Little did I know that my fairy Godmother would be a tall, strapping man always dressed in black with a permanent scowl on his bearded face. Apparently, Ayaan Mehta, Ananya’s arrogant, brooding and darkly handsome brother and a senior fashion stylist at a leading fashion magazine, was going to be my miracle.
I was surprised why Ayaan had agreed to help me. I soon found out that he was doing it as a favour that he owed to Ananya so basically this was just pay back and not genuine concern on his part. I don’t know why this bothered me even more.
Ayaan was always poker faced and stoic and eliciting a single response from him was a herculean task. He only answered in mono syllables and grunts. The more aloof he seemed, the more determined I became to elicit a response from him. This urge to get him to react had begun since the first day I saw him. He only nodded at me to acknowledge my presence and pinned me down with his intense stare.
I don’t know why, but I felt an odd ripple of emotion ricochet through me whenever he glanced my way. I couldn’t quite place what that emotion was? Fear or excitement? Somehow his direct gaze always made me squirm and I felt a compelling need to look away from his penetrating gaze. Maybe it was a concoction of all these emotions. Maybe that’s why I could never think straight when he was around.
I have absolutely no idea why I did what I did that day during class and now even reminiscing that incident makes me red with embarrassment. We had agreed to meet after my last class in the evening at 8 for salsa practice. We were going through our routine with an upbeat track playing in the background. That’s when I saw Ayaan step into the studio. He was leaning against the door and was looking at me. I changed the track to a seductive, slow number. I danced sensuously, replete with graceful arching and bending. I was wearing a crop top and skirt and I knew how good I looked in them when I stretched and arched my back exposing my trim waist. I saw Ayaan raise an eyebrow and pin his gaze on every sinuous move but that was all the reaction I got from him.
My students, especially the boys stared at me gobsmacked and clapped and cheered. After the dance I suddenly felt stupid. When the students left, Ayaan sauntered in and played a peppy number. I excused myself to change into a shorter skirt and heels for the salsa. When I returned Ayaan explained to me in a deep and soothing voice about On1 timing, a right turn, and a cross body lead. I tried to follow what he said but when he placed his hand on my waist; every coherent thought flew out of my mind.
All I could feel was the sensation of his strong and firm hand on my waist. Tingles spread throughout my body and I found myself being swept into his arm and bent downwards looking into his warm brown eyes.
‘Did you follow this step?’
‘Huh? Uh, yeah kind of.’
He straightened and removed his arm and I took a step back to put some distance between us. Before I could think I blurted out, ‘Does it hurt when you smile? Trust me; you can actually scare girls off with your expression.’
That was the first time I saw Ayaan smile and chuckle. His smile was devastating. The flutters in my belly were a jolt to my system but making him smile made me kind of …. happy. I wanted to see more of his smile.
After this, the class progressed smoothly. I got a hang of salsa and I actually enjoyed it. We found a natural rhythm and danced in sync with each other. He led and I followed. Time flew and it was already 9.35. I was surprised when Ayaan opened a tiffin box of pasta and sandwiches. He had packed for me too. We ate in companionable silence and if someone had told me a week back that we would have dinner together I would have laughed.
I glanced sideways at Ayaan and was surprised to see him looking intently at me.
‘What is it? Something stuck on my teeth?’
‘No,’ he smiled and asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘Learning Salsa, image makeover, polishing your English, all this for a guy?’
When he put it that way, it actually sounded ridiculous. But what would he know about being single and pining for a guy way out of your league.
‘You should be with someone who likes you just that way you are. Changing yourself for someone, I don’t think it’s worth it. If he only looks at you after a makeover, he’s not the right guy, he’s just shallow and vain.’
‘Oh really? I know I look decent but I stand out like a sore thumb in this city. I look different and I don’t fit in. What am I to do?’
‘Nothing, just wait for someone who will love you, accept you and respect you just the way you are. You know you deserve that.’
Ayaan got up and packed the tiffin box. I simply gawked at him, trying to process the first real conversation we had in weeks. We moved out and he shut the door and locked it. Turning around he gently placed a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You are perfect just the way you are, you don’t need to change anything and try to be someone who you are not.’ He stroked my cheek with the back of his hand and then left without a word and I just stood their dazed and reeling.
The next week passed by in a blur. We went shopping and I got a stylish silver boat neck dress that skimmed mid -thigh for my salsa evening coupled with stilettos. I got highlights done at B Blunt and a new haircut with layers and a side fringe. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t recognise the reflection I saw. Was it really me?
Ananya squealed in delight and hugged me. Armaan also complemented my new look and Anokhi told me I looked fabulous but I only wanted to know what Ayaan thought about my new look.
‘You look….. nice.’ He said with a tepid smile and I felt deflated.
‘Something isn’t right though, something is missing.’
‘What is it?’ I asked self- consciously and he said, ‘You are not smiling.’
I laughed at that and beamed at him.
‘Rohansh will be blind if he doesn’t notice you.’ Saying that he walked out of the room and I wondered that everything seemed perfect then why didn’t I feel as happy as I thought I would?
The D-Day was here, I was all dressed and ready. Ananya and Anokhi drove me to Bandra and when I entered I felt every pair of eyes looking at me. I noticed appreciative glances and that’s when I saw Rohansh walking towards me.
‘Wow, you look stunning Hetal. I swear I couldn’t recognise you at first.
I smiled at him and asked him to dance with me. Rohansh led me to the dance floor and placed his hand on my waist. I waited for the tingling sensation, a sense of giddy pleasure or at least a flutter in my belly but I felt…. nothing. Rohansh was smiling at me and twirled me towards him, drawing me closer to him. I could feel his breath on my neck but rather than feel giddy with pleasure or even shy, all I felt was uncomfortable. I didn’t feel even an iota of pleasure or frisson. My feelings were a strong indication that something had changed and suddenly the answer was clear. I wasn’t attracted to Rohansh anymore. I politely excused myself and left and the last thing I saw was Rohansh’s confused and questioning look reflected on the mirrored wall.
I walked out took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and replayed the first time I danced with Ayaan. The warmth and the tingling sensation from being so close to him, the heady feeling of nervousness and excitement and pleasure, all of these emotions washed over me again. I opened my eyes and all I could think was- I wish I could dance all night in his arms and never let that magical night end. I called Ayaan and asked him to pick me up. He sounded surprised and a bit worried.
‘I am fine, I’ll tell you all about it when you meet me here.’
I was so lost in my reverie that I didn’t realise when Ayaan reached there, he whirled me around and looked at me with concern.
‘Are you all right? What happened? Did that jerk, what’s his name? Rohansh do something?’
‘No, nothing like that. Actually, I have something I need to tell you. There is a problem. I didn’t feel anything when I danced with Rohansh, but when I danced with you, I felt something, actually a lot of things. I couldn’t think straight when you drew me closer and my heart starts beating like crazy when you are close to me. If I like Rohansh I should feel something right? But when he’s close to me I feel uncomfortable but when you put your arms around me, I don’t feel uncomfortable at all, in fact I like it. I enjoy every moment I spend with you and only thoughts of you fill my mind. I didn’t understand why I felt this way at first but now I know why. It’s because I’ve fallen in love with you.
Ayaan simply stared at me. He stood there silently, looking stunned by my confession and I felt increasingly panicked.
‘Say something! Anything!’
A small smile quirked a corner of his mouth and then it slowly turned into a grin that lit up his face and then he began to laugh. He looked adorable with his eyes twinkling and he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me into a tight embrace.
‘I love you too Hetal, and I think you are perfect just the way you are. I think I fell for you the first time I saw you dance.’
I was thrilled to hear him say that. I pulled back and held his face in my hands and asked, ‘Will you always love me?’
‘Yes, as long as you love me!’