Aparna turned to Meera.
"Just what do you think that guy's profession would be?"
Meera turned to see. Ok looks, stubble. He was engrossed in his magazine as he sipped his coffee. It was a Sunday. Hard to tell. Even CEOs looked like they were dressed for a picnic on Sundays.
Aparna laughed. "How can you tell?"
"I don't know, I just...it just came to me. What do you think?"
Aparna looked at him, the smile at the corner of her mouth not making any efforts to hide her amusement.
"I think he's a software engineer."
"Ah, come on. Every other guy is that. It's too easy a guess."
"Well, I might be right." The girls chuckled. Too bad he wasn't looking at them. Actually by now it was pretty obvious they were using him as a dart board, but it just wasn't getting across to him. EVeryone else, but him.
Meera lowered her voice and leaned across. "You know what appu, he should turn out to be some psychopath, and he's going to kill us both because we're making fun of him. I mean come on, this is feigned ignorance. He knows very well but...he doesn't want to show it. Don't you think?"
"Yeah, right. And the moment we enter our apartment building, he'll be waiting in the dark to step forward and slash our throats."
"Hmmmm, Jack the ripper." Meera said, deep throated, like a TV promo. Their laughter erupted for a second before they brought it down, shooing each other, like a couple of school girls. The giggling continued behind cupped hands.
They turned now again, but he was gone. Ah, what a shame. This was getting to be a lot of fun. But well, it was time to leave anyway.
Aparna got off the rick and headed down the street leading to her house. Damn street lights. She almost tripped on a rock lying on the road. She suddenly sensed another pair of footsteps behind her and almost immediately her mind went back to the prank she played with Meera. She walked on, not turning back. Her heart beat faster now. Come on Appu, she told herself - Don't be silly. It couldn't happen. Didn't happen in real life. And then she turned. It was him! A groan escaped her mouth. This is ridiculous. These things happened only in Stephen King's novels or the movies. She hastened her steps. And then he called out.
She virtually ran now. Her building was just four houses away. She cursed herself. She cursed Meera. And what happened to all the cars in town?
She opened her gate and ran in. He stopped outside. "Ma'am".
"Don't you dare come inside,or I'll call the police." He looked genuinely puzzled by this.
Something was not quite right here, a part of her brain protested. Why would a psycopath call out to her and then try slashing her throat? She was breathing heavily now. He chuckled. What cheek!
"Ma'am, I just came to hand this over. Your diary."
She immediately reached to her bag. And then it all came back. She had dropped her phone book (no, she didn't like storing all the numbers on her cell. She and Meera had had innumerable debates over this) and the guy had come to return it. But he left earlier, how did he find it?
"Where...where did you find it?"
"I was outside the hotel ma'am, smoking. I called out when you and the other ma'am got into the rickshaw, but you didn't hear me, so I followed you."
Followed? So fast, on foot? And as if to answer her question, "I rode with my friend who dropped me here."
She didn't know what to say. Well, so much for guessing professions.
"Uh...look, sorry I shouted at you. Just leave it on the gate."
"Ok, ma'am." He shrugged and left.
Heaving a sigh, she quickly grabbed the diary and ran to the door. Once inside, she laughed and dialled Meera's number. She had to tell this to her. She had dropped her on the way. She half expected her 3 year old son to answer the call. But nobody answered. Funny, she shrugged after trying a few more times and kept her bag and diary on the dining table. Something fell out of the diary. A note.
"I know you both were discussing me in the hotel."
And then her cell rang. In the calm of the night, the sound made her jump. She reached for the instrument, her hands shaking. It was an unknown number.
"he..hello..." imitated the caller's voice, sounding suspiciously like Meera's. And then laughter.
"Meera? What the...?"
"I know that you both were discussing about me in the hotel." Meera said, deep throated.
"Meera, I'll...I'll kill you."
In between laughter, Meera replied. "You just met my cousin Jatin and he was in it from the start. How was it? APRIL FOOOOOOL".