As she jogged a little further spraying sand behind her sneakers every time she sprinted, her eyes instinctively turned to the row of apartments that fringed the side of the beach. Yes – he was there again at the window, leching at her. She swore under her breath and cursed herself yet again for looking towards that side. She wasn’t like most girls of her age, who enjoyed this kind of attention from the opposite sex. She loved being friends with them, though. In fact she hung out more with men than women because she could never relate to the flimsy feminine variety of talks and gossip. She would rather spend time beating the boys in a mean game of rugby, than sit pretty in a beauty parlor preening her nails. But when men tried to act fresh with her, they could expect a hard sock in their eye that they would remember for the rest of their lives. So, now it was this guy at the window who was turning out to be a daily nuisance in her routine. Every morning, she would see him watching her intently as she jogged back and forth, sweating it out in her shorts and racer-back top. She tried to ignore his gaze on her but failed badly. It made her self-conscious and she hated that feeling. Traits such as self-consciousness and shyness were so feminine – just not her style. She was way too tomboyish for such things.
The next day she vowed not to look that side. She set about trotting, her hair tied in a bushy high ponytail swinging back and forth. Much as she wouldn’t have wanted to… again her eyes automatically traveled to the window at the building. She saw the familiar face and seethed when she saw a smile breaking out on his face. Bloody lech! Doesn’t he have better things to do early in the morning than ogle at women? She thought to herself. But well, it was his good luck that he was at a distance, else she would have given him a piece of her mind. She consoled herself with the thought that it was she who was giving undue importance to him. This went on perpetually for every single day for the next few days. Him watching her all the while that she jogged.
One fine day, as she jogged by, when her eyes fell on the building, she found no one at the window. She found it strange that she did not see him there. This had never happened earlier. But she also felt relieved. She wondered what had happened to him. Probably he was unwell. Or was he out of town? Or better still, he probably must have got bored of watching her everyday. With all these thoughts running in her mind she raced towards her milestone. But something she saw made her slow down as she reached the rock panting under her breath. Sitting on the rock was the man she saw at the window everyday, with his back facing her. She recognized him instantly as he turned his face towards her and waved at her cheerfully. Without acknowledging him she frowned and turned away to change the direction she was jogging in, so as to avoid him. Thankfully he did not follow her. She refused to be bullied by his presence and so she finished that lap and came back to the rock. This time he turned his grinning face, and gave her a thumbs up, as he yelled out “Great going, there!”
How dare he? Was he trying a pick up line of some sort on her? She wondered. He’s going to have it from me today! She thought to herself as she approached him fuming ferociously “Hey dude, who do you think you’re talking to? Do you think I’m the regular helpless girl you can eve-tease at a deserted place and get away with?” she demanded. “Of course not, buddy…you’re definitely not a regular girl!” he remarked “I mean, just look at you man…the spirit with which you run is simply amazing! Every time I see you run, I get the urge to run just like you…freely and passionately. There’s a mad kind of rhythm your feet follow….” “Excuse me? A disgusted Sharon cut him short, “ If you think you can impress me with all this flowery talk, you’re wrong. If you really are so fond of jogging, what the hell is stopping you?”
“This.” he said, as he pulled out a pair of crutches from the back of the rock “This is stopping me.” Nothing had prepared her for this startling epiphany. Guilt crept into her veins, flushing her face red. She wished for that instant that the sand she stood on swallowed her when he went on to tell her that he was a national level racing champ who had several medals to his credit. But fate decided to ditch him when he had lost his legs in a road accident a few years back. “You know, I had the same kind of fire in me when I started out racing.” He spoke as if he was speaking to himself, looking at the waves rolling by. Her heart went out to this spirited young man who was a victim of unmitigated misfortune. She had no words to make up for the blunder that she had committed by throwing cheap accusations on him for something he was not guilty of. Because she wasn’t used to saying sorry easily, she fumbled with words. But he put her at ease on a condition that she happily agreed to comply with. She was ready to do anything to make up for her folly and bring this young man some happiness in whatever way possible.
The next morning she was at the racing tracks of the city stadium, ready to take professional coaching from him. After all – she had promised him that she would help him turn his incomplete dreams into reality with the sheer force of her passion to run.
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