“Ashi.. Are you in there?” came the verbal knocking on the door.
“Mumma, I’m in here”, she replied in a disgusted tone.
“Open the door, dear. I want to talk to you”, came the expected reply.
Ashi rolled her eyes as if her mom could see that. “Mumma, I’m tired and sleepy”, Ashi lied; it wasn’t exactly a lie as she was actually feeling mentally drained after that pissing contest. “We’ll talk about whatever you want to, later. Not now. Please. And yes, don’t allow anyone to disturb me, at least for the next two hours.”
Her mom didn’t even take a moment to understand that someone was soon going to singe in this rage. She could sense that simmer in her tone.
“Okay. You rest. We’ll talk later”, her mom replied. Ashi visibly relaxed. Her thoughts were a tangled mess till she’d reached home. A clump of why, what and how all directed to her favourite scapegoat – Life. As if life was listening to her and was going to reply to her questions.
She closed her eyes for sleep to slip in. But, every single time she expected sleep to slip in; it defied and drifted her to a new world of thoughts. Every thought quadrupled every thought born.
“I know this is too clichéd. But, out of a crowd of seven billion, you chose him; Rihaan, the one who gets on my nerves like no one else does. Like seriously?!
Her subconscious glared at her with droopy-sleepy eyes. “I don’t know about you. But I need some sleep. So, stop with this gabbling of your eternal thoughts. Shut them down. I can’t process them anymore”, her subconscious completed with a sigh.
Ashi buried her face in a squared-shaped bolster and tried to concentrate on nothing, but sleep. Her phone beeped and she tried hard not to check it. “Group messages!” she exclaimed in exasperation.
“Why are you disappointed? Were you expecting someone else to text you?” her subconscious was in for some sarcasm. “Or specifically Rihaan?”
Her subconscious completed with a half-curved smile that reminded Ashi of Rihaan; not that she’d forgotten all about him, but voicing the thoughts in her subconscious maddened her even more.
“No. Never!” she exclaimed in aghast.
Turning off her data and Wifi, she face-downed her phone and laid down burying her face pleading sleep to cocoon and comfort her. The moment sleep was about to embrace her, her phone beeped.
“Fuck my life!” This time she was wider awake than before. She hurriedly checked her phone as if she’d expected it to beep. It was a text message from an unknown number.
“Virtual Sadist”, she drew a deep breath and read the message, “Need to talk. Rihaan.”
“What the hell does he want to talk about now?”
She tapped on the reply, “What?” and pressed send. It just took a few seconds for her phone to beep again. “Turn the data on. Check WhatsApp.” She rolled her eyes at the screen but turned on her Wifi. The screen read, “26 messages from 3 conversations”. There were three messages from an unknown number.
“Let’s not escalate matters as our families are involved in this. Again, no point arguing over something that happened two years back. Let bygones be bygones. Allow me a chance to explain, not because I owe some random Anvesha an explanation but because the girl I humiliated publicly, is among my cordial relations, with me being unaware of it. Let’s handle this with maturity, like adults.”
Her scowl grew deeper and deeper as she read the last word. “What the fuck does he think of himself? Bloody Beelzebub, preaching about maturity”, she snarled under her breath.
Her gaze went to the top of the screen only to find the number “online”. She hastily closed the App and waited staring at her phone as if an explosive that’s soon going to explode. From normal beep tones her phone started ringing. That number flashed continuously on the screen. She gawked at the phone as if it had grown hands and legs and was dancing to the beats of the ringtone.
“Why the hell am I freaking out? Agreed he is no less than a devil, but he won’t ooze out of this phone like a Djinn.”
She took a deep breath, steadied herself a little and with fumbling hands received the call.
“Yes.” She took a lot of attempts to sound strong and firm but her guts betrayed her.
“Ashi, I want to tell you…” He started off but Ashi cut him off in the middle. She was herself amazed with her confidence. Ten seconds ago, she was fumbling to take the call and now she’d sliced his sentence in half.
“Wait, before you start with your once-upon-a-time-story, let me tell you I’m in no mood to rekindle that event under any circumstances. I read your messages and whatever you want will be taken care of.” He opened his mouth to say something when she slashed his sentence again, “And yes, don’t talk about maturity and stuff like that to me. Words of wisdom from the one who doesn’t know how to spell it, sounds too duff.”
She heard him sigh before he started, “Well, now if you allow me to talk without interrupting my sentences mid-way, I would tell you something I want you to know. That drink-throwing-event was a mere dare and nothing personal. You were just a victim. If not you, it would’ve been someone else. So, don’t give yourself the benefit of doubt that I was or I’m interested in you anytime back or anytime now. I just don’t want to hand my Dad yet another tailor made reason to play a blame-game.”
He paused for a while. As he could only hear her silence at the other end he asked, “Have you put me on mute?”
“No, I’m just trying hard not to interrupt you”, she said solemnly.
She could hear him smile at her reply.
“Trying to be funny?”
“No, I’m often into self-evaluating my endurance level. People like you help me to compete and break my own records”, she ended sarcastically.
“Sarcasm is good for the mental health of wackos”, he deliberately drawled the words.
“Forsooth”, quoth she, not entertaining him anymore and keeping all the clever shit she could have said, to herself.
“So, I hope you’ve understood and accepted my ‘valid’ points”, he purposely emphasized on the word, valid.
“I’d already agreed and accepted your ‘not-so’ valid points without you explaining them. I wonder why did you bother to explain them”, replied Ashi.
He waited for a moment before adding, “That level of trust in me, in just four hours?”
Now he was literally getting on her nerves and it was absurd that some part of her actually wanted this conversation to continue.
“You wish Rihaan, you wish. Trust? Like seriously? May you live long in this sweet misunderstanding of yours. Your explanation didn’t make any difference. I was either way not going to escalate the matter. You lack that kind of significance in my life. So… Blessed Be and Goodbye”, she suppressed a chuckle that threatened to escape from her mouth.
Rihaan sounded astounded at her reply. “Okay then. Goodbye Ashi”, saying so he disconnected the call.
Ashi stared at the screen dumbfounded as she mumbled to herself, “Abrupt ends. Weird callers.” She’d no idea what she wanted or what did she expect. She felt like she’d lost all her senses to contemplate or rationalize things. Logic and facts seemed to have deceived her. Her brain had thwarted all attempts to think rationally. She sighed in exasperation.
“What do I want? Do I want to talk to him? Why am I getting this stupid feeling of what-if-he-doesn’t-call-me-again? Why is it besetting me? Dear self, concentrate on the negatives – Brat, yob, good for nothing, emotionless encrusted soul. Deep shit! Ashi, you’re screwed. Totally. Figure this tangled shit as soon as possible or be ready to burn under its wrath. May God bless me and my soul.”
Giving her mind a thinking thump, she rested her back on the bed.
It was tad more than a perfect evening. Everything was beautifully togged up like a scene from a movie by Dharma Productions, where the Art Director had gone all over the board, overarching, to make it look every bit next to impeccable.
A curved-angle, opened-roof space with rippling water covering its three sides, partially enclosed by assorted stones – of various hues, lined up to make it look like an authentic wall. Dim, flickering lights – lined up along the coloured stone wall, marinated with a dusk hour added to its ethnic factor and made it look like a cloud cuckoo land. The lights flickered through an eminent lamp placed on every table; livening the entire space. Royal décor stood high all around with glass doors that separated the outer and the inner space. However, the place looked strangely deserted. Standing there, Ashi swiveled to look around.
“It’s really outrageous for an enthralling place like this to be this deserted.”
Cool zephyrs caressed her skin lightly, sending slight shivers through her body. It was so quiet that she could hear nothing but the sound of the water ripples and the rustling air. The cool breezes that blew across caused her hair to wave a little. She felt him standing behind her before she saw him. However, before she could turn around and confirm her vibes, he snaked his arms around her waist, pulled her closer to him, tucked her unmanageable, waving hair behind her ear, off her left shoulder and whispered, “I hope you liked it.” His lips slightly brushed against her ear causing her entire body and reflexes to freeze. She closed her eyes and allowed her feelings to rule the moment.
Ashi was jostled awake only to realize it was a dream.
“Dream Invader. Rihaan. Malhotra. A nightmare at this hour?!”
She glanced at the clock in her bedroom.
“8 o’ clock. Is this even a time to have such an intense dream? Oops nightmare. Rather evening-mare.”
She giggled at her thoughts but was equally quailing inside, for no matter how much did she convince herself, she knew deep down that the dream didn’t make her feel anything what nightmares do. It made her feel just the opposite.