Note: Story for http://weandwords.blogspot.com/2008/07/best-in-lounge-story-writing_29.html
(*All characters and situations are fictitious. They bear no resemblance to anyone living or dead. This is my entry for the short story competition at Writer's lounge. This is the second and final installment of the two part story)
“Where is Adrian?”, I questioned Rashid. It was Rashid who had coordinated with the others of my gang. I had left it on him to make all the arrangements. He hadn’t disappointed me by getting all of us under a single roof. All of them…except one!
Adrian D’Souza aka Adi! My roommate for 2 years was conspicuously absent from the get together. To be very frank, apart from sending occasional mails to the group, I had not gone the extra mile to call any of my friends for the whole of last year. I was made to sweat out so much on my offshore project that the only thing I loved to do after getting back to my apartment was to play dead on my bed. Nothing could beat the comfort it offered after slogging hard for the entire day. The fatigue would kill all my thoughts of calling up Richa at the end of the day and I would postpone it for the next day. This would carry on for the entire week. After all the postponing I would end up adding a word or two to my limited list of abusive words every weekend when I would muster the courage to call up Richa. Then she would burst out crying. Over the next hour she would race me through memory lanes, reminding me of the best times we had spent together. All the while making me realize how much I had changed.
“I love you baby, I very much do! I am waiting for the day I will be done with this dreaded project of mine and head back home. Head home to be with people I love, to be with you who is my life. It’s not that I don’t like chatting with you everyday sweetheart. It’s just that I am so shit tired at the end of the day that all my thoughts and feelings die a silent death. Day after day after day. But I try making amends on weekends. Don’t I? It has been an hour since I am trying to explain things to you and all you tell me is that I don’t love you anymore! Come on yaar.”, I was trying desperately to calm Richa. Richa had this wonderful ability. The ability to start a new argument every time borrowing a line from me. She blasted off, “San!! See!! That’s just what I was pointing at. You have been keeping a tab of time. I am so sorry to have taken an hour of your precious US time darling. I really am. There used to be a time when we would chat for hours together. And here you are, reminding me that it has been an hour! Thanks for your time Mr. Sandeep”. Richa slammed the receiver. I wondered what my mistake was? I was making an ISD call after all and had to keep a tab on time. But I had never meant to hurt Richa. Never even in my dreams. There were times when she understood and gave me strength. There were times when I would be blasted off. Distances do make patching up after fights all the more difficult. I would still try in full earnest. Sometimes I would succeed and I would be showered with kisses over the phone; sometimes I would fall flat on my face and see Richa drifting apart. Somehow I had seen the dreaded year through. And what timing it had been. It was her birthday the next day. I had finished off my project well before time to get a reprieve. I had not told Richa about my arrival in Delhi and had warned Rashid from telling her as well. I wanted to surprise her. The love and longing that had accumulated in me in the past year had enough horse power to keep me going after a long flight. I was not feeling jet lagged at all. I had slept throughout my flight anticipating this night out.
“You moron! Wake up!! Day dreaming about your lady love eh! Hey Alaena, it’s Richa’s birthday tomorrow. And our prince charming would be heading to her flat in an hour to surprise her. She will be swept off her feet; I tell you bro. Especially after seeing this bouquet that my lady love has personally selected for you. Take it bro, gift it to her. 200 roses in it, right Alaena? You are a darling my cutie pie”, Rashid kissed her again. Alaena blushed. The couple looked very much in love. It had been only a month since Rashid and Alaena had started going around. And it showed. Alaena had this natural glow on her face. Something which can never be achieved through cosmetics. Something which only love brings forth. Rashid couldn’t take his eyes off her for a single moment. He was completely smitten by this lady. I could see that in his eyes. I could very well do that. Even Adrian had seen my love for Richa back then. Now I realized that eyes give you away. You simply can’t train them to lie.
“Will you tell me the truth Sandy? Come on, don’t hide this from me. Tell me everything about your newfound love. And keep that accounting book aside if you don’t feel like going through it brother. It’s an insult to the author that you are thinking of someone else while reading the cases he took years to pen down. Look here Sandy. It is Richa, right?” Adrian looked at me questioningly. He had that “I know it all” look on his face. I had not shared the latest developments with Adrian. Richa was no more just a friend. She had transformed into the most important person in my life. I knew this would hurt Adi a bit. He had a crush on Richa from the first day of college. He would get angry whenever I abused her in front of him after our famous presentation run ins. Sharing the room with Adi was suffocating me from the day Richa had given her approval. I did not know how to confront Adi after that. And here he was demanding an answer. “Yes. I am going around with Richa yaar”, I mumbled. Adi had never accepted openly that he liked Richa. But I knew deep within that he did. I felt guilty. But then, why? Had Adi told me even once that he liked Richa? That I must allow him to play his cards before I did. It had been a year into the course and Adi seemed to be going nowhere. I should not feel guilty. Richa has to choose. She has made her choice. I got the courage to look him in his eyes. Adi was smiling. “I am happy for you. You should have told me of this earlier. Richa is lucky to have you. Never dare you hurt her. I will forget you were my roommate brother” Adi hugged me. Adi was like that. He was the most silent one of our gang. He was an introvert to the core. I am yet to see someone who would switch off his phone on his birthday, tired of taking the wishes. He did what his heart felt was correct. He never thought of the pros and cons of his decision. That was Adi….Adrian for the world!
“Adi is mad yaar. He seldom takes our calls. It’s only once or twice that we have met him in the past year. He was in Delhi till last month. Now he is posted in Bangalore. And worse still, we get to know this from Crystal’s friend who is working with Adi in the same department in Bangalore. He leaves from office early every Friday to catch the 6 pm flight for Delhi. He has been in Delhi every weekend since he was packed off to Bangalore. The airlines are surviving because of him…he he he! His phone is engaged most of the time, and that bugger does not care to call back or drop a message in return. Grapevine is that Mr. Adi has a girlfriend now……he he. Crystal’s friend is our detective who snoops on him you see. She claims he caught him getting all mushy on the phone. Imagine our silent Adi getting all mushy. If I bump into Adi for once, I am going to slap him hard on his face”, Divya growled. Divya, Adi and me had been in the same group in college and were close. Richa was never a part of our gang. She never got along well with my group. Richa was very clear about it and stayed away whenever I used to spend time with my gang. I appreciated her for being frank enough to admit that. I loved her for that. She was perfect for me. Richa……..oops! I glanced at my watch. It was almost twelve. A few more minutes and it would be Richa’s birthday.
I had to rush. I realized that Rashid had gone to the bartender to collect our next round of drinks. I waited for him to get back and then leave for Richa’s place. I scanned the disc. As it was Saturday night, Turquoise cottage had more than three hundred customers. There were lots of couples who had taken to the dance floor. A remixed version of “Pappu Cant Dance” played in the background. Alaena handed me the bouquet realizing that I will be rushing in a while. Rashid was taking long. The clock struck twelve. Suddenly the volume of music went down. DJ’s voice echoed in the disc, “We have a bday girl in our midst. Wishing Richie a very very happy birthday. And one thing lady…your boyfriend loves you like mad. This is the fiftieth time he has reminded me in the past 5 mins. This one’s dedicated for you.” The hindi remix made way for Butterfly(Crazy Town) and everyone clapped as Richie’s boyfriend picked her up in his arms. She embraced him. People were still clapping. Seemed there was only one birthday girl in the disc today. Seeing the attention the couple was getting, the DJ signaled the light man to put the spotlight on the couple. In a minute, the couple took the centre stage. We also joined in the clapping. The couple had their back towards us. Richie was still up in her boyfriends arms. Then he let her stand on her feet. She put her arms across him and pulled him closer. As my eyes got used to the sudden flash of light, I saw the couple more closely. My heart skipped a beat. It was Richa! I felt as if someone had stalked me with a sharp weapon in my stomach and pulled out all the intestines. I had never felt this much pain. My soul was twitching with the pain. Divya and TJ had already recognized Richa. I felt their touch on my hands to comfort me. I felt betrayed. I felt hurt. I had collapsed in my seat. Divya was trying to pull me towards her to shift my attention from the scene. TJ tried to hug me. I had frozen in my seat. I could hardly breathe. It was then I saw her boyfriend. The one who had replaced me in her life. He looked familiar. Very familiar. Wasn’t it Adrian? Yessssss…it was him. It was Adi.
People started whistling loudly. DJ was egging the crowd on. Richa was kissing Adi. She was kissing him like mad. I don’t know how long it lasted. Time had stopped for me. Rashid was back and my gang was helping me get back to my feet. They were trying to pull me to the exit door. I was still frozen. I didn’t blink even for a second. No tears trickled down my cheeks. My face was expressionless. It had just frozen in the motions. I felt my soul escape from the body that encaged it.