That evening we had letter waiting for us when I reached home. It was from Luke and addressed dad. So I waited dad to come and open the letter.
He came home at eight kept me waiting for fifteen minutes. I was irritated. So, I go to my room and keep waiting. Dad called me last and gives me the letter. My family was teasing me as I read.
The letter said Luke was called us many times on phone. But it said to him the line was out of order. He was having a good time and everything there is fine. He was to grandma’s a couple of times and everyone there is doing well. They had rain but not heavy as here. On the bottom of the letter he had written something about me. He written that he expected his little brother is fine and asked his little baby don’t forget his big brother.
I was pleased. I had read between that lines and understand its meaning. I remembered the incident in that empty room. I will never forget you my big brother. I said silently.
Dad was replying his letter and asked me if Luke’s little baby wants to write something to his big brother. So I wrote that I was remembering him and it is he who forget his little baby brother. Then I got horns on head and asked how Frank is and is slept in the same room with Frank. Dad thought this is funny and I was resentful to share my big brother with Frank.
I want to tell Chris about Luke and the little tantrums we had in front of Frank to jealous him but decided not. I know Chris. He can’t stand to share my love with anyone even it is my cousin. Others didn’t have any doubts because he is my cousin and we are fond of each other when I was a baby and Luke was five years old. Even Luke doesn’t know I have some feelings for him other than brotherly love. I decided I will keep this a secret. I will not say even John.
As days passed and monsoon get heavier; Chris become busier in his research. But he found sometime for us to spend together. If he hadn’t made it in day he would come to our home and have a chat what he did. We hadn’t the privacy as in his room even for a hug because of my parents and Emily. Our first term exam is coming and I have to get ready to that. We get only the weekends to us.
Jess aunt is doing some accounts for our shop. One day she was complaining that she is becoming lazy because she had nothing to do keep her busy except cooking. So dad told her if she doesn’t mind the shop he would keep her busy. She could help him with the accounts. Our shop is selling goods of antique and handicrafts. And he plans to expand it. She didn’t mind and accept the offer. So, she is helping day ten to six except Sundays.
Oh, now mina is staying with us. Her husband died in the flood and she lost her house too. She had no children. She and her husband had a love marriage and her and his relatives barred them. They are living in a rented house and now she had nowhere to go. Dad takes the all expenses for the funeral. She was working with us when I was a baby. She is more than a servant to us. So, dad and mom took her home after the funeral. They told me and Emily now onwards mina is one of us and staying with us.
It was one Friday. Exam is coming next week. I, John and Chris is in Chris’ house. It was after school and we were sitting in the drawing room. Chris is helping us some problems in maths. Grandma was in her room having her coffee. She had said she didn’t want to be a disturbance for the younger generation and keeping herself in the room. Chris explained the method to us and now telling us about Canada.
“You know Chris….. Josh is in love!” he stated suddenly in a low voice.
I was thunderstruck and my mouth was gaping. What is he saying? I didn’t tell him about Chris or Luke. How did he know? Chris narrowed his eyes to me and looks John.
“With whom?” he used the same tone.
“Some one in our school.” John was saying this without looking me.
Chris’ face darkened a moment but he cleverly hides it. His eyes were angry and lips were tight. Chris please…..Don’t believe him…. I prayed.
“What’s his name?” Chris asked. How determined was he that, that is a he and not a she!
“Steve…” John picked his rhythm. “He is in senior high and the same school of us. He is very handsome and charming. He is a friend of my friend Daniel. So, I know because Daniel told me.”
I do know Steven Andrews. He is staring me whenever I was near him and he sees me. But except that what John was saying is a lie. It was now I do know I was in love with Steve! My mouth remains opened and I looked John and then Chris.
“You didn’t tell me about Steve….Jo, I was thinking I am your friend.” Chris keeps his face clear but his eyes blazed. “You are embarrassed of speaking about your love or….”
“Our friends know about this. It started last term.” John keeps pouring the oil to fire. I’m going to kill you John for this. I silently promised and underlined it.
Chris looking me as if wants to kill me with his look.
“Will you show me this Steve who got Jo’s love?” Chris asked John. “I want to meet him.”
I shut my mouth and looked Chris. Vein on his temple is pulsing and corner of his mouth is twitching. Chris seemed as if he wants to do something he didn’t like to do. He is trying hard do not show emotions and sit still.
“You know John… everyone is not lucky with this love thing.” He suddenly laughed. “The one who get the love he wanted is the luckiest.”
I wanted to yell Chris don’t believe this lie; what he told was one of his test. I opened my mouth to say, but Chris waved his hand.
“Don’t say you are going to say when the right moment comes. It’s okay Jo…”
I’m not belonging here. “You both have your chat. I’m going.” I said and ran towards the door.
“Now, Jo is ashamed because you told me.” I heard Chris saying to John as I was closing the door.
I went direct to my room and locked the door from inside. When Emily called I yelled her don’t disturb me. I’m studying. But when mom called for dinner I had to go or they would doubt me. I can’t sleep that night. Whenever I closed my eyes and try o sleep; I saw Chris in the wood and a bottle was beside him. I know what he was going through.
Morning I waited for dad to go to the shop and Emily for her Saturday special class and the tuition. Emily would be back after five. I was waiting for some more time to pass. So mom doesn’t have a reason to stop me going early to Chris’. But I was lucky. Mom came dressed for out.
“Where are you going, mom?” I asked offhandedly.
“Dad and Jess Aunt are taking an inventory and need help. Want to come?”
“Glad too mom…but John is coming and Chris is helping us the math’s.”
“Have your lunch at time.” Mom said and was gone.
“I’m going to Chris’.” I told mina. “Don’t expect me for lunch.”
I ran through rain to Chris’. Grandma opened and was angry because I was wet.
“Dry you yourself.” She gives me towel and swiftly dried my legs and head.
“I will get you drink something hot.” She said and I impatiently waited. I know Chris is home.
She gives me a glass of hot chocolate. As I was drinking I asked,” are you alone grandma?”
“No…” her face became worried. “Chris is here. Poor lad… last evening he suddenly gets ill. He was out for some time but when he came he was ill. I think is the wet weather. He eats nothing till now. He said he was not hungry. Only drink five or six black coffee. He said his chest giving him a pain. We asked him to go to the hospital but he said it will go after he had a sleep. But….”
John…. First I cut your tongue and then let you bleed to death. I promised.
She continued, “He was crying when I get him his coffee. My poor kid….I never seen him crying since he was ten. He asked for more coffee and I was making it when you called. .” she is concerned for her grand child.
“May I….. “ I stuttered.
“Of course kid…” she said. “Take this coffee to him and sit sometime with him. I can’t climb that stairs. I’m taking a rest.”
I take the flash and climb the stairs without making a sound. I know he would be aware of my foot steps and make a scene. So, I opened the door slowly and locked it from inside without making a sound. I placed the flask on the table near bed.
“Take it out and leave me alone, Jo” he said suddenly. “I don’t want you here.”
Chris was lying on his stomach buried his face into the pillow. His hands are folded under his chest and were lying on his full clothes. His whole body is shaking violently as if he is crying.
But I was firm. I sit beside him and touch his shoulder. He shook it away but I kept my hand firm on his shoulder and said,
“Don’t say my name….” he was furious. His shaking stopped and he turned to me violently. “How dare you to come here………ah? Are you not satisfied with what you had done to me already? Or do you want more….?”
I just looked him. His eyes were red with crying. Face is wet and swollen and filled with emotion. I feel something breaking inside me. I tried not to cry. This is not the time.
“You are playing a game with me…..” Chris was heating more and his voice is high. I looked to the door and he lowered the voice.
“….and I believed it. I was a fool. I thought I get what I wished for…but I was wrong.”
He swallowed and his chest seemed it is beginning to burst. He let out a wail but controlled it. I touched his hand but he jerked it away. Chris pushed him to up and raised his head to the cross bar. He picked the wet pillow and placed it under his head. He was half sitting and half lying now.
“You know…. I was in a fools’ paradise. And I was proud of it because I thought I was the luckiest person in the world……but all was a myth. I was blind…. John helped me to open my eyes and see the truth….” He was getting angrier and tears fell to his chest.
“John is a liar.” I told him. “What he said was a lie.”
“Oh….not...” he laughed. “He is not a liar. I went with him and saw your cute Steve.”
“You need to ask him.” Now I was fuming.
“It was not needed. “He laughed. “He opened his mind to me when he heard I’m your neighbor. He told me…how much he loves you, how your walk, voice, smile, eyes and lips turning him on… and how you both……..” he stopped.
I was silent. I want to die this moment. I saw something in Chris’ eyes and it was not hate. Something is more dangerous than hate.
“You only need me when you are on heat. You used me as a sex machine. Now, you can go… “His voice is perilous to me.
Chris’ voice was calm now. “I gave you what you wanted and more. I can’t give you that anymore. I didn’t believe in sex without love. “
Chris hides his face with his hands and his body is shaking violently. He was crying without making a sound.
Tears filled my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. I neared to him and touched his shoulder. He misunderstood me and jerked.
“No….. Chris said, “Go away from my life…..and leave me to myself…”
He pushed me away from him with backhands. I lost my balance and fell the space between the bed and table as hitting my forehead the sharp edge of table. I didn’t feel the pain because my heart ache was more than that. I grab the table leg and forced me to stand. I stood still for a moment and turned myself to Chris. His face is hiding behind his palms and his whole body is shaking. I feel something warm from my hairline moving over to my eyebrow. I avoided it.
“Chris…” I called. “Look at me…” my voice was calm but the tone was strong and determined. Something in my voice is forced him to remove his hands and look me. His mouth opened to say something but my hand waved him stop.
“No… I’m going…. I’m leaving you now from you and your life. But you remember what John and Steve told is not true. You can believe it or not. It’s upon you. I got nothing to do with Steve. Why he told you that lie I don’t know and didn’t care because I only love you.”
With this I turned to walk. Chris called me in a troubled voice but I didn’t stop. He had his chance but he lost it. Now it my chance to show him how much I loved him and cared.