I was jumping up and down, raising my Zippo in the air with a thousand other people banging their heads to Bryan Adams who was on stage, being his own awesome self when the gunfire started. People started screaming everywhere around me. Bang! Bang! Bang! I tried to run but someone pushed me from behind and I fell smack on the ground. Oww! I opened my eyes and let out a sigh as I realised I was on the floor of my living room and not some open ground trampled to death. But still the banging went on and on. I realised that someone was banging on my door repeatedly and shouting something I couldn’t make out. I got to my knees and rubbed my eyes to make my vision clearer, then concentrated on the sound coming from behind the door.
“Open (bang!) the (bang!) fucking (bang!) door! Or (bang!) I’ll call the fucking (bang!) police!”
Did I just hear the word police? What the hell? I ran to the door tripping on my sleeping bag and jerked it open. Behind it stood a girl who looked very pissed. She stopped in mid-motion, her arms raised to bang on the door once more. She glared at me furiously and then slapped me across my left cheek with a resounding whack. So first thing that came to mind was, huh, I just got slapped by a chick I didn’t even know and it hurt like nobody’s business, what was up with that? And was it just me or did she look like a Nepali version of Elisha Cuthbert?
She pushed past me and into the room looking at every direction. I was still nursing my cheek and my ego so I had no time to stop her and if she was a deranged maniac I didn’t want to stand in her way, what if she did more than kill me? Like kick me in the nads or something, which would be worse.
“Where is she? What have you done to her? I swear if you’ve hurt her I’m gonna kill you!”
My time to be surprised had worn out as realisation dawned on me. She was talking about Jazz!
“Look whoever you are, you’ve got it all wrong, she’s right here, in the bedroom, I ….”
“In the bedroom! She’s in the fucking bedroom! I’m going to kill you!” she came right up to my face and grabbed my collar, I winced as I expected another slap to my already sore face, and my expectations were fulfilled. Damn this girl had a lot of upper arm strength. But I’d had enough of this nonsensical violence targeted on me. I stepped back and grabbed her shoulders with both my hands.
“You’ve got to stop slapping me and start listening to me!” I shook her and thought about slapping her, because that’s what people do to hysterical people right? But quickly threw out the idea, as tempting as it was. She stopped trying to wriggle free and stared at me, her brown eyes boring into mine.
“I swear on my DVD collection that I did not touch a hair of Jazz, well, actually I did but not in a way you’re thinking. She’s safe, she’s probably still sleeping,” I nodded towards the bedroom.
She jerked my hand away and ran towards the bedroom. I followed her in. Jazz was crouched in a foetal position, snug in the blanket I had placed on her, snoring lightly, looking as innocent as a new born baby, which remembering the incident of last night was a little disconcerting. The slap happy girl did not try to wake her up, but just kept staring at Jazz. She flicked a strand of hair that had fallen on Jazz’s head behind her ear. She slowly got up and went out of the room. I followed her out.
She folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips.
“Explain,” she said and so I did. After about five minutes of summarising last night, she had placed herself on the sofa, my sleeping bag providing a cushion for her feet.
She looked uncomfortable and after a while a little sheepish.
“So that was what happened, and then I got up this morning and a crazy lunatic started pulverizing me. I’m so tender I’d make the best steak ever,” I said, massaging my cheeks.
She started laughing and I don’t just mean laughing. There was the slapping of the knees, the shaking of the body which was followed by hiccups.
“I’m so sorry!” she said, between gasps.
“I’m really really sorry, extremely, tremendously sorry.
“Does it hurt real bad?” she asked, looking up at me sincerely. Giving me one of those puppy dog looks that girls seemed to have mastered. My anger kind of started melting away, but just.
“I’d be lying if I said no. Damn, did Mr Miyagi teach you how to slap? Or are you bionic?”
She started laughing again. And I must say the way she laughed made me feel a little tingly inside. Yes, tingly, I said it.
“I really am sorry. But seriously, you can’t really blame me right? I mean, my sister doesn’t come home the whole night, her cell is switched off and I find out some stranger has probably taken her to his house, doing god knows what to her. I freaked.”
Huh, when she put it like that.
“So you decided to come save the day, alone, to the house of the guy who could probably be a serial killer or a rapist?”
She snorted and shook head.
“Yeah, I guess. Pretty stupid I know. But I wasn’t in a state to think rationally.”
There was silence for a while, she was staring at the floor and I was twiddling my thumbs.
“I’m Ruby, by the way,” she said, with a smile.
“Rayan,” I said. We did not shake hands, just smiled at each other.
“You got any juice?”
Both of us turned towards the bedroom, where Jazz was standing, her hair was a mess and the front of her where I’d cleaned as thoroughly as possible was now stained a pale yellow. She yawned, stretched and went towards the fridge as if she owned the house. She made a face as she took in the contents and then made do with the last can of coke. She gulped the whole thing down and threw the can on the floor. I watched the can roll on the carpet dripping caramel drops as it circled the room. This would have pissed me off if it were any other day, but today I just raised my eyebrows at Ruby, shrugged, picked up the can and threw it in the dustbin. Ruby looked apologetically at me and I just shrugged.
“You feeling better?” Ruby asked her.
“Uh-huh, how did you know I was here?” Jazz replied who had again opened the fridge and was rummaging through it with determination as if looking harder would make a juice box appear magically.
“Dilan told me, you’d probably be here”
I could see her body stiffen for a second at the mention of Dilan, and then she resumed pawing my fridge. At least one question that had been circling my brain had been answered. But how did he know I’d take her to my place? More importantly, how did he get sober enough to tell her?
“Dude what is up with all the soy milk? How can you even put that stuff in your mouth?” Jazz asked me wrinkling her nose.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those health freaks, because guys who look at themselves in the mirror more than girls are just eww.”
“It’s for my workout routine, soy milk is a good source of protein and …” I stopped myself from speaking any further as she looked at me incredulously. And why the hell was I defending the contents of my fridge? It was my damn house; I could keep a dead rat in the freezer if I wanted to. And also why wasn’t she freaked about waking up at a stranger’s place? From the nonchalance she was exhibiting, you’d think this sort of thing happened to her very (very) often. And did she just say eww? What was she, ten?
“Maybe it’s time we leave,” Ruby said starting to get up.
“Nuh-uh, not before I eat something, I’m freakin starved.”
“We’ll get something on the way.”
“How about some coffee?” I asked. For some reason i did not want Ruby to leave just now.
“Yes, definitely, coffee. I need coffee,” Jazz said as she came over to plunk herself beside her sister.
Ruby smiled up at me and shrugged.
“Sure, I guess coffee would be nice.”
“Unless it’s some organic stuff that tastes like crap, it’s not, is it?” Jazz asked, with her eyebrows raised.
“Jasmine!” Ruby exclaimed.
“What? I’m just asking. Dude drinks soy milk for god’s sake!”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Nah, nothing healthy, just your plain old, cheap instant coffee.”
As I walked into the kitchen I could hear the sisters start arguing in heated whispers, I left them to it and started making the coffee. After carefully measuring all the ingredients and tasting each cup with a spoon until I was satisfied that it did not in fact taste like crap, arranging the cups on a tray along with some black and white cookies, I made my way out of the kitchen into the living room where the two of them were staring at each other furiously.
I placed the tray on the table and sat down on the stool in front of them.
“I miss something?” I asked laughing, trying to ease the tension.
“Oh not much, just that my sister thinks I’m an irresponsible twat who always acts like a baby and always gets herself into turds of problems, the bad crowd, the bad boys, making her perfect life impossible.” Jazz burst out, her face contorted in a mixture of rage and hurt, the latter which she quickly concealed.
“You know very well I did not mean that and right now you really are being a baby.” Ruby said, calmly, stealing a glance at me as if ashamed that this was happening in front of me. Considering the fact that just a few minutes ago she was the one who had gone all Die Hard on me, this family drama unfolding before me was downright tame. I cleared my throat and nodded towards the steaming cups as I took mine into my hands.
“Uh, you guys want some thickener with that? I think I’ve got some.”
But jazz didn’t seem to care about any liquid she barged on with her verbal tirade.
“You know it’s always my fault right? How I can’t get anything right, how I don’t realise how good I have it, how I don’t get how hard it’s been for you to take care of me after mom and dad died. How easy it would have been if I’d just died too!” I almost dropped my cup as Ruby’s hands flew across Jazz’s cheeks. And from personal experience I knew her cheek was hurting like hell. Ruby’s hands had gone to her mouth and her eyes were wide with shock as if she could not believe what she’d just done and in a flash she had her sister in her arms, cradling her like her life depended on it.
“Don’t you dare say anything like that again,” she whispered into her ear. Jazz had started sobbing loudly and she too was holding on to her sister with an iron grip.
So there I was sitting in front of two sobbing girls having a tender family moment and feeling extremely out of place in my own house. Should I leave? Give them some time? Maybe add the coffee thickener to the coffees? Cry along with them? I could actually feel a drop of tear in the corner of my eyes. That was not good, not good at all. I don’t cry. I didn’t even feel anything when some of the girls made me watch My Sister’s Keeper, when everyone in the theatre were running dry their tear glands. Seriously.
I quickly got up and tried to leave the room, but the leg of the chair dragged across the floor with a screech and both of them looked up. They tore themselves away and Ruby started straightening her sweater. She looked embarrassed. Jazz was wiping her eyes with the arms of her sweater.
“Sorry about that,” Ruby said, forcing out a laugh.
“You must think we’re such freaks.”
“Nah, not freaks, just really, really weird,” I said smiling.
This time her laugh was real. Her eyes fixed on me and the tingle I’d been feeling every time I looked at her quadrupled. The sensation was so strong it took all I had to stop my hands from flying to my chest to try and rub it away.
“Dude we definitely need some thickener and lots of sugar, cause this coffee tastes like crap.” Jazz was now resting with her feet up on the sofa her hand cradling a cup. But she was smiling, and with the permanent frown she’d plastered on her face since morning now gone, it lighted her face up. I chuckled as I got up to go back to the kitchen.
“You know you’re lucky that I’m such a nice guy, anyone else would never have put up with your crap.”
“Yeah, yeah, move your ass soy boy. Coffee’s getting cold.”
Ruby snorted and almost spilled the coffee she was now holding.
“Traitor,” I said.
I could hear both of them laughing as I searched for the pack of coffee mate. It was a beautiful sound, the way the two laughed in harmony and I thought with dismay that they’d be leaving soon and I’d probably never meet them again. Okay Jazz I’d probably meet at college. But the thought of never seeing Ruby made me panic, just the idea was unbearable for some reason. With just the few minutes I’d known her, I knew I needed her in my life and I needed to make that happen.