CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SHE WON
The blazing, golden sky captivated her. She had left the whole group below, without telling them, for she got so carried away when she saw the sky that she knew she had to be alone to completely enjoy and take it in. She had sought a seat on the rocks so she could observe the sunset at a good vantage point. She thought to herself that it was the best college trip she could remember so far. She felt footsteps suddenly sounding away from her and turned to look back. She caught him leaving, and he saw that she’d seen too and stopped suddenly in his tracks with a sort of half smile.
“Oh, sorry. You may have wanted to be alone”. And holding his hands close to his lips as if he were clearing his throat, he said, “Bye”.
“Wait” she called after him.
“I was just leaving anyway” she said, hastily flinging her handbag onto her shoulders and getting up.
She gave him a smile and started to go about on her way.
“Look, don’t miss this?” he said, touching her on her shoulders.
Turning back, she saw the fiery orange sun just sink into the basin of silver waters from the horizon and gasped.
He looked at her laughing, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
She nodded, smiling and asked, “Is this what you came here for?”
“To see this?”
He laughed again, an embarrassed sort of laugh.
She looked at him as if waiting for him to continue.
He swallowed and said in his clear, lucid voice, “I came here to smoke” and turned to her as if awaiting her censure.
But she did not look very surprised at all.
She remained silent and saw that he was glancing uneasily at her.
She looked at him with an approving sort of smile.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
“Not much. I mean, people are adults, if they chose pleasure over health understanding all the consequences, there is no problem in that. As long as a habit doesn’t affect a person’s self esteem or self control, he may as well engage in it”.
“That’s a very broad minded opinion.”
“Don’t others think so?”
“Not exactly. Everyone I’ve known so far, my acquaintances and family, try to wean me away from it”.
“Is it that important to you?”
“It’s my principle” he told her, suddenly becoming cold.
“I don’t believe the, it’s all for your own good advocacy that’s become so prevalent nowadays. You may not understand it, being a lady. But a man needs habits that distinguish and build him and set him apart from others and he should have the freedom to use his own discretion and execute his own priorities”.
“Yet women should not have them?” she asked, irritated.
He glared coldly at her.
“What, you say yourself that a person is entitled to freedom. But you expect a woman to behave as you want them to?”.
“Would you accept a wife that smokes and drinks?” she asked him, boldly.
“Well, madam, call me a chauvinist but I believe in the theory that a man is the head of the household. A man faces so much pressure and he has to deal with it all somehow. Women have outlet, you cry, you throw tantrums, you are sensitive, you over-react, you gossip in the name of chatting, you have your children and you can influence and shape them to suit your arguments as if they were made of putty but you expect a man to guide and lead and take care of all material problems, whether it is in taking initiative to do something, or a minor household inconvenience. We are supposed to be both rational and emotional. When we are pressurized and expected so, we are allowed to indulge too to carry on and to be able to stand this all” he told her, heatedly yet without even raising his voice.
“Well, I shall call you a male chauvinist because you are one” she almost yelled at him, but he remained unaffected with his hands buried deep in his pocket and with a look of complete indifference on his face.
“What do you do? You have it so absolutely damn easy”.
“No swearing” he interrupted calmly.
But because her head was swimming with anger and excitement, she wasn’t able to think proper enough to answer. But with a stamp of her feet, she whisked around when she heard his cold, steely voice address her.
“And that’s why you don’t need indulgent habits for you freely just exhibited your frustration, whereas had I done the very same thing to you, you would make such a huge deal out it and blow it way out of proportion. You see, men don’t have permission to over-react”.
“That’s because men are morons” she told him childishly.
“In what sense do you say that?” he asked, coolly.
She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself down.
“You are so defensive and try to justify every little thing you do. I only asked if you found smoking very important and you felt hurt and started this whole argument to get back at me. Men are just over grown, huge, pathetic little babies that constantly need coddling, fussing and attention”.
“Oh, and is that why Lady Jennifer tried to slap me for not having her due share of attention?” he asked her angrily.
Jen, who had never thought he would bring this subject up, looked as if she was about to cry but she saw him immediately feeling sorry for what he had done as he saw her like that. She saw those cold, hard eyes grow tender and his tight lips loosen. He came close to her.
“Oh, I am so sorry Jennifer. That was no way for a teacher to act to a student. I got carried away, you see, I came here to smoke because I was feeling tense and irritable and you caught me in that humour and words were out of my mouth before I could even stop to think what they meant” he told her pleading.
“But nothing excuses my insolence and cheapness to bring that out just to win a silly argument. I am so so sorry. Will you forgive me?” he asked her so tenderly that she could evidently see that he was hurt and touched when he knew he had hurt her.
She gave him a weak, watery smile.
“You don’t need to apologize. Your stubbornness and character is what I admire about you” she told him. He did not say anything but just looked down.
“I should leave now. My friends will be searching for me” and turned to go but stopped to add one last thing.
“By the way, you should know that I won” she said, with a wink and he smiled.
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