Ananya was playing “catch” with the sea again. Lithe, prancing, giggling, clapping and splitting into squeals of excited laughter, every time the soft, gentle foam of the tiny wavelets missed her feet. Bending down and rolling her tiny jeans up an inch further whenever they caught onto her and lapped up around her tiny bare feet.
Natasha watched Ananya play from her dry patch of sand a few feet away. Dressed in a traditionally woven kaftan, showing just the right amount of feet, neck and hands, donning Ray Ban shades and a fashionable straw hat, legs stretched, hands perched behind her head, resting comfortably on a mat. Every now and then shouting against the wind, cautioning Ananya “Careful beta, come back, don’t go far”.
Ananya would come back to where her mom relaxed, sip from a bottle of orange juice, deposit a smelly set of tiny colorful shells on the mat and go back to challenging the waves.
The sea was calm. Deep blue with a coat of silver as the sinking sun glittered off it on the horizon, a mesmerizing shade of turquoise nearer to the shore and a translucent sky blue beyond. The smooth rounded colored rocks and corals clearly visible here and there.
It was five in the evening and the day had been like any other vacation day for this seemingly normal family of three. The Shetty’s were on their usual quarterly “mini family vacation” just after Diwali on a private beach resort in Gokarna. The weather was perfect. Sunny but not too much. Cool but not cold. Windy but not in a way that made you hate your long curls.
It seemed normal anyways. Natasha’s gaze went from the prancing Ananya to the silhouette of a couple walking hand in hand in the shallow waters, some distance away. She could picture them, her in a revealing bathing suit beneath the robe, him in his swimming trunks and t-shirt. Perfect youth. Charming youth. Silly youth. Newly married, she thought. Honeymoon. And scoffed.
Her iphone, that had gotten a brief respite from the insta worthy pictures and posting, buzzed near her, snapping her out of her reverie.
“Arjun Calling…” she took her time in swiping right. Smirking at the thought of what it meant nowadays.
“Hey babe…before you kill me with your silent treatment….let me explain.”
“No explanations needed dear. It is what it is…”
“It isn’t what you think it is no. Not this time. I was all dressed to come to you guys just five minutes after you left…”
“It’s been an hour since we left…and I can literally see our room from here, you know…”
“At least let me finish no. I was all dressed to leave and just then….”
“And just then Mr. Sharma called. Or was it Mrs. Mehta? No…you need newer names…Was it some firang this time? Steve? Jobs?……ha ha ha ha” Natasha was not laughing….her eyes were moist….she wasn’t tearing up either….her tone was flat…no sarcasm….no anger….no despair. Just flat.
“Well…..when you put it that way. But why don’t you see it? I’m doing this for our future only no. So that we can come to these lovely vacations…Get Anu to the best schools…give her the life we…”
Natasha took the phone away from her ear and let the voice get lost in the winds as she stared at Arjun’s picture. A much younger Arjun, the Arjun she had fallen in love with and had made a partner in her dreams. The Arjun with deep black honest mischievous eyes that sparkled. The Arjun without a beer belly. The Arjun with a mop of dark black wavy hair. The Arjun that was no more.
And she swiped left.
She got up, folded the mat, letting the carefully collected sea shells fall back into the sand, lifted her Gucci wallet, slipped her bare pedicured feet into her Metro slippers and started walking towards Ananya.
She held Ananya’s hand and continued walking, dragging a reluctant five year old and continuing to walk.
Natasha didn’t know where she was going. But she kept walking…away from the hotel. One hand clutching her wallet and mat, the other a very angry Ananya’s very angry little hand.
And as she walked, she saw, scribed in the wet sand, a heart with the alphabets N & A…. She stood there, staring at the simple scribe and a set of footprints leading away from there. Undoubtedly carved by the deep in love couple that was there a while back.
The sun had started it’s journey out of the sky, the empty sky had turned crimson and grey. The sea had started losing it’s calm as the moon slowly peaked from the opposite end. The turquoise and translucent blue sea had started churning the sand beneath and was turning a dirty brownish grey.
As Natasha and a very teary eyed Ananya stood there, the waves gathered stronger and rose up and forged ahead. And just like that in one big sweep, they crashed over the scribe in the sand and one set of footprints….And left, leaving behind an even wet patch of the beach, no sign of the naive love’s insignia anymore. Just one set of footprints leading away. The waves, or the universe having wiped everything else away, leaving a fresh patch of sand, ready to be scribed in again.
Natasha wanted to shout…call them back…show them what the future had in store for them…But they were gone. And she stood there, holding on to a now weeping Ananya, staring at the now empty patch of fresh wet sand, lost.
**This was written as part of Writeclub Bangalore’s exercise on Setting the Scene