An excerpt from Quarter Life Crisis

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As she finished taking a sip of water, I enquired, “Do you remember the time when I asked you out, here? It has been so many years since then.”

“You did not ask me out!” exclaimed she. “I had to lead you to it. You were so shy. That’s why I named you ‘Shyny’!”

“I wasn’t shy!”

“Yes, you were. I remember what you said, word by word.” She laughed and mocked me, “You said, ‘Neera, I want to say. . . I wanted to ask . . . I mean, I was thinking . . .'”

“I do not remember it happening like that,” I lied.

“I do!” she said, jubilantly. “You were so cute! I loved it.”

“Anyhow, let’s just agree that it was a beautiful moment, OK?”

“The funniest part was that you just gave up the plan. If I had not led you to it, you would’ve never done it. Thank God, I knew what you wanted to say – I saw it in your eyes.”

“You could always see through me.”

“Yes, I could and I can. And I know why we’re here.”

“Why, may I ask?”

She smiled and looked at me.

“What?”

“Do it, Shyny,” she said.

“Do what? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“OK!” she said, getting up.

I held her hand, and prodded her to sit down.

“I think I will have to lead you to this one too, right?” she asked, her eyes gleaming. “No problem. I know you’re going to ask me to marry you. I know you’ll tell me how much you love me and that you’ll love me no matter what. Then you’ll say how you will always keep me happy and never make me sad. Isn’t this what you wanted to say?”

“Not really,” I replied, with a plain face. I wrapped my arm around her waist and continued, “You’re wrong on so many levels. Firstly, I don’t love you. I only like you and that too at moments you’re not a pain in my bum. Secondly, even if I did love you, I can never love you ‘no matter what’. I know Indian girls are beautiful before they get married but as soon as they have their first kid — boom — fat, like a melon. Thirdly, I don’t think, if we get married, I would always keep you happy. I mean, married people fight. We’ll fight a lot, no doubt. We might even come close to hating each other.”

“This has to be the most romantic proposal ever!” she giggled.

I gently caressed her face and said, “Darling, the only thing I can promise is that even if we do end up having a few terrible moments together, you’ll always know that there is a person who cares about you, as a friend and as a husband. I’ll make sure that every night we will sleep holding each other lovingly, even if it is right after a fight.”

“We will make a world with dreams, sweetheart,” she said, softly.

“You make me so happy,” I said before we kissed.

“I have something for you,” I said. “Yesterday, when I went out with Innaya, I bought something.”

I took out a magenta ring box out of my pocket and opened it. It held a gold ring, donning a small diamond.

She smiled and I slid the ring onto her finger.

“We’ll have countless beautiful moments all through our lives, Darling.”

“I know we will,” she replied, and we embraced.

When we arrived back home, Innaya greeted us cheerfully. She was aware of the motive of my outing with Neera, and she held both of us in her arms.

Maybe better times were coming.

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