Short story by Sauban Pathan
How does one deal with boys your father doesn’t approve of. Do you cut them off completely ignoring any future attempts of communication. Or do you try to guide them and help them reform. Enjoy their company maybe. Be alert all the time, but enjoy before they spoil it all. Bad boys were exciting company. You had to give them that credit. Maybe that is why her father always warned about them. However, the subject of her affection was walking towards her now. Her heart raced at the sight of him. She did not believe it was love. She was sure he was not the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She loved however to sit behind him on his bike when he raced at deadly speeds around town. She wanted the support of his bulging arms when they stood precariously on the edge of the high towers of the city.
He strode confidently up to her took her in his arms and kissed her. Yes, she thought, this too was one of the reasons why she liked his company. He was a good kisser. She didn’t care of the disapproving looks of people walking by.
“Ready to rock and roll babe?” He asked.
“You bet,” she giggled.
She sat down on his bike without another word. She never asked him the destination, but she knew it would be exciting. What her father wouldn’t understand was she trusted this bad boy. She could trust him not to do drugs. He hated that. He loved to party hard, but she could trust him to be sober enough to ride the bike and drop her home safely. She had learnt to ride the bike also, so that was hardly a problem.
“Get that job in Pune, your uncle was talking about,” he told her angrily. She was sure it was just a pretext of getting her away from Sameer and Mumbai. How would that help anything? She shook her head. Sameer could always come to Pune. Old people! How do you make them understand. She did not tell her father that she had a job offer from Bangalore that was much more lucrative.
She adjusted her scarf over her face. She always carried her blue silk scarf in her hand bag for two reasons. Both reasons were because of Sameer. One reason was the scarf protected her face from the city’s heat and dust when Sameer rode his bike at high speeds.
He had suggested the use of a helmet although he did not wear one. She had refused because it was more of a burden than protection .
“You see. I cannot slow down,” he said. “I have to ride her to her fullest potential.” He insisted on referring to the bike in female terms.
Sameer rode the bike with confidence carefully avoiding the puddles, not for the bumps but because he did not want to get his bike dirty. The bike was an obsession. She was almost envious of it. Bullet she used to tease him. Royal Enfield he used to correct her, annoyed. She even questioned him about his affection. I cannot ride you as fast as her, he replied tongue in cheek.
Today he was wearing the tee she had bought for him. It was actually a dare and she was sure he would not wear Snoopy holding a bucket and a fishing rod. Yet here he was wearing it for her. The others in their small group had insisted he would not be seen dead in it. She might just fall in love with him, she smiled. The only flaw about him, she could think of. was that he was an adrenaline junkie. He would do things just for a dare.
Speaking of others she wondered where they were. She shouted her question into his ear.
“They will join us at Starbucks later,” he shouted back.
They were now in the Queen of the burbs – Bandra. Sameer turned into a by-lane she was not aware of. She thought she had seen most of the area since this was where she worked. She had a nice job not far from this place reporting for an online magazine. It gave her enough time to walk around the place and experience the local eating places.
It was in one of these lanes she met Sameer a year ago. At first she refused to talk to the road side Romeo, but she gave in, admiring his persistence.
After that it had been coffee, rides near bandstand and night clubs. She had carefully avoided any photos with him. It was the other reason she carried her scarf. She made sure he and his friends did not photograph her. She simply wanted to avoid being seen on the social media with a gang of bikers.
She later found out that he was the son of an industrialist. She decided a photo with him might actually help her. It had not happened yet, but they had decided to go to Starbucks tonight and celebrate the anniversary. She would get her photo then.
Sameer turned into another lane and stopped.
“Come Akshara,” he said. “I have to show you something.”
She followed him a couple of blocks before he guided her into the entrance of a two storied building. He pulled her up the stairs. She had played this scene over and over again in her head many times. Sameer would want to get into her pants sooner or later. He probably had planned a romantic evening in some room in the building. This is the way he wanted to celebrate their anniversary. She could feel cold sweat breaking all over her body. She wanted to do this, but she felt guilty too.
Her excitement grew and she was almost shivering. She did not count the floors they must have climbed, but when he walked up one more flight of stairs where old broken stuff was thrown around she realized they had already crossed the last floor. Sameer opened the iron grill to the terrace.
She looked around the terrace which was growing darker by the minute. The sun was barely peeping out of the horizon far away. There was no bed here. Not even tables for a romantic meal. It was just an abandoned terrace.
“What are we doing here?” she asked.
“We are conquering your fears,” he replied. He smiled mischievously. “Come,” he said jumping on the wall at edge of the terrace.
She took his help to stand on the wall too. “Sameer,” she said. “I have stood on buildings many times higher than this one, if you remember.”
He smiled and jumped on the ledge below, beckoning her to follow. She jumped down behind him. She could see a dilapidated godown below. The roof was rusted and had large holes in it. The largest hole was right below them. The lack of light did not allow her to see what was inside.
“Okay, what now,” she asked holding him close. She was not really brave. The only reason she did this was that he was beside her.
“Now,” he said. “We jump.”
“What?” she almost shouted. “Have you gone crazy.”
“I already am, Akshara,” he laughed. “It has been one year since we met. It is time to take our relationship to the next level.”
“But…” she started to say something.
“No buts,” he stopped her. “Just look at me. Observe. Do as I do. I am going down first. What you do then is your choice. You can leave by the door. In which case I will refuse to even recognize you. Ever. Or come down behind me. If we die we will live together in heaven,” he laughed. “If you break all the bones in your body, I promise never to leave your side ever again.”
“But…” she started to say something again, but he put his finger on her lips. He replaced his finger with his lips, lingering for an extra moment.
“Shush babe and observe.”
He pushed her against the wall, turned around and jumped straight down feet first. She did not hear any sound. She was sure he had made arrangements to land safely.
Damn, she thought, sex would have been easier. She was a virgin. She was petrified by the idea of sex. However, this was not even close to something she had imagined doing. Hell, she was going to die virgin.
She threw her bag down first. She threw her shoes next, careful they went through the opening in the roof. Standing on the edge she took a deep breath. What am I doing, she thought. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ Kelly Clarkson sang in her head. She adjusted her scarf and jumped.
She sailed through the air for a fleeting moment before she landed on large soft airbag. When she stopped bouncing she let her eyes grow accustomed to the darkness. It was not as dark as it appeared from above. There was some light coming in from the road which was not far off. Sameer sat nursing his leg on what appeared a torn sofa nearby. He had a big grin on his face.
“You asshole,” she shouted at him. “I could have been killed.” She jumped of the bag and ran to him. She punched him in the shoulders.
“Stop, stop,” he laughed and groaned at the same time. “I’ve hurt my ankle while landing.”
“So who told you to do this,” she screamed. She was on a high. She could not believe she had jumped of a building and lived to tell.
“You liked it didn’t you?” he laughed. “Yeh?”
She couldn’t help but nod. She gathered her bag and shoes and helped him get up.
“I am riding the bike to the doctor,” she told him.
Sameer did not say a word, but simply gave her the bike keys. She knew he was not in a position to argue or to ride a bike.
“There is a doctor, not far away from here,” he said.
“Why go to the doctor, when you can go to the hospital,” said a voice.
They noticed someone had appeared at the entrance of the godown. The man came forward followed by two more guys. Akshara recognized them as rival biker gang members. Sameer had once won a race against these guys. They did not play fair though.
“Where is Pinto, you shithead,” said the guy in front.
Pinto was one of Sameer’s gang of bikers.
“How should I know,” Sameer replied. “I am standing here right in front of you. He must be out and about town as usual.” Sameer replied controlling his anger. He knew he was at a disadvantage.
“That he is, I’m sure,” the guy said. “Only problem is he is doing it with my girl.”
“What?” Sameer said in amazement. “Pinto would not do that. He already has a girlfriend.”
“Yeah, I know that, and that’s what pissing me off,” the man moved closer.
Akshara noticed he had a baseball bat in his hand. The other two had iron rods.
“Listen,” she said. “We can find Pinto later. Sameer here needs medical attention. You can ask your girl why she was with Pinto when she comes back, if that is true at all.”
“You listen to me bitch. I know what I know. Your boyfriend doesn’t leave here on his feet and you my darling, I am going to take in exchange of my girl.”
“Don’t you dare touch her,” growled Sameer. “Pinto should be at the bandstand right now.”
“Then we will go after him as soon as we have broken your bones and tasted the goods of your beautiful companion,” the guy said moving nearer. He was almost on top of them.
Sameer pushed Akshara behind and quickly took out the butterfly knife he kept in his jeans pocket.
“Think again, Sameer,” the man said. “That’s hardly a match to what I have got. Although now you’ve made me even angrier.”
He rushed towards Sameer and swung his bat. Sameer ducked and dug the knife into his leg. The man screamed in pain. The other two rushed at Sameer after seeing their leader hurt. Sameer ducked once more to avoid the rods they were brandishing. He drove the knife into one person’s side, but the other guy succeeded in hitting him on the shoulder. Sameer fell onto his side. He stabbed the knife at the man and managed to cut him in the shin. That guy too fell groaning.
The leader of the threesome got up angrily, turned around and hit Sameer on the jaw with his bat. Sameer lay still and the guy with the shin cut started hitting Sameer. Akshara ran to him. She was not sure what she would do, but she had to do something. She pushed the guy away and grabbed the baseball bat of the leader. He just shook her away and she fell on top of Sameer. She felt a rod hit her on her back.
“Stop,” said the voice of the leader. “Leave her intact. She is dessert.” She felt herself being pulled by the hair. At the same time she felt Sameer’s butterfly knife in her hand. She grabbed it and as soon as she was on her feet, turned around and drove the knife into the man’s chest. He fell in slow motion, eyes wide.
The others had not realized what happened and came forward to help. She slashed out again cutting across the chest of one. He screamed in pain. She stabbed again getting the third in his biceps. Then she ran as fast as her feet could carry her.
She ran and ran not knowing when to stop. Only when she felt people were staring at her did she stop. She took off her scarf and hid the knife in it and put it in her bag. She was surprised her bag had managed to hang on to her. Sameer’s bike keys jingled in her pocket. She quickly walked back to the lane she remembered they had left the bike. She made sure those guys were not in sight. She started the machine and rode away.
Her destination was Starbucks. The gang was to meet there. It was a little early though. She ordered coffee once inside and called Pinto, before taking a seat near the window.
She planned to go back with the gang. She did not know if Sameer was alive or and what happened to the guy she had stabbed in the chest.
She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ Kelly Clarkson sang on the café’s audio system.