The hot wind blew Avni’s wavy hair and she tucked some behind her right ear with her fingers. A smile played around the corners of her lips as she remembered the time Jai had tucked her hair behind her ears just before they had shared their first kiss. At this very spot – ruins of a demolished house, behind the school grounds. A place where hot winds seemed to blow even in winter and dust turned everything brown and yellow – the leaves, the dry shrubs, dried, fallen branches of trees and the grass that grew out the crevices of the old bricks. A few walls still stood, with spaces for windows cut out, several standing with jagged top edges, and no ceiling. Avni had stood on one side a broken wall, and Jai had stood on the other. They had been fifteen. So many years ago and yet Avni could still feel the rush, that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, and your heart caught in your throat, that she had felt that day.
Avni felt a movement behind her. But she did not turn around.
“I knew I’d find you here,” said a familiar voice.
Avni turned, hearing the sound of a dried leaf being crushed under her foot as she did, “Jai? You have to stop looking for me. You can’t move on if you don’t.”
“You tell me to move on, and yet, I know you haven’t. Else why would you be here?”
“I have nothing to lose,” she said calmly.
“You were my first love.”
“We were way too young!”
“And I lost you, way too young. It is you I’d still be with if I hadn’t.”
“I see you have met someone new?”
Jai sighed and smiled. A sad smile. Avni’s intuition was uncanny. She could sense what he was thinking or feeling even before he spoke a word about it. It surprised Jai it was still the same. He felt a sudden urge to sit. He nearly fell on a low set of bricks, covered his face with his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. Avni sat down next to him and put a comforting hand on his left shoulder.
“Well, I am happy for you, Jai,” she continued.
“No!” he cried. “No! It isn’t that I can’t get over you. But… I am not sure if it’s guilt… or what! I don’t feel it is right. To you. To your memory.”
“That’s why I said it isn’t right of you to keep coming here. You have to let me go, without guilt. It’s been thirteen years. And as for what’s right – to my memory – Jai, be happy. Be happy and live your life. That’s what I want.”
Avni planted a light kiss on his temple. Jai uncovered his face and opened his eyes. Avni was no longer there.
Avni Mehta had been the captain of the girls’ basketball team of their school. When Avni was seventeen, two years after being with Jai, she had won a game and was excitedly carrying the trophy home. Her family, Jai, and his family had been waving to her from across the road. She patiently waited for the traffic to clear. As she was crossing the road, a little brass basketball that was on the pedestal on which the trophy stood, came loose and fell down. She bent down to pick it up, when a speeding car hit her. She was killed on the spot.