Ch: 4 Eyes, sighs and untold lies.

The afternoon sun was getting ready to set earlier than I thought it would. The surroundings fell silent with the advent of the evening and along with it, the biting cold. As I stood on the tiny balcony overlooking the ribbon-like strip of road that led to the not-so-faraway Himalayan foothills, I longed to be back home, savoring a hot cup of coffee or enjoying a nice, warm meal in one of our favorite Indian restaurants. Depressed, I had not heard Tanisha’s footsteps and realized she was there when she placed her hand on my shoulder. I started.

“Not enjoying this place, are you?” She smiled a little and I was ashamed of how I could never hide my thoughts from her since we had become friends in high school. My eyes always betrayed my emotions, my very first boyfriend would often say. We were only fifteen back then. Tanisha spoke again, “I’m sorry about not consenting to a more exotic holiday Joyi, I’d love Goa, I know, but much too expensive for me; and my son’s tuitions these days….”

“Tani… would you stop?” I interrupted, showing more aggression than I needed to simply because I was ashamed she had read me so easily. “I’m fine, it’s just that I don’t do very well in the cold…. plus Palla’s little accident today… threw me off a bit.” Tanisha nodded.

“I know, and that boy… how annoying! Pallavi didn’t seem to mind that he tried to get too close for comfort, almost like she’s enjoying it. She should have stopped him..”

In panic, I turned around just to make sure that Pallavi was still asleep. She was, after I gave her the strong pain meds I had brought along with me. Although the young man Tushaar insisted on staying longer and continuing with the hot and cold foot-baths, we wanted to see the last of him and managed to get rid of him. I knew Pallavi would not take kindly to Tanisha’s comment about her being showered with attention from an extremely handsome young man who tripped her and actually enjoying it. ‘Why not?’ I thought, ‘I’d enjoy it too.’ However, I didn’t speak that thought out loud.

There’s some history between these two friends of mine. Strangely, both of them are similar in nature; strong and determined characters, sometimes to the point of being foolishly stubborn but with hearts of gold. Let alone a friend, even when an acquaintance, a neighbor or friend of a friend needed help, these two would do anything to help. In the twenty-five or so odd years that I have known them, I have seen multiple instances where they have gone out of their way to help others. The receivers of their kindness have often forgotten what they so ungraciously received but that did not affect or change either of these women.  They remained kind, selfless beings to the core. That is why, it seems very odd that these two never really got along.

“Hey, want to try the vodka I brought for the trip? You promised you’d.” I said, trying to change the topic and playfully using a fake, accusatory note in my voice. Tanisha laughed.

“I thought that’s for the finale night…. Did you really carry it all they way from New York then?” she asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Nah! Got it at Delhi airport, but there’s plenty in that jumbo-sized bottle, so maybe you and Palla could get used to it. Both of you are such hopeless drinkers! Useless friends I’ve got, falling asleep after one pina colada!”

We chuckled. Tanisha was quiet for a few minutes, as if reminiscing old memories of something. Inexplicably, I felt anxiety gnawing at my bones. The next moment I knew why.

“Pallavi thinks she is so very attractive…. even after we’ve all crossed forty, she was throwing such coy glances at that boy!” Tanisha said quietly.

Darn! Why won’t she let go?

Tanisha was getting agitated unnecessarily and annoying me in the process. To be fair, Pallavi is quite attractive. Even though my long-distance phone conversations with her often focus on how menopause would hit us and how my doctor has asked me to shed some pounds, she has kept herself marvelously in shape. Not that she ever spent a fortune on expensive gym memberships and personal trainers. Rather, she believed in watching what she ate, doing many of the household chores by herself despite having a full-time job and getting enough exercise. On a regular basis, she cooks healthy meals for herself and her family. Her husband used to worship the earth she walked on but after some years, things soured between them. Pallavi complained that he was too controlling and demanding although she looked after the household and took care of the family so efficiently. Also, she suspected he had a roving eye.

On occasions, after she had returned from a week-long trip from somewhere with her children, she had found women’s accessories lurking in her room that were not hers. Once there was a hair-tie and another time, there was a scarf in a myriad colours and her husband tried to convince her they were hers. At first, she knew and suffered. Then she knew and stopped caring, But throughout these dark moments, she never let go of the belief that she alone can complete herself; completely happy, motivated. That is why she never stopped caring for her own well-being; physically and psychologically.

If I had to admit it, neither Tanisha nor I could match up to her great fashion sense. True, she wore some expensive clothing that Tanisha or I couldn’t afford so we would often denounce them as inappropriate or revealing, A classic case of grapes being sour. Truth be told, Pallavi’s clothes, whether slightly revealing or not, really complemented her body structure. She just knew instinctively what would suit her; even a plain cotton skirt became a fashion statement just because she accessorized her look perfectly.

Once, when I opted for a high-neck dress with a tie that I felt great in, she complemented me saying how well-tailored the dress was. The next moment, in her candid fashion, she told me kindly but frankly that I should buy round or V-necks, since I have a short, almost non-existent neck. This was two years ago and the words still rankled though I knew she was only trying to help. Besides, I had asked for her opinion and she gave an honest one. As friends should. Yet, I hardly wore that dress and every time I looked at it, I felt a bitter aftertaste of her words. So yes, I am jealous of how striking she can look in plaid shorts and white tees. I know Tanisha is, too, because her style of dressing leaves much to be desired.

That, you see, is the problem with being close friends for a decade and some more. You know the good, but you also know of the jealousies and insecurities while having to pretend before your friends that you don’t see them. For instance, once, in the throes of conversation, Tanisha had told me that her ex-husband had the hots for me. I laughed out loud and she wasn’t offended, she sat with a smirk staring into her tea cup. Except, the light had gone out of her eyes and they were cold as steel.  

Out of the three of us, Tanisha is usually the most tolerant, most forgiving, always ready to overlook a fault in those she holds close. Unfortunately, I was the one who had introduced her to that douche bag of a man years ago because we worked at the same place. Her marriage had lasted for five years and am sure had it been me, it would have not lasted that long. Life happened and we dispersed to meet its demands. For a year or so, I lost all contact with her after I heard from mutual friends that her marriage had fallen apart. Desperate, I kept trying to touch base with her. Tanisha resurfaced again when she was secure in her mind and I was elated that she had not gone for good. That is when she told me in a very simple, matter-of-fact tone that her Ex had always harbored feelings for me. I had acted incredulous and told her it wasn’t true.

Sadly, it was. The douche bag had thankfully tried to conceal it but the look in his eyes when I was around was inviting, I saw it plainly, most women do and I made myself scarce whenever possible. As Tanisha announced her wedding date, I was relieved. I enjoyed male admiration but definitely not from a man who was engaged to my best friend and soul sister. It only made me angry and I wished I had never spoken to that man. Back then, I had hoped Tanisha would have a lasting, happy marriage. Knowing her, any man would thank his stars to have a life partner like her. How wrong I was!

Today, I blame myself for introducing them and later, after she fell in love, divulging to that man how much Tanisha liked him. If only I had left her alone, had not interfered, she could be leading a happier life today!

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