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There was something about the way she looked at him. Her kohled eyes seemed to see through him and decipher his thoughts. He felt parched and longed for a drink.

“Can you give me some water??” he asked her.

“Did you walk all the way to my house to ask for water??” she asked a trifle disdainfully

He remained silent. She turned and walked away without another word, her shiny oiled plaits swinging freely. He was glad for the respite. Her look had begun to make him perspire and lose this nerve.

He heard her calling out to someone. Presently a boy of about ten appeared at the inside door with a glass and a jug full of water. She took it from him and walked over. As the tinkling sound of her silver anklets came closer, he felt his heart beat faster.

He gulped down the glassful of water she poured for him and extended his hand for more. She waited patiently for him to finish, her eyes never leaving his face. She looked beautiful in her peach colored skirt and the matching green davani. They complemented her dusky color.

“Well… why did you want to see me??” she asked.

He cleared his throat and relapsed into silence once again. She shot him a look of impatience. He had asked her to meet him in the mango grove behind her house. He had thought it would be a cakewalk. But this one seemed different somehow.

“I have work to do….” she said impatiently, looking towards the house. He thought he heard someone call her name.

He carefully took out the jasmine flowers wrapped in lotus leaf and held it out to her. She looked at it and then back at him. Was that the dawn of a smile he could see on her face??

He was right. It had been a smile. But not the sort he had imagined, a shy one accompanied by a joyful giggle perhaps. This smile was more the mocking kind and was even more disconcerting than her stare. He started to perspire afresh.

“Take them… these are for you.” He said in a low voice.

Any minute her Appa would return from his visit to the temple and might catch him gifting flowers to his daughter. He did not want that to happen. He had planned his visit accordingly.

Instead of accepting the flowers though, she burst out laughing. He looked around self-consciously. Was anyone watching?? Had someone heard her??

She stopped and looked at him speculatively through the corners of her eyes.

“Are you in love with me??” she asked in mock seriousness.

He squirmed uneasily. This was not going the way things usually went. Where was the shy smile?? Her eyes weren’t downcast nor was she drawing circles with her toe. Usually they did that and giggled a good deal before taking the flowers from him and bolting indoors. It had been smooth going till now.

She repeated her question.

“Yes” he said in an even lower voice.

Where was his usual cockiness, the confident crooked smile and the hero like stance?? He just felt like a huge blob of jelly. Any minute now he’d start shivering in sheer nervousness.

She laughed louder now. He thought he saw a head appear at the window. It must be the little brother.

“Isn’t that what you told Sudha, next door?? And let me see… Saraswathi down the street??” She screwed up her eyes trying to remember.

“Umm… and Veni in 2nd street??”

He felt himself grow hot with embarrassment. He tried to say something, but his words of feeble protest were lost in her scornful laughter. He turned and quickly walked away.

Damn the stupid astrologer, he thought, while hurrying back to the bicycle. The time was right, he had predicted and the girl would be all yours. Bah, what a waste. That was fifty rupees down the drain. Not to mention the ten bucks he had spent on the flowers.

He stopped mid-stride. The flowers!!

He looked down to find the lotus-leaf wrapped flowers were still in his hand. Oh well, he would give it to Uma who lived in the next street. Her Appa would also be in the temple now. Besides, she was a little cool towards him these days. A gift would make her thaw a bit. He hummed to himself as he cycled.

Written for 3WW CC

Words this week: drink, feeble, predict