“What will you have, ma’am?” asked the bartender.
“Oh I’m waiting for someone,” I replied, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear.
My phone buzzed on the bar counter. “Sorry, I’m running a bit late!” said the text from my date. Blind date. I signaled the bartender, “On second thoughts, can I have a watermelon martini?” He nodded and started preparing my drink.
‘A bit late. Ugh’ I thought to myself, fiddling with the rips in my jeans. Why had I ever let Aanya talk me into this? Three days ago, I wouldn’t even have thought about talking to someone I hadn’t met before, and now, here I was, sitting at the bar at Irish House, waiting for some guy from her office called Arjun to walk in.
I swept my dark curls over one shoulder and put my phone to my ear. “I’ve been here 20 minutes and he’s just texted that he’s getting late.” I yelled at Aanya as soon as she answered.
“Oh my god! I’ll call him, don’t worry, he’ll be there soon,” she said.
“Fine.” I said, exasperated, “Aanya Gupta, why do I even call you my best friend?”
“Because you love me!” came the reply before she hung up.
The bartender placed my drink in front of me. I took a sip and then picked off the slice of watermelon from my glass and bit into it. “Hey, were you just talking to Aanya Gupta from Techspiron by any chance?” said a voice behind me. I jumped.
“Um yeah, you know her?”
“Yep, we’re on the same team at work! Hi, I’m Arjun. I guess you’re Jiah, the school friend? She keeps talking about you.”
“Oh hi Arjun! Yeah that’s me.” I said awkwardly, putting the watermelon slice back on the rim of my glass.
“I’d eat that if I were you.” he said, taking the seat next to mine. “Can I have a beer?”
I picked up the watermelon slice and looked at him as he waited for his beer to be served. ‘Not bad looking at all,’ I thought, considering his long angled face, deep set eyes and dark spiked hair. He was wearing a pale blue checkered shirt, the sleeves of which were rolled up to his elbows, and dark denims. ‘Good work, Aanya.’ I said to myself.
“Cheers!” said Arjun, holding out his beer bottle towards me, “To mutual friends who talk a lot about other friends.”
“Cheers to that!” I laughed, clinking my glass to his. “So, you joined Techspiron with Aanya, didn’t you?” I said, trying to remember what Aanya had told me about him.
“Not exactly,” Arjun replied, “Just about a month later though. But I only moved to her team two months ago. App Development, but I suppose you already know what we do.”
“Oh no, I really don’t. I’ve never ventured towards science after school,” I grinned. “I’ve studied journalism. I’m working with an online magazine right now.”
“Yeah, don’t you write pieces on Mumbai?” asked Arjun, “Aanya had shown me a few articles, they’re really good!” he explained.
“Aw, thank you!” I smiled, and took a sip of my drink.
A bit of an awkward silence later, Arjun looked towards me again.
“So, you’re a Harry Potter fan?” he asked, pointing at my deathly hallows necklace.
“Yeah I am!” I beamed. “But I thought you weren’t a fan?”
“Are you kidding?” he said, “Hasn’t Aanya told you how we keep nerding out about it? It drives the rest of our team insane,” he laughed.
“Oh I think she mentioned it, yeah!” I said, trying to mask the lie. If I were being honest, I hadn’t really been paying attention when Aanya had told me about Arjun, but I was pretty sure she’d said that he hadn’t read the books. Oh well. “It’s the best, right?” I added.
He nodded, beginning to talk passionately about how he grew up reading the series. His eyes twinkled as he spoke, and I felt a sudden rush inside me.
We spoke over another round of drinks and a plate of fries, and rather unexpectedly, I found I was enjoying myself. It was true that I was meeting this guy for the first time, but he was coming across as charming and witty. I owed Aanya an apology for snapping at her earlier.
“So, you were waiting here long?” asked Arjun, “‘Cause I saw you sitting alone here.”
“Oh, not too long, it’s okay,” I replied. “I guess the traffic is really bad tonight.”
“Yeah, all my friends are late tonight because of it. Mad traffic on the highway, a bus broke down, it seems.” he said, pointing at his phone.
“Friends?” I asked, confused. “Are you expecting someone else?”
“Yeah, of course. I don’t generally go to a pub alone and start conversations with Aanya’s friends.” he winked.
“But we’d decided to m.. ” I started to say, as my phone buzzed, flashing Aanya’s number.
“Speak of the devil.. ” Arjun laughed, taking a sip of his beer.
“I’ll just get that,” I said, getting off the bar stool and making my way to a quieter place in the pub to answer the call.
“Dude! He’s invited his friends to a blind date, what the hell? ” I yelled at Aanya for the second time tonight, drowning out whatever she was trying to say.
“Wait, what? What friends?” she asked.
“I don’t know! He just told me he’s waiting for his friends to get here.”
“When did he tell you that? I just got off the phone with him.”
“Um, he’s sitting next to me, Aanya, and he wasn’t on the phone.”
“What? No, he’s stuck in traffic because some bus broke down! I just called to tell you that he’s turning around and going back home, and you should leave too.” exclaimed Aanya. “But wait, who are you talking to, Jiah?”
“Uhh, Arjun?” I stammered, “Fr-from your team? App Development?” I looked back at the bar to make sure he was still sitting there. There he was, eating fries off a plate we’d ordered.
“Oh my god, Jiah!” she cried. And then she laughed, “Of course! It’s Riyaan’s birthday, that’s why he’s there.”
“Who am I talking to, Aanya?” I stressed.
“Jiah Jiah, that’s Arjun Malhotra, from my team. Riyaan’s his brother, so obviously he’s meeting people there for a party.”
“What?” I said, dumbstruck. “Then, who was I supposed to meet?”
“Arjun Wadhwa! From Communications. That’s a different Arjun, babe.” she explained. “But he’s not going to come there anymore, I’m sorry.”
“Oh,” I said, “And Arjun Wadhwa hasn’t read Harry Potter.”
Suddenly everything became clear to me. I looked back towards the bar. The Arjun sitting there was telling someone that the seat next to him was taken. He pointed towards me and I smiled, and waved back.
“Hey is Arjun Malhotra single?” I asked.
“Yeah he is. But do you like him?” she asked, and I could hear the excitement in her voice.
“Great, I’ll just call you back later.” Still smiling, I hung up and walked back towards the bar.
“Thanks for saving my seat!” I said to Arjun. “Turns out our mutual friend can’t make it here tonight. It’s that stupid bus. She’s ditching me.” I lied, shrugging my shoulders.
“Good thing we ran into each other then, isn’t it?” winked Arjun.
“Cheers to that!” I grinned back.
This post is in response to this Discover Challenge by The Daily Post – Chance Encounter.