Continued from Part I and Part II. You can read them here
Where was Toots? – And the knowledge would dawn on him in the way they can only in dreams- The crutch had swallowed the girl. No, the girl had turned into the crutch. Then what had happened to her crutch- he would go berserk trying to figure out.
It took two days to get over these weird day dreams and psychedelic night- puzzles (they were not frightening enough to be called nightmares, only mildly distressing). He was turning into a mad-man (through in other circumstances he would be all condemnation about the above usage – it wasn’t a politically correct term)
… SK had somehow expected Toots to go tweet tweet tweet but the voice in the other end was deep and husky- soothingly so. It unfailingly had the placating effect warm water must have on joints that were aching or a wound that had cauterized.
‘Santosh’ Toots addressed with a familiarity that seemed decade old at least. She didn’t ask what had kept him busy for the last two days.
“We have known each other for 4 months, Toots. I want to meet you” SK simply said. At Cherry’s at 5.30 pm”,came the reply. The Candy pink Maruti modified to suit her requirements was visible. He stepped in. Toots was sitting, staring into space. SK stood in front of her, panting. ‘You’ve come’ she said politely albeit absently. Her mind was still hers.
He wondered about her. Over a period of time, SK discovered that Toots was more articulate online or over the phone and a little tongue-tied or in brown study face to face. Maybe that was what thy called artistic temperament. He wouldn’t know.
She effusively perused his photographs. Begged him for one of red poinsettias. Within days she had metamorphosed them into a breath-taking painting.
Sumana meanwhile was down with peptic ulcers. Unheeding of the doctor’s advice, she had gone ahead and indulged on some over spiced cutlets. This was most uncharacteristic of her. She suffered for it and how. Santosh visualized her going overboard over the cutlets, then ending up like this for a simple indulgence. He felt a dash of pity mingled with affection. ‘ Poor Su’ she wasn’t born with the sturdiest of stomachs. As she recovered , he helped her catch up on college work she’d missed. They then took a walk in the moon- lit night.
She wasn’t wearing her glasses. With her porcelain smooth skin and chiseled features, Sumana was what most people would consider a conventionally good looking specimen of the female species. The moon beam compliments her features further. ‘You are beautiful, Su’ SK murmured touched by the marmoreal quality of her loveliness. ‘I know’ she said and smiled with her lips tightly shut. Some thing about the remark or the smug smile irked SK. The tenderness he’d felt for her earlier in the day faded a little.
Toots was at her studio painting azure squares on a large canvas: but mere squares they wouldn’t be; SK knew there was something called abstract art even if he didn’t understand it. He wasn’t even a dilettante but Prof MM was and he had once told Santosh that abstract art (like poetry) would be full of symbolic representations and imagery that made perfect meaning to the creator of it. It completed the artist in a way the rest of the world wouldn’t understand. SK felt a pang of envy for a moment. Toots –her rich secret mental processes. Other secrets..?
How many friends do you have online? Are you on any social networking site?’ he asked with feigned nonchalance.
‘ No, I just chat once in a while’ she answered in between bolds and open strokes ‘ I am not on FB or anything. I am bit of a dud at technology if you want to know the truth’ she tittered.
‘Tell me about your chat friends’ he repeated. He forgot to be casual and all that this time. ‘There’s you and three others’ she said openly, meeting his eye. Has he imagined all the secrecy? ‘A richy rich business man- supposed to be from the US of A’ she chuckled ‘A real braggart. Besides his spellings suck’ SK laughed too. ‘A girl techie from Hyderabad’ Toots counted on her ring finger ‘ She’s nice- a real movie buff’ ‘ And the third? Oh there Knox –dad at 23. Lives with his 2 year old daughter Katie. Simply dotes on her. Apparently his partner left him for some one else’. ‘From which part of the world is he?’ ‘Some small town in America, I guess’ Toots shrugged. He’s nice. His spellings also suck, though’ she added as an afterthought.
‘Not all guys are as linguistically skilled as I, Toots’, SK ruffled his collar.
Toots didn’t seem to have heard. ‘Imagine Santosh, dad of a 2 year old at 23. And I still single at 26’, Toots said glumly.
‘Toots’ SK patted her back. ‘Pep up! 26 is real young! (look at me I am 28 and at this advanced age, still a bachelor). We have our whole lives ahead of us’
‘Of course, sweets. But you seem intent on crooning ‘Goodbye to love’ a la Karen Carpenter already, my fledgling.’
‘Do you have an eating disorder by any chance?’
‘No, I don’t!’ The earnestness with which he posed the question sent her into hysterics.
Santosh grinned sheepishly. ‘Sorry. I handle Abnormal Psychology. I have anorexia , bigorexia, bulimia and their kin flitting my mind all the time’
‘Um-hum?’ ‘I need a walk. You wanna come?’ She stood up, stretched luxuriously and took her crutch.
Toots seemed to like the outdoors very much. She walked nearly as fast as he did but took frequent breaks .SK didn’t really mind. These pauses were richly replete with conversation . This girl did talk.
Toots sauntered off to a cherry blossom tree (next to Cherry’s Cafe) and hugged it. She closed her eyes. ‘To be one with nature, what a blessing’ ‘she said with feeling. She didn’t speak for a while. Some mysterious emotions seem to be brimming inside her.
‘I think he lives on a ranch or farm or something…. close to the soil’
You know that foremost question he asked was “So Toots, what do you for fun?” “Nothing- hoping you’d have suggestions” I had typed.
“Drive trucks and tractors and hang out with your kid’ had been his response.
Toots spoke as through from a distance. You’re taking about that chat acquaintance of yours, if I’ve understood right’
‘Yes, I meant Knox’, she said softly and closed her eyes once more.
‘Have his spellings improved?’ SK asked carelessly.
‘Just as bad as before
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