“Hey, when did you get back?” Zarine asked, with big round eyes barely able to hide a strange mixture of excitement, pleasure and relief.

“Two days back. I flew in on Thursday morning.” Rohit said, rather casually.

“And you didn’t call me back. I left a message with your mom.”

“Well you know how it is, unpacking and all that… I just didn’t get the time!”

Zarine knew that this would be his oft used excuse. She never really understood what was it that made Rohit behave that way with her. Sure, he’s accomplished a lot more in life than her, but that is only because environment was conducive for him, as much as it wasn’t for her.

“That’s ok. So what did you get for me?”

“Um… Hold on a bit, let me see… Here it is, beautiful isn’t it?”

The face mask was indeed quite beautiful, with intricate designs in red, black and peacock blue. “Yes, it’s amazing! Thanks so much!”

“I’m glad you love it.”

“Hey listen, I got to rush. It’s already seven, and I’ve not started work; people at home will get mad!”

“Sure, we’ll catch up later.”

“Yes, of course. I want to see all the photos!”

Rohit received an SMS soon after: “Thank you so much for getting the mask for me. It meant a lot!” His only thought: ‘Oh well’; and that was the end of it. Later on he gets the call:

“Hey Rohit, it’s Zarine.”


“Are you outside?”

“Yes, with friends.”

“Oh! I thought you’d be at home.”

“No. Anything up?”

“Not really. Just. It’s ok, I’ll call you back later.”

“Um, alright.”

Zarine didn’t want to blurt it out, but she was dying for a release. Being the younger of the two sisters in a somewhat conservative family, there were only so many people she could talk to; and with her sister getting married two years ago, this set reduced further.

Another SMS later in the night: “Are you awake?”

Rohit ignored it. It is not like he doesn’t know what is going on. He wasn’t the one to get involved with her. He had been in a relationship for some time now. Sure, Zarine was beautiful, and there were times he had thought about it. But there was just too much baggage. He didn’t want anything to do with it, if at all possible. It wasn’t that easy, considering she lived almost next door. And their families were friends.


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