When Vijay sat down next to her and she felt happy inside, she knew that it was wrong. Thaira knew that she wasn’t supposed to think like that, but she did.
For weeks she let it go, knowing that she could never let anything become of it. There were days when it got too much and she would leave the compound and hide away amongst the open fields. Or she would close the front door of her house and pretend that she had gone away. She would do anything to avoid seeing Vijay. She felt for him and she imagined that he felt the same for her. Vijay, however, had other ideas; Vijay just wanted friends. He wasn’t interested in girlfriends, for he had lost his own so special love in an accident. Thaira was there to protect him from his loneliness, every time he saw his girlfriend’s face in his mind. Vijay was still in love with her. She was dead, but he was caught in love.
Thaira never knew, because Vijay never said. He was just eternally there, and Thaira started imagining a world where he would always be there with her. In a single night, through a single action, all that changed. It was another of those nights when Vijay considered killing himself; another night when he felt more than useless, when he felt worthless. Had that Arabic girl not returned to the compound once more, Vijay might not have lived to see the next day, though, in some ways, maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t.
Thaira wasn’t usually one for looking out of windows at half past one in the morning, but that night she heard Vijay’s voice outside. Through the tight slats of her rush blinds she saw Vijay with that Arabic girl. She saw him embraced in her arms and then she saw her kiss him. Her heart missed a beat when she saw that and she threw herself back onto her bed in disappointment. Her feelings were hurt and she was starting to hate Vijay. The next day, when she saw him on the compound, she ignored him. She hid from him among her friends, whom Vijay did not dare go near because he didn’t understand them. On a day when he needed all the support he could get, he felt rejected and hurt. In a desperate attempt to get Thaira back on his side, Vijay decided to tell her the truth; to tell her his true feelings. When he found her on her own, drawing water from a well, he approached her and asked her to stop. She didn’t seem to understand the paralysis he was feeling in his mind and treated what he said as nothing. She denied that she had been hiding from him, but Vijay knew that she had. He told her the truth; that he only wanted to be friends. He meant best friends, but he did not say that. He meant talking companions, but he did not say that either. He only said that he just wanted to be friends.
His few words back-fired on him, because in her anger at him, in her disappointment and in her humiliation, Thaira told a joke to the other young women with whom she worked. She told them that Vijay was after her, that he wanted her as his wife and that she was scared of him. She reduced his quiet honesty to nothing but trodden dust and turned him into a man who carried her thoughts. When Vijay was found dead in his cell, at last in a place where he could be at one with his favoured bride, Thaira screamed and sobbed so much that no-one could hear the sound of the funeral bells ringing.
When Vijay’s ashed were scattered across the flowing waters, and she felt so, so lost and empty inside, she knew that it was wrong. Thaira knew that she wasn’t supposed to love him, but she did.