He waited for her at the cruise terminal.
It was the first time he would be alone with her – just the two of them – for the entire weekend.
The cruise ship would leave Mumbai on Friday evening – sail to Goa – and – after a lovely Sunday in Goa – they would return to Mumbai on Monday morning.
It was going to be a weekend of love and romance.
He was especially looking forward to the three nights they would spend together – in the cosy romantic cabin he had specially selected – an ideal seductive setting to get intimate with her – yes – he was yearning to make passionate love to her.
Though they had been dating and seeing each other for quite some time – they hadn’t even kissed – but she had given him tacit hints that she desired to take their relationship to the next level.
And – when he suggested that they go on a romantic getaway – she enthusiastically agreed – and he selected the exquisite weekend cruise on the luxury liner – rather than one of those archetypical “resorts” around Mumbai.
He had booked a premium suite on the top deck – with a private balcony – for cosy romance with a panoramic sunset view of the ocean – as a prelude to passionate lovemaking at night.
He was sure that it was going to happen – because she had given him profuse signals via her eyes that she desired him – and he desperately yearned for her too.
He thought of the diamond ring he had bought for her – and he wondered if he should propose to her before they made love – or after making love to her for the first time.
The taxi stops near him and she gets out of the taxi.
He looks at her – his heart thumping with the giddy glee of a man who sees his lady love and finds her a thousand times more beautiful than when he had seen her last.
She flatters him by looking steadily into his eyes and giving him a loving smile.
Then – she looks into the taxi and signals.
A boy steps out of the taxi – it is her son.
The man is taken aback – surprised to see the boy – and he feels a deep sense of disillusionment.
The taxi driver takes out the woman’s bag from the boot and keeps it beside her.
The man walks to the taxi driver and pays him – and – the taxi drives off.
Then – the man looks at the woman with a question in his eyes – disappointment writ on his face.
“I am sorry…” she says – contrite, “I had to bring him…” gesturing with her eyes at her son.
“Wasn’t he going to spend the weekend at his father’s place…?” the man asks her.
“He ditched me at the last moment – he called and said he had to suddenly go to Delhi for an urgent meeting…” she says.
“But you didn’t tell me anything…” the man says to her – in a slightly accusing tone.
“He called me just half an hour ago – when I was on my way to his house – I was going to drop my son at his place and come over here – so – I just diverted the taxi and came straight over here…” the woman says, “there was not point calling you when we were going to be meeting in a few minutes – I thought I would tell you over here…”
“It was going to be just the both of us – for the first time…” the man says – feeling let-down.
“I know – I was looking forward to being with you – all by ourselves – I can understand your anger – but – what can I do…?” the woman says – looking penitent.
While the man and woman are talking – the 6-year-old boy is engrossed in looking at the cruise ship berthed on the jetty.
“Uncle – is that the cruise ship on which we are going…?” the excited boy asks the man.
“Yes…” the man says to the boy – and then – he looks questioningly at the woman.
The woman smiles at the man and speaks.
“We can take him with us – can’t we…? He is so excited…” the woman says to the man.
“I don’t know…” the man says, “the cruise may be fully booked…”
“But he is just a small boy – we can adjust him in our cabin…” she says.
“Please Uncle – I want to go – I have never gone on a ship before…” the boy says – beseechingly.
“Please…” the woman says, “you are in the Navy – I am sure you can do something…”
“Okay – I’ll try and do something – you two just sit over there in the waiting lounge…” the man says – and he walks towards the cruise ship.
The man returns after 15 minutes and smiles at the excited boy.
“It’s done – you are going on the cruise with your mother…” the man says to the boy.
“Yay…!!!” the boy exclaims happily in excitement.
The woman seems happy but she looks a bit confused.
“So – the three of us are going on the cruise…” she says to the man.
“No – you and your son are going on the cruise – he is going instead of me – I have spoken to the Manager and the Captain – they’ll cancel our ticket and issue a fresh one for you and your son – come quickly – there is a bit of paperwork to be done…” the man says – and he leads the woman and her son towards the cruise ship.
The woman and her son stand on the deck as the cruise ship slowly casts off from the jetty.
Her son – the 6-year-old boy – he is full of thrill and joy – looking excitedly at everything.
The woman looks at the jetty – her eyes search for the man – hoping he would be there – waving to her.
But – the man is not there.
She feels an ache in her heart – and – a tear rolls down her cheek.______
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