Viyan had spotted her from a distance. The girl was sitting at the counter as he walked up to them. He just wanted to stop and say goodbye to the bartender before heading home. She looked hot in the frilled skirt and had a well shaped bottom which was glorified by the bar stool as he walked up behind her.
‘Hey Viyan, you want a beer?’ the bartender asked.
‘No dude. Am stuffed with Wine’ he replied, holding his belly.
‘He’s also stuffed with Looooouve’ mocked Shwetha as she swung around.
Viyan was startled to see her as he blinked hard through the dim lights.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked, holding her by the arm.
‘Relax dude. I just stopped by for a while on my way back home to meet Divya here’ she lied. ‘Oh and by the way, West Ham won the game. 3-0. Sorry you missed it’ she added.
‘What? That’s awesome. I have to catch the highlights then’ he said, checking the time.
‘Drop me home first’ she said ‘Your date took off right or is she waiting in a dark corner at the parking lot?’ she winked.
‘She left with her friends. Come lets go’ he said, eager not to discuss anything while others were around.
‘Can we stop by the beach?’ Shwetha asked as Viyan drove by the exit to the Marine Avenue. ‘I feel like taking a walk. It’s so windy outside’
‘Sure’ said Viyan as he turned towards the beach.
‘So, Mr. Hot shot. Are you going to tell me about it or not?’ she asked finally, as they walked along the concrete pavement that stretched the entire length of the beach. The place was almost empty.
‘Well…we spoke a lot. It was nice’ he said, smiling.
‘Are you guys together?’ she asked, walking ahead of him.
‘What? That’s ridiculous. We just met’ he laughed out loudly.
She said nothing, walking with her arms folded across her chest.
Viyan couldn’t help but admire Shwetha as he trailed behind her. Apart from the skirt that displayed her nicely curved legs, he also noticed how graciously her hair danced to the gentle sway of the wind.
‘You want to know the truth; I lost complete interest in this so called date just ten minutes into it’ Viyan blurted casually.
‘What?’ said Shwetha as she turned around almost too quickly ‘Why?’
‘I don’t know. Damayanthi felt like a complete stranger. She was not the girl I kissed a decade back and even if she was, I am not the same guy now.’ he said.
‘But you seemed to be enjoying it’ she said, taken completely by surprise.
‘Obviously I couldn’t show it out. You want me to sit and sulk in front of her?’ he chuckled.
‘Were you watching me all the time?’ he asked suddenly.
‘Well no! I mean… Wow, I never expected this’ she sighed, oddly feeling relieved for some reason.
‘Yeah, well I am glad it’s over’ he said ‘Damn, I had to drink wine’ he added as they both laughed.
‘So what didn’t you like in her? How has she changed?’ Shwetha asked.
‘Well, for starters she told me she doesn’t like Chennai anymore’ Viyan scoffed.
‘Oh… Then it’s definitely over’ Shwetha said ‘What else?’ she prodded.
‘She seemed self absorbed and quite high maintenance’ he said ‘Who did you say you met at the pub again?’ he asked suspiciously.
‘Never mind. Go on’ Shwetha said quickly.
‘Well, she did not seem like a good listener as she kept on rambling about herself’ he added.
‘But she kept laughing a lot like she was enjoying your jokes’ Shwetha said.
‘She was drunk. That’s why she was laughing for everything’ he said ‘I did not even feel like cracking a joke with her you know. I realized she wouldn’t enjoy it the way, lets say you do’ he added, looking up at her.
‘I like Chennai too’ Shwetha said instinctively as the wind picked up and her hair danced all over her face.
‘Yeah and she was quite boring. I don’t know what I found interesting about her back in school’ he said, kicking at a pebble.
‘Just say it dude, she’s not like me’ chuckled Shwetha turning away as she hopped into the cool beach sand barefoot with Viyan following her.
‘She’s nothing compared to you’ he replied softly as he watched her pretty feet covered by the sparkling grains of sand.
The rhythmic sound of the waves filled the gap of silence for a minute before Viyan spoke again.
‘Can I ask you something Shwetha?’ he said, suddenly stopping.
‘Sure’ she replied. Viyan had never called her ‘Shwetha’ as far as she could remember.
‘Why did you really come to the pub today?’
‘I was just… curious’ Shwetha replied after a long pause.
‘Are you sure you weren’t jealous?’ he mocked
‘Do you want me to be jealous?’ she shot back immediately ‘Because the last time I wanted to be in a position to be jealous, you laughed it off like it was a stupid idea’ she snarled, remembering the incident years back when, post a personal crisis and in a moment of weakness, she had entertained thoughts of getting together with Viyan only to be rebuffed by him immediately refusing to even think the proposal through seriously.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked
‘Do you want me to be jealous?’ she repeated.
‘I don’t know’ he replied, looking down.
‘Great. What do you know Viyan?’ she asked, exasperated.
‘I know that, sitting there today, I could think of nothing or no one else but you’ he blurted ‘I… missed you I guess’ he shrugged
‘Wow! thank you. Its an honor’ she said sarcastically ‘Next time you say you missed me, lose the shrug!’ she snapped.
Why doesn’t he make a move? she wondered, grinding her teeth. He could be so indecisive at times. Why did she have to like him so much?
‘So, what do we do?’ Viyan asked.
Shwetha decided it was time she took matters into her own hands.
‘I’ll tell you what we’ll do Viyan’ she said ‘Let’s have a race to the edge of the water. If I win, you should propose to me or else I shall propose to you’ she declared.
‘What?’ Viyan asked, not really sure if she was serious or just being sarcastic in anger.
‘Am serious, come on’ she said, drawing a start line with her feet in the smooth sand.
‘I don’t think we should decide our future with a race’ he ventured, still amazed at the kind of ideas that Shwetha always seemed to come up with.
‘You got a better idea?’ she asked with a straight face. ‘One only has to propose’ she reassured him.
‘But you’re running barefooted. I have my red tape shoes on and I am on a full stomach and my bladder…’ he moaned.
‘Shut up you Wimp. Be a man and race’ she chided. ‘You ready?’ she asked.
‘What happens if I win, again?’ he asked struggling to remember the rules.
‘Do we have to touch the water or just…’
‘Go’ she said and took off instantly.
Viyan started late and trailed behind her. His shoe was getting stuck deep inside the sand every time he wedged it in and the wine and food in his stomach wasn’t helping either. Shwetha meanwhile seemed to be focused as she continued to accelerate at a blistering pace. Viyan summed up all his energy as he began to pull the gap back. His shoe filled up with sand as the tiny particles pricked his feet like needles. The water was less than 20 meters away when Viyan realized that his bladder was dangerously close to an epic explosion as he was forced to slow down agonizingly close to the finish. Shwetha ran into the water first, triumphantly kicking around and doing an ‘Usain Bolt’ imitation. They both slumped to the wet sand, gasping for breath. It was Viyan who made the first move as he laid a hand on her thigh to keep her skirt from lifting in the wind and slowly turned her towards him.
‘You lost’ Shwetha said, breathing heavily as their eyes met.
‘I did’ he replied, looking at the glistening beads of sweat that decorated her face.
‘As per the rules, you…’ she started before he pulled her closer and planted a kiss on her cheek as she grasped his shirt and inhaled deeply. The cool sweat smeared each other’s face as their lips met and the waves splashed against their feet.