Flamenco at the Fulcrum











Mumbai, the City of Dreams, yet, the City that Never Sleeps. One adamant soul however, lay deep in the clutches of Morpheus.

Aarav Mehta, student extraordinaire, the Golden Son. Not much to look at, but a boy with an evidently bright future. He had secured admission at a prestigious college in Delhi in his first attempt and had spared no time in establishing himself to be one of the top minds in the institution. Back home after 3 straight months of toil, he intended to spend every ten days of his break curled up in bed, taking a well-deserved rest.

Destiny, however, had other plans for him. A loud noise pierced the thin veil of his dreams, jerking him awake. Spewing curses, Aarav reached for the phone under his pillow that was blaring the opening chords of Boulevard of Broken Dreams and peered at the screen.

It was Diva.

Diva Saxena was Aarav’s childhood friend. Unlike him, she was an average student: both academically and popularity-wise, both of which she yearned to change. But she was never particularly bright; one of those hyperactive girls, always craving for attention and trying to get with the popular band of people. Yet, she was at heart, a good person, though slightly foolish.

Aarav and Diva used to be neighbours and they grew up together: playing, fighting and learning. Their friendship was one that most could not comprehend; they were often mistaken to be romantically involved, but the relationship they shared was purely platonic.
Aarav would not  consider picking up a call from anyone else at this time of the day.

‘H’lo,’ he mumbled.
“Aarav, guess what?” said a cheery voice.
He glanced at the digital clock on his bedside table. It was 2.47 am.
“You’d better be dying or something,” he muttered.
“No, no… Guess who just texted me!”
“Obama?”
“No, smartass. Aarush Singhania!”

He had heard quite a bit about this fellow before; the current “Mr Popular” of her college. Handsomely rich, richly handsome and, of course, a complete A-Hole. That last part, though, was completely wasted on the girls who worshipped him day and night, swooning at the slightest return of affection.

As seen here.

“What does he want?”
“He texted me to personally invite me to his dinner party on Friday!” she announced, sounding happier than the time he had flown in from Delhi to surprise her on her birthday. A slight twang of jealousy ran through him.

“Calm down, he probably sent that message to dozens of people.”
“He did?” she mumbled, struck by the possibility.
“Probably, yeah.”
“Oh… I hadn’t thought of that,” she said, her excitement fading fast.

Aarav acted on reflex.

“But you said it was personally addressed to you, right?”
“Yeah, it was,” she said, sounding hopeful again.
“Then it was probably meant especially for you!”
“You think so?” she chirped.
“Yup, No doubt about it!” he said, trying to match her excitement.
“Yay! You’ll be here in the morning, right? I need to go the salon and get some stuff too and Mom’s going to be busy all day.”

“Yeah, sure… If you let me get any sleep tonight, that is,” he muttered.
“Okay, okay, cool. I was thinking of wearing that white dress with those shoes that…”


“Goodnight, Diva!” he said and cut the call. Aarav threw the phone back near his pillow and collapsed on his bed, fast asleep in a matter of seconds.

[2]

Diva didn’t really hear the doorbell ring the following morning as she was in a state of panic. Her mom opened the door and let Aarav in.

“There you are!” shouted Diva as he strolled into her room.
“Now, help me decide,” she said thrusting two pairs of shoes under his nose.
“Umm, the one on the right?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous; these ones are way better!”

Aarav sighed and plopped himself onto her bed, smiling as he watched her run around, sampling and rejecting various pieces of jewellery and accessories. A quarter of an hour later, he was shooed out of her room to let her change.

Aarav had a chat with Diva’s mom for about half an hour before he was summoned again. He walked in and glanced up at her.
Diva was dressed in a tight white dress with an embroidered neck and sleeves. The fabric hugged her body, gently accentuating the curve of her hips. She had paired it with a pair of midnight-blue heels and earrings, adding a burst of colour to her frame. A thick coat of mascara added another layer of depth to her glittering eyes.

“I’m not sure about these sleeves,” she muttered, glancing at her feet, “And I don’t think the blue goes well with the white…”
She was cut off by Aarav placing his arms on her shoulders, his eyes looking straight into hers.
“You look beautiful,” he whispered.

Diva stood still for a moment, taken aback, and then smiled coyly.

“Thank you.”

“Now let’s get moving! Don’t you have an appointment at the salon in ten minutes?” he said, jerking his arms back.

Diva gave a squeal and ran to the door.
“Wait, did you have any lunch?” called Aarav as she stuffed her wallet and keys into a clutch.
“No time, no time! Hurry up!”

Aarav sighed and walked out as she locked the house. “Oh by the way, you don’t have to stay for long. Aarush said he’ll send a car to pick me up,” she said, grinning like a cat as she sat slammed the car door shut.

“That’s great!”
“I know right…”
And for the next ten minutes, Aarav sat and heard Diva sing Aarush’s praises as he made his way through the afternoon traffic.

[3]

A light drizzle had established itself by the time Aarav got back home. As he went up to his room and lay in his bed, it began to pour in earnest.
He lay there, staring at the ceiling, listening to the music made by the rain pattering against his windowsill in the cloudy darkness of his room.

Beautiful.

There was no doubt about it, she was beautiful.

“Skin deep though,” he thought with a sigh.

He seriously doubted he would’ve ever liked her if he hadn’t always known her. He couldn’t possibly like someone so foolishly immature.

Like her?
Did he?

Can’t be! It was probably just brotherly affection he was feeling. She wasn’t really his ‘type’ anyway.
But all the same, she was beautiful.

Aarav dozed off.


[4]


For the second time in 24 hours, Aarav was rudely woken up by his phone. The culprit was the same.
“Hello? You reached yet?”

“Aarav, please come and pick me up,” she said, sounding on the verge of tears.

Aarav bolted out of his bed.

“What’s wrong? Where are you?” he barked.
“At the bus stop near the salon,” she sobbed.
Aarav was already at the door.
“Stay put, I’m coming,” he said as he turned the keys in the ignition.

Aarav drove furiously through the storm. The fifteen minute long journey seemed to last an hour as his mind constructed a dozen scenarios and possibilities, each getting progressively darker, about what fate had befallen her.

He could see her form from afar, her white dress visible through the pouring sheets of rain. He pulled over and she got into the car. He stared at her in surprise.
She was drenched from head to toe. Her hair was plastered to her face, her makeup had run down her face in rivulets. Her mascara had run down her face too, though he suspected that to be the work of tears rather than rain.

“What happened?” he asked, putting an arm around her shoulder with some difficulty.
“He never came,” she sobbed
“Well he did, actually,” she said with an edge to her voice, “I saw him pass by in a car with some other girl. I waved at him too but he didn’t stop. And I tried calling him too but he didn’t pick up. So I thought I’d try and catch a bus to his place.”
“In this rain?”
“It started when I was halfway to the bus stop and I had nowhere to hide from it. And look at me now, I look pathetic,” she added, bursting into fresh tears.

“Diva, listen to me! It’s going to be alright.” He took off his jacket and wrapped it around her shivering arms.
“If he thinks you’re any less beautiful just because you’re a little wet, then he doesn’t deserve you anyway. Now, come with me. Let’s go home and you can change into something warmer.”

“No. Take me to Aarush’s party.”

“But Diva…”

“You don’t understand. I need to give him a piece of my mind,” she said, with a venom that surprised Aarav.

“Huh?”

“I’ve had enough of this business now,” she said, sounding tired rather than angry. “All of this!” she said, grabbing her sleeves and pulling at them till they tore and hung loosely on her arms.

Aarav stared in silence and turned the car towards Aarush’s locality.

“Keeping up with these so-called ‘popular’ people. Pestering and brown-nosing them day in and day out, craving for their approval.”
“What have I become, Aarav?” she cried, “I always knew they weren’t the decent kind of people, you know. But it’s so damn tempting! All that fame and glory. And this is what I got for trying to be a part of it.”

“A night alone in the rain,” she sighed.

“And then there’s you, Aarav. You’ve always been there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed you. And look at the way I’ve been treating you. I’ve reduced you to nothing more than a driver, these days,” she choked, laughing weakly between sobs, pulling his jacket tightly around her arms.

“I should listen to you more. You’re right. If he thinks I’m ugly just because of a little rain, he doesn’t deserve me anyway.” She smiled and put her hand over his on the gear stick.

Aarav felt his heart race faster than he felt it should.

“You always look beautiful, Diva, rain or not,” he whispered.

She blushed and bowed her head.


[5]


Aarav pulled over outside an imposing bungalow with loud music blaring from within.

“It’s so big,” whispered Diva as she got out of the car. Aarav walked over to her side.

“What do you plan on telling him?”
“Just a few words on how he kept a girl waiting and about how much of a pretentious asshole he is,” she muttered with a frown.
“I’m proud of you,” he said as he pulled close and hugged her. 
And he meant it. She had finally grown up.

Hand in hand, they walked up to the door and rang the bell. They got a glimpse of the party as the door opened. Diva’s jaw dropped as she saw the large, posh, decorated room. It took her a moment to register the boy holding the door open.

It was Aarush.

“Wow, you look HOT!” he said, shouting to be audible over the music. “Wait let me guess… A drowned bride?”

“What?” she mumbled.
“You’re a drowned bride right? For Halloween?”
“Halloween? Oh yeah, that’s right!” cried Diva as waves of realization washed over her.
“Thought so,” said Aarush with a charming smile. “You look absolutely stunning, except…” He reached out and pulled off the old coat wrapped around her shoulders. “There! Much better.”

“And you’re a vampire…” said Diva, after taking a moment to recover and notice his costume and fake incisors.
“Yup,” he said, flashing her a devilish smile.

“And who’s this?” he added, noticing Aarav.
“No one really,” gushed Diva, “Just a friend who came to drop me.”
“Oh! Are you planning on staying?”
“Oh no, he was just leaving,” said Diva, elbowing Aarav’s ribs.
“Well that’s alright then, you don’t need to come back, I’ll drop her home,” said Aarush with a dismissive nod toward Aarav.

“Now, let me show you around,” he said, proffering a hand to Diva. She took it, blushing furiously and went inside.

Aarav stood and watched as she was slowly sucked into the glittering web inside. As he turned around, the door slammed shut, with the authoritative sound of reality.

He knelt to the ground to pick up his coat and paused in silent introspection. Was Diva to be blamed for the emptiness he was feeling? After having seen him, Aarav couldn’t bring himself to blame her for choosing Aarush. Aarush was the embodiment of all that he could never be, all that he shunned, and all that some part of him regretted not being. Perhaps, that was why he could never bring himself to like him.

So was it his own fault for getting his hopes up? Was it his adamant foolishness, in believing in that which could never be, to be blamed for his pain? Was he just not good enough for her? He twisted the fabric of the coat and flung it across the front porch.  

He got up slowly and glanced at his watch. It was late. He shuffled his way across the porch, picked up and dusted the coat and began the long walk back towards his car, as the rain embraced his lone figure once again.