My romance with Pratyoush Binoy Banerjee was epic in Bollywood-shattering levels. It was love at first sight for the both of us, young kids as we were of 7 or 8 years. My birthday party. Even then, the very sight of me walking towards him in that frilly yellow frock made him stammer and ramble. He spilled his orange juice all of over me. I was about to start screaming, but then I saw him smiling at me. His teeth slightly uneven, but his eyes were so bright. Of course, he didn’t apologize; his widening smile said it all. We were in love already. It was magical! Ah, orange juice. Time and again, it brought us closer.
Determinately shifting to a faster gear, Maya swerved her way through the roaring traffic. She was not going to lose him, not again! Pratyoush sat limp in the seat next to her, his lips ungracefully drooping, his eyes closed obliviously to the nerve-wrecking car chase Maya had ensued for him. Just for him. Looping in and out of the crowded roads with unusual dexterity, Maya drove forward ignoring the mounting clamour she left in her wake.
It wasn’t coincidence when he ended up in the same school as me. It was our love that had made it possible for us to be together against all odds. But then, what is a love story without a villain yeah? For us, it was the headmistress. She put him in a class younger to me, blabbering about his November birth date or something. Still, we found enough time for each other during canteen breaks and play time. Our budding love, everyone could see it as clearly as the sun and the sky. We always did our homework and projects together. Hah, how I had to help him with Math and History. He’d come to me looking so forlorn about his class projects and worksheets. Since I was a grade ahead, he knew he could count on me for guidance and help. And like the amazing girlfriend I was, I helped him all the way through! He would sit beside me, marvelling at my intelligence as I managed to finish all his worksheets and my own in time. I suppose it worried the teachers, or maybe they were just jealous for what Pratyoush and I shared. Why else, with time, did the teachers try and separate us as much as they could? Why else did they forbid us from seeing each other when I was in 8th grade? And “when things got out of hand” in 10th grade, why else did they tell on us to our parents? Oh come on, it was just some innocent kissing in the school basement. It was young love at its best!
She had managed to shake her pursuers off their trail for the second time tonight. No one knew the back city like her; all the cricket matches there she had accompanied Pratyoush to… With adrenaline wildly charging through her nerves, it was difficult to get her breathing under control. Turning the engine off, she let the obscurity of a moonless sky be their veil. Taking Pratyoush’s flaccid hand in her own, she distractedly stroked his arm with her fingers as she contemplated on where to go next. The pursuers— she hadn’t expected them to catch their trail so soon. They were armed and dangerous. They didn’t understand. But she had promises to keep, to herself and to Pratyoush. Just as Maya was about to decide where to go next, she heard a familiar screeching of tires and roaring of engines. She cursed under her breath, they had found her again! With a flick of the key, her car came into life and sped ahead.
High school was difficult, even for seasoned lovers like us. The summer before, Pratyoush had gone to stay at his obnoxious aunt’s place in California. He didn’t want to, of course but his parents forced him. I believe it was because of that incident in the basement. We couldn’t talk or see each other for two months but that felt like seamless eternity to us. For a long time it was the most excruciatingly painful phase of our relationship for us. He returned just a day before school started, but it wasn’t as divinely romantic as I had imagined it to be. In school, he wasn’t Pratyoush anymore but ‘Prats’. What a silly name, I told him repeatedly. But he seemed to have taken a liking for it. I remember mother’s lessons about finding happiness in your loved one’s happiness, so I let it go. Even then, there were some things I just couldn’t let go. His new group of friends, for instance. All these years, we only had one another and it used to be lovely that way. Now suddenly, he was hanging out with all these new girls and guys. Just because my 11th grade classes were held in a different building than him? He had begun to do his hair and dress himself differently. I never understood his passion for pants that were so ready to fall off his butt. What irked me the most was the way other girls would look at him. I would’ve gouged their eyes out if I could; seeing him flirt back had left me totally disconsolate. That two month separation from me had turned him into a selfish conceited Casanova; but I wasn’t going to let our love succumb to such minor issues. He was mine, after all and I was his only. We fought a lot those days, his favourite tactic was to ignore me and walk away while I was still talking. It hurt me a lot. But then, as the year progressed, he started coming back to his senses. In times of hardship, he knew I was his only pillar. Increasing academic pressure brought him back to me. We had begun solving his homework together; I was helping him with practise tests and projects once again. He would sit around mostly fidgeting with his new cellphone while I would carefully mark his maps, solve his algebra, write his essays in his handwriting so that no one would know. Silently we basked in the glory of each others’ presence, knowing that we didn’t need words to express ourselves anymore. Our minds were linked forever and more.
There was no tricking them this time. No matter how many cuts and crosses she cleverly took, they always managed to find her. She needed to stop somewhere safe, Maya realized. Racking her brains for a safehouse, she thought of scented candles that were burning idly next to the bed at her apartment. All the rose petals and the red satin sheets, she remembered with a pang of dark irritation. The night had turned out to be so drastically different than her plan. Her hand instinctively reached for the glove compartment. She opened it and glanced at the gun in there and closed the compartment. They weren’t powerless this time. They would fight back… or die trying. How proud would Pratyoush be when he would wake up to see how brave she had been for them. She knew where to go next. The blazing sirens didn’t matter anymore.