After explaining the events that had transpired in the last six months in brief, Alisha sighed in relief.
“Oh. My. God!” screeched Diya.
“Sshhh… What the hell Diya? At least remember where we are and lower your voice,” chided Tarun.
“No. I’m going to shout in joy. I mean ‘The Neil Basu’ is Alisha’s neighbor and friend! Brace yourself for uninvited stays at your place, girl!” Diya exclaimed.
Alisha started laughing at that and said, “Sure, you are welcome anytime.”
Tarun and Diya then left to let Alisha rest.
After some time, Aditi walked in and sat next to her. She looked exhausted. Her golden brown hair were tied up in a bun and she was wearing a sari.
“Hey maasi, how are you?” Alisha smiled.
“I should be asking you that, right?” Aditi said.
She continued further, “Minnie told me about everything that happened. And you are coming to stay with us for the next few days till you are completely well.”
“But maasi…” Alisha started.
Before she could say anything further, Aditi pressed, “No buts. No excuses. You are coming to stay with us and that’s final.”
Alisha had to agree. She knew she had no choice when her maasi has decided something.
She was discharged the next day when all her tests were clear. She was feeling alright except for a slight heaviness in her head. Luckily, she did not require any stitches. Aditi and Minnie took her to their place.
“At least, let me get my things from home.” Alisha pleaded.
“Don’t worry sis, I have got all your things. I have the spare key if you remember.” Minnie said.
At Minnie’s place, Alisha settled in Minnie’s room. It was early evening by then.
“Here, take your phone. I have charged the battery. You have many calls from Adhira maasi and a few texts as well.” Minnie said, as she barged in.
“Thanks. You are the best.” Alisha said in gratitude.
Alisha started browsing through her call history and also noticed some texts.
‘Hey Alisha, hope you are doing well. Neil here. I took your number from Minnie.’
Alisha smiled from ear to ear on seeing that message. It was sent in the morning that day. Wondering what to do, she started to type a reply. Just as she was typing, her mom called.
“Hello. Alisha. How are you beta? I’m so sorry to hear all this.”
“Hi mom. I’m fine. At maasi’s place. How are you and dad?”
“We are good too. Good you went to Aditi’s place. Otherwise, we would have been so worried.”
“When are you both coming?”
“That’s why I called you. We are caught up in a very difficult project. It wouldn’t be possible to come this week. We’ll try next week hopefully.”
“I know, but you are with Aditi right? She’ll take good care of you. Please understand.”
“I understand Mom. It’s alright. I need to rest, bye.”
Alisha did not wait for her mom to respond and cut the call. She started wiping the tears from her eyes and went to sleep.
She woke up an hour later, when an appetizing aroma of something being cooked reached her nostrils. Just then, Minnie walked in with a bowl of steaming soup.
“Please have this Alisha. I’m going to the boutique to wind it up and I’ll see you at dinner.”
“Ok Minnie, bye.”
As Alisha was having soup, she remembered that she was typing a message to Neil. She immediately searched for her phone on the bed and then placing the bowl of soup on her lap, she scrolled through the message.
‘Hi Neil. Yes, I’m much better. Thank you. Home now.’ And she sent it.
About a minute later, there was another text from him.
‘Wow, that’s great. I’ll see you in a few hours then.’
Alisha hurriedly typed another message.
’Um… by home I mean, I’m at my maasi’s place.’
Neil texted again.
‘Oh, never mind, will wait for you to come home then.’
They both sent good byes to each other and Alisha couldn’t wipe the goofy smile off her face.
She then realized that her soup had gone cold. Sighing, she got up and went to the kitchen to help Aditi. But, she was reprimanded for being out of the bed by her.
So Alisha spent the next three days on the bed in Minnie’s bedroom. She was only allowed to leave the bed to use the washroom and shower. She had shared many more texts with Neil during those three days as well.
Finally, after a lot of cajoling and gaining her maasi’s confidence, that she would be able to take care of herself, she finally came home.
She missed going to work as she was advised another week of rest by her seniors. She had absolutely nothing to do. The housekeeper would come and cook for her. She was bored to death!
She was watching some old movie on television, when the doorbell rang. It was Neil.
He entered the house and gave her a tight hug.
“How are you Alisha?”
Alisha melted like a chocolate when Neil hugged her. She felt like her heart would jump out from her chest. She somehow managed to say, “I’m fine now.”
“Good. Then get ready. We are going out.”
On Alisha’s questioning gaze, he further said, “I have to treat you for my new house, remember?”
Alisha put her stray hair behind her ear as she said, “um… you don’t really have to, you know.”
“You need this break. Come on, I give you thirty minutes. Get ready. We’ll go for a walk and then dinner.”
“Are you sure? What if we get mobbed by your fans?”
“I know how to disguise myself.” He smirked as he said that. “And Nisha and Arjun will also join us for dinner. So in case anyone identifies us, it will be just like a friends’ night out.”
“Okay then, I’ll see you in thirty.”
Alisha was feeling over the moon at this unexpected turn of events. Nevertheless, she got ready in record time. Dressed in blue fitted denims and a white blouse, she wore a beaded necklace that made her otherwise bland outfit a bit more cheery. She tied her hair in a high bun and put some kohl and lip gloss. She was all set to go.
Neil was disguised in his trademark oversized t-shirt and glares. Though it was almost sunset, he still wore them. They walked from their society towards Marine Drive.
“When you get tired, just tell me. We’ll catch a cab and reach the restaurant.” He said.
“Nah. I’m good. Thanks for asking.”
On the way, Neil told her about his latest shoot where he was playing a cop. And about all the other intricacies that are involved in the shoots. Alisha listened in awe. All this was very new and fascinating for her.
“I also have to share a good news with all of you.” He said smiling.
“Really? Can’t wait for dinner then.” Alisha said.
About thirty minutes later, they reached a small restaurant across the promenade of Marine Drive.
“Nice place. I have seen this many times, now finally I’m here.” Alisha smiled at Neil.
They sat at a table in the far corner of the restaurant and it was then, that Neil removed his sunglasses. They were joined by Nisha and Arjun, a short while later.
Conversation flew easily among the four of them and they enjoyed a scrumptious dinner. They listened in fascination about all the gory details that Alisha provided about things that happen in the operation theatre.
Very soon, it was time for dessert.
“Time for some good news as well!” Neil said.
This made Alisha perk up with interest.
“I’ve finally booked my first car!” Neil said.
“Woo hoo!” Arjun and Nisha fist bumped him.
“Wow! That’s great. Congratulations!” Alisha shook hands with him.
“Thanks guys. It’s a Honda city. I’ve always wanted it. Finally, dream come true!”
“What? Just a Honda?” Nisha said. “I thought you must have bought a Mercedes or a BMW. Don’t tell me you can’t afford it.”
“It’s not about affording. It’s about my needs. Currently I’m happy with my Honda.” Neil replied.
“Whatever.” Nisha chided.
They had their desserts and Alisha could feel the tension between Neil and Nisha. But she did not say anything.
On their way back home, Neil said, “Don’t mind Nisha. She’s like that only. We have gotten used to her attitude.”
“But I’m really happy for you Neil. You must be feeling so proud.”
“Ah yes. My parents are happy too!”
“You said, you are from Kolkata, right? So you must be speaking Bengali? It’s a wonderful language.”
“Err… No. I don’t speak Bengali. Actually my parents don’t know it that well too.”
“How come?” Alisha questioned.
“The thing is, my parents have stayed here most of their lives. And we both brothers have been born and brought up here only. It was just a couple of years back that my parents retired and moved in to our ancestral home back in Kolkata. They wanted to explore their roots they said. And we have a flat here in Walkeshwar. That’s where I was staying with my brother.”
“Oh. That’s good. You have someone from your family close to you.” Alisha whispered.
On reaching home, they said their good nights and retired to sleep. Alisha thanked him for the wonderful evening.
Over the next two weeks, their friendship bloomed. They would go out for impromptu walks in the evenings and sometimes mornings as well. They would hang at each other’s flats and talk about silly things and watch movies. Alisha had resumed her work too, but she was only given eight hour shifts. She was very happy.
One morning, she had a missed call from her dad. ‘They never turned up to stay with me as they had promised.’ She thought sadly.
Her phone rang again and this time it was her mom.
“Hey Alisha… how are you my dearest daughter?” She sounded overly cheerful.
“I’m great mom. How are you both?” Alisha somehow couldn’t wipe the feeling of dread that she felt in the pit of her stomach.
“We have some wonderful news. We are coming the day after tomorrow. And we are going to stay for one entire month!”
Alisha should be feeling happy, that finally she would get to spend time with her parents. But, she wasn’t.
“Hello? Alisha? Are you listening?” her mom prodded.
“Yes mom. I’m so happy that you are coming that I went speechless.” Alisha rolled her eyes as she said that.
“And one more thing. Your dad and I have short listed some great boys for you. Really good families as well. You will be meeting them in the next month!” she blabbered happily.
‘Oh shit. Oh no!’ Alisha thought.