Chapter 1- How They Met

There was a protracted queue outside the ladies room of La Mausana. In the queue were young women and old girls. Their attire was so intricate and exquisite that the length of the queue seemed curious.

It was an enormous hotel and it had 51 more ladies rooms but, the young girls had lined up to use this one- the one Shyaah was in. Her popularity in the town of Nisa preceded her and often astonished those who had never made her acquaintance.

A young boy, all of 18 strode with purpose towards the queue. A young woman with bliss like skin came out the door. Her hair was tied up in a bunch and her flawless body was wrapped in a tight red dress. The young boy saw her and walked towards her as if he would consume her but then, he simply walked past her. All the women in the row were looking at this boy; this young, visibly nervous boy who was trying to exude a rehearsed air of confidence.

“You can’t go in there! It’s the ladies room,” the girl in the red dress said.

“Never tell a man what he cannot do unless you want him to do exactly that.” spoke a voice.

It was Shyaah. She seemed a little older than the boy and she was... a whole year older than him. She wasn’t what one would call conventionally beautiful but, the way she spoke... the way words were conceived and the way they rolled off the tip of her quivering lips, was beyond elegant.

The boy seemed dazed, almost as if his pride had eloped with fear. The girls just stood there gaping at Shyaah, as if waiting for her to bestow upon them some sort of deciduous knowledge. The boy filled his chest with air and stepped firmly towards Shyaah.

“I came here for you...” he said.

“You’re a stranger... I do not entertain strangers.” she said.

“You sound like you’re broken... will you walk with me?”

“Has that ever worked?”

“I’ll know in a minute...” replied the boy.

“No... You won’t...” she responded.

Shyaah noticed the herd of strangers looking at her and walked away. There was a mild murmur and silent laughter. The world just stood there watching, as this strange boy stood rather naked in front of this strange girl. She had run out of patience with men all too soon. At 19, she thought she knew enough.  She thought she could break a heart & not think about it.

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Chapter 2- The Second Encounter

The curtains to the inaugural ball had been drawn and almost all inhabitants of La Mausana had surrendered to sleep. The brightness seeping through the silk curtains of one room however was strong enough to light up the crimson ledge below the Nisean windows.

One of the young artistes at La Mausana was awake at this unearthly hour. It was of course the luminary violinist who went by the name of Shyaah. She couldn’t comprehend this guilty insomnia and she spoke to her Hofner violin almost as if it were her dearest friend.

“This is bizarre Hofner... I was prepared to do this! I thought I had it in me. Why then are the pieces of this nameless boy’s broken spirit haunting me? I must speak with him; I must offer an explanation lest the poor boy may seek it from a blade!” Shyaah said.

The violin was made of the rarest of willows but it responded to Shyaah with silent indifference. She however wasn’t the sort of girl who let her questions go unanswered. She held Hofner by his neck and rested her jaw on the chin-rest. Her other hand grappled the bow and she played the violin like only a few fiddlers in the world could. Hofner bled in response; a hapless melody.

“First it was sleep and now you too have decided to defy me Hofner? To the Gardenia it is then!” she said.

The Gardenia was a well hidden patch of grass at the far end of La Mausana and Shyaah would often head there to seek musical inspiration. She slipped Hofner into his cover and walked out her room, towards the Gardenia.

Shyaah reached the Gardenia- it looked desolate like it almost always was, day or night. She sat resting her back against the large statue of Goddess Shona that sat in the middle of the Gardenia. The moon light cast a shadow upon her. As she sat there staring into oblivion, waiting for Mother Nature to whisper a sweet melody into her ears... she heard something. A noise! A ruffling noise.

A trained ear would have known that it was the sound of a pen chafing parchment with ink. Shyaah didn’t know this of course and fearing all kinds of maleficent creatures, most of all men; she rose to her feet clenching Hofner like a sword in battle. A mere breath before she could swing the violin blindly at this unseen trespasser, she heard a voice.

“Why must I of all burn, in faceless adulation? Perhaps my love shall always pay for lustful admiration... ”

It was the young boy Shyaah had shrugged off earlier in the evening and it appeared that he was reciting to himself a verse, as he wrote it. She didn’t reveal herself instantly but stood their prying for a moment. She took a quarter of a step back to conceal her face and accidentally snapped a twig with her foot. The sound of the snap was enough to make the boy take notice of another’s presence.

“Who’s there? Show yourself... I may have a deceivingly sober appearance but I shall strike you like the hand of hell!” the boy announced.

“It’s me...” Shyaah said and revealed herself.

“You... why are you here?” the boy retorted.

“I didn’t know you were a poet... what’s your name?” she asked.

His name was Gabriel but seeing Shyaah had left him wordless. She had taken from him all the confidence he had earlier in the evening. He was angry... though he didn't know it yet.  He found out only when his mouth spoke of its own accord. 

“You will never find out!” he said.

“I understand you are upset over how I behaved earlier in the day. You mustn’t judge me by that...”

“And what were you doing here?” asked Gabriel, cutting her short.

“If I say I came here for you... will you walk with me?” asked Shyaah.

They stood in silence beneath the statue of Shona; the goddess of True Love. It was a fate less night that one... yet Gabe & Shyaah met.

Chapter 3- The Long Walk Back

They stood there in the Gardenia both just as naked and marred as the other. The hasty yet merry realization that his crude and unpolished words had, in some strange manner softened Shyaah, dawned upon Gabriel. The answer to Shyaah’s proposal had to be more than a straightforward ‘Yes’.

Shyaah smiled at Gabriel with her eyes, waiting to see whether he would let his pride get in the way of his affection. The lover in Gabriel was wrestling with his machismo pride; it wanted more than anything to put this beautiful girl in her place. More often than not, in a battle of pride and love, one of them is irreparably hurt. Not this time!

By virtue of giving Gabriel the power to hurt her, Shyaah had given the lover within him a warm kiss. She had for the first time placed the fate of her own pride in his hands. And though she didn’t entirely understand what she had done; Shyaah had for the very first time trusted Gabriel to not hurt her. Gabriel rolled the parchment he was scribbling on and capped the pen he wrote with. He stepped closer to Shyaah with strength that had no certain source and offered his open palm.

“Take my hand and we’ll walk until one of us lets go...”  He said.

“Aren’t you afraid that might make for a rather long walk?” she asked with a smile.

“The thought delights me...”

Shyaah swung Hofner’s sling over her shoulder and slid her hand into Gabriel’s. The two begin to chalk the periphery of the Gardenia. The time was five past one and the sun was barely done.

“May I know the name of the boy who is delighted by the thought of an endless walk with me?” she asked with a smirk.

“I’m Gabriel...”

“Tell me something about yourself Gabe...” Shyaah demanded.

Hard as it is to believe, no one had ever called him Gabe and Gabriel rather enjoyed hearing Shyaah make him his own. It was difficult to speak with Shyaah; she asked a lot of questions and almost never seemed to run out of them. Gabe was no grand conversationalist either, he wouldn’t speak to everyone but, once he had a listener his chatter would rarely stop.

They spoke about La Mausana and how wonderful it was that in every 2 years they would have this grand night. The Jury would hand pick artistes from all over the world and would organize a ball for them. It was no competition, nor was it a place to showcase ones artistic prowess. It was simply a place for those who had impressed the jury with their art or showed the promise of greatness.

That however was merely the jittery start to the sweet nothings they would exchange over the night. They spoke of life and how hard it had been, they spoke of old lovers and new ones. Shyaah laughed when Gabe told her how she intimidated him and he almost fell off the edge of the pathway when she told him she thought he had fallen in love with her.

“I fell for your music... does that not suffice? Gabe asked.

“Love for my music is perhaps a larger compliment than a love for me!” Shyaah stated.

It was foolish. Had a person even an year older than them been there, he or she would have told them that, what they had both mistaken for a profound friendship was in essence a rather rare and intense love. The kind of love that spreads chaos & feeds on havoc, the kind of love that defies logic & blurs the line between right & wrong... the kind of love dreams are made of. For better or for worse however, such a person was not there in their present.

“Will you write for me? Will you give words to my music?” Shyaah asked Gabe.

“I will of course! That was why I had come to you in the first place, to beg you to give me that honour! I have only one question...”

“Ask away then Gabe... there is no reason for you to hesitate with me!”

“The ball ends tomorrow and with it ends my stay in Nisa... how am I to write songs when my fiddler lives 600 miles away?” Gabe reasoned.

“I know by morning you will be gone... but, I overheard the verse you recited in the Gardenia... I could play to that verse and perhaps you could write to that rhyme?” Shyaah suggested.

They had reached the hotel by now; their long walk had come to an end. It was one past 5 and this time was their life. An artistic argument broke out between the two and they had to sit on a couch in the lobby of La Mausana to settle it. Gabe asked what they would do about the bridge of the song and what they would do about the chorus. Shyaah suggested they write a song with only verses.

“But what will we call it Shy?” Asked Gabe.

“Verses Alone...” Shyaah beamed.

Gabe smiled in agreement and they hugged in ecstasy. Shyaah who wasn’t a fan of nicknames had instantly grown fond of the one Gabe had given her... he called her Shy, though she seemed nothing of the sort. It was no surprise though that he could see through her masks; he had after all called her broken at first sight. Shyaah played as Gabe sang...

“Why must I of all burn, in faceless adulation? Perhaps my love shall always pay for lustful admiration... ”

Two creative streams had found a river to flow into. It was a fateful night that one and Gabriel had met Shy, as Shyaah had met Gabe.

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Chapter 4- Happily Never After

A large green tree atop a hill with a flat, clear patch of grass was covered in pupils. The professor was a haughty old man in a brown check coat, he wore it with a rather mild and safe pair of brown pants. The students all sat there as he told them what prepositions were and what a gerund is.

All but one boy seemed lost... seemed like he didn’t care. He seemed to believe that he could escape the rules of grammar but the fault wasn’t his own. These laws that he would one day be afraid of breaking seemed fickle in front of the emotions that were trying to tear through the very chest that rose and fell for his breath.

The professor slung a piece of chalk at the boy who was none other than Gabriel. The smack of the chalk on his cheeks broke his trance and Gabriel looked up at the professor.

“On your feet! Is this how you expect to become a writer Gabriel? By gaping at trees when I’m teaching you about sacrosanct rules of grammar?”

“Pardon me sir, you have authored more books than I have read but, I don’t think that grammar has anything to do with great writing...” Gabe responded.

“Grammar is the shield behind which you stand with your sword like words young Gabriel... without it your writing is defenseless...  your imagination alone is blunt... you need a barrel, a bottle or better yet a glass, to drink even a full-bodied wine. Go now...  for I must punish you and teach you a lesson for missing this lesson.” The professor said.

Gabe got up and respectfully left the tree of knowledge and strayed onto the lane which flowed aimlessly out of his hometown, Naog. He stumbled out the lane and landed ass first on the sides of river Anohs- the river of hate. Gabe got on his knees and as he stared at his own reflection in the river he set a ripple on fire with a lone tear.

“Where are you Shy? Why haven’t you written back to me? Where is the music my words await, the music your lips had promised...where are they.... where are you?” Gabe screamed.

Gabe was now 19. It had been precisely a year and 5 days since he had heard from Shy. He had written to her 15 letters one for each painful song he’d written for her. It had been a lifetime since he had heard from her and he didn’t know why.

"I heard your scream... you sounded broken. Will you walk with me?” a voice said.

Gabe knew it wasn’t Shy... unless her voice had changed completely in a year. He turned at once surprised to hear his own words from another's mouth, it was a girl. Her beauty was conventional and much like Shy she spewed magic with her voice. She was older than Gabe... a whole 2 years older.

Chapter 5- A Twist Of Fate

Naog was a town where there were words and only words. It adored arts of all sorts; be it music or canvases smothered with lively colour. Yet, it had never heard a voice so sweet ever before! Never had anyone serenaded as marvelously as this young lady and never at all by the shore of river Anohs.

Gabriel stared at her and felt misery leave his veins like leaves leave trees come autumn. He felt every thought of Shy depart from his broken heart, almost as if it were making space for someone new. Her name... was Anoush and her brown skin had hypnotised Gabriel entirely; so much so that he had introduced himself to her, as Gabe. Shy wouldn’t have taken this too well but then... Shy wasn’t here.

Anoush was a singer and boy could she sing! She had seen Gabe before. She had her eyes set on him from years ago. She had always wanted him.  It wasn’t her voice though. Gabe wasn’t in love with her voice. In fact...he wasn’t in love at all but, lust is a powerful thing. It often fools men of much age and honour; Gabe was just a boy.

Such things always progress with relentless speed and passion. Things escalated and before Gabe even knew it he found himself kissing Anoush. The tall grass by the river Anohs was perfect shelter for Gabe to feed his lust. Anoush however had fallen for Gabe... and irreparably so. Two months had passed and like they always did; Gabe and Anoush were lying by the river Anohs after school. Her head on his chest, his arms around her neck.

“You know what’s curious? The fact that you said to me exactly what I had said to a girl once...” said Gabe.

“You sound broken...will you walk with me? I know...” said Anoush.

“There’s no way you could have known that!” Gabe retorted.

“You saw right through me... I was standing right there.”

“You... You were there in that queue at La Mausana?” Gabe asked.

“Yes in a bright red dress and yet, you walked right past me...” Anoush said with a slight bitterness.

“Forgive me... I was blinded by the love for another’s music...”

“Her music...? Were you not in love with her? “Anoush asked, jealously.

“No! In the name of goddess Shona.... is that what you thought came to pass between me and Shyaah Hofner? We never even spoke after Nisa!” Gabe asked.

“I’m sorry... I wonder what became of Shyaah though...”

“So do I Anoush, so do I...” Gabe said pensively.

And as Gabe lay in the arms of the woman who loved him, thinking about Shy he wondered why she had never written back.

Six hundred miles away a wagon rolled to a halt at the doors of of house in Nisa. Its wooden gate opened and none other than the mystical, enigmatic Shyaah stepped out. Her parents had passed away in a tragic mishap the day after Gabe left Nisa. She had been sent away to her uncle’s house oceans away. She got off, Hofner swung around her shoulders like always.

She looked tired- drained even but, she still had something about her. The wagon driver walked her to the main door of her house. Shyaah didn’t walk to the door though. She walked straight to the mail box. She opened the mailbox and a pile of letters fell at her feet, most of them signed: “Love Gabe.”

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Chapter 6- Thicker Than Blood

Gabriel was rummaging through his cupboard, desperately seeking something he couldn’t find. His mother, who must have been in her early fifties noticed Gabriel’s agitated search. She walked into his room, pushing aside the creak-free door of Gabe’s new room.

“What do you seek with such ferocious fervour?” she asked.

“I can’t seem to find any of my belongings Mother! Where have you kept everything?” Gabe cried 

“Now now... No need to raise your voice! I had asked you to put your belongings in a box before we moved but, you didn’t listen... did you? Now look carefully it’s all there...”

“What’s that parchment you have clenched in your fist?” Gabe asked.

“Your father forgot to drop this application at the post office... our mail is still being sent to our old house in Naog! Will you remind the lovely Anoush to pick up our post the next time she comes by?” 
She responded.

Gabe nodded and went back to his search- where the mail was being dropped off didn’t concern him. But it did now. Now that Shy was back in Nisa, now that she had read all of Gabe’s letters. She had read the last one of his letters the most; 15 times to be precise.

All of Gabe’s letters had been sent to her in rosy or red coloured envelopes but, he had sent what he believed would be the last letter he would ever write to her, in a black envelope. Almost as if he had taken Shy’s silence for rejection and mourned the death of her promise with that murky envelope.

The envelope though was merely like the sheath of a knife. What Gabe had scribbled on that parchment was sharper than the edge of a samurai’s sword and yet as blunt as a butcher old sorting knife. With her parents gone, Shy had already endured more pain than her young heart could engulf. Gabe’s letter was no sugar coated letter of love either. It wasn’t even a hateful denouncement. It was much worse than that... it was a letter of indifference. It said:

“Shyaah Hofner,

I wrote to you incessantly & yet not a sigh from you has come my way. I am leaving Naog and moving to another city- One that you are not to know of. I would be but a fool to pretend that you care about my whereabouts. Hence, I’ve set fire to all the songs I wrote in your praise. What remains with you, if at all and unless already destroyed, is the only copy of my works. I am leaving behind all that we shared and this is the final goodbye not for you but to grant me closure.

-          Gabriel Neruda.”

The letter opened with Shyaah’s whole name and ended with Gabriel’s. Shy wept for days with such melancholic intensity that even Anohs trembled with fear of floods.  She had written but only one letter to Gabe in return. The letter had been sent to and had come back several times from Gabe’s uninhabited house in Naog. What was it if not love that led a sane young woman to post the same letter unremittingly to an abandoned home?

Time passed like it always does... painfully. Two years after they had first met in Nisa, Shyaah had posted that letter to Gabe’s now barren home in Naog for the 12th time.The letter had the destiny of a lover and it left once again for a 600 mile journey from Nisa to Naog.  It travelled with a tall postman who was new to the job and wanted to deliver it faster than usual, so he could get back to his newly wedded wife. It then traveled with a monk who had agreed to drop it off for the hasty postman. The monk walked through rain and hail to cross the Great Plains & finally reached Naog.

It was in a blood red envelope when Shy had posted it for the very first time but now... now it was a muddy shade of moss green. The Monk reached Gabe’s old house and saw Anoush rushing out of the house to enter an ornate and rather debonair wagon. He called out to her.

“Wait my child! I have a letter addressed to this house...” The monk called out.

Anoush walked up to the Monk, she saw his state and at once offered him water and food. Once the Monk was well fed and looked like he had regained his strength Anoush asked him for the letter, she looked at it in surprise.

“It doesn’t say who it is from or who it is meant for...” she exclaimed.

“The rain must have taken with it the ink. Do not open the envelope... let it dry, lest you may spoil its contents my child.” The monk said.

Anoush took the wet letter along, as her wagon left Naog. She was heading to Nisa... where Gabe had reluctantly moved to, thanks to his father’s new vocation as a highly placed bureaucrat. As the wagon made its way back to Nisa, Shy’s letter lay there in Anoush’s lap travelling back to where it was conceived, for the 24th time.

As it dried, the muddy shade of the envelope had begun to give way to its original shade. It was no longer blood red; that it would never again be! It had turned into a deep and melancholic shade of crimson; a shade thicker... than even blood.

Chapter 7- She Would Never Know

The new house was is shambles. Its ceiling seemed like it wished to lean a little closer to the floor. The ugly cemented walls were decorated with patches of melting paint. The joyful bit was Gabe’s new room; from its window one could clearly see the Gardenia. Then again... maybe it wasn’t such a joyful thing after all.

Anoush stood by the window staring fiercely at the Gardenia- she would have burnt the Statue of Shona to the ground with a mere stare had it not been for a questioning Gabe. What had happened at the Gardenia years ago and how it had made Gabe feel... she would never know.

“What should I do?” Gabe asked, almost afraid that Anoush would strangle him to death.

What did he think she would say? After all this while he had spent with her, he wanted to chase a myth? Was there even a question in there? Did Gabe really not understand how Anoush felt by now? Gabe didn’t know her at all. Perhaps she didn’t know him as well as she thought she did either and perhaps that’s how it would be forever... she would never know.

“You must visit her at once...” Anoush responded.

To say that Gabe was a tad taken aback would be an understatement of the most ignorant kind. The floor beneath his feet and the ceiling above his head had both magically disappeared. His thoughts had knocked on every door of his mind’s palace but not a single clever response was to be found.

“You think?” he said.

“I brought you this letter which would have never reached you had I not spent an extra minute in your old house reminiscing... it is providence. And I for one have learnt not to battle with clashing waves and serendipity.” She said.

“I will meet her then...” Gabe said.

“Now... you’ll meet her now!” Anoush demanded.

“Now? It’s barely past noon!”

“And how does broad daylight hinder your meeting Shyaah?” Anoush asked suspiciously.

Gabe took a deep breath walked towards Anoush held her by the waist and pulled her close to himself. Anoush’s lips were so close to his that even their breaths touched each other.

“Do you love me Anoush? Do you trust me to love you? ” Gabe asked

“I do Gabe... and I trust you... it’s her I don’t trust with you...” Anoush sadly meekly.

Gabe tightened his grip around Anoush’s waist- had his grip been a little tighter it would have hurt her but this was barely enough to cause sweet pain. Gabe held her lips with his and his hand caressed her spine with picturesque precision. The mild scuffle sent a few books flying to the ground. Gabe’s wooden table trembled, a little ink dripped off the end of a moist quill. He let her go softly, exactly when she was leaning in for more and said.

“I’ll meet her and bring her to the Gardenia. You must meet her too... you will love her!” Gabe said.

Anoush wasn’t easily surprised but Gabe had gone a step further. She almost felt guilt flow through her body for having mistrusted him or was it the lust that Gabe had just fuelled? She would never know.

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Chapter 8- Join Us for Tea

As far as beating hearts go, Gabe had one in his chest that was thumping like a stampede in the Savannahs. His palms were clammy and the back of his neck was soaked in sweat. Clenched firmly in his left hand was Shy’s letter. He would read the address off it every few steps, almost ensuring it didn’t disappear before you could locate her abode.

And he arrived. He stood outside the same large house that we had seen Shy’s wagon stop in front of. Gabe touched the mail box outside the house with his left hand in a strangely affectionate manner. He looked up and walked to the empty porch. The house looked empty, there was absolute silence. He reached for the bell but it wasn’t working, so he used the large lion knocker on the door. The knocker was shaped like a large pot of ink- an emblem also seen on the flag of Naog. It made little sense on a door in Nisa.

No one responded. Gabe knocked harder and longer. He knocked in intervals that seemed appropriate. He knocked for the fear that Shy might be in the bath and then he knocked incessantly enough to awaken the dead. He got no response.

Meanwhile Anoush had changed into a sand brown dress which made her look as grand as the deserts of Ega. The dress was brimming with the softness of her dunes. Anoush sauntered into La Mausana with a rehearsed air of confidence but, she had never been to the Gardenia. Before long she was lost in the many corridors of the vast hotel. She saw a shabby looking girl in one of the corridors and asked...

“Pardon me, I seem to have lost my way... can you point me to the Gardenia please?”

“Right this way...” the girl responded and began walking.

Anoush promptly followed the girl. They turned right from the lobby where many couches were parked- on one of these couches Gabe and Shy had shared a celebratory hug. The girl led Anoush into the Gardenia and Anoush thanked her for it. Anoush found a spot at the edge of the Gardenia and she sat atop a rock. She stared into the vast sea by the Gardenia, the salt in the wind blurring the shine of her hair.

She had barely begun to lose herself to thought when Gabe walked into the Gardenia... alone. He saw Anoush and walked over to her, hugging her from behind.

“Where is she? Did you meet her?” Anoush asked, softly as she rubbed Gabe’s cheeks with her hand.

“I knocked at her door for eternity but, no one answered...” Gabe responded.

“It’s okay... some things just aren’t meant to be...” Anoush responded as Gabe sat next to her.

Anoush comforted Gabe as he rested his head on her lap- she pulled a tuft of his hair back, away from his face. She hated how it would make his forehead look smaller than it was. Gabe looked at her and smiled in return as the breeze from the sea ruffled his hair back into unruliness.

And then the sound of a violin filled the Gardenia. It was sweet, it was a painful... it was music. Anoush turned towards the source of the sound; her face almost praying for it to not be Shy. Gabe got up on his feet and realized the sound was coming from behind the statue of Shona. He knew without doubt that it was Shy- no one else could play like that. He walked closer to the statue, Anoush still holding his left hand following him involuntarily. They approach the statue as Gabe called out:


The violin stopped and from behind the statue appeared the same shabby girl who had led Anoush to the Gardenia.

“Gabriel? Gabe... is that you!?” Shy exclaimed.

Gabe let go of Anoush’s hand and almost lunged towards Shy. He hugged her and she hugged him back & they embraced for eternity. The noon sun fell down the sky and it turned their present into a gorgeously lit cerise evening. It lasted forever and then stopped as abruptly as life. Gabe took notice of a mildly insecure Anoush. She stood there smiling, putting up a brave face.

“Anoush... this is Shyaah and Shyaah this is Anoush... the woman of my life.” Gabe said.

Anoush’s cheeks went flush with pride. To be acknowledged by Gabe in front of Shyaah as the woman of his life! He couldn’t have said anything better.

“I can’t believe it! She’s the one who led me to the Gardenia... I had lost my way Gabe. And it's an honour to finally meet you Shyaah...” Anoush says.

“Please! You can call me Shy...” Shy responded looking at Gabe in the most confused manner.

There was a moment of awkward silence that all three of them shared, till Gabe broke it.

“I’m not amazed that Shy led you here Anoush, she has a knack for helping lost souls find something. Though I wouldn’t count on her to guide you any further than the Gardenia! She also has a knack for disappearing when you need her the most!”

Gabe went on to slit Shy word by word. She didn’t understand. She had told him everything in the letter... hadn't he read it? And if he had why was he being so harsh and crude? Before more could be said Anoush invited Shy over to Gabe’s house for tea and Shy gracefully accepted the offer. As they began to walk away Gabe held Shy by the arm a few paces behind Anoush.

“May I have a word with you... alone?” Gabe whispered into Shy’s ears.

“I’m always alone...” she countered.

Chapter 9- The Sun & the Sea

A cup of tea is a powerful thing, not many understand the bond that is developed over a warm beverage. People bond over alcohol or substances that help lose inhibitions. Tea however brings you to your senses.

A discussion over tea is almost always a conversation between two entirely conscious adults. The bond formed over tea isn't tied together by drunken confessions; it isn’t the bond of well kept secrets leaked over a drink or two.

What you say to another over tea is choice. One needs to push aside his/her inhibitions with pure will and say not only that which is in their hearts but, that which is also apt. Shyaah Hofner, was never the kind of woman who would let social norms tie her down.

Gabe was in the kitchen fixing a tea as fast as he could, almost terrified of what will come to pass in the other room in his absence. Anoush sat across the table to Shyaah; her well waxed legs crossed in an ordinate ladylike fashion, she was calm and composed... almost perfect!

Shy sat like a teenage boy who had just experienced the pain of falling crotch first onto the top tube of a bicycle frame- her legs open, hands fidgety and body... covered in filth.

“The sun rises each morning leaving the sea behind, it flirts with the sky and the clouds but, the sea waits there patiently for she knows... that her sun will come back to her.” Shy sliced open the conversation.

“You know... one thing you learn with Gabe is how to see through the veil of words and yet not respond to them. If you wish to tell me something Shy, say it clearly and bravely.” Anoush responded.

“I’m suggesting Anoush that perhaps I... am the sea.” Shy said.

Gabe walked into the room with a pot of steaming hot tea and two cups. He wasn’t surprised to see Shy and Anoush looking furious. He was simply afraid. Life tests us in ways that are strange and unexpected.

Whenever we suppose that we have found solace and comfort, life rocks the cradle of our existence and reminds us... that we will always be children and it will always be a harsh tutor. Children: Shy, Gabe & Anoush... that’s all they were to this life.

They often behaved like they had grown but they had always fought the waves of time and maturity. Perhaps their childlike demeanor was why they lived in conflict but, never self inflicted uncertainty.

“Why in the world are we looking so severe and anxious?” Gabe attempted to casually lighten the mood of the room.

Anoush and Shy sat across as raging bulls. While they were both fighting for Gabe neither of them would have him know of it, at least not by choice. You never let men know how bad you want them, till you want them, that bad.

“I must leave now Gabe... I had some legal matters to attend to which entirely escaped my mind!” Shy announced.

“Now? But... but you haven’t even had tea... finish your tea at least?” Gabe suggested.

“Let her go if she must Gabe...” Anoush chipped in.

And before anyone could react Shy stood up gave Gabe a short but loving hug and walked towards the door. A stunned Gabe turned towards Anoush almost accusing her with his eyes of having said something inappropriate. But before Gabe could open his mouth he heard Shy bleed one last sentence.

“I’ll be at the Cafe in La Mausana tomorrow evening. I hope to see you there... both of you.”

It was going to be a battle. Gabe could smell it and as much as he had dreamt of a day like this; he didn’t want a confrontation. He had both the woman he loved and the woman who loved him. He simply did not wish to find out which was which.

Chapter 10- Story of Their Life

Love is not simply a matter of who is by your side when you need them the most. It isn’t only about who you feel the happiest with either. Then is love, a matter of who we allow to hurt us the most? While that selflessly selfish notion of love may have played muse for many men of words, it cannot be love either. All these are matters of convenience and the only thing we infallibly know about love... is that it is anything but convenient.

They had been running from a confrontation for far too long and the inevitable moment of judgement had arrived. Gabe, Shy and Anoush had met. There were raised voices, there were muffled sobs and there were painful memories and hurtful accusations but, most of all there were words and awkward silences.

Gabe spoke of how grateful he was to have had Anoush by his side, while he was toiling in the misery of Shy’s absence. But gratitude wasn’t love. Gabe had managed to cloak his gratitude with affection but then... affection wasn’t love either. Gave admitted that he loved Shy and that he always would. But it wasn’t that simple because he loved Anoush too. All that mattered now was what Anoush thought of him and what Shy believed.

More tears were shed and more pain was dealt. Shy, who had been breathing down Anoush’s neck so far had suddenly become empathetic! She felt what was happening to Anoush was unfair. What was going to happen seemed clear and so Anoush stepped forward with a sacrificial tone and said,

“You must be with the one you wish to be with most. I cannot love he who loves another. I wish you both the best.”

Anoush offered Gabe a conclusive embrace and he accepted it gracefully.

“I do love you; you know... all I’m saying is that I no longer know what is right.” Gabe said.

They both sobbed as Shy watched, filled with guilt and a sense of unrighteousness. Anoush began to walk away and in the rising dust of her departure Gabe turned to Shy, his cheeks drenched in tears and his palms shivering.

He looked intensely into Shy’s eyes... had she never disappeared all of this would have never happened. Gabe didn’t ask for this, he didn’t want to choose. He had chosen twice and could not choose for a third time.

“Look at what I’ve destroyed... It’s like Anohs (the river of hate,) herself flows through my veins. 
Everyone I touch turns to ashes...” Gabe said.

“All this while... I lived believing that I loved you more than anyone ever could...” Shy said.

“And you do...” Gabe nearly cries.

“She loves you enough to let you go... after all this while. She couldn’t even hurt me because she considers me an extension of you. I want you but I could never love you like her...” Shy said, as a lone tear slipped down her cheek.

“Then you will have to love me better...” Gabe said.

“I could... but she loves you best.” Shy bled.

“And what of us? What of our love?” Gabe asked.

“Our love doesn’t need touch, it doesn’t need you and it doesn’t need me...” Shy said.

“What should I do Shy...? I’ve made terrible choices.” Gabe asked.

“Make one more...” Shy demanded.

“How?” Gabe asked.

“Kiss me...” She said.

It was a strange request and Gabe seemed reluctant but, Shy leaned forward and kissed him like a raven with a parched throat. It was... the shallowest kiss in the history of kisses.

“That felt like nothing... what was that?” Gabe said.

“The story of our life...” Said Shy, as she smiled.

Gabe hugged Shy as tightly as he could and the moment he let go, they both ran to find Anoush. Sometimes it takes kiss to find out what’s right; it was clear now that, Anoush was the true elixir of his life. He was so drowned in her adulation that he failed to swig her.

He ran through the streets like a man possessed; jumping over fences and carts and logs. Shy was left far behind, she simply couldn’t keep up. Gabe didn’t stop, he kept running.  But Anoush was nowhere to be seen.

It had perhaps been a bit too late. She had perhaps left for Naog. Not many men find their Anoush and often when they do... they let her slip, just like Gabe. There was no room for regret... only sorrow. Gabe continued his maddening search but, by now he was in tears, he knew she had gone. Gone forever.

Shy finally caught up with Gabe and with her eyes she apologized to him, for she too realized that Anoush had left for good. She tried to comfort him but to no avail. Gabe told Shy to leave him alone for as long as possible; he didn’t want to vent his angst on his guide. He sauntered up the stairs to his house like a shattered glass rolling down a steep hill.

He opened the door to his house... and there she was. Dressed in the most unflattering robe, her hair tied into an untidy bunch. She looked liked the convergence of sun and sea, like dew on a satin rose petal... she looked like home.

There were two glasses of wine on the table. Gabe looked at the second glass, wiped a tear off his 
cheek and asked:

“You knew I would come...?”

“I hoped you would.” Anoush smiled.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! New chapters up every few days :D

  2. The story is such a delight to read :) ...... In love with the last sentence :) ......
    Waiting for the next installment!

    1. Thank you :) But remember... the last sentence will keep changing :P


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