His eyes ached on seeing the disparity of their appearances. At this particular juncture, at this moment, all of a sudden, he felt that she was beyond his reach.
Reading his emotions like an open book, the girl looked at the man in front of her with pure astonishment; holding back hot tears of anguish and surprise at the same time.
“Nazi!” she exclaimed his name with trembling lips. Taking his strong wet forearm in her soft satin hold, she pulled him inside. Bolting back the doors, she turned towards him. He stood as if in a trance, looking bleak and soulless, with his back towards the girl. She took hold of his bicep and turned him towards her. Tears were streaming down from her eyes onto her pink cheeks by now. Gazing at his crushed and shattered self, she stepped closer. Cupping his beard-roughened cheeks in her soft hands, she coerced him to look back into her eyes.
Discerning the overbearing pain in his deep set of eyes, glossy with sorrowful tears, she shook her head softly, pleading him to stand courageously on his ground. She brushed off the drops of water from his shining forehead, and standing on her tiptoes, placed her warm lips on his forehead for some moments, before slowly resting her own forehead against his. No words were needed between the two of them. Their shallow breathing and closed eyes were their mediums of communication, the silence of emotions were their words.
“Nazi.” She called his name in a hoarse voice. Nazi opened his eyes into narrow slits and looked back in her consoling pools, filled with so many unspoken emotions.
“Sit here, you are all drenched in the rain. Let me bring a towel”. Words came out from her clogged throat in soft whispers.
She stepped away from him. Snatching a single chair from afar, she tried to make him sit on the white leather chair. But he immediately pulled her back and hugged her body tightly. Feeling the warmth of her body against his cold stony one, after so many restless days and painful lonely nights, he felt an ease and tranquility sprouting back in his agitated self.
Alie hugged him back and ran her palm over the rigid length of his spine in a comforting manner, easing his taut muscles. She kissed him lovingly on the side of his neck, in an effort to soothe away his pain.
“I need nothing Alie. Just let me feel the warmth of your presence. It ensures that life still has something to offer to me. That I still have someone who cares for me and whom I have to care for; who loves me and allows me to reciprocate her love.” His words were muffled murmurs against the soft flesh of her slender neck.
“Nazi, let me fetch a towel, then we will talk; otherwise you will catch a cold.” She caressed his damp locks while struggling to free herself from his iron grip around her waist. His actions laid bare his fear of losing his loved ones. He wasn’t prepared to lose his last and most loved ones. She let go of her guard, allowing herself to be drowned with his insecurities.
The buzzing sound of the landline telephone dragged them back into reality. Inadvertently his grip around Alie loosened. He moved back and collapsed on the chair which she had placed earlier for him. Alie moved forward towards the heavy antique landline phone-set and picked up the receiver.
On the other side of the line, it was Alie’s mother from Najafgarh. She had called to inform her that her khala (head servant or housekeeper) wouldn’t able to reach tonight on account of the heavy rain in Najafgarh and the surrounding areas. She was giving Alie security tips, asking her if she could manage on her own for one night.
Alie assured her of taking care of herself, and that she would lock the door and windows securely. After bidding her mother goodbye, she put the receiver back on the cradle and walked to the storeroom located on the far corner of the long corridor. She grabbed a fresh towel from the cupboard and walked back to Nazi.
Standing in front of him, she rubbed off the water from his head and wiped his face softly. His head was cast low; eyes set on his worn off, wet shoes. She made him stand back on his feet.
“Go into the lounge and relax on the divan. I will bring you a hot cup of coffee, you are feeling cold.” She tried to pull him with her, but he stopped her movement by grasping her delicate wrist. Alie looked into his eyes.
“Where is khala?” Nazi asked her in a low tone.
“She had gone to our pind early this morning as her daughter-in-law has given birth to a baby girl. She would have come back by now, but due to the heavy showers almost across the whole state, the roads are jammed and rivers are overflowing above their danger mark. So she may come back tomorrow morning, or whenever the roads get cleared,” she informed him.
“Then I should be leaving. You lock the door securely and don’t open it for anyone.” He squeezed her hand and stepped away. But before he could proceed with his plan, Alie stopped him by tugging his sleeve.
“You are not going anywhere anytime soon. Come inside the lounge. I am bringing you a nice hot cup of coffee. And don’t argue this time Nazi; your skin is looking pale and turning slightly blue due to the cold.” She pulled him with her in the living lounge. He didn’t argue this time and allowed himself to be led away by her.
She made him sit on the plush cream three seater leather sofa in the lounge. Sitting down in front of him, she removed his muddy shoes which had smudged the brown imported carpet with dirt. But she wasn’t paying any heed to the dirt or water. Her entire concern at this moment was riveted around the person who was looking completely shattered and demolished. She freed his feet from his shoes and wet socks and stood up to place them back in the corridor.