“What’s going on here? What’s all this crap?”
Tash’s voice resounded loud and harsh in the sudden hush that descended on the club. Loud enough to rudely jar the deeply engrossed couple out of their reverie.
This was not acceptable to Diva who followed his arch enemy onto the stage.“Tash leave them alone’” he exclaimed. “You are stretching your limits.”
“Yes you are.’” Shan declared irritably not pleased at the interruption especially when he felt the time was ripe to declare his feelings to Khanak who seemed at her most pliant and thawed out state.
But the object of his affections looked shaken and she was staring at his nemesis, her eyes wide with alarm. This caused him further aggravation and he instinctively drew her closer.
“What is this crap are you talking about?” He asked Tash with a sardonic grin; “…the dance?” Then he looked around in an effort to the entire throng of fans; “What say y’ all? Was the dance crap?”
“Nooooooo!” Everyone roared in unison.
“It was heavenly!”
“Maar daala (you killed us) Shan!”
Then someone called out; “Dude! The only thing missing was the kiss!”
“Yeeesssss! … Kiss her now…Right now!” A chant started.
Khanak’s cheeks were set aflame when Shan chuckled softly and hugged her tighter. She was thankful he didn’t comply to the crowd’s request.
“Shut up you guys! That is not what I’m talking about!” Tash wailed. She was almost foaming at the mouth as she witnessed the blatant display of affection.
“The ring Tash…her ring!” Trish’s voice urged.
“Show me your hand!” Tash demanded of Khanak and when she wavered she yanked it forcibly.
There was no question that the lovely ring mounted with the exquisite butterfly arrested in mid-flight was made of real diamonds just as Trish told her.
Khanak tried to retract her hand but Tash’s grip was firm.“This doesn’t look like a cheap trinket by any long shot. Who gave it to you?”
“I did.” Shan said.
“What?” Tash stared at him.
“Yes, you heard right Tash.” Shan asserted firmly while smiling reassuringly at Khanak. “I slipped it on her finger a few days ago when I felt the moment was right and this lovely girl was sweet enough to accept my proposal. We are engaged to be married.”
“I don’t believe it! It’s…it’s ridiculous!” Tash screamed, her face growing white as a sheet.
“You’d better cause it’s the truth;” Shan retorted viciously feeling no sympathy for the woman who at one time he had considered a close friend.
But Tash wasn’t one to be easily dissuaded. She had an agenda and this was the perfect platform.
“Then what is this?” She lifted up her left hand displaying a plain silver band. It was not as lavish or ornate as the one on Khanak’s finger but a ring nevertheless.
“What about it?” Shan continued to stick to his guns.
“Have you forgotten already?” Tash sashayed forward with a coy smile, “Then let me titillate your memory. This, is the same ring you slipped on my finger a couple of months ago. Can you deny it? If so I have plenty of witnesses.”
Shan grew wary as he saw a skeptical gleam in Khanak’s eyes. He was aware that he was treading on dangerous ground but he couldn’t deny the truth; “Yes I did but…”
“There you go!” Tash laughed in triumph looking at the audience who were lapping up everything hungrily. “Now…how can a guy be engaged to two girls at the same time? Not only is that illegal but it’s freaking preposterous!”
“What’s going on?” Khanak exclaimed wrenching herself from Shan’s embrace as he addressed her rival. “Tash…You know very well that was nothing but a joke!”
“A joke? Of course not.” Tash then turned and snarled at Khanak. “This is a joke!” She threw her arms around a startled Shan. “Darling! I know how you love taking people for a ride but this is very cruel! You shouldn’t have fooled a poor innocent girl just to make me green with envy and only because I was away from you for some time. Promise me you won’t do it again.”
“This is utter nonsense! You are making it all up! Khanak I can explain!” Shan blurted out looking anxiously at Khanak while trying at the same time to disengage himself from Tash. But she wasn’t letting him go.
Khanak slunk away staring at both of them in shocked disbelief.
“It’s the truth darling,” Tash’s words mocked her stupidity. “How can Shan desire to be with a simpleton like you when he can have someone like me? Nothing could be more absurd!”
“Khanak please …Stop! Don’t listen to her! She’s lying!” Shan hollered reaching for her.
Khanak spun on her heels and bolted. The place had suddenly turned in to a suffocating dungeon. She could hardly breathe. She had to get out.
Pushing blindly through the crowd that had shifted their collective attention on to her—an object of amusement and ridicule. They were murmuring about her and laughing. It was unbearable.
“Khanak!” Someone called out.
She continued toward the big red exit sign. That was her only goal, her escape.
She stumbled in the dark and fell. Her knees stung. But the hurt inside was stronger. She couldn’t yield. Not yet.
She had to put the widest distance possible between herself and those who considered her easy prey.
Finally she surfaced. The air cleared but barely. Her chest still felt constricted.
She glanced around but couldn’t tell where she was. As if it mattered anymore. She laughed. She was all alone again, a homeless orphan.
She took a left defying instinct, nothing could be relied upon any more. She tried to pretend to be invisible but it was impossible—her attire, her gender made her shine like a beacon.
She saw men gawking at her like hungry wolves. She cringed with fear.
But she couldn’t stop.. She needed to keep moving or they’d catch and maul her…if not them then someone else would, the ones she was running from … they’d trap her again in their cleverly spun web of deceit.
Scenes replayed in her head as she hurried along at a brisk pace toward an unknown destination, intuitively dodging her way around on the sparsely populated streets.
Tarun’s uncouth assumptions, his cheap and vulgar insinuations. Her new acquaintances… with their smiling faces and friendly chatter…their huddled whispering in the corridors.
Someone deliberately bumped into her and grabbed at her behind. Swearing aloud she hit out fiercely at her attacker and connected.
She got a glimpse of her attacker’s stunned rough features before he turned about face and walked away.
Trish’s conflicting and confusing words. Tash’s loud derisive laughter…the loathing in her eyes. Diva’s aghast face…
Life for them is a big farce, a grand charade. They are on the stage all the time, playing a part, their true faces hidden behind masks. She had become a part of them–the unwitting player who had been asked to play herself. The accidental tourist.
And Shan…It was agony to even think of his name.
But she couldn’t erase his face from her mind. The harder she tried the brighter it got. The beautiful man she had fallen in love with. The wonderful soul who had urged her to dream big…helped her believe in herself.
Those warm brown eyes in which she’d dared envision a glimmer of affection, of hope…
She came to an abrupt stop. It had started to drizzle. She began to shudder uncontrollably. Tears finally flowed unchecked. I’ve never felt this alone before!
She was standing in what looked very much like a spotlight and felt forced to look up.
The hoarding was brand new. It’s lettering obliterated by her tears and the rain. But what caught her attention was the partially shrouded face of the dancer. She could barely recognize herself.