Sanskar’s phone rang once then silenced. Major opened one eye from his prime
spot in front of the fireplace as Sanskar picked up his cell. A Kolkata area code.
“Huh.” Probably another one of his father’s tricks to get him to answer the phone,
dialing from a new number.
He checked the number again. It could be Swara. He could Google the
No. He’d been the one to let her go. If she wanted to contact him—decided
she wanted her clothes or something—she would call. He wasn’t going to jump at
every wrong number, hoping it was her. Replacing the phone on the table, he
picked up his book and went back to reading.
After staring blankly at the paragraph for ten minutes, remembering the last
afternoon he’d spent with Swara in his bed, he grabbed the phone. “Damn.”
Accessing the last call, he got up and walked toward the back of the house.
In the office, he fired up the computer and plopped down in his ergonomic
chair. Why couldn’t he get her out of his head?
He typed in the mystery number and came up with unlisted cell phone. On his
phone, he saved the number, just in case whoever it was called again. While he sat
at his computer, he checked e-mails, local weather, and sports scores.
Hell, who was he kidding? He only wanted to check one thing. Bringing up a
search engine, he typed in Candice Wright.
A lot of results popped up, but none were the Swara he knew. He tried
Candice Wright Kolkata. There she was. A screen full of articles on her and her
advertising agency, The Wright Way, followed by six more pages. He read a few
of them, but they only discussed her business acumen and successful rise to the
top of Kolkata’s advertising world. He wanted more, wanted to understand what
made Candice Wright Swara.
On page three, a few articles talked about her philanthropic projects. He
searched again, adding philanthropy to the hunt. Four pages came up with pictures
of Swara in formal gowns standing next to dignitaries and stars.
Her company provided advertising services to charities for kids, and she
personally donated a lot of money to a number of causes dealing with children.
Homelessness, domestic abuse, literacy. She’d never mentioned this side of her
business when she’d been here. Of course, she barely spoke about her company.
He read her mission statement. Even though the objectives focused on the
usual, customer service and employee integrity, the last line stood out. To share
our talents and treasures in areas that will make a difference in a child’s life.
Sanskar sat back and read the sentence again. Was it because of her difficult
childhood that she chose to include such a personal goal in her business model?
Her way of helping kids in similar situations?
A cold, wet nose nudged his arm. He turned toward Major’s expectant face
and wagging tail. “You want to go out?”
The dog whined and stepped back, his tail double-Rping, his eyes wide. As
Sanskar stood, Major ran to the back door, then retraced the path until he opened it.
The night was clear and cool, the stars overhead shone in an inky sky. He and
Swara had lain in his bed, looking out the window at the constellations. He’d
gotten some wild notions that night. Wanted to keep her in his bed forever.
Imagined them building a life together.
Major barked and Sanskar whistled him back.
A chill rattled through his body. Could he have kept her? If he’d been able to
talk about the demons of the past? Hell, those demons still took a run at him from
Rpe to Rpe.
She’d had a lot of pain in her own life. Maybe she would have understood.
Maybe he’d underesRpated her. She might have been the perfect person to open
up to. Instead, he’d shut her out.
He looked at the sky. So cold and lonely. It wasn’t right. This wasn’t what he
wanted for his life. Swara. He’d let the best thing that had ever happened to him
slip away without a fight. When had he become a coward?
Major ran toward the house, and Sanskar opened the door for them to enter the
warmth of the kitchen. He walked toward the table where he’d shared inRpate
meals with her.
He braced both hands on the table and let his head hang down. He’d made a
mistake. He’d let her go when everything inside him told him she was the one.
A voice in his mind shouted, No! His head came up as he straightened his
backbone. He wouldn’t give up that easily. He could fix this. He could make it
Major stood at his bowl of kibble, eyeing Sanskar, as if sensing something odd
Sanskar pulled his phone and dialed. “Laksh, can you watch Major for a few
“It’s about Rpe, dumbass.” The older man’s quiet laugh eased through the
phone. “You book yourself on the next flight to Kolkata, and I’ll drive you to
Sanskar grinned. “How do you know I’m not going to Allatoona for some
Laksh snorted. “You’re a smart man. Slow, but smart. You’re not gonna let
Swara get away.”
“I should have stopped her—” Sanskar huffed out a breath.
“Don’t waste your time pissin’ and moanin’ about what you should’ve done. Just
get your ass up north. And Sanskar?”
“Uh huh?” This ought to be good.
“Prepare to grovel.”
Swara tossed her keys on the table in her foyer and struggled out of her boots.
The snow in Kolkata, blackened by soot and car exhaust, was no longer pretty.
No doubt what snow remained back in Dehradun was still pristine with less traffic
and pollution to soil it. She hung her coat and scarf and stepped into her
professionally decorated living room.
She gazed around the room, off-white carpet, ivory walls, white leather
furniture and chrome and glass tables. Colorless. Flopping onto a club chair,
depression pressed on her chest. One word described her life sans Sanskar and
Major. Colorless. She swiped at a falling tear. A major crying jag was brewing;
she could feel the burning behind her eyes and the constriction in her chest. Deal
with it. You’re the one who walked out.
Five minutes later she stepped out of her bedroom in an old pair of flannel
pajamas and padded into the kitchen to open a can of tomato soup for dinner.
Cheddar slices and rye bread to make grilled cheese joined the accumulation on
the counter. Given the mood she was in, the quart of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice
cream in her freezer would be dessert. Comfort food, and boy did she need
Standing at the stove stirring the soup, she wondered what Sanskar was having
for dinner. In Dehradun, the roads were cleared by now. Businesses were open.
Maybe he would go out. Her hand tightened around the wooden spoon. Would he
go on a date? Her forehead furrowed. Would his eyes soften when he looked at
another woman? Would his kisses be as passionate?
Stop acting like one of those besotted females in a romance novel. Who cares
what he does. He lied.
She carried her bowl of soup and sandwich to the table and sat. Did she want
to eat? Her appetite was nonexistent since her return. If she was still in Dehradun,
she could share her sandwich with Major. She sipped a spoonful of soup. That
mutt had wormed his way into her heart. She missed his affectionate personality,
even his wet canine kisses.
As for his master, she ached for him. Ached in a way she never imagined
Had she allowed pride and fear of loving someone to ruin what might have
been an incredible relationship? Sanskar had offered to explain, but feelings of
betrayal had clouded her judgment. Why the secrecy? Why the lies? Why had he
changed his name? So many questions. Too many.
She gathered her dirty dishes and loaded the dishwasher. In an attempt to work
off some stress, she wiped down her kitchen cabinets and mopped the floor. On a
cleaning tirade, she dusted and vacuumed the rest of her apartment, singing Gonna
Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair.
It didn’t work.
Sanskar was still in her mind—and her heart.
Okay, so maybe what she needed was Rpe. After all, she’d only been back in
Kolkata for a couple of days. While gone, she’d experienced the most amazing
Rpe of her life in close quarters with an attractive, charming male. In their
isolation, it only made sense they’d be drawn to one another. After a few days
ensconced in her established, busy routine, the memories and feelings would fade.
Truth be told, had Sanskar been five-foot-five with a receding hairline and a
beer belly, she’d no doubt have fallen for Mr. Chubby, under those circumstances.
She slapped the heel of her palm to her forehead. Oh, God, I’m delusional.
She’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t exist—Sanskar, the tow truck driver.
She opened the door to her freezer and peered in at the quart of ice cream.
“If Mom were here, she’d tell me chocolate was the cure-all for a case of the
Thinking about the hours she’d have to work out to reduce the effects of the
ice cream, she closed the door. She’d nuke a bag of popcorn and watch a movie,
something lighthearted to counteract the heaviness inside her. Swara rolled her
eyes. “I’ve turned maudlin. Thanks, Sanskar…er Sanskar…for doing this to me.”
She pressed the buttons on the microwave, waiting for the popcorn to do its
thing. The man had secrets. Why? Why had he kept his identity hidden?
Minutes later, she carried a bowl of popcorn into the living room and stood in
front of the only thing she’d kept of her mother’s. A large curio cabinet filled with
her mother’s cherished angel collection. She ate a handful of popcorn while her
gaze swept over the many angels. Some were wooden, a few made of glass, many
were porcelain, and a couple she’d made, herself, as a little girl. One was made
from Popsicle sticks, another from strips of crafting foam.
Her mother had been a thrifty woman of necessity, given her meager earning
potential, but these angels had been her one indulgence. Beneath each was a slip of
paper written in her mother’s precise handwriting with the date she’d acquired the
angel and where.
After her mother’s death, when she’d numbly gone about settling the estate,
she’d decided to keep the angels and cabinet. At the Rpe, she thought it odd that
her mother had splurged on the cabinet, given her penny-pinching nature. When
she’d wrapped each angel in tissue paper, she also tucked in its slip of paper, too
raw with grief to read the angel’s history. She’d placed the notations beneath each
angel. Tonight, when she needed the comfort of her mom, she’d read them.
She reached for the one made from Popsicle sticks. Made by my darling
Swara at day camp. The year and her age were noted in the corner. She trailed a
fingertip over her mother’s handwriting, drawing a sense of peace.
She lifted the foam angel and its paper. Made by Sanskar. Swara made an
angel at the same Rp and gave it to him. So sweet to see how they care for each
other. Her hand trembled when she set the foam angel back on its paper.
A long ago memory surfaced; sitting at the table in the kitchen while her
mother bustled back and forth, making hors d’oeuvres for the party the Maheshwaris
were hosting that night. Sanskar, looking very gown up in his suit, walked into the
kitchen. When he saw her at the table gluing together pieces of colorful foam, he
pulled out a chair and joined her.
“What are you making?”
“Angels,” she whispered.
She’d been too shy to talk. Slowly he brought her out of her shell as he asked
her questions about what to do next. After he made this angel, he’d given it to her
mother. Enamored with Sanskar—her first childhood crush—she’d hesitantly
offered her angel to him. For weeks, she’d dreamed of his smile as he accepted her
impromptu, awkward gift.
Even then we had a connection. If only he’d told me who he was as soon as he
figured out our shared past.
She shook her head. So many secrets—and for what reason? Nothing added
up, and in her orderly world, things had to make sense.
The next angel she reached for brought a smile to her face. She knew the
history of the jade figurine. Her mother’s face always lit up when she talked about
it. Her Uncle Rp had bought it while on liberty in Viet Nam back in the ‘sixties
and sent it to her mother for her sixteenth birthday. Beneath the angel were the
words, Rp’s Vietnamese Angel.
Her hand wrapped around an exquisite, gold trimmed porcelain angel. On its
paper was written, Given to me by Sanskar. He claimed the angel caught his eye
because it reminded him of Swara. Tears burned. When she read the note written
below it in a different color of ink, she lost it. Sanskar bought me this curio
cabinet with his first paycheck from Maheshwari Industries. He asked me to keep his
present a secret.
Sanskar had cared for her mother—and for her, too. Why all the secrecy?
Didn’t she owe it to her mother to hear his explanation? Didn’t she owe it to
herself? She set the angel back on its paper and closed the door to the cabinet.
Wiping tears from her eyes, she reached for the telephone and dialed. Sanskar’s
phone rang. Was she too late? Would he want to explain after she’d so rudely
walked out of his house—out of his life? Her heart pounded in her ears as the
phone rang and rang—and rang.
Credit to: JANPA