Chapter 9

“Ma’am, I’m sorry. I messed up with the orders. That order didn’t belong…”

Ma’am had already reached cloud four out of the nine. The waiter’s sentence was pared when he saw that Ashi had already emptied the snifters down her throat.

“Ma’am, are you all right? Where‘s Sir?”

Ashi pointed near the bar and said, “Yesss, I’m perfect. Thanks”. Her slight slur made the waiter to stare at her for a moment before he cleared the table & scrammed into the dark.

The brandy had commenced with its aftermath. It’d adulterated her blood and had triggered all her senses through the veins. Ashi’s senses sensed an extra-sensory-detection effect, wherein they seemed to have turned titanic, but at the same time her brain had paused, rather froze. All the noises  became sharper & sounded ear- splitting for her ears to bear, but on equal notes didn’t madden her, as her brains had turned numb just like a straight line on an ECG machine. Her mind was facing some kind of temporary malfunction all created by the intoxicating raw fluid she’d gulped down her throat. It’s correctly said that alcohol brings out the monster in you. It thwarts any possible attempts to think and thus prevents rational thinking. No thinking & only acting is a mantra that is followed. It supports you with an insane courage or bravery that leaves you with nothing more than a mind filled with regrets the next morning!

Ashi was facing it all. Alive and vivid. She was high but not so high that she would agglomerate the courage to face Rihaan and his touchy girlfriend. She was a little squiffy. That’s all. But that level of squiffy is enough to get that Beelzebub – which feeds on those drinking bouts, in you to grow fatally colossal. Something similar happened to Ashi.

Ashi got up in her place. The prompt swift action caused her conscious to spin a little. The tables, floor & the cozy chairs too spun a little before resting at their respective places. Ashi stood still till she could regain her senses to the extent that she could manage walking and strode towards the restroom. Her stilettos made a distinct clatter as she tried to keep a steady hold on her feet to avoid plunging into the lavish furniture to the least or hitting the glass floor to the max.

Ashi looked at her reflection in the full-length wall mirror. She thought she looked differently beautiful. Yes, to all of you who know what happens after you’re not a regular drinker and you gallop down a drink – an after-dinner-drink before dinner that contains 35-40 percent of alcohol. Everything including the worst people in your life start looking beautiful. It’s called the illusion-creating effect. Seeing the unseen and things like that. Very differently similar to love. Actually, a very thin line of difference.

Ashi was wearing a navy blue coloured, formal pencil dress. Still facing the mirror, Ashi pulled her dress that had shifted a little above her hips. Unpinning her hair – flowed down right below her shoulders, she finger brushed it, twirled a few times to admire her dainty curves and posed and pouted, before heading out. She thought she was all normal, but this was a part of the illusion-creating effect. Her adrenaline had reached the apical position. And so, instead of heading to the table, she decided to hit the bar. She was smiling at every single person who checked her out. She was no longer cautious of her stilettos as her valuable attention was mutually drawn to all the eyes that seemed to have glued on her. Striding with squared shoulders and a proud gait, she went straight to the bar and occupied a barstool.

“Hello Ma’am”, the barman greeted and smiled at Ashi.

Crossing her right leg on her left one, Ashi rested her hands on the platform, smiled back and said, “Hello.”

“So Ma’am what shall I get you?”

“Cosmopolitan for the lady and on the rocks for me.”

Ashi’s attention was disrupted by a firm, hot and seductive male voice. Ashi swiveled her barstool a little, to view the figure that held such a uniquely dark, deep and dusky voice. Ashi was blown off her senses when she saw an impeccable specimen of manhood sitting next to her. He was every bit more than perfect. Fair, tall, with a chiseled physique, he was bestowed upon a face that was every bit alluring. Irrespective of the white shirt he’d worn, all his chiseled cuts were precisely seen through and through. Ashi squinted at him with a frown although she was drawn to his flawless manhood. The squint was probably at his gesture of ordering a drink for her. Deep brown eyes penetrated Ashi’s squinted black ones with a grin that would lift all women’s souls.

“Hi, I’m Kabir”, he said, holding out his hand.

“Hi.” Ashi took his hand with an apparent reluctance.

“First time?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes.” Ashi answered as she restored her former position.

“Boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Then?”

“Business deal.” Ashi said as she air-quoted the words.

“Ahaan. I like that. And thank god you slipped out of those monosyllabic replies.” Kabir said maintaining the same charismatic smile.

The bartender looked at both of them while he served the drinks.

“Cheers!” said Kabir, with what sounded like his copyrighted tone and posture.

“Raise a toast”, Ashi said, as she clinked her glass with his, rolling her eyes.

“No Cheers?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s highly clichéd”, Ashi ended with a smirk without looking at him.

“You’re one intriguingly amazing female I’ve met till date.”

“This too is clichéd. Jeesh. Males I tell you”, Ashi chuckled that sounded more like a snort.

“Well, you’re the first female to come up with this reply. Interesting. Very interesting”, he said, smoothing his index finger on the rim of his glass.

“It’s nice. Good choice.”

Ashi said acknowledging the mild taste of the fluid that lingered on her tongue.

“I know. I do have a great choice. By the way, who’s the fool that abandoned a beautiful lady like you in a place like this?”

Thinking and registering what Kabir had said, Ashi’s mind though mildly numb felt singed at the very thought of her fool and his Miss Touchy Bitch. Unlike other days, when her mind and her thoughts would’ve been a volcano of emotions, today it could only manage concentrating on one single thing (that too with much difficulty) at a time. All thanks to her toxic gulps.

Staring into a blank, with her one single thought, she gulped the cosmo in one shot. The already present toxic in her body called her attention for more and her mind obeyed willingly.

“Woah! Calm down lady! We’ve an entire night here. If you start pushing down drinks at this pace, this poor chaps would be deprived of their alcohol stores.”

Kabir said as he signaled the bartender to repeat her drink.

The resting Satan in Ashi’s mind had evoked to life with this shot. Now he was in charge of Ashi’s forthcoming behavior.

“Cancel that. Get me Tequila shots. Two.”

The slur in Ashi’s tone was noticeable to all those who heard her, except her own self. She was enveloped by the illusion-creating effect, wherein now she’d an illusion that she’s doing perfectly fine. That’s the whole thing about getting drunk. Unless you go for a stroll after every drink, you won’t understand how high you’re, just by sitting at a place.

“Are you sure?” Kabir shot his eyebrows at her.

“Ssss.” The slur became all the more precise.

Ashi stared at the drinks and emptied both the shots back-to-back, down her throat, in her peckish, craving-for-food stomach.

Ashi’s senses and mind were too solivagant to understand the bitter taste or the electrifying feel of the Tequila anymore. She’d reached a point where she was driven by the monster – who loved drinking, in her.

“So, what do you do?” Kabir asked still sipping his first drink.

“Well, professionally I’m an interior designer.” Ashi slightly giggled, trying hard to keep her eyes from swaying.

“Oh, I thought you’re a model.” Kabir said, as he focused on her expressions.

“Oh, no, no. I’m not a model. Jeesh. That’s too underrated!”

Ashi was now giggling hysterically.

For many, giggling is the last resort in drinking that mostly occurs before depression takes over and progresses to blubbering. Ashi was one of those many.

“Let’s order more. It’s fun, isn’t it?”

Saying so, Ashi signaled the bartender who came and looked at Kabir who was still in his senses, unlike Ashi who had lost her hold over them. Kabir nodded for an acknowledgement.

“Ma’am?”

“Repeat the first one. The Cosmo.” Ashi smiled goofily at the bartender, who smiled back at her reluctantly.

As she was about to take a sip, something sturdy grabbed her wrist and slammed the glass on the surface.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Ashi had to blink several times to register the image of the person standing in front of her and wait for her brains to deduce it for her.

“Rihaan!” Ashi exclaimed with a goofy grin. “Where were you?! Meet my friend Kabir. He kept me company when you’re busy. Great guy. Fun loving and…”

“Shut the fuck up”, his tone though calm was intimidating. Rihaan held her by her arms and dragged her down from the barstool.

“Let’s go home. You’re drunk. And I’m in no mood to create a scene out here.”

Rihaan was fuming with rage. He’s visibly livid.

“Dude, Rihaan, you can’t take her like that. I’ve wasted my whole evening here, sitting next to her, listening to her shitty over killing vocabulary talks. She’s mine tonight.”

On hearing the words aloud, Rihaan’s patience reached its pinnacle. He held a firm hold on Ashi’s arms to help her from swaying and with infuriating rage in his eyes, stared directly at Kabir and said, “I was the one with whom she came. I don’t know what all she told you, but keep your filthy hands off her or from anything that is associated with her. That’ll be better for you and your fucking life.”

Kabir was intimidated by Rihaan’s behavior; probably because he’d never seen Rihaan being so extra possessive when it came to females, any female for that matter. This was the first time. The first woman he’d ever seen Rihaan standing up for.

So, after experiencing this intimidating Rihaan, he didn’t even think for a second before answering, “Chill bro, I didn’t know she’s with you. I’m sorry. Seriously sorry. You enjoy your night.” He pumped his thumbs up at Rihaan, partly to convey his sorry and partly to calm him down and scurried off, away from them.

“How much did she drink and what all?” Rihaan asked the bartender.

The bartender looked at the glass slammed on the table and said, “One Cosmo and two tequila shots. I think she was already a little drunk when she came here at the bar and if that is true, I don’t know what all and how much did she have before”, the bartender answered politely.

“I shouldn’t have left this epitome of insanity alone!”

His scowl grew deeper as he thought about it. Rihaan’s exasperation was obvious to everyone present there.

Ashi was on cloud nine by now. The concoction had sped up her adrenaline and had boosted her spirits for all kinds of high jinks. The thumping music – playing low in the background, had now soared up making the environment more boisterous. Ashi was moving and grooving, swinging her neck to the beats and the rhythm, least bothered about the world, the universe or herself.

Rihaan gazed at her intently. He’d never seen her like this. She was all carefree, incautiously slurring, stuttering and giggling at anything and everything even lip-syncing the lyrics. His smile advanced slowly and steadily as all his exasperation faded in a few seconds. He loosened his grip on her, brushed her hair off her face and holding her face in his hands said, “Ashi, listen to me, I’ll get your belongings, you wait here, okay?”

His touch did things to her she’d never experienced before. Even with the alcohol high on her mind, she could feel his warm comforting touch against her sensitive skin.

“Ashi?” Rihaan slightly shook her for a reply.

Ashi blinked a few times, squinted and nodded at him as an acknowledgement.

“But I want to dance.” She stuck out her lower lip.

Rihaan couldn’t stifle his laugh anymore. His smile burst into a captivating laugh but when he saw her gazing at him with what felt like something true and genuine he went blank. It seemed like she’d worn her soul on the outside and he could clearly see all her true emotions.

“Ashi, stop staring at me and stay here. I’ll be back in a minute.” Rihaan said like he was talking to a cornered animal. “And yes, no dancing today. Maybe some other day, when we both have a hold over our senses a little more than today.” Rihaan shouted over the music and strode in the dark.

Rihaan looked all around the place only to find her at the end of the bar, sitting on a barstool, her head resting on her folded arms.

“Shit!” Rihaan rushed at her and shook her to senses.

“Ashi, where’s your handbag? Ashi?” Rihaan patted her cheeks as she refused to open her eyes.

With her eyes still closed she mumbled, “In your car. I’d just brought in my phone.”

“Thank God!” Rihaan said more to him than to her.

“Drink this.” Rihaan handed her a glass of water. Ashi surprisingly obeyed and drank the whole in one single breath.

Rihaan positioned her right arm over his shoulders and held her waist to steady her walk – more of a toddle, as he ushered her out of the Pacific.

“Rihaan.” Ashi’s slur was more of a whisper.

“Yes?” Rihaan halted mid-way in the parking area. “What happened? You want to throw up?”

“No. I’m feeling sick. Too sick. Dizzy, woozy. Everything’s spinning. I can’t walk anymore. My legs feel like they’ll give up on me anytime.”

Rihaan walked her to a nearby wall and allowed her to support her back.

“Better?” He brushed her hair from her face and tucked it behind her ears.

“Hmm.”

Rihaan gazed at her. She was looking beautiful. Mesmerizing. His deep dark inky eyes wandered over her troubled yet beautiful face.

“Open your eyes.”

“I can’t. Everything starts spinning. Even you.” Ashi gestured the spin with her right index finger. “Okay, I’ll try to. Wait. Don’t force me.”

Ashi’s words bumped into each other sounding like a single long length word as she opened her eyes.

Rihaan held her gaze steady and kept looking at her. Her innocence had become all the more apparent this time.

“Keep taking deep breaths.”

“How are you feeling now? Am I still spinning or looking better?” Rihaan asked.

“Better. You are better now than what you were in there.”

“So, let’s go now.”

“No, wait for five minutes. Let me be a little steady.”

“You can’t be steady, at least for tonight. Ashi, you’ve drunk so much that I fear you might faint and I’ll have to carry you all the way to my car. So, keep walking and keep talking like you always do. By the way, are you a regular drinker?”

Even with all the tequila, brandy and cosmo running high in her veins, she managed to narrow her eyes at him and said with a scowl on that already drunken face of hers.

“It was all because of you. You and your Miss Touchy Bitch. I don’t drink. I’m teetotaling since a year. You both were kissing there in front of a visible crowd. Gross.”

Rihaan could hardly control his laughter. “Taniya. You’re talking about her right? Well, we’re dating last month. And kissing, well, it’s nothing. Even you would’ve done…”

Ashi’s face turned into a blend of expressions – disgust, shock, confusion, terror and many similar other. Gauging her expressions, Rihaan continued with what looked like amazement and shock,

“What?! Don’t tell me that you haven’t kissed anyone till date! Please don’t!”

Ashi felt abashed. Breaking the eye contact and gnawing on her lower lip, she kept looking at her toes and said, “But I haven’t kissed anyone till date.”

Rihaan was blown off his senses. He just couldn’t take in the fact that she hadn’t been this close to someone.

“Why? You never felt like getting close to someone? What is it Ashi?” He asked coming closer to her.

“Look at me. You don’t have to be ashamed of it. I’m just curious.” Rihaan lifted her chin to meet her gaze.

“Because I never felt like this before.”

“Like this?”

“Like I feel for you, Rihaan. You bring out the feelings that are completely alien. Your touch sends shivers down my spine. I feel your vibes even before I see you. This is completely a newfangled feeling for me.”

Rihaan had never expected her to say this when he’d asked the question. Her answer made him speechless. He couldn’t think of a prompt reply and stood there electrified, gaping at her.

The alcohol had bestowed upon her, an insane courage that did things to her mind and unveiled and triggered all the emotions like a well-shaken, uncorked bottle of champagne.

Ashi rested her hands on his chest as she stepped closer to him. Closing her eyes and matching his breaths, she smoothed her long, slender fingers around his nape, further into his hair and slowly wrapped her arms around his neck, planting a deep, long kiss on his lips. Still holding him close, Ashi stared at him with all the affection she felt for him, all this while.

Rihaan stood grounded to the spot as he wasn’t able to understand the happenings. When reality came gushing to his senses, a bolt of emotions struck him. The tender touch of her skin against his aroused the deep dense desires that rekindled the flame he’d held inside him, all these years. He felt it all alive and vivid. At that moment all his real self wanted was, to hold her close and never let her go.

The moment she was about to withdraw her hold, he curled his arms around her waist and pulled her closer than before. Holding her gaze steady with his piercing inky eyes filled with desire, he kissed her slowly and gently with all the passion and feelings he’d for her, tasting, savouring every bit of the moment. Ashi closed her eyes and gave into him completely. She snaked her arms around his neck, holding him closer and tighter this time. Nibbling and sucking on her lower lip, he gently invaded her mouth and explored every bit of it with his tongue. Ashi didn’t make any move and allowed him to pour his desire – wild and strong, that filled in every bit of her void. Her dainty self was completely wrapped and cocooned in his sturdy one. His warm touch against her sensitive skin did things to her that she’d only dreamt of. His touch came like a fire in her darkened world; something that burned and ignited her at the same time.

His lips perfectly locked in hers, sent a jolt of current, radiating and kindling desires – building within her, she’d yearned for all these years. The way he held her, the way he didn’t allow it to end, the way he took it from the start and everything else explained his unexpressed and unsaid desires, passion and feelings for her.

The honking of a horn in the distant brought them to present. Rihaan ended the kiss leaving her breathless and in a state of blissful numbness that did nothing to her other than curving the corner of her lips into a full-fledged blushing smile. Her eyes wandered restlessly over his face before she shut them gracefully and fainted in his arms.

Next….

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