Love in Awkward Times

He had known her since childhood. Their homes were quite near to each other since years. Now, they worked at the same place. He was 27. She was 26. Both of them were among the most good looking singles in their community. Now it had been months since she was trying to express her feelings to him since so many months. But he’d never ever pay attention.
As children, they had been very good friends. They would go to school together. Their school was a thirty-minute walk from home. As he was a neighbour and a year older, her parents had assigned him the responsibility of accompanying her. While returning back from school, she would wait at the school gate for him while he played with his friends. At times, even for an hour. By that time, she would pluck some flowers from the garden, pick up some stones from the road and make a small rangoli. It was a great pass time and she’d forget all the anger for him in her heart. When he’d be back, he would look at the piece of art and appreciate her with a smile. They would walk together to come home. It was a long route and they would talk all the way. There was so much to talk about!
As they grew up, an awkward distance grew. They had a strong sense of affection for each other but there was no scope for words in their society. Girls and boys grew up to be partitioned by a moral sense. But she never quit. She secretly nurtured her love for him. When they began working at the same place, she soon began giving hints. He would act like he had no idea what she meant. His childlike innocence was at times very attractive and extremely irritating at the other times. Even now, after so many years, he was making her wait.

His problem was that he didn’t have a stable career and there were fifty problems in his life. He didn’t want to focus on anything else. She wasn’t happy with the work either. She had never spoken against it but it was obvious. For now, it was bringing roti at home. It was a job with a little money and no respect. There was filth, and despair all around. He wanted to leave all of this and start a small shoe business of his own.
But what if it failed? He didn’t have the money or the courage to move forward. How could a puny person like him, dare to dream so big? He needed at least someone by his side. That’s where the problem was. Who, in a similar situation as him, would take such a big risk to find happiness in such despair? Dreams were a luxury they couldn’t afford.
On the other side, this attraction was difficult to handle. She was young, pretty and madly attracted to him. She would even come up with different gifts for him. Her gifts were weird. Then this one day, she gifted him a single shoe. Who gifts someone a single shoe? That day, he smiled gently. One of his sandals had worn out just the same morning. He was at work and there was no time to go for repairs so he just left them aside and continued working.
She went down on one knee. He put his foot forward and tried it on. It was a perfect fit! His eyes met her yes, there were two endearing smiles. It was the most romantic thing ever. She had found him a shoe from the treasure hunt and was up to find its pair if this one would fit him properly. His cheeks were red. She gave him a smile back and ran back inside.
His heart was full of emotions. This was the same garbage dump, a poor man’s treasure hunt, that he had despised for years. Even when he would leave the place, the smell wouldn’t leave him. Why would someone be so unfortunate to do this for a living? He was sure that never could a good thing come out of it. But in the most awkward and unexpected moment, love did. And when it came, he gave in to the inevitable; he embraced her love with both arms. Tears rolled out from his eyes. When she came back excitedly with the other pair of shoe, he gathered all the courage and proposed to her, “Will you be my business partner?”
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