It was a cold, windy day in New York. I stepped out of office to grab a banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery at 6th Avenue around the corner from my office. It was my 32nd birthday so thought it befitting to indulge myself. As usual, Magnolia was packed and I queued up waiting for my turn. The phone rang suddenly and I smiled recognising the familiar number.
“Happy Birthday Ms. Newly Minted Vice President”, screamed two excited people from the other end so loudly that I am pretty sure people around me could hear.
“Awww… Thank you monkeys”.
“So are you hitting the clubs tonight and picking up hot chicks to play with? It’s time to work those rusted, overworked and under sexed hormones, Girl. I would have taken you to Stringfellows if you were in London tonight and made sure that you got some action.”
“Yes Sam, getting smashed out of my mind and hooking up with random girls on my birthday today is totally on my agenda for tonight”, I said laughing at the silly conversation. Tara’s husband Sam was crazy. And I adored him.
“Okay, we will call you later”, said Tara. “You have an amazing day, don’t work too late and hey…..we looooruuuve you. Hipppppeeee Birthdaaaaay”, they screamed again.
The phone disconnected and I thought of the last birthday we were all together eight years ago in Delhi. Time had flown so soon and our lives today were in incongruent directions. I had immersed myself in work. It was a perpetual high to be working on multi-billion dollar deals surrounded by the best in the business. Life was spent travelling across London, Singapore and Hong Kong, and I loved every moment of it.
“Hey there sweetie, would you like the usual?”. said the boy behind the counter in a familiar voice to the girl standing in front of me.
“I think I’ll go for the red velvet cupcake instead”, the girl replied in this breezy, flirtatious accent that immediately transported me back to the present and got me to notice her. She was wearing a very smart, white jacket on top of snugly fitted blue jeans. “Or…wait a minute, Jeremy, on second thought I am going to stick to my usual banana pudding”, she replied very cheerfully.
“What do you think? Good choice?” she turned around, looked me in the eye and asked pointedly.
“Well, I was just getting myself some of that so looks like you made the right choice”, I replied.
“Pudding on your birthday, that’s so boring….Naa..get yourself something more befitting… like a devil’s chocolate cupcake maybe.”
“How do you know it’s my birthday?”, I asked in a meek and almost embarrassed tone.
She raised her eyebrow with a flirtatious smile and then immediately proceeded to exit Magnolia. I was a little surprised by her casual brashness. My eyes were focused on her retreating from the bakery and I saw her crossing the road and disappearing. Jeremy interjected and brought me back to reality for the second time in the last five minutes.
I had just entered the elevator when she popped up in front of me again.. “Hey there, so are you following me now?”, she said with that slightly accented voice.
I laughed, “Well I work here. So shouldn’t I be asking you that question, Miss-I-talk-to-random-strangers-at-will”?
“Just business”, came the dry reply couched in that adorably accented voice.
“Btw, I’m Ayesha Adukia. I am into investment banking”, I said in my usual business baritone.
“Well, I am Meera Mirchandani and, I do absolutely nothing”.
“Hahaha.. You really expect me to believe that?” “Well, that’s up to you”, she laughed lightly. And with that she waved and vanished out of the elevator. Leaving me curiously intrigued yet again.
Two hours later, I was just about wrapping up my work for the day when my office phone rang. “Ayesha Adukia speaking”.
“My god, are you always this boring and business like?”, said that familiar flirtatious voice at the other end.
It was her. I was stunned. “How did you get my number?”
“Do you know how many boring investment bankers called Ayesha Adukia are there in this Bank!”, came the cocky response. “Anyway, since I did over hear you telling your friends that you are hitting the clubs tonight, thought I would do you a favour and accompany you. Maybe teach you a trick or two. What say? Lets meet at the bar at the Standard Hotel for drinks at 9PM tonight? And don’t be late okay, I hate waiting”. She didn’t wait for my reply and just hung up instead. I smiled staring at the phone.
“So what do you think about threesomes?” said a familiar accent from behind. I nearly choked my drink. “What?”...this was her entry line? The bar was very noisy but I was pretty sure that I heard her question correctly.
“Exactly what I said, you better get used to the idea, I think you desperately need one.” I couldn’t believe this girl was for real. I had been waiting for her for 20 minutes, not even sure if she would turn up, and she walked in without any apology saying the craziest things.
“You better be nice Miss Mirchandani. Last I checked, it was my birthday”, I said to her with a pout.
“Well last checked, offering myself as a part of a threesome is ME being NICE, don’t you think Miss Boring Banker?”
“Investment Banker”, I corrected her.
“Well, whatever. A bore is a bore, notwithstanding that she comes as a banker in a business suit”, she said in this flirty accent while running her finger over my collar bone. “So, should we get out of this boring place and check out the real Manhattan? I want to show you where I take all my women”. She smiled her naughty smile again. I had drunk half a bottle of wine and keeping aside my inebriated state, I was also clearly mesmerized by this mysterious woman. The bar was very noisy and smoky too, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. With her.
We went to Dumbo on the Subway and I was happy just following her lead when she took my hand and very casually went onto hold it again. I could feel the electricity in her touch, my head began to swoon. Ignoring my over active hormones, I decided to make small talk.
“So where are we headed?”, I asked.
“Gosh, you are so impatient! Wait, woman. Good things come to those who wait.”
Disappointed, I decided to keep quiet. Sensing my obvious irritation, she leant close to my ear and whispered in that sensuous accent that was beginning to give me goosebumps.
“You talk too much you know. I love the silent moments that pass between us when you are quiet and I can just hear you breathe”.
I was suddenly overcome with this almost primal desire to kiss her but I didn’t dare. The truth is that I knew nothing about her. Here was I having the time of my life with this random stranger, who was probably planning to mug me for all I knew. Neither did I know if she liked me or liked women for that matter. “So do you like it hot, sexy and spicy or cold and icy?” “What do you mean?”, I asked confused. This woman was mad. Everything that came out of her mouth seemed like sexual innuendo. “Ice-cream silly! Am buying. So Chilly or Strawberry?” “Strawberry obviously. Chilly flavour sounds outlandish and seriously spicy. I will skip it, thank you”, I said. “Well, Boring Banker- Trust me, you should try something different and new, for once in your monotonous life”.
“And just why should I trust you? I don’t even know you”, I replied.
“Cause just for to-night, Baby, you can BANK on me!” And just in that moment, right outside the ice-cream shop, she pulled my face next to her’s and I received what was to be the first of many birthday kisses that night.