“So, now I will take you to the party hall I was telling you about, Prateek. This is where I have my parties, both personal and official. If we do finalize on this deal, this is where you would be managing most of my events”
“Sounds great, Nitin. I can’t wait to see it”
Swati hears Nitin’s and Prateek’s voices from the ground floor, advancing towards the stairs. She peeks from her hiding point, behind the kitchen island, and cannot see anyone. Good, everyone is in their spots and no one can be seen.
“Siddharth, Ramya, why don’t you guys join us too?” Nitin’s voice
“Sure” Simultaneous response from Siddharth and Rams. They will be here in a minute. Ah, there. I can hear footsteps now.. Now, guys, now!
“I don’t know why the lights are all turned off. Just a sec” Nitin says and walks towards the switchboard and turns a couple of switches on.
“Surprise!” shout everyone at the top of their lungs. Prateek looks at them and for a moment, doesn’t realize that the surprise was for him. He looks from Swati to Avi to Nisha, and then from Nitin to Siddharth. Everyone shrugs their shoulders. His gaze finally lands on Ramya, she smiles at him.
“This was for me?!” he asks in disbelief. Ramya walks up to him, gives him a long hug and a peck on the cheeks and says “Happy birthday!” and then adds “I know it isn’t 12 yet. But tomorrow being a working day, I had to take my chances”
“That doesn’t matter! What matters is you cared enough to pull this together for me. Thanks, Rams. You are the best and I love you” he says in a voice audible to everyone, and then bites his tongue. Ramya turns red in the face and starts biting her lips, unsure of what to do next. Swati comes to the rescue. “Enough of your lovey dovey drama, guys! We promised everyone a great party and that is what everyone is gonna get” and she takes the cake from behind the kitchen counter, and opens the box.
The most scrumptious looking white forest cake stares back at her; and simple words “Happy b’day to you” adorn the cake. Swati feels her mouth water for a second. She calls everyone closer, and asks Prateek to come behind the island to cut the cake. Everyone gathers around the island as Prateek takes a shining knife in his hands, when Ramya shouts “Wait! Wait! I forgot the candles!” and comes rushing towards Prateek, holding a candle in her hand. The candle is shaped like a flower and has a small candle in the center of it. Ramya keeps it in the center of the cake and lights it. The candle starts to make some sounds and then lights up in different alternating colors. Prateek smiles at Ramya, and then blows the candle out.
After the “cake-feeding” session, Swati turns the music on, and everybody starts swaying to the music. Jayanth grabs Swati and starts dancing with her. Is that a look of love I see in his eyes? No, I guess not. He just looks like he wants to have some fun with his friend. I should go along with it. How long can I keep brooding about his proposal? To hell with the brooding!
“Yaaaay” Swati cheers and starts her best dancing moves on the floor. Friends keep passing drinks to her and within no time, Swati gets heavily drunk and starts dancing like she has no care at all in the whole wide world. The breeze of air coming into the hall plays with Swati’s long hair making it twist and turn like her body. Her top lifts up and reveals her slender stomach and curves whenever she lifts her arms to do a dance step. Jayanth tries hard not to notice, but gives up eventually and falls for her all over again. After a while, it seems like Swati is the only one enjoying the music and dance, and the others leave a big space for her on the dance floor so she can enjoy more.
Swati hears someone come real close to her and say “Wow”. She ignores it at first, but then turns towards the voice with curiosity. She sees Siddharth staring at her. For some strange reason, I like it that he is staring at me! How can that be? How can I ever like such behavior, especially coming from HIM?! His smile, Gawd, that smile is…it just gets to you. He is either full of himself or so confident of himself. I am drunk! Again! Yuck!
Siddharth cuts into Jayanth who is dancing with Swati, and starts dancing next to her. His moves seem immature compared to hers; nevertheless, he is carefree dancing too! He picks her hand up and turns her around, and she does so in glee. Jayanth watches them from a distance, a little shocked to speak, wondering what would have happened if he had the audacity that Siddharth had. Would he be the one making those moves with Swati right now?
I am free, I feel awesome, I feel great…I can feel how close this guy is to me...I feel like….like puking on him. Oh My God!
Groggy. Foggy. Splitting headache. For a second, Swati doesn’t recognize where she is. It’s too difficult to open her eyes even. After many futile attempts, she manages to half-open her eyes, and sees the familiar green and blue circles on her curtains greeting her. Ok, I am at home. My place. How did I get here? I don’t remember a single thing from last night. She feels herself tucked up in a warm blanket. Her clothes from last night are still intact, with the exception of her shoes. She tries with great difficulty to reach the phone on her night stand, and does it after a couple of attempts. Switched-off. Damn. I will HAVE to get up now. This headache! Ouch!!
Swati finally gets up from her bed, and enters the bathroom with great difficulty, each inch of her body aching. She gets horrified looking at her image in the mirror. This is just what I needed. Everyone to see me like this! God, Swati! Why is it so difficult for you to stay in control?
She suddenly remembers that the day is Monday and she has to be in office by now. What the hell time is it now anyway? Ah, my watch is here. 12 o clock! Shit! I am late for work. Oww, owww…no raising eyebrows. That hurts! I guess I’ll have to call in sick.
After freshening up, again with great difficulty, Swati makes herself a cup of coffee and puts her phone to charge. A plethora of messages and emails pour in. After browsing through all the messages, mostly from friends and a couple of them to indicate that her parents had been trying to reach her, she deletes most of them, and arrives at an email titled “Training: Travel Required”. Before she can see what the email says, Swati’s phone starts to ring. Of course, who else but Rams. Good ol’ encroaching Rams. Swati smiles to herself
“Hey, babes..wha…..” before Swati can complete her sentence, she hears a string of Kannada words at the other end, obviously not praising her. She waits for the angry young woman to cool down. Finally, Ramya goes silent for a second and Swati seizes the opportunity.
“I am sorry Rams! Look, don’t worry so much about me, okay? I am fine, and I can take care of myself”
“Ya ya, we all saw how well you can take care of yourself, last night. DUH, Swats! Why do you have to behave so damn independent when you have all of us?”
Maybe I like being independent you know. Maybe I don’t like people telling me what to do all the time. Maybe I don’t want people taking care of me all the time when I am fully capable of doing it myself. Gawd, Rams and Jayanth have so many things in common, I wonder why THEY aren’t the ones who fell in love with each other. Sheesh! But Swati doesn’t say any of this to Ramya. She just waits in silence. Tired of waiting for Swati to talk, Ramya starts talking again.
“If it weren’t for Sid and Jai yesterday, I don’t know what you would have done, miss. ‘So called I can take care of myself’”
“Why, what happened last night? I’m afraid I don’t remember much, Rams. As usual”
“I knew you would be waiting for me to tell the story. And that is what I am here for, aren’t I? Anyways, you were totally drunk….again….which reminds me, you need to slow down on your drinking, babes.” A pause
“Ya, you are totally right, Rams. I will keep that in mind”
“Good. So, then, at around 1, everyone said they wanted to leave coz it was a Monday today and everyone had work to get to. But you just wouldn’t budge from the dance floor. Jai tried to talk to you, but you didn’t hear him out. Sid kinda told Jai to let you be, and Jai got offended. But then, they both turned out mature enough not to fight about it. Instead, when Sid finally saw that you were looking quite sick, they both got together to get you back home safely. Sid came to the dance floor to get you and as soon as he turned you around, I don’t know what happened….but…you…” A long pause
“But I what? What Rams?”
“Hahaha…You puked on him! It was hilarious. Not for poor Sid, of course. He looked disgusted by it. He went straight to the restroom to clean himself up and by the time he came out, Jai had you seated in his car. But when he started the car, you began shouting. You said you didn’t want to leave” Some giggles
Wow! I had a total blackout. I don’t remember even a second of all this that happened! Damn!
“Cut out the giggling, Rams. And finish the story!”
“Ok ok. So then Sid had to again talk you into leaving from there. I don’t know what he told you but it sure worked. And you left the place like an obedient girl but you left with both the guys. The guys had called me later in the night. Seems they dropped ya home, tucked ya in and left. I had given them my spare key to your apartment”
Wtf? And what is this? I can’t even say the f word in my mind? DUH! More importantly, I was brought home by these 2 guys?! My gosh. If Amma and Appa were ever to hear of this, they would actually have a ….heart attack! Yes, that is what would happen!
“Unbelievable! I did all that? I don’t remember anything Rams. I swear!”
“But you did, sweetheart. And the boys were nice enough to take all your crap!”
“I know. It must have been awful for them. I better talk to them…NOW!”
“Ya, you should. Chal, I gotta go then. Bye, and call me when you are done talking to your boys” another giggle.
“Ya, bye Rams”
Let me check the email and call the guys. Or….I should at least talk to Jayanth and let him know I’m not gonna go to office today. He deserves my call!
So Swati calls Jayanth and he picks up at the first ring.
“Hey sleepyhead. How are you this morning?”
“I am doing okay, Jayanth. But Rams just told me what happened last night. I’m sorry I was such a….well, sorry I was so stubborn”
“That’s okay. I am kinda used to it by now”
Did he just chuckle after saying that? Argh! I hate know-it-alls!
“Haha. Very funny. Listen, thanks for everything last night. And I also called to say I won’t be in office today. Just got up and I’m really tired”
“I figured you wouldn’t be able to come. I’ve told the boss, no worries. You take rest and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Thanks dude! I owe you one. See ya tomorrow!”
“Do you want me to stop over later and see how you are doing?”
No! I can take care of myself!! But I can’t say that to you loudly can I? People would think I am rude beyond compare!
“No Jayanth. I am fine. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye and thanks again!”
Phew. That done, now lemme check that email I got. Swati opens her official email inbox on her cell phone and scrolls down to the one that talks about the training
Subject: Training: Travel Required
I have been asked by your manager, Mr. Rahul Verma, to arrange for your visa and travel tickets to Singapore, so you can attend a month long training session there in October. In this regard, I would like you to provide me the following details and documents:
1.Duration of stay
2.Preferences for stay (if any):
3.Preferences for travel (if any):
4.Your passport, 3 recent photographs and a filled copy of the Visa form that I am attaching with this email.
Kindly get in touch with me if you need any help in filling the form. I look forward to these documents before Wednesday, so that we have ample time for your Visa to get processed
Assistant Manager - Travel Desk
Wow, Singapore! Awesome! I cannot believe this! I am getting to go on a paid vacation. It seems almost like a dream to me!
Swati immediately calls her boss and confirms that she is ready to travel for the assignment. She then calls Jayanth back and asks him if he has been asked to travel too. He replies in the negative, and Swati feels a little upset. He should have been asked to go too. He is so keen to travel to new places, much more than me! Aww. I hope he didn’t feel bad when I told him I was going.
Swati gleefully starts getting all the documentation ready for her Singapore business-cum-vacation trip.