Although her birthday was the following Sunday, she felt so excited that she thought it was today. He was coming to see her today after five years. She was surprised at herself as why was she acting so stupid. She had almost no sleep last night. A million thoughts ran in her head all night. She wondered if he has changed. She had a big grin on her face from the moment she woke up this morning. She had not been this excited since he asked to talk to her over the phone when he had called home from his hostel in his senior year. It was on her birthday. He apologized for not calling on her earlier birthdays but assured her that he had not forgotten. This meant so much to her. She remembered she had tears in her eyes when she heard him say that and promised herself she wouldn’t cry today.
They were born around the same time and had practically grown up together. She was very bright from early childhood and would help him out in his studies. From school projects to home works to everything in between, she was always there for him. His father was a high official and her father was his driver but he was always considered family. She and her father lived in the servant quarters. Her mother had died at her birth so she had to help around the household chores.
She used to spend all the time she could make with him. If one was seen alone, everybody used to ask about the other.
They loved the winters as during the vacation, they could be with each other all the time. They used to sit in the sun and would move with the patch of sunbeam that would stream through the network of trees and roofs. They knew the exact route that it followed. Sometimes when she could, she would prepare some vermicelli and bring for him and he would devour it with considerable relish. She loved to watch him eat.
Whenever he came to meet her, he would mess her hair up and laugh. She pretended to get angry but she liked that. They would talk for hours at a stretch. They knew every little secret about each other. They did everything together. They even smoked a cigarette once behind the storehouse when they choked to tears and laughed at each other. She was happy.
Once, on his birthday, he had received a portable movie player as gift from his parents. They would sit in the open watch movies all day long until it was evening and she was called back home. She used to hate going back and thought how time flies with him. He was the only friend she ever had and she was happy it was so. The first movie they watched together was ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’. She really liked the movie and demanded to watch it over and again, and he never said no to her. She had nicknamed him ‘Willy Wonka’ from the movie and he would call her ‘Charlie’. They would even enact her favorite scenes from the movie. It was so much fun.
They were in their late teens now but nothing had changed between them. However, now when they hung out together, a few eyebrows were raised, but she couldn’t care less, as long as they were together. His parents decided for him to join an engineering college in the city. He was very upset with the decision and was hostile not to go. His father called her to his study and had a separate word with her.
“You understand that it’s for his future, don’t you? I wish he was more sapient like you. He listens to everything you say, so I want you to talk to him. Make him understand. After all, we all just want what’s best for him”.
“Yes Sir”, she replied in an almost inaudible voice and left silently. Her heart sank. She cried all afternoon. In the evening she gathered herself up and mustered all the strength she had and met him. She tried to act normal. She even hung a crooked little smile on her face and tried to convince him. He would retaliate to every point she kept, so finally she had him swear on her life to go. He broke. He could never refuse that. He hated her for doing that and never wanted to see her face again, then he grabbed her and hugged her tight. She hugged him back and they both cried.
Everything changed for her after that. She joined the government college in her neighborhood. She had no friends and she seemed to lack the skills to make any. She was a social outcast in her class. They said she had no taste in fashion. “He never cared what I wore!”, she thought to herself. There was no day that went by without her missing him. His memories and books were the only two friends she had. It wasn’t long that she realized that in fact, she loved him with all that she had. Yes she did, and this fact gave her courage. She didn’t need those morons as friends, she already had the best one there is as a friend. She smiled again.
She did excellently in her studies. After all, that was her only solace. She counted days when they would meet again. Whenever he called home, she would eavesdrop to try and know his well being, and when she missed him terribly, she would take permission from his father to borrow a book or something and spend some time in his room. She would breathe in the air which hung a faint smell of him. She would run her hands over the curtains and miss him more. There was no doubt. This was love.
He had arrived. His car parked in front of their bungalow and he went in. She could only catch a glimpse before he vanished into the mob of his friends and relatives that had come to meet him. Her heart was racing and she was short of breath. The last time they talked he had asked her to meet him at the hilltop where they always used to meet, and so she did. He came there by the evening. It was so mesmarisingly beautiful that evening. The moon had just risen and the day was slipping into the darkness as the colors of the sky changed by the minute. It was perfect. He had to know her feelings today. She would tell. She had to.
“Hey Charlie”, he neared her smiling. She felt giddy. He then messed her hair up which she had taken so long to do, just for him. “Wow, I wanted to do that for so long”, he giggled and pulled her in to hug her. The leather jacket he was wearing felt cold to touch and with a concoction of cigarettes and his cologne, he smelled differently. She had not even seen his face properly yet. He had become more talkative, or maybe he just had five years of catching up to do. Nevertheless she loved to listen to him. He had brought a backpack full of goodies for her. As he showed her the contents he would jabber about his college, friends and the city life. He even promised to take her there to see for herself and they would watch movies and have all the fun just like the old times. From within the bag he pulled out a packet full of Willy Wonka candies, just like from the movies. She always wanted to try those. He remembered.
The evening went so perfectly. They were talking, laughing, giggling and reminiscing of the days and for a brief while, they thought, they were kids again.
“It’s late Charlie, you should probably head back home”. He said. She looked at her watch and panicked. She always hated how quickly time flew when they were together. “I have some errands to run, so I’ll see you tomorrow ok?” He shouted. She nodded.
A little further down the road she saw that he was patting all his pockets as if searching for something. He then ran up to her and handed over an envelop and said, “Almost forgot to give you. This is an invitation to my wedding. It is on your birthday, just as you had me promise. Hey I have to run now but you have to, have to be there. You are my bestie after all. Ok?” He exclaimed. She nodded with glistening eyes. He never noticed.