“And then I tried to kiss her! I’m an idiot. I am truly an idiot. Then she just went past my head as I was leaning in and hugged me!” I exclaim as I pace up and down the creaky floors of my new house, where Angre and Ishani are present at around 4 o’clock.
“C’mon man, it can’t be that bad, right? Maybe she’s just not comfortable yet with you again. I mean you’ve been gone for five years and you expect her to kiss you the first time you try something? I just think you need to calm yourself a little. She thinks you and her are just friends. Maybe butter her up a little, you know?” Angre says.
I say nothing for a few seconds. “I guess so. I mean we just went to the dhaba. Nothing extravagant.” I shrug, as if it’s nothing.
“I could talk to her if you’d like?” Ishani offers. “You know, maybe get a little insight on how her mind works. Also, I could give you some advice.” She crosses her legs and leans forward.
I stop moving. “Go on,” I demand.
“Okay. So, you’ve been in love with her since high school, correct?” I nod.
“Hon, I’m going to be honest with you. I had no clue if she liked you back then. I personally think you two would be absolutely adorable together, but hey, that’s Riddhima’s call. Anyway, you basically need to play hard to get. Don’t let her treat you like a boyfriend, and don’t let yourself treat her like a girlfriend. I know that sounds weird, but trust me. The more time she spends with you acting like a boyfriend, the more she’ll look at you like an older brother. You do not want to be looked at like that. Believe me.” She glares at Angre.
“Really? I looked at you like an older brother?” Angre wears a shit-eating grin.
“Shut the hell up. Anyway, Vansh, I’ll talk to her tomorrow at work. I work part-time with her while I’m going to college. I’m studying to be a chef.”
“Really? I haven’t an idea what you guys’ lives have been like. Pour out all of your hopes and dreams to me.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t pour out Ishani to you.” Angre smirks.
She smiles at him and slaps his chest.
“I want to open my own bakery one day,” says Ishani. “Then, I’ll travel the world and make everybody happy because there’ll be unicorns and rainbows and glitter all over my cakes!” She says like a madman with an overly high voice.
“If you were like that then I’d be outta here,” Angre puts in. She laughs.
That’s the kind of relationship I want with Riddhima. To be free and open without a care in the world. She wouldn’t have to worry about being able to fit her arms around me either.
“Should I ask her to go rollerblading tonight, or something?”
Ishani nods. “Remember on the phone not to act like her boyfriend, alright?”
I nod and find her contacts.
“You got this, man. Don’t worry,” Angre says with a pat on my shoulder.
“What do you want?” Riddhima snaps as soon as she answers.
“Someone’s moody,” I say with a chuckle.
“Sorry,” she sighs. “Bad day. Anyway, what’s up?” she asks with a better tone.
“Well, Riddhima, I was wondering if you’d maybe like to go roller-skating or blading or whatever you’re supposed to call it.”
“Sure, I mean if I have to,” she jokes. “There’s actually a few of my newer friends that you haven’t met. Would you mind if they came?
Oh, and we can’t forget about Ishani and Angre.”
“Oh, yeah. Of course. I’d love to meet them.”
“So the one guy, his name’s Dev. Sound familiar?” she asks.
“You’re friends with the loser we call ‘Mini Angre’?”
“Hey! He’s my best friend, even though he’s two years younger than me,” she says with a laugh. “Oh god. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-uhm, yeah. I’m sorry things have just… changed.
“Wow. So he was my replacement?” I joke, but can’t help to put truth into my words.
“Temporarily, he was. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. Now he’s in second place, right next to you, that is.”
“Pft. b*t*hes be trippin’ if they think they’re better than alllll this.” I laugh, as does Riddhima.
“You’re an idiot, Vansh, but that’s why I love you. Anyhow, what time tonight, exactly?”
“Maybe around 7 o’clock? I can pick you up. I’d actually rather pick you up since I don’t want to put you through the torture of walking five miles.”
She chuckles. “Okay, thanks. I’ll text Dev and them for seven. See you then,” she says.
“See you then, Riddhima.”
I press the little red circle button and put my phone in my pocket.
“Looks like you two are going roller-skating tonight.”
“You seriously couldn’t grow the balls to just ask her out? Alone ?” Angre protests.
“C’mon, Angre, it won’t be that bad. You’re my wingman! I wish I could say I was your wingman in high school, but I clearly knew nothing about women.” I laugh.
“Man, are you spot on,” Ishani says with a teasing smile.
“I am though.” I laugh.
“We should get going,” Angre says. “I’ve got to get ready for a night of winging and manning.” He smiles.
I walk them down to the door.
As they walk to their car, Ishani yells, “Remember: hard to get!”
“Will do!” I shout, and then close the door.
I go upstairs to my now fully furnished room. I still have yet to get a dining table, TV, couch, coffee table, or food to fill the pantry. The kitchen already has appliances. And no, I do not have a butler to make me food. That’s ridiculous. I am extremely capable of making my own food, doing my laundry, and yard work. I even make a pretty reputable cheeseburger with homemade fries. That reminds me, I also need to get a grill. And a deep fryer. And forks and spoons and knives… Once I get all of those things though I could have a cookout in the backyard. Which is a decent size, might I add. So, if all goes well tonight, maybe Riddhima and her friends can come over sometime.
And maybe someday it can just be her and me, except not in the way we are now. In the way I can only hope we will be.
As I get dressed in my black jeans and casual dark red shirt, I think. I have to act like her friend. Yes, it’ll be extremely hard, but if that’s the way it needs to go, then so be it. I mean, it can’t be that hard, right?
We’ve been friends for, what?-Twelve, thirteen years, excluding the five years I was gone? So from pre-school to our senior year, we’d been friends, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore that I actually started having feelings for her. I remember at lunch how she’d always sit with Ishani, Angre, and me because she claimed we were better friends than any of the popular jerks. Which we were. But she still talked to them and still went to their parties and still dated some of them and still remained captain of the cheer squad. Extremely tacky.
Then there was me. The fat, stupid kid that had three friends his whole life. At one point around my sophomore year I began to wonder why the hell she’d been friends with me. I thought she was friends with me out of pity, but no. I guess she really just loved me.
Yes, we’ve said ‘I love you’ an insurmountable amount of times, but she never meant it like I did. Yeah, she meant it, but in a different context. Like this, “Okay, bye Vansh! Love you!” But on the inside for me, I was thinking, ” Okay, bye, Riddhima, I’m in love with you. ”
I guess I always have and always will be, friends or not.
Dragging my feet behind me, I walk out the door and lock it behind me. I open my car door and put the keys in the ignition.
I drove down the road to her apartment.
I knocked on her door for the second time over the weekend.
“Come in!” her voice yells.
Hesitantly, I open the door and see her in the living room digging through a box.
“Whatcha doin’?” I ask with a chuckle.
“Wait… Found it!” she exclaims.
She throws the square-shaped object towards me.
I catch it and look at the label on the inside of the clear box. “Mixed CD by Riddhima Kapoor to my bestest friend in the whole world.”
“Oh my god. The CD you made in junior year.” I laugh. “Man, the most popular songs of that year.” I smile once my laughter dies down.
“Why don’t we go test this baby out?”
“Seriously?” she asks.
“Sure. Just like old times.”
You’re just her friend. Hard to get.
“Why the hell not? Let’s go!” she exclaims, leaving me inside as she heads out.
I shut the door behind me and follow her, CD in hand.
Once I get to the car, I put in the disc. The first to come on is “Sunn Raha Hai” by Ankit Tiwari.
“Oh my god! I haven’t heard this in so long!” Riddhima begins singing along.
Minutes later, “Saadi Galli Aaja” by Ayushman Khurana comes on.
“If I recall correctly, this was your favorite song on the track.” Riddhima smirks.
I mirror the expression. “Yep. Sure was.”
In the middle of the next song, I pull into the roller-skating rink parking lot at 7:04.
“Hey guys!” Riddhima exclaims as we get past the gate of admittance, which I bought hers. Friends do that. I did it back in high school.
Then again, look where it got me.
Everybody is lacing up their shoes while Riddhima introduces me. “This is Dev, as you already know. Then there’s Sia, Sejal, and Ragini. They all work with me at the bar along with Ishani. Then we have Aryan, Sejal’s boyfriend. Then obviously Angre and Ishani, who I certainly hope you remember. The others are two years younger than us.
I nod. “I probably won’t remember any of you guys’ names tomorrow, but I’ll try my best.” I chuckle. “I’m VR.”
“Hey, Riddhima, let’s go get laced up,” I tell her.
We walk over towards the counter. We get our right sizes on rollerblades and head off to the rink. All of PRiddhima’s friends are already skating.
We get our blades on and stand up. At least, she tries to.
“Vansh.” She chuckles. “Help me off my chair.”
I grab both of her hands and pull her up. She wobbles a little.
“You sure you want to do this, Riddhima?” I ask.
She scoffs. “I’ve got this, VR.”
“Really? Because your instability seems to really show off your amazing-ness at this,” I say sarcastically.
“Shut up or else I’ll start calling you VR.” She glares.
I shrug. “I don’t care. Whichever you prefer.” I smirk.
She huffs under her breath, “Whatever.”
As we get out onto the slippery wood, I am still holding her hand for her “safety.” I say, “Heard that, Riddhima.”
“Good, VR.” She pauses. “Is it okay if I call you VR around your soon-to-be friends?”
As we round the corner, Riddhima slips and almost falls. Key word: Almost.
I catch her in the midst of her falling by wrapping my arms around her waist.
She straightens and clears her throat as she stares straight ahead.
“Well that was embarrassing.”
“Not really, I don’t think anyone was looking but me.”
“Exactly,” she mumbles under her breath.
I smirk. She doesn’t know she said that out loud, I presume. I realize my arms still remain around her waist.
Can’t be her boyfriend yet. Hard to get. Hard to get.
I grab her hand and begin to swing them.
I clear my throat. “So, tell me Riddhima. How’s the love life?” I ask with a smirk that seems to be planted on my face.
“Oh. Not good. Vyom and I broke up a year ago.” She shrugs. “You know, Vyom Chhabra. The dick in high school.”
“Ooh. Another jerk.”
She scoffs. “Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”
I shrug. “Nothing. You just dated a lot of jerks in high school.”
“Oh whatever. What about you? Love anyone but yourself?” she asks sarcastically.
I think for a second. “Hm… No.” I laugh. “Just dating. Kind of just trying to look for a soul mate, you know?” I ask, putting extra emphasis on “soul mate” because it’s typically not a word many use now.
“You should try harder,” she says with a smile while looking up at me.
I smile back. I think I’m about done looking.