A few frantic moments later, they spied him just as he took an abrupt right turn and crossed the road. Afraid they would lose sight of him if they dawdled, the girls hurried across the street quite oblivious of the swirling traffic.
Vehicles of various shapes and sizes came screeching to a halt around them causing a minor pileup between a rickshaw puller and a scooter rider. Choicest abuses were rained down upon them but being unconversant with the words, the girls walked on unconcernedly having other more important matters on their minds – i.e. keep Abhi’s veering figure in their radar.
They lost track of him once again as he disappeared into the cool recesses of a darkened restaurant. It was only because a tearful Nisha called up to ask him about Rajani that he deigned to pop his head out of the restaurant door giving the girls a welcome view of his familiar shock of hair. They skipped up to him and slid inside along side giggling at each other at having successfully tracked down the elusive Bhai.
But once inside, he vanished. They shuffled about uncomfortably before sitting down at the nearest table whispering to each other. “Where did he go?”
“Bhai must have gone to the loo. Even I want to go.” Rajani was suddenly reminded of her emergency.
“No! Wait!” Hissed Shikha. “Wait for your brother to come back and then we can both go. I refuse to sit with him alone.”
Rajani rolled her eyes. “Okay fine.”
Abhi returned, looked fresher and easier than before. But he was still mad. “What are you doing in this uncomfortable corner?” He strode off further inside grumbling, “Can’t even find decent seats…now what?” He quite forgot about his emergency as the girls dashed off the way he had appeared.
Fortunately for all concerned, they returned quite promptly, giggling and whispering at his forbidding exterior. “Poor thing is starving.” Rajani said.
“What do you want to eat?” He asked in a distant manner. Shikha’s eyes narrowed and she stiffened. Rajani hastily put a hand on her shoulder, pleading with her eyes to calm down. Shikha subsided, for the moment.
“Hurry up and decide Rani. Just to clarify, we aren’t here for dinner, you know?”
Rajani shot a worried glance at Shikha who for some reason found it terribly funny. Her eyes danced and her lips quivered. That was enough to set off Rajani. She gasped and shook whilst Abhi rolled his eyes. He barked out his order to the waiter and waved his hand at the girls, “Get them whatever they want. Whenever they are ready.”
The brother to many such similarly afflicted sisters, the waiter offered Abhi a commiserating look before trotting off to fulfill his order rather than wait for the girls to sober up.
Shikha nudged Rajani, “Stop it,” she urged, “your Bhai is likely to walk away leaving us to foot the bill or worse,” she paused, “call up your Papa.”
Rajani instantly calmed down. “Let’s order, shall we? I am starving aren’t you Bhai?” she said brightly.
Abhi didn’t even bother to look up from his mobile.
Shikha shook her head warningly at Rajani and fell to dissecting the menu card. “Pizza?”
“How about a pasta? Oh look they have Maggi!” Rajani was excited.
“Oh please Rajji, you can Maggi any day at Rocky’s can’t you?”
“Hmm, I guess. I think I will have French fries.”
“Just that? Let’s share a pizza?”
“They have hot chocolate fudge.” Rajani drooled excitedly. “Maybe after the pasta and fries.”
“No pizza?” Shikha was disappointed. “I can’t have a whole pizza by myself.”
“Oh don’t worry, I will share but order a small one will you?”
Shikha stared. “How much are you planning on eating?”
“Oh loads! I am starving! Hey they have chole bhature as well! Bhai did you see?”
Abhi grunted. His order had arrived and he was busy.
Rajani swallowed as the aroma assaulted her. “Grilled sandwiches!” she sneaked out a few fries. Abhi glared at her. “Don’t worry Bhai, you can share mine.” She said cheekily, sharing her loot with Shikha who was too hungry to refuse.
“I told you I am not going to be here for dinner.” Abhi spoke between mouthfuls. “The moment I am done, I am out of here,” he threatened.
Rajani hurriedly placed their ambitious order and unable to resist, snuck a sandwich from Abhi’s plate and gave half to Shikha. They nibbled on it until their order came.
Expectedly Abhi had finished wolfing down his meal before the girl’s order arrived. Yet despite his threat to leave once he was done, he continued to sit there apparently hypnotized by his mobile.
“New mobile Bhai?” Rajani asked.
“Yeah, Papa sent it as a gift for acing the exams.” He looked up. “You must have also got one?”
Rajani nodded. She paled as she remembered that fateful day. She swallowed and said, “But yours is swankier. Lemme see.” She held out her hand but to her surprise he jerked away.
“Don’t be silly, phone is personal.”
“Personal?” Rajani was surprised. “What’s personal in a phone?”
“Forget it,” he changed the topic. “What on earth did you order?” Abhi grumbled. “Why is it taking so long? And you ate up half my stuff.”
“Not half!” huffed Rajani offended, “one fourth only. For you information, there were four pieces of sandwiches and we shared one of them.”
“Wow. Excellent Math skills.” Abhi mocked. “And what about the French fries? I didn’t even get one fourth.”
Rajani exchanged guilty looks with Shikha. “You can have mine. I ordered a whole plate.”
The waiter turned up with their order. Abhi frowned. “Bas that’s it? Are you sure this is going to be enough. Shikha, why didn’t you order something for yourself as well?”
“Bhai! This is for both of us. In fact for you as well.” Rajani protested.
“Really?” Abhi stared. “I wouldn’t think it enough for just you leave alone the three of us.” He smirked. Shikha giggled.
“You are mean. Both of you.” Rajani stuck out her tongue and without any further ado dug into her pasta.
Rajani dug into a tiny helping of pasta, gobbled down few French fries and settled for nibbling at her triangle of pizza. “Wow! I am stuffed.”
Abhi stared. “Oh really? Don’t tell me you are on a diet?”
“Yes really.” Rajani flared up. “Why would I be on a diet when you are treating me?”
“Then eat up!” he waved his hands at the food. “Come on Shikha even you have barely eaten anything.”
Shikha flushed. “No, no, even I am stuffed. I had everything. Including from your share. You please have some.” She slid the remaining half of the pizza across. Abhi shrugged and accepted a piece. “Funny but I distinctly remember you having a decent, if not a huge appetite while at home?” He grinned at Rajani who stuck out her tongue.
“I was a growing girl then,” Rajani put her nose in the air, “I needed more calories.”
“Now you don’t?” Abhi looked at her critically. “I do believe you have lost weight!”
“Yeah! Tonnes!” Rajani glared at him. “I lost about 15 kg after the accident and you didn’t even notice.” Her voice shook and tears started in her eyes.
Shikha coughed and mumbled in a sotto voce, “I think your Bhai was so mad that he saw double and that’s why he didn’t realize you had halved…” She trailed away before doubling over at her own wit. Abhi and Rajani stared at her before joining in.
The laughter cleared the air and Abhi discarded his mantle of a budding doctor and attacked the rapidly cooling food spread all over the table. “I can’t let all this food go waste.” He said in between bites. “Besides, I haven’t eaten anything since last evening.”
Rajani’s eyes opened wide. “Oh! Why ever not? What about breakfast?”
“I didn’t have time for breakfast. I thought the bus would stop at some place,” he wore a sheepish expression.
Rajani and Shikha looked at each other. “So? Didn’t it stop?”
“It did.” He put his preoccupied with the fine art of seasoning the last piece of pizza with oregano.
“Then what?” He asked for a cola. “Would you like to drink as well?” he offered the girls. They nodded but hung on determinedly.
“Why didn’t you have breakfast then?”
He coughed. “Because I slept through the stopover. Nobody woke me.” He said in an aggrieved tone.
Up next Chapter 83: A Bit of Shopping