She looked at me from the other side of the room- caught my eye- as quickly as she looked away. I tried to smile and concentrate-failing to register a single word of the conversation I was currently -supposed to be- a part of. I tugged at Sujoy’s sleeve, adjusting my arm around his. My bangles clunked in annoyance, as I grew increasingly fidgety.
Sujoy’s friend asked upon noticing, “Why, Malini? Somewhere you need to be? Or is the stock market a little too boring for you?”
I laughed and added sarcastically, “No. Obviously not. I mean, I do hear about it every single day. And night. Why on earth would I get bored?”
“Well, that’s what you get for marrying a Financial Analyst! We live and breathe money!” Sujoy quipped, his friend agreeing with enthusiasm, before greeting another classmate who joined in.
I excused myself to get to the bar, which was at the farthest end of the room. Maybe some good ole alcohol would help. I sat at the counter and ordered a martini- every sip making me feel worse. The bartender’s spot on resemblance to someone I knew, didn’t help that situation either.
Then, I heard it.
“Some red wine, please. ” She said.
Now, the problem with trying to avoid someone you’ve known-or had once known- since moons together, is that you know too much about them- therefore the whole purpose of ignoring them goes to dogs, try as you may. You know their voice, you know what they-how they- think, and what they’d order at a bar, on a Sunday evening when attending their husband’s school reunion party. You just know.
I stiffened, as she took a seat -two chairs between us. I contemplated getting up from there and joining Sujoy and his friends once again, but continued to sit after telling my stupid self that it was 2015, and she and I weren’t kids anymore. Besides, leaving would only indicate how uncomfortable I was with her around- which in turn would indicate that I was trying to avoid a conversation, which in turn would indicate that I was guilty of something- which I definitely wasn’t.
I made a mental note to slap myself later for over thinking, and continued to sip my martini.
Still conflicted and amidst these thoughts, and desperately trying to avoid even glancing at her- I didn’t realise when my drink finished and I slurped at nothing in my glass- rather loudly.
The bartender grimaced, and I realised a little too late. My cheeks flushed bright red, as I banged the glass on the counter, cursing myself silently.
Out of nowhere, she began to snigger. Not sure how to react to this, I asked for another martini. The sniggering continued, and as it did, an involuntary smile began to etch its way wider and wider on my face until I burst out laughing- we burst out laughing.
Tears flowing down my cheeks, I clutched at my sides,unable to remember the last time I’d laughed like that.
“Still doing that, Malu? ” Aarti asked smirking, regaining her posture now.
“Still drinking red wine?” I grinned.
That’s when I looked at her-I mean really looked at her- after ten whole years. She had worn a red dress the last time I’d seen her, and she was wearing a red dress today. Her hair had been tied up in a messy bun the last time we had spoken, and her hair was straightened and gorgeous today. Her eyes had been red and desperate that night we vowed to never speak again, and they were dark brown and focused today- somewhere, their childlike innocence hidden deep inside. Her face had been distraught and twitching the time we’d walked away from each other, and it was downright wise but just as beautiful, today.
I sighed, wondering to myself-just where did the time go?