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Kashish was dressed in form fitting dark blue jeans and a wide necked top which tended to slip off one narrow shoulder. Kashish was getting more comfortable wearing them, but she couldn't walk around putting all her assets on display. Kashish settled back in her chair at her favorite table, in the bistro near her office.
It was Friday and she was once again eagerly waiting for Akshay. But this time she wasn't going to ask for his affections. Ridhima and Kashish had decided that after the way he had behaved. Kashish had every right behave offended so Kashish wouldn't fawn or even smile at him. Kashish checked her watch it was 1.05 pm, quickly she went through all the strategies they had agreed upon and ordered a coffee for herself.
He might be late, Kashish thought after another 5 minutes, after all the coffee shop wasn't so easy to locate. Maybe she could go out and look for him if he was searching for her. But then she wasn't supposed to be desperate so she wouldn't look for him, this time he would come to her not the other way round.
Kashish finished her coffee in another 15 minutes sipping it as slowly as she possibly could, dreading every tick of the clock, hopeless realization looming over her head. Akshay wasn't coming.
Kashish slowly placed her cup on the table and hid her face in her hands. How stupid and idiotic can her heart be? Why can't she get it that Akshay is just playing around with her. Why was she so desperately attracted to him? Was Ridhima right that he had called her today just to spite her for being together with Sujal? Then why hadn't he even shown up to spite her properly?
Coz he knew it would hurt her much more by not showing up.
Kashish rested her arms in the table and rested her head in the crooked circle of her own misery. She wasn't going to cry. No she had promised herself and Ridhima no more tears. And she had developed enough spine that she didn't want to create in public either. But it was so damn hard.
Kashish drew a long scratchy breath over her clogging throat. Her eyes shut tight, determined not to let moister leak from it. Only, taking hallow breaths want working. Everything, all failures of her life kept replaying her mind. What more could she do? She had done everything hadn't she? Yet she had failed. Maybe she was a failure, she would never be enough and adequate for anyone, least of all for Akshay. Not even enough to be just good friends.
Kashish heard footsteps approaching her and wished desperately someone wouldn't ask her to empty the table. Sucking in a lung full of air Kashish contemplated if she should pretend to be asleep. Maybe then whoever it was approaching her wouldn't bother her.
"Are you sick? Don't tell me you got sick due to rain. Damn you are one delicate lady…", a very familiar voice drawled from over her head. Sujal.
"I am not sick.", Kashish choked out, in a voice thick with unshed tears, not raising her head to meet his eyes.
"Really? Your throat sounds pretty raw. Cold?" Sujal persisted hovering over her.
"I am fine! Just go." Kashish croaked, somehow the concern was not helping her with her teary situation at all.
"Uh huh.. And let me have your illness on my conscious? No way."
Akshay said and took hold on one of Kashish's wrist, before she could protest, Kashish tried jerking it away, but in her bowed position, it wasn't much of an attempt.
"Your pulse seems normal. Raise your head, let me see your temperature."
"I said I am fine just tired. Go Sujal. Please."
"No." Sujal pulled her upright forcefully and took one look at her face to see that she was having a sickness of very different kind.
Even then, he put a contemplative hand on her forehead to carry out the farce. "No fever." Sujal muttered as Kashish continued to stare at the table, her eyes swimming with tears which would fall any moment if Sujal didn't do anything.
"You done here?" Sujal asked even while he pulled her to stand up. Kashish didn't know what to say to that. Was she done here? It was 2.15pm, obviously, she had been stood up. She could go back to her apartment, working didn't look good today, but then the thought of an empty apartment didn't either. Feeling more miserable and lonely, Kashish tried to tug away from Sujal once again.
"I have to go." She muttered. Raising her hand to brush away a stray fallen tear.
Sujal stared at her, feeling angry enough to break several of Akshay's ribs. She was such a sweet little thing. Why did the guy not leave her alone? Why did he have to keep tormenting her?
"Kashish you going to cry?"
Kashish looked up surprised for a moment. Weren't you supposed to keep quite when you see the other person struggling for composure? But then maybe she was too pathetic to even earn that much respect.
"You mean you are trying not to?" Sujal pressed the subject.
Kashish nodded and another tear betrayed her resolve.
"You know the best way to keep those pearlies from falling?"
Kashish shook her head, she had tried everything, none was working right now.
"You just let them fly before they can drop. C'mon!" Sujal pulled Kashish away outside before she could say "oh!"
"Alright hold on to this. Guys are going to be mighty angry if you lose their lunch." Sujal shoved a big bag of takeaway from the bistro into her arms and put a helmet on her head. Kashish was bewildered at the sudden change of situation and it struck her to tell Sujal that, surprise can also make a person stop crying.
"Hop on." Sujal said as he pulled on his own helmet and sat on a very big nice shiny bike in Kashish's description. Sujal caught her staring and grinned, "My friend's, it's a Ducati, he agreed to let me ride him if I bought him sustenance. Now hurry up and hop on."
Kashish looked apprehensively and tried to get on the bike with the takeaway in both her hands
"What are you doing?! You don't sit with both your legs at one side, it's disrespectful to the bike." Sujal gently scolded her. Kashish wanted to balk and walk away, but she had nowhere to go and the aspect of being lonely made her tearful again. Telling herself that sitting behind a stranger on the bike couldn't be worse than kissing a stranger in a park. Kashish sat down straddling the bike. , keeping the food between them. But Sujal wouldn't let her, he put the food in the side bag he had installed and told her to hold him tight.
"Those tears still close to falling?" Sujal asked as he kick start the bike. Kashish was gingerly holding onto his shoulders, nodded.
"Then see them fly." Sujal said and went from 0 to 50 mph in 5 seconds flat. Kashish instantly held tighter and tried to hide her face behind Sujal's broad back, as wind whipped at her face, pulling strands of hair from her hairpins. Within 10 minutes. Kashish was holding onto her dear life as Sujal zoomed faster on the highway. Both hands wrapped tightly around his hard stomach, Kashish scooted closer, to hide her relatively tiny frame behind Sujal's broad back. Her hair was out of control now and was flying in a horizontal line behind her.
"Those things flying yet?" Sujal shouted over to her, above the noise of wind and bike. For a moment she wondered what he was talking about. He had turned into a daredevil on the bike, but realized then that it was about her tears which he promised won't fall. Well how could they? The strong wind whipped them out of her eyes before they could gather enough sorrowful bulk to drop. As soon as Kashish realized that she couldn't help but smile. Seemed like her sorrows her flying away with her tears too for now.
Within another 20 minutes of the mad ride, Sujal finally turned into an intersect, along the highway and then into an even smaller uneven road. Seconds later he stopped outside big house, it was a bit secluded from the rest of the area with big old trees and looked very private. It also looked under repair.
"This…. is my house", Sujal proudly told Kashish as they got off the bike.
"Your house?", Kashish took an astonished second look around. The house was a modest 2 storey place from outside, but it didn't belong to a rich, ostentatious, useless modern day Casanova.
"Why are you looking like that? You don't like it?", Sujal asked looking very apprehensive.. Apart from his closest friends Kashish was the first person he was showing is house too. He hadn't even planned upon showing it to her, it just happened and along the way Sujal realized that he didn't mind.
"Oh no! It's just that.. I thought you lived with your father. I wasn't aware you lived here. It a nice place but… doesn't the house need a front door?" Kashish said pointing to the place in the entrance where the front door should have been.
Sujal grinned and nodded, "C'mon.. It's under repairs.. I am not living here as yet." He told her dragging her towards the house, with a kid's enthusiasm.
"I bought this place 5 yrs ago.. My down payment is finally over and another few months it would be good enough to move in. not complete but, good enough. Some of my friends are coming over to help me fix the door… The house was in good condition when I got it.. The roof leaked here and there but the foundation and most of the structure is very sturdy so I didn't have to work much over it."
"Wow!!! You repaired he whole thing yourself!!! Awesome!! I didn't even know you were an architect!", Kashish exclaimed with dazzling, admiring smile.
Sujal nodded feeling prouder by the second, "I did work upon it myself, but I had help. And I am not an architect.."
"But you talk like you know everything about building houses. Plus you did work yourself. You must be so proud. I can't even imagine how satisfying it would be to own your own house."
"I.. well… yes I do… but umm. Kashish." Sujal suddenly stopped walking and turned towards Kashish looking very serious, in a totally different mood from seconds ago.
"What?" Kashish asked stopping to sensing the slight change.
"Don't.. I haven't told anyone about this. So I want you to not tell anyone either."
"About what? And who can I tell anyways?" Kashish asked looking around for some clue.
"This!! The house!" Sujal exclaimed.
"Oh!! The house. Oh ok. But since your friends and family already knows who's left to tell?"
"My.. family doesn't know.. Just don't mention about this to your sister or to anyone in the office ok?" Sujal said quickly turning away and once again started pulling her inside the house. While Kashish demurely followed. It didn't make sense to her. Not telling your family.. But then she had lied too. And she knew from gossip that Sujal didn't get along with his dad, so who was she to tell.
"Now this is the main hall. There's kitchen through there and there's the dining and drawing room over there and…" Sujal went off enthusiastically pointing and naming. And then as if that wasn't just good enough, he dragged her to see the rooms he had pointed.
Kashish was thoroughly impressed. Everything, every room, each wall seemed perfect too her and she told Sujal that, making him smile proudly. Back in India she lived in a huge house, a mansion. A place she got lost in as a child. It was so big that several rooms were always kept locked and opened and cleaned only when there were more than 15 guests. It was filled with all things her elders approved of and never were children allowed to change anything. Not the colors of wall, not the arrangement of furniture, not even the flower arrangement. It was strict and unbending.
While here, at Ridhima's house everything was nice, fresh and malleable, yet the two room apartment sometimes suffocated her. She wasn't a rich brat as she liked to believe. But she preferred to have bigger rooms and kitchens.
And now, this house. It was just perfect. Not too big neither too small. Old, but modernized. Firm, but accepting changes.
"I love it. It's the best house ever!" Kashish gushed for the 3rd time in 15 minutes and now lead around Sujal to whichever corner struck her fancy.
Kashish was full of complements and Sujal couldn't help but feel proud. This house was everything he had worked for. Everything the world didn't know he was. He had hid it from his parents coz he didn't want their opinion on how it wasn't grand enough and good enough to be the house of governor's son. He didn't want their opinion spoiling anything. In truth he was afraid that the house wasn't all that he was imagining it to be. He was afraid that it was ugly run down place all its grandness was nothing but just that, his imagination.
Now he couldn't be gladder that he had brought Kashish along. Her happy expressions and the praises she was singing made him want to take her in his arms and kiss her for a long time.
"Sujal?" Kashish said looking expectantly and Sujal realized with shock that he had been daydreaming and that too about kissing Kashish. Running hand through his hair Sujal told his brain to focus and return to reality. Of all the wildest thing he could imagine..
"Sujal?!" Kashish said impatiently tapping her foot.
"Oh yah. Sorry you were saying?" Sujal asked and gave himself a mental kick to wake up.
"I asked if this room is your office. You didn't say what this one was for."
Sujal looked around and sure enough he was intending this room to be his office. Though he had no idea how Kashish knew or why she even believed he would have an office. For the whole world he maintained a strict lazy, no-good, unemployed image.
"Whatever made you think this can be office? I don't even work." Sujal said firmly. Hoping to drive the point at the same time feeling strangely happy that she didn't believe him to be worthless like everyone else.
"After your bedroom this is the most complete room in the house. It's sort of official looking, it has a desk. And you work. I know that. You may not be an architect. But you don't sit around. You are too… I don't know… it just doesn't fit in, you not working.."
"It fits enough for the whole world." Sujal muttered and continued, "And so what if it's an office. You have problem?"
Kashish nodded and Sujal's jaw dropped to the floor.
"It isn't good practice to have your office at home. You know. Haven't you heard about keeping your professional and personal life separate?"
"But why should I travel 20 minutes to go to my office when I cud do all my work form here."
"Oh so your job is like that? Never mind, that's not the point. It's hard to explain…" Kashish said looking around and pacing the length of the room.
"It is hard to explain coz you don't have a valid answer." Sujal said leaning against the desk he had already brought for the room and watching her pace.
"No. It just that… Oh how do I say… Umm suppose you didn't feel like going to office someday or say something happen at work that makes you angry and you want to get away. Then your home should be the place where you can find peace. But if it's one and same..U can't use the one to escape the another. Am I making sense?" Kashish paused walking and looked at Sujal.
Sujal grinned at her serious expression and straightened, "Strangely enough I think I understand what you are saying. I go to.. I have places to go to when I want to get out of my house.. So I thought if make that place at home it would be best. I didn't consider where I could go if I wanted to get away from that place too."
"So why don't we make it a study?" Kashish nodded and smile with her eyes. Already imagining books stacked to the height of walls.
"Study?" Sujal grimaced. The word study reminded him of school and tests.
"Yes, you know. Like they you used have in old days.. A library sort of place. You keep references of important things here and if you bring some work home you can work here. A study cum library. Are you getting what I am trying to say?"
Sujal again nodded and smiled in wonder over the fact that he did understand what she was saying and actually liked her idea.
Before they could discuss more about former office now study room, Sujal heard cars arriving and pulled Kashish outside to met his friends.
Kashish saw men coming out of cars and instinctively took a step closer to Sujal which half hid her. She wasn't comfortable meeting strangers.
They all came forward smiling and rudely staring at Kripa. Even before they could reach them, Kashish saw that they all were widely amused by something and Sujal was frowning in direct proportion to their broadening smiles.
They all came forward one by one and introduced themselves politely to Kashish until the last one took her hand and asked, "Do u still kiss guys in park? I'll jog if you will be there." The man winked and let go of her hand and blood rushed to her face and pounded in her temples. Kashish heard Sujal mutter and some scuffing but she was too embarrassed to look up and see what was going on. Worse yet, she had never imagined what others would think of her brazen behavior. Just coz she had kissed Sujal didn't make her the type of girl who would kiss anyone again and… Kashish felt her eyes blurring and moisture gathering.
"Kashish!! Don't! He's an idiot, he was only teasing!" Sujal said growing alarmed and grabbed Kashish by her shoulder. Kashish shook her head and stared at the ground. Trying hard not to mess the situation anymore by crying like silly girl she was.
"Look what you did!!" Sujal glared angrily at his friend Stephan, who looked quite guilty himself. He had only been teasing. He never thought that it could be taken as a comment on her character.
"I am sorry Ms. Kashish. I didn't mean it that way.. What I meant was that… was that anyone wud be glad to have…come to your rescue.. What I was trying to say was that Sujal is one lucky dog.." Stephan said and saw murder in Sujal's eyes. Today just didn't seem to be his day.
Before Sujal to kick Stephan for the insult he heard Kashish giggle and felt relief and surprise at the same time. He raised his brows in question when Kashish looked up but she shook her head. Laughter sparkling in her eyes.
Sujal started to frown as Kashish unsuccessfully continued to hold back her laughter and Sujal knew he was the butt of her private joke.
Stephan too feeling the lightness smiled at Kashish and extended his hand again, "Am I forgiven?"
Kashish smiled and nodded shaking his hand again.
"Alright. What are you imagining? Out with it." Sujal said roughly turning Kashish to him. He didn't like her sharing any sort of private joke with Stephan.
"You wouldn't want to know."
"I can handle it."
"I imagined kissing a big, shaggy, tail wagging, sheep dog to make Akshay jealous and the whole thing actually working."
"Shaggy? Sheep dog?! Tail Wagging!!" Sujal sputtered. He couldn't decide whom to pound first. Stephan for introducing the idea or Kashish for imagining the whole scene.
"Well, Kashish maybe you can make him a golden retriever with is coat freshly brushed?"Stephan laughed and ran and Sujal followed him. Kashish giggled some more and then stopped suddenly. She couldn't believe she had just joked about kissing dig and people in public around completely strange men. By god! Surely something took over her mind whenever Sujal was round to make her behave like this.
A little while later everyone settled down to eat the food Kashish and Sujal had brought and then Kashish watched them try hard to put the gate on the front of the house. After half an hour of trying. Kashish decided to join in and read the instructions from the manual and directed everyone. After much shifting, shouting, cursing and joking they finally got the door correctly in its place and when Kashish looked at the time again 2 hrs had passed.
"No doubt this took you 5 yrs to repair, if this is how you go about it.." Kashish commented silently to Sujal as they saw everyone off nearly another half an hour later.
"Yah well… Now you can believe me that I ain't no architect.." Sujal giggled his brows and Kashish smiled.
After locking up the place, Sujal and Kashish too decided to leave. This time in Sujal's own car. 15 minutes later Sujal looked over and saw Kashish absently smiling at the scenery. He didn't want to spoil her mood. But it was important he do it.
"So would you tell me what happened when I saw you at the bistro?"
Kashish's smile disappeared instantly and her whole face looked downcast. Sujal felt guilty for making her sad, but he just had to know.
"I got stood up by Akshay. It shouldn't have mattered. I mean… it's just that… he called me this time and asked for the meeting. I never thought he would.."
Sujal cursed long under his breath and tightened his hold on the steering imagining it to be Akshay's neck.
"It's so silly. Ridhima even told me forehand it was all to get even with me. She told me he wanted to humiliate me. Somewhere I even knew this would happen and yet like fool I went over. It's so pathetic. Why can't I get over him? Why do I keep hoping?"
"I really don't know. And don't let him humiliate you anymore. When you get back today, Call him and tell him you are sorry if you made him wait at the bistro. Pretend you never showed up. That way he'll-"
"Oh Sujal!! That's perfect! Wow! Ofcourse I'll do that. It will be perfect. But what should I do if he asks me out again?" Kashish asked jumping up and down in her seat. Now that she was considering another strategy.
"Dump him. What else?" Sujal asked giving her a cursory glance. She must be crazy to think he would be helping her to get that creep.
"Sujal… that wasn't fair. But know what? I am gonna tell him no. I'll tell him I am too busy to meet him next time. And then I'll say yes next to next time."
Sujal shook his head and fought the desire to bang it against the steering wheel. For all her intelligence and perceptiveness, WHY? Just why did she have to be stuck with Akshay?
"Kashish seriously. Can't you see he isn't good enough for you?"
"He is… He isn't all that bad. I know I was stupid in the beginning to believe that he is all good. Now I know better but there is still a lot of good in him and I can't.. It's like.. I don't know. I keep hoping that he would come back to me and maybe that will change everything for better."
"I doubt he is going to change Kashish." Sujal said sadly and heard Kashish sigh audibly.
"You know, these days I sometimes think he is like cigarette and I am a chain smoker."
"Well then I hope you do also understand how bad he can be for you Kashish. Coz trust me he is no better than a cigarette either."
Kashish nodded and looked away from him. Sujal too decided to shut up and drove quietly until they arrived outside Kashish's house.
"Bye and thanks for everything. I enjoyed a lot today and you have gr8 friends." Kashish said sincerely and started to get out. Sujal watched her opening the door and somehow his hand moved and stopped her before his brain could think why.
"What happened? Did you want something?" Kashish asked turning around to look at him.
Sujal shook his head, trying to sort out quickly what he really wanted.
Oh in general he wanted his parents to quit nagging him, he wanted everyone to praise and compliment his house, he wanted world peace, he wanted Kashish to forget ever meeting Akshay. But he wasn't getting any of that…
"Kashish…you should… You…"
Kashish sat patiently gazing at Sujal like patient 1st grade teacher.
"Hell damnit!!" Sujal uttered and started fumbling through his pockets. Finally came up with Stephan's business card and wrote his personal no. at back of it.
"Here take this." He said stuffing the card in Kashish's hands, "It's my number. Call me if that idiot gets you in a scrape again."
"Sujal I don't-"
"Keep it Kashish. And we are friends right? Call me if you ever want me to break his nose ok?" Sujal said light heartedly but at the same time dreading the future. He had bad feeling that Kashish was going to get in big trouble.
"I don't know what you think I will be getting into. But thanks. I'll call you when I need your advice." Kashish smiled and slid out before Sujal could retract his offer for that sort of help.
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