Avoiding an Awkward Affair

Submitted for Contest #47 in response to: You check the time. Perfect. As intended, you've arrived fashionably late.... view prompt

13 comments

“We shouldn’t,” you assert, perhaps more to yourself than to him. You squeeze his hand for a good measure, in the hope that he won’t take the rejection too gravely. He parks the car at the kerb outside your apartment building, and cuts the engine. The dashboard dials fade, and the car fills with a comfortable darkness. And an awkward stillness.


You are secretly delighted that he is trying so hard, to convince you to sleep with him. You are dangerously close to giving in, but a part of you is resolute. He’s advanced all the usual corny arguments, nothing you’ve not heard before, but with a sincerity that is oddly endearing. You don’t want him to stop. Besides, you can’t go home just yet.


In the dim glow of a distant streetlight, you continue looking at your hand on top of his. Anything to avoid looking into his dreamy brown eyes. You’ve wondered in the past, what kind of a guy would carry off a pink linen shirt and Vikram has paired it handsomely with the tight black jeans. Good thing you opted for your dark green off shoulder dress, instead of one of the black ones. Colours are always more alluring. They reflect courage, hold the promise of a story; a wisp of music; a fragment of a dream. Moreover, you’ve often been told that you have a delicate, sophisticated collar bone. It comes to life in this dress.


If relationships and people were simple, you would have given Vikram an assurance of intimacy for the next date. But you don’t want THAT to be the only reason he asks you out again. 


But what if he interprets tonight as a full stop instead of a comma?


You stew over this, while his hand ardently jostles with yours, for dominance. The playful combat continues till you stop resisting. Once his hand is on top, there’s silence again. The contact feels nice. The outer side of your hand is more sensitive than the inner, and you revel in the mellow ministrations of his fingers. You briefly speculate, being the nerdy type, that he is tracing the digits of Pi on your hand.


But it shouldn't have so many zeroes.


You accepted this Sunday evening date only because you needed a break, from an otherwise exhausting weekend. Surprisingly this distraction has turned out to be materially better than expected.


Your mind drifts back to the evening. You genuinely had a good time. He was funny, chivalrous, and just the right bit provocative, for a first date. When you commented on the exotic condiments accompanying his main course, he promptly swirled his finger in the mango chutney and offered it to you. You were startled. It could have been defended as an innocent gesture, but you knew it wasn’t.


“Come on, it’s going to drip,” he clowned, with an artificial sense of urgency, thrusting his finger closer to your lips.


You fretted fleetingly about the germs he might be carrying. But your hesitation soon gave way to your competitive streak. Oh yeahhh? Two can play the game.


You parted your lips a tiny bit and leaned forward, taking his finger in your mouth, to an explosion of sensations. Almost immediately you realized that it was a mistake. Too late. You expertly rolled the tip of your tongue on the underside of his finger, avoiding the nail. The chutney was sweet and spicy, his finger hard. You sucked gently, drawing the finger a tiny bit deeper. Just then your eyes locked and you let go. 


The expression on his face was priceless. You could detect one part surprise and three parts ecstasy, with a garnish of gratitude. You felt like a goddess. In control.


You capitalized on the moment with nonchalance. “You say on your profile, your favourite author is Bill Bryson?” You wanted to see him a trifle disoriented and vulnerable.


But he recovered quickly, and smiled at the restaurant chandelier. “Yep.” He sighed. “Bill is the master of observational comedy.” His eyes sparkled. “In the book, A Walk in the Woods, he gives a comical taste of what it is to walk the Appalachian Trail,” With great deliberation, Vikram then licked the same finger, which till seconds ago was in your mouth. You felt a frisson in your loins, and involuntarily clenched your glutes. Your breathing became laboured.


Damn! It had been a while since a guy had this kind of effect on you.


He wasn’t done. “What about you? What do you like to read?” 


Your first instinct was to go with the short stories of Roald Dahl.


But what if he judges Roald, and by extension me, solely on the basis of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?


After that quick mental math, you opted to lead with your favourite poet. You acquired the love for poetry from your sister, just about the only thing of value she gave you. You wanted Vikram to view you through a certain artistic lens and really notice your creative persona.


“It would have to be Mary Oliver’s poetry,” you gushed.


He whistled appreciatively and without warning, launched : 

“I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

It’s enough to know that for some people they exist, and that they dance.”


Holy shittt!


What kind of a guy has scrumptious pectorals like that, and quotes Mary Oliver? 


You wanted to smooch him so badly just then. Gobble him up whole. Consume him. Or do cartwheels, but all you managed was to grin like an idiot.


From the passionate manner in which he had spoken about the inane details of his investment banking job, you presumed his non-work life would revolve around first-person-shooter video games. And here he was, waxing lyrical, displaying a delectable softer side. He was pushing all the right buttons.


Fortunately the waiter came just then with the dessert menu, interrupting the dopamine deluge. It was clever of you to excuse yourself for a trip to the restroom. You badly needed to regain your composure.


“It’s technically tomorrow, now,” he whispered, breaking the silence in the car, and jolting you back to reality.


Whhhat is he talking about?


You note that the digital clock in the car reads, 00:03. Then it hits you. He’s retorting to your cliched argument, “We just met today. I can’t sleep with someone on the first night.”


You giggle and say, “Cute. But ain’t happening.”


He lets out a theatrically exaggerated sigh, briefly fogging the window on his side. “May I at least walk you, up to your door?”


It is past midnight, your sister would have definitely passed out by now, aided in no small measure by a pinot noir. She is five years older and every time she has a fight with her partner, she comes over to spend the weekend. All she does is complain for two straight days. Her rants leave you helpless and drained. You love her but there’s only so much drama you can endure.


Thank God, she leaves in the morning.


You are tinged with guilt, for she is your only sibling, but you rationalize it. After all, you did spend all of Saturday and most of Sunday being supportive. You are entitled to your 'Me-time'.


“Is that a Yes?” Vikram murmurs, in what he probably thinks is a sensual baritone.


You snap back to the car.


“It’s a definite maybe,” you coo, as you retrieve your hand from under his, and lean across to plant a kiss on his cheek. With your other hand, you’ve already opened the car door.


Speak of multi-tasking.


You step out of the car and turn to face him. “I had a great time tonight, Vikram.” You flash your lashes without realizing and smile as you say, “Thank you.”


He has a look of quiet resignation, finally realizing that he isn’t going to get lucky. But, like an immaculate gentleman, he beams back with a wink. “Me too.”


You tap the door shut and walk away, feeling his eyes on your back. When you reach the top step, his engine roars to life. You turn and wave. He waves back and drives off.


You check the time, feeling buoyant. Its ten past midnight. Late enough. Perfect. 


Once inside, you set an alarm, so you can give your sister a hug in the morning, before she leaves.

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13 comments

Brandy Batz
21:56 Jul 01, 2020

I like the layout of this very easy to read. I also like how you describe colorful clothing, wisp of music all that is lovely and true. I can identify with the needy sister very relatable. All in all I really enjoyed your story and it’s a moment I’ve been in before for sure. Liking Charlie and the chocolate factory is totally respectable and I just read a theory that he was a serial killer killing off all those kids one at a time so the darkness hiding in a children’s author is fascinating for sure. You did a good job capturing the uncertain...

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Praveen Jagwani
05:36 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you for your comment Brandy. Happy that you could relate to some of it :) I like the dark twist on children's authors. I hadn't thought of that. I was more driven by Roald's other stuff like My Uncle Oswald and his short stories of pure genius as against the children's stories.

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A O
17:52 Jun 28, 2020

I really enjoyed this. I'd be grateful if you'd read my latest that showcased the difficult sibling relationship.

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Praveen Jagwani
05:33 Jul 02, 2020

Thanks, AO. Did that.

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:22 Jun 26, 2020

This is a very good story Praveen. I like how you used the second person point of view here. Love the title.

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Praveen Jagwani
05:34 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you Roshna :)

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Kathleen March
04:40 Jun 25, 2020

Both the man and the woman are really laughable, which I assume is the point. Really rather superficial, but it may be their age. Just a couple of questions: much drunk? And the verb ‘toggle’. This is way out of my comfort zone for a theme, but you were great with the second person, so this was a good read.

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Praveen Jagwani
06:01 Jun 25, 2020

Throughout life I've been accused of being deeply superficial, and attempting to read my next story through your lens, makes me cringe. It is about a soccer mom and shallower than a dry river bed in summer. God help me. Fixed the two things you pointed out. Thank You :) Toggle is jargon from my tech days. I presumed it would have been inducted into English by now. Damn.

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Kathleen March
12:41 Jun 25, 2020

I thought toddle... but I understand toggle, just not for walking. I think soccer moms are also out of my comfort zone, yes, but am always open to a good read. I will haunt you.

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Julia Gibson
20:41 Jun 23, 2020

I like the piece, particularly the images you draw in unexpected ways. "But what if he interprets tonight as a full stop instead of a comma?" Dang! I never thought to use punctuation to describe action, but it works. You've made my day - taught me a new word, frisson. Now I'm going to have to find a way to weave it into stories. All in all, this is a good story, but I am confused about the mother. From the description of her short visit after a fight with her partner, I assumed she lived across town, but then you tell us she has an 8:30 ...

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Praveen Jagwani
01:05 Jun 24, 2020

Julia, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Laura, another discerning writer like you, has similar reservation about the mother. Both of you women want me to axe her ! And I'd be a foolish man to ignore instincts of two women. I get the logic flaw you've identified but here's my trilemma : 1. The prompt - Being late is an anathema to me. Fashionably late suggests perverse gratification. My take on the prompt is that of pain avoidance. My protagonist is late because she wants to avoid an awkward situation. 2. That brings us to the seco...

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Laura Clark
07:13 Jun 23, 2020

I really enjoyed this! It’s a lovely ordinary evening that you’ve managed to turn into a fascinating character study. I will say that the time element threw me towards the end - he tells her that it’s 00:01 and she gets out the car, climbs the steps and it’s 00:20? Slow walker. You’ve captured the excitement of a first night gone well and also the persistence of a guy who thinks he’s irresistible. I was so glad that he drove off amiably at the end - so many men would’ve gotten angry. Sad subplot about her mother, too. I’m not sure the st...

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Praveen Jagwani
09:21 Jun 23, 2020

LOL, Thanks for that. This girl is anything but slow. I speeded her up. I think near the end of my stories, I tend to get lazy and cut to the chase. I definitely need the mother sub plot to meet the prompt requirements :)) but let me think of ways to elicit greater relevance. Thanks again !

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