SS: II-5: Sometimes A Dance Of Masquerade And Shadows

 

Intent on reaching their reserved booth without falling flat on her face – always a real possibility with her each time she wore even moderately high heels – Anita kept her eyes focussed on Khushi’s shoulders – what delicate shoulders she had too, unlike hers – and didn’t take a peek at the live band playing behind the bar. She did allow herself to be immersed in music though, with the words, the instruments, the human voice tugging at her heart and soul like good music invariably did. And of course, this song was on a whole different level of good to her, having heard it countless times on an old vinyl record – one out of a whole stack accompanying her dad when he’d first stepped into this land. She didn’t quite buy his argument that classic rock or any oldies sounded better when spinning off of those plastic disks but she did make allowance for the extra shot of nostalgia each scratch and squeak added to the music.

 

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sounds of silence.

 

Humming under her breath, she slipped beside Khushi, with both of them now facing Arnav in the muted light. Arnav sat with his face turned toward the elevated stage, an arm stretched along the backrest relaxedly. Di had mentioned in one of the long conversations they were regularly having these days – as if to make up for time spent away from each other – how this particular restaurant had become a favorite with both of them with it’s weekly live music – good quality live music – most likely acting as one of the deciding nudges in it’s direction. Both Di and Arnav Bhai enjoyed music although there were marked differences in preferences, she couldn’t help but notice. While Khushi’s taste sprawled untidily like wild grass across languages, decades and genres, quite like her own, with a sizable chunk of the pie chart taken up by Bollywood music, Arnav Bhai’s was more confined and selective. Many a time, she would chuckle on hearing Khushi pull his leg for being a music snob and many a time, she would be amused on catching him absentmindedly hum one of Khushi’s songs – some of admittedly dubious taste – while driving, reading or even loading the dishwasher.

Amused and perhaps a little starry eyed. Who wouldn’t be, witnessing the sweetest kind of osmosis there ever was in the whole of universe, right in front of one’s eyes?

Even as Arnav turned toward Khushi with a smiling remark, the song ended and Arnav announced his intention to get drinks for everyone.

“I’ll come with you”, Anita said with a cough, flicking back glossy brown hair behind a shoulder, “I can order my own drink now”.

She smiled at Arnav’s quirked eyebrow which widened as he asked teasingly. “A round of vodka shots?

“I think I’ll stick to that strawberry spritzer Di recommends for now”, she laughed. She didn’t think it was the right time to disclose she’d recently downed shots – quite a few of them – playing a silly drinking game at a friend’s apartment.

“You’ll love it”, Khushi said, removing her eyes from the stage where the band was getting ready for their next performance, “It has just about two table spoons of vodka each”, she added with a grin.

“Wow, you are feeling wild today, aren’t you?, Arnav quipped with a laugh while Anita snorted and said, “They needn’t have bothered”.

She followed Arnav to the bar counter, weaving carefully through the crowd of patrons, comprising mostly of older – not necessarily wiser, she was sure – professionals and a generous smattering of tourists. Anita looked about her as she stood waiting for drinks. It was very different from the kind of place an average college student could afford to hang out at on a regular basis. It was exactly the kind of place that would seem – oh crap, that is my rent – level expensive to most of them, including her.

She was walking back to Khushi, one drink in each hand, when the music restarted again to the accompaniment of enthusiastic applause and whistles. It was a Peter Gabriel cover, one of Arnav’s favorite singer – she was told by her sister fondly in a recent conversation. Maybe it was because their love was still new but Anita had felt as if Khushi delighted in the knowledge of every little piece that made Arnav who he was as a whole.

“I love this song”, Anita said dreamily as she placed the drinks on the table and slid beside Khushi again.

 

Love, I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

 

And it was when she had settled in her seat again, that she directed her first real look toward the dim lit stage criss crossed by moving blue streams from above. There were four of them, her mind noticed vaguely – three guys and a girl – before coming to a startled standstill on the lead singer’s blue washed profile. His eyes were clenched and his hands wrapped around the microphone as his lips moved close to it, appearing – like a lot of singers often do – to spill not just his voice but a part of himself into the surrounding space.

Her heart flipped inside her ribcage. She allowed her eyes to move to the side – to rest absently on the girl at the keyboards – before blinking and returning to his face again. The overhead lights had shifted again, covering the singer’s stubbled profile with half shadows. She decided she was hallucinating.

“That can not be Arian”, she chided herself, “Just because you’re in Florida doesn’t mean that the first singer you run into turns out to be him”. She bowed her head and took another sip of her chilled drink.

There was a muted exhilaration in her heartbeats that she decided subconsciously to neither acknowledge nor question. She turned toward Khushi who had been trying to draw her attention to the menu card, urging her to choose her dinner order.

“They’re good”, Arnav commented on the band, his eyes skimming through the menu card as well, “I wonder if they’re a strictly cover band. I hope they do original music too. They owe it to themselves”.

“I’m sure they do”, said Khushi, “They’re much too good to not do that. Much as they might dislike it, new bands often find it necessary to play cover song sets. To pay bills. To earn enough cash to support their musical ambition”.

Anita’s eyes were tugged toward a small trifold card resting against the wall. It had nightly entertainment schedule for the whole month printed on it. It didn’t take her long to find the words her eyes were scanning for. Politics On The Beach.

“What were the odds…?, her mind repeated as she turned toward him again, her eyes wide with intrigue and curiosity. His eyes opened and that’s when she knew without a doubt it was really him. She watched as his lips moved close to the microphone, listening to his lazy melodic drone without moving, without touching her drink.

 

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light, the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes

 

She watched as his body – unusually graceful for someone so tall- swayed reflexly to the languorous beats. She watched as he exchanged smiling comments with his bandmates in between song words. Her mind registered a constellation of tiny details about him without in the least meaning to. The gleaming dark copper of his messy hair. The glimpse of a tattoo on his left biceps. It tried without success to reconcile the image in front of her with that of a kind stranger she’d met on a plane once and with that of her faceless 3 am buddy: a kindred spirit she could effortlessly share her unspoken thoughts with. Who are you even? her heart asked wondrously even as her brain filled with cold images – rock and roll stereotypes – of weed fueled gigs, meaningless sex and a life propelled nowhere on the fast lane.

Maybe it was just her imagination but he seemed to turn slightly and look straight at her at that point. Her heart leapt up to her throat as she quickly turned her face away, thankful for the wave of hair that fell forward, acting as an impromptu half mask. She wasn’t sure if the shadows were dark enough to hide her from him. She wasn’t even sure why but she wanted to stay hidden from him. She just didn’t want him to see her. Not at any cost.

She was glad when their dinner arrived and served as a much needed distraction for her unruly thoughts.The food was as good as the reviews and she sighed with contentment taking the first flavorful bite of her pecan crusted salmon. Anita glanced at her companions gratefully, knowing she was living through yet another memorable birthday celebration, although for all the right reasons this year. She watched Arnav’s face as he waited patiently for the two of them to taste every entree on the table – something they’d been doing since childhood – before smugly declaring that their choice was the best. Her eyes crinkled with an uncharacteristically sentimental smile. She never knew she would one day get the older brother she’d always secretly longed for. They reminisced about the memories they’d build together so far and Anita hoped nobody noticed her face when Arnav somehow brought up the topic of being sent – even if unintentionally so – on a wild goose chase to Africa.

It was when her birthday dessert arrived – a single pink candle stuck on a delicious looking chocolate pudding cake – and Arnav and Khushi urged her to make a wish that she saw in it a unique opportunity. One she would be foolish to let go of.

With her face somber, she looked from one to the other. “My wish is for you and Di to forgive me after I say this”, she said.

Their expressions made her want to giggle: Arnav Bhai’s amused – long – suffering – what new drama has this girl come up with now – and Di’s wide eyed startled – what the heck did you do now.

Anita took a deep breath and looked straight at Arnav, “So technically, I could have stopped you from going to Africa. But I didn’t. I’m really sorry”.

Her suitably contrite revelation elicited the expected results from her sister and brother in law. While Khushi shook her head dazedly, fumbling for words, Arnav fixed her and her puppy eyes with a long measured glance. Although his face was somber, his eyes gleamed ever so slightly behind the rimless glasses.

“You are a lunatic”, he said at last in a gentle voice, “Do you realize that?”.

“Not any more”, she said with genuine remorse, “I’ve changed now”.

The answering quirk of his eyebrow said it all and laughing, she threw her napkin at him. And all the time while she joked, talked and savored her dessert, she tried not to be aware of that man on the stage.

Politics On The Beach was about to start their last cover when they decided to call it a night. His voice followed her as she walked down the aisle.

 

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

 

The opening lines of the song seemed uncannily teasing to her. Despite herself, she was able to find humor in the extraordinary situation she found herself in. It made her grin nervously as she headed toward the warm night.

And despite knowing the song was just a coincidence, that it was part of a pre-decided lineup, a silly little shiver ran down her spine. It had been too dark for him to recognize her, she told herself firmly.

Was it?

 

 

A/N: Thank you for all the love. I’ve updated both stories at the same time today! A first for me 🙂

Love always,

Jenny

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106 thoughts on “SS: II-5: Sometimes A Dance Of Masquerade And Shadows

  1. Anita’s feeling of confusion as well as of happiness of seeing Arian. Her luck is on her side as it looks like arian didn’t see her or did he?
    I’m absolutely enjoying the banter between arnav khushi and anita

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita is too happy to see her sister’s content life.
    Arnav is the best Jija/big bro to her…
    It’s so heart-warming to see Arhi celebrating their Choti’s 21st bday so lovingly…

    Anita recognizes Arian but is not ready to face him..
    Y,Y,Y ???

    Arian sings that song for Anita..
    I m sure 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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