Next day, he saw her sitting alone in the classroom during recess. She was playing with her hair and seemed to be lost somewhere else. She looked so innocent and beautiful. He slowly came from behind and sat near her.
“Thinking about me?”
“Yes, I mean.....oh! It’s you. I am sorry." Then after a pause she said--"I mean I am very much grateful”
“Okay! Okay! Calm down. I am not a ghost or a horror figure! Don’t get nervous.”
“Hmmm.... Listen! I am really thankful for what you did yesterday but...”
“How ‘bout a cup of coffee with me. We’ll talk about all that and you can thank me any no. of times as you wish.”
He asked her suddenly before she could finish her sentence and she wasn’t able to say no to him.
There they sat in the coffee parlor. He was constantly looking at her trying to think of a reason why he asked her out and she sat opposite to him, looking at the empty cup and also thinking of a reason why he asked her for a cup of coffee.
“Why did you ask me out?” she finally asked.
“You know, that is exactly what I’ve been thinking too. But now that you’ve asked the same question, I guess neither of us has the answer to it. So we should better not think about all that, rather let’s forget who asked or why did he ask and concentrate more on this coffee,” he didn’t know what he was blabbering but he didn’t feel awkward or humiliated by that.
The waiter had put two hot cups of creamy coffee on the table.
“So, what were you doing last night in the classroom? Aren’t you afraid of being lonely because I know I can never stay alone? I must have someone always around me or I get really bored.....” And he went on and on while she kept listening.
“Why are you so silent?” he finally asked, “I don’t like silent people”
“Actually I can’t think of what to talk about.”
“Talk about anything. Like, you ask me – what’s your name? And I’ll say – My name is William. My friends call me Will. Then you may ask – Who’s in your family Will? And I’ll say – only me. Now don’t ask me why only me because you won’t get an answer for that. See, again I am talking. Okay, now I shall remain silent and give you a chance to speak.”
After much delay she finally spoke—
“Thank you, William, I mean Will for helping me yesterday.”
“There you go again. However you didn’t tell me what you were doing alone in that closed room.”
She then narrated to him all that happened that day, how she fell asleep and was locked inside and everything else.
“And luckily I was there to help you out of the problem.”
“Yes, but I would love to fall into such problems if you are the one who’ll come to my rescue,” she thought.
“Hey, what happened? Where did you get lost now?”
“Oh! Nothing, nothing at all.
Can I ask you something?” she said hesitantly after a small pause.
“Yes, go ahead.”
“You don’t think this is the last time we are meeting.”
“Why are you asking that? Are you again going to lock yourself up or what? Please tell me before hand 'coz I will also have to find time from my busy schedule to come and help this beautiful damsel in distress.”
“No, nothin' like that bt if we never meet again, I would like you to know that I’m very grateful for what you did yesterday. While I was sitting in that room, I thought I would probably die there and won’t be ever able to tell this. But probably God wanted that I should live and maybe I won’t get another chance. I hope you understand this......I love you.”
She said that so suddenly that he just could not understand what happened. He stood up and said — “I think we are getting late for class. Let’s go.”
She silently walked behind him and for the first time in that whole day, she saw the expression on his face turn serious. She was to know the reason for that later on, a secret that he kept to himself, a secret which had entirely dominated what he was today.
A smile came to his lips when he remembered what had happened that day. It was so sudden that he wasn’t able to comprehend it that time. Also the truth of what was said made it so pure and the feeling later was so serene that he just could not stop himself from meeting her again.
They met almost everyday after that day and spent a lot of time together. He liked her company, much more than any of his other friends. But he never considered her as the love of his life and never said anything on that. On the other hand, she was extremely happy with just spending time with him. She did not want anything more, at that time.
Now that she was so close to him, she came to know much about him, started understanding him more and more. He wasn’t the same person as she had considered him to be. Most of the times he was very cheerful, cracking jokes at her, making her laugh. At that time, she would see that glow on his face, making him look like an angel. But whenever they parted, she found that hollow expression on his face, as if he was about to lose everything he had. At those times, she would feel very sad but hid that under the mask of a smile, the most beautiful smile that he ever saw.
He would often come to her house and talk to her parents who also started liking him. Then they would go out on a walk. He would tell her about his likes and dislikes, how much he liked her parents and every time that he talked about them, she felt that there was a pain, a wound which had been kept hidden, not seen by any human eye and yet which was so clearly visible to her. A wound which was never healed but rather which became more painful with every passing day.
And finally she came to know the reason for it. One day as they were sitting in the coffee parlor, she asked him – “Where do you live? I would love to visit your house and meet your parents too.”
“I would say it’s a bad idea.”
“No, I would like to meet your parents. You never talk about them. How am I going to know them?”
“They are dead,” he said it plainly without any grief or pain or any of those feelings. He said it as if it was just another fact which held no importance in his life.
“Oh! I’m sorry, Will. I didn’t know that.”
“I don’t want you to know that. They have always been dead for me. Even if they are alive today in their physical form, still they will remain dead for me. And this is one request from my side. Please, don’t ever talk about them again.”
“Sorry....” but before she could finish, he had risen from his place and left.
She found out the truth from one of his friends. Will’s parents had abandoned him when he was a small child and he had no memories of his parents. He had been raised by an old widow who was very cruel and made him do all the household works. The one good thing that she did was sending him to school. He went to school but never made any true friend because he never believed in any of the human relationships. He talked to all and everyone talked to him. He was liked by everyone but he didn’t like anyone. Love, friendship and all other human emotions were immaterial to him. He lived for himself and only himself. After school, he applied to a college and was selected as he had kept good scores in school. When applying for college, he mentioned that his parents were dead and he was working himself to fund his studies. He was awarded a scholarship and he never returned back to the old widow, even when he got the news of her death. He worked in a pizza shop and earned enough to live happily, if happiness was living the life as he was living it.
She never mentioned the name of his parents again except once. And that was the last day that they talked to each other.