Upon reaching her front door, Esha turned around to look at her date, blushing. “Thanks for dinner. See you tomorrow then?”
“Definitely,” said Rohan. He had already cancelled plans with his friends for her.
He bid her goodnight and drove back home. On the way, he stopped by a fruit vendor. He wanted to buy mangoes to make a smoothie for the night. As he pulled over, he noticed an old Fiat parked ahead. It had names on the back. A silly practice, he thought. He always found putting up kids’ names on the back of cars lame. This one read ‘Akhil & Avni’.
He felt something heavy drop through his heart and into his stomach. He lowered his window and stuck his head out to breathe some fresh air. He couldn’t look at the name again. Forgetting about the mangoes, he drove away.
He barely remembered driving back home or frantically jamming the keys into the door to his apartment. He sank into the sofa, trying to calm his uneven breathing. The date had been lovely, but suddenly it felt wrong. It was just a kiss, he told himself. Just a kiss. It didn’t have to turn into anything.
Rohan forced himself to look at the framed photograph mounted on the wall opposite him. The garland had been changed. Avni’s smile was as gentle as ever. Her kind eyes beckoned him. Holding her sight, he raised himself off the sofa and walked to her.
“I’m sorry, Avni.”
He pulled out his mobile phone from his pocket. He began typing a message to Esha: I’m so sor—. He heard the door open. His mother-in-law had woken up.
“How was your date?”
Rohan didn’t know how to react. He hadn’t told Ma where he was going. “What?”
Ma raised her eyebrows. “Rohan, come on. It’s been four years.”
“Ma…” Words failed him.
She walked to him and cupped his cheeks in her wrinkly hands. “Rohan, Avni always wanted you to be happy. Don’t be afraid to be happy again.”
He hugged his mother-in-law tightly, trying to hold back his tears.
Ma patted him on the back. “Let me make you a smoothie. I bought mangoes today. You can tell me all about your date while I make it, you know,” she said, walking away to the kitchen.
A tear rolled down Rohan’s cheek. Brushing it away, he looked at Avni and smiled. He undid his previous text to Esha and instead typed and sent: How about a game of badminton and breakfast tomorrow?