By: Amrita Valan
Himadri squeezed out a cup of lemon juice. Carefully crushing two tablespoons of fennel to a fine soft powder. When the chicken had finished cooking in its own juices, to a delectable golden-brown, he sprinkled the spice all over and drizzled lemon juice on it, giving it a few gentle turns of the ladle.
His boss Lily Perreira, declared, ‘you’re a born chef. Lip smacking-ly good chicken.’
Himadri blushed, harbouring a heavy secret crush on his doe eyed vivacious boss. With her petite curvaceous frame, jet-black ringlets and chiselled features she was irresistible. Overtly friendly too, back slapping him in congratulations, sitting with him at lunchtime, like close buddies. He had grown comfortable with this cosy relationship. She raided his mother’s tiffin carrier of Bengali delicacies, handing him a hundred bucks to splurge at the corner patisserie. One Sunday, she dropped into their apartment to take him to a tailor. He needed crisp formal shirts to wear to work, his ill-fitting ready to wear ensemble made her frown. ‘I can’t afford brand names’, he grimaced. So, she took him to her late father’s tailor on Ripon Street, who made excellent menswear at modest prices.
Lily was a Mangalorean Christian settled for her entire forty years of life in Calcutta, where her parents had met at the workplace and married.
Despite her great beauty, Lily, the only child of doting parents had remained single, even after both her parents had passed away. No one knew why. There were hushed whispers of a great unrequited love between Lily Ma’am and her secret college flame, who had moved on to become a famous Bollywood producer and forgotten her. They speculated he was Yashraj, the producer of the hit MTV show, ‘Smoking Guitars’.
Twenty-five-year-old Himadri, was besotted with his lily ma’am.. ‘Hey Heem, penny for your thoughts?’ Lily questioned, upper lip curling in amusement, as she slanted her eyes at him meaningfully.
Was she flirting with him, Himadri speculated? Not impossible, she must be lonely. She never dated or socialized. Ladies had told Himadri, that he looked cute with his black curls and cherubic dimpled face. On a hunch, Himadri gazed at her with fierce predatory intent forcefully crushing her palms in his. No mistaking his gesture for that of a kid brother or puppy dog admirer. Lily’s eyes clouded over as she gazed back, her cheeks glistening with a fine sheen of perspiration.
“Heem, what on earth?’, she mumbled so unconvincingly that Himadri abandoned caution. “Can’t you see?’, he burst out, ‘I have loved you for months, damn it Lily, I love you!”
Lily countered sardonically, ‘And what would your mother say to that?’ Revati, his widowed mother, was after him to wed a girl of his choice or let her choose. ‘You are young enough to be my son.’
‘Only if you were a teenage unwed mother,’ Heem spat out in mock disgust. Lily giggled, a delicious seductive gurgle, that made her utterly helplessly feminine, part mother goddess, part temptress. She pushed back a single curl of hair with a single strand of grey, tucking it behind her shell pink ear coquettishly.
As their lips met in unrestrained passion, the grandfather clock in Himadri’s living room, ticked noisily, a dangerous sneering time bomb.
Amrita Valan is a writer from India and a mother of two boys. She writes everyday and lives life through her short stories, memoirs and poems.