My phone buzzed a few more times. I swore to myself not to check it. I focused on Brijesh.
‘So we have to decide whether we’ll stay downtown or near Menlo Park, which is in Palo Alto,’ Brijesh said.
‘You are right.’ I had no idea what he just said.
‘I said you have to choose. Downtown or Palo Alto?’
‘Why do I have to choose?’
‘Radhika, are you okay? I said, we have to choose where we’ll stay.’
I finally figured out the conversation.
‘Uh-oh. Well, I am easy, actually. You are already staying in Menlo Park, right?’
‘Yeah, but my lease expires in two months.’
Just one little peek, I told myself. I will have a quick look at the phone and then pay full attention to Brijesh.
I lifted the phone. Among the many messages from Debu, one read: ‘I love you.’
Fuck. Fortunately, I did not blurt the word out. I immediately shut the phone. I placed my hand on my face.
‘I was keen to move out anyway,’ Brijesh said. ‘Radhika, are you okay? Everything under control?’
‘Actually, I need to go back. Mom needs something. Jewellery issues,’ I said.
‘Ah. Indian weddings,’ Brijesh said.
Yeah, I had lied to my husband-to-be, within one hour of his arrival. What a wonderful bride I am going to make, isn’t it? See, I told you, you won’t like me very much.
‘So I will see you again soon?’ I said.
‘Of course,’ Brijesh said, with a twinkle in his eye. ‘I am going to be your husband, you are going to see me all the time. Come, let’s walk back.’
I gripped my phone tight as if otherwise the messages would leak out and fall on the floor. Brijesh left me at the lift lobby, where he met one of his cousins who wanted to talk to him. The lift door shut. I pressed the button to the fourth floor, and took a deep breath. I checked my phone. It had tons of messages from Debu.
‘For the past few months I have been thinking of you constantly.’
‘Only had the courage to text you now.’
‘I made the biggest mistake. I didn’t value you.’
‘I love you.’
What the hell is he talking about?
Ting! The lift reached my floor. I walked up to my room and rang the bell. Aditi didi opened the door.
‘Where were you?’ She gave me a mischievous look. ‘With Brijesh?’
I smiled, as if caught red-handed. I am the coy bride. I have to smile whenever my would-be-husband is mentioned.
Didi had opened one of her suitcases. It was the kind of giant bag murderers use to hide bodies. She had six dresses spread out on the bed.
‘What is Brijesh like?’ she said, as she unfolded a red dress.
‘Decent. Getting to know him,’ I said, plonking myself on the sofa. I took out my phone again. Why? Why am I taking out my phone again?
Aditi didi continued to talk. ‘I didn’t know Anil at all before marriage. You just get to know each other better after the wedding. The honeymoon helps.’ She winked at me.
I nodded, even as I wondered what to reply to Debu.
‘I really do,’ Debu texted again. The guy who earlier took ten days to reply to a text was now sending ten texts a minute.
‘Are you high?’ I replied. Debu and I ended up having a chat.
‘No. It is 5 in the morning here. I am having my coffee. This is not a drunk text.’
‘Good. Then you need to know I am getting married in five days.’
‘What? So soon?’
‘Yes. Guests are already here.’
‘Whom are you getting married to?’
‘Someone not as insecure as you. . .’ I typed and deleted.
‘Brijesh Gulati. . .’ I typed and deleted again.
I decided to not reply. Didi held up two dresses, one blue and one red.
‘Which one should I wear for tomorrow’s bachelorette? Honest opinion,’ she said.
‘Both are good. Which is your favourite?’ I said.
‘I like the red. But it’s really short. Is it screaming for attention too much?’ she said.
Of course, it is. But that’s what you have always wanted, sister. Why stop yourself now?
‘It’s fine. Wear whatever you like,’ I said.
‘I’ll wear the blue. It’s to the knees. More elder-sister-of-the-bride types.’
‘You are only a year older.’
‘Yeah, that is also true. And tomorrow is the only day I get to wear a Western dress. I only wear Indian after that. I am one of the few girls here who can actually carry off a dress like this.’
She lifted her red dress. Yes, Aditi didi with her super-slim soup-and-salad-diet figure could carry it off.
‘Red, didi. End of debate,’ I said.
My phone buzzed.
‘Babes, who are you getting married to?’ Debu said.
I replied, ‘It doesn’t matter. You are not in my life anymore, Debashish.’
‘Can you call me Debu at least?’
‘I am busy, Debashish. I don’t have time for this.’
‘Where’s the wedding?’
I didn’t respond.
‘You didn’t invite me?’ he said, needling me again.
Asshole, you didn’t even return my calls, I wanted to say but didn’t.
My phone rang. Debu was trying to call me. I cut the call. I typed back a message.
‘Don’t call me. I told you I am busy. There are people around.’
‘So just reply to me. Where is the wedding?’
‘Whatever,’ I typed back.
‘I can call friends around and find out. So why don’t you just tell me?’
‘Wow! Destination wedding and all.’
I didn’t respond. To distract myself I asked Aditi didi a deep existential question: ‘What shoes are you wearing with this?’
‘Oh see, now that’s an issue too. I have these four-inch-heel red stilettos, but that’s definitely attention-seeking.’
‘Yeah, plus we are going dancing. Would be difficult in high heels. I am wearing flats.’
My sister feels her deepest bond with me when I discuss clothes and shoes with her. She came up to me and pulled my cheeks. ‘You can’t wear flats for your bachelorette. How cute you are. You don’t know anything.’