ONE MONTH AGO
As the yellow studio lights fell on her, Avanti felt droplets of sweat forming on her upper lip and below her eyes.
She was minutes away from winning the ‘What’s your IQ?’ show. She had five more questions to answer. The make-up man patted her face dry and soon the cameras started rolling.
The quiz master asked the five questions and she got all of them right. She had won. Things were a blur as she was showered with glitter. The judges walked up to give her the prize money. The main sponsor was giving away a unique prize. She was asked to write down five wishes or dreams. The sponsor would endeavour to help her realize one of these five dreams.
FIVE YEARS AGO
Avanti clucked in diasapproval and looked at the handsome twenty-something man, who stood before her, giving his usual cheeky smile.
She worked at the Employment Bureau in her town.
The man said, “Do you have any updates for my job?”
She replied with barely concealed irritation, “Mr.D’Souza, we have your number. We will definitely call you if something comes up.”
But he stood there and said, “Will you come out with me for a cup of coffee? And the name’s Mark.”
She refused but he persisted.
He showed up there very often asking her out, sending cards and flowers. She was quite irritated, as he never took her ‘no’ seriously.
One day, when she was already having a bad day, he showed up with a long stemmed red rose.
She was in a bad mood and threw the rose down, and said, “Do you know why I don’t like you? It’s because you are unemployed, and are just floating around without any purpose.”
He looked at her strangely and walked away. She walked away in a huff, and that was that.
That was the last time she saw him. He stopped coming to the Bureau. The flowers, cards and chocolates stopped.
She worried and brooded. Her womanly pride was hurt. Every morning, she looked for him, with no luck. Heart of hearts she felt that maybe she had started liking him a little. His phone was out of reach.
Life moved on. After about three years since she last saw him, she saw his photo splashed on all newspapers, and TV. He was hailed as the next big literary sensation. His books had become bestsellers.
She smiled to herself.
After the high of winning the quiz show, the sheen of fame was slowly wearing off. The sponsors had promised to call her within the month to let her know, which dream of hers they would help her realize.
She was back to the dull monotony of her job at the Bureau, all days the same.
After a month she received a call from the sponsor.
“Ma’am, we are making your Wish No:2 come true – A trip to the Amazon”.
She was a little disappointed but sounded cheerful and thanked the sponsor.
She then asked, “Were you able to speak to Mr.Mark D’Souza about my wanting to spend a few hours talking to him?”
“Yes ma’am, as that was your first wish, that’s where we started. Mr.D’Souza sends his regrets but has promised that he will send you a copy of his latest book, autographed by him”, said the sponsor.
Her trip to the Amazon was fantastic but there was a niggling worry about Mark that wouldn’t leave her.
She constantly thought about him and their past. Did he remember her? She could only wonder.
One day, finally, Mark’s latest book of short stories, reached her. She eagerly opened it to see his message.
She was disappointed to see that it was simply signed – ‘Dear Avanti, Wishing you the very best, Mark.’
She looked through the book and her heart stopped, when she saw a short story titled – ‘The lady at the Employment Bureau’.
She did not have the courage to read it.