Arnika was nervous. Blind dates, as exciting were always nerve racking. She tried to remind herself : ‘It’s not really a blind date. We have met before – even if it was her asking me whether I wanted punch at a house warming party.’
She was wearing a polka dotted tee and jeans. ‘I wonder if it shows too much cleavage and too much arm?’ she wondered as she did her ditzy mirror dance. No straps, no loose threads… Her hands shook as she fiddled with her hair one more time.
Then, she reached out and found a silver charm bracelet. A friend had gifted it to her. The hearts strung along now yelled, “Wear me”. ‘Hmm, looks like one should get all the help one needs,’ and put it on. Feeling 16 going on 32, Arnika wondered what happened to the girl who had been out on so many blind dates with such ease!
The sky was letting it loose. Buckets of water poured across the windshield. Her hands shook when she bought the sunflowers. ‘So what if there are memories associated with the sunflowers? They are my favourite flowers,’ she justified bravely to herself thinking about past loves, and the ritual of flowers and shrugging it off. ‘Tonight I am going to have fun! I am not going to think about anything and just give myself a chance.’
As she crossed the bridge to her destination, she thought of how her friends had decided to fix her up. ‘You need to get out and stop moaning over that twenty-year-old-twit Naina! She was a loser and you know that! You can’t spend your life in between work and home and not much else!’ The result was a date with a girl her friends had raved about. “Sonali’s funny. She’s older. She’s independent. She’s also extremely well-behaved.”
The last one was a clincher. After dealing with a girlfriend who had stalked her for many months, and having to change phone numbers, bribe her watchman to make sure no one came upto her door unescorted and even considering changing her apartment, the being well-behaved was such a soothing balm. And yes, a clincher!
Losing her way twice over, shocked her from her reverie. ‘Is that a sign?’ Arnika wondered as she made her way.
Lifts with mirrors were such a helpful touch, trying to quell her hair and the butterflies.
The charm bracelet glinted, jingled, with its hearts and keys!
The door opened… and she found herself staring into a set of brown eyes, short hair and a wide smile. Arnika held out the flowers. ‘These are for you,’ with a tentative smile! The lights were dim. The loudspeakers belted out a romantic song. And the sofas looked non-threatening.
The conversation, for starters was awkward.
‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ Arnika asked, wondering why she remembered a rank stranger pouring her punch at a crowded house-warming party when Sonali had not a fleeting clue of meeting her. And then it struck her: ‘Maybe because Sonali reminded me so much of Naina. And I didn’t want to even look in that direction at all!’ The realization eased some of the stress. Olives on cheese crackers did too. The wind billowing outside as the rain practiced its rhythm calmed her nerves…
And the conversation began. Questions rolled into monologues into dialogue. Then a debate and then much laughter… They both liked the movies. Loved travel and shared interesting notes over places they had visited and stayed in! They disagreed on books and discussed being ‘out’ in the Indian work scenario. They found common friends and wondered how they had never met before!
Last few months had been full of angst for both of them… and there was a wariness and caution that coated their approach. Despite their 6 year age difference, they both seemed at the beginning of something new in their lives, daring themselves to experiment and explore, willing to change patterns of a life time.
Three hours later, dinner done, two cups of coffee savoured, Arnika wondered why it had taken her eight months to even date someone. How long had it been since she had allowed herself to just let her hair down without feeling like she was being watched? How long had it been since she had experienced chemistry or even just banter? How long had it been since a non-platonic hug?
The evening had been fun. And when minutes ticked into hours, she had no idea…. As she made a move to leave, she wondered, ‘Damn. Why is saying bye so akward? Should I hug her or shake hands?’ She wondered quizically!
Just then Sonali reached out and said, “Hey, your bracelet?” holding the charm bracelet that Arnika had fidgeted with all evening and unclipped unconsciously.
And as she handed the bracelet into Arnika’s hand, their palms brushed. Electricity crackled. Brown eyes met another set of brown. For that brief tense second, time stood still… And Arnika knew that the charm bracelet had made its magic move!