1st April 2000.
It is the first day of April and here I sit sharing with you, a love story that played out today.
Was it love at first sight, puppy love or something else?
I leave the love angles to your interpretation.
Jacket thrown roguishly over his shoulder, he entered the bar of the five-star hotel when he saw her.
“She’s gorgeous, ” he said to himself.
It was love at first sight.
Wine glass in hand she sat perched alone on the bar stool.
She was beautiful with an aura of elegance and grace.
Her low neckline sleeveless designer gown draped her to enhance her appearance.
Lost in thought and feeling sad she sipped on the red wine as the loud music blared in the background.
Samson had positioned his small company to provide accounting services for some high ranking companies.
Due to the accounts, he handled he was financially successful.
Returning, a few years back, to India from the US had given him an advantageous position over his local competitors. He had the razzmatazz to woo rich client’s and bag their business as an accounting consultant. Five years back Bombay had become Mumbai. Business in the city and the stock exchange were booming.
Setting shop he went full steam ahead.
His business flourished and he employed the best brains and fastest fingers to cope up with the demand. He now had a highly experienced team of Chartered Accountants and Tax Advisors.
This year was a bonanza for his tech company clients who were involved in providing solutions to the Y2K bug.
This would transmute to a bonanza for him as well.
31st March in Mumbai had just wound up and had heralded the first day of April.
End of the financial year-end of a stressful time for accountants trying to tie up and close the year-end accounts.
Working late, past midnight relieved that he had managed to close the year-end books of most of his client’s accounts, he popped into the five-star hotel not far from his hotel.
As he entered the packed bar what struck him like a bolt of lightning was this stunning lady sitting on the barstool.
He had never seen her before.
She had a shapely figure.
It was imp-thin and wasp-waisted.
Her skin was glossy and radiated in the dim-lit bar.
He was stunned with her slender eyebrows with velvety eyelashes.
Her sea-nymph ears framed a dainty nose.
Her hair was midnight black and it flowed over her shoulders.
It was as if she was ’Out of this World’.
It was love at first sight.
”Could I use this seat?”
Her languid eyelashes of velvet-black blinked once slowly. Noticing the slight nod from her he placed his jacket on the back support, climbed onto the low back leather stool beside her and beckoned the barman.
”Can I have my regular?”
The barman slid the old fashioned glass with his JD on the rocks. Wanting to start a conversation with this beautiful angelic lady he suggested, ”Can I offer you a drink”
Her refusal came in the form of a head shake.
She continued taking delicate sips from her wine glass.
A pair of arched eyebrows looked down on sweeping eyelashes.
Her body language indicated that she was here alone.
Getting lost in thought after sipping her wine indicated that she was lonely.
Seeing her for the first time in this bar he was intrigued and curious to know where she came from.
Wanting to break the ice he turned towards her and Introduced himself.
She responded with a soft voice,
Her whisper in a dulcet voice was as sweet as any songbird.
It was the most musical sound to his ears.
”Are you from Mumbai itself”
She replied in affirmation and shyly enquired about him.
As the conversation progressed, her soft-toned voice drew him with intrigue.
When she broke into a smile her set of dazzling, angel-white teeth gleamed as she blew gently on her carmine-red fingernails.
As he got more and more impressed with her their conversation drew them closer.
Between sips of his Tennessee whiskey, he asked about her family. She smiled coyly and spoke about her father and also mentioned her bungalow in Bandra.
All he could hear was sweet nothings and watched perplexed as to her, filed to perfection, carmine-red fingernails ran through her hair. Every movement of her was angelic.
Her eyebrows inclined slightly as she saw him staring at her. He yelped at being caught.
The ice was breaking between them and she was warming up to his lively banter.
The subjects he decided to talk about were so carelessly random and his voice was so idiotically enthusiastic. Over the conversations, he had gauged that she was genuine and not a cheap trickster or gold digger. She was from a good family and best of all she was — single.
She had also slipped in that at present she was staying all alone.
As she finished the last sip of her red wine he insisted that she accept his offer of a drink.
To the barman, he enquired, ”which is the most expensive red wine you have in stock”
He was in a mood to celebrate.
He had found the love of his life.
His April Love had arrived.
The barman returned with a bottle of imported red wine from the Bordeaux region of France priced at Rs 15,000 and after presenting the bottle left it unopened on the counter for the couple to examine the label.
Monica picked up the wine bottle as one would lovingly pick up a pet pup and read the label. Her eyes lit up as she assimilated the details.
Suddenly she started shivering.
It started as a light tremble but after some time accelerated.
Her jaw was now chattering with the cold.
Samson got concerned that it was the ac draft that was affecting her.
Offering his warm expensive jacket which carried all his worldly belongings like keys, cash, credit cards, and the most expensive mobile phone he helped her wear it.
It did not help.
”Can we go home,” she pleaded in a broken voice.
”We could enjoy this wine at my place.”
He could not believe that she had politely just asked him over. He was ecstatic. Their love had blossomed and she was making a fast move.
He was slightly inebriated so he decided he would take her to her house by taxi.
Deciding to buy the bottle of wine he signed his bill to be charged to his business account, picked up the unopened wine bottle and walked out of the hotel asking the doorman to hail the cab.
The private taxi slowly cruised into the porch of the hotel lobby. Helping her get in gently he sat beside her. Taking the wine bottle from him she clasped onto the bottle of Bordeaux
Settling into the cab she instructed the driver in her soothing voice, ”Rose Bungalow, Bandra Talao Road.”
She had mentioned that she was staying in Bandra.
It was a short distance away and they would reach in about 20 minutes.
As they sat in the back seat of the taxi exchanging sweet nothings they were lost deep in the eyes of each other. She nuzzled him with her nose and he couldn’t believe it. He reached out and kissed her. She didn’t resist. She had strawberry sweet lips. They were blossom soft.
The cab swerved around a road bordering a cemetery as it approached its destination.
She suddenly asked the driver to stop.
The driver braked against the long high stone wall lining the cemetery.
She requested Samson if she could step out of the taxi and gasp in some fresh air.
He agreed and she got out from her side. The door of the cab slammed.
Samson immediately got out from his side and walked over to the other side of the taxi.
He stood in shock.
She was not there.
She had disappeared into thin air.
She was not in sight.
She could not have sprinted away or climbed the high wall so fast. It was just a couple of minutes since she got out.
It was as if she had melted into the ground or permeated into the solid rock stone wall.
He was perturbed and so was the cab driver.
The realisation slowly came that his jacket was with her and he also realised that she had taken the expensive unopened bottle of wine.
He could not come to terms with this and decided to go to the address she had given.
She had mentioned that she had lived alone in the bungalow.
They drove towards Bandra Talao Road.
He was acquainted with this area and always admired the quaint standalone bungalows that adorned this quiet tree-lined street.
Getting out of the taxi knew he was in the right house as the bungalow entrance was marked DSOUZA’S in a wooden bark door sign.
Both he and the driver banged on the wooden door of the dilapidated ’Rose Bungalow’.
“Hello, anybody there !” he called out again. Still nothing.
He did not expect it to be answered.
After a series of hard knocks, a light suddenly came on inside the house.
The floorboard inside groaned once. Twice.
They heard a slow shuffling from within. Someone on the inside was approaching the door. The opening of the latch sounded as the heavy door opened with the unoiled hinges creating a creaking sound.
A lone lit bulb hung inside the room from an exposed twirled wire spreading a yellowish luminous glow.
There in front of their eyes stood an elderly white curly-haired bespectacled man.
Dressed in white pyjamas draped with a black crumpled cotton shawl he stood barefooted looking sleepy and tired.
Bent in stature he hobbled towards them and enquired the reason of their visit.
Samson asked for Monica Dsouza.
Explaining to him what had transpired he saw the old man’s sleepy face awaken fully and go white as a sheet.
What he heard next shocked him.
”She is no more!!,” he sobbed.
”Monica was my daughter and tragically died last week.”
Samson’s heart wouldn’t settle. Something wasn’t right here.
She had mentioned her father but in conversation, she had mentioned that she stayed all alone.
”Liars, both of you are liars.”
He refused to believe the old man and got suspicious that it was a father and daughter trickster gang who had duped him of his belongings and the wine bottle.
Not convinced he asked to see some proof to which the old man shuffled around to a heavy wooden table.
Tugging open a drawer he pulled out and handed Samson a local newspaper.
It was dated 24th March 2020 and was folded to a page that had obituaries printed on it.
He got goosebumps as starting back at him from the coloured photo in one of the obituary was the smiling face of the girl in the bar — Monica Dsouza.
At this, the old man broke down, sobbed and said, ”She is buried in the cemetery at the end of the road.”
Samson still didn’t believe him. He wanted to confirm by visiting the grave and so the three of them jumped into the cab and drove the short distance into the cemetery grounds.
Getting out of the cab they walked toward the grave pointed out by the old man.
The full moon shone its glimmer as the wind blew dust and the rustling dry leaves whooshed around creating an eerie scene.
From a distance, they could see the wreaths and heap of flowers still on the ground of this grave.
Her heart was racing as he walked towards the glistening white marble headstone which shone with words etched in black.
In loving memory
12.03.1975 – 23.03.2000
Within our hearts
you are always near.
Still loved, still missed
and so very dear
As Samson rushed towards her grave he tripped and fell straight onto the heap of the slowly dry and dying flowers over the mound.
His hand struck a bundle of rolled-up soft fabric among the flowers.
He shockingly realised it was the jacket that he had given her in the bar.
As he lifted it from the grave the jacket unfolded and there was a light clinkity clink as a bottle rolled out onto the muddy ground.
He picked it up by its neck. It was the empty bottle of the expensive imported red wine from Bordeaux.
As mentioned, when I started this narration, that it is the first day of April and here I sit sharing with you a love story that played out today.
Was it love at first sight, puppy love or anything else?
Well —- love, at first sight, is what happened to Danny;
puppy love is how Monica reacted towards the wine.
Could it be APRIL LOVE ??
Well —It is the 1st of April!
HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY.
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