I didn’t come from a privileged background like him and even though we were best friends, our worlds were as different as chalk and cheese. That’s why I never tried to tell him what I felt for him, taking solace in the fact that at least he was my best friend. That would have to be enough. One day he texted saying he was in trouble and needed to talk to me. He said he would come over to my place at 7 pm but time ticked by and there was no sign of him.
It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back and raced to the door almost stumbling on the carpet in my hurry. It was Aarav, standing at the door with slumped shoulders looking perturbed and miserable.
“Hey! What happened?”
He scrubbed his tired eyes and sat on the sofa with a faraway look.
“I had a major falling -out with my executive producer a few days back and things have spiralled downward since then. He is no longer funding my music album and has black mouthed me to such an extent that no other executive producer is willing to come on-board. He has also threatened to sue me for emotional distress simply because I refused to make changes in my album to please him.”
“What about your music album now?”
“The only option left is to self-fund it, but the thing is…”
“That you don’t have enough money to fund it,” I completed.
He nodded grimly and continued to stare ahead.
“I know I can ask my dad for help but I don’t want to. I embarked on this journey with a promise that I will not ask dad for any financial support. I wanted to do something on my own and I’m not going to break that promise now.”
“Hey, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll figure something.”
“We?” he asked looking perplexed.
“Of course, don’t tell me you thought I’d desert you in time of need. Best friends always look out for each other, no matter what,” I said with a smile.
After a week of trying and failing to come up with a solution, I decided to help him out by loaning him the money that I had saved up all these years for my further education.
“What! Are you crazy! No way in hell am I accepting this.”
“Please, just take it. I have full faith in you, I know you will return it all to me but for now please keep it.”
After a lot of arguing he finally relented. The next afternoon when the doorbell rang I was surprised to see one of his body guards at my doorstep. He handed me an envelope and before I could question him about it he left.
I opened it and was shocked to see money inside it along with a handwritten note.
I am returning your money, not because I can’t accept it, because I don’t need it. The truth is that whatever I told you that day was a lie. I did not have a row with my executive producer and I am definitely not facing any financial problems. I wanted to tell this to you in person but I guess the coward in me won out. It was very important for me to find out whether I could count on you or not. I was fully expecting you to abandon me but, like every time, you amaze me. Please forgive me.
The letter fell out of my numb fingers. How could he? Did he not trust me, why did he have to go to such lengths to check whether I was trustworthy or not? I was furious, livid actually and continued to avoid him every time he tried to contact me. I was not interested to listen to how sorry he was because no matter how much he grovelled I would never forgive him. Friendship can only flourish as far as trust exists and in our case he clearly didn’t trust me.
One day when I was walking back home a white jaguar pulled up in front of me. I was so startled that I lost my footing and landed on my bottom. A pair of firm hands gently lifted me off the ground. I looked into a pair of hazel eyes that were full of concern. Those eyes looked even more lovely from such close quarters.
“Aarav, what are you doing here? Just put me down,” I hollered at him.
Instead in one swift move he opened the car door and deposited me into his car.
I howled and protested but it all fell on deaf ears. As soon as the car stopped, Aarav caught my hand and pulled me out of the car. We were right outside the beach which was almost empty. Without letting go of my hand he started walking towards the sea. He stopped about five feet away from the crashing waves and looked into my eyes.
“Prisha, I know what I did was wrong but please don’t block me out of your life. I wasn’t joking when I said that I can’t trust women. I was brought up with the belief that women are self centered and money minded who only care about themselves and my mom was a glowing example of that. She left my dad when his business suffered great losses and he was almost bankrupt. She never bothered to find out how I was doing, it was as if she never loved me. Since then it’s just been dad and me.”
I was so shocked to learn about his mom that I forgot I was angry with him. Aarav looked at the horizon with a wry smile.
“Since then every woman seemed just like my mom, a gold digger who would cling to you when you’re rich and successful and abandon you the moment you fail. But when I met you, I realised I was wrong. You never dreamt of marrying a rich guy like other girls, for you it was all about fulfilling your dreams and making your parents proud. Every moment I spent with you I fell more in love with you and I wanted to tell you that but I still couldn’t believe that you were nothing like my mom, so I lied to you. I thought you would leave me on learning that my singing career was doomed but you stood by my side, hell, you even offered me all your hard earned money! I didn’t know what to do.”
He turned towards me, took both my hands in his and looked at me with such intensity that my heart began to thunder, matching the roaring waves that crashed onto the shore.
“Prisha, Will you teach me how to trust again? Will you teach me how to forget my past and move forward? Will you be my teacher…. forever?”
For several minutes I stood silent, looking at the sea unable to calm my thundering heart. Finally I turned around and looked straight into his eyes.
“If I agree, what will I get in return?”
“In return, I promise to love you forever.”
Unable to control my tears I leaped into his arms and said, “Yes, I’ll be your teacher and your lessons start from today!”