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Alex was so happy with his job. He didn’t mind doing night shifts as he could manage well. One day while coming back home from his work, Alex went inside a departmental store. While he was picking stuffs from the racks, he chanced upon a pretty girl and exchanged a smile.

They met in the payment counter again standing just next to one another. After both of them had completed the billing procedures, Alex offered to drop her home. She smiled and denied. He went back. But after he came back, it was her pretty face that was constantly keeping his thoughts pre-occupied. He wanted to meet her again. But neither had he asked her name, nor her contact number and nor did he ask where she stayed. Praying to God to let him meet her again was the only choice left with him.

Stay Away, My Love

Next morning again when he was coming back from work, Alex dropped into the same departmental store. But instead of picking anything, he began to look everywhere if he could see the girl. She was nowhere. When he was on the verge of leaving the store, Alex saw her standing in the billing counter. He waited for her to finish. Today, instead of getting inside his car, he went up to her and began to talk. “Hi, I’m Alex.” He told her lending a hand of help to carry some of the stuffs she had bought. “I’m Stella”, the pretty girl said. Oh! What a sweet voice she had! Stella said that she stayed nearby and would walk down her place. Alex began to walk with her. Once Stella’s home was near, she went away smiling and thanking Alex. The next day the same thing got repeated. This went on for a month. By this time Alex and Stella liked each other’s company. Alex also came to know that Stella’s job also involved night shifts and as she returned from her work, she picked stuffs for home from that store. By this time they used to meet up during the weekends and sit in a nearby park for hours. They used to talk and share so many things. Alex wanted to propose his love to her. He invited her over his place for lunch. Stella was hesitating; but Alex pressed her so much that she could not refuse.

Alex had made every preparation to greet Stella and make her feel special. He hardly knew much about her; but he was confident that he loved her too much. The doorbell rang and he rushed. Stella was wearing a beautiful red dress. She looked ravishing! Alex held her hand gently and brought her in. They talked together, ate together. Later as they were sipping some wine, Alex sat on his knees and proposed to her. Stella stood up and turned round. She was weeping. She said that she could not love him; she could only be a friend. Alex was shocked. But he had seen love for him in her eyes! He could not believe Stella refusing him. Stella left his home crying. Alex was stunned.

The next morning he again met Stella outside the departmental store and held her hand. “Look Stella, I have seen love for me in your eyes. You cannot refuse me like this. Why are you doing this to me?” Alex asked her impatiently. Stella was quiet. He insisted that until Stella let him know the truth, he would not let her go. They began to walk together and Stella told him that she works as an escort. She said that after the untimely death of her father, this was the only way left for her to earn for her family where she lived with her terminally ill mother. Stella told Alex that she no way wanted to spoil the life of Alex by being involved with him. The stigma attached to her life would tarnish his life as well. Alex listened to her patiently and let Stella go back home.

The next day, Alex met her and asked her to come with him. Alex had become so much in love with Stella that he was not ready to take a ‘No’ for her answer. He was desperate. He said that he cared nothing if Stella was there with him. But Stella went on refusing. She could be his friend; and that was all, said she. But Alex was inconsolable. Both of them began to argue trying to prove each other’s point and finally Alex succeeded in making her confess her love for him. Stella was crying and was telling him that although she loved him, she never wanted him to know that. She just could not afford to be his. Alex became furious and yelled at her asking her to leave his place immediately.

Stella went away. The next morning, Alex gathered composure and went to the departmental store again. But he could not find Stella. The man at the billing counter called Alex and handed over an envelope to him. Alex opened it. It had a letter; the first love letter he ever had!

“My dear Alex,

I am sorry for having denied my true feelings for you. But I had no option. Ever since I met you, I fell in with you. I felt blessed to see how much you cared for me and loved me. I was taken aback to see that you loved me even after knowing that I work as an escort. Not everyone gets true love. I am so lucky to have it. But God has decided something else for me. No matter how much I love you, I can never be yours. I have to stay away from you, my love.

I am suffering from HIV+; I cannot ruin the life of the one I love the most. I am leaving this place for good. Wish you a great life ahead. Keep smiling and please forgive me.

Yours ever,

Stella”

Alex could not believe his eyes. He left the departmental store and frantically ran for Stella’s house. But there was no one; only a red rose tucked in the door lock.

Ever since, that love letter and the rose have become his companions.

Photo credits: Lara Cores

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