WASTED. The word popped into Rayna’s head the moment she opened her eyes, shot her long shapely legs out of the sheet covering them and rolled out of bed. Only to have her staggering right back onto the soft mattress as her world spun out of control for a brief second. Her head pounded as if a brass band had embedded itself inside her skull and was banging out a raucuous beat on tinny drums.
She reached for the bottle of water next to her bed and took a long swig from it before casting a look around her usually spotlessly clean bedroom. It was a monumental mess. Her clothes were lying all over the place and the culprit for her Godzilla-sized headache was right there on the beside table–a bottle of tequila. She, who was notorious for passing out even if she so much as inhaled champagne, had needed just a couple of shots before she’d switched off like a fused bulb. She should thank her lucky stars the bottle had been less than a quarter full when Sid had left it behind last week.
Sid. The very name made her head pound harder. Sid Verma, The Dumper.
Rayna Dutt. The Dumpee! Dumped, Drunk…
Bang. Bang. Bang. This time the drumbeat seemed to come from a different direction. And it was accompanied by a hysterical, piercing wail. ‘Madam, please! Aapka flight miss ho jayega.’
…and soon to be Dead!
Leaping out of the bed, Rayna dashed for the door of her hanky-sized apartment–or one BHK as it was referred to in rent-speak in the great metropolis of Mumbai. She still couldn’t believe she’d snagged this cosy little bedroom-hall-kitchen unit in an upmarket neighbourhood. Best of all, it had a balcony with a view of the Arabian Sea to die for. And if it hadn’t been for Sid the Dumper’s high flying contacts in the city, this would have been way beyong her reach.
The brass knocker went bang-bang-bang and she winced as the noise reverberated pinfully inside her head. She undid the safety latch as she yelled out, ‘Hang on for a second, will you?’
A short, thin fellow with bug eyes and a huge handlebar moustache which shorouded his emaciated face stood staring at her as if she was a ghostly apparition.
‘Madam, your mobile is switched off. You will miss the flight,’ he squeaked.
Zombie-like, she shook her head, and even that tiny movement made heer head hurt. ‘Oh no!’ How could she have forgotten? Today was D-day. The twenty first of April, the day she had been planningfor, for more than six weeks. The chartered flight to the Andaman Islands, where Milee’s week long wedding celebrations were being held, was scheduled to take off at 10:15 am. Her eyes darted to the wall clock and she nearly died of shock. Nine-forty-three!
‘Milee will kill me,’ she screeched at the confused man before banging the door shut on his face.
A second later, she yanked it open again. Handlebar Moustache, who had been deputed to ferry her to the airport, looked as if he was about to have a coronary.
She stuttered, ‘Sorry, sorry, bhaiya. Wait for me downstairs. I will be with you in two minutes. And please, could you take my suitcases?’ She waved in the general direction fo the luggage she had so meticulously packed. There were four large cases — three of them contained Milee’s trousseau, while one had her own stuff.
Oh, dear… if she missed the flight and those suitcases weren’t on board, Milee’s big fat Indian wedding was doomed. Whoever had heard of a bride at a luxury boutique resort minus her bridal finery? She had painstakingly coordinated every little detail with two top fashion designers in the city. She wanted her best friend’s trousseau to be beyond perfect but it seemed like her hard work was about to go down the tubes.
She reaced to the bathroom and speed-showered, throwing on the first skirt and blouse ensemble she could lay her hands on. It was a good thing she had her standby makeup kit ready for just such an emergency situatiion. Stuffing it in her large handbag, she grabbed her dead-as-a-dodo mobile phone and charger from the table top, lunged for the house keys and shot out of the apartment.
As she emerged from the building lobby, she looked for the familiar yellow and black taxi but there was none. She heard a honk behind her and spun around to find Handlebar Moustache behind the wheel of a gleaming black Mercedes-Benz. Well, at least she needn’t worry about the taxi breaking down en route to the airport. In the Rayna Book of Immutable Laws–also known as RBIL–anything that could go wrong usually did!
She piled into the car and impatiently instructed, ‘Chalo, chalo…Hurry. Let’s go.’
The Mercedes soundlessly swept out of the driveway and raced down the road skirting the seafront on its way to the airport. Rayna looked out anxiously, praying they would not get stuck in a traffic jam. Thankfully, being a Sunday morning, the streets were devoid of weekday bumper-to-bumper traffic. If all went well–fingers firmly crossed–they should cover the distance to the airport in twelve minutes, tops. She glanced at her wrist and realised she’d forgotten to strap on her watch. Shoot! Her eyes strayed to her feet and she froze in horror. Holy crap! She was still wearing her flip-flops with the cute fluffy pink teddy bears on them.
RBIL #1 had kicked in. Footwear gaffe equals a disastrous day ahead.
Not only would she arrive late for a flight transporting some of the Who’s Who of the city to the grandest wedding of the decade, but she was also set to make a cringe-worthy entrance. She hoped there would be no press photographers around to shoot hotshot model Rayna Dutt boarding a chartered flight to the Andaman Islands in pink teddy-bear topped flip-flops. Maybe she should just hop off, hail a cab, go home and fall unconscious with the help of some more tequila shots? What if Handlebar Moustache delivered the trousseau suitcases to the aircraft?
No matter how tempting the thought, she knew she would never be able to do it. She couldn’t ditch Milee, the only true friend she’d ever had. The one who had stood by her through thick and thin back in the days when she was a scared, scrawny kid with a bunch of emotional issues that should have made her the perfect candidate for non-stop therapy.
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