Three years later…
'If you think I'm going to be fooled by that mask of a smile then you have another thing coming. Come on Rania. You call this, sitting at Café Mango fun? You're leaving for Milan in three days and in the three months that you've been here, you've worked like hell, declined all invitations to parties and only spent a couple of evenings with me, that to at Café Mango. Rania, it's been three years. Let it go,' Boishakhi finished with worry.
'I don't know what you're talking about,' Rania said. 'Aryan. Let it go. Let his memories go. In the last three years, ever since Aryan left, your life has changed. You've become even more of a workaholic. You haven't dated anyone. You get upset when we try to set you up. Your parents want you to get married. And you've literally left this place ever since you started working for Nortons. Everyone sees you for three months a year and then you're off parading and working in Italy. Don't you feel like settling down?' Boishakhi asked.
'First I let Aryan and his memories go the day he told me about Ononna. Second I'm not a workaholic, I'm just dedicated and I enjoy what I do. Third I did date people remember Fahim and Ryan and you set Ryan up. Fourth, my parents wanted me to get married ever since I left for college. Fifth, working for Nortons in Milan is the best thing that happened to me. And finally sixth and once again, I like working and I do not parade. To top it all my so called 'parading' is earning me big bucks,' Rania retorted heatedly.
'Missy if you call meeting up with your old high school friend Fahim a date and if you think taking your colleague Ryan shopping a date then, you aren't fooling me. And money? It's practically pouring out of your ears. You're twenty-seven and you already own your own roof and ride. Your making your Dad's company a headline. Do you now want a Swiss bank account? But is this money buying you happiness? But then again who am I to ask?' said Boishakhi a bit hurt. 'Just drop it Boinks,' Rania plead.
A week later as Rania sat by the window at Lorenzo's Café sipping Lorenzo's special cappuccino she went over her conversation with Boinks. Who was she trying to kid? Boinks was right. Rania glanced at the busy street outside and thought that her dream of working in Milan had come true. But she wasn't happy anymore. She really needed to let Aryan's memories go. But deep down Rania knew that there would never be anyone else. Her parents would just have to let her sister Rhea finish college then they could marry her off. Rania absently took another sip of her cappuccino and realised that she'd smudged her nose once again with froth. She was looking around for a napkin when she heard someone saying, 'Old habits die down hard.' Before she knew and saw what was happening, she felt someone wipe her nose.
She looked up and saw Aryan standing in front of her. This isn't happening, Rania thought. I'm hallucinating. Aryan isn't here. He's in London happily married to Ononna by now. 'Rania? Forgotten me in three years,' Aryan asked. 'No. I'm surprised to see you here,' she finally managed to say. 'Aren't you going to ask me to sit down?' he asked. 'Uh…oh…yeah. How rude of me. Please join me,' she replied. 'You know what's really rude? Leaving for Milan and not telling me. Never bothering to keep in touch. Gosh Rania what happened? And what's with this toothpick look? If I didn't know you better I'd think you're having an eating disorder,' said Aryan. 'What brings you here?' she asked evading the topic at hand. 'Work. I live in London now. I quit modelling, moved back to London and took over my Dad's office. I was here for a merger. I leave in a week. I was just going back to my hotel when I passed this Café. And lo and behold, there you were sipping cappuccino right by the window. Small world,' he said.
As he spoke Rania took the opportunity to observe him. At thirty-two Aryan looked as good as ever. There was a cynical glint in his eyes but the Apollo like stature had not abandoned him yet. Rania turned her attention back to his words. 'You've changed Rania,' Aryan observed. "I've grown up Aryan,' she replied. 'Maybe but what happened to your zest for life? After leaving When I reached London I tried to call you but I couldn't get a hold of you. Then I called your friend Boishakhi and she said that a month after I left, you'd taken a job in Milan and left. Where were you Rania when I needed you?' he asked. 'You needed me? I don't think you need anyone Aryan. And if anything you have Ononna,' Rania retorted. 'Ah Ononna…' Aryan said with what Rania thought was sarcasm but then she saw Aryan going into a forlorn mood and she decided that the sarcasm in his voice was only her imagination.
Don't do this to me Aryan; don't show me how much you miss being away from her, Rania thought desperately. She decided that she didn't to go through this. It was time to put an end to her past. 'I have to go Aryan. It was wonderful seeing you,' Rania said in a hurry. 'But wait,' he implored. 'Bye Aryan,' she said once again and was out the door before he could catch her. A stunned Aryan watched her get lost in the crowd outside. She was gone.
A week later, on a Saturday as Rania was doing the dishes, the doorbell rang. It was ten in the morning and she was slightly apprehensive. As she opened the door she realized that her apprehension hadn't been without cause. Aryan was standing there with a big scowl on his face. He didn't wait to be invited. As he marched in, he started looking for something. 'Kitchen?' he asked. Rania was too confused to do anything but point towards it. As she followed him in, she gasped as he took off his coat. His upper right arm was badly bruised and sporting an ugly blue colour.
Rania quickly got whatever remedy she could find in her medicine cabinet and started working on his arm while asking him to explain. He told her how he'd spotted a thug mugging an old man and had gone to put an end to it. The ensuing tussle had resulted in the bruise. Never change, do you Aryan, Rania thought. As Rania started clearing up, she asked him how he had found her. 'Lady it was one hell of a job finding your whereabouts. I eventually cracked your friend Lorenzo, the café owner,' said Aryan. Oh Lorenzo, you have a lot of explaining to do old chap, Rania thought.
'Why aren't you happy to see me Rania? Why did you storm out of the café the other day? Why are you behaving like this? Even now, you're acting like you've been cornered. What is it Rania?' questioned Aryan. 'Nothing Aryan. I'm not acting like that,' Rania replied. Aryan just sat and stared at her. In three years she had certainly changed. She'd become stick thin but there was this glow to her skin that made her look almost ethereal. Rania felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny. He wasn't buying her explanation. To divert his attention she asked, 'How's your family? And how's Ononna?' A dark shadow fell over his face.
'Everyone is fine. Ononna, I hope is fine, if not for anything then simply for the sake of her new husband,' Aryan said cynically. Rania was too stunned to speak. Finally she said, 'But didn't you leave to …' Aryan cut her off . 'Yes I did. I went, I proposed, I conquered. And then it all went wrong. You see Rania, Ononna did accept my proposal. Apparently she did love me. But after we got married she changed. It started with my wanting to move to Dhaka. But she wouldn't budge. Then she started getting jealous and suspicious when I got modelling calls. She hated my going to Dhaka for shows and was always suspicious about me and my female colleagues when there was nothing to it. Six months into the marriage I quit to make her happy. But it didn't end there. Our company was relocating and finances were limited. Ononna couldn't understand why we couldn't spend money at our free will. On our first anniversary she gave me a big present. She presented me with divorce papers.'
Rania was speechless. Aryan had gone through so much pain. 'Nothing I say will ease your pain Aryan but I'm sorry,' she said. 'You know what's funny Rania? I used to think that you and Ononna were so alike,' he said. Aryan continued, 'But I was so wrong. What was I thinking? After our divorce, I felt disoriented. There was no one I could talk to. I kept on thinking, if Rania was here, she'd ease my pain.' Rania gave a bitter laugh. 'It's not that easy easing pain. Take it from someone…' she stopped in mid sentence. Their eyes met and Rania quickly turned away. She made coffee for them both and they moved to the living room.
As Rania sat down in an overstuffed armchair, Aryan looked around. 'This is great Rania. How does it feel to have your dream come true?' he asked. Rania shrugged nonchalantly. 'It's funny Rania. I use to think marrying Ononna would make my life come full circle. Ironically it destroyed it. When it ended, I took me time to heal. But then all I could think of was you Rania.' At that precise moment the doorbell rang and Rania opened the door to find Marco, her friend, with a huge bouquet in his hand. She introduced him to Aryan and Aryan took his leave. 'This isn't over. Don't think you can get rid of me so soon Rania. I'll be back.' With that he left.
Rania spent a miserable weekend. If only Aryan had felt more than friendship for her. It was eight pm and Rania sat in front of her vanity combing her hair. The thoughts raced though her mind. Suddenly her eyes fell on a little box hidden at the corner of the vanity shelf. It was the present Aryan had given her for her birthday three years ago. She couldn't bear to open it. But now she gently took it out. She went to her favourite armchair in the living room and sat down. She placed the tiny object in front of her on the coffee table and started at it. Slowly she picked it up opened the wrapper. Inside was a little box. She opened it and saw that it was an exquisite white gold pendant shaped like a little angel. She ran her finger over the soft curves and turned it. There was an engraving on the backside. It read: thank you for watching over me.
Something clicked in her mind and she put the box down. Then they started coming. The tears. Three years of pent up misery. Rania couldn't stop crying. The doorbell rang but she didn't answer it. It kept on ringing and she said in a teary voice, 'Go away!' 'Rania let me in or I'm breaking this door down.' Aryan. 'Leave me alone,' she retorted. But he was adamant. Finally to tired to argue she let him in. He took one look at her face and asked, 'Were you crying? No let me rephrase that, why were you crying?' 'Oh I was just sad. That's all,' she mumbled. 'I talked to your friend Boishakhi. You have a lot of explaining to do,' said Aryan.
His eyes then fell on the box. Rania went to grab it but he was quicker. He looked from the box to her face. He sat down and ran his hand through his hair. 'Sit down Rania,' he implored. She sat down across him. 'Did you just open this now?' he asked. Rania didn't say a word. A tear rolled down her left cheek. 'I talked to your friend Boishakhi. Why haven't you dated anyone in the last three years Rania? Why don't you want to get married?' Aryan asked. 'It's none of your business,' she retorted. 'Then just answer this. Why are you opening this present now? Three years later. Why?' He waited for her to answer.
But no answer came. The tears came rolling down. In an instant he was next to her. He took her hands in his and said, 'Look at me Rania.' 'It's too late Aryan,' she replied. 'No it's not,' he shot back at her. 'God damn it. Why are you hurting yourself like this Rania? Why don't you just say it? Why don't you say that you love me?' 'Because you don't love me Aryan. I'm not going to be your rebound girl,' she replied. He let go of her hands and said, 'Is that what you think Rania? For two years I searched for you like a madman. For two years I've waited for this day. The day that I tell you that I love you. And you think I'm on a rebound?' he asked angrily. 'Look at you. You can't even look me in the eye. I made a mistake Rania. But if I hadn't made it, I'd never have realised what I feel for you.'
In her mind Rania kept on thinking, he loves me. It was now or never. She wouldn't let her pride come in the way. She wiped away tears and looked at him. Ryan sensed the change in her. He took her hands in his again. 'This is the last time I'm asking Rania. Do we still have a chance?'
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