"Are you coming tonight?" Sneha asked me excitedly.
"Where?" I asked.
"It's a new Year's party. I have got an entry pass for all four of us. It will be fun. Yoooo!" Her dance moves showed her excitement on the busy Indian streets of Mumbai with her right-hand index finger pointing towards the sky and left hand placed on her hips.
The sudden dance move startled me, and I looked at her with surprise. Meanwhile, my mind was running at its top speed, searching for a powerful reason to not to go with her.
"Umm, I have some urgent office work to complete tonight. You all enjoy on my behalf."
"No. We are not going without you. You are coming with us. No reasons."
'How come she knew I am making reasons! What to do? Come on, Netra, use your skills!' I mumbled.
"Senha, you know how my boss is! He wants us to work and finish this report. Otherwise, New Year will start with his rage on me!"
"Ohh!" She frowned and kicked the empty can on her way while we strolled towards our house.
We four lived in the same locality. Our floors face each other. Sneha and Apeksha are neighbors in building number 2, while Bhavna is my neighbor in building number 5.
We entered our locality, and this completed our group. Soon we became four as I saw Apeksha and Bhavna walking towards us. They both seemed excited, too.
"Hey, why do you both look sad on 31st December? We all are going to a party! Cheer up!" Bhavna seemed excited too, as she Hi-Fi Apeksha.
"Don't be excited. We have a mood spoiler in our group..! Sneha said, staring at me.
"What? It's my office work and my boss who is spoiling our plan. Anyway, I have to rush and get back to working mode. See you all next year." I said, and winked at Sneha. I hoped she understands my witty comment. But they all were angry at me and stared back at me.
"Ok. See you tomorrow." I rephrased my statement and started walking towards my house. I was afraid to look back. What if they were still staring at me. I just wanted to climb upstairs and shut the door behind me. I wanted to spend some time alone.
Thankfully, nobody followed me, and I did the same. I entered my house and locked all the locks on the door. I just wanted to be sure no one enters my house to disturb my private time.
It was evening 6.00 p.m. when I finished my office work and walked into the kitchen to prepare some tea for myself. I kept the vessel on the gas stove and poured some milk. Added tea leaves and waited for them to boil so that the fresh fragrance of tea spreads in the air. As the tea was cooking, I peeped outside the window. Sneha's kitchen window is opposite of mine. Usually, we wave at each other from the balcony or windows. But today, she seemed nowhere.
"Maybe I hurt them. Tomorrow, all three of my friends will stop talking to me. Wow! What a start of a New Year!" I mumbled with a sad face.
As the tea started boiling, the doorbell rings. I lowered the flame and rushed towards the door to open it. Bhavna stood in front of the door.
"Hello." I greeted.
"Hey, sorry to disturb you, but I just noticed that my hairdryer is not working. Can I use yours?"
I looked at her. Her hair was completely drenched after the shower, and she needed it desperately. I felt pity for her and let her into my apartment.
"It's over there in the bedroom on the dressing table. You can help yourself." I pointed my finger towards the bedroom and walked towards the kitchen.
"Oh, do you want to have a cup of tea? I am preparing it for myself." I asked loudly from the kitchen.
"Yes," prompt came the reply.
It took me some more time to get tea ready for both of us and pour it into the cups. I neatly brought them to the table and some cookies to go along with them.
"Bhavna, tea and cookies are waiting for you."
"Yes, coming in two minutes," came the reply from the bedroom.
I picked up my cup and started sipping tea slowly with some cookies.
"Oh, you are already having your tea!"
Bhavna's words broke my chain of thoughts. I looked at her. She looked great after all drying of her hair strands.
"You look superb. Did you get a haircut recently?" I asked.
"It suits you." I complimented.
"Thanks. I am so hungry. Let me have some cookies." She immediately sat on the chair next to me and continued, "by the way, is your office work completed? Did you share the report with your boss?"
I completely forgot about the lie that I told a few hours back.
"Umm, yeah, I am working on it. I just took a break." I lied again and stood to grab the laptop.
"Ok, then I think I should leave. I don't want to disturb you." She finished her tea quickly and started walking towards the door. "Are you sure you will not come with us?" Bhavna asked.
I looked at her and shook my head in denial. I lifted my laptop and showed it to her. She nodded and left without further interrogating anything. I heaved a sigh of relief and grabbed another cookie.
I walked towards the balcony and gazed at the sky. The cool breeze of December made me feel how much alone I am today. I wanted to spend the last day of the year alone, similar to the days of loneliness in this entire year. My world revolved around my grandmother. She left me alone after battling long with the disease, and it left me with no one to call as family. I shifted city and settled here in Mumbai. This city doesn't make you feel alone at day times, but at night, it is equally lonely. I became friends with Sneha, Bhavna, and Apeksha. My small world of friends.
It was 7.00 p.m. when the doorbell breaks my chain of thoughts.
"Who is it now?" I wondered as I walked towards the door.
"Hey, why so late in opening the door?" Apeksha said as soon as I opened the door.
"Were you occupied with office work?" asked Sneha, moving me aside and entered my house.
I stood holding the door open and staring at them confusingly as they walked towards the chair.
"What are you guys doing here? Don't you have a party to attend? It's a new year's party." I asked, shutting the door behind me.
"Look at us. Do you think we are ready for a party?" Apeksha said.
I looked at her; she was in a mess, and Sneha was equally looking terrible.
I sighed. "What happened? What's stopping you from the party?"
"Power cut." Both replied in unison.
I walked towards the balcony. "But every house has power in our locality. Only your both's house has power cut?" I questioned.
"Yes, the same question we asked the electrician, and he said it is some wiring issue in both houses. So maybe it will take a day or two," said Apeksha.
Sneha stood and said, "So can we get dressed here in your house and after the party, we stay here until the power is back?"
Her puppy face melted me, and I agreed. For the next two hours, my house was in a complete mess. I sat on the chair with my laptop on my lap, pretending to work. I continued with my lie, and they continued with theirs. I knew something was cooking amongst them, but it wasn't clear what they were up to now. I waited to get my space back, to get my silence back.
"How do I look?" asked Apeksha excitedly.
'Outstanding. Beautiful," I said. I looked around for Sneha, but she was not yet ready. It will take over one hour, maybe for them to step out for the party. My thoughts broke again with the doorbell.
I opened the door and saw the missing person in the group standing at the door. She looked all set for the party and to welcome the new year. Bhavna looked stunning. I gestured Bhavna to come in. Apeksha and Bhavna were all set to go for the party except for Sneha.
"How are you planning to go to the venue?" I asked, interrupting their excitement and discussion on makeup and outfit.
"We will take Sneha's car," said Bhavna.
"Ok.' I replied. I had to ignore everything that was happening around me. They continued with their chit-chats.
My lie continued. I looked at the clock. It was 9.00 p.m. when Sneha stepped out. She looked stunning too, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
I stood and said, "So you all are ready to go to the party and have fun!"
"Yes, but we are expecting few parcels. We have to carry them too along with us," said Apeksha.
"Parcels? What parcels?" I questioned.
"Umm, yes, I have to give it to my friend. It's theirs," Apeksha replied promptly.
"Then why on my address?"
"Because we here since last 2-3 hours so I gave him this address. I hope you won't be angry."
I stared at her and then agreed.
"By when you all will return from the party?" I asked.
"It will take time. Maybe early morning at 4.00!" Sneha said.
"What? So late! You better take care and do not drink & drive. You book a cab and return home safe. Please."
The doorbell distracts us, and Sneha ran to open the door. She takes three parcels and pushes the door with her hips. It stunned me to see three huge packets with Sneha. Parcels covered her face as she walked towards us zig-zag.
"What's in these packets?"
Apeksha and Bhavna looked confused, too. Sneha peeped from behind the packets and smiled. "Don't ask me. I also don't know what's in these?" Sneha said, smiling.
"Ok, Let's leave," Bhavna said.
It was soothing. "Have Fun," I said. I closed the door after all my friends left.
Suddenly, everything was peaceful, and it was relaxing. I ran towards my laptop to shut it and keep it aside. I hit the power button to switch it off. I then strolled to the balcony to check if they left. To my surprise, they all three were standing next to Sneha's car, looking up towards me. I smiled and waved at them. They all sat in the car, and I walked back into the house. Finally, I was feeling at home. I was happy to get my space back. I went into the kitchen to pour some fresh juice for myself. It looked refreshing. I grabbed the glass and sat on the chair placed on the balcony. Stars twinkled.
I sipped the juice, and meanwhile, I thought to order food for myself. It was 9.30 p.m. Food delivery will take another one hour. I started cleaning the mess created by my friends. It's tiresome but time passed sooner than expected. 10.15 p.m. doorbell rings once again. I was happy that the food delivery is before time and I can have it peacefully, along with a glass of wine. I already prepared the atmosphere, dimmed the lights, and slow music went very well with the aura. I opened the door.
The loud voice gave me chills. It took me some time to understand that my friends are back along with those three packets.
"What are you guys doing here?" I asked.
"We... wait... what is this? Dim lights and slow music. Did you plan for a secret date with someone?" asked Sneha, pushing me aside.
"Look at this, guys, come here and look, a wine bottle. Oh my God," said Bhavna, holding the bottle.
"Keep it on the table, and can anyone please tell me what happened?"
"Should we change the music and play some rock music? It's new year's eve, guys," said Apeksha, looking into my music collection.
Apeksha changed the music. Loud music raised my temper. Bhavna was still holding the wine bottle, and Sneha placed those packets on the dining table. She started looking for the guy with whom I was planning my secret date.
"Stop it. Stop this music, and Bhavna put that bottle on the table now. Sneha, can you come here?" I ordered.
Suddenly there was pin-drop silence.
The doorbell rings again.
"Oh, the guy is coming now," murmured Sneha. I stared at her. She placed her index finger on her lips and gestured me to open the door.
I walked in anger towards the door. The delivery boy stood holding the food packet in his hand. I took it and turned to face my friends.
"Smells good." Apeksha broke the silence. I glared at her. She, too, placed the index finger on her lips.
I looked at Bhavna. She gestured towards the wine bottle neatly placed on the table. I nodded. I walked towards the table. I picked the boxes and kept them aside. I then opened my food delivery packet and served myself. I further walked towards the music system and played soft and slow music. I walked back to the dining table and poured some wine for myself. All this while, my three friends stood in front of me without uttering a single word.
"Now, can anyone tell me what happened?"
Sneha walked forward and said, "Our car broke down."
"We called mechanic, but because of huge traffic, nobody can reach us on time. So," replied Bhavna.
"So we finally got a taxi, and he dropped us back here," Apeksha said and took the chair in front of me.
"Hmm, ok. Now?"
"Now we have to celebrate our new year here," Apeksha replied silently.
"Yes. Where can we go now? Are you expecting someone?" Sneha asked with a puppy face. That look always melts my heart.
She smiled at me. I cannot hold my anger, and I smiled back at her.
All three of them ran to hug me. The force of the hug made me dis-balance from the chair. In no time, I was lying on the floor with all three of my girlfriends on me.
I have to push them aside and make some way to breathe. "Let me order some food for us."
"No need. We already have it," said Bhavna, pointing towards those packets.
She ran to open packets one after another. The first packet had food, the other had drinks and finally, the last one had a cake. As soon as Bhavna opened the cake box, I glared at them.
The cake had 'Fantastic Four' written on it with four cute dolls placed on the cake.
"So it was all planned?" I asked.
It was 11.55 p.m.on the clock.
"We just wanted to celebrate with you tonight," said Bhavna.
"We don't want to leave you alone," Apeksha said.
"and that's why we planned everything." Sneha joined them.
They walked towards me. "We are sorry."
The clock struck 12.00
A tear rolled down my cheeks. I smiled.
"Happy New Year, guys," I said.