** This entry is a part of the Close Up Fire-Freeze Contest.**
“When will the next time you’ll oil your hair be? Or perhaps there won’t be another one this year?” Pooja grinned as she listened to her Mom’s inquisitive and resigned questioning about her mane maintenance habits.
She was getting ready for a ‘it’s a girl’s night out Mamma!’ and her toilette done with, the only major decision that was still pending was finding an earring that went with her new off-shoulder blue dress.
Revathi sighed, slightly vexed with her daughter’s rebellious ways. Her friends often talked of teenage rebellion but she was lately tiring of witnessing it so close at hand. She picked up a pair of tiny golden loops and checked them out in the mirror.
“How about -” she had only just begun when Pooja cut her off. “Don’t even think about it Mamma. Gold is so not in and in no earthly way can it go with blue in any case.”
“Of course, of course.” Revathi’s argumentative streak – the one that all mothers of teenage daughters strive to acquire – picked up steam again. “Why is it that you are the only earthly one in this family? Look at Manav for instance. When has he ever been difficult?”
Pooja looked indignant. “But he is a man after all Mamma! And moreover,” she shrugged her shoulders, “he is far too plain. Like boring with a big B. There’s no way I can be that.”
“Did I hear someone talking of me?” They turned to see Manav standing at the doorway, all of his six feet two inches dulled under the weight of some book he had in his hands.
Pushing the box of eyeliners aside, Pooja jumped at the chance. “Check out for yourself Mamma.” She walked up to him and turned him around. “It’s Sunday evening and the whole world’s partying. And what is my darling big brother doing? Sitting cooped up in his room swallowing pages from – what’s this – History of the French Revolution. Like reading something that isn’t even related to his job!” She shook her head, mimicking a shiver. “Pooja is too cool to be that.”
Manav looked at Revathi and smiled. “Okay okay Miss Ice Princess. You be cool, but at least let us know where your coach is headed.”
“Girl’s night out didn’t you hear big brother? I am going to Ritu’s place and we are eating in and watching television.” Pooja picked up her handbag and kissed her Mom. “And that reminds me I better get going or -”
“Hush wait a second.” Manav pulled her back. “It better be a girl’s night out.” he whispered warningly in her ears. “And you better not go scampering off with some boyfriend in some fancy, newfangled Elysium or some other disco place.”
Pooja clucked her tongue. “Don’t you trust me?” she said morosely. “Ain’t I a good girl?”
“That will do.” Manav laughed as she waved from the doorway. “I was just telling her to be careful with those giant heels Ma.”
Elysium was the new happening thing in Pune. Freshly opened in Koregaon Park, it lived up to its promise of ideal happiness – or so Ritu had claimed.
Pooja looked around as she went in. It was early in the night but the dance floor was already alive with couples in outrageous outfits, looking suitably drunk.
Ritu had got along her boyfriend and there were a few other kids from a different school – people she didn’t know too well. Albeit they had been somber and sweet in the car, she watched as they all turned rowdy pestering the bartender to legalize drinks. Her eyes fell on a dark corner featuring a couple engaged in groping. She withdrew her gaze but the discomfort had set in.
“You know Ritu,” she said when they had a moment to themselves, “I feel rather weird. How about if we leave?”
“Oh come on. You are just on a guilt trip given this is your first lying escapade.” Ritu had begun to look a little glassy herself. “Chill out babe.” she screamed in sing song, hopping on to the dance floor.
Yes, take a deep breath, Pooja told herself. This was supposed to be a fun evening. Maybe Ritu was right. This entire lying to her Mom and Manav business wasn’t her thing. And doing the exact thing Manav had advised her against made her feel all the more queasy.
She would get a glass of water from the bar, if they served it plain that is. And then she could always take a cab home if Ritu was unwilling to drop her.
“A glass of water please.” she said to the man behind the bar, his silvery head gear shining in the disco lights.
She sat down on one of the stools, cupping the glass in her hands. A tall man with his back towards her was playing with the ice in his vodka. She knew it was vodka from a pamphlet one of her library books had had. “Judge the colour, the viscosity, the feel and you know it’s unbeatable” – the note had claimed.
A girl with hair a Garnier Brown was sitting on the stool next to him, leaning so close her hair fell on his shoulders. They had fingers intertwined and it seemed she was persuading him to come up and dance.
Ritu and company were by now far removed from sanity. Pooja shook her head as she saw her cozying up with her boyfriend of a week. One of the guys – the you-bet-I-can-drink types – smiled and started walking towards her as she stared. Pooja instantly turned and got up to leave.
Garnier Brown had finally got her man to stand up but seeing Pooja approach, he promptly froze back in his seat. As she peered in their direction, she froze too. Shielding his eyes was Manav.
What’s more important than looking good on Valentine’s Day? You got that right did you – Smelling Good!
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