This is the second part of the “Eric & Angela” series. Click here for Part 1.

A million thoughts ran through his head when Eric drove six odd kilometers to meet Angela. She had mentioned that the café they were meeting at was pretty close to where she lived, she preferred to walk. That is why she had chosen it for their first meeting. He had seen her pictures and he had heard her voice and they had talked to their heart's content but the two had not met yet. This was the fateful day, Eric thought to himself. The voice in his head often became a pompous news anchor and started narrating his own life to him when Eric got nervous. 

“Eric being the neurotic son-of-a-bitch that he is, doesn’t want to be late for the first date. As Angela has reminded him thrice now, it isn’t a date. However, he is excited and has butterflies in his stomach, more than he had ever had before. In his excitement, Eric is trying to imagine what Angela looks like when he should be concentrating on the road right now. This, my viewers, is why driving and day-dreaming don’t go well together.”

The blaring horn of a speeding car broke Eric’s reverie and he swayed a little to the car as it sped away from him. The café was a quaint little place nestled in the middle of the city, the compound having an understated entrance but the greenery inside giving the place a rustic charm. The cars parked there, their brands ranging from VW to Audi, told him that this was a high-end place. Eric straightened up his clothes and tried to swing his helmet a little, as he walked towards the usher, trying to seem confident in his gait. Eric had arrived ten minutes before the agreed meeting time and yet, the usher’s list had Angela’s name on the list as its’ last entry. She was already there.

As he walked on the cobbled pathway leading up from the usher to the café door, Eric peered into the glass wall of the café trying to get a glimpse of her before she noticed him. There were a few people scattered across the tables inside and there, at the wee corner of the floor, sat Angela, with a book in her hand, reading. Her hair covered half of her face and her lowered gaze made it difficult for Eric to see her face but he knew it was she. His heart raced as he pushed the door and a wave of cold air hit his face. He walked up to her, still with the confident gait, and said “hi”. Angela looked up from her book, smiled at him, and cooed “hey”.

The rest of the evening was a haze. Eric was nervous but his demeanor did not show it. They talked about life, family, work, and how awkward they thought this meeting would be. Yet, it was not awkward.  Angela smiled big and it was refreshing because so few people smiled these days. Eric’s heart had quieted down by now and the pompous news broadcaster in his head was beginning to poke fun at the jokes he was cracking that were not landing well. He tried to ignore the voice and tried to be charming. The voice trailed off as something Eric said made Angela laugh aloud. “Boy! I am in trouble!” Eric exclaimed to himself as the rasp of her laugh rippled through his body and made him feel full.

Angela had said she would leave by seven but it was already forty minutes past seven and they were still engrossed in a discussion. Eric wondered if he should remind her of her engagement at eight with her friends and decided not to. He was enjoying the evening and did not want it to end. In fact, the fact that she was ignoring the passage of time for being with him made him feel good about himself. He did not want the evening to end and when she finally said she had to go, he tried to convince her if he could walk her home. She turned him down but thanked him for a lovely evening and then she walked away. Ever had a thirst so intense that you finish a pitcher of water and still find yourself craving for more? This was like that. 

When he got home, Eric texted Angela to let her know how amazing meeting her was. She told him she shared the feeling but told him not to be too optimistic, as she was not ready to date him. He brushed past her anxiety with a couple of reassuring words only to lay thick on her, his views about how what they had between them was destined to grow and evolve and how she should be ready to let it do so. For all the resistance that he got, Eric seemed un-waivered. He knew deep in his heart that Angela was destined to be more than a friend. It was right there in the way they talked, their conversations ranging from food to family to fears and apprehensions. The conversation moved and molded but it never stopped.

On paper, things were so simple. Angela had told Eric that dating him, given his complicated divorce & marital status, was against her belief system. Eric had acknowledged her views and told her he respected her wishes. However, in practice, things were much more complicated. You see, as I had mentioned earlier, the chemistry in the case of Angela and Eric was palpable, compelling, and undeniable. Every word they exchanged drove them closer. They were flirting with each other, every chance they got. Angela liked talking to him and she was afraid her walls were crumbling down. Therefore, she jotted down the points against dating Eric on a post-it and stuck it on her dresser. 

Eric was amused when she told him about the post-it. There were many jokes about it. Unbeknownst to her, Eric was disturbed. Slowly and steadily, in a matter of days, Eric had started to fall for Angela, more than he already had before she met him. It worried him that his situation was considered bigger than all his feelings. It was one of those things where the more you struggle, the more entangled things get. Hence, Eric decided to stay mum about the matter and just keep at developing the relationship with Angela. It kept eating away at him, however much he tried not to think about him. Less than a week after meeting Angela, Eric spoke his mind. He told her how he felt. He told her he wanted more. And she told him she “could not give him more, even though she wanted to”.

That night, they had their first fight. In a fit of desperation, which was a result of Angela’s doubts about him, Eric gave her an ultimatum. “Either figure out your feelings or just leave now.” Angela hated ultimatums but Eric felt like she needed the nudge, that sense of urgency to make up her mind. One thing led to another and by the end of the night, they had agreed to spend a night together two days later. Yeah, I know, Courtship is weird. They just went all U-turn in a matter of hours. 

When the fateful day came, Angela nervously texted Eric that she was just coming to hang out with him and that he should not harbor any wrong ideas about the night. Eric told her to stop being so guarded, as he would not assume any such thing. The news broadcaster in Eric’s head went “A night of unprecedented wonders lies ahead, ladies and gentlemen, as our hero waits for his paramour to adorn the floor of his place with her sacred feet. His heartbeat with a feverish pace as he cleans the house for her arrival.” When Angela arrived, she seemed tense. Eric showed her around and tried to ease her mind with some jokes. He offered her his t-shirt and shorts to get comfortable but she chose to stay in her jeans and kurta.

They had dinner together and Angela seemed to relax a little. She leaned on the headboard of the bed, having stayed stiffly straight all evening. Eric sat next to her and conversation flourished. All of a sudden, Eric said he wanted to hold her in his arms. Angela shook her head indicating a no. Eric’s face fell. It was the most adorable thing and she ruffled his hair in amusement. Their eyes met and for a moment, everything was quiet. Eric bit his lip to stop it from quivering as he slowly leaned forward and planted a kiss on Angela’s forehead. She touched his face and the next moment, their lips locked. Trembling in each other’s arms, they kissed…for all of a minute and then she retreated back, moved away from him, her fingers touching her lips, as if she had made a mistake.

Eric searched Angela’s eyes for answers but all he found were more questions. After that, conversation kind of languished, because Eric kept getting anxious about what Angela was feeling and Angela just wanted to move past from the feeling of guilt she felt and enjoy the absolute rapture she felt in Eric’s arms. She was torn between the two contradicting feelings and Eric was suspended in a state of desire and uncertainty. They slept off soon after, exhausted from the ordeals of the day. Angela left hurriedly in the morning, even as Eric pleaded with her to stay. He wanted to hold her hand and not let her leave but he did not want to seem obsessive. She left.

He texted her after she left – “I wish you hadn’t left”

“Had to leave sometime,” she texted back. She had to leave to deal with the things she was feeling. Feelings which were overwhelming, to say the least. In just that one night, where Eric had been more of a ‘gentleman’ than she thought he would be, he had managed to confuse her heart further. Against all her wisdom and sanity that she had cultivated in her twenty-six odd years, her heart was rooting for this stranger. She dreaded what was about to come. She searched her heart for the courage that she would need.

“You’ll break my heart, Eric” Angela texted sometime later, with a smile on her face as she hit 'send'. 

“You won’t ghost me, will you?” Eric texted, seeking reassurance.

“No, cupcake!” Angela texted back, decisively. 

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