“I saw some exotic birds today,” she chirped excitedly after a school trip.
“Did you see some bees as well?” Sathya’s deep-throated laughter made Piali weak-kneed.
“Don’t be vulgar,” Pia said in mock exasperation. “Any good looking females in the office?”
“Loads.” Sathya would pause, giving Pia just enough time to feel the pang of envy. “None as gorgeous as you, honey.” She would breathe easy again.
“What do you do after work?”
“It’s painfully peaceful after work hours. I wish you were here.”
Pia never knew what to say to that. She was waiting for her father to relent.
“What did your ol’ man say about me? Is he showing some sense?”
“Sathya, please?” he sounded astonished. “You don’t show them enough that you love me, so they think they can pressurize you out of it.” The tone was accusatory.
“That’s not true.” Pia was vehement.
“Break a glass or two. Throw tantrums. Make them realize that you’re in love. You don’t do that girl. You’re waiting for them to give in; they’re waiting for you to give up. This is an endless game.” Sathya sounded frustrated. “Now say something, will you?”
“Something,” said Pia, trying to lighten the situation.
Sathya was in no mood for banter. She could hear him breathe over the miles and visualized the faraway look in his eyes, the detached stance when he was irked.
“Sathya, I’m trying. It takes time, you know. Baba has been like this all his life. Now to have his daughter rebel is not easy on him. Look at it that way.”
“We don’t have our whole life to bring him around, Pia.” His tone was somber. “I want to have our child soon.”
“You haven’t proposed to me yet.” Pia tried hard to make him smile.
“Ya, you’re right. I actually haven’t. Because from the time I’ve met you, I knew you wanted to marry me,” he said with his maddening confidence.
“You’re so conceited. Has anybody told you this?” Sometimes she missed Sathya her friend more than Sathya her lover. “I’m coming next month with two tickets. You keep your bags ready. You’re coming with me to Hyderabad.”
Piali could hear her own heart beat. Elope? She was trying to fathom the aftermath. What would happen to Ma, Baba? What would the teachers say if she did something like this? And her students? God, this was too scary even to think of.
“Sathya, I cannot come away just like that. There’s too much at stake.”
“Like what, Piali Roy?”
“I mean, what will people say?”
“Okay, make up your mind if people matter more than your own heart’s desire. I will wait.”