- Publisher: amazon
- Editor: Greta Gunselman
- Available in: Kindle
- Published: April 12, 2014
A stranger in her apartment leads Preeti to love though not with him
Sometime ago, ICE numbers were rather popular in India. ICE in this context stands for ‘in case of emergency’ and everyone was encouraged to store them in their mobile phones. ICE numbers can have some interesting consequences though.
The story also revolves around the constraints we place upon ourselves and the strange ways in which families perpetuate them. Mix all of this with a modern decisive heroin who knows what she wants, and you have a winner.
Preeti Sharma cursed herself as she tossed in bed. The alarm finished ringing; she had not hit the snooze button out of sheer laziness. She couldn’t understand the faint feeling of unease that pervaded her being as soon as she woke. The unease resolved itself into a grunting noise from her living room. She tossed the sheets aside and sprang out of bed, her brain whirling and heart hammering. She couldn’t tell what was in her living room—it could be burglars, it could be a trap, it could be someone having a heart attack, but in that case, how had that someone gotten in? The security was usually pretty good in these gated communities but then you could never really tell. Somebody could have bribed the guard by paying five hundred rupees. Fool girl, she thought, she should have taken Tripti’s offer of being flat-mates, but then, Preeti preferred her space and wanted no clutter. She, however, was stuck; she could stay in bed, call the police, and wait, but they might not get here in time and there would be all kinds of complications. Police were notorious for being criminals themselves. Her bedroom was at one end of the apartment. The front door opened into the living room. There was a passage connecting the living room to her bedroom with a kitchen on the left. On the right was a blank wall. She moved carefully into the living room. A little light came in through the chinks of the curtain on the window above the sofa. She could see a person lying on the sofa. It didn’t look like Anurag. In any case, it could not be Anurag. He was yesterday’s date. She thought about screaming, but that may wake up the person. As things stood, she could escape if she wanted to but this was her flat and the decision to stay alone had been hers. Nothing in the room appeared to be disturbed, but she could not be sure. She returned to her bedroom and picked up her mobile phone. She wished she had bought a flashlight but then the mobile phone did everything. She detoured to the kitchen, picked up a knife, and then returned to the living room. Squaring her shoulders, she switched on the flashlight feature of the phone and pointed it at the figure. The body was shapely; the head pillowed on its left arm. The hair cascaded down to the man’s shoulders. She could tell it was a man because of the bristles growing out of the left cheek which was turned upward. The man faced the back of the sofa so she could not see what he really looked like. She hesitated, wondering what the best approach was. The matter was taken out of her hands when, from out of the stranger’s left pocket, she heard the tune “Pehla Nasha – Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander”. It was loud, and she stepped back, placed the knife on the center table and waited, clapping her hands to her ears. Surely he would wake up. Her heart was still going like a trip hammer and she realized with a jolt that she was breathing hard. She had to do something with the excess energy she was building. The phone stopped ringing. The stranger slept on. Perhaps some physical stimulus might help. She stooped, picked up the knife, reversed it, and pushed the handle into the man’s left shoulder blade.
“Wake up! Who are you?” she challenged.
Nothing happened; the tempo of the snores did not change. The figure did not stir. She shoved the phone into her pocket and used her right hand to grab the man’s shoulder, shaking it vigorously. Again, nothing happened. What was this? Could some burglars have left somebody on a sofa to frame her? Did she have any enemies? It was hard to say. Yes, Perceptions Private Limited was not the best place to work given that ninety-nine percent of the population were male chauvinistic pigs, but then she had not upset anybody that much. Still, there was no discounting for people’s ego.