I met Shikha the next day at Forum. She greeted me with a big hug, and we straightaway headed to the elevator. As we devoured the spicy Andhra meal sitting in the food court of the shopping mall, Shikha grabbed my attention.
“Jay really likes you dear…”
“What…I can’t believe this…I’ve met him only once,” I said.
“I know…but he’s kind of shy to tell you that he wants to take you out, so he asked me to convey his message to you…”
“Oh…” my words trailed as I was stunned seeing Jay coming over and sitting just next to me. Shikha greeted him with a large smile.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I’ve called Jay also…” she said.
I gulped a mouthful of chilled buttermilk to wash down the tangy mixture of sambhar rice into my stomach.
“Hello Ruchika…How are you doing?” asked Jay.
“Yeah…I am doing fine…how about you?” I asked.
“Great…” he said.
“Well Ruchika…I was wondering if you want to go out with me…”
Delighted by the way he asked me, I said, “Sure Jay.”
“That’s pretty awesome…How about this Friday?”
“Cool…” I said.
“Ok then…I will pick you up from your place in the evening.”
“Fine…so I think I should push off now leaving you in the company of a talking machine,” he said looking at Shikha. A mischievous smile played on his face as he teased Shikha and compared her to some kind of a talking robot.
“Hey…you…” Shikha stood up to slap his arm just when he slipped away from his chair and jumped to reach the exit. He waved at us exiting the food court and soon vanished in the crowd of shoppers.
After lunch as we walked through the interconnecting walkways of the shopping arcade, Shikha asked me something that instantly made me blush.
“So…what’s going on with this Rajeev guy?” she asked.
Hearing his name I just couldn’t stop myself smiling.
“I really like him Shikha. He has dropped in at my place a couple of times just to do homework and to finish the pending assignments.”
“So, nothing serious between you two…” she inquired again.
“Unfortunately not…I think he likes Ankita, the red head tequila beauty in our microeconomic class.” I replied wiping the smile off my face that was just not ready to go after Shikha initiated the topic of Rajeev.
“It looks like you’ve developed feelings for him, aren’t you thinking about him day and night…are you?” she tried to peek into my eyes.
“I don’t know what you are talking about…” I said dropping my eyelids to gaze at the frills of tiny light bulbs hanging down the artificial palm trees that were planted in giant pots just at the center of the ground floor where a musical event was going, and a guy was beautifully playing a ballad of old and new Hindi songs on his guitar.
As I stood next to the railing of the third floor of the shopping center to enjoy the musical evening, Shikha tapped my shoulder.
“Jay is a wonderful person dear, and you two make an awesome pair,” she said.
“Wait a minute…why do you advocate the idea of me and Jay becoming a couple. I know he is a good guy, and I admit that he would make a caring and loving boyfriend, but I can see him only as a friend….”
“And Rajeev….” She looked straight into my eyes…
I couldn’t utter a word. In fact, I didn’t want to discuss the subject who was better than whom and who was winning the race of becoming my boyfriend – Jay who according to Shikha really liked me or Rajeev who I liked but didn’t know whether he also had the same feelings for me or I was mere one of those several girls who drooled over him.
“I really care about you and I don’t want you to fall for someone who doesn’t deserve you. Jay is really a great guy because I know him for a pretty long time, but I can’t say the same for Rajeev.” She justified her statements.
“Rajeev is a great guy too, and I don’t hesitate admitting that I’ve feelings for him.” I felt slight annoyed upon Shikha’s unreasonable words for Rajeev.
“It’s okay sweetie…Let’s forget about the guys and have some fun…There’s a sale going on at Westside, and I wanna buy some crop tops…” she grabbed my arm and shuffled me down the elevator.
“Yeah…the ones that end just above your navel flaunting a little of your back and midriff,” she explained with a smirk on her face.
“Oh…okay…” I said as we entered the giant showroom of the luxurious garment shop.
It was a sunny Thursday morning, and I was busy solving an equation in my statistics notebook just when I heard a knock on the door.
I ignored the gentle tap and kept myself focused on the problem. My reason for not bothering about to answer the door was that many a times in the past I’d answered the door for my roommates when they were away. It’s really irritating to greet the strangers and pass on the messages.
The knocking didn’t stop, but I was adamant of not becoming a messenger for my roommates, at least not at that moment when I wanted my entire concentration on solving the problem.
I felt relieved when the tapping stopped for a while but the next moment a jittery sensation shivered my whole body when a hard knock pounded my bedroom door.
Dia and Tina were away since morning, and there was no one home except me. Getting up from my chair, I walked up to the door with shaky steps. My legs were giving away because of sudden panic that whirled around me imagining the unexpected.
“What if it is a burglar or a rapist….what should I do? I tried to locate my cell phone to dial 100 just when a familiar voice brought me back to senses.
“Ruchi…Are you there? It’s me Rajeev?”
Relief, exhilaration, and annoyance rushed through me as I pressed down the door knob to unlock the door. The wooden door opened with a slight creek and I found him standing there, clad in khaki casual trousers and a polo neck navy blue T-shirt.
“You really scare me sometimes…How did you get in? Wasn’t the front door locked?” I asked so many questions in a single breath.
“Chill…babes…I came to visit you. The doorbell was not working, so I tapped the door but nobody answered. And, when I noticed that it was not locked, I came in hoping that you must be in your bedroom. Now, do I have a privilege to intrude into your privacy? Can you let me in?” He asked with a requesting glint in his brown eyes.