18 March

Dodo calls to wish Ogre. I watch Ogre’s face while she talks, for any signs that Dodo has let out the secret. Etcetra does better than that. She listens to the conversation on the extension in our room. She comes out a minute after Ogre has put down the phone and gives me a signal with a quick toss of her head that everything is OK.

Etcetra and I have given Ogre our presents, deliberately mundane things like a set of kitchen knives, which she has been long coveting, and a briefcase. That should have given us away if nothing else! But if Ogre suspects something, she is not letting on. She pretends that she is used to us being thoughtless beasts that give her household goods as birthday presents.

Later, I speak to 2x-y.

Me: “Will you bring Motorbike Man too?”

There is a silence that indicates bad tidings. After a while,

2x-y says: “We’ve broken up. His family found out. And of course, they made a horrible fuss. He couldn’t handle it.”

Me: “Are you OK?”

2x-y: “I expected it to happen sooner or later. So yes, I’m fine.”

But of course, she is not.

2x-y: “It was great while it lasted. But no more relationships for me. For a while, at least. Until I get my divorce and Miku’s custody sorted out.”

Me: “Yes, maybe. Anyway, do come, won’t you?”

2x-y: “Oh yes, I will. Don’t worry. I don’t intend to mope around about this. Life’s bad enough without that.”

I put down the phone to find a face grinning at me across my cubicle wall. I peer at the grinning face with appalling ignorance. It takes me exactly 2 minutes and 42 seconds to remember that the face belongs to The Prospect.
I apologize: “It’s just that I never expected to see you here.”

He doesn’t seem to mind much and continues to grin. Comma pops up from behind her cubicle

And says: “He’s come for Ogre’s party. Early, to help out with the arrangements.”

I feel abashed at how distant I have always been with The Prospect and yet, how easily he has decided to become a part of my life.

Comma: “You don’t need to be ‘touched’, Appi. All this is just an excuse to come and meet me. You know how irresistible I am”

The Prospect continues to grin affectionately. His grin spreads to my face too.


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