My bladder is pretty heavy by this point, but I am not sure if I should ask his permission to use the washroom. In fact, I am not sure of anything right now. I am not sure if I should lift that cup of tea placed in front of me, lest it rattles in the saucer and makes me look nervous and fidgety. I am not sure if my body language is correct, or if I should cross my legs, or my arms, keep my chin tilted down in respect, or up with confidence. I am not sure if I should compliment him on his house (what if it reminds him of his wife?), or comment on the weather (what if it sounds clichéd?), or thank him for entrusting me with the responsibility of taking his daughter out for dinner with my family (what if it leads to another threat?).
Those few silent, awkward moments with your girlfriend’s father right before you take her out on a family-sanctioned date have always been a source of horror for any guy since the dawn of mankind. But when your girlfriend’s father happens to be sitting in front of you with a hidden sword on his left side and a four-foot-tall vicious-looking Alsatian on his right – well, let’s just say the tension reaches a new level.
A discreet side-glance at my watch shows me that we have been sitting quietly for approximately ten minutes since Mia excused herself to get ready and told us to ‘have a chat’ in the meantime. Till now, the only form of communication between us have been a snarl and a growl from the Alsatian when I dared to smile at it. And even that was a relief compared to the stony attention I have been receiving so far from Retd ACP D’Costa’s unblinking, glowering eyes. It’s like the man was trying to telekinetically rip me apart or something.
Needless to say, none of this was my idea. I would have been happy to wait in her backyard and whisk her away quietly in the dark of the night, even if that made me a fugitive. But Mia was adamant that she had had it with the secret meetings. Now that we were both officially seeing each other, she argued, there was no reason to keep it hidden from her former encounter specialist of a father, adding that it would only make things easier for us in the days to come. She promised me that she would take care of the coaxing and convincing part. All I had to do was show up, look responsible and behave respectfully for the few minutes I would inevitably have to spend with him. Piece of cake, right?
I was far from convinced, of course, until she told me that the only other way to go about it was to bring her father along too. After that, every other alternative seemed like a better idea.
So here I was, seated in D’Costa’s living room, enjoying the unspoken bond of frigidity between me and my ex-assaulter-turned-prospective-father-in-law.
‘Why aren’t you drinking your tea?’ he demands, finally breaking the silence.
Because I’m afraid this might be your third murder attempt. ‘I was just waiting for it to cool down a bit.’
I lift the cup. It rattles the saucer. Damn.
I take a tentative sip and glance around the living room. ‘Nice place, sir. You’ve really done it up well.’
The frown on D’Costa’s face deepens. ‘My wife did it up. We have kept it the same since her tragic demise years ago.’
Great. Way to set the mood.
‘I understand, sir,’ I press on sympathetically. ‘It must have been tough raising Mia on your own. This must be a landmark moment in your life, letting her go out on her own with a guy, and I just want you to know—’
D’Costa looks at me as if I have just demanded ransom. ‘Who said I’m letting her go on her own? There will be a guard escort following you to your location. He will stay posted outside till you step out, after which I expect her to be dropped here directly without any delay. Is that clear?’
I gulp the tea a little too quickly in my haste to reply, and break into a choking cough. D’Costa shakes his head in disgust. The Alsatian starts wagging its tail, apparently hoping for me to choke to death so it can use my thigh bone as a chew toy. Mercifully, the sound of footsteps informs me of Mia’s arrival, and I turn back in relief. However, my joy evaporates when I see her enter the room wearing a loose shirt over a pair of slightly wrinkled trousers. Her make-up is sparse. Her hair has been tied back in a ponytail and her lips look a bit chapped.
‘I thought you were getting ready,’ I say.
‘I am ready, dumbass,’ she snaps irritably.
Fuck. ‘Hi, Tanya.’
Tanya breaks into an exaggeratedly sweet smile. ‘Hello, Jeevan,’ she simpers.
I glance over at D’Costa, and at that moment, I swear I can see a hint of a smile playing at the corners of the sadistic bugger’s lips. ‘Have fun,’ he smirks.
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Get the drift? Read Me, Mia, Multiple to get the whole picture!