It was a cheerful and sunny Friday when Isha decided that she wanted to go out on a date. She had just finished watching a particularly cute episode of a romantic web series which had kind of inspired her and considering the fact that she hadn’t been on a date in a very, very long time, Isha cooked up a plan that would satisfyingly milk her dating fantasy.
Since she didn’t have a boyfriend, she called her closest male friend and bullied him into taking her out for an evening of romance.
“Huh?” was his intelligent reply when she told him what she wanted.
Too excited to roll her eyes at his eternal cluelessness, Isha repeated herself slowly, punctuating every word. “I want you, Karan, to take me out on a date.”
Hmm, guess he needed some convincing. Men are so confusing. Or maybe it was just Karan. Who looks a gift horse in its mouth?
Taking a deep breath, Isha elaborated on her peculiar and rather sudden desire to go out with Karan, who was just a friend thank you very much.
“I feel like being romanced and I haven’t been on a date in a while…”
“So,” continued Isha, reining in her annoyance at being interrupted. “I want you to go out with me tomorrow. Because I have no one else and because I need a man.”
Yikes. That sounded desperate and needy, and totally not flattering for Karan. She didn’t want him to think she was asking him only because she had no one else even though it was true.
Isha only had two other friends.Both female. Both weirdos. One of them was suspiciously nice and thankfully didn’t live in the same city. The other was a depressed slob who preferred to stay at home and sketch scenes of death and destruction.
So yeah, they were… uh… special friends but they were both women.
That left Karan as the obvious choice, the only other person who could grin and bear the bright sunshine and crazy hurricane that was Isha’s personality.
“Just one date, promise.” Nope, she wasn’t begging. Not at all. “Please?”
He took some time to reply and Isha squealed internally when he ground out a reluctant, “Fine.”
“But I’m busy tomorrow.”
Isha nodded. “No problem. Sunday, then?”
“I’m busy Sunday,” stalled Karan, making Isha scowl. “How about next week?”
“Karan,” she said warningly.
He sighed. “Alright. Sunday.”
She wasn’t going to lie. It felt good when people listened to her, especially Karan, who usually did what he wanted and screwed the rest. If and when he ever agreed to her whims, it always seemed like an achievement to Isha.
“But it’s not a date,” he said.
Isha laughed. “Oh, it so is a date.”
She spent the next day wondering what they would do on their date. Dinner some place nice would be perfect but Karan had texted earlier saying he wanted to see a movie. Not just any movie, but the new alien movie which was most certainly a flop in Isha’s internal database without even having seen it.
She called her depressed friend for advice.
She sounded sad, normal and kinda comforting.
“What’s wrong?” asked Isha, because there was always something wrong.
“The dog pooped on my sketch of a girl committing suicide.”
Guess your dog had the right idea, Isha thought to herself. “Aww,” she said instead, trying and failing to sound mournful. “So anyway, I’m going on a date tomorrow!”
So much for having smarter friends. “A date. You know where two people—”
“I know what a date is. With whom?”
“You know him. Take a wild guess.”
“Karan. And there’s nothing wild about him.”
Isha sniffed but refused to be brought down. “Nothing you say is going to change the fact that I’m going on a date.” The sentence ended with a squeal and she continued after she had composed herself. “I asked him and he said yes and…”
“Karan is your friend. Why would you ask him out?”
“Because he’s cute and smart and has big biceps.”
“At least the big biceps part is true,” mumbled the depressed friend.
Isha sighed. “Honestly, I’m tired of being single and this seemed like one way to forget for a few hours that I’m alone.”
“Alone and unsexed.”
“Sorry. I thought we were stating facts.”
There was a pause in which Isha grudgingly agreed that her friend was right. But she would not dwell on that. This date was to please her own self and, by God, she would stick to this reasoning. Karan had nothing to do with it at all. If there ever was a time to be selfish, this was it.
Oh God, what if she screwed their friendship? She had only one guy friend. One! She couldn’t lose him. There weren’t a lot of decent guys out there. What if he fell for her or she fell for him or…
Nope, not dwelling on it. NOT DWELLING ON IT!
“Right. The date,” she said into the phone. “What do you think we should do?” Without giving her friend a chance to answer, she rattled on, “Karan wants to see that alien movie but I was thinking we could go to a nice restaurant, you know.”
“Oooh, candle light dinner.”
“Well, yeah. Sure.” She could be up for a romantic candle light dinner. Not that there would be any romance with Karan.
“Where do you plan to go?”
“I’m thinking that Italian restaurant at the other end of the city. Long drive and Italian food. Should be a good combination.”
“Not so much when the combo comes with an extra dash of aliens.”
“Ugh, I know.”
“Why can’t you and Karan go to a romantic movie?” asked the depressed friend, who apparently was ignoring the fact that using the words ‘Karan’ and ‘romantic’ in one sentence was grammatically incorrect. “Or even a horror movie, where you can pretend to be scared and grab onto his hand or any other body part?”
“Eww,” said Isha. “I don’t wanna grab anything of his. Let’s remember that this is not a real date. Karan and I are not dating. I am the one who’s going on a date. Karan is just lucky to be invited.”
“Lucky, indeed.” Was that sarcasm?
“Although… I might not protest if he wanted to hold my hand.”
“Is that so?” Yep, definitely sarcasm.
“Platonically, of course.”
“Quit mocking me!” Isha scolded. “Now listen, I’ll need to book a table at the Italian restaurant and I wanna see if I can arrange for something special at the cinema. You’re coming with me.”
“I need moral support.”
“Fine, but you’re buying me a donut.”
Late next morning, both women set off to arrange things for Isha’s fake date in the evening. Isha, whose initial excitement had waned after a failed conversation with Karan last night about going to see some other movie, was back to bouncing on her feet, her eagerness for the upcoming date increasing exponentially now that they were in the cinema booking tickets.
“I want aisle seats,” she said to her friend. “And I wonder if I can smuggle a chocolate cupcake in the theatre.”
“I’m sure there’s a pastry shop inside.”
“What if there isn’t? You think I can go in and check?”
“I don’t think they’ll allow you inside so early. Let’s ask the security dude.”
“Good idea. I’ll also ask him if he can hand a rose to Karan when he walks in.” Ignoring the incredulous look her friend gave her, Isha continued, giggling to herself, “And maybe he can say something like ‘happy dating, sir and ma’am’… it’ll be funny. It’ll rile Karan up.” If Karan had even a lick of sense, he would know to give the rose to Isha immediately.
She sighed as they walked towards theatre’s entrance to the security man. She needed to stop daydreaming romantic scenes and focus on the situation at hand. She was enough distracted without wondering what Karan would or would not do.
There were two uniformed men standing at the entrance. Isha approached one of them and turned to find that she was alone. The depressed friend was probably embarrassed to be seen asking silly questions outside a movie theatre. She loitered some distance away, her expression doubtful but her smile encouraging. Isha looked back at the men and spoke confidently.
“Is there a pastry shop inside?” she asked in Hindi.
“I don’t know,” the bigger of the two men replied in Hindi.
“May I go inside and check for myself?”
“But I have a ticket,” insisted Isha. “For tonight. I’ll only take a minute to check.”
Both men shared looks, then the one who had spoken nodded reluctantly. “Go on.”
Throwing him a grateful smile, Isha scurried inside the glass doors before he could change his mind. There were a lot of counters inside the theatre. Coke and popcorn counter, sandwich counter, chaat counter, juice counter and—voila!—dessert counter. Awesome, Isha thought to herself, walking back out and giving her depressed friend a big smile.
“Jackpot!” she said.
“Good, now let’s go,” said the friend.
“No, wait, I need to ask about the rose thingy,” said Isha, making the other woman groan.
“Why can’t you give Karan a rose? Why do you want a strange dude to do it?”
“I will give him a rose… when I go pick him up for our date. And let me tell you, he’s not going to like it.”
“That sounds like a good start,” mocked her friend, “to a fake date.”
“I know right!” Isha turned to the security man again and spoke in Hindi. “Will you be on duty this evening?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
“Will you do me a favour? A friend and I will come here at 5:30. Will you give him a rose and say ‘happy dating’? I’ll signal you.”
“Um…,” said the man, looking partly amused and partly freaked out. He was probably questioning Isha’s sanity. “Okay but my shift changes at 5.”
Isha scowled. “Just right now you said you’ll be on evening duty.”
Well, so much for having faith in humanity. “Well, if you’re on duty, will you do it? I’ll sneak you the rose. You’ll recognize me, right?”
“Uh… sure,” he said, sounding as unsure as he looked.
Isha turned to her depressed friend. “He’s an idiot.”
Her friend looked like she wanted to say “You’re an idiot” but she wisely kept her mouth shut and pasted a sympathetic smile on her face. She silently followed Isha outside the complex, drooling a bit at the food carts they passed on their way out, and patiently listening as Isha kept up a constant chatter about work, Karan, her family, Karan, her weight and, oh yes, Karan.
Their next stop, the Italian restaurant, was named after a well-known 15th century artistic genius and was a classy and posh place to dine.
Isha had been there before and she approved of the ambience and the food. She walked up to the manager of the restaurant and struck up a conversation.
“I’d like to book a table, but can you tell me till what time the restaurant will stay open?”
“10 pm, ma’am,” came the reply.
Isha looked at her friend. “The movie will be over by then. I think we can make it way before that.” She turned back to the manager and spoke, “My friend and I will be here at about 8:30. Can you reserve a corner table for us?”
The manager smiled and nodded. “So there’ll be two of you.”
“Would you like to pre-order your food?”
Both women exchanged glances. The answer was a definite no but Isha still fingered the menu set before her and whispered so that only her friend could hear. “I’m thinking about a floral arrangement.”
She got a doubtful look for her comment. “Wouldn’t it cost you a fair bit?”
“Maybe. It shouldn’t. I dunno.”
“Better ask him beforehand.”
Isha nodded and turned back to the waiting manager. “Do you do table decorations, floral arrangements, etc.?”
“Why, yes, we do!” he chirped, excitedly handing her a book full of pictures of decorations—candles, flowers, overhangings and much more.
Isha and her friend stared at the pictures in horror. This was too much. She wasn’t getting married, she was going on a date—a fake date no less—and she wondered if she was going a bit overboard with her idea of a romantic evening. Surely a floral arrangement was too much. Why had the thought even popped into her head in the first place?
Gah, fake dating was tough work.
“This is too much,” the depressed friend said to the manager, echoing Isha’s thoughts. “We merely want a smattering of rose petals… and perhaps one candle, that’s all.”
“Pfft,” chuckled the manager. “We’re professionals, ma’am. Don’t worry, it’ll be perfect.”
“Thank you. But remember, just one rose… and scatter it across the table.”
“Of course, of course.”
“Well, there’s that,” said Isha as they walked out of the restaurant. “Everything’s arranged and I have an hour and a half to get ready before…”
“Before the big date?” the depressed friend finished with a wistful sigh.
Isha grinned. “Yep.”
They bought a couple of roses on their way to her house. The depressed friend left, but not before shooting one final warning to Isha.
“Remember. Don’t take it too far. This is a fake date, not a real one.”
“Thanks for the encouragement,” said Isha, rolling her eyes. “Don’t worry, he knows already. But just in case, I’m gonna tell him this date is about me and me alone. Happy?”
“No. You still owe me a donut.”
Pretending to not hear her, Isha waved and hurried inside. She had to get ready. She had to look pretty. She had to rule this date! There were butterflies in her stomach and her skin tingled. She really truly hoped everything would turn out fine. Knowing Karan, she couldn’t be certain but she had worked so hard to plan this. It had to pan out well. It had to.
Oh God, what was she doing?