1 JanuaryPosted: January 15, 2011
So-On hated my dress.
We had spent a happy afternoon, doing all the things So-On felt were absolutely imperative to hosting a party. After all, however much he might grin about his mother, he was her son. Dampat shuffled around on his own, ignoring So-On’s instructions. Dampat had never gotten over So-On’s nappy days, and was prone to treating him as if he were still an incontinent, drooling, dribbling brat.
But the sight of my bare shoulders and back and a bit more of my legs than he had seen in a long time, had So-On not drooling as I had hoped, but rather indignant.
So-On: “Appi, where is the simple, sweet girl I love? I hate this dress.”
I was too distraught to even hear the word ‘love’ properly. Anyway, he often said he loved me. Only, it did not mean ‘LOVE’.
So-On: “Now you look just like all the other girls do these days. I hate this dress.”
I was almost in tears, when a horn blared outside, and Dampat shuffled to open the gate. So-On promptly forgot all about me, and rushed forward.
It was Sam. Very, very elegant, in a long wine-red gown. She was showing not only shoulders, and back but considerable cleavage. But So-On did not seem to mind. I suddenly felt rebellious. Well, if So-On did not like my dress, too bad. I liked it.
It felt good against my skin, as did the new silk and lace lingerie Etcetra had insisted on my buying to go with the dress, much at the cost of Ogre’s cuticles, which had suffered more biting than had happened in many a year.
Ogre had said: “Is it necessary?”
To which Etcetra had replied: “Ogre, please. Don’t worry. Even with silk and lace underwear, Appi is not going to go off and lose her virginity. Not while So-On continues to act Big Brotherly.”
Ogre had muttered incoherently about Etcetra’s brashness and gone off to bake some lemon tarts to calm herself. Anyway, there did seem to be no threat to my virginity. Not while Sam was around, anyway.
Even when the farmhouse was crammed with:
2. And guests.
3. And waiters.
4. And musicians.
5. And cocktail mixers.
6. And drivers.
7. And gatecrashers,
I felt alone. So-On spent most of his time dancing with Sam, or huddled up with her on a sofa, chatting, oblivious of everyone around them. Oblivious of me.
It was not as if there was a dearth of male attention, however. My dress guaranteed that, but since my tongue-tied and preoccupied demeanour did not quite match up to the promise of my bare skin, the men who danced with me left hastily, looking a little confused and hassled, making vague excuses about going to get a drink and never coming back. I thought I heard one relieved-to-have-got-out-of-my-clutches man say to another: “She’s Alaska.”
I felt idiotic now in my skimpy dress, and wished I could change back into my jeans and T-shirt. I would have done so, if I were not aware of what a contemptuous look Sam would give me. Besides, the day’s activities had left my clothes none too clean, and I was sure that Dampat being Dampat must have thrown them in the wash. I wondered if I could go and curl up in the guest room; forget about the party and go to sleep.
I sat alone for a long time, and surprisingly, found myself wondering what it would have been like to spend New Year’s Eve with High BP. At least, I would have been well looked after; I would have had a lot of laughs. And I wouldn’t have been sitting here on the sidelines, as usual, watching So-On with someone else. Watching So-On with Sam.
Just when I was about to slump down into a heap with a surfeit of self-pity, So-On came across and asked me to dance. I dragged my feet reluctantly towards the dance floor behind him, but he did not notice my dejected mood. Or perhaps, as usual, did not bother to pay attention to it.
So-On held me close and said: “I’m sorry I was so rude earlier. You do look very glamorous. I guess I am not used to the idea of you having grown up.”
Out and away went the gloom. I smiled secretly, my face hidden on his shoulder. He stroked the nape of my neck softly.
So-On: “I’m finally convinced that short hair suits you.”
I felt a little faint.
So-On: “You should have been a model. Not a lawyer.”
I looked at his face then. He was grinning, teasing.
Me: “Yes, do you see me walking on the ramp in high heels? I’d be the fall-queen.”
So-On laughed: “Oh, you could always have lessons in deportment.”
Me: “No, I am congenitally clumsy. No number of lessons could cure that, I think. You should ask Etcetra. She’s been teaching me how to hold my shoulders all of yesterday.”
Me: “Yes, afraid that the dress would fall off otherwise.”
So-On: “Not a bad idea, that.”
He looked at me then, in a way that he has never, ever done before. Speculative, almost. Assessing. I felt shy and awkward. Now that So-On was paying me the attention that I had craved for, for years and years, it felt funny. I wished he would go back to Sam. Perhaps he felt the same way. For the rest of the dance, he was quiet, and when the number changed, he gave me a mumble and a nod, and walked away briskly.
He was quiet too on our way back home. Lost in thought. Lost in the contemplation of the New Year’s pink sky. I was quiet too. Wondering if he had kissed Sam at midnight. He hadn’t kissed me, certainly.