“She’s heard enough for today ” Pata had stood up. Her sari flowed like milk around her as she ran a hand over my head; “Go on, off to work girl. There’s plenty of time to talk without us losing you your job. And be nice to Vaughn; he needs it.”
“How’s that piece coming along Meena?” Deb’s dry tones scratched over my hair. I know she was hoping to hear an excuse, another mark in her little black book of meena’s misdemeanours, but I was ready for her. Deb barely held her surprise in check. A strangled “Excellent” escaped her before she fled for her office and the scotch. I sniggered. Some days you are the fly, and some days you are the windscreen. I shook my head and promised to stop thinking in other people’s irreverent platitudes. And concentrated on making my keyboard and brain work together through the magic of my fingertips. But Strini was all I could think about.
I couldn’t wait to see him again tomorrow night. And on Saturday. This guy was balsamic vinegar to my olive oil, fresh vanilla pods to my crystal sugar; he made me feel like I’d mainlined saffron through my skin and was a goddess. An admittedly short goddess; but a goddess nonetheless. I changed my Facebook status to minigoddess.
Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
You’re short; you can be pretty cavalier and capricious. But goddess? Surely it’s not megalomaniac day just yet?
Subject: Re: Minigoddess?
Sticks and stones little man, sticks and stones.
Vaughn didn’t look quite as flippant as he sounded. In fact he looked like he’d lost his truck, dog and girlfriend. If I didn’t know he didn’t have any of those, I’d have bought him a billy ray cyrus CD and sent him home.
“You look like shit”.
“Really, and here I was thinking this new hairdo made me look like Jean Claude Damme”
He got that out without stammering. He’s whiter than Hugh Grant in a London winter. Something is definitely up.
“Save the bravado kimosabi. What’s going on?”
“My dad’s in hospital.”
There’s no snappy comeback for that one.
“Shit, dude. And it’s not good?”
“need something stronger than coffee? “
“Need a hug?” I can’t believe I’m saying this.
“no. Maybe. No.”
Sigh of relief.
Elachi’s rough voice commanded: “hug him Meena”
I hugged Vaughn, and he hugged back. I felt like a life raft.
We smoked our last fags for the morning quietly together, before I went back to my desk, and Vaughn retreated to his studio.
Later Nordic Boy”
“Don’t mention it”
Dinner with Strini!
After the grilling I got from the mithai mothers when I got home last night, I was looking forward to this. Elachi “hmphffed” when she saw me: “idiot girl, must we tell you to be nice?” I suppose she was right.
Inji grinned and Pata just offered me some tea.
“So who’s this Strini boy?” Inji ventured.
I should have known. You can’t leave three Indian aunties alone without a grandchild to occupy their minds unless you’re extremely brave, or extremely stupid. Guess which one I was.
“No-one” Schoolboy error.
“Really?” Then why you seeing him tonight?” Elachi with her incisive intuition made the first deadly move.
“Yes. Really” The eye avoidance behaviour was getting me nowhere. So was the topic avoidance behaviour. I should have known they were lying about their superpowers. Indian aunties can spot a budding romance from two provinces away while frying onions and garlic. These three where right here when it started.
“OkOk” what do you want to know?” knowing full well they’d want to know what he does, if he earns well, if he comes from a “good” family.
“What do you talk about?” Pata asked.
Caught off guard I stumbled; “Mm.. well… work, books, other people. He’s a copywriter, so we both love books…”
“And where you going tonight?” Elachi interrupted.
“Out for supper… to the Loft.” This was the weirdest grilling I’d ever had. Where was the “nice boy Meena” bit?
“And after” Inji asked smiling.
I had been trapped. My after dinner plans were somewhat vague but did involve me being not entirely chaste, or dressed even.
“Ok grilling over ladies, my prince awaits.”
Inji laughed me out the door.
By the time I’d reached my car though the cringing embarrassment had faded and my toes were tingling in my red heels. Copy boy was mine.
He’d booked our table and was waiting, and bless him; a bottle of red was breathing on the table. “Hello gorgeous”.
“Hey yourself handsome, been waiting long?
“Nope, just enough to order the wine and make sure the waiter knows we’re hungry”.
I scanned the menu; ordered the lamb, and my stomach appeased, turned my attention to my number one hottie. “So, come here often?”
“Funny. So, how was your day? Any more exciting office gossip?”
“Oh the usual; Deb’s just mad and the rest of the office just keeps their heads down. I must have a death wish for even letting her see me. And you?”
“Well; let’s see; I got in and thought of you, and then emailed you, and then doodled and made myself a cup of coffee and looked at your Facebook and then considered emailing you again, and didn’t. I didn’t have much to do today and I don’t know if I could have done it knowing I was going to see you tonight.”
“Got me on the brain then have you?” I grinned.
“You could say that.”
I’d never met a man so honest with his feelings. The first few dates, if it even got to that, had always been spent playing those ridiculous oh my god can’t let him see that I like him too much or he’ll get scared off game. Strini came to the party on day one with. “You’re great. I want to see you again.”
And now the “I can’t stop thinking about you” was making my head spin. He was fucking up my play it cool radar and I could tell my deprecating cynicism was fucking with his. Boys weren’t usually so keen on me, and girls weren’t usually so wary of him.
But nonetheless I played it cool. I’d travelled this road before and if I let it, my heart would come along for the ride. I didn’t want it to be thrown too soon.
Our meal arrived just before the silence got to the awkward stage; “Mmm…I’m jealous; you ordered the prawns! I bag a share”. When it comes to food, I’m shameless.
He speared a prawn on a fork, and held it out to me; “Come and get it.” And cocked an eyebrow.
My melty place warmed, and I knew what came next. I leaned over my plate, and grabbed the prawn with a deft finger. “Oh no buddy boy; I’m saving the porn star antics for …later.”
He had the grace to blush.
Dinner finished at midnight; and I was tired. Happy, feeling girly, but the red shoe diary end to it was rain chequed to another time. “Walk me to my car?”
“How about I drive you home?”
“And I’ll get to work tomorrow on my magic flying carpet I assume?”
“I could pick you up?”
“It’s alright; besides, I like my drive to work; nothing like swearing at taxi drivers to get my day started. “
“Ok; but if you need me…”
“Really. I’m a big girl darling.”
“Ok. But can I still kiss this big girl goodnight then?”
My toes didn’t curl. But my melty place still thought it wasn’t that bad.
“See you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow” he breathed against my hair. I felt like brushing him away.
I can’t be PMSing already can I?
Nevermind. My bed seemed a million miles away.
That night, I dreamed Vaughn’s dad died.