Joined: 24 May 2010
Joined: 24 May 2010
Well, this wasn't how I saw the night turning out at all. I was sitting in a booth at the back of the diner on 12th. It was a bright red vinyl booth with seats that squeaked when you moved but it wasn't altogether un-charming. It was warm and smelled like freshly baked bread.
The bells hanging above the front door jingled and I looked up reflexively, a mix of feelings at the sight of Samrat. I was happy not to be eating alone but I wasn't all that pleased about it being him. Who was I kidding? I was pleased that it was Samrat coming through the door, running his fingers through his rain soaked hair as he scanned the restaurant for me. I was just confused as to why I was happy to see him.
He grinned when he saw me and I grinned back. I was just excited to hear if he had completed his step in the prank against Adhiraj. That's probably all it was.
"Hey." he greeted as he scooted into his side of the booth. The seat squeaked and I chuckled.
He took his coat off and pushed his sleeves up to the elbow, resting his forearms on the table.
"What's good here?" He asked. "I've never been here before but I drove passed earlier and liked the cobble stone pathway in front."
I looked down at my menu, scanning the columns of food although I had already decided what I wanted. That hamburger was calling my name from the bottom of the fourth column.
"You picked it because it had street appeal?" I asked, not looking up.
He didn't even pause.
"Of course." He said easily. "You've never done that? Just picked a place because you liked the paint color or something and took a chance?"
I looked over the menu, raising one eyebrow.
"No." I said slowly.
He shook his head as if that was a true shame.
"Well you should try it some time." He told me, looking down at his own menu. "Even if the food is terrible you'll have a story to tell."
I didn't say anything. He made a good point. But I found it baffling that he was looking for adventure even in the mundane areas like finding a restaurant.
"What's the worst that could happen?" He asked.
I think the question was rhetorical but I answered anyway.
He chuckled and I smiled faintly, looking down at my hands. It made me happy that I could make him laugh. He had a very nice laugh. Warm and melodious with a hint of that husky tone. I guess even carjackers and annoying people could have nice laughs.
"Well, then you barf a few times and you're all good again." He shrugged. "Worst that happens is hospitalization and then you definitely have a story to tell."
He unrolled his fork and spoon from the napkin in front of him, shaking his head to himself as if remembering. I wondered if this had ever actually happened to him. But it also reminded me he was one of the most immature people I knew. Other than Adhiraj of course and I was pretty sure that couldn't be helped. Suhu told me he was dropped on his head as a very small child. I wasn't sure she was kidding.
"And then you could always sue them." I brought out helpfully.
He pointed the fork he had been fiddling with at me.
"See." He said. "There's always a silver lining."
"Are you two ready to order?"
I looked up to see a waitress standing beside our booth, her pad and pencil poised. She had light black hair with a big strip of dark blue through her bangs. She had rosy cheeks and a stud in her nose that glittered when she moved her head to brush her blue hair away.
"I want the hamburger and fries please." I said, eying her. She looked rebellious and fun. She was probably just Samrat's type. His eyes stayed trained on the menu though, looking through the different selections. He'd been talking this whole time and I guess he hadn't picked what he wanted yet.
"And a strawberry shake." I remembered right as she was about to turn to Samrat.
She nodded, jotting it down.
"And you, Handsome?"
Samrat looked up. His hair was drying now and it was wildly curly and unruly. He didn't look irritated or anything by her comment though. He ran his fingers through his hair, shrugging sheepishly.
"Medusa has nothing on me." He said jokingly before looking back at the menu. The waitress laughed lightly as did I. Then we both looked at each other. She looked apologetic like she thought she had offended me somehow.
"You know what?" Samrat said suddenly, causing us both to look at him. He closed his menu and held it out to her. "Surprise me."
She furrowed her brow.
"Really?" She asked. "You don't care?"
He shrugged, reaching out for my menu.
"I hate to admit but I was distracted talking to the lady here." He said, brushing his fingers over mine as he took my menu for me. "And I didn't even really look at the selections. I know you're busy. Just pick something for me."
She took the menus, smiling wickedly.
"That's mighty adventurous of you, Handsome." She snickered.
He didn't seem bothered.
"If I'm poisoned I'll know who to blame."
He turned his attention away from her and looked at me, grinning.
"I could always sue right?" He winked.
I nodded, smiling despite myself.
"It would be some story to tell." I teased.
He laughed, leaning back in the seat.
"Now that's the spirit!"
At some point during this exchange the waitress had left without us noticing. I leaned back in my seat as well, regarding him over my steepled fingers. He was always surprising me.
"So, you weren't having fun at the bachelor party huh?" I asked, making conversation.
He shuddered, wrinkling his nose.
"Remind me never to go to a party hosted by Adhi ever again."
I chuckled. I could only imagine.
"I'll make a mental note."
"I'm pretty sure Mayank is pissed at him now." He said idly.
I raised one eyebrow, my attention piqued.
"Why is that?" I asked.
One of his shirt sleeves had fallen down and he pushed it back up again, his mothers name coming back into view. I wondered if he had any more tattoos...
"Because he hired a stripper after we both told him not to." He said simply. "Mayank was pretty much hiding in the bathroom when I left."
My eyes widened and I laughed, imagining Mayank cowering behind a locked bathroom door in some dingy bar.
"He was probably in there texting Nupur or something." He said.
I nodded. That was fully probable.
"I don't know if she'd answer." I snickered. "Their guest of honor was about to arrive when I snuck out the back door."
He stopped fiddling with his silverware, looking up at me. His eyes looked shocked.
"They hired a stripper too?" He asked, his voice hushed. I laughed at his expression.
"Suhaani." I said in explanation.
He shook his head.
"Man, she and Adhi are alike sometimes."
"It's scary really." I agreed.
"So you didn't want to stay to see the... guest of honor?" He asked, smirking at me slightly.
I blushed, clearing my throat.
"Who says I didn't?" I challenged.
He raised an eyebrow.
"Because you're here with me?"
It came out as a question and I blew out a breath, feeling like I'd been caught. What he'd caught me at I wasn't sure.
"No." I said, feeling like I was admitting to something. Why was this so uncomfortable? "I didn't."
I decided to turn the attention to him. See how he likes it.
"And you're here with me instead of watching some half dressed floozy waltz around?" I matched his smirk with one of my own.
He looked highly amused, actually laughing.
"Well, quite colorful opinions you have there, Beautiful Gunjan." He chuckled, his eyes crinkling in the corners. I frowned. I saw that going differently.
He saw my expression and smiled kindly at me, his features soft and warm.
"Of course I'd rather be here with you."
I opened my mouth and closed it again. I had expected him to make excuses or laugh it off. Maybe distract me with another plot of revenge. I had not expected him to take the question so seriously. As a matter of fact I hadn't known he could be serious.
"Am I interrupting an aw moment?"
I looked up to see the waitress with blue hair standing beside the booth again, looking between the two of us with a somewhat sheepish look.
I shook my head and sat back. When had we gotten so close? It wasn't until that point that I realized we had bee leaning across the table towards each other.
"It was an aw moment." Samrat sighed, pretending to be put out. He grinned at me. "And I'm afraid we don't have a lot of those."
He leaned towards her, stage whispering. But he kept his eyes on me, a wicked grin on his face.
"I don't think she likes me too much." He confided.
The waitress just smiled, setting our plates in front of us.
"Let me know if I can get you anything else." She chuckled.
"So the ad is placed." He told me, watching my expression.
"Adhi is going to be so mad."
He nodded, again not seeming bothered. It didn't impress me. It made me want to push him past his limits and see if I could make him mad. Almost like the child left alone with a button they know they're not supposed to push. The temptation was just too much.
"Did you get a chance to grab his phone?" He asked.
"Yep." I nodded smugly. "I grabbed it when he was helping Suhu with the streamers."
He looked very pleased but before he could say anything his phone beeped. He looked down, sighing.
"Is everything okay?" I asked.
He looked up.
"Everything's fine." He said. "It's just work."
I tilted my head to the side, curious. Of course he works. But what is it that he does? It was a kind of revelation. So he doesn't just go around pranking people and generally just being annoying.
"What do you do for work?" I asked.
"I'm an EMT."
My mouth dropped open. He fiddled with his phone for a moment, typing something and clicking send. He stuffed it into his pocket and looked up. That's when he saw my face.
"What?" He asked, his eyebrows pulling arcs above confused eyes.
"You're just- you're so"
"Charming?" he supplied.
I rolled my eyes.
I crossed my arms over my chest, staring him down.
"You sound like a movie review."
"I was thinking more along the lines of... immature?" I said.
He placed his hands over his heart, pouting at me.
"I am wounded." He said, feigning hurt.
"See." I pointed out. "That's what I'm talking about."
"Immature." I concluded.
He shook his head, letting his hands drop.
"Is that why you don't like me?" he asked.
"So, you're an EMT." I changed the subject.
He shot me a look that said he knew full well I had just changed the subject and I shrugged. I didn't know why I didn't like him actually. Maybe it was because human nature is to take that first impression and run with it. Maybe it was because of his cocky one sided grin. Maybe it was because he couldn't take anything seriously. Maybe it was because he never said no to a dare. Or maybe it was his stupid Converse sneakers that he wore with absolutely everything.
He sighed, realizing I wasn't going to discuss our previous topic any further.
I nodded, pleased that he was going to go along with it.
"How did you get into that?"
He leaned back, placing his hands behind his head, and kicking his feet out under the table. The tip of his big footed shoe bumped my feet, jarring me so much that my chin fell off my hands resting on the table. I scowled at him causing him to chuckle.
"One-one." he said, almost to himself. Oh so it was going to be like that huh?
"My father is a doctor." He said. "Mayank's dad is a doctor too. It's kind of the family business. But it wasn't all that exciting."
I corked an eyebrow. I'm surprised he wasn't a bungee jumping instructor or something.
"Being a doctor wasn't exciting enough?"
He shrugged as if to say, eh.
"Everyone else was already doing it." He said simply. "I didn't want to do something just because it was expected of me. But I did like the idea of helping people so..."
"EMT it is." I finished for him.
I regarded him for the rest of dinner, studying the man sitting across from me. He was a sarcastic, rebellious, tattooed, EMT who knew nothing of cars and loved his mother. I'm guessing there wasn't a manual for things like this. But my curiosity was definitely piqued.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked finally.
I blushed, looking down at the table. Quick! Come up with something sarcastic so he doesn't think you're staring because he's gorgeous. Yeah, that's all he needed, a boast of self confidence. I inwardly rolled my eyes.
"All throughout dinner you've been looking at me weird." he continued, not letting it drop.
"Are you afraid of eye contact or something?" I asked finally, forcing myself to look at him. I held his gaze almost rebelliously.
He smirked, leaning towards me.
"As a matter of fact I quite like eye contact." He said, raising one eyebrow.
My breath hitched but I held his gaze because I could not lose this round- especially if he was keeping score.
"You're eyes have a bit of gold in them." he said after a moment.
He pointed to my eyes, still not looking away. If anything he looked more intently.
"Your eyes." He repeated. "They're mostly this chocolaty color but there's gold flecks around the iris."
I closed my eyes without thinking of who would win. That was oddly observant. And I had gold eyes? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
"I was looking at you because I'm curious." I admitted, scowling at myself as I lost another round. Why did he always have the upper hand?
"Curious about what?" He asked.
What was I curious about? Everything. He was a complete and utter mystery to me. The only thing I was certain about was that he probably wasn't good for me. I'm surprised he hasn't shown up on a motorcycle with a leather jacket or something. That would be a sight to see though. And yet he didn't even fit that persona. He wasn't really the bad boy cliche. He was just... him.
I let out a frustrated breath, eying him cynically. I was even confused about what I was confused about!
"Is that your only tattoo?" I asked finally. Well, I was curious about that! And that was easier to put into words.
A strange look crossed his face and he raised his eyebrows at me. He steepeled his fingers together and eyed me devilishly over the top.
"That's what you've been sitting there thinking about all this time?"
Someone threw the brakes on my inner monologuing. Wait! Screech!
"No!" I said, a little too loudly.
"Don't hmm me!" I scowled.
"I have two others." He notified me.
I couldn't help my eyes from sweeping over him. There were two little people sitting on my shoulders- one wearing a robe and very stylish shoes. The other was wearing a red skin tight dress, brandishing a pitch fork. The pitch fork chick was begging me to ask where. The angel didn't say anything because she was ogling Samrat.
I shook my head, hoping to knock them both off my shoulders and maybe jiggle my brain around enough that something connected up there.
He raised one eyebrow.
"Wanna know where?"
"NO!" I practically shouted. Yes!
He laughed, reaching over for the bill. When had the waitress brought the bill?
"So, it's your turn." He said idly as he looked over the total.
"My turn?" I asked incredulously.
He nodded without looking up.
"I told you about my mother. You told me about eating the marshmallows out of the cereal." He recited. "The I told you I had two other tattoos."
I wrinkled my nose.
"I didn't know I'd have to repay with an answer of my own." I sounded like a whiny child.
"Of course you do." He answered, pulling a twenty out of his wallet and putting it in the folder with the bill. I frowned.
"I can pay for myself." I insisted, reaching out for the folder. "What do you want to know?"
He whacked my hand away, putting his wallet back in his pocket.
"I'm paying." He said, matter of fact. "And I want to know... what did you go to college for?"
"You couldn't just ask Mayank?" I frowned, eying that bill like I could magically make it appear in front of me. Dang! Looks like my Jedi mind powers are rusty these days. "We all went to the same college."
I reached for the bill but he slapped my hand away again.
"I don't want him to tell me." He said easily. "I want to hear these things from you."
I rubbed my hand.
"Will you stop doing that!"
He just grinned, shaking his head to himself as he stood.
"I majored in English literature." I said. "I wanted to be a book editor."
He stretched his hands over his head and then held one out for me to help me stand. I eyed it suspiciously.
"This isn't a trick is it?" I asked. "Are you going to smack me again?"
He shot me a look.
"First of all I didn't smack you." He said. "I... shooed you hand away."
I frowned. And he says I'm fond of my technicalities.
"Fine." I allowed. "Are you going to shoo my hand away?"
I could just see him pulling his hand back quickly as I reached out. Psych! It sounded like something he'd do. And knowing me I'd fall back into the table and break the restaurants valuables.
"Are you going to try to hijack the bill again?" he countered.
I rolled my eyes.
"Would it work?"
He shook his head. I sighed.
"No." I relented. I'd find a way to pay him back. The evil shoulder devil told me to slip the ten I had into his back pocket. I rolled my eyes at her. She was always getting me in trouble. I didn't listen to her good, admittedly boring, sister enough. She was practically silent now, knowing I'd take the bad angles side anyway. I made a quick note to work on that. God, I needed therapy. This could not be natural.
He grinned wide, a dimple showing in his cheek.
"Then no." He said. "I will not try to shoo your hand away."
I reluctantly took his hand and he hauled me to my feet. I pulled it back as soon as I was upright, secretly shaking it behind my back. Stupid tingles! My body obviously hasn't gotten the message from my brain that I don't like him yet.
He put a hand on my back, walking to the front where our blue haired waitress was waiting for us at the register. He shook his head, mumbling something to himself that sounded like, "a five minute inquisition just to help her up."
I narrowed my eyes. Infuriating man!
"Keep the change." Samrat told her.
"Thanks." She said. "Do you want to buy a teddy bear for your girlfriend? The money is donated to the local hospital."
"I'm not his-"
"Sounds good." He cut me off. He slung his arm around my waist, leaning his cheek on my head. "My sweetums loves teddy bears."
I glared into the distance.
"I prefer chocolate." I said dryly.
He laughed, taking a step back- probably sensing that he was about two seconds away from losing a very valuable appendage. The waitress raised one eyebrow.
"Okay..." She said, looking between the two of us. "Well, it's five dollars a bear."
He didn't hesitate. He gave her a ten dollar bill, telling her to keep the change.
"Shashank works at that hospital." He said in explanation. I nodded. Shashank was Jasper's dad. I'd met him a couple of times. He seemed nice.
It had stopped raining by the time we went back outside thankfully. There were still rain clouds on the horizon though. I was about to turn to Samrat and say good bye when he leaned against me truck and looked at me without amusement for once. He looked honestly curious which confused the heck out of me. I was about as interesting as watching paint dry or the grass grow. What was there to be curious about?
"What are you doing now?" He asked. "I was just wondering since you said you wanted to be an editor."
"You caught that huh?"
He just nodded, patting the hood next to where he was resting. I hesitated for a moment before going to stand beside him.
"I was going to be an editor." I said. "I actually got a job offer but right after college my dad got shot while in pursuit and I came back here to take care of him."
"He's a police officer?"
I shook my head.
"No. He was the robber."
His eyebrows shot up and I snickered. That's one for Gunjan, score keeper!
"He was the police chief." I conceded. "He never went back to that. Took an early retirement."
I had kind of insisted on that. Hearing that Dad had been hurt was one of the worst experiences in my life. I had been inconsolable for a while, not knowing if he was going to pull through. It had been a long journey, loaded with physical therapy and relearning basic mobility.
"So instead I took a job with some lousy card company and now I write condolence cards from home and send them in." It wasn't exactly what I foresaw for myself but I wanted to stay close to my dad while he was recovering. He needed me. That was a little over a year ago.
"Condolences?" He asked. He sounded almost incredulous.
"I can be comforting!"
He didn't look convinced.
"I'm okay at being comforting." I allowed.
He laughed. I smiled faintly.
"It's not Hallmark or anything." I conceded.
"So, where did you go to college?" I asked, trying to get away from analyzing my personal life. The further away we got the happier I'd be.
My eyes widened.
"Don't be so surprised." He tisked. "I'm brilliant."
I rolled my eyes.
"That's not what I was insinuating." I didn't sound convincing.
He just nudged me with his elbow, smirking at me so that I knew he wasn't offended.
Of course not! Not Mr. Nothing Bothers Me.
"So, it's your turn again it looks like." he said happily.
"Can't you just have a normal conversation?"
He thought about it for a moment before shaking his head.
I made a face at him.
"Sorry, Truck Napper. I've got to go now." I said, making my way to the drivers side of my truck.
He chuckled, opening the door for me. I was slightly surprised he was going to let it go so easily.
He didn't close the door though after I was inside.
"I only have one little question for now."
Oh. I spoke too soon.
"What is it?" I sighed.
He smirked. It made me want to hit him. But not as much as before. Progress is progress right?
"You prefer chocolates." He quoted me from inside when he was buying the bear for charity. "What's your feelings on flowers?"
What? Where does he get this stuff? Even my shoulder angels were confused now. I shot them sympathetic looks. I knew what they were going through.
"I like daisies. I'm not a big fan of carnations because they're too frilly. It's unnatural."
"I don't have a garden or anything and all the flowers in my house are plastic because I kept forgetting to water the real ones."
He didn't say anything for a moment, just looking at me as if studying me.
"You, Ms. Bhushan, are a very interesting woman." He said finally.
Interesting? Is that good or bad?
"Is that anything like, 'loony'?" I asked, smirking. "Because that word gets thrown around a lot these days."
He laughed, shaking his head.
"No." He chuckled. "Not loony. Just unique."
Before I could say anything he handed me the bear he had bought and closed the door.
"Daisies." He called through the glass. "No carnations."
He took a step back, grinning at me.
"I'll keep that in mind."
Then he waved and got into his own car, that stupid shinny Volvo. How is it shinny right after a rainstorm? God, even his car has the attractive without trying look. He probably tries really hard for that good looking without trying look. I rolled my eyes at myself.
I couldn't just stick around him because of my curiosity. Unique he calls me? Yeah, that's what I was thinking about him.
NOTE: Don't forget to comment if you want the next chapter. Much love.
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