Shashi cooked the evening meal, glancing fondly at Adrian as he fed the dog. Their bedsit was big as a barn and they both felt a dog wouldn’t cramp their space. They found Tim at the local SPCA.
“I swear Tim’s grown since last night.”
“His food bill certainly has since last month,” Shashi said dryly, energetically stirring the white wine sauce, one amused eye on Tim wolfing down his food. Within seconds it was gone. The dog looked surprised. Adrian laughed. Tim wagged his tail and bent down to give his bowl another professional lick. A few laps of water to wash it all down and he looked at Shashi with beseeching eyes.
“We’ll take you soon as I’m done, action man,” Shashi grinned, expertly measuring out rice and water into the electric cooker – a gift from thoughtful parents to make life easy. Shashi remembered wondering at the time where in the small kitchenette this would fit. Now steaming hot rice, because it was cheap and easy to cook, had become a regular accompaniment to their meals.
With Tim barking madly at his heels, Adrian walked to the door. Barely managing to contain an animal gone berserk with joy, he leashed Tim and stepped out, letting the dog run ahead as far as the retractable leash would allow. Putting the final touches to their meal Shashi hurried after them, eager for the walk after having slaved over the hot stove.
It was dusk – the best time of the day to unwind after a long, hard, punishing schedule. Their exams were looming and if they weren’t attending lectures, they were cramming. Tim forced them to get away from it all for a few minutes everyday. Once back home they would bury their noses in their books again, but with fresher minds.
Trying to keep up with Tim’s energy as he charged off to sniff at trees, lamp posts and grass verges, Shashi smiled. Tim had added a wonderful dimension to their lives.
“Wonder what’s exciting about sniffing the dog piss,” laughed Adrian.
“You don’t know what stories those smells tell.”
They approached the bend in the road. This is where university flats ended and the posh suburb of Streamarbour began. A wide grassy bank, majestic willows, birches and pohutakawa lined the little stream where ducks paddled, entertaining families with kids, university students, couples and the old. Shashi and Adrian paused to watch as a proud mama duck and her ducklings swam past single file. “Quark” warned mama duck in guttural tones to one of the ducklings who got waylaid by someone squatting at the edge of the stream, holding out her hand.
Tim seemed to know that hand. Tugging hard at his leash he almost dragged Adrian to reach it and proceeded to smother it all over with a very slobbery tongue. “Oh TIM,” squealed a familiar voice. Adele jumped up hurriedly to face Adrian and Shashi with a smile. “Oops, sorry Adele. Ever since you got him those doggie treats he’s been overwhelmed with gratitude.”
“You mean, overwhelming,” laughed Adele ruefully, rubbing her wet hand and face. Part of the charm of a university town was that one did run into friends often. After a few minutes of conversation Adele said she had to get some books from the library and that she’d better hurry before it shut.
Adrian and Shashi smiled their goodbyes clutching Tim’s collar for he wanted, once again, to demonstrate his fondness for the lady.
“Easy boy,” murmured Shashi, making sure Adele was out of earshot, “she’s married to medicine. You don’t stand a chance.”
Adrian laughed. “I agree,” he said. “She’ll probably top the class.”
After a good forty-five minutes they led a tired but happy dog back home. Tim promptly flopped in his favourite corner, dozing contentedly within seconds. Adrian poured out some wine – a pinot for Shashi and a cold chardonnay for himself, gifts from Adrian’s indulgent parents.
“You drink red and I, white; I am a tea person and you prefer coffee. However did we get together and manage to stay together for five whole years?” he laughed.
“I know. You like rugby – jinkies, what a blood sport,” Shashi teased, knowing Adrian would rise to the bait as he loved rugby with a passion.
“What about cricket? Half the players are just sitting around waiting.”
“You wouldn’t understand. It is a game of skill.”
“It’s boring. Nothing seems to happen. Rugby is fast – involves all players.”
“A game of kill, not skill,” said Shashi, slightly riled, “where the unsporting rule by manhandling their opponents.” That was an unfair dig – a reference to a recent incident where a rugby player had picked up his opponent by the legs and smashed his head.
“Those players are disqualified – taken off the field immediately. You know that. Rugby isn’t just violence without any rules.”
“Those huge hulks break all your so-called rules and are happy to take the penalty after they’ve almost crippled their opponents and made them redundant,” said Shashi. “That’s not sporting.”
Adrian laughed softly. “People break rules in cricket too – all that match fixing and under arm bowling one hears of,” he said, aware that this was beginning to sound like an argument. How on earth did they get into it?
“Well,” said Shashi crossly, “I hate it when that happens.”
Realising they were dangerously close to a fight over something neither cared too much about, Adrian quietly got up and dished out the food. Then he motioned for Shashi to join him.
“Damn, it smells good,” said Adrian, sniffing appreciatively.
Shashi, knowing full well Adrian was trying to make up, but still sore about his exposing the underbelly of cricket, couldn’t help feeling a bit gratified. The two ate their meal in silence though both were aware that it was Shashi’s turn to say something to indicate the fight was over. Childishly taking refuge in their theory of savouring each bite seemed like a better idea to Shashi.
“Damn, it tastes good too,” he ventured finally, responding to Adrian’s truce offering. The two smiled tentatively and Adrian raised his glass in a silent toast. After a sip he added, “Hope I can rustle up something as good tomorrow too.” They finished the meal and continued sitting at the table, chatting some more. Then, reluctantly, they got up to clear away their simple meal.
As the two passed each other, Adrian silently reached out for Shashi. For a moment the young men hugged, content, energised by each other, and wonderfully happy. These were their last few, critical days at medical college. Both knew a lot depended on their doing well in their exams. There could be no distractions now. “Later,” said Shashi softly with a sigh and a final lingering feel of Adrian’s wonderfully sculpted arms. The moment passed and they reluctantly broke contact. After a while each was lost in his books.
They both had dreams. To make them a reality they knew they’d have to work hard – perhaps harder than others. There simply were no shortcuts. Eventually, they planned a partnership. Partners in life and partners in work.
Damn, life was good.