This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 31; the thirty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is 'Strangers in the Night'
Rhea boarded her train to Goa and found her berth; she was excited about the weekend that she was planning to spend in Goa. She was taking a break from work after a long time and, she was utilizing it wisely by spending a fun-filled weekend with her cousin in Goa. As she settled down in her seat she got a call on her cell phone from Naina, her daughter. Naina wanted to know if she had found her train and after ensuring that Rhea had boarded the train and was comfortably seated in her seat, Naina cut the call, but not before advising her mom to enjoy and let her hair down in Goa.
Rhea sighed as she disconnected Naina’s call. Naina was protective and took so much care of her mom that sometimes Rhea wondered who the mother out of the two was. Suddenly she noticed a well dressed man lugging a small suitcase. He took the berth opposite to Rhea’s and when she saw the gentleman’s face, she was shocked beyond belief.
It was almost after 2 decades that she was seeing Gautham. Gautham too had a shocked expression on his face.
Rhea remembered Gautham’s first day in Eonsoft, the first IT company that she worked for. That day was momentous for Rhea as well; because it was the day she was promoted as Team Lead. To celebrate this happy occasion, she decided to throw a party for all her friends from office. Gautham was assigned to Rhea’s team and she dint want to appear unfriendly. She invited Gautham also for the party.
When she saw Gautham sitting alone in a corner, sipping on a coke bottle, she regretted her decision to invite him to her party. He dint even make an effort to befriend any of his colleagues. Rhea decided that he was arrogant and egoistical and decided to keep her distance from him. Rhea was a friendly person and she had an easy going attitude with all her junior team members which made them feel comfortable around her.
Very soon Gautham adjusted to the work environment of Eonsoft and, although Rhea dint like Gautham much she had to accept that he was a dedicated and a smart worker. He definitely was an asset to her team and to the company.
After a month her company decided to sponsor a trip to Goa for all its employees to celebrate the success of their first product release. Rhea and Gautham both went to the trip. Rhea had a blast enjoying the beaches and dancing till late nights in the discos of Goa. A night before their return from Goa, Rhea and a group of her friends decided to visit Titos, a popular discotheque in Goa. Gautham also tagged along although he dint particularly enjoy dancing.
Rhea was dressed in spaghetti top and denim shorts and after seeing her dancing on the dance floor, few guys in the disco decided to barge in and dance with her. Rhea was frightened but dint allow the fear to show on her face. Suddenly someone took her hand and led her off the dance floor. In the crowd and because she had too many drinks, she dint notice the person holding her hand until they came out of the discotheque.It was Gautham who had saved her from the group of boys trying to grope her. She wanted to go inside the disco and slap those guys but, Gautham reasoned that since those guys were locals it was better to avoid a confrontation with them. Better sense prevailed in Rhea and they decided to head back to their hotel together.
After this incident Rhea realized Gautham was not arrogant but he was an incorrigible introvert with a close circle of friends. Once he made friends, he kept them for lifetime and Rhea considered herself lucky to be his friend. After their return from Goa, the entire office noticed their closeness. They had their lunch together, they went for coffee breaks together and often Gautham was found seated next to Rhea’s workstation, chatting with her nineteen to the dozen.
When Rhea’s friends questioned about their relationship status, her reply was clichéd, we-are-just-friends. But slowly Rhea realized that she had developed feelings for Gautham that went beyond friendship. She was not sure about how Gautham felt about her but she dint have to wait long.
Few days later, on Valentines day, Gautham asked Rhea if she would like to have dinner with him. He made it sound casual but Rhea knew Gautham better. The fact that Gautham had asked her out on a date meant that he really liked her a lot. Their date went spectacularly and after finishing their dinner they decided to take a short walk. It was a deserted road and suddenly Gautham took Rhea’s hands in his hands and looked into her eyes and confessed that he loved her. It was the most memorable night of Rhea’s life because, that night she had her first kiss and although she was no expert in kissing, she decided it was perfect.
Rhea and Gautham were inseparable in office and everyone knew about their relationship. Rhea considered Gautham to be her ideal boyfriend except that he was a tad too possessive of her. But she dint worry about it much because, she understood that his possessiveness was also a way of showing his love to her.
Then almost a year after Gautham’s proposal to Rhea, Aditya joined the company and was assigned to Rhea’s team. Aditya was the most handsome guy that Rhea had set her eyes on. He was too handsome for his own good. In the beginning he tried to flirt with Rhea but once he realized that she was Gautham’s girlfriend he backed off. Gautham dint like him one bit and made it known to Rhea many a times. He was irked when he came to know that, Rhea and Aditya were working on same project and had to spend some nights together in office working with onsite team in US.
Rhea and Gautham had fights regarding Aditya. Rhea did her best to convince Gautham that she had only a platonic relationship with Aditya. Their relationship became strained and, to rekindle the romance in their relationship Rhea planed a trip to Goa with Gautham. They spent a fun filled weekend together and all conflicts were ironed out temporarily. The night before their return, they made love for the first time. Although they were together for more than a year, they refrained from having sex as they wanted to wait till marriage. But that night in Goa, all restrictions were forgotten and all boundaries were broken.
Few days later Rhea had to stay back in office with Aditya for a night. They had an important presentation with the onsite team. When Aditya came for the night shift, Rhea thought she smelled alcohol on him and decided to have a chat with him in canteen. She just couldn’t tolerate such reckless behavior in office. The canteen was deserted when Aditya and Rhea took their cups of coffee from the vending machine. When Rhea confronted about the alcohol, Aditya broke down and confessed that he had had drinks before coming to office because that day his girlfriend broke up with him. She had left him because her parents had found her a well settled guy working in US. To Rhea’s horror Aditya started crying in front of her and she tried to console him by giving him a friendly hug. But Aditya who was intoxicated mistook her gesture and tried to kiss her.
Gautham who stayed near to the office decided to drop in and get dinner for Rhea. As fate would have it, he saw Rhea hugging Aditya passionately and him kissing her back with equal fervor. To his jealousy tinted eyes Rhea appeared to be nothing but a whore who liked to have multiple guys to satisfy her carnal desires. He felt disgusted to the core and left the scene silently. Had he stayed back a bit longer, he would have witnessed Rhea slapping Aditya.
For the next few weeks Gautham dint come to office and Rhea went berserk with worry. She dint know how to contact him; she knew where he lived but she had never visited his house. Finally when Rhea couldn’t tolerate Gautham’s unexplained absence, she went to his house.
His mother opened the door and said that Gautham had left for Bombay. On further inquiry Rhea came to know that Gautham had left for Bombay the day after Aditya had tried kissing her in office. Was it possible that Gautham had discovered about the incident, Rhea wondered.
Finally after a month Gautham returned to office, only to put in his papers. He was resigning even without the official two months notice. Rhea was devastated with his sudden aloofness; she wanted and deserved an explanation. She had to drag Gautham outside the office to speak in private, as he dint even acknowledge her presence. Finally Gautham broke down and said,’ I saw you hugging and kissing Aditya that night. I dint know you wanted multiple guys to satisfy your libido. If I had known, I would have had sex and forgotten about you. But I truly loved you and that was my mistake. I don’t want to have any relationship with you. I and you are strangers; I hope you got that Rhea’.
Rhea felt disgusted and outraged, she slapped Gautham who slapped her back with equal intensity. Gautham left Rhea who fell down on the pavement sobbing uncontrollably. That was the last Rhea saw of Gautham. She tried to contact Gautham myriad times and explain that wretched night when Aditya had kissed her but, Gautham just dint want any explanation. Few months later when Rhea came to know that Gautham had married a girl his parents had chosen for him, she closed Gautham’s chapter in her life forever and decided to get on with her life.
Now after almost 20 years they were seeing each other. Gautham sat next to Rhea and said ‘How are you?’
‘I am doing well. How about you? I heard that you got married.’ replied Rhea tersely.
‘Yeah, I have a son and a daughter too. What about you? Did you marry?’ Gautham couldn’t help enquiring.
‘I have a daughter named Naina.’ After a few seconds of pause Rhea added, ‘and my husband lives in California. He’s gone for short term visit there’.
There was an awkward lull in their conversation as neither of them dint know what to talk to each other.
Rhea mused how the two of them started their journey together as strangers, then they became friends, then lovers and now they were back to being strangers. Life had come a full circle. On that fateful night they were strangers; strangers in the night.
Gautham returned to his berth and both pretended to sleep. In fact neither could sleep as they were engrossed in their own thoughts.
In the morning, before Gautham got down at his station he came to Rhea and said in an earnest voice, ‘Rhea, I am sorry for not believing you when you said the truth about you and Aditya. I should have trusted you, but I dint because I was a jealous fool. I met Aditya few years back in Pune,when I had gone there for a conference. I listened to the truth then and I have been feeling guilty. I cannot forgive myself until you forgive me’.
Rhea wept silently and said ‘I forgive you. I know you have a wonderful family. Just… keep them happy.’
Gautham got down at his station and waved at her.
As she waved back Rhea remembered the events in her life after their separation 20 years back.
When she missed her periods she got a pregnancy test done and to her dismay she found that she was pregnant with Gautham’s child. Her parents wanted her to abort the child and also threatened to disown her if she decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. Rhea tried to contact Gautham and inform him about the predicament but she was frightened thinking what if Gautham refused to accept the child as his and had doubts about the father of the fetus. She decided to have the baby as she just couldn’t think of killing Gautham’s baby. Naina was born nine months later and by that time Rhea knew that Gautham had married someone else. She raised Naina alone without any help but, she dint have any complaints because Naina was an adorable daughter. She had lied to Gautham about her husband. She never married, not because she was in love with Gautham but she had lost her belief in love. She had her daughter and Gautham had his family and that according to Rhea was an apt ending to the love story in her life.