[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1]
Wake me up
The first thing Diano felt was the throbbing headache. He was aware of the pain even before he opened his eyes. It was as if somebody were hammering his skull from the inside.
What time was it? He squinted at the clock. 3:30 p.m., it read.
“Summer!” God, he felt thirsty. “Water!”
Summer poked her head into the room.
“Oh, the princess is finally awake!” she teased.
“It’s on the floor next to your bed.”
Diano reached out for the glass of water but the movement caused a big thud inside his head.
“Hang on.” Summer picked up the glass of water and helped him take a few sips.
“What happened last night?” He hoped she’d tell him because he couldn’t remember a thing.
“I met the most handsome guy in the universe!” She winked at him.
“I mean, what happened? When did we get back home?”
“The question is not when, my dear. The question is — how did we get back home?” She kept up the suspense.
“Okay, my mom, please, tell me what happened.”
“Well, you mixed your drinks…. Had too many, if I’m allowed to say. I went off to the washroom. When I returned, you were gone. At first, I thought you were in the men’s room. So I went back and peeped inside. The door to the solitary cubicle was open but you weren’t inside… Somebody should tell the manager to use a screen there. It’s so embarrassing!”
“Okay, lah. Then?” Diano was eager to get to the main part.
“I walked around the entire floor once and then I went to check the terrace.”
“It was drizzling outside. I saw the silhouette of a guy walking towards me. He was carrying somebody in his arms just like a lover would. For a second, I froze.”
“Wow. Romantic.” Diano rolled his eyes.
“It was you he was carrying….” Summer trailed off for effect.
“Nonsense. Ha-ha.” Diano burst out laughing but held his head and groaned in pain.
“I’m serious wor.”
Summer told him the story of how the handsome young man had managed to stop him from climbing over the parapet. And how the strong man had picked him up when he’d passed out and sheltered him from the rain. And how he was kind enough to drive them home. His name was Oliver.
“But how did I get up here?” Diano was puzzled.
“He picked you up in his arms and climbed the seven floors.”
“No way.” Diano couldn’t believe his ears. If a fraction of what Summer had just told him was true, then that evening would go down as the most embarrassing one in his life. He felt like running to the window and jumping off.
“He did. Oh God, thank you for sending him. My prayers have been answered. Finally.” Summer was visibly excited.
“Er…what about my clothes? Please, tell me I changed them…myself?” Diano could feel his cheeks burning.
“That was me. I dried your hair too. You should buy me a dinner for having taken care of you.”
“Thank you, my darling. I don’t think a dinner can repay all the debt,” said Diano, with a sigh of relief. “Where’s Cute?”
“He’s out with a new friend. Sometimes I wish he’d pick someone his age….” Summer sighed.
“Another one?” Diano was concerned. Cute was not just their flat mate, he was like a younger brother.
“Yeah. I hope he doesn’t do anything stupid. Sometimes I’m worried about him.”
“I understand how you feel. Maybe he needs a father figure around him. I’m not old enough I guess….”
“He’s no longer a kid. He probably understands what he’s doing more than we do. I trust him.” Summer stood up. “Do you want to rest some more or do you want to grab a bite? I’m hungry.”
“I think I want to sleep. Not hungry anyway.”
Diano drew the drapes and settled down in bed after Summer left the room. He still couldn’t recollect any part of the story Summer had just told him. It was very kind of the stranger to have helped them. Climbing seven floors with someone in your arms required strength. No wonder he had impressed Summer. She had been single for over a year already. She went out with her friends but not on real dates. In fact, she spent most of her free time with Cute and him.
Cute. It was an appropriate name for a person as attractive as Cute was. His puppy eyes made people like him instantly. They had met him by chance. Summer and Diano had been looking for a third flat mate. Their flat was big by Hong Kong standards — it had a big hall and three bedrooms. They had planned to use the spare bedroom as a studio for Summer’s projects. But when Summer could manage her work in her own room, it made sense to rent it out and reduce costs. So they had placed ads on many websites. A few people had turned up but were unhappy about climbing the 7 stories. Then, one day, Cute had turned up at their door and moved in by nightfall.
That’s the last thing Diano thought before he fell asleep