Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friends

He: Big bash at Ivo’s, wanna come?

She: Sorry?

He: Thursday?? New years eve? Ring a bell??

She : oh! Yes! I mean no! As in yes of course 31st night and blah, but no thanks- for the Ivo’s bit…

He: it’ll be fun! Karen’s gonna be there

She: Karen who?

He: Karen? The item number queen? She’s the star attraction

She: good for you!

He: And that useless dud of mass Akshay

She: wow! Some star studded event!

He: Tempted?

She: got other plans

He: really?

She: yeah. A private bonfire party at a friend’s. Lotsa booze, sad men. Should be fun.

He: Great! Happy New Year! wont call. Networks are jammed anyways

She: lol! You too!


He signed of the chat window and stared at the monitor. He shook his head and smiled. He touched the couple entry pass to Ivo lying in his breast pocket. His smile widened. Getting a pass to the new years bas at Ivo’s was no small deal. There were limited passes meant for the who’s who of the star city. Being at Ivo’s guaranteed a page three appearance. “I am partying at Ivo’s, what are you doing?” should ideally be his facebook status.

“You want a pass to Ivo’s” his boss had remarked without looking at him. “I have one, but I am not going. Wife wants to take the kids to Jamaica!”

His heart beat so fast that, he could imagine his shirt flutter with its vibrations. “The party does not begin the nine thirty,” his boss was saying. “ The Japanese delegates arrive at noon. I obviously wont be here, so you take care of the meeting?”
He gulped. A meeting with the Japanese delegates meant wining and dining them too. Could he really wrap all of that before nine thirty?

“Besides,” his boss continued, “ since I am taking the week off, I wont be able to work on the presentation. You wouldn’t mind taking care of that too, would you?”

His heart plummeted. He would be stuck in office till midnight till the thirtieth! Did a pass to Ivo’s really mean that much to him? He could always take off to Goa with his friends like every other year.

It would mean something to her. It would mean everything to her. How many times had she raved about celebrating, at least once, at Ivo’s? He had lost count. He even knew that she wanted the black dress from Giovanni’s to wear to the new year bash. Besides, after all that she had been through the past couple of months, she deserved to have at least one dream come true!

So he had gulped and agreed.

And she had equally politely and sweetly turned him down in favour of a bonfire at friend’s!

“Atish!” his colleague called from the other room. “ Dude you had better look at these statistics, they somehow don’t fit!”

He fished the pass from his breast pocket and headed towards the conference room. He poured over the presentation with his colleague and modified some figures. After another grueling two hours, they were ready to call it off. He glanced at his wrist watch. It was two in the morning.

“Joel!” he called to his departing colleague. “You have really messed up some nights working for this, haven’t you?”

Joel shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “I think you deserve this,” he announced as he slipped the pass into Joel’s shirt pocket.

***
She hugged her knees and rested her chin on them. What was he doing right now? Was he thinking of her, like she was of him? Was he busy waltzing with that other woman at some private party? Maybe he was spending some ‘alone time’ with her at his holiday home in the mountains?

Why was she thinking of him? She should have just gone with Atish to Ivo’s. Hadn’t she always wanted to go there? Hadn’t he always promised her that’s where he would take her this new year eve? It would have been so easy for him! Just a call to one of his connections and they would be dancing past the bouncers! Yet it was not him, but Atish who had called with the pass! Why had she refused to go with Atish?

Suddenly she did not like Ivo’s. Overnight she seemed to have developed a distaste for parties and loud music and anything that had ever been common between him and her. All those cocktail evenings which had once held a fascination and which had once introduced her to him, seemed like such a sham. She should have always known that her homemade aloo parathas and her grandmother’s hand-me-down recipe for mirchi ka achaar would be just a refreshing break from his caviars and jalapenos.

Why was she sitting here and sulking about him? She should have really gone somewhere! Anywhere! But she could not bear the thought of bumping into any of his friends and she could not tolerate their sympathetic looks. Hot shot places like Ivo’s was definitely out.

Yet, she was discovering that being alone on her secluded rooftop, with a bottle of fine wine and a small burning candle was turning out to be quite boring. She heard soft footfalls and turned in time to see Atish jump over the small wall which separated her terrace from the neighbour’s.

“What are you doing here?” She asked flabbergasted.

“Well,” he set settling down beside her. “There’s the bonfire,” he laughed pointing to the flickering flame of the burnt out candle, “here’s the booze,” he said picking up the bottle of wine, “all you needed to complete this party was a friend!”

He grinned at her, “Here I am!”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Night Queen

She pulled the shawl tighter around her slender shoulders. Had the temperatures really dropped by a couple of degrees within the past hour? She ought to get up and join the party downstairs. The guests had allegedly come to meet her. Uncanny; how none of them seemed to notice the absence of their hostess.

A tiny star twinkled in the diamond lit sky. She winked back at the mischievous imp and smiled. It felt good to smile. She let her eyes wander aimlessly along the black cloak of magical twilight. If they had not missed her for this long, it was highly unlikely anybody was going to miss her now. She could afford to stay here for a little while longer.

The breeze lifted strands of velvety black hair off her shoulders and merged them with the inky blackness of the night. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the gentle caresses of her unseen friend. Promptly, the night chill planted feathered kisses on her upturned face.

“Beautiful,” he whispered.

Startled she turned in the direction of his voice. How long had he been watching her?

“Excuse me?” She blurted.

“Beautiful,” he explained taking a step closer towards her, “You are beautiful.”

She did not move. Her eyes traced the outlines of his square face. He was not classically handsome, but there was something very compelling about those smoky gray eyes crinkled at the corners in a smile.

“What are you doing here by yourself?” he asked

“I am married!” she said wriggling her ring finger defensively. He laughed. The sound was deep and rich and it floated over enveloping her in its mirth. It sounded like he laughed a lot.

“Congratulations!” he said finally. “Does being married qualify you to stand on the thirtieth floor all by yourself?”

“Sorry?”

“If that’s the qualification criteria, then I confess I am a gate-crasher!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I am single. Happily unmarried, actually. Does that mean I can’t linger on a beautiful night, on a beautiful terrace, with a beautiful albeit married lady?”

“You can do what you please!” she said and wedged her feet into her discarded heels. Closer, he was much taller than her. She was not intimidated, she was excited about meeting this stranger. That itself was a scary conclusion. She craved the added inches her heel would provide.

“Leaving?” he asked, his eyes never quite leaving her.

She just shrugged, unsure of whether she really wanted to leave. He watched her as she fastened the straps of her heels around her elegant ankles. Would she leave? She squared her shoulders and looked over her back at the artificially lit cityscape.

She stood there for a long undecided moment and then smiled tightly at the stranger before heading for the doors. He watched as she glided through the magical night and disappeared out of sight.

Her heels echoed in the empty stairway as she clambered towards her apartment. Nobody had missed her. Music struggled to make its presence felt above the rising decibels of human conversation. People had wandered off in groups and were having random conversations of their own. Her eyes sought her husband.

He was standing near the balcony, his arm lazily draped over the shoulders of his friend’s wife. She said something and he threw his head back and laughed. Their eyes met. He straightened up and then raised his half-filled glass to her in a toast.

She nodded and headed straight out of the apartment. The stranger was leaning on the short wall of the rooftop and staring into the night. He must’ve heard her arrive for he turned towards her. He leaned back on his elbows and smiled lazily.

“Welcome back,” he teased her