“Sameer…..” Tanya gulped, “I mean Sam” She gave a forced smile and tried to relax her shoulders to sound more casual “How do you know me?” She saw offence crept into his eyes and she quickly rephrased her question “I mean before the letters, how do you know me?” Tanya asked him, trying to know more about the man sitting across her, eating a burger and french fries that he washed down with a Coke can while Tanya munched on the chips served along with a Club Sandwich. Her appetite was gone the moment her eyes fell on Sameer and with it was gone all the build-up she had made in her imagination, dreaming of a suave, handsome man in sophisticated attire who would pull the chair for her like a true gentleman while he talked about her, letting her feel special. But the odds were not in her favour today as she found herself sitting across a man who was hardly a gentleman and couldn’t stop talking about himself.
He looked up at Tanya and smiled, somehow his smile seemed fishy to Tanya. “I think you have not recognised me. I am the peon of your college. I used to broom your class and exchanged the letters that time.” He told with a wide toothy grin which seemed like devil exposing his fangs to Tanya. She shook from head to toe. What has she gotten herself into? The pasted smile fell from her face and was replaced by befuddled bewilderment. Sweat beads broke on her forehead as the food turned ashen in her mouth.
“Th…The…..The letters” She stammered “you were writing them?” She asked in a hiccup.
He gave her a wink that was supposed to be charming but seemed obscene. “Yes, I know you are surprised. But I went to school, and I hear you people talking all day, so I picked up a lot. I am a fast learner” He said running his tongue over his stained teeth and cleaned one tooth with a long stained nail. She could have puked, but she wanted to keep a handle on the situation as long as she could.
“I am done.” She told leaving the half-eaten sandwich.
“So soon?” he asked while he was finishing up on last of his fries.
“Yeah….I…I think I should make a move now” She said looking at her phone for the time.
“But we haven’t even done anything,” he said with a crestfallen look.
Tanya’s back stiffened at those words, and her hand closed once again on the pepper spray in her pocket. “W……wh….what do you mean?” She asked looking around and finding solace in the crowded restaurant.
“Won’t you like to do something…..with me.” He said massaging the back of his neck and looking at the bill the waiter delivered to their table.
This freaked our Tanya big time, and she stood up hanging her handbag on her shoulder. “I have my mother waiting for me; I promised her to be back soon.” She said in an almost dismissive tone.
“Oh!!! I was hoping we would explore the activities here. You see the entry ticket alone is 1200, and I was hoping to make the best of it.” he told with his thumbs hooked into his pocket as he too stood up.
Tanya understood she couldn’t get away that easily and nodded as she picked up the bill and placed some crisp notes on the bill along with a good tip even before he could extend his hand to pick up the bill. She did not want him to spend one more penny. She wanted no obligations on her head from this man.
She took a deep breath thinking hard and decided maybe she can give him one more chance and see if the first impression had been wrong. She shook her head which made her hair fall out of her eyes and gave a small smile to Sameer “Ohk, what do you wanna do ?” She asked genially. He smiled and led the way. Tanya was wondering was he that bad or was she judging him too much based on prejudices? He said he wrote that letters and she had agreed on this blind date, so he fair and square earned it, but was he safe or was she reading too much into his simple words. Tanya walked by his side and wondered for the umpteenth time about the letters that were written with such finesse and choice of words that it was hard to believe that the man walking beside her was the proprietor.
They saw a puppet show, and Tanya saw him laughing like a hysteric over simple antics, his sense of humour was low. She didn’t enjoy the show one bit, and he noticed that Tanya could sense he was getting desperate with his failing attempts at winning over Tanya. She then went to the pottery wheel and sat down to make something out of wet clay. She had always wanted to try it. He too sat down on another apparatus. Tanya struggled a lot while trying to give shape to a small cup she was trying to make, but she liked the feel of clay in her hands, it was soothing her nerves. She looked at Sameer who had adeptly made a small pot and was placed over the kiln to get baked. He came and sat next to Tanya and smiled at her, Tanya returned it as her cup was not taking shape after all her efforts, and suddenly he placed his hands on Tanya’s hands.
“Let me help you,” he said and moved his clay hands over Tanya’s. Tanya felt uncomfortable as her hands trembled, but she didn’t pull them back. His grip was tightening on her hands, and Tanya tried to get her hands out, he let go and smeared some clay on Tanya’s cheek playfully. That did it. He was what she had thought earlier, a lecher, she slapped him hard across the cheek and while he was taken aback by the slap as he fell on his butt, Tanya took out her pepper spray and pressed the nozzle, dousing his eyes. He screamed and covered his eyes with forearms while Tanya ran from the place with her heart in her throat.
She went straight to her car and got in, driving back to home at once while she cried all the way from Faridabad to South Delhi. She cursed herself for getting in this tricky situation. ‘What if….what if…..’ the thought of the ramifications of her stupid blind date and secret admirer fantasy had her shivering. She promised herself she will never again make this mistake and will never trust on things so foolishly. All the way back home her eyes were in the rearview mirror to check if any white car was following her, luckily none was.
Upon reaching home she ran to her room, locked herself in and fell in her bed. Her mother came up to call her for dinner, but she told she was not hungry and wants to study. All night she cried and dozed off in the wee morning hours.
She got up late and got ready for the college in a hurry and asked her father to drop her there. She feared to go alone. Her dad left her at the gates with a kiss and left. She made way to her class and sat on the bench, looking here and there with downcast eyes to check if Sameer was around, he was not.
When her class was over, she turned to look at the last bench and to her horror, there it was. A white envelope!!!