A short story written for the Indispire Edition Number 117. And the prompt is:
Just when everything started looking fine, the phone rings…[Build a story] #TringTring
Naveen rubbed his hands as he cast a critical look around the room. He straightened the bed sheet, tweaked a cushion cover, pushed the sofa back by a millimeter and nodded in satisfaction.
Perfect, everything was just perfect.
Well maybe not that patch on the wall by the TV. He frowned. Hadn’t he told Sheetal to get it repaired and painted? He would have to remind her when she returned from her mother’s place, which would take quite some time, he thought with some satisfaction.
And for now, he shifted the bouquet by the TV. Not bad he grinned to himself as he patted himself for the foresight. He hadn’t planned on bringing flowers or anything for that matter. He had other things on his mind in any case. But then the florist shop was on the way and he remembered that girls liked flowers and stuff. So he bought a huge bouquet and as an afterthought – a single rose.
To celebrate her first visit to his home – and about time too! Naveen shook his head he had been struggling to make headway with Reeva for ages now. But she was as slippery as an eel. But he was a determined and a patient stalker. Besides, the fun was in the chase.
He dimmed the lights of the room and lit the candles in front of the mirror. He stared at himself in the mirror – his eyes gleamed and his face was shadowed. He bared his teeth in a macabre grin. Reeva! Oh Reeva! Come to me Reeva! He chanted softly under his breath.
He looked at the clock. She should have been here by now. Doubt struck him. Was she even coming? Or perhaps she had got lost. He took out his phone and grimaced. Damn, no network. Again. He needed to change his phone ASAP.
Just then the doorbell rang.
Naveen threw the phone on the divan and made a dash for the door but then restrained himself. He took a deep breath and smoothed his hair and then with studied nonchalance opened the door. “Hi Reeva! Right on time,” he bowed low and ushered her in. “No problem in finding my home I hope?” Naveen gave her a covert look over. He almost stumbled and fell.
Reeva was looking gorgeous in a slinky short black dress – no jewelry and no make up. Except for those kohl-lined mesmerizing sultry doe-eyes.
The luscious lips parted to reveal perfect pearly teeth. “Hello.” Her voice was husky, low and seductive.
He turned away to get a grip on himself. “Please have a seat.” His voice was hoarse. He had never seen this side of her! He had been ready for another round of coaxing and cajoling, but this Reeva was… he coughed. “What news they blather on and on about these days on TV.” He picked up the remote. “You know these news channels have really lost it! You wouldn’t believe but one channel was actually going berserk over some…”
“Did you call me over to talk about the news?” She pouted.
Dumbly he shook his head. Holding his eyes, she reached out and put her hand on his and switched off the TV.
Naveen’s breath caught in his throat. “Reeva.” He reached out for her. But she dodged him.
“I am starving.” She complained. “You did promise me dinner. That too cooked by your own hands.” She poked him while her smoky eyes teased and flirted with him.
Naveen swallowed and bowed. “Yes of course. Give me a moment.” He returned almost instantly. “Sorry, I seem to have been very remiss as a host. Have an orange juice,” he held out a frosting glass.
Reeva chewed on her lip and cast him a smouldering look under her lashes. “Umm I was kind of hoping for a Bloody Mary.” Her voice was laced disdain and disappointment. She met his startled look limpidly before dropping her air. He sagged against the cabinet and put a hand to his heart in exaggerated relief.
“Reeva! You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
She smirked triumphantly and walked around the room delicately sipping the orange juice as he busied himself in the kitchen. Boy, Reeva was even more interesting than he had thought.
Naveen usually targeted naïve gullible girls who were suckers for his poor-battered-husband avatar. They almost always fell for his brave martyred look perfected over the years.
But with Reeva he had had to go one step further – glitter of tears in his eyes. Only then had she succumbed to his heartfelt request for ‘one magical evening for a lifetime of memories.’
In keeping with his assessment of her, Naveen had expected Reeva to be more withdrawn, stiff and proper. But she had surprised him – first with her choice of dress (so not the Reeva he knew) and now the tempting seductress.
But who am I to complain?
“Here’s your dinner Ms Reeva,” he sang out gaily as he put the tray on the table. “As promised, food cooked by me. But then only simple dal and rice – and one mixed vegetable – hope that’s okay?” he asked anxiously.”The only things I know.” He grinned engagingly.
She inclined her head regally before sliding into the chair he had drawn out. “You forgot the raita and the salad.” He leaned forward and stole a quick whiff of her perfume, which was driving him crazy – among other things.
He felt faint and dizzy. He took his seat opposite her and tried to steady his nerves. “Yes well, that’s only if you cannot manage to consume any of the other stuff.” He explained in a self-deprecating tone – another hit with the ladies.
Her rich laughter broke out sending shivers down his spine. His heart warmed. Careful, now don’t you go falling in love with her, he cautioned himself.
“How is it?” He asked with barely restrained eagerness.
She chewed, swallowed and nodded approvingly. “Pretty good! Well done.” She clapped her hands. “I am impressed. I didn’t think you could pull it off.”
He flushed. “It’s nothing.” Ravenous he dug into his meal only to spit it out with a yowl, “Yuck! This is awful.” He shuddered. “The dal is completely burnt. How can you eat it?”
“No it’s fine, quite prefect in fact,” she insisted as she continued to eat.
Unable to bear it, Naveen snatched her plate away and pulled her away from the table. “Please don’t do this.” He pleaded. “ I am terribly sorry. Let’s go out for dinner?”
Reeva shook her head and met his eyes full. “I don’t want to go out.”
His heart skipped a beat. “Of course not. Let me order something.”
“Food will be here soon. Shall we dance?” He offered his hand.
They swayed to the music and as the tempo slowed, Naveen gathered her close, half expecting her to pull back. But when she didn’t, his heart starting thudding madly.
Cool it man, cool it, he urged himself. Take it nice and slow. Don’t scare her away.
Just when everything started to go well, the phone rang.
He froze. Who could it be? Why the landline? What about his mobile? He picked it up his mobile. Oh he had forgotten to switch it on.
The phone kept ringing – loud and insistent.
Could…could it be Sheetal? He turned but Reeva held him back by the arm. “You really a terrible host. First it was the TV and now it is the phone…”
“Please just one moment, who knows it may the home delivery guys?”
She let him go.
“Mr Naveen Kishore?”
“Yes? Who is calling?”
“This is the police.”
Naveen stiffened. He lowered his voice and turned his back. “Yes? How may I help you?”
“We got your number from the mobile on a dead woman. Yours is the last dialed number.”
“Dead woman!” Who…?” Surely it wasn’t Sheetal?
“That’s what we wanted to know. We could Whatsapp her picture but your mobile…
“It’s working now. Please send it.”
His phone pinged. He stared at his phone.
“Who is it darling?”
A cold clammy sensation engulfed Naveen as he looked from the picture on his mobile to Reeva.
The phones slipped from his nerveless fingers and his mouth opened in a soundless shriek of terror as ‘Reeva’ dissolved into a gaunt skeleton.
A bony hand rattled as it raised itself and caressed his cheek. “Come on honey, let’s dance.”
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