“A simple twist.”
“Twist? Are you out of your mind?”
“Nope. I just got it in the right place.”
“Seriously! Where are we going?” She asked me in a frantic tone as we rushed down a steep staircase that led us to the underground of the movie hall.
There were many shops in row like goods shop, novelty shop, icecream parlors and some places selling lots of chocolates. I searched down till my eyes found a small eatery place. I yanked her with me while she wriggled in my tight hold on her wrist. I loosened my hold a bit but never left her.
“Ava! Don’t be a child. Where are you going?”
“To where he can’t stalk us displaying his ridiculous cleverness.”
“Really I didn’t tell him anything. He is waiting there on his own. In fact I also thought that he would have gone.”
“We will see.” I said. The sky was turning its tone to orange as I passed through a open space above the moss embraced brick boundary encircling the whole building.
The small restaurant like place looked old and the bright red paint was half peeled from its facade revealing the scratchy bare back. There was something written in yellow on it that was supposed to be its name. But it took me longer than usual. I give up and pushed the pressed-wooden door into it.
The inside lacked brightness and the air needed some purification. I instantly felt out of breath in the viscous murky air. But it didn’t matter when the thought of winning the challenge crossed my mind.
We took a seat near to the serving bar. A lanky boy looked up from behind of it and staggered to us with a menu in hand. It took ages to him to reach to our table and lay down the menu. It felt as if we were watching a slow motion movie.
“Two soft drinks.” I said as soon as he put down the menu. “Anything of that you have.” I ordered before he opened his mouth. He returned back at the same speed.
As soon as he left, I quickly pulled out the phone and texted Madhav. “We left 4 hom. U cn also.”
Exactly after thirty seconds, my phone beeped. “I’m waiting here till u com bck. Enjy ur mvi. Dnt wrry i nt gttn bored here.”
Not bored! Huh! Tough Guy! Let’s see.
Our drink arrived as I typed another message. “As u wish. Doesnt mttr 2 us.” I had written me in place of us before but then again I didn’t want to show him that he had any affect on me. So I stayed along with us.
Preeti sat slouching on my side. I thought she wanted to bang her head for being with me. But she also knew how randomly stubborn I could get sometimes.
This time it took double the time earlier it had and it came as whole rings. I picked up the call. “Where are you?” Madhav’s voice came from the receiver. He sounded playful as well as concerned.
But why isn’t he annoyed! I dragged him to here, left in middle and now telling that I sneak out to home. Still he is so calm! I wanted to pull my hair. No! Wait! Why to torture my hair more. They are already ruined.
“It’s not your business. You go home.”
There was some whispery noise like he was simpering. “I hope you are not hiding in washroom and I really wish to see Preeti fine. Hope you haven’t drugged her.”
“Can you be more irritating or this is your level? Why don’t you stop stalking and leave us on our own. We don’t any baby sitter.”
“Yeah! Just that you girls came with me and now it’s my duty to drop you home safely.” There was a depth in his words that blew me out of proportion.
“Oh! great then. You wait. Wait till the mid-night show ends. What to me!”
He laughed highly this time emptying his stomach.
Am I this funny! The whole life I haven’t been able to successfully crack a single joke without embarrassing me and this guy is laughing over my each and every sentence. What’s the matter with him? Is he even okay?
“What’s so funny in there?”
“Ah! You sound so desperate. You running away from me such like I’m some bounty hunter.”
“Well. We are not running away from me.” I stammered. It was a lie. Of course we were. In fact it’s me hiding away from him.
“Yes. You are. Or else why would you have left movie in the interval? Knowing that I was waiting for you outside the whole time, you couldn’t keep yourself from falling for me.”
I wanted to give a solid excuse this time to end this discussion and convince him that he has no effect on me. I took a pause and creep back into mind digging for some excuse. When I got my conscious back, the two chairs on the other end of our table were pulled with a loud noise.
I looked up at the hands those dragged the seats. They were big and rough hands with back of it matted with thick hair. One of them had nasty curls grooming out in every direction and another had long sleek hair oiled back into a ponytail. They both donned French moustache and wore black sleeveless jackets.
I stared at them agape while they both took the place without even caring to ask us. The worse thing was that I had forgot that Madhav was still on line and the worst was that my new-found excuse was somewhere dissolved in shock.
“Ava! Ava! You there?” Madhav repeated from other side.
“Yeah. Just leave us.You go home. Bye.” I hung up the call awkwardly.
I looked around the place. There another five tables except us divided into two rows and all were unoccupied. The bony waiter was cleaning the cabinets and counter in his speed. My gaze slowly reverted to Preeti. She also looked same in shocked as me.
“Hey..hey you there..”I fidgeted with my own words. Everything seemed wrong at that moment. “Here is your money. We are leaving.” The waiter kept wiping the cabinet without a single flinch as if our words were inaudible. But they weren’t. Obviously the place was too small for that possibility.
I placed twice the price of the cokes and we slowly stepped out from under the table without having any eye contact with the thugs sitting before us.
All of sudden the guy with unrulier curls curled up into a loud grin showing his black rooted teeth. It was so menacing that it got impossible to avoid. I looked back. “Hey. Madamji..you left your money here.”
I fought with my vocabulary to say something. Dread was evidently clouded my senses and I knew that they could see it in my eyes. I stuttered involuntarily. “The money..bill..paid for it...”
“This much?” He mimicked of being very generous and helping and righteous.
“The bi..coke and ..tips..waiter.”
“He asked you tips?” He behaved as if tipping was illegal. Like Preeti the long haired man was also silent observant all that was going on.
“Oye Chotu. Come here.” He roared.
“Yes bhaiji.” He started to limp from the bar.
“Oye! How much time do you need to come here? Come fast.”
“Not..not he asked us. I gave him.” I spoke again resenting and cursing why Preeti isn’t saying anything. I glanced at her. Heavy pulses were clearly escalating through her throat and loud breaths were audible to me. I just prayed they are not audible to them at least like they were to me.
I need to be strong. I muttered under breath. Strong!
As Chotu, the waiter entered into scene, he slapped at the top Chotu’s head. “Don’t you know how to behave with Madams? How many times I have told not to ask extra tips from them?” Again there was another flip on Chotu’s small head. Chotu kept folding his hands over head in defence while the guy yanked him down with the collar.
“Now leave and bring us two.” He barked to him again along with crossing his legs outstretched on the table and comfortably craning himself in the chair. Chotu left us. There was evilness in those brooding gaze that scanned along the length of our body. His accent didn’t match our place. So he wasn’t from around. But does it matter whether he is from here or from Mars! Well, it doesn’t.
I looked all around and at my watch in the last. It was just fifteen minutes past interval. There was still around forty-five minutes of the movie to end. After that only anyone could be expected here.
“Madamji, Why are standing there? Come over. Sit here. Look! You haven’t even touched your drinks.” He said to us. It sounded more like undeniable commands.
Immediately he added again. “Don’t be scared. We are not bad people. We won’t do anything. Come. Come. Sit here.”
My legs felt numb along with my brain. I was blank and couldn’t think what I should do. Should I run? Should I shout? But they haven’t done anything till now for which I should scream. But it was clearly known that there was something dangerous waiting to happen.
I prayed under breath, prayed to get some courage, at least enough courage not to pass out before them. Or send someone, anyone to just interfere into this cumbersome situation. Oh! No! No friend of them. At least I don’t want to be outnumbered. Again does it matter! Nope. Seeing their thumping size, even one is enough to handle both of us.
Suddenly the long haired guy moved on to his feet and motioned towards us. His dark gaze was invariant at us. I started to shiver. Shiver. Shudder. Rattle. Crumble. Melting. Closed my eyes. And endless Silence!