“I have to do this”
These words were beyond her understanding. Many opportunities which would have taken her to a new level of fame and success had been left standing by the door just so that she never has to compromise the strength of their bond. A long time ago she had chosen her side. In fact, together they had always been on this same side.
She tried tuning him out but couldn’t ignore when he said that he had to go ahead with the director’s demand. The added scene is crucial for the movie and the movie is crucial for his career, he explained.
7 years ago she was the one who motivated him. He wasn’t even half as excited as she was about bagging the lead role. It was never his dream to be an actor. But it was the kind of story that matched his high ideals and values and his faith.
That first day itself she had made it clear, “Make me proud. This is just another medium to spread your message of peace and right values to the society, but please don’t lose your path. I won’t be able to handle you getting intimate with anyone even if it is for acting”.
“But actors have to go on that path someday and all their girlfriend or wife understands that.” he had teased her,
but seeing that she was serious, he had hugged her tight, and when she said “Jaan... Do whatever you wouldn’t mind me doing. because I love you just as much as you love me… not more.. not less..”
He had replied “I love you for this. Keep reminding me please”
Today was the time to remind him but something about his manner told her that it would be of no use.
“Don’t do it dear. Say no! Since when did we start to think about money and success and fame before ‘us’? “, she could not resist trying.
“You won’t understand. This is a big movie I can’t loose it for your silly insecurities”
“Okay… Fine.. Let's do it.” she stood up with as much confidence as her wobbly feet could muster.
“What do mean? You coming with me to sets?”
“That’s crazy! I am not a baby that you need to watch me”
“No. I am not coming to watch you”
“I don’t have patience for riddles… Please explain and fast”
“The only way I can handle this and later not give you grief every single day over this episode for the rest of your life is by experiencing whatever you experience.”
“I.. I don't understand”
“Simple. I shall act out the same scene that you do in a similar setup next to your’s”
“This is ridiculous Aaesha! That’s definitely not happening!”
With a spring in her leg she jumped towards him, hugged him tight and said “Exactly!! so just call the director and tell him you won’t do it.”
Her hopes dropped with the drop in his voice as he said “I can’t say no to the director now. That will be a huge loss for the director and me”
“Okay. Tell the director to erect similar bedroom next to where your scene will be shot. I am sure THAT will be a smaller loss. Being such a big star does not give you the power to say no, but at least they can do this much for you” saying this coldly into his ear she withdrew from his loose grip around her and left the room leaving him alone to think, and switched off her phone.
By morning she had 22 missed call alert. All from him. She knows what he desperately wants to say “Let’s forget about all this. We are happy with what we have and nothing is more important than our love”. But she needed to hear this from him.
As soon as she took his next call she heard him bark “Aaesha!!! We have to be on sets in 30 mins, get ready fast. It took me an entire night to convince the director for your unreasonable demand and you are sleeping like a princess?”
She smiled. She knew he shouted only when he knew he was wrong and guilty. So there was still hope of this nightmare ending soon.
She dressed in clothes that he loved to see her in. Simple and white long kurta and flowing pants. Hair tied up in a loose bun enhancing her soft features, pink lips, and long neck. The more he realizes how much he loved her the more jealous it would make him. He will make it all stop, she just had to go along this act for a little while more.
As they entered the sets there were very few people around. He explained during such scenes only necessary crew is on sets so that the actors remain comfortable. The word ‘comfortablec made her extremely uncomfortable.
Numb she was as she looked at the setup of two similar looking bedrooms. As she had asked for, the beds were angled in such a way that they could see each other. That was the last resort. If for some reason he doesn’t stop this before the cameras start rolling, she was sure if he watches her with another man his blood would boil. The many times he has fought with random guys on the road for leching at her gave her enough reason to believe in him still.
What happened next was a blur
Lights. Camera. Action.
He walked towards her... The stranger walks towards Aaesha.
He touched her face... The stranger touched Aaesha’s.
He pulled her closer to him... The stranger pulled Aaesha.
But Aaesha’s eyes were intently trying to find his eyes and she couldn’t tear her eyes off the other bed… until…
He moved in to kiss her and she kissed him back.
The last memory for Aaesha was getting back into her clothes in a hurry and turning back to look at the other bed where a stranger was lying exhausted, satisfied.
Aaesha was running like a crazy person on the roads crying out loud, tearing at her hair, shouting out choked curse words for the man who betrayed her belief, swearing that she would kill him, that she hated him.
But this crying and cursing were happening in her mind. In reality, he was dropping her back home in complete silence and she was focusing on a stain on her white kameez.
**** the end ***
NOTE: This short story is nominated for the SALISMANIA.com Best Short Story Of The Year Award 2017.