Embarrassed Abhi covered up by a counter attack. “And then I couldn’t find you. Your phone kept ringing and ringing but you couldn’t even pick it up. Do you have any idea how worried I was?”
Rajani’s vibrations shuddered to a stop; she paled guiltily. Shikha squeezed her hand comfortingly. “I am sorry Bhai. I didn’t mean to worry you or keep you hanging. Things were such a mess today.” She grimaced.
Abhi drummed his fingers on the table. “So what exactly happened?”
Rajani threw up her hands. “Everything! But none of it was my fault. Tell him Shiks.”
Abhi and Shikha looked at each other – Shikha rolled her eyes.
“Are you going to tell me what happened or do you want to tell Papa?” He pointed to his phone. “What do you think I have been doing while you were feasting? Holding off the inquisition, if you please.”
“Yeah, I held off Mom saying I was starving and that I would call once I had eaten but it’s Papa who is impatient to learn the sequence of events and more importantly why you keep saying it isn’t your fault?”
“Actually it’s all your fault Bhai.” Rajani took offense to Abhi’s supercilious tone.
“Excuse me?” Abhi was justifiably taken aback. “My fault? I wasn’t even there!”
“Exactly,” Rajani pounced, “if you had come this morning as we had discussed, I wouldn’t have gone to college and none of this drama would have occurred.”
“What drama? And when did I say I would be coming on Saturday morning?”
“She said, I didn’t did I?”
“Hey, hey Rajani,” Shikha butted in, “let’s not fight okay. I’ll explain.”
In a few succinct sentences Shikha crisply recreated the morning drama for Abhi.
“God Rani, the way you were behaving, I was half afraid your were going to be suspended or something worse from college.” Relieved at the scathing response, Rajani smiled as Abhi called up to soothe the two hyper souls in Chandigarh.
Things were hunky dory once again as they laughed and chattered over the incident – Nisha was thrilled to have her kids happy and reminded Rajani to give the Rakhi and instructed Abhi to buy her a gift.
“Come let’s go shopping,” crisis over and nicely sated after a good meal, Abhi was feeling indulgent.
But of course Abhi’s indulgence wore out before the girls’ enthusiasm did. He began fretting and fussing about the time they were taking to choose a dress.
“God Rani, just take it will you? It’s great! It really is.”
“Yeah, it is isn’t it?” Rajani held it up and tried it, even got Shikha’s approval but at the last minute backed out. “No! I already have two kurtas of this color. I don’t want this.”
And then the rigmarole for a suitable kurta began all over again – much to Abhi’s disgust. “Oh no not again!”
But despite Abhi’s obvious annoyance and protests, the girls had a fun evening choosing and trying dresses.
“How about this dress Bhai?” Rajani modeled a pretty light lemon colored kurta.
“Not bad,” Abhi grunted sparing her outfit a glance from its intense contemplation of the mobile. “Actually pretty good. Take it.”
“Bhai, it is not very expensive is it?” Rajani asked anxiously. Abhi waved it away. “Mom’s feeling very generous,” he grinned, “Just make a decision and stick to it.”
“Great! Then I will take this one. Thanks Bhai.”
“Um Rani,” Abhi called as Rajani turned away, “Why don’t to try a few more dresses?”
Rajani stopped in her tracks and frowned. Had she heard correctly?
“I thought you said this was nice?”
“It’s nice of course.” He coughed. “But there are other options too. Look around a bit more. Check out those full sleeve kurtas. They look smart and decent.”
“They are good for chilly evenings and AC halls.” He defended. “And you…”
Rajani’s brow cleared. “It’s okay Bhai. It’s not that cold like in Chandigarh and even over there I never used to…”
“Just try them.” Abhi urged and went back to his phone.
Rajani shook her head at his over-protectiveness and went off obediently to try another dress from the full sleeve section. “Bhai is such a darling isn’t he?” She gushed. “He is really over-protective isn’t he?”
Shikha smiled albeit a bit puzzled at the sudden turnaround. What’s up with him? She wondered. Just a while ago he was hurrying us and grumbling no end and now he wants Rajji to try another dress? Unbelievable.
“Shikss, which one? This one or this one.”
“Better try the mauve outfit, you have an orange kurta don’t you?”
Mauve it was and met the approval of all concerned. “It’s much better than the yellow one,” Bhai said.
Rajani smiled. “Even I think so, right Shikha?”
“Thanks Bhai! You aren’t as bad as I remember.” Rajani grinned at him.
He rolled his eyes. “Well you are worse.”
Pleased with the compliment, Rajani couldn’t help but laugh.
“Oh you also did some shopping of your own I see.” Rajani spied the extra packet in his hand after he returned from paying for the purchases. She tugged at the bag. “Let me see.” She took the bag from his hands and peeped in but Abhi snatched it away. “Where are your manners Rani? This is just some personal stuff. Here, this one is yours.” He handed her a bag and walked on ahead.
Rajani and Shikha followed. “Since when does Bhai wear PINK?” Shikha nudged her warningly and motioned her to keep her voice down. Fortunately, Abhi was talking on the phone.
“Do you think…” they both said at the same time and began giggling their eyes dancing. “Bha…”
“Shhh,” Shikha pulled her back. “Let him be. In any case he is on the phone…”
“With his girlfriend!”
“How do you know?” Shikha argued, “could be his Professor?”
Rajani subsided but she was still excited. Oh this was fun! Bhai had a girlfriend! And he had bought a gift for her. Was she in Bengaluru or was she is Manipal? Oh how she wished she could see her.
“I want to meet her.” She whispered to Shikha who frowned.
“We aren’t even sure, perhaps even he is not sure. All in good time Rajji. What if you were mistaken about the pink dress?”
“Oh I am sure I wasn’t! And besides only that would explain his obsession with the phone.”
“You know a lot about such stuff!” Shikha was impressed.
Rajani giggled. “Where are we going now Bhai?”
Abhi turned around. “To drop you to the hostel? Arent you supposed to be back at the hostel by 8 pm or something?”
“It’s okay Bhai, we took special permission from the warden. We can be back by 10 pm.” Rajani’s eyes were dancing.
Up next Chapter 84: Brunch Times