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Contemporary Fiction Friendship

RUBY SAYS:

I am a woman with a ‘past’ and wonder who would marry me. I am fair, tall and have nice features. I know that if I dressed provocatively somebody would give me a wolf whistle. I have remained a spinster long enough and have decided to somehow take the plunge into matrimony. I had started reading matrimonial ads and one day this ad caught my eye : I am 43 and am a widower. My wife died of natural causes after 22 years of marriage leaving behind a daughter who is now 19. I am idealistic, broad minded and in good health. I am looking for a suitable partner. I am voluntarily unemployed as I am financially secure due to investments I have made. This ad appealed to me and I contacted the advertiser saying I am 30 and have suffered in life and was looking for an understanding partner. I said that instead of merely exchanging bio-data I would like to meet the interested person.

I was quite sure the advertiser would have received many responses and wondered if he would message back to me. One Vivek responded after a fortnight. He said we could meet at lunch the following Saturday at Belvedere restaurant about 1 in the afternoon. I saw it was Tuesday and sent back a message agreeing to meet at lunch as proposed. ‘You could identify me by seeing the woman carrying a yellow Gucci handbag with gold flower pattern on it.’ On Saturday I dressed myself in grey pants with a multicoloured silk top. I had given up going to beauty salons and so only combed my abundant shoulder length hair and left without any make up. I was at the restaurant at 5 minutes to one and was entering the restaurant’s foyer when a man approached and said “I’m Vivek.”

I smiled and said “I’m Ruby.”

I studied him closely. He had nice features, was tall but partially bald and had a thin moustache. He was dressed in white pants which appeared baggy perhaps to his having gone down in weight. He wore a blue T-shirt on top. To me he looked more like he was about 35 though he had said his  age was 43. I was impressed with his appearance and deportment.

He said pointing “That is the dining hall.”

I went with him as he led the way. The maitre d’ on seeing Vivek came forward and escorted us to a table where we could sit facing each other. A waiter now brought us tomato soup.

Vivek said “I chose items from their standard menu and have ordered. They know me here as I visit this place often. If you prefer anything special....”

I said “Nothing special is needed.”

We spoke generally and I found he had a sense of humour. Or was it irony? I had yet to decipher it!

After we had generally introduced ourselves I spoke up and said “The past is gone. Do we need to dissect it?”

“Okay, I won’t probe.”

I said “May I ask a personal question? Just curious.” He nodded. “Did you receive many responses to your ad?”

He laughed and said “Yes. A variety of people answered. Mostly parents, brothers and so on. Yours was the first I saw sent on your own which impressed me.”

We spent nearly two hours talking and I found he was just the man for me. I became Vivek’s wife. His daughter Jasmine couldn’t participate as her exams were near and she was in another location 500 kilometres away.

3 months later Jasmine came back. Initially she was a bit remote but soon we became friends. Jasmine said she had finished her studies and had also been selected for a job in this city where her home was.

 Vivek later told me “You’ve done well in making friends with Jasmine.”

“She is friendly too. On work she is going to be absent from home 9 hours a day in a 5 day week. I’ll see she gets all the help at home.”

Jasmine was at work for 6 months when she said “I want to invite my supervisor home for lunch. He is a very nice man. Very understanding. Teaches me new things to work better.”

Dad said “Do so. I’ll order whatever foods you choose.”

I said “I’ll prepare the food. And I can also order the required takeaway items. Jasmine, we’ll make it a grand event.” I was under the impression that our guest would be someone in whom she was romantically inclined.

It was almost a month later that the supervisor was able to accept the invitation. He came on a Saturday at midday. Jasmine received him and brought him in. She said “Dad this is Mr.Oberoi who is my supervisor.”

Dad shook hands with Oberoi. Then she came to me as I stood staring at the visitor. I greeted Oberoi and we sat talking.

After a while Oberoi said “It was very pleasant talking to you people. I will introduce my wife Pearl to you after she comes back from the USA. You see she is an American national of Indian origin.  It seems her family settled in California 3 or 4 generations ago. I expect her to be back by Xmas. She likes India and wants to live here like the natives!”

I now served an appetiser when Oberoi said “This is what I miss in Pearl’s absence. She also prepares something excellent like this.”

The lunch was elaborate and Oberoi said “I’ve had a hearty meal. Many thanks.”

After Oberoi took leave Jasmine went with him to see him off in his car.

I said to Vivek “I know Oberoi.”

“I noted you seemed cross with him.”

“No. I was only surprised to see him. I told you I have a past. It’s Oberoi.”

Vivek said “As agreed I won’t ask further. Won’t you tell Jasmine about your knowing Oberoi?”

“I will. All in good time!  And I’ll reveal my past also to you.”

*

The sixth floor of the high rise apartment complex was now occupied by Modi. The postman rang the bell and said “I’m new to this locality. These 2 letters are for Jasmine.”

Modi said “She doesn’t live here any more. Ask in the apartment’s office in room 24 below.”

The next morning Modi started for a walk and joined old man Xavier who lived on the ground floor and would also walk at the same hour.

Modi said “Xavier you’ve lived here since the apartment was commissioned. Did you know a Jasmine? Even yesterday there were letters addressed to her from various charitable organisations. They were obviously seeking donations.”

Xavier said “Yes. She lived in the sixth floor you now occupy.” Xavier paused and added “There was some romance associated with Jasmine. There was an Oberoi on the 3rd floor. I was told they came to know each other when they got stuck in the lift for an hour. After that it seems they would often meet. It was said their romance was an open secret.”

Modi said “Very interesting. Please tell me more.”

Xavier said “I can only tell you about rumours that spread.”

“Please tell me.”

“Jasmine was quite a good looker and besides Oberoi, one Jagjit who lived nearby fell for her. They say she didn’t care for Jagjit. Jasmine’s parents fixed her wedding with someone. Jagjit spread news that she had been intimate with Oberoi and the wedding was cancelled. Thereafter her parents went back to their provenance. Despite her being attractive she found no suitors. Subsequently they say she snared an old moneyed fellow to marry.”

“Did Jasmine have an affair with Oberoi?”

“You’re asking me a very difficult question to which I’ve no answer. All I can say is Oberoi was a nice man to move with. I’ve heard Jasmine was also very good natured. Jagjit they say was a bad type and it seems was later involved in some smuggling case. Ask Sen in the second floor. He could tell you further as he had worked as Jasmine’s colleague .”

Modi met Sen and brought the talk about Jasmine and letters which kept coming to his address. Sen said “There’re mischievous elements everywhere and reputations are spoilt. Jasmine was wronged but she is now happily married.”

END

August 01, 2021 05:30

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2 comments

Melissa Balick
19:03 Aug 07, 2021

I read this story with interest (a rarity!) but was disappointed and confused. What was Ruby’s past she refers to in this story? What was her history with Oberoi? It seems like for the 3rd person part of the story, maybe you meant to say “Ruby” but instead you said “Jasmine.” Was Jasmine lying about Overoi being her supervisor? Why would she do that? For what purpose?

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00:41 Aug 08, 2021

Many thanks for correcting me. What you have said is correct. I have made a mistake confusing Jasmine and Ruby. Blog needs correction. REGARDS.

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