Disclaimers: Same as in part 1. Maybe some angst-alert. Forgive me. Feedback is still welcome at




Sanaa was walking along the corridors of the hospital when she got a text from Andy asking where the nearest gym was. Sanaa replied telling her to check out the hotel gym.

Andy then called her “Hi. I did check out the hotel gym. It’s not very well-equipped. Don’t you have a bigger one somewhere close by?”

“I could take you to the one where I go. You could get a one month membership.”

“You go to a gym?”

“Don’t sound so surprised” Sanaa replied indignantly. “I do go. On occasion…. Alright, maybe once a week…. On a good week. But I do have a valid membership. And it’s pretty good. If you’re nice, I’ll take you there today. Is 7 ok?”

“Yeah. But you don’t have to come get me.”

“Didn’t we already have this conversation? I don’t really have anything to do after work today. So I don’t mind. Besides, come to think of it, I really need to work out more.”

“No, you don’t” Andy blurted out. “I mean, you look great” she stammered. “Anyways, then I’ll meet you at 7 in the hotel. Bye.”

Sanaa looked surprised as Andy cut the call abruptly but she felt a surge of happiness thinking about her upcoming meeting with Andy. ‘She thinks I look great’ she thought, reflecting on the phone call. She could even put up with working out, something she absolutely hated, if it gave her an excuse to meet Andy.


Sanaa huffed and puffed her way on the treadmill in the gym while keeping a close eye on Andy through the mirrors. Sanaa had never been enamoured by the brawny guys in the free weights section of the gym, but she couldn’t take her eyes off Andrea. Andy was doing some light weights and while she wasn’t bulky, she had just the right amount of muscles to look athletic and toned. ‘I’m sure there’s not an ounce of fat on her body.’

Sanaa briefly thought about her focus on Andy but told herself she was merely admiring Andy’s perfect form. ‘Girls watch other girls more than we watch guys, right? I’m just admiring her and feeling a bit jealous of her body. It’s not like I’m ogling her’ she thought to herself.

Andy was really amused at the way Sanaa griped about working out on the way to the gym. She was struggling to keep jogging on the treadmill. Andy turned her eyes away when Sanaa caught her watching. She looked at the men in the weights section doing the same thing she had been doing which was ogling Sanaa and she felt a fierce streak of possessiveness run through her. She forced it down and calmed herself enough to complete her exercises.

 As Andy came down the steps to the changing room, she found Sanaa lounging in the chair drinking some kind of juice.

“You finished?” asked Sanaa.

“Yes. Did you actually do anything?” asked an amused Andy.

“Of course I did. I ran 2 kilometres on the treadmill which is a pretty great feat. I totally deserve this drink now.” Sanaa replied sipping loudly from the straw.

Andy laughed “Yes you ran.” Sanaa stuck her tongue out at Andy. “Do you think you could get me one of those drinks?”


“On what?”

“Are you one of those health freaks who drinks only the healthy green-looking stuff or do you mind a plain old apple juice?”

“I guess a plain apple juice would do as long as there’s no sugar.”

“Fine” said Sanaa as she got up to get the drink.

“Thanks, Sanaa, for everything.”

“One more time that you thank me, I’m never going to take you anywhere again” threatened Sanaa playfully.

Andy held up her hands “Alright alright. I’ll stop the thanking. Just get me the juice already” Andy smiled at Sanaa’s laughter that followed.


They went to a sandwich place close by to pick up dinner and again went to the park to relax. Sanaa, who appeared thoughtful and not her usual bubbly self, cleared her throat and asked “Andy, do you mind me asking you something?”

“What is it? You know by now that you can ask me anything and I’ll answer you honestly”

“It’s just that this is a bit of a personal question.”

‘Oh my God. She knows that I like her. What do I say if she asks me openly?’ thought Andy, panicked.

“You never said whether you were in a relationship or not. You’ve just talked about the women that the media reported you as dating. Do you have a girlfriend, Andy?”

Andy, though relieved that Sanaa hadn’t asked the other question, didn’t know how to answer her.

“If it’s too personal, you don’t have to tell me.”

“No. That’s not it. It’s just taking me some time to formulate a response to that question. Simply put, no. I don’t have a girlfriend. I had a break-up recently.”

“Oh she hurt you” stated Sanaa with some anger in her voice.

Andy was a little surprised by how astute Sanaa was in reading her. “She did. Her name is Marie and she’s a model. I was working for the foundation in Paris for the past two years and I met here there. We really hit it off and we had fun for a while. She was the first real relationship that I had. Looking back, I know it wasn’t the type of relationship that would’ve lasted but at that time, she was the one for me.”

“What happened?”

“She’s quite well known in the fashion circles and it was a very public affair between us. I found from a tabloid magazine that she was cheating on me with a fashion designer. You know I don’t believe those rags but when I joked to her about it, she didn’t deny it. In fact she acted like it was a known thing that we had an open relationship.”

“Oh. That’s terrible.”

“Long story short, we broke up. Or I broke up with her. She wanted to keep the status quo. I refused. It went public that we had broken up and she milked the media attention and got a film role in France. I couldn’t stay there anymore and decided to go back home to Los Angeles. India was supposed to be my getaway trip before I went back home.”

“She’s an idiot. She didn’t deserve you. I’m sure you’ll find the right woman someday.”

Andy just smiled at Sanaa’s insistence. “Yeah hopefully. So, what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Did you find a guy yet?” Andy asked with trepidation.

Sanaa took out her phone and showed her a picture of a really handsome guy. “This is Rohan, my parents’ latest selection. He can do no wrong in their eyes and his family is supposed to be lovely. I’m meeting him tomorrow”

“You are?” asked Andy with surprise

Sanaa sighed and replied “Yes. We get to meet with each other a couple of times before our parents force us into making a decision.”

“So you could refuse to marry this guy?”

“I could. But I’d have to have a good reason. Saying stuff like ‘we don’t have chemistry’ or ‘we don’t share any interests’ is not acceptable.”

“But how could you decide in two dates that you want to spend the rest of your life with this person?”

“Well, I have to. At least my mother gives me two dates. Most mothers just give their daughters ultimatums.” Andy looked aghast. “Look, Andy. Our society is very different from yours. In fact, within this society, my family would be on the more liberal part of the scale. This is how it will be. I’ve accepted it.”

“How could you? You could say no.”

“You just don’t get it” Sanaa replied, exasperated. “Growing up, my family wasn’t very well off, not like how they are now. But my parents made sure that my siblings and I didn’t want for anything. I can never doubt their love and affection and they’ve supported me with my career decisions too. They believe this is the way to make sure that I’m happy for the rest of my life. They just have this one small expectation from me. I can’t let them down on this.”

“It’s not a small expectation, Sanaa.”

“In India, you’re not just marrying the guy, you’re marrying his family. So if I go against their wishes, in the long run, I’d be unhappy. If I do what they want, I’ll always have their unconditional love and support.”

“Well, not so unconditional, if you ask me” Andy objected. “What if you don’t love him?”

“I’ll learn to love him eventually. Besides, my parents had an arranged marriage and they’re quite happy with each other.”

Andy shook her head “I just can’t accept this, Sanaa.”

“It’s not for you to accept, Andy” Sanaa replied with a bit of a bite in her voice.

“Alright. All the best for your date. I’m sure he’ll fall for you” she said abruptly, not knowing how to dispel the strained air around them. ‘I sure am falling for you’ thought Andy wistfully.

“And, hopefully, I fall in love with him too. We’ll see. It’s getting late. Let’s go”

It was an awkward exchange of goodbyes at the hotel with both of them thinking about their discussion. Andy was still a little disappointed that Sanaa couldn’t stand up for herself against her family. Sanaa drove home, still a little irate that Andy failed to understand her circumstances.




Sanaa met Rohan in the gaming zone where they both exchanged a stiff “hi”. She had to agree with her mother. He was truly the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. He looked a bit like a nerdy Clark Kent with his spectacles, Sanaa thought to herself.

He was pleasant enough and they found themselves settling into an impersonal conversation about the Bangalore traffic when he suddenly looked up at Sanaa “You know what. You haven’t actually told me anything about yourself. Like the deep stuff. Not just your hobbies.”

Sanaa was immediately taken back to her first meeting with Andy where she had asked the same question to the American. ‘Were we flirting then?’ she thought to herself and then shook off those thoughts to try to concentrate on the perfectly nice gentleman in front of her. “Huh. Like what?”

“Well. Like how many kids do you want? Do you want to have any pets? Those kind of things.”

‘Oh my God. This guy is going too fast’ thought Sanaa and replied “Hmmm I’ve not thought that far ahead.”

He looked surprised “Um we would need to discuss all that before marriage right?”

“Yeah but that’s a long way away. So we have some time, Rohan” she told him.

He looked taken aback “I thought you agreed for an early wedding?”

“What? When did I agree?” she asked, shocked.

“That’s what your parents told my parents. That you agreed to the marriage and that you were ok with the wedding being held early, within a year. That this meeting between us is just for us to get to know each other a little before marriage.” He seemed confused by Sanaa’s shocked look.

Sanaa wanted to take out her phone and scream at her mother for deciding without her permission or at least take out her anger on the guy sitting in front of her. But she calmed herself enough to think rationally and concluded that it wasn’t his fault. He had been misled by the parents. “No, Rohan. I didn’t agree. How could I agree without even meeting you?” Now that she thought about it, how could he agree without seeing her? That was strike one against him.

“Oh. I’m sorry that I assumed. I really liked you from your photograph and the description my parents gave of you. They really seemed to like your family too which is why I said yes. Can we just start over? We could even go on a few dates, if that’s what you want” he said and appeared sincere.

Sanaa was somewhat mollified by his earnest tone and decided to give him another chance. “Alright. But I’m a bit busy with a project at the hospital and may not be able to meet often. And I definitely need time before agreeing to marriage. Is that ok with you?”

He appeared relieved when he said “Yeah. I’m cool with that. Hey, why don’t we go and check out the gaming?”

Sanaa followed him into the arcade where he proceeded to get lost in his shooting games. Noticing that he wouldn’t miss her, she explored the arcade on her own. She found a couple of games that she actually found to be fun and decided to come with Pari and Andy one day. She sighed as her thoughts again went to the tall American but she pushed it aside to concentrate on the hoops in the game.

She was a little worried that he would try to kiss her when they got to her house but he seemed alright with just saying goodbye and dropping her off.

Pari, who was on call in the hospital, sent her a message asking about her date ‘Sparks?’

Sanaa: I’d have to light a matchstick around him to feel those

Sanaa sent a ‘hi’ message to Andy which went without a reply. She fell into a fitful sleep wondering whether Andy was still bent out of shape over their discussion the previous day.




Two days later, after a period of continued silence from Andy, Sanaa finally met her at the hospital for their trip to the second camp site. They were accompanied by a junior resident, Diya, from the hospital and were unable to speak freely in the van. Andy seemed to be absorbed in the contents of her tablet screen and refused to make eye contact with Sanaa.

Sanaa was tired of Andy ignoring her and decided to confront the problem head on. Noting that Diya was sitting in the front seat and not paying any attention to them, she tapped Andy lightly on the arm. Andy looked up with a quizzical expression and Sanaa whispered to her “Are you mad at me, Andy?”

Andy sighed. “Of course not. I thought you were mad at me” she replied to Sanaa, in a confused tone of voice.

“Well, since you ignored my text, I thought…”

“Wait a minute. You sent me a text?”

“Yes. Two days back.”

Andy covered her eyes and said “I’m so sorry, Sanaa. I should’ve known that you would’ve wanted to talk to me. I’ve been using the hotel landline for the past couple of days. The thing is my phone went crazy two days back. It just blew up with calls and messages from my ex.”

“You mean your ex went crazy, not your phone?” said Sanaa, trying to contain her smile.

“Yeah. Seems she’s in India for a modelling gig in Mumbai and wanted to meet up with me. I told her I’m too busy to see her.”

Sanaa felt her possessive side jump up but she was relieved when she heard Andy say that she wasn’t interested in her ex anymore. “You’re right, Andy. She’s not worth your time.”

“I’m sorry again for the misunderstanding. For the record, I was upset by our little disagreement that day. I’m sorry that I didn’t try to look at things from your point of view. I thought you wouldn’t want to have me around anymore after that talk.”

“It’s alright, Andy. I thought you didn’t want to hang out with me. I know how weird and out-dated our traditions may seem to someone viewing them from the outside. I’m sorry for getting so defensive.”

“So are we ok?” Andy smiled at Sanaa.

Sana squeezed her hand and replied “Yeah. Definitely.” Andy, who had been in a funk for the previous two days, felt infinitely happier after their conversation and even more so that Sanaa did not let go of her hand the entire trip.

Kaluragi was a totally run-down town and their facility, if it could be called that, was an old house which had been converted into a makeshift eye clinic. Sanaa explained that they didn’t have a resident doctor in attendance and that the clinic was staffed by the residents who rotated there for three days a week.  There were only a few patients waiting and Diya started for the examination room to see them.

“As you can see, this place is much different from the previous centre you saw. We can only give basic treatment here like eye drops and a few medicines. One of the residents did a community study here. He identified this as a target centre for improvement. There are a large number of villages around here and they would benefit from having an eye hospital close by.”

Andy looked at the place thoughtfully. “It has some potential. There’s a great deal of empty land around it but I’m not sure this structure can be salvaged. We’d probably have to build a new clinic.” She started clicking pictures of the structure and the place around it.

“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m not sure I know enough about this place to comment. Come on, let me show you the inside. It’s actually quite spacious.”

Sanaa dragged Andy into the building which had a lot of empty rooms which could be used more efficiently. They then entered a tiny storeroom with very dim lighting. The shelves in the room were stocked with a bare minimum of drugs.

Andy, who was absorbed in her camera, bumped into Sanaa in the limited space which caused her to lurch forward and trip over a chair. She was saved from hitting the floor by Andy’s quick reaction as she leaned forward and steadied her with an arm around her waist. Sanaa, still in Andy’s arms, turned around and looked up into Andy’s eyes. “You saved me.”

“Um I pushed you so I had to catch you.” Andy felt her body twitch from the sensation of having Sanaa so close to her.

“Thank you” said Sanaa softly. She didn’t know what came over her as she put her arms around Andy’s neck and kissed her on the cheek.

She pulled away and Andy kept her gaze fixed on her. She felt an internal war within her as she fought to keep herself from kissing Sanaa properly. Their moment was interrupted by Diya calling loudly for Sanaa from outside the storeroom.

Sanaa abruptly pulled herself away from Andy and appeared to flee the small room leaving Andy to wonder whether the encounter had really happened. ‘Am I the only one who felt something there?’ she thought, puzzled. She sighed and followed Sanaa back to the main room where she noticed Sanaa greeting a young woman with a heavily scarred face. From the way the woman’s relatives were leading her, it appeared that she was blind.

Sanaa led the girl into the examination room and after asking the patient’s consent, motioned Andy into the room. Andy stood quietly by Sanaa’s side as the girl’s father told them her story. Andy waited patiently for Sanaa to finish examining her before asking for a translation.

“What happened to her, Sanaa?”

Sanaa looked at Andy sadly and replied “She’s an acid attack victim, Andy. That’s the reason for the extensive scarring over her face and the loss of her vision.”

“How did that happen?”

Sanaa asked the woman some question which she answered slowly. She finally turned to Andy to translate. “Her husband threw acid on her face three months back. He was an abusive and extremely suspicious man. He got upset that she was talking to the man who was selling vegetables in their area and threw the acid on her face as a punishment. He said that other men wouldn’t look at her if she was disfigured.”

Andy felt a surge of rage pass through her and she clenched her fist as she asked her next question. “Where is this guy now? Is he in prison?”

“He was killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving drunk after the incident.” Sanaa had tears in her eyes as she said “She’s blind in both eyes, Andy. Her parents have brought her back to their village which lies in this zone. They heard of this place and want to know if she can get back her vision.”

An agitated Andy replied “Can’t you do that, Sanaa? A transplant or something? There are so many advances in eye care these days. Surely, you can do something to restore her vision.”

Sanaa shook her head. “From what I’ve seen of her during this examination, I don’t think we can restore her vision at this point, Andy. I, however, think she can undergo reconstruction surgery but I’d need to speak to a plastic surgeon about that.”

Andy ran her hand through her hair and said “Alright. Look, Sanaa. Whatever she needs, I’ll help her out personally. Drugs, surgery, transplants - money won’t be an issue. You just do whatever you have to do. If you need consultants from foreign hospitals, we can do that too.”

Sanaa was struck speechless for a moment by Andy’s compassion. “Hold on, Andy. I’ve just convinced her and her family to come back with us in the van for a complete examination in the main hospital. I hope you don’t mind sharing our vehicle? We do have the space.”

“You know I don’t.”

“We’ll make sure that she’s seen by all the best doctors at the earliest and that she gets the best care possible. Don’t worry, alright?”

Andy just nodded her head, already thinking of all the things she could do to improve the girl’s life. “You carry on and settle her in the vehicle. I’ll join you after taking a few more pictures. Ten minutes, tops” she told Sanaa and hurried off. Sanaa understood that Andy needed some space and nodded.



At the hospital, true to Sanaa’s word, Dr.Mandira was waiting along with the chief of plastic surgery. She concurred with Sanaa that the patient’s vision may not be salvageable but they admitted her for planning reconstruction surgery to minimise the scarring on her face. Andy stood by as Sanaa explained the situation to the patient and her relatives. They seemed happy and hopeful even though she hadn’t given a very good prognosis for her vision. Sanaa also detailed Andy’s plans to sponsor the treatment. They turned towards her and Andy had tears in her eyes by the time they finished thanking her.

Dr.Mandira, who saw Sanaa’s tired face, motioned to her. “You both look like you could use some rest. Sanaa, take Andrea back to her hotel. That’s an order to both of you. There are enough qualified persons to look after Pallavi here” she said, referring to their patient.

Andy and Sanaa, though reluctant to leave the girl with whom they had bonded during the ride back to the hospital, saw that she was in good hands and left, promising to see her the next day.


When they reached the hotel, Andy looked at Sanaa and said “Why don’t you come up to my hotel room?” Then thinking that Sanaa might infer her intentions wrongly, she hastily added “I mean, we could do something fun. Like watch a movie – a light funny movie. Preferably with pizza. What do you say?”

Sanaa jumped at the chance. “Since I haven’t spent enough time with you, I’ll agree. Let’s go”

Andy told Sanaa to make herself comfortable on the bed and to select a movie from the choices the hotel had on offer.

“You order the pizza. I have to make a few calls for Pallavi.”

Sanaa watched Andy intently as she walked around the room making phone calls. By the time, the pizza had been delivered, Andy had managed to even arrange a trust fund for the girl’s education and vocational training.

As they started on the pizza, Sanaa looked at Andy and said “You know what? You’re amazing. I thought all philanthropists just held fancy parties and fund-raisers with celebrities and gave the money to charities. I never imagined someone like you who gets so involved.”

“It’s just my job” Andy replied with an abashed look on her face.

“No. It isn’t, Andy. Not for you. You want to make the world a better place. You feel a need to do it. And you don’t just sit in an office and let other people do it for you. You have so much affection for people that you want to be involved in all your projects. I love your passion, Andy.”

“It’s probably because, as a child, my father exposed me to different places in the world. He didn’t let me rest in our million dollar house and have a carefree childhood. He tried to show me that not all people have the luxuries that we did and that we owe an obligation to the society. Every day since I took over the foundation, I’ve been afraid that I’d let him down and some person somewhere in the world would suffer because of my short-sightedness.”

“You can’t be everywhere at once, Andy. As I told you before, you need to set realistic targets, not just for your projects but for yourself too. I don’t want you to run yourself ragged trying to help everyone in the world” Sanaa replied and placed her hand on Andy’s.

“Look at Pallavi, Sanaa. No matter what I do or how much money I get for her, I’d never be able to help her get her sight back” Andy said, turning anguished eyes towards Sanaa.

Sanaa sighed. “Andy, you’re not God. It’s the first thing that is told to us doctors during our clinical training. Trying to overreach and play God will only end in heartbreak for us. There’s only so much you can do. And, from Pallavi’s point of view, what you’re doing now for her is huge. That girl and her family haven’t seen much kindness in their lives but you, Andy, have given them hope. And that is the truest thing that you can give them.” Sanaa moved forward to hug Andy.

As Andy reciprocated, she thought ‘I need this woman in my life. She gets me.’

“Thank you, Sanaa. I wish you were always around to keep my feet on the ground” Andy replied quietly, hugging her closer.

Sanaa pulled back from the hug but kept her hands on Andy’s shoulders. “Tomorrow, you can tell her all about the arrangements you made for her. But for today, I want you out of this morose mood. I want my fun Andy back” she said with a smile.

Andy’s heart leapt as she heard Sanaa say ‘my Andy’ but schooled her expression into something neutral and replied “Alright. I promised you a light and fun movie. Let’s get to it.”

The pizza lay abandoned as they both moved to the centre of the bed to get comfortable while watching the movie. Sanaa had chosen ‘Just go with it’ which was fine with Andy as she just wanted some mindless entertainment that evening.

As the movie played, Sanaa moved closer to Andy and finally leaned her head on Andy’s shoulder. Sanaa was giggling away at the television while Andy surreptitiously moved her arm to rest around Sanaa’s shoulders. Andy, who had already watched the movie, spent most of the time watching Sanaa’s facial expressions.

Sanaa tilted her head up to look at Andy and smiled. “This is really stupid but also quite funny. I’m glad I came up here, Andy” she said and snuggled back into Andy’s arms and placed her hand on Andy’s stomach.

“Yeah. I’m enjoying it too” said Andy simply. Inwardly, she thought ‘I’m just enjoying it a bit too much. She has put her hands on me now. How can something that I enjoy so much be such torture?’

They watched the whole movie in the same way and even her twisted neck couldn’t move Andy out of position. After the movie ended, Sanaa kept her arm around Andy and started drawing circles on her stomach. Andy placed her hand on top of Sanaa’s and decided that she needed to put an end to the sweet torture.

“Sanaa, do you have to leave?”

“Yes” Sanaa just mumbled into Andy’s shoulder. She looked up at Andy and placed a kiss on her cheek. “I loved every moment of our evening together.” Sanaa then sighed and moved to break away from their embrace when Andy tightened her arms around her.

Andy couldn’t contain herself anymore and said “Sanaa, look at me.” As Sanaa turned her large brown eyes up to Andy’s face, Andy moved and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “I love every moment that I spend with you. I can’t deny it anymore, Sanaa. I have feelings for you” she stated.

As Sanaa felt tears prickle her eyes, she closed them tightly and moved to hug Andy again. There was no look of surprise on her face as she finally acknowledged what her subconscious had been telling her all along - Andy had feelings for her and she had feelings for Andy.

Andy didn’t know what to do when Sanaa hugged her and began sniffling into her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Sanaa. I didn’t mean to tell you. But it just came out. We can always be friends and I promise that I won’t try anything with you. Please don’t cry. I didn’t intend to upset you.”

Sanaa just shook her head and replied, still not meeting Andy’s eyes “You don’t understand.” She finally looked at Andy tearfully and said “You didn’t hurt me. It’s just that…. I don’t know what to do, Andy.” She placed her hand on Andy’s cheek gently. “You make me feel so many things. I’ve tried to tell myself that you’re just a new friend and that’s why I’m infatuated with you. But it feels like it’s more than that, Andy. I think about you all the time. When we had that disagreement, all I could think about was how to make it up to you.”

Andy smiled at Sanaa’s words and clasped the hand on her cheek. She turned her head and kissed her palm “I’m falling for you, Sanaa. I know it’s complicated and I did my best to stop myself but I just couldn’t help myself.”

She caressed Sanaa’s face and tilted her head up to kiss her. Sanaa, who had been frozen during their first kiss, moved her lips tentatively over Andy’s. Andy allowed Sanaa to take her time to become comfortable with the kiss before opening her mouth to taste Sanaa’s lips. The kiss went on as their tongues moved against each other and Sanaa became bolder in exploring Andy’s mouth. Andy’s hands started roaming over Sanaa’s back and she marvelled at the curves hidden underneath her clothes. When Andy’s hands slipped under Sanaa’s blouse, she broke away from the kiss.

“Too much?” Andy asked, pecking her slightly on the lips.

Sanaa’s face turned serious as she shook her head. “I don’t know where we’re going with this, Andy. You know about me” she said with sadness coating her words.

“Yes. I do. We’ll figure it out, Sanaa.” Andy tried to reassure her.

“How, Andy?” asked Sanaa, with tears gathering in her eyes again.

Andy’s reply was cut off by the ringing of the doorbell. “Hold on” she told Sanaa and walked towards the door with an annoyed look wondering who would interrupt her at this time, that too, just as she was having ‘the talk’ with Sanaa.

As she opened the door, she was taken aback as the person on the other side pushed her in and gave her a hungry kiss.

“I missed you so much, Andrea” said a voice with a French accent as Andy got a good look at her unexpected visitor.

“Marie” she said sternly. “How did you find me here and didn’t I make it clear that you weren’t welcome near me?”

“Come on, baby. What we had was just a simple disagreement and we can work it out. I’ve come all this way to…” She got distracted as she saw Sanaa walking towards them from the bedroom. “Who’s this?” she asked Andy, with interest.

Andy looked sullenly at Marie and replied “This is Dr.Sanaa Sharma. She’s a doctor who has been helping out with the project. Dr.Sharma, this is Marie.”

Sanaa, who was disappointed by the formal manner in which Andy addressed her, looked at Marie appraisingly. ‘So this is the ex’ thought Sanaa with a hint of jealousy on looking at the very blonde and very beautiful woman. Sanaa wished that Andy would shoo the woman away saying that Sanaa was her girlfriend but she knew that she couldn’t offer Andy that type of commitment ever.

Andy watched the emotions flash across Sanaa’s face and felt her heart sink as she saw the sadness that settled over it.

“Amiss. Whittington, I need to leave. I will mail you the details regarding our next camp visit” Sanaa said with the same formal tone and moved to take her handbag.

“Let me walk you to your car” she told Sanaa, as Marie watched their exchange with interest.

 “That will not be necessary. I’m sure you will need to speak to your visitor. Good night.”

Andy watched helplessly as Sanaa walked out of her door.




Pari took one look at Sanaa’s tear-stained face and knew that something was wrong. She knew getting Sanaa to open up would be a big task but she resolved to get to the bottom of the issue.

“What happened, Sanaa?” she asked abruptly, cornering her before she could go and hide in her room. To her surprise, Sanaa burst into tears and fell into her arms. Pari gently led Sanaa to their couch and said “Talk to me, Sanaa. What happened?” she asked, distressed.

It took some time and a couple of glasses of water before Sanaa calmed herself enough to look at Pari and answer her. “You were right” she stated.

“I was right about what?”

Sanaa had a dazed look as she moved her hand to her lips. “She kissed me, Pari. Andy kissed me.”

Pari was not shocked to find out that Andy was interested in Sanaa but was more worried about Sanaa’s reaction to the kiss. “What did you do?” she asked quietly.

“I kissed her back” she said and the tears started again. “Andy said she has feelings for me. And the thing is I feel the same way about her. You knew it and I knew it too subconsciously but I tried to ignore it. But we went to camp today and then we watched a movie and had dinner together. She kissed me, Pari and I wanted her to.”

Pari sighed, thinking that her friend would be having a really hard time handling these revelations about herself. “Did you two talk?”

“I told her that it wouldn’t work out but we couldn’t talk anything more.”


The whole story about the ex’s visit came out and Sanaa described how Andy had introduced her.

“Oh, Sanaa. Don’t fault Andy for that. She probably didn’t want to out you to someone else without you being sure of your feelings. Least of all to her psycho ex.”

Sanaa had to agree with Pari on that “Yes. You’re right. She’d never do anything that would hurt me.”

“Sanaa, what do you want with Andy?” Pari asked her bluntly.

Sanaa sighed. “I like her, Pari. I like her in ways that I’ve never liked anyone else. I could easily fall in love with her. But that just wouldn’t be fair to her. You know about my family. They’d never accept this. I can’t lead her on and let her get involved with me just for me to leave her for a guy. I have to be honest with her, Pari.”

“Sanaa, I love you but you can be stupid sometimes. You couldn’t stand to be in the same room with Rohan. But you’re glowing when you’re with her or talking about her. You’re already in love with her. She knows all about your issues and frankly, it’s her decision whether she wants to get involved with you or not. Don’t decide for her. You need to live for yourself instead of for your family. Give it a chance, Sanaa.”

“I can’t, Pari. I just can’t. In the long run, we both would be happier if we didn’t pursue this. She’s got her life back in the States and I’ve got my life already mapped out for me. I need to keep my distance from her. Anyways, she’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks and then, I’d never have to see her again.”

“And you’ll be happy with this decision?”

Sanaa closed her eyes against the tears that threatened to overflow and replied softly “Yes. These feelings will disappear in time and we both can go on with our lives.”

Pari just shook her head and hugged her weepy friend, not agreeing with her decision but trying to console her the best way she could.


Sanaa spent the next five days studiously avoiding all calls and texts from Andy. She knew she had to face her eventually when they went for the third and last camp trip but she wanted to avoid her as much as possible. Sanaa even went on a couple of dates with Rohan, trying to take her mind away from Andy. She found it futile as she kept comparing everything he did to Andy and felt that he came up short.

Her mother kept asking her calling for updates on her dates and she seemed delighted that Sanaa couldn’t find any faults with him.

“But, Ma. I’m just not in love with him” said Sanaa for the millionth time.

“Nonsense. You’ll fall in love with him after marriage. That’s what you will be doing for the rest of your lives – falling in love with each other.  You’ll find yourself loving each small thing about him as time goes on.”

Sanaa was surprised to hear her mother talk about marriage in such a romantic manner but thought cynically ‘I can hardly stand to have dinner with him. How am I going to fall in love with him?’

“Ma, I need more time. Besides, I’m busy. I’ll meet you at Anita’s engagement later” referring to her cousin’s engagement in Bangalore which was ten days away. She cut off her mother before she could give her any more marriage advice and placed her hand on her forehead. ‘I wish Pari didn’t have to go home this week’ she mused, thinking about Pari leaving to visit her hometown for two weeks.


Andy had tried to throw herself into her work over the last few days as she found her attempts to contact Sanaa being met with stubborn silence. After getting rid of Marie with a stern warning and the threat of a restraining order, Andy had wanted to get back to where she had left off with Sanaa. ‘Why can’t things be simple in real life? Girl meets girl. Girl gets girl. They both live happily ever after’ thought Andy wistfully. Today was the day of the third camp visit and Andy, while looking forward to seeing Sanaa, was also wondering whether she would show.

She had taken a cab to the hospital this time and was waiting patiently besides their van when she saw Sanaa walking towards her. ‘God. She’s beautiful’ thought Andy.

“Hi, Sanaa” she said, trying to break the silence between them. Sanaa greeted her back stiffly.

The awkwardness continued during their journey as Sanaa refused to speak to her. Thankfully, another resident, Sundar, was coming with them and he kept the conversation going. He didn’t seem aware of the tension between them and happily talked to Andy about all the projects that she had been involved in.

When they arrived, the facility wasn’t much different from the previous site and was another crumbling building masquerading as an eye clinic. Sanaa took her around and impersonally described the clinic and all the improvements that would be needed. As she entered the storeroom, Andy looked bemused as Sanaa’s face took a flushed appearance. Both of them were remembering what happened in the storeroom in the previous centre. Andy had known that Sanaa had felt something there and it was confirmed by the redness that rushed over her face now.

“We don’t need to see this, Sanaa” she said, trying to let Sanaa off the hook.

“It’s…. It’s part of the clinic. Don’t you need pictures?” she asked stammering.

Andy sighed and said “Look, Sanaa. We can’t go on like this. I hate this distance between us.”

Sanaa finally met Andy’s eyes. “It’s the only way I can cope with what’s happening between us, Andy. I need this distance. I’m not sure I can handle being just friends with you.”

“I’m pretty sure I can’t handle being just friends with you either, Sanaa. But we never finished our discussion that day. We just kissed and you ran. Please, all I’m asking from you is to talk to me. I promise I won’t expect anything more” she pleaded.

Sanaa couldn’t stop replaying their kiss in her mind and thought that Andy was right. She had run out without talking to Andy. Maybe a little discussion and she would send Andy on her way, she thought. “Fine. Tonight. We can have dinner at my place. I did promise to cook for you. Also we’ll have some privacy. Pari has gone home for a while.”

Andy tried to not show the elation she felt on her face and agreed with Sanaa. The rest of their trip was a little less tense as Sanaa seemed to loosen up. They had a nice lunch with the coordinators at the centre and Andy felt that she had enough information about the three sites to kick-start their project.

Sanaa was full of nervous anticipation during their ride back to the hospital. She was making a mental list of groceries that she would need to buy to make dinner for Andy.

“What are you thinking about, princess?” Andy whispered into her ear.

Sanaa almost drove the car into the median as she got distracted by Andy’s closeness. “Um. Just thinking about our dinner plans. Would you mind coming to the supermarket with me today before going home?”

“I’d follow you wherever you need to go” replied Andy, looking at Sanaa seriously. Sanaa felt the emotion in Andy’s voice and knew she was talking about more than just dinner.  She had to keep herself from reaching out and caressing her face.


Andy watched amused as Sanaa powered down the aisles of the grocery store like a small dynamo, throwing things from the shelves into their shopping cart. She hardly paid any attention to Andy who was straggling behind her and admiring Sanaa’s swaying hips. Andy averted her eyes just as Sanaa turned for a moment to ask if there was anything specific she needed. Sanaa gave her a quick smile as she shook her head and continued with her rapid-fire shopping.

Once they were back in the car, Andy turned to Sanaa and asked her “Are you sure I can’t help you with anything?”

“Watch and learn from the expert, Andy. Though I may need you for one thing” Sanaa replied, smirking.

“Oh, what?”

Sanaa reached across the gear to squeeze Andy’s arm. “You can use your muscles for lifting those bags to my apartment. Our elevator isn’t working” she said and blushed immediately as she realised that she had admitted to checking out Andy’s body.

Andy’s amusement deepened. “Sure. I’ll do that grunt work for you.” she said and settled back for the rest of their ride.

True to her word, Andy carried all the bags to the apartment brushing away Sanaa’s half-hearted protests. Once they got in, however, Sanaa took over and shooed Andy out of the kitchen.

“You can sit here and watch TV. If you’re lucky, some really awful soap opera will be going on and you’ll get sucked into it even if you don’t understand what’s going on” she said, handing Andy the remote.

Andy spent the next one hour alternatively surfing channels and peeking into the kitchen. She took the opportunity to wander around and explore the small two-bedroom apartment. One of the rooms was clean, with everything in place and the other looked like a mass of clutter. She surmised that the former must be Sanaa’s and the other Pari’s room. Pari seemed more like a free spirit and Sanaa seemed to be the more organised part of the duo. ‘I’m sure she has planned out her life as well. Career, marriage, kids. I don’t know how I can fit into those plans’ she thought as her hope drained away.

Andy felt a need to be by Sanaa’s side as she went back to the kitchen. She was also drawn by the wonderful smells wafting from there.

“It’ll get done in fifteen minutes. Let’s just relax for a while.”

Andy placed her focus on Sanaa and said “So….”

Sanaa knew Andy wanted to talk about serious matters but she didn’t feel ready to address the elephant in the room. “Why don’t we wait till we fill our stomachs before venturing into serious topics? I’m hungry.”

“Yes. You’re right. I’m dying to taste your food” she replied, nodding.

Sanaa served Andy a healthy serving of a spiced rice dish with some curry. Sanaa watched nervously as Andy took a bite and beamed when Andy moaned in delight. “Wow. What is this?”

“Since we didn’t have much time, I just prepared a basic vegetarian biryani, which is like a spicier version of fried rice along with chicken curry. I’m glad you like it.”

By the time Andy had stuffed her third serving of rice, Sanaa was in no doubt that Andy had loved her food. She couldn’t explain the happiness that went through her and she mused about how domestic the scene was. ‘I wouldn’t mind having her around every day’ she thought and immediately tried to dismiss the thought with a shake of her head.

Andy settled on the couch with a full stomach and closed her eyes as she leaned her head back. Sanaa placed herself on the couch facing her and rested her head on her hand as she watched Andy intently. Sanaa took a deep breath before starting their conversation.

“I may have forgotten to ask you something before inviting you over. Is there someone waiting in the hotel for you?” she asked tentatively , afraid of hearing her answer.

“By someone, do you mean Marie?”

“Yes” Sanaa admitted quietly.

“Sanaa, what exactly do you think of me? I told you that Marie was in my past. I was as surprised as you were to find her outside my room. After you left, she begged and pleaded with me to get back together. I brushed her off and when she nagged me too much, I threatened to get a restraining order against her. She finally backed off. She wanted to stay in my room that night but I told her to get another one there. I don’t know what happened with her after that. We’ve lost contact. Period. End of story.”

Sanaa remained silent for a moment after hearing Andy’s story, refusing to allow her relief from showing on her face. “Then why didn’t you tell her that when I was there? As soon as she came, you could’ve sent her on her way. You introduced me as if I was your tour guide in the city” she replied angrily.

Andy looked surprised at Sanaa’s annoyance. She sighed “What did you want me to do, Sanaa? Tell her that I had moved on and that you were my girlfriend?”

Sanaa mind voice told her ‘Yes. I wish you had done that’ but she couldn’t say that to Andy and just kept quiet. The fact that Marie was out of Andy’s life comforted her but she was unable to admit it to Andy.

“I went out with Rohan on a couple of dates” she blurted out.

Sanaa became flustered as Andy focussed her blue eyes on Sanaa. “I didn’t have a choice. My mother is pressurising me. I’ll have to eventually make a decision.” Sanaa couldn’t bear to be the reason for the crushed look that came over Andy’s expressive face but didn’t know how she could change her situation.

“Do you love him?”

Sanaa just shook her head, unable to stop the tears gathering in her eyes. “He’s a good guy. He told his parents that he likes me and wants to get married as early as possible.”

Andy just nodded sadly. “Then there’s nothing more to say. I wish you a good life. I’ll keep thinking about you but please don’t expect me to come for the wedding.” Andy got up to leave.

Sanaa, unable to help herself, caught Andy’s hand and pleaded “I don’t want to lose you.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? We can’t continue like this anymore pretending to be friends. It’s already hurting me badly to leave you. Hanging around only makes it harder, Sanaa.”

“It hurts me too.”


“What do you mean ‘why?’”

“Have you asked yourself why it hurts you? At least be honest with me, Sanaa” Andy shouted in exasperation.

“Fine. I’m in love with you” she cried out. “I tried to stop myself from thinking of you but I just couldn’t. I don’t want to marry him. I want to be with you. But I don’t know how that will be possible.”

The joy that Andy felt on hearing the L-word come out of Sanaa’s mouth immediately deflated with the look on distress on her face. She knelt in front of her and placed her hands on her cheek, wiping away the tears. “Hey. Hey. I’ve fallen in love with you too, against my better judgement. I’m never going to let you go. We’ll figure it out. Somehow. Do you trust me?”

Sanaa nodded and wrapped her arms around Andy. “Stay with me tonight. Just stay with me, Andy.”

“Are you sure?” asked Andy, pulling back to see the look of longing in Sanaa’s eyes.

“Just stay here. Hold me tonight. As long as you’re with me, I fell strong like I could do anything. I don’t want to lose that feeling anytime soon.”

Andy pecked Sana’s lips and said “You should know that I’d do anything for you.”

They stood up and Sanaa pulled Andy down for a longer kiss. Andy was tempted to take things further but pulled back. Just as Sanaa’s mouth was threatening to break her control, Andy moved away and placed her hands on Sanaa’s shoulders attempting to put some distance between them. “Look, Sanaa. I know how serious you are about traditions and while I do want you to break a few of those, I’d never push you beyond your boundaries. I promise that I will not force you into doing anything with me. We need to tell your parents officially and I don’t mind waiting for their permission to court you and marry you.”

Sanaa looked surprised but the sincerity in Andy’s voice made her throw herself back into her arms. “I love you, Andy. You’re such a…. gentlewoman’ she said smiling. “Let’s just take it one day at a time. I’m not sure we should bring my parents into our relationship this soon.”

“Alright.” As Sanaa went in for another kiss, Andy stopped her and said “And to be clear, tonight is only for sleeping right? I want to take things slowly with you.”

Sanaa giggled and placed a soft kiss on Andy’s cheek. “Yes. You’re right. I may not be ready for anything more at present. But you can be sure that we’ll get there” she said smiling at the nervous look on Andy’s face.

As they snuggled together on Sanaa’s bed, Andy thought back to the times that she had spent with other women in bed. She had never felt such peace and comfort as she felt with this woman. ‘I feel so excited and restless around her but at the same time, I feel content to just be with her’ she thought. Sanaa placed her head on Andy’s shoulder and drew her fingers along Andy’s collarbone. Andy could almost hear Sanaa thinking. “What are you brooding about, love?” she asked.

“Hmmm…. I was just thinking. A month back, my life was orderly and going to plan. I had no love life but it didn’t bother me. I was ready to marry the guy that my parents chose for me. Now that I’ve found you, I don’t want to go back to that life. I want to be with you. Andy, I don’t know how but I promise you that I’ll find some way to be with you” she said, giving Andy a deep kiss to seal her promise.

“Then come away with me for a few days, Sanaa. Away from everything – the hospital, your work, my work, your family. Just the two of us. I just want to spend some time with you” Andy blurted out.

Sanaa seemed to think for a moment before a look of excitement crossed her face. “You know what? You just gave me another reason to love you. You have the best ideas” she said as Andy beamed. “I know a lot of great places we could stay and just be a couple away from prying eyes. Let’s do it. I’ll arrange something.” Andy laughed at Sanaa’s exuberance and quickly kissed her. They fell asleep dreaming of a future together.


to be continued…. In part 3 (final)


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