The Five day affair ( the second part)

Wednesday

Ashwin was  disappointed. He had hoped that Ritu would come over and spend the  night at  his house as was the case whenever her parents went out of town.

These were special occasions that he had always looked forward to.

His mother would plan an elaborate menu .Both he and Ritu would help her prepare it. They would then fight for the television remote until his father intervened, giving her the first option to choose a channel. He would pretend to sulk and then proceed to  make nasty remarks about the program she had selected until she turned to complain to his mother. As single children both of them were used to having their own way. But on these occasions when she came to stay, Ritu was always the one who got hers.

She used to sleep with his grandmother whenever she stayed over. When he was younger, he had resented the fact that she competed with him for  his grandmother’s affection, but as they grew older he used to feel a strange closeness to her whenever lay down together with their heads on his grandmother’s lap listening to her rambling. As children they used to often fall asleep like that. But now that they were older, he had to go back to his room.

But she was not coming this time. Her mother had called to say that Ritu had said she could “manage” alone  by herself. She had just requested that Ashwin and his family were to “keep an eye” on her.

And Ashwin was doing just that!

He was on the terrace of his house, his binoculars trained on to a window on the opposite street. There was a small part of him which told him that he was guilty of “spying” on Ritu but he ignored that part. He had convinced himself that he was undertaking protective surveillance for his best friend. He was curious as to why she had wanted to stay by herself. He somehow felt that she was planning to meet this Mihir tonight. He wondered if she was planning to go up to his flat or if he was coming to hers or were they both planning to go out?

The window to her room was open and the curtains were drawn back. The room was lit by the soft glow of a table lamp. This was a room whose every nook and corner he was extremely familiar with. But somehow, from the spot that he was perched on now, it looked different. He  did not remember noticing anything other than the study table where they used to often sit and study together, the bookshelf that held all her books,  and “Bruno” the huge stuffed dog that sat on her bed. When had she acquired a dressing table with such a fancy mirror he wondered as his glance swept through the room.

Meanwhile, the bathroom door opened and Ritu came into view. She was wrapped in a towel her damp hair trailing water down her back. His breath quickened as he trailed his binoculars towards her. She was standing in front of the mirror applying lotion on her arms and then her legs.

He had never noticed how well formed her arms and legs were.!! He looked again at her legs- there was only one word for them –sexy! Those trousers and salwars that she always wore had never made it possible for the world to see them. And now, here he was finally seeing them…! But was he the first one to have seen them he wondered..What about this Mihir? Had he seen them too?

What she had told him yesterday near the library seemed to indicate that it was not exactly a platonic relationship. He looked into the binoculars again. She had switched off the light and nothing was visible anymore!

He felt a rush on anger..!! Who was this Mihir? He seemed to have come into  his world suddenly turning it  upside down…!!!

Thursday

He could not bear it anymore. She had ignored him completely on the bus ride to college. Even at college, rather than listening attentively as she usually did, she seemed to be dreamily staring outside of the window. She would occasionally look at the phone  smiling secretly! He wanted to get hold of that phone and smash it!!

He was rather disturbed by the way he was feeling. No, it was not jealousy he told himself. It was just the way she seemed to have excluded him from her life. She no longer came to his table at the canteen and no longer did she give him that secret look whenever Dr. Sharma mispronounced any word during the class. She  never replied to his text messages and did not take his calls. It was as if he did not exist.

She smelt different too.. there was a hint of some sort of musky perfume around her. And today she had come to college with a scarf tied around her neck. When he had asked her if it was a new style she had pulled him aside and removing the scarf  had whispered into his ears “Mihir gave this to me last night”.

Last night? When? After she had switched off the lights?

He was determined to know more about this mystery man in flat 5 B in her apartment.

Friday

He looked around quietly before he entered the lobby of her apartment. He did not want to be observed coming in. He slipped into the lift slowly and pressed the button labeled 5. It seemed like just seconds had passed before the elevator stopped on the fifth floor. He got out and stood facing flat no 5 B. The light below the doorway indicated that someone was in.

He felt a bit uneasy. It had been an impulsive decision. He was not sure what he would say when he faced this Mihir. But his mind was made up. He needed to atleast look at this fellow. May be he would say he was looking for Ritu and see what his reaction was.

He pressed the doorbell with more force than necessary. It seemed like eternity before it was opened. An elderly lady stood at the other side and asked “ Yes. What do you want”? He felt a bit nervous. He had somehow imagined that this Mihir lived alone.

“I am looking for Captain Mihir” he said shuffling on his feet.

“Not Captain Mihir, my boy. I am Air Commodore  Mihir. I retired twenty five years ago from the Indian air force ” said a  booming voice from behind the bedroom door as an elderly gentleman emerged from inside on a wheel chair. The loud voice was deceptive because the body was frail and small just fitting into the wheel chair.

“ Yes what can I do for you?” he asked.

“ I am sorry.. sir. I think I have the wrong Mihir” he said running out of the door. He did not wait for the lift but ran down the stairs almost slamming into someone on the third floor.

“Ashwin, why are you running like wild dogs are chasing you ?” asked Ritu’s father as he stood by the door.

“ I think he has just come back after visiting Mihir Uncle on the 5th floor. He must have scared him” said Ritu looking at him with a mischievous grin from behind the door.

“Come inside and stay for dinner. I am cooking tonight. Aunty has been held up in the office.”  said Ritu’s father pulling him inside their house.

“So how did you like Mihir?” whispered Ritu. He glared at her.

“ Don’t pretend you didn’t go there. You know, I may not have binoculars but I can also spy” she said winking at him.

He could feel his neck and ears flushing. God… she knew !

“How…did you?” he spluttered.

“Have you heard about mirrors? They have a property called reflection” she said with a giggle.

“ Ritu and Ashwin, could you both run down to the shop at the end of the road and get me some cloves and cinnamon?  I need them for the curry” said her father coming out of the kitchen.

“ No problem Uncle. I will go” he said trying to use the opportunity to escape.

“Wait Ashwin, I am also coming” she said following him  out of the door and into the lift as it stopped on their floor.

Mrs Mihir Roy shifted her husband’s wheel chair inside the lift to make room for them.

“ Hello Uncle. Hello Aunty” said Ritu as she squeezed into the lift.

“ Is this young man your friend?” asked the Air Commodore pointing at Ashwin.

“No .. I don’t know who he is” she said as she bent down and whispered theatrically into the old man’s ears . Both of them burst out laughing

Ashwin shot out of the lift as it reached the ground floor. Ritu ran behind to catch up with him.

“Ash please wait for me” she shouted.

“Tell me why did you do all this”? he asked turning around suddenly to face her!

“ I can’t believe that you don’t know” she said softly.

It seemed like a long time before he replied.“And I am glad that you know what I now know about myself” he said taking a step towards her.

“And what is it that you know about yourself now ” she asked teasing him.

“ Something that we can both tell our children someday ” he replied grinning at her.

“ You can tell your children if you want. I will not tell mine” she said laughing.

“ Too bad my dear because if I tell my children your children are bound to know” he said breaking into a run as Ritu chased him down the lane.

 Air Commodore Mihir looked indulgently in their direction as his wife pushed their wheel chair on the driveway.

“It is so nice to be young!” he  murmured, turning round to look at his wife with a smile.

( Have a great weekend folks !! 🙂 🙂 )

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The Five day Affair

Monday

Ashwin looked at Ritu sitting in the next row. She was dozing, her head nodding forward. He grinned quietly! He’d better warn her before Professor  Kumar caught her sleeping in his class.

“ Wake up you idiot! You know better than to sleep in Prof Kumar’s lecture!!” he wrote on a small slip of paper and nudged  before giving it to her.

Ritu took the chit , shrugging as she read it. Ashwin raised his eyebrows at her. She bent down to write something. Hah!!  “Nerd!! She must have been staying up late in the night studying. ” thought Ashwin waiting impatiently for the chit to make its way back  to him.

He wondered why? Was there a test that he was unaware of?

Ah, there… she was passing the chit back to him. He unfolded it as it reached him. What was her excuse he wondered.

” Can’t help it. Couldn’t get enough sleep for two nights in succession. You see, I am having an affair!” she had written.

His mouth dropped open! Was she joking? He looked at her. She smiled at him in a secretive manner her chin dimpling.

“Psst, what is this all about” he whispered, unable to contain his surprise.

“ Ashwin, what is going on at the back?” asked Professor Kumar suddenly becoming aware of the disturbance. “Oh nothing sir. Just shifting my position. This  bench.. it  is very uncomfortable”  he said uneasily.

“If you are very uncomfortable, you may leave my class” said the Professor Kumar angrily.

Ashwin could hear muffled laughter coming from two rows behind him. He glared at the fellows sitting there.  Thankfully, the bell rang and he was put out of his discomfort.

He made his way towards Ritu.

“Hey what is this? You say you are having a what? ”  he asked her disbelievingly

“ A love affair!  Something that you have been regularly having since class XII” she replied cheekily as she gathered her books and swept out of the room.

Ashwin stared at her retreating back. Yes, it was true that he was known as the school and now college Romeo. He couldn’t help it. Girls just flocked around him like bees to a pot of honey. At any given point in time he had about two girls competing for his attention and affection.  However, his life was an open book. He was not secretive like her!!

He felt betrayed! But he was not sure why he felt that way. Was it because she was having an affair or because she had kept it from him?

He had known Ritu since the time they were in kindergarten. They had both joined school on the same day ,had been together in the same class and section until the day they had  passed out of school.  Nobody was  surprised that they had joined the same college. Though they were constantly arguing about most things, they had always been the best of pals!  They lived in the same neighborhood and over the seventeen odd years that they had known each other, both their families had also become very close.

Ritu was the more academically oriented one among the two. She had always stood first in class right through school and now college. Ashwin, though not as  brilliant a student was an all rounder. He  was good at extra  curricular activities and was considered by everyone to have a lot of leadership qualities. By the time he was sixteen, he had started attracting a lot of female attention. He had quickly realized it  and cashed in on his new found popularity!

But Ritu was different. Though not exactly a tomboy, to him she was never a  “girl”. She was his best friend ! He could and did tell her everything. He was now hurt that she hadn’t told him about her “affair”!

And anyway, what the hell was this “Affair”? What did she mean? Nobody used this word anymore. It seemed sleazy. He preferred “relationship”.

Whatever it was , he needed to talk to her.

Tuesday

Ashwin was very irritated with Sonia. He wished she would stop talking. Sonia at the best of times was nothing more than a pretty face and now when he was preoccupied she seemed to be testing his patience These were the moments he wished he was invisible- or well.. visible only to those he wanted to be with.

He looked around for Ritu. Where was she? He had not been able to speak to her since the time she had made that shocking revelation yesterday. He had tried to locate her all over campus but she seemed to have vanished. Her gang of female friends seemed very vague about her whereabouts.

He looked out of the canteen window. It overlooked the basketball court. He wondered if he could tell Sonia that he had a match and slip out. But knowing her,  she would want to come with him and cheer. What should be say…?

“Sonia, wait here I will be back in a minute” he said as he left the table.

“Ash, where are you going?” she asked petulantly.

“To the library. Just remembered that I had reserved a book.!” he said and ran out.

He walked fast towards library. He was sure that this was one place where Sonia would not follow him. Books and Sonia were like chalk and cheese!

Where was Ritu?  “Why is she avoiding me” he thought looking down as he walked down the corridors leading to the library.

“Ouch!! You clumsy oaf! Why don’t you look where you are walking. You almost stamped on my foot” she screamed.

“Ritu!!”  he exclaimed with relief. “ I have been looking for you the entire day. Where have you been” he asked her.

“At college. Where else?” she said.

“Listen I need to talk to you” he said pulling her into a corner.

“Okay. Go on” she said impatiently.

“ What is this  thing about an affair? Who is this fellow? You never mentioned him before” he asked her angrily.

“ I didn’t know I had to seek your permission for this” she said sarcastically.

“But you can share your thoughts with a friend. Come on… I tell you everything about myself. Please .. tell me who is this  guy” he pleaded

“His name is Mihir. He is a pilot and he has just moved into flat 5B in our apartment. What else do you want to know ”. she asked.

“Oh everything!” he said grandly

But  when Ritu started telling him “everything” Ashwin was not sure he wanted to hear it all. He could not believe some of the things. It seemed like she knew this guy only for a couple of weeks. Yet, she seemed to speak about him in such a familiar manner.

“ Do your parents know?” he asked her.

“Why?” she asked challenging him

“Well.. you are interested in him aren’t you?” he replied.

“I will tell them when the time comes” she told him.

“Be careful” he told her.

“Why?” she asked him again.

“ You know he may take advantage of you” he told her

“Like how you take advantage of Sonia” she asked him with a grin.

Ashwin did not like the way this conversation was going. She was putting him in a spot.

“ Okay then, do whatever you want. It was my duty to warn you” he said in a huff.

“ You sound like a policeman” she said laughing… as she opened her bag, taking out a few things to make place for the book that she was carrying.

“What is this?” he asked eyeing her new iphone. She never carried anything other than a functional Nokia model.

“ Oh.. that was his gift. Hey give it back to me” she said  trying to retrieve it from him as he held it high up in the air.

“Ash, don’t be an idiot. Give me that  phone” she said jumping up in the air  to grab it from his hand. She missed a footing and almost tumbled down the two steps below them as he caught her.

“Steady..! No man is worth losing your balance over” he said with a grin. He was about to threaten her saying that he would read all her messages, when the phone rang.

She pulled it out of his hand, looked at the caller id and  exclaimed“ Mihir” before going a safe distance away from his hearing.

He watched her speaking over the phone. She looked happy and animated, in a way that he had never seen her before. He looked at the way she was twirling her finger around the lock of hair that fell behind her ears.  He saw her throwing back her head and laughing. Her skin looked flushed in the afternoon sun. He watched a bead of sweat trickle down her cheek.

Strange.. he had never noticed these things about her. How had she changed like this? Or was it him?

( There are three more working days to the week 🙂)