The Cheating Couple
Rassa-boy and Salami
Saloni stood on her toes, her feet digging into the sand. Her left hand covered her eyelids, shielding her obsidian-like black eyes from the sun. For a setting sun, she found it very harsh.
She glanced around, peeling her eyes away from the calming water. Few people dotted the beach, here and there. It seemed like a special day; the beach was usually never this empty. She craned her neck and tried to stand taller, balancing herself so that she could see afar. She couldn’t find whatever she was looking for.
So, she turned back to the thing that calmed her the most when she was anxious – the Arabian Sea.
Something about this particular sea turned her nerves obedient. The funny thing was, there was nothing about the sea that was special. There was nothing about this beach that was special. There was nothing about her that was special.
She pondered the facts for a moment. The beach was – well – a beach. Not just that but an Indian one. Littered, smelly, impure and ruined. Its crispness long gone, the seemingly endless sand was contrasted by sharp, ugly plastic. Bottles, plastic bags, garbage and filth was strewn casually about everywhere. People around her simply seemed to ignore the impurity. She was one of the people.
The water that was calmly receding was also similarly ghastly. The air reeked of shit and salt. Her nose was sensitive to it, but habit had made her accustomed to it.
“Fuck, he is late,” she said to herself. An old couple, who had been passing by behind her, looked around and shot her a dirty look. She caught their look and rolled her eyes. “Control yourself, Saloni! Don’t do it!” she muttered under her breath to herself.
She sighed and decided to take a seat. She plopped herself down on the sand, making sure that it did not enter her jeans. She covered her feet in sand, burying them in its warmth. It felt perfect, and the slightly humid but cool breeze complemented this feeling. Her hair was thankfully tied in a bun, so it did not fly around messily.
She waited five more minutes, expecting him. A dog barked in the distance, but it was so loud that she jumped.
“Stupid dogs,” she grumped, shooting an angry look at the dog, who was chasing a beggar in the distance.
She recognized a familiar face beyond the dog and the beggar, walking towards her while waving frantically. She smiled. The enthusiasm that Adhrit showed never failed to amuse her. She waved back, gesturing him to come faster. She had been waiting for nearly an hour now.
“Sorry, sorry!” he begged for her forgiveness as he approached her. “Mum had me run an errand at the last minute.”
“Auntie cha rassa?” she asked him mockingly.
He kneeled down, hugged her warmly and fell down beside her. Scoffing, he replied, “Funny, Salami. You are really funny, because my mom always sends me to buy rassa.”
She chuckled. She remembered it had started a couple of years ago. They had been hanging out when Adhrit’s mother had sent him for an errand (not unlike today) to buy the famous ‘rassa’ from ‘Dadaji’s Corner’. At the time, it had been a simple and understandable request. After all, her own parents had done the same. Even she herself loved the gravy-like dish from Dadaji’s Corner. However, Adhrit’s mother liked the ‘rassa’ a bit too much. She made it at home a couple of times and frequently sent Adhrit to the café for it, when she would get bored of making it herself. Adhrit’s friends had all dubbed him as the ‘Rassa-boy’ of the colony. When Saloni had found this tit-bit out, she had teased him endlessly. This was when they were younger. Now, it was just an inside joke between them.
“She does,” Saloni argued. “Even today! I am sure of it… Auntie hasn’t changed one bit, I am positive!”
There was a pause. Something awkward hung between them. Silence turned the evening cold. The stupid dog had disappeared, so the barking had stopped as well. She turned to Adhrit, who looked at her with a sad smile. “It has been a long time, hasn’t it?” he said after a moment, breaking the silence.
“Let us just watch the sunset!” she said defensively, gesturing the slowly disappearing sun. It was getting darker. She hoped Adhrit couldn’t see her sad face.
“Oh! Come on, Salami. We need to talk about it, at least. We owe each other that much. My mom misses you too!”
“Ha, I am sure,” she replied sardonically. She had not been to Adhrit’s society for a while. Actually, it had been six or seven years since the last visit.
“No, seriously. She was actually a bit surprised when I told her I was going to see you…”
“Yeah! Remember how your mom used to give us chocolates to eat? And how once my mom called your mom-”
“-of course, I remember. But that was a long time back! Wait-” Saloni paused. “You remember that?”
It had been a long time. Her mom had always collected chocolates from her kitty-party friends. She used to secretly give Saloni and Adhrit them. Saloni and Adhrit used to have them whenever they felt like. It was a privilege to have a lenient mother, Saloni realised. Once, Adhrit’s strict mother had caught him having these secret chocolates. She had phoned Saloni’s mother to demand an explanation. The incident made her smile with nostalgia. How the times had changed!
“Why wouldn’t I? Isn’t that the reason why you stopped showing up in my house?”
“No! I came plenty of times to your house after that!”
“Diwali? Your birthday! When your friends didn’t show and I was the only one who did. Even for that dinner one time…”
“Oh, right…” Adhrit stopped. Suddenly, with a soft voice, he asked “What are we doing here? Why now? Why this place?”
Saloni raised her eyebrows. The sky had turned black. The clouds covered the moon. The stars twinkled here and there, dimly and faintly. Street lamps shone far behind them.
“Why? Shouldn’t we? Can’t we do this?”
Adhrit shook his head. “No, you certainly can. But why here? This beach… You know perfectly well why I-”
“-I do! But I like this place. Come on, it has been two years since your break up with that bitch. You can’t seriously still be affected by that! And even if you are, why should you let it affect this beautiful place.”
Whatever little light there was, it helped Saloni see Adhrit widen his eyes. “This beautiful place?!” He chuckled. “Did I hear that right? Are you okay, Saloni? I know I have been away for a while, but this place has not changed a bit. You might find it beautiful… for you own silly reasons… But the truth is, it’s dirty and unpleasant. Not just with garbage, but with bad memories. And not just for me; for you too, this place is hell.”
“Why? Because of him? That’s in the past!” Saloni cried out. “My ex-boyfriend was a stupid fuck. Cheating on me with yours was not the best idea, was it? Thank god I caught him. Wait,” she paused and looked around. She saw a group of carts on her left, selling beach-food. To her right, she saw a pile of rocks and behind them, a row of clean, handsome bungalows. Once upon a time, she had dreamed of living in one of those houses overlooking this beach. Once upon a time…
“There,” she finally said, pointing to the rocks. “Isn’t that where you found Dave kissing her?”
“Haan,” Adhrit replied in a low voice.
Saloni slapped her forehead. “Sorry, baba. I forgot. You take your own sweet time in moving on.”
She ruffled Adhrit’s hair and chuckled once more. Adhrit was looking into the distance pensively, perhaps letting the sea bring back memories of his K…K…Kiran.
She felt guilty. She took her hand and entwined it with his. The sand was now covering both their hands and feet. The wind caressed their face. It had become chilly. They sat there, looking at the moon, which was crescent and now peeking – no, twinkling – from behind the grey clouds.
“I miss Kiran. But you know what? It has been two lovely years of self-doubting and loathing, but she did give me some memories…” Adhrit said after a while. “I don’t know how you do that, Saloni.”
Saloni took a deep breath. He never called her Saloni. “Do what?”
“How you got over him so quickly. I still think about Kiran, but you? I mean, I know that if it hadn’t been for Kiran and your Dave… we would never have…”
Saloni hesitated. “… I know, right?” she said and smiled. She leaned her head on Adhrit’s shoulder. “Sometimes, I think that if I hadn’t caught Dave, then we would be different. You and I…”
“Haha… You’re awesome, Saloni. Awesome at moving on… I have tried to learn that from you… But I haven’t, as they say, mastered the art just yet.” He was stroking her hair.
“No, I am not…” Saloni said softly. Her heart was beating fast. Her breathing had become deeper. This was it. She had to tell him now.
“What do you mean?” Adhrit asked her.
“The truth is, the reason we are meeting here today, and not the park is because… I saw him…”
She raised her head from Adhrit’s shoulder. Adhrit wore a blank face. Realization struck him.
“Dave? You saw Dave?”
She nodded. “Remember how I told you I was on duty today and tomorrow? Well, when I was going to work, I did something stupid. I saw him near the bus stop and followed him here… I want to confront him…”
“What the fuck, Salami?” Adhrit said, getting up. He looked around frantically, with fear in his eyes. “He is here?”
“Not just him. His wife, too…” Saloni said. She couldn’t believe it. She almost had tears in her eyes now.
“WHAT?” Adhrit yelled. His voice bounced off in every corner of the beach. Some heads turned, but they ignored them. “Kiran is here too? Oh no…”
“I am sorry! I just couldn’t resist…” she replied.
Adhrit shook her arm away and rubbed his face with his palm. “You are my best friend, Saloni. We have been the closest friends for two years now. I mean, come on. You know what they both did to us. She cheated on me with your Dave and your Dave cheated on you with my Kiran! And then they both got engaged. We swore never to talk to them or think about them. That was the foundation of our friendship. But you calling me here, trying to chase him after all this time…”
He was breathing heavily, his nostrils flared. Out of breath, he paused. Saloni got up too, raising her arms in defense. “I am sorry but I want to know. I was almost about to confront him. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t! That is why I called you. Had you been a minute late, I would have rushed to that bhutta stall and asked him why he…”
She turned to her left and now could see Dave and Kiran at the stall. They were giggling and acting couple-y. It made her sick.
“YOU? I just can’t believe it… Salami, you are the strongest person I know! Or I thought I did. I was really happy that you had moved on from Dave. You just said it… You said I took time moving on. And here you are, still hung up on him!”
“Oh, but so are you! We can confront them together! Kiran is there too! We need answers, right? They cheated on us and when we confronted them, they just left the damn country!”
Adhrit growled at her. “Salami, they didn’t leave the country because of us! They eloped! And anyway, that doesn’t matter now! I am not hung up on Kiran, anymore. Today, I spoke about her only because of this stupid beach. That is how I remembered her. I had moved on, I really had. In fact, I don’t care. Neither should you… Let us just…”
The night had become colder than ever. The beach had become hauntingly unfamiliar. She knew what a big mistake this had been, chasing Dave and Kiran to the beach, stalking them for almost an hour and a half… But she needed it. After two years of pretending that the break up hadn’t affected her, that she was strong, the memories, the feelings, the pain… everything had resurfaced the moment she saw the happy couple.
“What? Leave? No! He ruined me, Adhrit. Why do you think I work at a call center? It is all because of him!” Saloni yelled. “He made the mess that is my life today. He cheated on me, he broke up with me, he left me and yet he had me fired! All and that too, without an explanation.”
“Look, Salami. I have known you since my childhood. Our families know each other. And I also know we weren’t that good friends before. And yes, I also know we are so good friends today because of them. And that is precisely why I won’t let you do this! Whatever they did, we have to forget…”
Saloni played with her hair, contemplating the friendly advice. She stared at Adhrit. Somewhere deep down, she knew Adhrit was right. But she wasn’t looking for right. She was looking for fair.
“No, I can’t…” Saloni said.
“Can’t what?” said two voices in unison behind her. All of a sudden, Adhrit’s face morphed into something else. Fear and anger turned his face red. Saloni turned on her heel, sending sand flying everywhere.
Standing behind her was the couple that she disliked the most in the world. Dave and Kiran smiled at them, but only officially, as they waited with hot, fresh corn in their hands.
This is a random story that popped into my head. Is it complete? No! Do I intend to complete it? Dunno! Let us just say that this is the first chapter of a potential story about two people. Depending on how you guys like it, I will continue. So if you want to read more, what happens next etc… PLEASE support me by sending me a message or commenting down below showing support and your interest. And share it with your friends…
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