She walked back into the restaurant. They were still laughing. She slid into her chair wondering if they really thought it was Aarav who had called. They could check her call register -
'So Vibz, what did Aarav say?' asked Shifa, her eyes getting larger and brighter by the minute.
Relieved, she smiled a somewhat uncertain smile 'Umm, I guess we'll be meeting tomorrow or the day after ...', she let her voice trail.
'Don't tell me you're not feeling very positive about this?' asked Harsh stressing on the word positive. Shifa and Harsh burst out laughing again.
She gave them her best stare, then resuming her old expression said ' I don't know ... '
'C'mon! He seems like a nice guy. He's friendly, sounds confident. Everything else checked out. What more do you want?'
Confident. Yes, definitely confident. She didn't know how to tell them it was more to do with her than him. Better to change the topic, she thought. She'd try and deal with him herself.
Before she could say anything more, Shifa asked 'That a new sweater you're wearing? Very pretty!'
Vibhi gave her a big smile. 'Thanks. It cost me only two hundred bucks! Can you believe that?'
'Really? Wow, nice. Maybe I should get one too ...'
Vibhi started rummaging in her bag. They sat watching her. Five minutes had passed and her head was still half burrowed in her bag. Harsh sighed. 'If only the Americans had searched this hard for the WMDs ... '
'Here' said Vibhi pushing the paper towards them; her glare made them stop laughing.
'Oh, the bill' said Shifa. 'What? You thought I didn't believe you?' she said with raised eyebrows.
Harsh began again - 'I, Hans Blix -'
'I'm leaving. You can come along if you like' said Vibhi taking the bill from Shifa. They laughed and stood up, following her to the door.
'Are you positive you want to walk out of this door, Vibz? Are you sure you don't want to stay inside?'
Vibhi stomped ahead and they had to run to catch up with her. She ignored their trying-hard-to-keep-straight faces and called an auto. As it was moving ahead and Harsh and Shifa waved goodbye, she could hear Shifa saying- 'I wonder if she's sure that's an auto ...'
She promised herself through gritted teeth that she'd get back at them. Someday soon. The auto-wala was looking at her through the mirror. 'Madam, right ya left?'
'Right' she said crossing her arms around her bag. She could see his shirt through the bars.
Green coconut trees on a bright blue shirt. She stared at the back of his head with blatant mistrust. Where was his coat? What if he had stolen this auto from someone else? She looked around, home was not far away. There were few people on the road. Where was
everybody? Today wasn't a holiday, was it? Oh, but she'd been to work and like at the end of everyday Harsh, Shifa and she had hung around. So it musn't be a holiday. Hmm.
The temporary peace of mind that this thought brought was shattered the next second. The auto-wala had turned on the tape. Loud. Jolly Mukherjee was screaming 'Yeh shahar hai aman ka, aman ka!'.
There certainly wasn't any aman in the auto. Why, she wondered, do auto-walas love the songs of Raaz? Was it only Bipasha Basu or was it something to do with the myteriousness of
the movie? Do all autowalas have a criminal side that this movie appeals to?
The autowala looked at her in the mirror and grinned. His moustache was scary. She hoped he was not going to kidnap her. Was that why he had turned the music on loud? So that
nobody would hear her scream? She poked the auto wala with her purse. He turned around with an ingratiating smile 'Jee, madam?'
'Music bandh kijiye'. She looked at herself in the mirror. No, she didn't look panicky. He grunted and switched it off. In five minutes, she was home. She heaved a sigh of relief and entered the house.
Her mother stopped her on the way upstairs to her room 'What did Aarav say, beta? When are you going to meet him?'
'Maybe tomorrow ma. I have lots of work at the office. I hope I'll be able to make it.'
'You must take out time beta. You won't find boys like this everyday. What's that stain on your sleeve? Looks a little like grease. You took the scooty?'
'No, Ma. I came by auto. It - it was too hot to take the scooty. The auto just dropped me here. I think it must still be outside. Do you -'
'Vibhi! Its all right. I don't know what's going to become of you. We've given you the wrong name ..' her mother sighed and walked away.
Vibhi meant fearless. She wondered if they had named her Vibhi later? Maybe so that it would have an affect on her like the astrologers said and make her the calm and composed girl she ought to be?
* * *
Later after they had had dinner, she lay in bed thinking about Aarav. She couldn't shake the feeling off that he was not the right person for her. Yet her parents had insisted that such a good match musn't be turned down and she didn't know anybody who could take that place either, so she thought she would decide tomorrow. A FINAL decision, she warned herself and fell asleep.
* * *
Morning came and brought Vibhi more than her usual dose of indecisiveness. She would have to choose her clothes carefully today. If her mother had not decided to help her out, she would have probably reached office in time for lunch.
She rushed down the stairs stopping to look at herself in the mirror at the landing. It was not one of her favourite things to do. In fact, she had never liked mirrors. One of her earliest memories was standing in front of her parents' bedroom door. If you stood in the doorway you could see yourself in the mirror easily. She remembered having spent a long time in that doorway playing with the door and the mirror.
What did the mirror reflect when the door closed? Would it still reflect the back of the door? Or something else because nobody could see it? She would pull the door the closest it could to the doorway while being able to see the mirror through the crack. She gave up having found no answer. As much as she could, she would jump past mirrors, as if she was afraid of her own reflection.
Today, she decided she looked fine. Once she started on her hair, she would never get out of the house.
* * *
It was nearly lunchtime. She had reached the office just in time. Work had been much lesser than expected. Aarav had called in the morning to say that he would call her at lunch to tell her where they'd be eating.
It was nearly one. The phone rang and she picked it up eagerly. Shouldn't have picked it up
like this, she thought. What if she was giving him the wrong signal? She might not even marry him after all. He seemed to like her a lot already. Or did he?
'Vibhi! Are you there??'
'Yeah, sorry. Hi ..'
'Shall we meet at the Tulips? I don't think its too far from your office. I'm really busy you know, but I guess tomorrow will be no better than today. My boss thinks I work too hard, so
he gave me quite some time off today. I'll be able to spend more time with you. Isn't that great?'
'Yeah. Sure is'
Drone on, she thought. Hadn't he kept repeating on the phone, how much better he was at work than his colleagues? Did he know her office area that well? Wonder what he thought of her company ... was that a factor in his liking her? Did he -
'Vibhi? You busy?'
'No, sorry. Just got a little distracted. Err .. yeah, I guess that's fine. See you in fifteen minutes?'
She got her things together, straightened her dress and brushed her hair back. Carefully avoiding the glass window at the entrance, she walked outside to hail an auto. Two of them refused saying it was too near. As she was turning around to check on those parked a little farther away behind her, there was a crash. A well-dressed bespectacled young man handed her her purse with an apologetic look. 'I - I'm sorry'
Cute, she thought with a smile to herself. She had been about to shout at him but her anger had disappeared.
'Its okay' she said with a smile.
As she was turning to go, he said ' I - I work in your building only' .
Fumbling in his pocket, he flashed her his ID card, 'See?'
She burst out laughing. Summoning all her confidence, she said 'Are you going somewhere? How 'bout some coffee?'
Aarav could have his explanation later. She had found her man.