pushed about by the motion of the train and people trying to balance themselves. When she was half way, the train came to a halt and to her horror, she watched him get off.

 

She pushed through the crowd and jumped out on the platform just as the closing doors sign came on. As she followed him on the platform, she realized it would look out of place to make that first acquaintance on a platform or the road. She knew him from the train rides and the train felt a more appropriate place for their first encounter. Her mind raced, should she give up now? Maybe not. Maybe she could just pretend this is her destination and make it look like she bumped into him. Sly but the best workaround. Comforted, she moved quickly through the milling crowd. She felt happy all of a sudden. There was hope and it had been a good day – maybe a sign of good things to come!

 

Oh joy!

 

She quickened her step, made that turn onto the road and saw him enter a cafe. 'Perfect! I could use a warm cup of coffee myself!' She felt. She crossed the street and opened the door to the noisy cafe. 'Oh every thing's shaping up in my favor!' The color rose to her cheeks and she felt a warm glow.

 

She ordered a cup of coffee and gingerly made her way to his table, hidden behind a small partition. She turned round the red brick wall, coffee in hand and stopped short.

He was pulling her a chair before settling down himself. A warm look in his eyes.

 

She stared incapacitated for a second or two, a look of despair. 'Yes?' said he, with a light smile. 'Oh nothing. I'm sorry' she managed befuddled and got out. The wind chilled her bones. She took the next train home.

 

Once home, she kicked off her heels and opened the window for some fresh air. She watched the bright city lights, her heart heavy. She stood there for fifteen minutes until it started drizzling.

 

She closed the window and saw her shadowy reflection against the big round bokehs from the city lights on the rain splashed window.

 

She reached for the cup of coffee resting on the sill. Her eyes welled up. She looked away, a tear slowly rolled down her cheek.


© Copyright 2018 Aditi Nadgauda. All rights reserved.

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