“Thank me on +44726****414 when you’re sober 😉 Veronica.”
Haris read this note on a small piece of paper while looking for his phone in his jacket’s pocket after waking up next morning.
“Veronica….Interesting” he spoke to himself in his lonely hotel room and lied down on the bed again to sleep a little more and later, while steaming water in the electric kettle for his black coffee, he dialed Veronica’s number.
In the evening, as his meeting with Veronica was fixed over the phone, he was sitting in a café in SOHO juggling his cigarette pack and lighter and waiting for this new girl Veronica, who had invited him to meet him there. In between the juggle, Haris kept taking glances at the attractive blondes and brunettes sitting in the café.
“Quite famous this café seems.” Haris thought looking at the main door from where people were entering and exiting continuously and among the extremely fair and pink faces, he noticed a light brown face of a girl and stopped juggling for one moment… but then set his eyes on a blonde girl who was moving right behind the dusky face. That face vanished and Haris continued with his juggling and his wait for Veronica was on.
“Hey!” A husky-voiced female spoke on his right side and Haris looked in her direction.
“Hi!” he rose up from his seat and looked back with a smile and saw the same light brown face. She was smiling.
‘Oh that smile is still so gorgeous’ she thought and he interrupted “I think I already know you.” He was definitely trying to recollect any memory with her.
“You better do Mr. H2O” she said emphasizing on the last word and laughed and Haris had a frown on his forehead hearing that term.
“Babe, are you from my school days??” he instantly asked. “Veronica” he tried to think upon her name to recollect any memory with her and kept looking at her in wonder where as she kept mischievously smiling.
“Okay, I give up. Tell me who are you and why did you call me H2O? Only my schoolmates used to call me by that name but umm….. I don’t really remember you.” He gave up on thinking and she laughed.
“My friends out here in London…. They pronounce my name in the manner that it slightly sounds as Veronica… Otherwise, my parents named me Varnika.” She said raising her eyebrows mischievously. “I am Varnika Das, your classmate.”
“The topper?” Haris asked raising his index finger to the roof indicating to the past years and Varnika nodded with a smile.
“F*ck, you don’t look like her.” Haris speculated. “She used to wear specs.”
“I got laser operation done back in India itself.” Varnika quickly replied.
“Yeah okay but that hair… Each girl in my class had black hair as much as I remember.”
“Everyone colors hair now.” Varnika wondered.
“I see…. and that nose.” He mischievously said touching her nose.
“Shut up would you?” she said and took a step back “Nose is just fine as earlier. There are no cuts on the face at all…. Stop doubting now”… and they both bursted into a laughter.
“This is such a pleasure to see you here.” Haris said and hugged her warmly.
“So Mr. H2O, what brings you to London?” Varnika inquired with a smile and they sat down for a conversation.
“Oh Anna” Varnika said when I opened the door. Her face was glowing with happiness and she tossed her purse on the floor and removed her coat and hung it on the coat hanger kept by the window and looked at me. Her happy expressions were still the same and I was waiting to hear out her joyful story.
“Anna, today has been such a fantastic evening… ah!” Varnika said dropping herself on the couch without expressing the reason behind her cheerfulness.
I folded my hands in each other and tried to guess “And what is the reason that you are so happy today? Nakul sent a surprise gift or what?” I asked and sat opposite to her on the couch.
“Nakul… No!” Varnika hesitated over Nakul’s name which surprised me.
“Then?” I had to ask because Varnika did not reply herself.
She waited for another second and then asked me “Do you remember that incident last Sunday…. when we had picked up that guy from outside that pub and dropped him to his hotel.”
“It was a sex club Nik….” I corrected her and said “And Yes I do remember… so what about it?”
Varnika had noticed that my expressions had changed from being happily curious to angrily curious and she said “You won’t believe me if I tell you his name?” her voice had a mixed tone of hesitation and delight.
I instantly fretted “Haris?” and Varnika said “You had recognized him? Wow Anna, your sharp memory is…..uh… commendable.” She squirmed in the sofa and looked at her purse that she had dropped on the floor herself a few seconds ago.
“Why did you meet Haris? And where? You went to his hotel or what? What are you trying to do Nik? What’s going on?” I fired her with an array of questions.
“Hang on hang on! Don’t overreact sis!” Varnika stopped me and I waited for her word with my hands folded and a frown persisting on forehead and lips.
“That night when we had dropped him to his hotel, I had left my name and phone number on a piece of paper in his jacket in case he ever wants to say thanks…” Varnika calmly explained and I interrupted her by touching my forehead with one hand and pressing my waist with another. She understood my gesture and said “Relax Anna, there is nothing to be tensed about. It was just about one happy meeting.”
“Tell me the whole thing.” I ordered her.
“Okay.” She said and continued “As I said, I had dropped my name and number on a paper slip in his jacket… he had called me today to thank me and check who I was. On the call, he asked me for a meeting and….”
“And?” I asked loudly.
“And it would be a lie if I tell you that I did not have the same thing on my mind.” Varnika said and looked at me for her punishment. I stared at her and then looked at the table and said “continue.”
“So… we met today over a cup of coffee… he told me that he is here on a modeling assignment which is on the verge of completion. I told him about my job and other than this normal introduction, we exchanged a few incidents from our school days and then departed… I felt nice to meet him… It was just that I was seeing him after such a long gap so I was inquisitive about what is going on in his life, Is he still the same Haris or has mentally grown up?” Varnika explained seeking a nod from me but got nervous looking at my constant frown.
“And he left…. Without doing anything to you?” I asked with sarcasm.
“Yeah” Varnika wondered.
It took her a second to understand what I meant and then she explained “He knows I am not ‘his kinda girl’ so why would he initiate closeness with me? And moreover, we met only because he wanted to know who helped him that night and I wanted to meet because it has been so long.” Varnika explained the same thing again.
“Alright.” I said and took a deep breath and stood up from my place and said “Nik, Your current phase is the best phase in your life…Celebrate it… but don’t entertain a party crasher so much so that can mess up things terribly… You are wise enough to understand what I mean.” I told her and she nodded. I headed to kitchen to cook supper and Varnika went to the bedroom to change into her night clothes.
“Okay, so are you wondering who all of us are?”
“Well, I am Anamika… Anamika Das, better known as Anna. Varnika and I are sisters. I am one and half years older to her. I am a gynaecologist and work with a hospital in Canary Wharf whereas Varnika works with an architecture firm in Central London. We are from Kolkata, India. I was seven and Varnika five n half, when we lost our mother during her third birth delivery. Our youngest sibling Amish, who has never seen mom, stays with Dad in India.”
“And about these two guys that Varnika and I talked about, Nakul is her boyfriend turned fiancé. They met during their graduation in college and hit it off pretty soon. Nakul also works with an architecture company and his office is totally at the other end of London but he drops by our home twice or thrice in a week to meet Varnika. Nakul’s family is from Gujarat and he has been raised in London with Indian family roots. He is a very nice guy. Quite affable, well-mannered, respectful towards family and admirably romantic – in short, a kind of guy every girl wishes to settle down with. Varnika and he are planning to marry as soon as our Dad gets retired from his government job and settles with us here in London.”
“And about Haris, he is Haris Hamid Obaidullah, also known as H2O…. well, he is Varnika’s one and only secret crush since childhood. They studied in apparently the same class from grade 3rd to grade 10th in our school in Kolkata. In grade 5, during the Maths exam Varnika got her pencil broken and with no other pencils left, she started sobbing. Haris who was sitting on another bench in the alternate row noticed her crying and murmured about her problem. When she showed him her broken pencil and empty pencil box, he took out his pencil box and offered her a pencil and in no time Varnika was bewitched by his cute dimpled smile. The boy she had never noticed had become important for her in the fraction of a second – Childhood Love you see – But the nerdy soul never approached him to confess her feelings in all these years. Actually, there were certain reasons behind her inhibition. Haris is very outgoing, super rich, flirty and raunchy brat and my sweet sister is an absolute contrast. So all in all, Haris never ever looked at Varnika after the ‘help the crying Varnika’ incident.”
“Moreover Varnika and Haris always had different friend circles so there was no chance of daily interaction. During teenage, while Haris was totally absorbed into crappy things like dating random girls, picking up nasty fights over them, spending endless amount of money on video games and other expensive stuff; Varnika focused only on her studies and getting excellent marks. Her feelings for Haris never overpowered her discipline for studies certainly because of the disparities in our upbringing and lifestyle. Living without a mother had matured me and her well before our time and therefore she had a strong dedication towards her dream of becoming an Architect. After finishing my school, I was already sent to London for my medical studies and Varnika followed my footsteps and came to London for her architecture degree.”
“Her friends are my friends and my friends are hers… That’s the benefit of having a sibling of less age gap. So last Sunday, when we were coming back after celebrating a friend’s birthday bash at SOHO, Varnika and I saw Haris being thrown out of a sex club… He was completely sloshed and was abusing the bouncers in Hindi which drew our attention. Doing all the drama, he had collapsed on the street itself and hence we rushed to help him. Upon searching through his pockets, I found his hotel’s keys, his phone and Varnika found his wallet in the other pocket and probably through his wallet only she got confirmed of his identity or may be she had recognized him right away just the way I had… I don’t know! His hotel was not that far so we decided to drop him there. Varnika did not mention it to me before that she has shared her name and number with him… perhaps… because she thought that I had not recognized him or to show me that she has moved on from that phase in her life…. I have no idea!”
“Woww! You made Thai curry?” Varnika, who had entered the kitchen just now, disturbed me.
“Yea, your favorite red Thai curry with lemon grass rice.” I answered with a serious face and kept stirring the curry and she smiled at me. Varnika read my worried mind and locked her arms around my shoulders. “I love you Anna.” She said and pecked on upper side of my cheek. “Love you too.” I replied and we removed extra stuff lying on the dining table to prepare it for supper; Ate it and went to the bedroom to sleep.
“Did Nakul call?” I asked her while lying down to sleep and picked up my phone.
“Yeah, we spoke in the morning.” Varnika replied and switched on the night lamp by her side and picked up a book to read.
“When is he coming back?” I asked again.
“Monday.” Varnika said flipping through the pages.
“Hmmm..” I said and snuggled under the cozy blanket.
“Wow! Look at these pictures Nik” and I shifted slightly near Varnika to show her my phone.
“Aren’t those photos amazing? I am quite flabbergasted at the technique of this photographer.” I was in complete awe of that person’s Instagram feed.
“Yea… amazing pictures!” Varnika replied scrolling the phone screen up and down. “Who’s this person?” she further asked.
“I don’t know. I came across his feed by the Instagram ‘suggestions’. I am following some good photographer’s feed to understand photography more deeply and probably on the basis of that, Instagram has suggested me to follow this person as well…. Show me the handle name?” I curiously took back my phone from Varnika and once I took it back, Varnika got busy with her book and I kept looking at the person’s photographic art. “ohh_photography” is his handle name.
I read in his Bio. His Display picture had a big lens held in one hand. I dropped a few comments on his wonderful pictures and finally hit the ‘follow button’ and kept my phone on the bedside table and closed my eyes.
“Goodnight Nik” I said and sleep embraced me quicker than I realized.
to be continued…