It Happened One Night – Chapter 1

“You look so very different,” beamed Nikhil with a rare twinkle in his otherwise expressionless eyes. Is this the same woman he had seen almost a year back, he wondered? Certainly not with those well-defined brows that accentuated the inebriant effect of the big, brown eyes – the only attractive thing he ever found in the otherwise plain face. He now noticed a strange glow that enamoured him momentarily as their cheeks brushed past in a most ordinary embrace. For once he almost jumped at the invitation from those fair, warm arms that had never interested him before.

Shalini couldn’t stop smiling at this unusual appreciation in Nikhil’s eyes, especially the obvious desire that was flickering in them without his knowing it. A woman’s eyes can hardly read that wrong. “Do I”? She retorted. “Well, from what I remember of you- you haven’t. Not an inch!”

“In that case you certainly seem to have forgotten how I looked. I have…”

“A little paunch now, that wasn’t there before- probably a result of too much of studies and overdrinking without any sea breeze to keep you going! And your eyes…they do seem to have acquired a little more life…Nikhil, I don’t forget things so easily or so soon.” The last part was a last minute addition smeared with a smile, thanks to the flustered look on his face. It surprised him how someone as stupid as Shalini almost read his mind! He gave a full-throated laugh to change the situation and it worked somehow. His mind however denied any other thoughts while he kept on noticing the little changes that almost transformed her from as simple duckling to a gorgeous swan. Nikhil smiled to himself at this rather unusual comparison – a sailor from the very heart- how could he move too far away from the water!

“Hi sweetheart, looking very pretty today,” quipped Vikas, quickly taking her side,” but then you always do”!

“Stop flirting, Vikas. You know that it is easy to understand when you mean things and when you don’t” Shalini smiled.

“ That’s the problem, you never take me seriously,” said Vikas in mock anger. “ By the way, you know Uday don’t you? Hey, where’s Preeti by the way?”

“Preeti’s on her way and NO, I haven’t had the fortune of getting introduced though I’ve heard a lot ‘bout him – Hi Uday, am Shalini…”

5 minutes after this 2 engines roared up as a flock of youth raced towards the nearest movie hall for the most recent horror flick.
Throughout the movie, Nikhil could hardly concentrate on anything but the surprise that by some stroke of luck was sitting right next to him. And every time their hands brushed or she involuntarily gave him look or smile his steely reserve
seemed to weaken a bit. Back in the car on the way back who would sit next to him but Shalini. ‘How can one drive like this’ he muttered to himself as he put his car on the third gear. Out on the main road suddenly Uday’s green Indica swerved from behind blocking his way. Screeching to a halt, he enquired about what made them stop in the middle of nowhere in particular at that unearthly hour.

Apparently Uday, along with the ‘Gang’ had decided a ‘Nite out” at his apartment and so the ones in the other car needed to be intimidated about the change in plans. So instead of the usual stop in front of the Institute they would have to go further ahead towards Navi Mumbai. For a second Nikhil was stunned at this sudden twist of fate, then it made him slightly irritated. And to top it all he could hardly understand the actual reasons for his mood swings. Vinay slept on at the back seat while oblivious to and unmoved by all these Shalini hummed on along with Shania Twain,
“Looks like we’ve made it,
Look how far we’ve come, my baby…”

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