"Oh, Mrs. D'Souza, now you just relax, I'll talk to Niranjan," Mayank said, getting up and going around the table, "the plan remains unchanged, you just send it over to Mr. Joseph," he said with a smile, patting her shoulder.
"You sure the FBM will approve, you know, Niranjan has a way with words..."
Sitting on the table he took her dainty little hand in his and smiled at her, "Niranjan won't have his way this time, I promise. You send your proposal to Joseph and it will be approved before you go home tomorrow!"
"Well, thank you Mayank..." Maria D'Souza said getting up, finally satisfied.
"By the way, how's Mr. D'Souza, is the pain still troubling him?"
"Oh... no, it's better now, the medicine finally seems to be working and he'll go back to work, probably next week, thank you," she said, closing the door softly after her. This was a fine boy, a decent young man... and she had done the right thing to come to him. 'God bless him,' she prayed as she crossed herself, walking down the plush corridor.
It was past six, and he was already late by nearly twenty minutes... and he hated keeping Harsh waiting! But then, he just couldn't refuse Mrs. D'Souza when she came in with her problem... that sweet lady. And Niranjan, God... that guy really needed talking to; some sense drummed into that thick skull of his. He was having too many problem, with too many people. Mayank just couldn't imagine why he needed to step on so many toes... interfere in areas that didn't concern him. Well, Niranjan had to wait for another evening, he thought as his mind went back to Harsh... and their date... the kid must be waiting, worrying. And as Mayank picked up the car keys, heading for the door, the phone rang...
He paused for a moment, wondering who it could be. He didn't want to get entangled in any more business just now, and answering the phone could mean further delay... but then again, maybe it was Harsh, calling to find out what was taking him so long... He turned back, picking up the instrument, quite forgetting that Harsh never called on the hotel line.
"Mayank," he spoke into the mouth piece.
"Why are you wasting your time with that boy?" said the strange voice.
"Hello, who is this?" Mayank asked, not really getting it.
"Give up that boy," the voice whispered, guttural, "and come to me..."
"Who is this," Mayank nearly shouted, "who do you want?"
"I want you Mayank, I want you... and I can do anything for it. Leave that boy or..." but the voice couldn't finish as Mayank hissed a "Fuck off," slamming down the receiver.
He fumed as he walked down the corridor, this was the third call... was it someone with a weird sense of humour, playing a pathetic joke? Ah, to hell with him, whoever he was, why bother, besides, he had wasted enough time and it would take him over half an hour to reach Harsh's place... and that meant, he would be nearly an hour late!
He swung the car into the narrow lane, and as he drove up to the house, he saw Harsh waiting for him near the gate.
"You ARE late!" he exclaimed, getting in, "what happened?"
"Tsk, some silly office politics," Mayank replied, reversing the car.
"Well, I was starting to worry, and then you called," smiled Harsh.
"Yeah, I knew you would and so I called once I left the hotel."
"Can we just go back to your place?" Harsh asked, hesitant, and then smiled as Mayank looked at him, questioning. "Not what you think," he whispered coyly, "I just don't feel like going any place..."
"Not even the beach, or a long drive, huh?"
Harsh shook his head, not in the mood for drives or visiting places, reluctant of getting lost in the claustrophobic crowd of cacophonous people... Desiring instead for a quiet evening in the privacy of each other's company, just being together... spent doing nothing other than sharing the solitude and the warmth... hold hands, content in the knowledge of each other's proximity...
"WHO ARE YOU?" Mayank shouted with exasperation, "Why do you keep calling me with your silly threats, huh? Go ahead, do whatever you want, who cares!" he said, banging the phone down.
"Whoa, and what was that all about?" asked Ali entering the room, followed by Kajol.
"Nothing," replied Mayank, irritable.
"Buddy, you scream into the phone and slam it down, and then say 'nothing'?" Ali asked, sitting down.
"What's it Mayank?" asked Kajol.
"Honestly, I don't know," Mayank replied, shaking his head, "but this weird character keeps calling, about three or four times a day and..."
Both raised their eyebrows, "And?"
Mayank shrugged, and then after a pause looked back at them, "Well..."
"Well?" asked Ali.
"Well," Mayank gave another shrug, "he keeps saying things like, um, 'I want you...' " he mumbled with embarrassment, "and... ah, 'leave that boy, or else...' "
"Intriguing..." grinned Ali, eyebrow knit close, "a secret admirer, eh?"
"Oh, shut up..."
"Okay, but what does he mean `leave the boy', is he referring to Harsh by any chance?"
"How should I know what he means by `the boy'?!"
"Who is it," asked Kajol, "any idea? Did you recognise his voice?"
"No, it has a funny, metallic sound to it, and very hoarse."
"The number he calls from should show, did you check if he calls from the same number each time?" asked Ali.
"He never calls on my mobile; it's always the hotel line..."
"Oh, that means you can't check the number" Ali shook his head, "but maybe you could ask the operator, she could..."
"How could she," Mayank snapped, "the hotel gets over a thousand calls each day, you can't expect the operator to check each in-coming call, besides, I don't think the switch board has a caller id facility."
"How long has he been calling?" asked Kajol.
"Three days... nah, since Sunday night," answered Mayank, and then looked up at the two, "I feel, I'm not sure, but I feel it could be Ajay..."
"Ajay?!" exclaimed Ali, his eyes questioning.
"Yes," nodded Mayank, and as they looked at him, he recounted Ajay's last call, and the cheap allegations...
"Wow..." exclaimed Ali, "that guy IS sick!"
"Well, could anybody clue me in?" asked Kajol, looking at her two colleagues.
"Well," Ali looked at her, quickly giving her the details... the past, their confrontation... and his arrival in Goa.
"Hmm," nodded Kajol finally, "sounds probable."
"Not probable, it has to be him," cried Mayank, "he's gone raving mad, totally out of his mind!"
"Well, I think you need to talk to Mr. Saldanha, and ask him to check all calls coming in for you," suggested Ali.
"I will do nothing like that," Mayank shook his head. "Please, there will be weird questions, people will get curious, and I want nothing of that."
"Have you thought about Lluis?" Ali asked suddenly, "that creep is capable of such infantile behaviour. Besides, he belongs to this place and could easily get one of his equally imbecile friend to make those silly calls!"
"I don't know..." Mayank shook his head, "I did think of him... But then, unfortunately, he does have my cell phone number, and if irritating me was the sole purpose, wouldn't it be more convenient to call on the mobile, huh? He can call whenever he wants, at every odd hour, and be certain of getting me! Why wait, never sure whether I'm in or out... But Ajay, he doesn't have my mobile number... and so is forced to use the hotel line!
"Hmm..." Ali nodded, "besides, why start now? He has had problems with you for over six months, so, what could have triggered it now..." Ali shrugged.
"Honestly," Kajol finally said, "whoever it is, this is probably his frustrated love..."
"Love?!" exclaimed Mayank with distaste even before Kajol had completed the sentence.
"Okay, frustrated lust then," Kajol rephrased, "but what I meant was, he'll keep calling for a while and once he tires out, he'll give up."
"Probably," nodded Ali.
"I think Kajol is right," Mayank said after a while. "Like, I'm not really bothered with the calls, nor feel threatened, but yes, it's getting a bit annoying..."
Kajol smiled, "I'm sure he will stop after a few days and you won't even hear from him!"
Ali nodded, and then smiled, "Well, the reason we came in here... Kajol you tell him, since it was your idea."
"Ah, yes, tomorrow, that's Thursday, is Maria's, Maria D'Souza's thirty-fifth wedding anniversary," Kajol said with a happy smile, "and we thought of throwing a surprise party for them, and wanted to discuss and plan it with you..."
"Who is this 'we'?" asked Mayank.
"We as in, Ali and I," Kajol replied, "we came up with the idea this afternoon. Maria seemed so pleased and excited about the occasion, but since both their kids can't make it this year, she was also feeling a bit low."
"Fine, let's give them a party!" smiled Mayank.
The evening proved to be an amazingly successful event - the cruise was luxurious, the music lively, and the food excellent; and everyone was highly appreciative of the arrangements made by Mayank, Ali and Kajol in one short evening of planning, thoroughly enjoying themselves. Maria glowed like a newly-wed bride the entire evening, giggling coquettishly, utterly thrilled!
And as the boat finally docked at the wharf, and people began to leave, Mayank pulled Harsh aside, "Stay back," he whispered.
Though initially reluctant, Mayank had finally relented under Kajol's firm insistence - `Milind is coming along, so why can't Harsh?' she had questioned, and had snorted when Mayank pointed out that it wasn't the same - Milind and Harsh weren't the same. `Bullshit,' she had sneered, `you just get him along or I'll make sure that you are not allowed onboard!' And now, at the hour of parting, he was reluctant to let go... The evening, the romantic cruise up the Mandovi, the whole atmosphere had filled him with an intense desire, and he wanted Harsh with him, back at his place for the night.
"I'd love to," Harsh murmured back, surreptitiously squeezing Mayank's hand, "I want to, but tomorrow I need to be at the college early, and also have an assignment to submit, and that's at my place."
"See you guys," called Kajol as she went down the ramp with Milind.
Both waved back at them, "Okay, I'll drop you..." Mayank said, walking down.
"Mayank," Harsh whispered as they got into the car, "I... I'll stay back, but you must drop me off at my place real early. And yes," he giggled, "I'll also need some sleep tonight!"
Mayank grinned, leaning over to plant a quick kiss as he started the engine, "I'll drop you at your place before the milkman rings your bell!"
"I don't have a milkman!" exclaimed Harsh with a laugh, and then with a bashful giggle reached out, between Mayank's legs, patting the bulge there, "Well, actually I'll be with him tonight..." he added in a husky voice, "suckling the milk right out from its source," suddenly feeling naughty and bold, startling Mayank with surprise.
Mayank stopped the car right in front of the gate, smiling at Harsh, "You're home, and with enough time to get ready for your early class," he announced.
"Thanks Mayank..." Harsh said, opening the door, "want to come up?"
"No," Mayank shook his head, grinning wickedly, "it was already hard enough waking up with you by my side and not do anything, and now if I go to your room, I can't guarantee that you won't be late for class..."
"Okay, catch you later..." the boy mumbled, blushing furiously as he got off.
"Love you," Mayank whispered, and reversing the car headed back home, enjoying the early morning empty streets, smiling as he remembered the previous night. He had gone for about two blocks when his phone buzzed... and as he answered it he heard Harsh's quivering voice, "Mayank, can you please come back... "
Surprised he asked, "Something wrong?"
"Just get here, please," the boy pleaded, making Mayank's heart slam with alarm. He turned the car around and sped down the deserted road, turning into the lane and stopping in front of the silent house. He got off and ran down the path to the stairway, running up, two steps at a time.
Harsh stood outside the two-roomed unit, a terrified look on his face.
"What's wrong?" asked Mayank, panting.
Harsh took his hand and led him in... the outer room bare, with just Harsh's shoes and the surfboard, but the inner room was a complete mess... The closet doors stood open... and the table empty, with the drawers pulled out and thrown aside... the bedsheet ripped off the bed... Books, papers, photos and clothes lay strewn all over the floor in a jumbled disorder... and, sprayed across the blank wall in bright, bold red paint was - 'SEE, HOW EASY IT IS. DON'T EVER SAY, `DO WHATEVER YOU WANT', OR, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!'
"What... what does all this mean?" asked Harsh in a meek voice. "I didn't have a fight with anyone, I didn't tell anyone `do-whatever-you-want', and in the past nearly two year nothing like this has ever happened!"
"Where are the owners?" Mayank asked, terrified as realisation hit him like a freight train, making his hands shake as he picked up a book from the floor, suddenly knowing what those words on the wall meant...
"They left for Delhi yesterday afternoon," Harsh replied, "some family wedding..."
"Is anything missing?" he asked, looking at around.
"There is nothing of value, and I never keep cash here," replied Harsh, riffling through the mess, picking up the clothes and dumping them on the bed.
"Okay, let's set the room in order," Mayank suggested, trying to keep his voice calm, in control, but his heart trembling with fear. Those calls were not empty threats after all... the guy, whoever he was, was serious. But why pick on Harsh, if he had a problem with Mayank, then let him come and get him, why Harsh?!
Mayank had tried to convince Harsh to return with him to his cottage, but Harsh, though initially frightened, had been firm on attending class, and finally Mayank had reluctantly agreed... insisting that he stay till the boy was ready, and adamant that Harsh would go nowhere, but wait at the college for Mayank to pick him up after class...
Harsh agreed, but there was that question in his eyes... yet Mayank had been unable to share his fear, or mention the calls... afraid that it would upset Harsh further. And as he returned home, having dropped him off at the college, he felt his mobile buzz...
"Sandy..." he said, slightly surprised by the call after the event of the previous Sunday... and the total silence that followed.
"Listen, something went wrong last Sunday, and I must apologise for my terrible behaviour..."
"Sandy, no..." Mayank started to say.
"Mayank, please, listen to me," Sandeep spoke, cutting Mayank mid-sentence, "I want us to go surfing tomorrow, the three of us!"
Mayank listened, stunned.
"That guy I saw at your place that day, Harsh," said Sandeep, "he's a surfer, right?"
"Well, get him along!" smiled Sandeep.
"Oh, sure," replied Mayank, slightly taken aback by the sudden suggestion, "you don't mind, eh?"
"Hey, as it is there are so few surfers out here, why should I mind; beside, if you say he is good with the board, I want to watch him!" answered Sandeep, his voice cheerful.
"Sure..." Mayank nodded, an amazing joy surging through his heart.
"Well, be ready by 5.30 in the morning, it's a two hour drive and I don't want to be late and miss out on an extra hour of surfing," informed Sandeep.
"Where are we going?" asked Mayank.
"Um, you'll know when you reach there," laughed Sandeep in reply, before saying his bye and cutting the line.
To be continued...
a story by outlaw
If you enjoy the story, please do mail me: email@example.com