As he was skimming through a book in the library, he heard some books falling from the rack and turned around to see a young woman standing on a short stool and reaching for a book on the top shelf. He rushed to her side, collected the books lying on the floor and kept them on the top shelf.
“Thank you so much. I could have myself collected and kept them” she said softly.
“No chance of that without your triggering another rain of books. You are two inches short of reaching the top shelf. I am Sohan by the way” he smiled
She wrinkled her nose and said “That is rather a mean remark. I come here regularly and take my books without any hassle. Today someone had replaced the books haphazardly. Anyway, I am Shalini.”
“Sorry, I was just kidding. Point out the book I will get it for you” he said. He was a tall, muscular guy in jeans and T-shirt. He looked handsome. She was not really short and was fetching in her jeans and kurti.
She pointed out a brown covered book and when he took it out unluckily the adjacent book fell down. She could not suppress her glee and had her mouth covered with her palms. He made faces at her
“Thank you. Do you now agree that it is not the height but the shabby stacking of books the reason? Readers do not replace properly”
“Hmm, are you studying or researching, Miss Shalini?
“Call me Shalu.Yes; I am doing research that is nearing completion. I come here on Tuesdays and Fridays. What do you do?
“Some freelancing professional. I come frequently here but from now on will try to make it on Tuesdays and Fridays” he said with a mischievous wink.
Thus began their friendship and they visited the library almost five days a week and spent long time talking under the shade of a big tree outside and having coffee in the restaurant. It soon graduated to love that grew in its intensity steadily. The weekends looked long and dreary. Except at the library, she never met him outside. She had kept their love away from her parents and wished to divulge only when she got a job after getting her doctorate. She was waiting for a call to defend her thesis. She wanted a year more to marry. Meanwhile he was pressing her for immediate marriage. Though she inwardly yearned for him she did not allow him to get fresh with her beyond holding hand or giving a hug. He wanted more and pressurized her to come out with him to spend a couple of days in some resort. She refused emphatically and told him to keep within boundaries if he really wanted her.
But there was a still a nagging doubt about him as Sohan never spoke about his job or for whom he was working in detail. He must be doing well as he came in car and was always well dressed and had expensive tastes from the brands he was using. He did not share his mobile number with her though he had one. He met her only in the library. Something secretive about him and his job that put her ill at ease.Shalu tried many time to probe but he smiled away.
There was one another thing that bothered her since the day before. It was a Friday. He did not turn up. She felt miserable with head ache and went to Coffee day. After she ordered a regular coffee, she saw unseen by them, Sohan and a very charming tall lady. They were chatting warmly and Sohan was seen laughing frequently. He had never laughed like this when with her. Just a smile and occasionally a pat on her shoulder or a hug. This lady was totally on a different league and looked from her mannerisms and the clipped talk a no-nonsense lady. Shalini felt utterly cheated and left quietly without being seen
She stopped visiting library for a week and spent time crying in her room cursing her luck and his betrayal. Even her mom was concerned. When she went to Library to refer to some important subject, the lady assistant smiled at her and said “Your friend is coming daily and enquiring about you. Did you not communicate with him? It seems he wants to convey some urgent message” and gave Shalu an envelope.
Hi Shalu, Where had you been? I am visiting library daily only to find you missing. I wish to tell you some recent developments.. Can we meet this Friday at 10 am in the library? This is crucial. Sohan
What a cheek he has to ask her to meet him for breaking the news of his leaving her with his new found attraction, she thought. She could not suppress her tears at being ditched. Seeing her pale face, the library assistant asked with concern “Is everything ok?”Shalini nodded her head and hurried back home. She did not stir out on Friday or Saturday and was confined to her room
It was 11 am Monday morning. She was getting ready to go to library when there was a ring on her mobile. It was from the assistant in the library.”Sorry to disturb you madam. I am Stella from the library. One lady has come here and asked for you. She wants to meet you urgently and prefers the library instead of your home. Can you please come?”
“Who did she say she is? Anyway I will be there in 15 minutes.”
When she entered the library, Stella took her to a room inside. There the lady whom she saw with Sohan at Coffee Day was waiting for her.
After Stella left the room, she said “I am Mekala from Police. We have received complaints that one handsome man in stolen car has been cheating young women telling he was well employed and luring them into marriage. He would often elope with woman, enter into a fake marriage and after a few months desert her taking herr money and jewel. Many of them were hesitant to lodge a complaint. A young woman came forward last week and lodged a complaint. Since he looked decent, I wished to make sure of his real character. I befriended him and met him at a restaurant. I found him slippery and never gave any details about him. He started making advances and I played along telling that we would meet again.. Then I heard about his frequent visits to library and came to know about you from Stella. I will arrest him immediately on the woman’s complaint and may need your statement to strengthen the case. Stay away from him. He is a rogue and ruined a few girls and left them in lurch. I am sure you being an educated woman would not have gone too far.”Stella came in and said Sohan was in the hall searching for Shalini.Mekala rushed out to nab him. When Shalini came out after a while, she saw him in hand cuffs with venom in his eyes. When he saw her, he swore at her calling her a bitch when one of the plainclothesman with Mekala gave him a hard whack. Shalini shuddered at the thought of how close she was to her certain doom.