Disclaimer: Mild language rating. Trigger warning for self-harm and drug use.
"My girlfriend just broke up with me so", he asked with an extended pause, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", he nuzzled her hair taking in her spicy scent.
"Excuse me? Are you asking me to be your rebound?" She pushed him away, gently.
"Well, technically...", he swallowed on the nothingness in his throat, afraid of his friend's demeanor "We would both be each other's rebounds. I mean you and Rish...", he bit his tongue knowing it was too late to take back what was already out.
"Rishabh and I, well, I am bound by the sacred law", she chuckled sipping on the scent of her favourite brew. Madhu didn't realize when Simon had switched the hard liquor in favour of a six pack.
"Yeah, and what law would that be? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?" The laugh was awkward and short lived this time. Simon could swear he heard the pain in her breath. How he wished he had not abandoned her that weekend. Shucks! If he could go back in time, he would never leave her side. A Broadway play would never carry as much weight as saving a friend from committing a grave mistake. How he wished he had boarded that plane to Vegas with her even if that meant missing a chance at his now golden career. Too late. She was already head over heels for some other man; one who, atleast in his eyes, didn't deserve her.
"That's right. Although I bet if he ever got on my bad books and I leaked it on my news show, my boss would give me every promotion I wanted".
If you asked Simon, Rishabh should have been in her bad books a long time ago. The guy was a punk, to put it mildly.
"I have said it before and I will say it again. If you don't want to fight Bittuji over who gets the Bitch stole my look on TV first, you need to get a big break and move on to crime. You have a story, you are just too loyal to leak it".
"Tell me about your lady friends", she whispered struggling to keep the conversation on the softer side of the tongue.
"I am always open hun. Any time you want it, just the way you need it". He hummed on the tune of an insurance commercial he couldn't put his finger to. "Tell me, when was the last time you had a man over? Frat boys don't count", he gestured to their communal wall of shame from college.
"Come on. I am not your typical sorority sister. In fact, I only lived in the ghetto to save money. Never once did I let a de-classe idiot feel me up".
"Eh, don't say that shortie. You mai boo. Come 'ere, gimme some lovin'", he tried his best (not even close in actuality) impression of the Cambridge hood.
He was probably attempting to make her comfortable. He succeeded without much effort seeing as a smile worked its way across her lips.
"You were good back then. Raw, tight, always towering over me. I wish I had been a good girl and listened to what the men had to say".
There it was again. Her desperate cry for help. She didn't know it, he didn't know it either but, he felt it. She wasn't looking for a I told you so. But, she sure thought it was coming. They had all told her they were older, wiser and she should listen. She did the exact opposite. Love can be blinding that way. Then again, she had drugs in her system. He should have known she was high as a kite. Hell, he was still surprised how she got through TSA at Cambridge and then again in Nevada.
"I don't know Sy if I would have done it with any other man. Even you. When he came to my house that day, I was shooting up. Speed I think it was. He ignored it. Guess he had bigger problems. My last month before the bar exam. He looked like he was about to put a bullet through his skull".
He heard this dreaded tale every year around this time. Rishabh would do something stupid again. Then, he would have to clean up the clusterf**k he left behind. The guy really needed to get his act together. Atleast acknowledge the history between him and Madhu. But no, the ways of cowardice came easy to that bas***d. My hands and his throat, Simon almost said out loud. "It would be a pissing match if I get him alone. I swear to you".
"My hero", she planted a chaste kiss on his cheek. He knew it meant nothing to her but moments like this, made him feel weak in the knees. The woman was hell on heels and now, she was sitting on her side of his bed. Her side. Madhu had never claimed it but he had marked it for her. In his flings with the other women, in his hours of seclusion, in his deep dark dreams and waking moments, he had designated a side for her. In another life, she would come home to him, willingly.
"Let it out", he groaned. She wouldn't be done grievingly unless she told the full story.
"I loved him more then...I suppose. Plus, I wasn't exactly in the right state of mind. Nine coffees, a bottle of five hour energy and two speed injections downed on an empty stomach. I was flying. He said come away with me". Soft, sweet, honey tunes. God she felt sedated as he swayed her body side to side with the jazz record playing in the background. "I didn't say no so he didn't wait to get me on a plane. Next thing I know we're in a chapel waiting in line with a lesbian couple to get married. All said and done, it was just a tumble of sheets".
He shivered under her touch as her head hit hard against his muscles. Her warm tears damped his button down.
"Sugar bloomers. Baby. My blueberry muffin", he lifted her face by the chin. "The man who left you annulment papers by your bedside in an unknown city deserves an ass kicking. How dare he think he could take advantage of your addiction. That was my jurisdiction".
A genuine laugh. Simon gave himself a proverbial pat on the back for a job well done.
"So, how did you two make up?" He had asked this question atleast once every year only to be greeted with an achy silence. This time, however, she danced around the question. Different, not better.
"We didn't. How else did you think I dated your brother? Had Rishabh been around, Ritesh wouldn't have come near me. Too bad he is gay. I even named our babies".
"Yeah, what names would those be?"
"Minsk and Prague. Maybe Zaffran if we had a third one. Unisex, keeping it simple".
"So one dead cold city, another city under water city and a shitty spice. Glad they aren't born yet. The kids would have bullied the living hell out of them".
He could always get her fired up at the prospect of insulting her unborn litter.
"For your information, I happened to have lived in Minsk, visited Prague one times too many and put saffron in my morning tea without fail. I happen to like those things and so does the rest of the world minus odd jobs like you. Don't you dare say anything bad about my babies". She scoffed knowing how foolish her actions were.
"I think we should name your imaginary spawn something sophisticated...how about Kumquats?" He was expecting a half laugh, half frown. Instead, he noticed her listening to the faint background sounds. There was a knock on the door soon after.
Rishabh let himself in, looking for his drunken best friend. "Madhu?" She could taste the anticipation in his tone. "Is it because of our anniversary?"