Thanks for the PM Priya Interesting Update & as always flawless narration
Chapter 5 - Rain and Roads (Feb 13)
For Zoya the plan was simple- a couple of hours drive till Limerick with Aditya and then a couple of hours in a bus till Dublin.
Nothing could go wrong now...
She had thought this just before her drive with Aditya began. But it looked like today (and the past couple of days) she was Murphy's favorite because nothing would go right. 1st her flight got diverted, then there was no way out of town, then she was literally homeless and now...
The drive had started off well. Aditya had meticulously marked the paper map with pen circling the route that he had to take to get to Limerick. There was still no network on their phones and they had followed the handwritten directions well. An hour on the road and the sky had turned black with heavy rain splashing against the windscreen- so much so that the visibility had gone down.
Aditya had to decrease the speed of his car, to ensure that he didn't miss any turning in the downpour. And then they must have missed a turn or taken a wrong one because, ahead of them the road was blocked.
A big bright yellow barrier with a reflective surface was placed across the road and a signboard with "under-construction" sprawled on it. The wipers moved swiftly on the windshield but it was not enough to get off the excess water hammering from above.
Aditya had the map in his hands, with the car engine still running.
"Did we take this exit? Or the one after it?" he was speaking aloud but to himself.
"I told you to take the one which you had highlighted," Zoya clarified even though he hadn't doubted her (yet or at least out loud). But she knew with each passing second that his temper was rising.
Aditya was the driver and she was on map-duty. She was in charge of navigation and that meant telling him when to take a turn, when to take an exit. She bit her lips thinking if she had goofed up somewhere.
"So, we take a u-turn, retrace all the turns that we took. Basically keep driving till we get back on the highway," Aditya pondered.
And so they did what he planned. Only nothing was going as per plan. Zoya and (she was quite sure) Aditya must have never missed technology more in their lives than they did at this moment.
Even a weak network would do; if only she could open the maps app on her phone and get the directions to Limerick. After driving for what felt like more than an hour, she fumbled in her bag for her iPhone.
Praying for something, even 1 bar, she pressed the home'' button. Her phone screen lit up and a no service'' instead of where the network bars should be, stared at her face.
The road was getting bumpy which struck Zoya as odd. She looked out the window and saw that low hanging tree barks were colliding with the sides of the car. The road was getting narrower ahead.
"Umm... I don't think we came from this road," Zoya informed Aditya, "This doesn't feel familiar."
"You should have used your deduction skills before you made me take a wrong turn," he snapped.
"How long were you waiting to blame me?" she questioned him.
"I wouldn't need to blame you if you hadn't messed up," he replied, pointedly.
"I didn't mess up, okay?" she protested, "I followed your directions; the ones that you had written. So if anything it's your fault. And this road," she pointed ahead, at the windshield, "is also your fault."
Zoya was correct- choosing this road, was his fault but he was not going to accept it. Aditya could see her sulking from the corner of his eye. When he had met her in the plane, he didn't think she could talk, let alone argue but now he knew if she believed she was not wrong, she could have a retort for everything.
A fleeting thought passed his mind- he could apologize to her. She was as much in problem as he was. However the aimless driving around in the dark and rain on muddy roads and massive wastage of time was making him annoyed by the second.
He was not here for leisure. He had work to do. He had called his team in Limerick earlier in the day and told them to be prepared for a meeting that night. He wasn't one to be late on his own meetings. But now, he was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a stranger. He wasn't in the mood to apologize.
"No one asked you to come with me," he retorted childishly to her.
He could see her mouth open and then close and then hear her muttering something beneath her breath.
Aditya was driving very slowly now, since the rain was making the dirt road, muddier. He looked around for some space to take u-turn but he didn't find any. Except for huge trees lining the narrow road, there was nothing else- no bus stop, no post, no signal, and not even a human in sight. The road curved ahead stretching for God knows how long.
"This is pointless!" he finally conceded. This road was definitely not right and seemed like it was taking them further and further away from a highway.
"I told you so," he heard her mutter.
Aditya ignored her and looked around, raising the beam of the headlight to find any space for taking a u-turn. He released the pressure from the accelerator more and more till they were barely moving when with the sudden grunt, the car stopped moving at all.
He pressed the accelerator, a little at first to get the car moving but it didn't work. He applied more pressure on it. He could hear the wheel of the car spin loudly despite the rain but the vehicle didn't budge an inch.
"What happened?" came Zoya's worried question.
"Looks like the wheel is stuck in the mud," he replied. He rolled down the window to look down at the wheel. A gust of wind and water sprayed inside. He rolled up the pane immediately, lest the interiors and the occupants get wet.
He tried accelerating again for the next few minutes but nothing worked. Frustrated at the situation, he banged his fist at the steering wheel, which startled her.
"Sorry," he mumbled without looking at her.
"Can we do something? About the wheel being stuck?" she asked.
He shrugged his shoulder, "Don't think so. It's raining very heavily and it's too dark. If we go out, we'll just get wet. I don't even see any house or a station where we could take shelter. Heck I don't even see a person!"
"So what do we do?"
"Just wait it out," he faced her, "Once the rain subsides, we can go an look for help."
"But that might take the entire night! What if it doesn't stop raining till morning?" there was impatience in her tone.
"Then we sleep in the car!" he hissed the words. "What am I supposed to do? Go out in the rain, get drenched and then walk the muddy road for miles in complete dark till I stumble upon a living soul?"
She studied him for a moment before speaking, "Why are you so angry all the time?"
This time he swiveled his body till he was facing her side, "Oh geez! I don't know- maybe coz we are stuck in the middle of nowhere with no network. Unlike you I am here for work. I don't have all the time in the world to think of solutions for problems which, by the way, were caused by you in the first place!"
"I read the directions properly!" she protested.
"If only your navigation was as good as your denial," he huffed.
"Oh and this road," she pointed at the windshield, "this was my fault too? We are stuck here because you chose this road despite of me telling you not to. And you are not the only one who is in trouble. I too have a deadline! I need to be in Dublin tonight. I had a plan."
"You had a plan?" he replied sarcastically, adding a dry laugh, "You travelled to another country with nothing but shopping bags from Delhi airport! That's the most idiotic thing I have ever seen."
"Did you just call me an idiot?!" Zoya shook her head and huffed, "You know nothing about the circumstances under which I travelled. And yes I had a plan. A plan, which was ruined because you chose to be an arrogant jerk rather than listen to me."
Aditya twitched his eyebrows, "I am an arrogant jerk?"
Zoya turned her face away from him and looked out the window, although nothing was visible.
Aditya turned away too in anger. This girl had some nerve. He had been nice to her, well... less obnoxious than he usually was with people. He had agreed to drive her to Limerick and, instead of being even a little grateful she was calling him arrogant.
Though he did start the argument. She had simply asked him why he was angry at everything and he had taken it too seriously and gone on a spree. It was this time of the year; specifically the next day- 14th February. No matter how many years passed, no matter how much he tried to immerse himself in work or keep himself busy, this day would never stop haunting him.
It was like there was an unfinished business and he would never be truly free of her... of what had happened. No matter how hard he tried, on this day he always felt like the idiot who had allowed her to walk all over him, allowed her to-
Aditya halted his train of thoughts. No! Enough damage had been done already. He would not consciously think of the past, especially not now. But somehow everything that he had kept inside him manifested in the form of rage- unbound rage at the world, at the people around him, at everything.
He wasn't proud of his behavior (sometimes) but it was like a defense mechanism. Out of everything that he had tried, being angry, being snarky at the world was so much easier.
He saw Zoya shift in her seat, from the corner of his eye. She had wrapped her arms around herself, over her jacket.
Aditya felt a slight chill though he had layered his clothing, much better than her. Zoya was wearing only 1 jacket over her top. The fact that she had carried only a few shopping bags showed that she was unprepared for Ireland's winter. If she were in a hotel room the heater would have rendered the usage of jacket futile but in the car, especially at nights, when the temperature would drop very low, it could get pretty cold.
He had turned off the engine to save fuel. They had to stick it out for the night, and then he could assess the problem with the wheel in the morning. If he could fix it, they would need the fuel to get back to the highway or till they found some fuel station.
However, all his planning would be in vain if they, especially she, took a hit on her health due to the chilly weather. He turned on the engine, pressed the AC switch and turned the knob for temperature all the way over to red,'' which indicated heat.
The whirring of the vent and the influx of warm air, made Zoya let out a small gasp as she relaxed in the car seat.
Aditya had shoved his luggage in the trunk of the car but he had a spare hoodie lying around in the back seat. Semi-craning his body, he grabbed the grey sweater from behind and extended it to her.
Zoya furrowed her brows as her eyes moved from the hoodie to his face.
He pressed his lips before speaking, "I'll have to turn off the engine in some time. Can't burn all the fuel. This," he lifted his hand holding the clothing a little higher, "should help you keep warm."
Zoya nodded slightly and slowly took the grey hoodie from him. She looked at him once, before giving a small smile. It the same look that she had in the flight, when he had helped the kid- one of surprise.
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