Praveena carried on, sharing her knowledge and experience with the children who came her way. She painted whenever she felt like it and grew as an artist.
She showcased her paintings in exhibitions, and people bought her work with interest that surprised her. In all of the exhibitions she attended, she displayed the drawing of the three stallions. But despite a lot of people offering to buy it, she remained reluctant to sell.
She and Ms Marrie met now and then in The Green Leaf restaurant. They spoke of things that bothered them, and Ms Marrie would often give Praveena some handy tips.
On her twenty-eighth birthday, Praveena eagerly opened the letter she had received. Ms Marrie and Anil were her only well wishers. Ms Marrie had called early in the morning, and the letter had to be from Anil. And sure enough, it was a hand-written letter.
I hope this letter finds you well. I am well too. Life in Bangalore is so boring. I am thinking of shifting to Chennai, and stay closer to you if it’s alright with you.
How is your life? I know you would have changed a lot from the last time we spoke. I know the lonely years have troubled you, but remember, you are not alone. I’ll always be with you.
I really hope you do take care of yourself. I will be coming over to Chennai tomorrow and want to talk to you. Meet me in “The Green Leaf” at one o’clock.
Please do come.
Praveena read and reread the letter. Anil was coming to Chennai? After such a long time? She couldn’t understand why. And why had he mentioned the place and time in the letter? He could have just called her, or an SMS would have been enough, she wondered confused. She felt a bit reluctant to meet him. What would they talk about?
She waited for Anil at The Green Leaf restaurant. Ever since her father had died, their friendship gradually diminished. ‘Then why’ her inner voice was curious ‘does he want to meet you?’
Anil came into the restaurant and walked over to her. He hadn’t changed much. His hair was unkempt as it had always been, and he wore blue jeans and a blue full sleeved shirt folded half-way.
“Hey,” he said taking the seat opposite her, smiling through his trimmed boxed beard.
“Hi,” she smiled broadly. “It’s so good to see you again,” she said earnestly. Seeing Anil again brought back old memories, bringing a familiar smile on her face. “how’ve you been?” she asked.
“Good, good” he replied, nodding. “and you?” he raised his eyebrows.
Praveena nodded. ‘Alright’. Anil nodded as well.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” she asked crossing her arms on the table.
“Oh,” Anil hesitated. “Er – about starting that self-help, recovery thing,” he waved his arms casually, “remember?”
“What about it, Anil?” Praveena asked exasperatedly.
“Let’s start the organization,” Anil said rubbing his hands together looking excited all of a sudden. “I’m bored with my job,” and seeing her raised eyebrows, he added, “you wanted to do this too. We’ll get it started,” he shrugged.
Praveena thought about it. He was right. She had wanted to do this, but she wasn’t sure if now was a good time. But she also didn’t know when a good time was. She could work in the institution and teach at the same time. That wouldn’t be a problem. She wondered why the thought had never occurred to her earlier. ‘Because you had no one to talk to,’ the voice in her head helped, and Praveena agreed silently. With Anil back at her side, they could set this up together. Her dream would become reality.
Anil watched in silence as she waged the war in her head. He had seen her do it before and knew better than to interrupt.
“Alright Anil,” she sighed. “Let’s do this,” she smiled widely. After a long time, she felt the same excitement she had had years before when the thought first hatched in her head. “Thanks, for coming,” she smiled at him.
They sipped on their juice in silence, and once finished, she was about to stand, when Anil stopped her, “Praveena?” She looked questioningly at him. “One more thing,” he paused looking serious.
“What is it Anil?” she asked leaning forward in her chair.
“I tried to tell you a lot of times…” he stalled shaking his head. He swallowed. And then, he smiled brightly. “Praveena,” he said, looking deep into her eyes, at the way her pupils dilated in curiosity, “Will you marry me?”