'So this was what I had forgotten! I was supposed to tell Tarun that our plan was off. Shit!’ Alisha thought.
Alisha started frantically waving at him to leave, but he just wouldn’t take the hint. In fact, he thought that she was encouraging him, so he stepped in and hugged her dad.
“I’m so happy to meet you uncle. Had been thinking about this moment since the last seven days.” He said.
'Oh my God! Why does he have to exaggerate so much?’ Alisha thought.
Just as she was about to say something, in walked Minnie in all her designer glory.
“Hey Alisha! I’m so happy for you. I met Tarun in the lobby and he said that he’s meeting your parents! Good that you trust him so much to take such a big step.” She said.
'Add more fuel to the fire…' Alisha silently mused.
She finally cleared her throat and said, “Err… Minnie… Tarun… I think there’s some misunderstanding.”
To that Avinash finally said, “Yes, I think so too. Are you sure she’s the same Alisha you are looking for?”
Tarun was taken aback by this and he looked at Minnie for help.
Hearing all the commotion, Neil and Adhira came outside too.
Then, Avinash said, “See Tarun, I think you are mistaken. This is Alisha’s boyfriend.” He pointed towards Neil.
Wondering what was going on Neil asked, “What’s the matter? What’s going on?”
Alisha looked at Minnie and mouthed her for help. Minnie grasped the entire situation, but instead of helping Alisha, she chose to harass her even more. She winked at Tarun discreetly urging him to play along. Tarun smiled at her in affirmation.
“What? How is that possible? Alisha, you told me about a month ago that you were finally dating Tarun. How did Neil come into the picture?” She smirked at her.
Alisha was horrified at this and she narrowed her eyes at Minnie as a warning. But, Minnie pretended to be oblivious. Then Tarun started.
“How could you Alisha? I was gone for a week and you found yourself another boyfriend?” he said.
Neil felt insulted at all this as he was absolutely clueless about Alisha’s plan regarding Tarun before he became the fake boyfriend.
“Look at you, you moron.” He blasted at Tarun. “You are just not suited to be her boyfriend.”
Neil had a good look at him and saw that he was average looking, and approximately of the similar height as him but not that well-built as compared to him.
Offended by that rude comment, Tarun added, “Who are you to decide all this? It’s Alisha’s life and she will decide whom she wants to date.”
Neil and Tarun both looked at Alisha.
Alisha looked from left to right, she saw her parents and the two men watching her in anticipation and then she saw Minnie. Minnie was hiding behind Tarun and she was mouthing sorry and putting her hands on her earlobes as a gesture for the same.
Alisha did not know what to say.
Her parents too, were amused by the scene unfolding before them. Just a few days before, she was single and not ready to mingle, and now two good looking men were fighting for her attention. Who would she choose? They thought. The doctor or the actor?
And Alisha was absolutely clue less. She sighed dramatically when an idea propped into her mind. She also decided to play along.
“Guys, please don’t fight. The thing is, I really like both of you. And I’m really confused. Let’s do one thing, we’ll flip a coin. Select heads or tails. Whoever wins will be my boyfriend.”
All five of them were horrified at the solution that Alisha offered. Their mouths were wide open in shock.
But she just shrugged and smiled smugly.
“What?” Neil exclaimed.
“You will chose one of us by a coin flip?” Tarun asked.
“Have you gone mad Alisha?” Adhira said.
“Let me finish my pizza first. Then I’ll decide.” Alisha said.
Again all five of them were taken aback.
“Seriously? Your pizza is more important than us?” Neil said and looked at her with his puppy dog eyes.
“You can’t emotionally black mail her Mr. Neil.” Tarun added.
“He can, why not?” Minnie said.
“Now, whose side are you on?” Tarun winked at Minnie.
Avinash and Adhira were also saying something and a big argument broke in amongst the five of them. Alisha couldn’t make out a word. She was feeling giddy watching the pandemonium before her.
“STOP it.” She yelled.
“I said stop it for God’s sake!” Alisha said again and she flopped on the sofa and started crying. Her sobs became uncontrollable and she uttered between her sobs, “Jerks, all of you are jerks.” Neil offered some tissues to her.
Minnie finally started laughing and urged Tarun to do the same. Both of them were laughing like maniacs.
Now, the other three watched them in horror.
Minnie said, “Relax guys. Tarun and I were just pulling Alisha’s leg. Sorry Neil.” She said as she looked at him. “You just got caught up in it unaware.”
Then Alisha’s parents started laughing and Neil joined in too.
“Very naughty Minnie. Very naughty…” Avinash said in between laughs.
“At least take the flowers from the poor guy’s hand.” Adhira said gesturing towards Tarun.
Tarun came towards Alisha and gave her the flowers and mouthed sorry. Alisha nodded in understanding. She then hugged him and whispered in his ears, “I’ll explain everything later.”
When she released Tarun, she found Neil staring daggers at Tarun and frowning.
Alisha got up and said, “Everyone, meet Dr. Tarun Mehra. He’s my colleague and a good friend at the hospital. And no, we are not dating. We never were and we never will.” She winked at Tarun as she said that.
“I think we’ll make a move now.” Minnie interrupted.
“Why don’t you join us for dinner? We’ll order some more pizza.” Avinash suggested.
“Ah no! Actually we are already done with dinner. We just came to give Alisha a surprise.” Minnie said.
Alisha looked at Minnie and mouthed ‘you are a dead woman’ and gestured a hanging man for added effect. Minnie just stared at her with wide eyes and made a rush for the door. Tarun left with her too.
Alisha and Neil sighed in relief and so did her parents.
“What a wonderful evening that was!” Adhira remarked.
“I think I need some fresh air.” Avinash said. “Come, Adhira, let’s go out for a walk.” With that her parents left too, leaving Alisha and Neil alone.
“I’m sorry.” Alisha said. “I was so angry at Tarun and Minnie that I decided to beat them at their own game.”
Neil laughed and said, “It’s alright. It wasn’t your fault anyway. But the best part was you suggesting to flip a coin to decide whom you would date!”
“That was just a spur of the moment thing.”
“Have you ever done it before?”
“Flipping a coin to decide something important?”
“Never. Have you?”
“Ah. No. You cannot make important life decisions by flipping a coin.”
“I totally agree with this.”
They both stayed silent for a while, each engrossed in their own thoughts when Alisha said, “Tarun was supposed to be my fake boyfriend, but you walked in last week.”
“Oh. I see.”
“And I completely forgot to tell him that our plan was off.”
“How come you forgot? You have a very good memory.”
Alisha turned on the sofa and placed one leg beneath the other, such that she was facing Neil and her one leg was dangling below, “Because a very handsome actor was wooing me with his charm.”
Neil too turned and sat in a similar position as her and said, “Really?”
“Really.” They were sitting very close to each other such that their knees were touching and they were looking intently into each other’s eyes, none wanting to be the first to look away.
Neil finally cleared his throat and got up scratching his head.
“I think I should go now.” He said.
“Hmm… hmm… goodnight Neil.” She said while smiling dreamily at him.
“Sweet night Alisha. And good dreams.” He said as he left.
“Sweet night? Good dreams? I’m going to dream about you Neil.” Alisha whispered to herself.
With that she retired for the night.
Another week passed in peace. They had developed a routine. Neil would make it a point to visit the Merchants at least once a day and he would take Alisha out on weekends. Though most of the time, their outings would just comprise of spending some time on the terrace of their high rise followed by dinner at Neil’s place.
Alisha was beginning to grow fond of Neil and this was scaring her to death. She had to dissociate her feelings at any cost otherwise she knew she would have to pay a price for it. And a very heavy price.
Two weeks had passed and just two more were left for her parents’ visit. After that, all this drama would end. She just had to protect her heart for two weeks more. But how would she manage that when just a small gesture from Neil like holding her hand would make her go all mushy? She had to be really tough to survive the remaining two weeks.
One Saturday, it was her day off. She was sitting with her parents after breakfast and talking about work.
“Yesterday was a very fulfilling day for me.” She said.
“Really? Why do you say that?” Adhira asked.
“I saved a newborn’s life, mom. I was called for an emergency caesarean section, the patient was convulsing. So I had to give her general anesthesia instead of the spinal one which we usually give. Because of that, the baby came out depressed. She wasn’t crying and the pediatric senior resident couldn’t resuscitate her. He was too worked up. So I offered to help and managed to revive the baby girl. Everyone was so relieved as that baby was born after ten years of marriage through numerous attempts at IVF.”
“Wow! That’s great work Alisha.” Avinash complimented her. "We are really proud of you." He smiled.
He started rummaging through the newspapers kept on the table, “Today’s newspaper has not come yet right?”
Alisha replied, “Not yet. Wait, I’ll go and check dad.”
Alisha returned with the day’s newspaper and handed it to her dad. She would read it later in the day. Her dad took the main paper and gave the supplement to her mom as she was always interested in reading the celebrity gossip.
Adhira browsed through the newspaper and gasped.
“Oh my God! Look at this.” She said showing the paper to her husband and Alisha.
Alisha paled on reading the headlines.
‘The new lovebirds in tinsel town: Neil Basu and Nisha Malhotra.’