I observed him. His nostrils flared. I knew it was time, I shut my eyes and began counting in reverse order…ten…nine…eight…seven… Before I could complete the count he slammed hard on the accelerator, the speedometer spurred from sixty kilometers to a hundred and thirty in less than a second. The windows were rolled down, the wind flew my hair, but as I opened my mouth to speak a few strands got in. I swirled my hair behind, as Jai, took a sharp turn. I extended my hands to grab the dashboard for support though I had the seat belt on. I asked as calmly as I could “Jai, What are you so upset about?” My voice was shaky, the speed at which the air got into the car made me feel that my words were spoken from afar. “Damn, Damn… it’s not just you, it’s you and him!” he spoke. “He who? Vikram? Is he the one that’s bothering you?” Jai had always missed the thread of faith in our relationship. He would find my silence just as deceiving as my words. He kept quiet, just slammed at the accelerator again.
Our car screeched to a halt outside his favourite bar, The Dunkers. I called it The Drunkards because whenever Jai would return after his boys’ night from The Dunkers, he would be sloshed. These were the times he stayed over at my apartment. He wouldn’t dare face his mom in that state. He would tell me how much he loved me and then zonk out. I’d have to change him in bed.
He banged the door shut. “I can’t believe you just hurt her,” I said, shocked at the way he had just treated his Mercedes. It was his life. He grabbed my upper arm tight, and pulled me inside with him. “You are hurting me,” I complained. He let go. I rubbed my palm over to soothe the pain.
The bar was dark. There were a few flashy lights, but they moved along with the music beats. All I could make out was that there was a lot of red colour splashed across the walls. I saw Jai, he took the stairs to the wooden deck a floor above. I did not want my blood to clot from where he had gripped me, so I headed to the counter to get some ice. The bar man got me a bucket full of it. He knew I was with Jai, and I had expected nothing less than a V.I.P treatment. “Madam, we have a safety first aid kit, if you need one let me know,” the bar man gave a slight bow. I sat on the bar stool rubbing the ice on the grip marks, when I heard someone whisper a ‘Hello Eisha’. The voice was familiar, but when I turned around there was nobody. I got back to rubbing the ice. ‘Surprise!’ Vikram sprang from behind. There was a sudden jerk and the ice fell on my lap. “Oh my god! You scared me,” I said. The ice had melted, and my white Chanel dress was wet. Vikram grabbed a napkin to help clean up the mess, but I pushed him away. Jai shouldn’t see him here, not with me. “Go away!” I ordered. Before Vikram could come to terms with what seemed to him like an odd behaviour, Jai came and stood in front of us.
“There you are my brother,” Jai hugged Vikram. “So Vicky, you want to have a drink with my fiancé huh?” he asked swaying a bit. From the way he spoke I could make out that he was a couple of drinks down already. “No Jai, I was just helping Eisha.” “Oh yeah, my little darling needs your help, eh?” Jai shrugged a bit and pushed Vikram down on the floor. “Am I not here for her?” Jai rolled up his sleeves. “No Jai, for heavens sake don’t do this, not here please,” I pleaded. There was no way Jai could have survived a hands on fight with Vikram, but Vikram wouldn’t hurt him as he was under Jai’s obligation. Vikram got up and straightened his body hugging tee shirt. “Be careful there bro.” Vikram gave him a long hard stare before he disappeared into one of the dark corners of the bar.
Jai had funded Vikram’s new gym, though he was never interested in building health. Vikram was a huge guy. Jai believed Vikram took injectable steroids. But I knew that it was his hard work. He had dedicated his life to fitness, as a trainer. Jai wouldn’t understand the exercise regimes and diets, and the good part was that he didn’t even try to. Business and politics ran in Jai’s blood. He could smell money and intentions. Jai and Vikram were un-identical twin brothers, born five minutes apart but they were poles apart.
Their father had handed over a large part of the family business and finance matters to Jai, before he retired. Even Vikram’s wealth had to be managed by Jai until Vikram started making his own buck. They were thirty-seven years old, Jai believed it was high time Vikram learnt to earn and settle down. “He needs to get serious about life.”
A small crowd gathered around us. A scantily dressed woman peeped out from behind Jai, it was her- the devil- Mira. “I know what you are up to!” she screamed, her finger pointed towards me. I looked at Jai, he quietly made way for another drink. He could never tell her anything. They were friends since school days. It had been a year since our engagement, but his friends had still not accepted me. I had never felt this humiliated before. I quietly went and sat down on the bar stool again. My head felt heavy, and my shoulders drooped forward. I stared at the beautiful wine and scotch bottles displayed in the slots designed to hold bottles of a million different shapes and sizes, it made a perfect backdrop for the long, black granite counter.
Jai still had his drink in his hand when he came and patted my back. “I am sorry,” he said. He held my hands gently, and pulled his bar stool closer to me. “ So did the scene that you just made make you happy?” I asked looking straight in to his doe eyes. “I don’t know why I feel the way I do Eish, you know that I love you very much, but something pinches my instincts all the time,” he sounded very honest. “And you know what? It’s very hard for me to speak to you right now, you know how I like to keep things to myself,” he said lifting his glass to sip in his expensive scotch. I gave a slow nod. And looked back at the stylish man who sat on the other side of me. I studied him for a minute. He was of no match to Jai. Not many could afford the scotch Jai drank, the watch he wore, the car he drove, nor the shoes he had. He pulled out a red velvet box from underneath his coat and kept it in front of me. “What’s this?” I sat up straight. Everything was forgotten. “It’s a small gesture of my giant love for you,” he smirked. “Come on open it.” I slowly opened the box. It was the most beautiful diamond bracelet that I had ever seen. It had the brilliance of a galaxy of stars put together. “Oh my god, thank you Jai, this is brilliant, it’s beautiful, I don’t know what to say…” Before Jai could make me wear it, I picked it up and put it on myself. He smiled, “You have no patience.”
I wanted to dance, I wanted to let loose and I wanted to guzzle down a bottle of champagne, but Jai wasn’t going to approve of that. And right now I didn’t want to upset him for a minute. I put my arms around him and puckered a deep kiss on his lips. “There she goes again,” Mira came in. “Mira, do you have a sensor or something? You somehow sense my happiness. It’s funny how you are always there to ruin my moment,” I stood aplomb. I wanted to slap her. But it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, “Not now Eish.” I calmed myself, and clenched my fingers in to tight fists. “Hah!” she laughed, as she sensed what was going on in my head.
“Please can you drop me home?” I turned to ask Jai. He asked the bar man to get the bill He made the payment, and planted a friendly kiss on Mira’s forehead. I chose not to acknowledge her good-bye greeting. We headed towards his car. Jai was in a good mood. He whistled the tune of his favorite love song, while he drove.
The building security guard flashed a smile when he saw Jai, he greeted him, “Good evening Saheb.” “Kaise hon Bhavarsingji? (How are you Bhavarsingji?)” Jai inquired. “Sab theek hain Saheb, apki duan hain (Everything is fine with your blessings).” He looked beyond Jai towards me and his smile disappeared. It annoyed me because he never smiled nor greeted me. I had even caught him give me spiteful stares. “What’s his problem?” I asked Jai. The sparkle of the diamond bracelet caught my attention again. It made me forget the security guards temperament too. He turned the car engine off in the porch. “Don’t bother,” Jai’s voice was soft. He began to play with my hair. He came closer to smell them. “I am coming up with you,” he said.
I was worried that I’d upset him again if I would reject his wish. “Err…I don’t think this is a good time, it’s that time of the month, you know what I mean right?” “Well yeah, I know.” He was dejected. “I am sorry baby.” I made a sorry face at him. “Eisha, I love you.” He cupped my face and tried to explore the world he saw in my eyes. “I can never read your eyes, and that drives me crazy,” he complained. He slumped back in his seat and turned on the car ignition.
“Good night, Jai,” I wished him. I got out of his car, and slowly walked to the elevator. I admired my bracelet as I rode up to my apartment on the tenth floor. I unlocked my apartment door. It was set to perfection. There were candles placed in the center of the table, the music was set at the right volume, the lights were dim and the smell of chicken biryani wafted through the air.
“Everything is ready darling,” Vikram came out from the kitchen. He still had the apron and the chef’s cap on. “You look like a professional, may be you should consider cooking over training?” I laughed.
“Yeah right, and let Jai kick me out of the family wealth?”
“No, he won’t do that once I am his wife, it’s just a matter of time honey, just a few more months, and you’ll have your way and I’ll have mine.” I put forward my hand and let the bracelet dance around my wrist.
“Now let’s eat I am starving.” I stuffed a big bite of the Biryani in his mouth. “I love you, Vikram,” I whispered in his ears. “Yeah I know I can see that in your eyes.” He poured some wine in my glass.