She is sitting cross legged on the edge of the pavement. Looking down, fingers carelessly holding a cigarette. There's a can of coke or pepsi or whatever next to her. There is also a packet of cigarettes. I can tell she's absorbed in deep thought because the cigarette hasn't been ashed in a while. Or has she fallen off to sleep like that?
I think I've been staring at her for hours when she suddenly looks up. We make eye contact for one brief moment and she looks away. I can tell she has cried. I can also tell that she is more beautiful than most women I've seen in my life. The streetlight is giving her away to a total stranger.
I continue staring. She's not looking at me now, deliberately I think. The thought of reaching out, maybe rescuing her crosses my mind. I contemplate getting out of the car and going to speak to her. I feel a certain eagerness inside of me. Maybe I want to fall in love with her.
Another car zips past me, this one is slower than the earlier one. The signal has changed to green.
I feel the need to make a split second decision. Rescue or escape? Confront or evade?
What the fuck am I thinking???
I'm drunk, very drunk. She's sitting there, almost motionless, on the side of the road at four in the morning. What if she's a prostitute? What if she's crazy? What is she's dying? What if she screams for help if I as much as go near her? If something goes wrong, no one will believe anything I have to say.
Sense prevails, but not for long. I zip off before the light turns red again, but for some reason take a U-Turn from the very next cut and turn right back. I stop my car just after the crossing, now on the other side of the road.
I light a cigarette, take a long drag and exhale. Trembling, with fear and anticipation, I get out of the car. I wait a moment befor I cross the road. I come within six feet of her and then I stop, waiting for her to notice my presence, or maybe because I suddenly find myself searching for the right words to say in a situation like this.
She looks up at me, her body tenses up.
"C-c-can I help you?" I say, clearing my throat.
"Yes", she says, almost confidently. Then she looks away again.
"Can I drop you somewhere?", I ask.
"Do you have a light?", she replies.
"Y-yes I do, in the car. B-but you can use my cigarette to light yours."
She picks up the packet of Malboro Reds and takes out the last, upturned cigarette.
"My lucky cigarette...", she smiles half-heartedly and holds out her hand, motioning for me to light it for her. I dutifully do so and hand it back to her, trying very hard not to look at the cleavage.
I ask her again,"Ma'am can I drop you anywhere?"
She evades my question again and asks me if I want a sip of beer. Before I reply she hands me the green coloured can. Hesitantly, I take a sip from the Heineken can. I can taste the bitterness that comes with warm beer. I say thanks and give it back to her.
She takes a long, long drag from her cigarette and exhales the smoke through her nose. She asks me to sit down. I adjust my jeans and settle down next to her.
I'm not prepared for what she is going to say next.
"I know you very well...", she says.
Radha went to her brother's room, her final destination before any night of partying. She opened his drawer and took out two thousand rupee notes. She also left a note saying thanks.
Ever since her brother had landed that job with Goldman Sachs, her financial status had improved drastically. No more negotiating with Mom, no more pleading with daddy. All she had to do was open a drawer and leave a note!
Radha went back to her room one last time to pick up her cell phone and car keys. Carelessly, she put the pink motorola V3i into her back pocket without glancing at the screen. She really should have, but then again, she didn't know the future.
As she walked out of the front door of her apartment, she yelled "Bye!" to her parents who were watching some movie on the TV in the living room. They yelled back, but didn't turn their eyes away from the screen. The maid came and closed the door behind her.
Once in the car, a Baleno, Radha lit a cigarette. She heaved a huge sigh of relief after the first drag. She never smoked at home for fear of her parents finding out. If she got really desperate, she would go into her brother's loo and smoke with the exhaust on. With the cigarette lit and music turned on, she zipped off in the direction her destination. Once she reached the entrance of Chhatarpur Farms, she called up Sameera to confirm the directions once more. She cut the phone call and pressed the forward button of her system remote to change the track.
That's when her cellfone rang. A fourth, and perhaps last attempt from someone desperate to get in touch with her.
She looked at her phone screen. Recognizing the number, she smiled and opened the flap and answered in her characteristic style... "Hey handsome!"
"Hey! Where the f*** have you been???", answered Rahul, sounding near hysterical.
"I'm right here sweety, what's up? What's the matter?"
"No! Nothing! Was worried, that's all! Been trying to reach for almost one hour!"
"Awwe, how sweet!", she blushed.
"Achha I'm at the party right now but there's a slight crisis. I have to go and pick up Samarth from GK. His car's got a flat. I'll be back in forty five."
"No, wait for me! I'll be there in a jiffy, just wait five minutes. I wanna see you befor you go!"
"Ok, get here fast! Missing you!"
"Missing you too sweety, will be there ASAP! Mwah!"
She closed the flap of her phone and put the Baleno into first gear.
Her cellfone rang, again. This time it was Varun. She thought of not picking it up, but then answered anyway.
"Ya", she answered, almost curtly.
"I thought you'd be here by now, party princess!"
"I'll be there in five, but why do you want to know?"
"No... Just... Thought it would be nice to see you after so long... I was thinking maybe we could ummm..."
"I don't think I want to see you Varun.", she said cutting him short.
"Ok, have it your way...", replied Varun and hung up on her.
Radha reached Khaitan House, where the party was. After handing the keys to the valet incharge, she stepped in through the black iron gates. Rahul was standing there with someone she didn't know. He ran to her and hugged her, planting two long kisses on either cheek. She blushed. He then introduced his friend Karan to her. Radha and Karan exchanged pleasantries before the boys took her leave to go pick up Samarth.
She continued to walk from the gate to the house, a long one if it's a sprawling 4 acre Chhatarpur Farmhouse. She was caught up in hugs and kisses with the people she knew when some one tapped her on the shoulder. The tap was a little assertive, just enough to draw her attention away from the crowd.
It was Varun.
(To Be Continued)