“Jealous?” Rihaan asked with a cocky grin, standing abreast. Ashi’s thoughts were interrupted by the voice that made her senses alert and her reflexes even more alert. She’s astonished by his sudden appearance and interaction, but didn’t allow her thoughts to land on her face or on her tongue or lips for that matter. After all when we heavily influence others or are influenced by them we unconsciously teach a lot of things and tend to learn a lot of things from them. Ashi seemed to have learnt this – masking her inner turmoil though she’s not as good as Rihaan.
She veiled her astonishment with a wry smile before replying, “Dream on Rihaan. Get a life. I’ve more important things to be taken care of.”
“By the way, what made you think that?” she enquired after a pause, avoiding looking at him.
Even though she didn’t face him directly, she could gauge his side glimpses. Deep down, her whole attention was concentrated on him, on his – Every. Single. Move. She could feel his eyes on her, yet another reason not to make an eye contact, as she knew that will only make things go from bad to worst.
“Just a wild guess, you can say. Maybe I’m wrong, but the way you’re shooting looks in her direction, tells me a different story altogether”, he replied beaming at her with his patented, boring-eyes-into-me look or so Ashi called it.
Facing him, Ashi raised her well-shaped-corner-pointed eyebrows, “What story?”
“That you’ll tell me, My Darling Ashi”, he deliberately drawled the last three words for emphasis and continued, “If I was that skilled in peering into people’s mind I wouldn’t have been here, having a chat with a female like you”, he completed with a wicked chuckle.
“Firstly, I’m not your darling or anything. And secondly, what do you mean with-a-female-like-you?” she asked with a slight scowl.
“You know how much I hate the side tracking Ashi. Okay. Let’s have a virtual accord. You tell me the-different-story and I’ll tell you all about a-female-like-you. Deal?” he asked.
“Done deal. It’s nothing like a story or something. It’s just that, I don’t like the way she’s her hands all over you”, the moment she said it did she realize that, it sounded way too absurd then she’d thought. She mentally kicked herself and muttered a few cuss words when she saw his expressions. But the damage was already done. She’d blurted it out loud and clear.
“Please swallow me earth, please swallow me.”
After managing to get a grip on herself with much difficulty she altered her facial expressions before facing him directly.
“And that means you are..?” he ended the statement only for her to complete. She frowned at him, “This is shanghaiing; you’re breaching our virtual accord.”
Ignoring her sentence in toto he went on, “Insecure?”
She rolled her eyes that only made him smile more.
“Rihaan, I don’t wish to know anything. I’m terminating this “so-called” agreement. You can have it your way. I’m leaving”, she said, never looking at him all this while.
“You’re not among these bimbos Ashi. I thought you knew that. If I had a power of peering into your mind, I wouldn’t have been standing here, just ‘chatting’ with you”, he held her gaze and pulled her closer, “I would…”, he said taking a long pause.
“I would… What Rihaan?” she asked with that raring anticipation in her voice. “I would have..”, his expressions changed into something mischievous, rather notorious as he completed his sentence. “Manipulated your mind and would’ve clamped shut that smart mouth of yours for like, years together”, he finished with a chortle only to be lampooned by the rest of his gang.
She snapped out of his hold, nabbed her clutch and never meeting his eyes walked out of the club.
All she could hear was the thumping sound and the voices behind her, “I was just having fun. I was kidding. Ashi, listen to me at least.” The sound and the voices both fainted and finally ceased as she closed the main door after her.
“Shit! I didn’t want this to happen!” Rihaan mumbled under his breath but was held back by his guilt mending gang. “Big fucking deal! Rihaan. This is who you are.” “She’s creating a thing out of nothing.” “She just needs attention”, came the mixed spoken opinions from random losers.
Every single word fell on his ears but bounced right back from where it fell. He was listening to all the side talks but wasn’t able to grasp or deduce anything out of it. He was too concentrated on something else to concentrate on anything else. His conscious was restoring the guilt mended whenever he tried imagining her walking out of the club.
“Fuck my life, what the hell is wrong with me. Why am I getting this gentleman kind of guilt out of nowhere? My friends are right, this is who I’m. I don’t go after girls. It’s always the other way round, no matter who is wrong or who is guilty. And yes, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just a mockery. She needs to understand or do I?”
He tried some self talk to convince himself but the more he did that, more guilt started building inside him.
Each and every sentence he mumbled, contradicted each and every single one of it, mentally. Juggling between his nebulous decisions he finally made up his mind and was going to follow it irrespective of anything. This was the best at the same time the worst thing about him. Whenever he made a decision he stuck to it no matter who said what. And this faux pas had made him take the second right decision of his life. Ashi was unknowingly helping him to make correct decisions, with him being oblivious of it. When he stood and strode towards the main door without uttering a single word or even looking at his dead loss gang, he invited a number of startled looks that he leisurely chose to ignore.
Ashi was on the verge of starting with the waterworks.
“Get a grip Ashi! Get a fucking grip! Think about something else, something pleasant. You can’t start howling here in the middle of the lobby. Once you’re out and the darkness swallows you up completely, you can howl and wail and I won’t have any say in that”, her sub conscious whispered some of her treasured advice.
With this mind-draining activity all she could think of to divert her mind was, the throbbing pain those stilettos caused her. Pain can be hewed through pain. However, pain always encompasses pleasure when at the pinnacle. And this was what felt like the pinnacle, for her. She was literally dragging herself across the lobby, scurrying. Her mind felt like a time bomb whose trigger was in someone else’s hand and can anytime explode with a bammm… Her legs pounding with unbearable pain cursed her for the agony and swore not to wear these angel-looking monsters again. Her heels had no talk in the conversation as they had already become numb.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, numbness is the last stage of any pain. I hope, I soon attain this position in case of Rihaan.”
For a tenuous moment, she thought she would wait and get these devils in disguise, removed. At least, she would be freed from the physical agony. But, she was equally scared of bursting her bubble of waterworks if she waited anywhere anymore. So she kept walking rather dragging. Again, she didn’t want Rihaan to catch up with her. Yes, you all heard rather read it right. She’d a strong intuition that he would follow her.
Soon the revolving doors led her out of the complex. There was a small passage connecting the complex and the main street. This passage was lined with shrubs and there was a well furnished garden on each side of the narrow passage which looked more like an aisle.
Waiting near the entrance of the complex she thought, “How the hell am I suppose to reach home? How am I going to get a cab at this hour? All right, it’s pointless waiting for a cab.” She took out her mobile and booked a cab. Thirty minutes was the estimated time. “Thirty minutes!” She stared at her mobile-screen and let out a much stifled sigh. “What am I going to do for the next thirty minutes?!”
She glanced at her stilettos and dress. “With these fiends on, I can’t even sit. And being clumsy is the last thing I want, especially on such a dramatic day.” She let out a long exaggerated sigh.
Sauntering near the entrance of the complex, her thoughts were waded by a security guard, “Maam, you can’t wait here, at this hour. It’s already 11pm and the complex is shut down. Except the club, nothing is open. You’ll have to either go in or go out of the main gate”, he pointed towards the end of the passage.
Ashi glared at him for a moment only to realize he was just doing his duty.
“It’s pointless fuming at him. Rihaan is the one who is officially entitled to receive this rage of yours”, her subconscious ended with a smile.
“Ya, I know. Never mind”, she rolled her eyes. Her reply served the guard as well as her subconscious.
She started dragging her legs towards the main gate, cursing her own self and making a mental note to include this – saying yes to the “partying” thing, in her wrong-decision-of-the-day list.
She was babbling to herself as she shambled clumsily along the narrow passage. She’d hardly taken a few steps when something firm and sturdy got hold of her wrist and yanked her in the dark. Almost ready to scream at the top of her voice, she found the frame-line of that sturdiness quite familiar, so familiar that she remained mum. Forget about screaming, she didn’t even move or tried struggling out of his hold. He seemed to have hung her reflexes. That sturdy frame-lined figure soon transformed into a full-fledged Rihaan Malhotra, who held her quite close against him, to escape the guard’s eye, who had followed Ashi to lock the main gate. It hardly took Ashi a few mini seconds to deduce everything, but she was too Rihaan-struck to speak anything and the guard unknowingly helped her.
When the guard went back, Rihaan let loose his hold on her and asked, “What’s fucking wrong with you?”
In a blink of an eye, her startled expressions turned into a scowl as she spoke, “What the heck are you doing here? And how dare you ask that question?”
Gauging her tone, Rihaan got a conspicuous signal of “danger zone” but he’d decided to talk, remember? So, here he was, talking to her.
“Guilty conscious. That’s what you made me feel”, he replied.
“And?” she maintained her tone.
“And nothing. I wish you would’ve made me feel something more than that. But, Alas! You don’t own that kind of calibre, you see”, he mocked.
“I know I can’t make you feel like those girls there, upstairs”, she waved her hands animatedly as she spoke; “I don’t intend to Rihaan, I don’t need to. I know nobody is important to you except your own self but, you’ve no right to make others a laughing stock. That doesn’t define them; that defines you. Again, if you’re actually guilty of things, you should better be sorry about them rather than meandering around the topic and obfuscating things, she paused for a second before continuing, “And one more thing, I know I’m not your types, so, no need of reiterating that. I can never be there and believe me I’ve no intentions of being there too. I know, I don’t sleep around with anyone and everyone just because he’s Mr. Hot or he’s Mr. Richie Rich but that’s what I prefer. It’s a choice made and not because I’m not wanted by any. I don’t wish to live a life of a wannabe, dumb fuck, feeble-minded, thick skull bimbo.”
As she spoke her last word, she realized her bubble had finally bursted. She could feel it. Her face had now turned hot and tears ran down her cheeks. “Shit!” she murmured. She quickly wiped her tear-stained cheeks and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to humiliate you but this is what happens when my anger reaches the apex level. It just flows down.”
Once again, Rihaan looked like he’d been hit by a freight train. She’d no courage left to face him and avoided looking at him completely. Finally, Rihaan spoke after what seemed like forever that made Ashi to literally gape at him with her water-lined eyes.
“I’m really sorry for whatever happened upstairs. I had no intentions of mocking you in front of everyone. I don’t have any clue, how did everyone manage to reach in time. As long as I remember, just the two of us were there. And yes, please don’t cry. I’m really clueless of how to handle that.”
Without thinking much and without letting silence take hold of the conversation she said, “Hmm.”
“Hmm??? That’s all you’ve to say? I mean you’re the second person whom I’ve ever been sorry to, in my lifetime, and you replied with a ‘hmm’. That’s it!” he exclaimed with mild exasperation.
She shot her eyebrows at him, “What else do you want me to say? I mean…”, she continued in a cloyingly-girly tone, “Oh baby, it’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it all. Let’s not fight and continue from where we had stopped. Mwah. Mwah. Mwah. Oh please Rihaan, I can’t be like this, drooling, slobbering all over”, she rolled her eyes hard enough for him to observe.
“Oh, so gone that teary Ashi. Welcome back smart mouth. I’m glad you’re back”, he completed with a smirk. She mirrored his smirk and continued, “Don’t you dare use that rotten sarcasm of yours as a weapon against me. I’ve outgunned it. One thing you’re well aware of, if nothing else.”
“What ‘nothing else’ am I not aware of?” he enquired with his patented half-curved smile.
“Zilch”, she replied.
“Now, don’t you dare drag that linguistic ability of yours mid-conversation”, he replied right back.
“Zilch means nothing”, she replied politely.
“And what does that mean?” he frowned a little.
She was enjoying this. She went on for the hook, line and sinker. “You don’t look like a dunce. But I guess you’re. As I already said, nothing. Do you want me to explain the meaning of the word – nothing?” she bit her bottom lip as she tried hard to stifle a smile.
He narrowed his eyes, snaked his arms around her waist, pulled her closer and said, “Now. Let’s talk now. Explain. Tell me more about ‘nothing’. I’m all ears.”
She scowled at him while trying to struggle out of his hold. But it was a half-penny attempt. His hold was too firm for her to scram out of it. The more she tried, the more his grip tightened around her.
Finally, realizing it’s not her area of expertise, she gave up and said, “This is the only thing you can do. Any activity related to brain, well, you’re deprived of it as you haven’t used any, for ages.
He smiled a full length smile on hearing this. “Ashi, you want me to use my brains. Well, I’m using my brains. I know what makes you weak-kneed. It’s this. You haven’t been this close to anyone and experiencing this from someone like me; it seems you’re quite lucky, babe.”
His words struck her like a hurricane. He’d just voiced her thoughts aloud.
“Is this what I want from him? Hell no! How can this be? Am I lucky? Jeesh, No.”
Her thoughts gabbled intense enough to change her expressions.
It didn’t even take a mini-second for Rihaan to deduce them before he spoke, “See, even your thoughts are agreeing Ashi. I can see them on that pretty face of yours.”
She pushed him off in one single jerk and said, “Rihaan, you need to keep your hands, mind or whatever off me. I don’t need it. Am I loud enough? And now, if you’ll please excuse me I need to go home.” She checked her phone and exclaimed, “Shit!”
Rihaan’s mercurial expressions vanished and transformed into something worrisome as he asked, “What’s it Ashi? Anything serious?”
“My hackney carriage is waiting for me at the main gate since the last five minutes and I’m here bickering with you”, she said not looking at him, rummaging through her clutch trying to find something to take care of her hair.
“You’re going home by cab?” he enquired with a slight frown.
Never looking at him continuing tieing her hair she said, “Yep.”
“Why?” came his immediate reply.
“Because I can”, she answered as she bent down to take off her stilettos. He was observing her carefully trying to get a clue of exactly what she was up to.
She stood up, adjusted her dress a little and holding her clutch in one hand and her stilettos and phone in other she plastered a huge deliberate smile on her face as she faced him and spoke, “Now, will you please stop interrogating me and allow me to take a leave?”
Her phone beeped and diverted her attention. She was too engrossed in her phone when he held her shoulders. This made her to concentrate on nothing but him. He held her gaze and said in a deep voice, “You can’t go alone Ashi. Not at this hour.” His voice was filled with concern that not only startled her, but also made her to gawk at him agape.
She took a prolonged, deep breath and said, “Now what’s this? I hope it’s not some mockery. I’ve reached the quota of it tonight.”
“No, it’s not”, he replied calmly.
“You always catch me off guard Rihaan. Why don’t you want me to go alone? Besides, I’m going by cab. I’ll be okay”, she replied solemnly.
Never ceasing to look at her, he went on like a programmed machine that has been designed only to speak and not to hear, “I want you to be safe. More than safe.”
This time his words struck her by something colossal than a hurricane that blocked her brain to mouth connections.
He continued with the same intensity, “When I said you can’t go alone, I meant you’re going with me and not by cab. So, let’s send him back from where he’s come.”
Saying this, he let her shoulders loose only to hold her hand. “Wear them”, he said, pointing at her stilettos.
She rolled her eyes at him. “I didn’t take them off to wear them again. For how much did you sell your common sense, Rihaan?” she asked suppressing her giggle.
“Don’t stop it. Let it flow. I love that sound. And tonight I want something that will make me feel better”, quoth he.
Seeing a big question mark on Ashi’s face he sighed and said. “The sound when you laugh, rather giggle.”
This seized her sense to breathe for a moment. “Breathe Ashi, breathe”, he said, with a roguish smile, still holding her hand, leading her out of the main gate. She simply shook her head and muttered, “Jeesh.! He’s going to make me lose it soon. I hope he’s not acting.”