I cupped Abir’s face in my hands and kissed him. He didn’t respond. I recoiled in shame. His look would haunt me forever. If there was a word for sympathy mixed with scorn, that was it! I felt my world crashing down that day.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Narayani Manapadam is one of the winners for the April 2021 Muse of the Month, and wins a Rs 750 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web.
I sip my Bloody Mary, while my eyes scan the discotheque. A DJ is churning out Baadshah hits, and the couples have taken to the dance floor, gyrating to Punjabi lyrics. I wince at the words – vodka, bottle, rum, trance. Ironic, isn’t it? For it’s been two hours since I am here, and I have not exactly subsisted on orange juice.
A man with a tattooed hand winks at me, and I raise my glass to him. Should I make the first move? But I decide against it. Let me celebrate my latest breakup in style!
My solitude amidst the madding crowd is interrupted by a group of giggling girls. The one in the centre is the prettiest of them all. Dressed in a peplum black dress, her red streaked hair cascades down to her slender shoulders. Her kohl laden eyes widen when they recognise me, and her bee stung lips form into a broad smile.
“Rooooooop,” June squeals, rushing to me, arms outstretched. I refrain from grimacing, and reciprocate her hug.
All of a sudden, memories, which had been pushed away to a remote corner of my brain, come gushing in like a stream of gurgling water meandering aimlessly.
They include Abir as well.
The peon of Model School rings the bell, signalling lunch time. A lanky girl takes out her box containing Maggi. Her teeth are covered in braces, and huge round glasses bigger than her oval face are perched on her nose. Her hair is neatly braided.
She doesn’t eat her food, but waits for her best friend. As June saunters in, Rupali can’t help but admire her blemish free skin.
“Is Abir absent today?” she inquires, as June hands over her tiffin containing cheese sandwich.
“Yes, he is not keeping well.”
Rupali tries to look the other way. How come June is aware of every minute detail in Abir’s life? Is something going on between them? She has often toyed with the idea that she should tell June about her feelings for Abir Bose. But somehow courage has always eluded her!
“Have you come to the disco alone, Rups?” asks June. There seems to be a genuine concern in her voice. I try to push that nagging thought aside.
I smile. There’s absolutely no need to fill in the details of the string of flings I have had. She will not understand. However, deep inside me, I know it’s not the reason. I am scared. No! I am jealous.
She is unaware of the heartbreak I had endured when I caught her stealing a kiss from Abir during a college fest. How often have I dreamt of his chiselled naked body atop me, shuddering as he climaxed inside me?
“It helps to be alone in a pub sometimes, you see,” I wink at her. My voice quivers, and I laugh out loud to hide any traces of nervousness that could make June suspicious.
“Care to join us, Rup? We are celebrating my promotion at my workplace.”
I shake my head. “We will raise a toast later, dear. You know I don’t like to talk to strangers.” June nods. She has always been the topper, the go-getter, the social media savvy queen. I do not even have a Facebook account.
But June decides to take a seat next to me. “I think I will join my colleagues in five minutes. Oh dear. Imagine bumping into you today. I mean……,” she pauses.
I bow in a melodramatic manner in front of her and titter. The effects of the alcohol, it seems! But June joins me in the laughter.
Rupali is seated under a tree, leafing through a book, stifling a yawn. Unlike her best friend, she hasn’t found out a proper way to make optimum use of the sprawling university campus.
“Hey, Rup. Where are Abir and June?” a girl from the Philosophy department comes ambling to her.
Before Rupali can utter a word, another girl butts in. “Where else can they be? Behind that same old bush. Sharing a cigarette.”
“Just a cigarette? Or something else?” the girl chuckles.
Rupali’s face reddens. The girls walk away, declaring June Ghosh to be the luckiest girl in the university for nabbing Abir Bose, the current heartthrob of the freshers.
June is talking animatedly. She gesticulates with her hands, revealing beautiful manicured fingers. But my thoughts have assumed the role of a nomad again. I wonder if she knows about my incident with Abir.
I remember it like yesterday. My parents had been away for Puja shopping. I had invited Abir to my house on the pretext of discussing Nietzsche. While debating over a point, my hands had accidentally brushed against his. A tingling sensation had travelled down my spine. My heartbeats quickened their pace. I cupped Abir’s face in my hands and kissed him. He didn’t respond. I recoiled in shame. His look would haunt me forever. If there was a word for sympathy mixed with scorn, that was it! I felt my world crashing down that day.
June would forever be the cog in the wheel. She had stolen my grades in school, and now, my only love. How I hated her that day!
That evening, I made sure June’s orthodox mother got a whiff of her daughter’s tumultuous affair with her best friend. She had been on the lookout for a ‘proper’ boy for her precious daughter once she graduated, and this ‘scandal’ infuriated her to no end.
I never met Abir again. After university, I dated quite a few men. I slept with all of them. But something felt amiss. As they left trails of feathered kisses between my breasts, I always imagined Abir nibbling my hardened nipples. I rode them in a bid to take control over the sex. Yet, as I lay beside them, breathing heavily, I fell asleep immediately.
My ears perk up suddenly. Was it a figment of my imagination? Or did she mention the dreaded A word?
She is beaming. I muster up the courage to ask her. “I thought your mother was dead against Abir!”
She takes a sip from the cola. “She was furious. And she said, oh yes, I knew, I always know when he is here, and what all you are up to, but you must understand that you’re older now. Just like childhood ended, and school ended, and college ended, your childish ‘best-friendship’ with that boy also has to come to an end.”
She stops. I prod her. “So, what did you do?”
She shrugs her shoulders. “Nothing. I ended my ‘childish’ friendship with Abir.”
I heave a sigh of relief.
She adds, “I married him. Now we share an ‘adult’ relationship.” She laughs at her own twisted joke.
My throat feels dry. June gets up, mumbling something about joining her friends. I look at her stilettos. They must be at least six inches high! My eyes dart towards the floor. A single, yet steep step separates my table from it.
June puts the glass of cola down and kisses me goodbye. The disco is noisy. On public demand, the DJ is playing zingaat. The crowd goes berserk. The lights get dimmer. Just as June is about to hit the floor, I stretch my right foot out.
Take that, Abir Bose!
Editor’s note: This month’s cue has been selected by Anuja Chauhan, who has worked in advertising for over seventeen years and is credited with many popular campaigns. She is the author of five bestselling novels (The Zoya Factor, Battle for Bittora, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, The House that BJ Built and Baaz) all of which have been acquired by major Bombay studios.
The cue is from her latest book Club You to Death.
“And she said, oh yes, I knew, I always know when he’s here, and what-all you’re up to, but you must understand that you’re older now. Just like childhood ended, and school ended, and college ended, your childish ‘best-friendship’ with that boy also has to come to an end.”
Image source: a still from the film Luck By Chance
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