08. Mystery Man | Ivory

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

“Good morning!” Sanjana kissed her pretty roommate. “Coffee?” “Thank you, sweetheart.” Naina replied, waking up and stretching her arms before accepting the smoking hot cup of coffee from Sanjana. “Wake up soon sleepyhead.” Sanjana laughed. “Classes start in an hour.” “Oh crap!” Naina cursed, quickly gulping down her morning drink. “When did you wake up…

“Good morning!” Sanjana kissed her pretty roommate. “Coffee?”

“Thank you, sweetheart.” Naina replied, waking up and stretching her arms before accepting the smoking hot cup of coffee from Sanjana.

“Wake up soon sleepyhead.” Sanjana laughed. “Classes start in an hour.”

“Oh crap!” Naina cursed, quickly gulping down her morning drink. “When did you wake up princess?”

“Just now.” She confessed.

Sanjana and Naina had landed together in London. They had arrived by the same flight, but met one another only at the immigration queue. They hit it off instantly.

“I’m going to Leeds.” Naina had said.

“Me too!” Sanjana had shrieked happily.

Yeee…. haaaaa!” the two girls had erupted in the line, causing some anxious looks from other tired and sleepy passengers. It was only 4 AM and it had been a long cramped flight for most of them.

They made sure they ended up as roommates. Though they took different majors, somehow the two best friends made sure they spent as much time — waking or sleeping — together.

“Are you two lovers?” A jealous classmate had asked.

“What if we are… nasty!” Naina had teased back with a wicked smile.

Spruti called them often. Video calling over one of the several dozen phone apps was easy and cheap. She got to see a lot more her now young-adult daughter. She too was suspicious of the strange and close bond Naina shared with Sanjana.

Somewhere deep within, Spruti felt the pang of a now distant but still painful memory. Satish. Satish had started out as a straight guy. Then he confessed to being bisexual, he fantasized about doing it with hunky men. A few years after they had split up, someone had told Spruti that Satish had now turned completely gay. Had her one-time husband’s sexual orientation found its way via genes to Naina? Though she prided herself on being open and modern, she could not help but wonder and be scared. It made her feel even more inadequate than usual. Were here own genes… her womb… weak against the dominance of Satish that her daughter, the one she had carried within her for a little more than nine months, and given birth to among so many problems had ditched her and taken after the man she hated with all her being?

“Are you gay?” She had asked her daughter once.

Mumma!” Naina had admonished her.

She had let the topic lie at the back of her mind since then.

“Oo….” Sanjana cooed. She lay on their queen-sized bed, upside down, wagging her legs in the air, watching Naina get dolled up. “Someone’s going on a date!”

“Oh shut up!” Naina laughed, throwing a comfort cushion at her roommate. “You know it is not like that.”

Sanjana caught the red heart-shaped keepsake and looked at it. Rubbing its cut-thread surface against her face, she teased, “He gave you this and…”

Naina glowered at Sanjana in mock horror and picked up her clutch. “Okay, okay, see you later.”

“Bye! Give him a kiss from me!”

Naina hailed a cab and headed to the insanely posh Blue Crab restaurant. It was their anniversary today and he had deemed it special enough to treat her to a royal dinner.

He pulled a chair for her as she arrived at their table. “You look gorgeous.” He kissed her on her cheek as she bent to sit down.

“You too.” She blew a kiss to him. He looked gorgeous in his sharply cut and well tailored navy blue suit. “You didn’t tell me you were going to dress up so formal. Look at how I have come!”

In stark contrast, Naina had worn a toned-down yellow half-gown with shashes at her waist and fake plastic jewellery. She looked inexpensively pretty. She owned enough of her appearance that no one would think her to be inelegant.

“I’m famished.” He said. “Let’s order, we can talk after.”

Naina picked up the large menu as the lead waiter hovered around them ready to take their orders. He smiled at Naina as she placed the order for the both of them.

“So, how have you been?” He asked.

“Amazing.” Naina beamed. “Can’t you tell?”

“That dress suits you so well.” He winked. “And how is Sanjana? You should have brought her along as well.”

“And spoil our evening? No thanks.”

“Maybe you think I’ll have great chemistry with her.” He laughed.

“Don’t you even dare.” Naina chided him with mock anger. “You are only mine. Never ever anyone else’s.”

“Of course, sweetheart. Now calm down.” He sipped from the flute of champagne that had arrived.

Their banter carried on through their dinner. Through dessert. Through fashionable post-dinner coffee.

“Shall we, madam?” He asked her, standing up and offering the girl his hand to hold as she stood up.

Naina faked royal grace as she accepted the tips of his fingers and stood up. With a bow, she let him lead her out of the restaurant and into the chilly London night.

“Your place or mine?” He winked.

“Let’s walk around a while.” She said. “Am sore from sitting for so long!”

So they walked around. She wrapped her arm through his and hugged him close. As they entered Tiffany Lane, she lay her head on his shoulder and looked longingly through the window at the large diamond ring on display.

“You would want that, wouldn’t you?” He asked, following her gaze.

“How did you know I was looking at it?” She cried, lifting her head away to look at him. “How?”

“I have known you since how long, again?” He teased her.

“You know when it is for.” She snuggled back into his shoulder.

He patted her head and they walked in silence.

Arriving at her sorority gates, he bid her good night and hailed a cab.

“Tell me! Tell me everything!” Sanjana shrieked happily as Naina unlocked the door. “How was he?”

Naina didn’t speak a word. But she was smiling, the shy smile of a girl that had spent an eternity in the arms of a loving man.

Sanjana and Naina were at a McDonalds.

“Awww. Now this dress is ruined!” Naina whimpered after spilling ketchup over her dress.

“No, no. Hang on a minute.” Sanjana hopped over to the counter to fetch some tissues. “It will be gone in a trice.”

“Hello” The man sitting on the tall stool next to the cash counter greeted her. “Sanjana, isn’t it?”

Sanjana whipped around to see who it was. She didn’t recognize the man, and smiled at him uncomfortably. “And you are… ?”

“Oh don’t be so tensed up. Go on, get the tissues for your friend.”

Annoyed, Sanjana went on to the counter. When she turned back, she found the man seated at their table. Naina had a serious look over her face and she seemed agitated.

“Oh no!” Sanjana cried, rushing back to their table.

“I need to go home.” Naina cried, looking at Sanjana. She had tears, sorrowful tears in her eyes. “Let’s go.”

“What happened?”

The man rose with them. But, instead of clinging to her, Naina clung to the man. She seemed to know him. Was he the mystery man that Naina was dating? Whose name she wouldn’t tell.. even to her!

Sanjana sat in a corner, feeling left out, as the man helped Naina pack.

“Who are you anyway?” She asked him finally. Unable to guess his identity from their interaction. “Are you her boyfriend?”

The man stopped helping Naina and straightened up. Then, he laughed awkwardly. “Is that what she thinks about us?” He asked Naina.

“I haven’t told anyone. Anything.” Naina answered quietly.

The man got up from the bedstead and walked to the beanbag that Sanjana sat scrunched up within.

“Hello, then.” He offered his hand and smiled genially. “I’m Vijesh.”

“Vij….jesh?” Sanjana blurted. “The same Vijesh… ” She was shocked.

“Yeah, he is my Paaaaaapu!” Naina cooed.

Sanjana threw the cushion on her lap at Naina. “You could have told me earlier, idiot!” She laughed.

When Vijesh and Naina landed at the airport in Delhi, they were met by Vijesh’s driver.

“Welcome home, madam.” He greeted her, taking up her bags. “Surenderji is outside as well.” He added, turning to Vijesh.

“Oh. Do you know any news?”

The man sighed. “I regret I do not know any details.” He shook his head regretfully as he walked them out of the airport building.

“Who is Surenderji?” Naina asked Vijesh, clinging on to his hand.

“I had left him incharge of things.” Vijesh said thoughtfully. He was wondering what had caused the man to leave the hospital and come to the airport. He would be needed very much on the scene.

“Sir!” Surender greeted them. “Hello, ma’am.”

Naina looked at him. He was a much older man, with a bald front-pate on his head. He wore gold-rimmed circular frame glasses on the edge of his nose. But his manner and tone indicated he had been in the Services for sometime.

While Vijesh and Naina occupied the backseat of the car, Surender climbed into the front with the driver.

“Well?” Vijesh enquired.

“The operation was successful.”

“Do we know anything else?”

The man looked at Naina. “The doctor says we need to be careful about what we tell her. She does not know yet.”

Naina sobbed and shrunk into Vijesh’s arms. He consoled her.

A short while later, their car pulled up under the hospital.

Naina ran through the corridors to her mother’s room. Surender ran after her, calling out directions as they tore through the hospital, passing wards, gurneys, doctors, nurses, patients. Naina could hardly see anything by the time she reached the room. Her eyes were soaked in tears. Surender caught up with her just as she was about to open the door and burst through.

“She is very tired. Very tired.” He cautioned her, his hand on the door knob. “Don’t get emotional.”

About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".