Each time, in the past, that I'd have thought of the word, I'd imagine a princess out of a Disney storybook, golden hair tied up in a bun, a white frilly gown with puffy sleeves, a shining tiara on her head, resting just above her bangs, tilted just a little bit from her slightly wavy hair. Elbow length silky gloves covering her slender pale arms, leading my eye from one fingertip of one hand to the fingertip of the other. Satin laced high heels with straps going up her feet. And a light red lipstick lining those luscious lips.
But Neha, she was different, oh so different. Shopping with her was nothing like what I'd thought it would be. None of the boring talk about clothes, shoes and handbags. We chatted as if we were out buying a birthday gift for a friend. We window shopped most of the time, and more than once, she'd embarrass me by grabbing me and walking into a lingerie store. I'd run out of the store the moment I got the chance which left her laughing at the store entrance as I tried to look as cool as I could by pretending to answer a call on my mobile phone. Over the next few hours, she tried on so many different gowns, a few skirts and so on. She'd give me my own mini-fashion show in front of the trial rooms and she was FAST! I'd always thought women take a long time to change, but not her.
When I asked, she replied, "It's just pulling your clothes off and putting something on again. How difficult can it be?"
I quietly smiled to myself at the thought and walk along.
Finally, we stopped at the ground gloor of the mall for ice-cream when,
Neha: Okay, I've made my decision. I know what to wear for the ball, but I don't want you to know. I want it to be a surprise for you.
Me: Really? Then what was all these hours of window shopping for? I thought you wanted my opinion.
(disappointment times ten! Not fair!)
Neha: Oh don't stress so much or you'll lose hair. And I don't want a bald date for the dance. You helped a lot even though you don't know it.
I smiled a bit at that even though I was still cleary disappointed.
Neha: Come on! Cheer up man! Listen, I'll tell you one thing. Come tomorrow, you'll have the hottest date for the dance. I'll make sure of that. But make sure I have the hottest guy on the dance floor in turn!
Me(visibly going red, crimson, pink and all shades in between): As you say ma'am! We'll smoke the dance floor tomorrow. You'll see.
Neha: Now go home. I'll finish my shopping and head back too. See you tomorrow partner.
Me: Alright alright. I'll go now. But I still feel it's unfair not to let me take a peek at what you're buying.
Neha: Oh stop sulking you baby, and go!
With that she gave me a friendly push. We hugged and parted ways, she with her gown in mind, and me with her in mine.
The entire school hall was alive and pulsating with music and laughter. Students pouring in from all sides made for an ocean of black bowties and corsets, tuxedos and gowns, red and green shirts, santa hats and familiar smiling faces. Yet no Neha.
Is she late? Did she stand me up? Did something happen to her?
"Don't panic, relax.." I told myself. But how could I not? Tonight was probably the most important night of my life. Yet. And Neha wasn't there. Yet. I looked around. Everyone was so happy, everyone had a date, a partner they walked in with, a partner they'd dance with.
I started imagining the dance floor, with all my friends dancing with their dates, and me, sitting alone at a table, with a glass of lemonade, staring at them, wishing I could be there, wishing Neha were there with me...
"Hey Hi!! Sorry I'm late man!"
Wait. That voice was familiar. I shook myself out of my daydream to see her. You know how wish that when you wake up, the first thing you see be someone you love? Well, this was better. She looked absolutely stunning! My Disney princess was nothing like her.
She was real.
And right here!
If I thought white was THE colour for a gown, I was knew I was wrong the moment I laid eyes on her. She wore a red satin halter dress that flaunted her slim waist to the point of perfect elegance. Her hair was tied back and up in a bun. Her bangs were brushed to the sides and behind her ears, from where a few stray hair fell across her face, just the way I loved it. Around her neck was silver necklace that reflected a soft glow onto her face. Matching high heels and a silver bracelet completed her outfit and she looked gorgeous. As she stood there at the entrance, bathed in the soft light coming from the school hall, I couldn't help but wonder what she saw in me.
She walked right up to me and said, "What are we waiting for? Lets get dancing! I'm just dying to see if you really are as bad as you claim to be!"
Well, never keep a lady waiting, I say. And so off we went, hand in hand, blissful to a high.
Now, my crush hasn't exactly been a very subtle thing, and I guessed quite a few people had noticed over time. What I didn't guess was how many. As we stepped into the hall, I swear, all eyes turned to us. And everyone who knew us and had noticed us, cheered! I turned redder than Neha's gown! But she didn't seem to notice. She dragged me to the dance floor. Between fits of embarrassment and trying not to look at all our friends cheering at us, I went to the DJ and asked him to play some latino mix. Luckily, he had a few mixes which I'd recognized from my sessions with Anu. This was going better than I'd expected!! Time to get into the act! I huffed and puffed and pulled in my stomach and walked as gracefully as I could to her and held out my hand.
"Why are you walking that way?" she asked. "Does your tummy hurt?"
We stared at each other and burst into laughter. And that did it. It broke the tension I was building up between us, and got me over my embarrassment. We stood there for a long time, leaning on each other, laughing at the absurdity of whatever I'd just done. Then finally, as the music started picking up rhythm, I held out my hand again, and asked,
The night ends.