The proposal

‘Oh God, how difficult could this be?’

She stood at the gallery wringing her hands. The painting contest had been over, and she had promised Ryan that if she’d win she’d tell him something.

A part of her wished she lose. And the other part taunted ‘Oh God, how difficult could this be?’

The second and first runner ups were announced as Nitya and Sakshi Deshpande. ‘And now’ the announcer said dramatically, ‘put your hands together for Rhea, who has bagged the first place’

The hall had filled with applause, and Rhea’s heart had filled with joy. Or was that warm fluttery feeling of hope, happiness, trepidation?

Ryan was waiting outside when she stepped out. ‘So, how did it go?’

‘Ok’ Rhea said non committal. ‘I came 2nd’.

‘Which means you won’t tell me what you had promised to tell me?’

‘Sorry, I can’t’ Rhea replied. ‘Rules are rules.’

And just then Sachin walked past. ‘Hey Ryan, congratulations Rhea, your art work was superb.’

‘Ya? They displayed everyone’s work?’ Ryan asked

‘No, just the winner’s.’

‘pak pak pakaak’…Ryan was mimicking a hen as he thanked their mutual friend Sachin for the news.

And to no one in particular he added, ‘Someone I know is chickening out. Someone with so-called high ideals and value systems, who talks of rules being rules.’

He’d started the scooter with three kicks, and as Rhea sat behind Ryan, she hated herself for chickening out.

‘Okay baba, I’ll tell you, but I need a quiet corner.’

She could almost feel that victorious smile that must have been emanating from Ryan as he said, ‘This is a quiet corner.’

‘No, not this. Some place else.’

‘Where? Should we go to Raj Dhaba?’

‘No.’

‘Kapoor chowk?’

‘No.’

‘Vaishalipuram’

‘Are you crazy? No.’

The scooter braked suddenly.

‘What? Why have you stopped here? It’s the middle of nowhere.’

‘Get off’ Ryan said. ‘I’ve stopped because we’re in the middle of nowhere. Either you tell me here or agree that you’ve chickened out.’

And before Rhea could protest, he got off, and pulled the two-wheeler on its stand. Leaning his tall muscular frame against the scooter he folded his hands as he faced the beautiful Rhea with her deep innocent eyes.

‘Now tell me.’

‘It’s no..nothing.’

‘Chicken’ he taunted.

‘Ok. It’s about…you know…us. You..you went to Delhi, came to Kanpur, then at your place, you said you saw the doll museum, had chaat.’

‘Yes’ Ryan said impatiently, ‘ I travelled, I ate, I returned, what next’

‘When you weren’t here…I…I missed you.’ Rhea’s mind went deep into the hollow of her heart, the place from where she had missed him. ‘Very much’.

Ryan’s voice softened, ‘I did too.’

‘Liar. You’re saying so because I said so. Why didn’t you say so first?’

‘ Well, what’s this? A who says it first contest? And stop this, tell me what you wanted to tell me. Out with it.’

This night, the decision to tell Ryan had been a tough one to make for Rhea. All her friends had been proposed by their boyfriends. And all her friends had advised her to tell Ryan. Why did she, of all the people, have to do the proposing? It was unfair, all of it.  What if he said no, where would she take the million pieces her heart would break into. And what if she never got this chance again? What if he found someone else? Or she died? Or the world ended? Didn’t they say that it was all about today, tomorrow was an unknown stranger?

‘Okay’ she said staring at the brown tips of her jootis, ‘I think I love you. And I really don’t know what you feel about this, but I wanted you to know that I have feelings. ’

‘You think or you know?’ Rhea would have stared at her jootis for the rest of the evening, but something about Ryan’s tone made her look up into his eyes.

‘What?’

He was smiling. ‘I’m just saying that you think….but I know’

And then he held her slender shoulders with his strong hands, ‘I know…that I love you.’

‘Liar. You’re saying so because I said so. Why didn’t you say so first?’

And that’s how it all began, the first brush-stroke on the Canvas of Dreams.

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About Jaya Siva Murty

I am an author, a freelance writer, social media consultant and a full-time mother of two little kids. After a short span of working as an advertising copywriter, I went on to write for daily publications and magazines. I love writing poetry and fiction and am also the proud author of my first novella called 'Canvas of Dreams' at www.indireads.com
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