How many frogs? Playing Catch Up
Radha reserved one Saturday every month to catch up with friends. They would have laid back luncheons, the occasional shopping sprees, or massage treats at a spa. This was the Saturday for this month. She was walking with her friend around the lake at the Central Park, when they ran into Deb. The three strolled along and then sat chatting on a bench. They reminisced about the chai wala, or peddlers carrying nuts, that would typically accost them in such a setting back home in India. After a bit, Radha's friend said she had to leave because she had an errand to run. Her errand was clearly improvised for their benefit. Her eyes twinkled with laughter and Radha blushed. Deb loved to see her color on his account.
Radha and Deb were meeting after quite a gap actually. She had been avoiding Deb ever since her mother, Shakti, left, after her three week's stay with her daughter. Deb was around most of the time when Shakti was here. She had made a huge fuss over him. Deb had lapped up the attention without the slightest embarrassment or protest. In turn he had pampered all her idiosyncratic wishes.. took her to malls, on drives, sometimes even without Radha. Their budding rapport had made Radha resentful. While Radha loved her mother, deep down, she looked upon her with faint contempt. Shakti had always disapproved of the loose reigns on which her husband insisted they bring up their daughter. She blamed her husband for Radha's brazen refusal to be "womanly". What man will put up with her shameless temper and energy! Shakti's heart would well up with sadness thinking of her daughter's loneliness. Radha hated the fact that her mother acted so special with Deb with the obvious hope that he marry her. After she left, Radha had been sort of cool with Deb. It made him restless and disappointed. So he had kept away too.
Their chance encounter this afternoon seemed to have cured their differences. A break from each other will often do that to you. Deb looked handsome in his shorts and tee shirt.. younger. Radha glowed from her visit to the spa this morning. They linked their hands after a while. All was sweet and lovey dovey. Radha felt a rush and hated herself for it. Was he feeling it too?
As evening fell, they returned together to Deb's apartment. Another movie night or heart-to-heart perhaps, with Deb then dropping her off as late as 12:00 or 1:00? This had happened twice in the past. Radha was sort of glad to stay away from anything more intimate for the time being. But when they entered his flat today, Deb said, "You are staying here tonight.." Radha smiled and bit her lips. She was uncharacteristically unsure. What did he mean? Was she reading too much into it? Or, did he mean just an ordinary sleep over? She wasn't sure she could handle that either. She was attracted to Deb. She stood looking at him without speaking. She was never uptight about sex. But she was looking for a long term deal this time. Deb had not offered that up, at least not yet. There were signs, sure.. but this time she did not want to be misreading them. Of one thing she was sure. She was not up for a fling.
"What about dinner?" asked Radha, trusting herself to neither agree or disagree. Deb said, "We could go out or we could cook." Radha held his eyes as she walked slowly toward his kitchen. She started to look around and pulled out pots and knives. Deb came to help. He put some rice to boil, while she pulled out some frozen chicken. He peeled potatoes while she attacked the onions... the domesticity suddenly held an exciting promise. They busily foraged the cabinets for this spice and that. Deb was not well stocked. Radha made a mental note to shop supplies for him. After Deb's part was done, he watched Radha busily sautéing the meat. He went up behind her and wrapped his arms around. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply. He'd been wanting to do that ever since he caught a whiff of her spicy shampoo earlier this evening. Radha went stiff. She was torn between passion and her resolve to hold back. It was a long time since Joy that she actually wanted a man. Did she love him? She was opening herself up to another huge disappointment, said the warning bells in her head. Was it worth it? Deb didn't let her ponder the point much longer. He turned her face to his by her chin. With her head turned into his, Radha whispered on an impulse, "Will you marry me?"