“Hey, where did you disappear?!”
Kabir interrobanged approaching Rihaan and Ashi, Taniya walking abreast.
“This lady of mine disappeared. And I came looking for her.”
Rihaan answered still holding Ashi’s hand and viewing her intently. Ashi rolled her eyes and withdrew her hand before speaking, “I think I’ll take a leave, Kabir. I don’t intend to join you all again. You know I’m really….”,
“Don’t say much, dear. I understand”, he said, pulling Ashi into a surprise hug.
Rihaan narrowed his eyes at him and then at Ashi.
“Looks like you two have well-acquainted yourselves, of each other. Good. So, if you both are done with your ‘bidding goodbye’ ceremony, can we just get going, Ashi?”
Rihaan smiled, ending his statement looking at Ashi; Ashi knew that this wasn’t his “patented smile” or the one he flashed a while ago. This was a precarious one. It gave out a subtle, I-will-see-you-later warning to Ashi.
“Can I fancy a drop?” Taniya who was quiet all this while, finally spoke.
“Sure, I’ll go and get the car”, Rihaan said and taking Kabir along, started walking towards the parking area.
Ashi found herself in an awkward position where her mind toddled between – go or stay. After all, the shrunken plastic doll, standing next to her was his official girlfriend and it’s Ashi who seemed like an intruder here.
“Rihaan…”, Ashi called his back and like Rihaan had already gauged her next words, he looked over his shoulder and answered, even before she voiced them out.
“Stay there. And when I say stay, means stay. You’re not allowed to go alone.” He turned and started walking again. Ashi gazed at him till his 6’1 feet image became smaller and smaller and finally blended in the dark.
Taniya’s presence virtually smothered her breathing and ability to move around freely. Every second felt like a lifetime and Ashi could feel her eyes all over her and could even hear a few fretful sighs that accompanied her glances. Ashi ignored her in toto. She’d topped Ashi’s most-hated people’s list without even exercising any of her personal talents.
“Nice shoes”, Taniya finally broke the ice.
“Thanks”, Ashi reluctantly answered with a huge necessitated smile.
“But they’ll look better covering your pretty feet”, Taniya said, mirroring Ashi’s fake smile.
Ashi chuckled a little before replying, “I know. But they’re hurting me. So, just took them off.
“So, you do know that you shouldn’t hold on to the things that hurt you. I thought you did not”, Taniya sarcastically replied with a slight wry.
Ashi clearly understood what she meant by “hurt” and “the things that hurt you”. Her words poked and wailed Rihaan and his behaviour towards Ashi.
“You wouldn’t be very delighted having done this to me.”
Ashi smiled in silence before speaking, “Some hurts are worth. These..”, she said raising her hand that clutched the angel-looking-monsters, “..aren’t worth the pain. Some really are. And I intend to hold on to such pains, till those finally kill me.”
Ashi ended with the same silent, killing smile as she saw Taniya’s sarcastic smile fading into something worrisome that transformed her face – from smile to disgust – to worried smile (smile that fades as soon as it touches your lips).
Ashi’s attention was distorted by the honking of Rihaan’s BMW.
“Get in the car, Ashi. Or you need some special invitation”, Rihaan’s voice came rushing just after the horn’s.
Taniya quickly climbed into the seat next to Rihaan and Ashi – rolling her eyes, had to unfortunately settle behind them.
This is the thing about girls. No matter how much they loathe each other or carry bizarre level of animosity towards each other, they’ll always smile and do all the sugar coated talking when they meet and depict the viewing world rather hoax the viewing world in an unanimous illusion that they’re “best friends”; although they perfectly know and convey the aversion they hold against each other.
Resting her clutch beside her, on the backseat, Ashi glared at Taniya’s side profile intently. She’s smiling looking at Rihaan. She’s also talking to him about some random people whom Ashi didn’t know and so she’s least interested in the same. All that Ashi was interested in was, Taniya crawling her fingers in Rihaan’s hair ruffling it and that he wasn’t objecting to it, even a tad.
“Disgusting”, Ashi swore under her breath and after rolling her eyes decided to fix her gaze somewhere outside, in the dark.
Ashi’s iPhone started singing to Demi’s – Somebody to You. In the dreadful silence of the car, it seemed like Demi was bawling her voice out of Ashi’s phone. Ashi fumbled and quickly answered the call to stop it from ringing only to realize that the screen had flashed – “Private Number”.
“Hello”, Ashi’s voice cracked with nervousness.
“Hello, is this Anvesha Rathore? If yes, then do listen with full concentration; I’m your well wisher, calling you to make sure that your luck and life goes on, uninterrupted”, a stern voice from the other end sounded aggressively firm and confident.
“May I know who am I talking to?” Ashi’s voice quavered as she spoke.
“Stay away and off Rihaan. It’ll be good for your health and life.”
The line went dead.
Ashi stared at her phone terrified; gawking at it as if an apparition was going to sprang out of it.
“Who is it?” Rihaan asked looking at her through the rear view mirror.
Ashi didn’t answer as she was still staring wide at her phone and didn’t hear what Rihaan had said. She’s still trying to contemplate and absorb something that’d happened a couple of minutes ago.
“Did someone just give me a threat call?! Did someone just threaten me to stay away from Rihaan?! What’s happening? Is this a dream? Am I dreaming?”
Ashi’s thoughts that were pacifically lying in the remotest corner of her mind triggered and gained a super natural momentum. They ruffled and shuffled, banging to and fro in her mind, bumping into each other, triplicating, giving rise to thousands of new thoughts. Her process of thinking and christening new thoughts was rashly interrupted by the continuous honking of the horn.
“Hello. Miss dreamer. Who’s that?”
Rihaan shot his eyebrows at Ashi gazing at her through the rear view mirror, curiously looking at her expressions that’d made her face grim, although she’d tried her best to clone it with normalness.
Ashi looked at him and looked away immediately.
“Mumma. I mean, Mumma called. It’s M-Mumma’s call.”
Ashi lied without making any eye contact in the rear view mirror.
“Mumma? Seriously? And what did she say on the call that’s making you look like – a hurricane has just run past you.” Rihaan enquired a visibly shaken and terrified Ashi suspiciously.
“She told me to be back home soon.” Ashi further lied, now looking out of the window, staring in the dark.
Rihaan sighed heavily, alluding that he didn’t buy whatever Ashi tried to sell him.
“It’s better this way. Telling him will only add on to problems. He might immediately use his feeble mind to take some solo drastic steps that’ll prove lethal to my well being. I can’t afford to lose him. At least at this point in my life where I don’t even have to take attempts to think about him, because he’s already there 24×7; even in sleep and dreams.”
Ashi bit her lower lip nervously.
She’s afraid of losing him. Being with him all this while had clinched her beliefs that he’s high handed, someone who just voices out decisions without considering your opinions or emotions, for that matter. He does whatever he thinks is right for him and others. What they feel about it hardly matters to him; his decisions are final and irrevocable.