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Way Down We Go

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Disclaimer: Whatever you can recognize, is not mine.
Warning: English is neither my first, nor second language. Proceed at your own risk.

1. Sunny

“Bye dad, bye, love you, love you,” the girls giggle, talking over each other, and disappear from the screen.

“Love you too,” he responds, but is pretty sure they didn’t hear him. Still he is smiling. The girls seem to be happy, settling in and enjoying their time with all the numerous cousins and friends. Even the strict rules that their great aunt has set up in her house can’t spoil the fun.

“Sunil.” It’s his mother, he realizes and stops smiling. He knows what’s coming and inwardly braces for the impact. “Sunil,” she repeats, and her stern face fills most of the screen. Behind her, he can see his father, trying and not totally succeeding to appear like he wants to be a part of the conversation. “Romil, tell him,” his mother frowns at his father, and the man’s face turns slightly more miserable. Thankfully for him, she doesn’t really expect his involvement, returning her attention back to Sunny almost immediately.

“Sunil,” she starts again. “If you don’t want to think about yourself, you have to think about your daughters. Ritu’s left you. She is not coming back. How many years are you planning to mop and waste your life…”

He is not wasting his life, he is trying, Sunny bristles inwardly, but nods at appropriate intervals and waits for the usual speech to end.

“Please, bring your good clothes, we have dinners planned,” his mother carries on.

“Yes, mother,” he says and tries not to sigh too obviously.

For the past several years, the focus of every summer holidays, spent in Mumbai, has somehow become him being introduced to the hordes of eligible women. Or families of eligible women, living all over the world. Or friends and neighbors of women, who might somehow fit the bill.

“And it wouldn’t hurt, if you smile once in a while. You used to be so good at telling those funny stories of yours.”

Sunny listens half-heartedly. He enjoys his yearly two weeks in India. It can be somewhat overwhelming, and loud, and crowded. But he loves spending time with his numerous family members and friends, he loves food, and even the heat doesn’t bother him too much. What he doesn’t particularly like is to talk about his job. Or English weather. Or cricket. And what he absolutely dislikes is all the awkwardness and desperation of relentless attempts to set him up. There are only so many hours in a span of two weeks, when he can manage to carry on a small talk. And there are only so many times in a span of two weeks he can try and explain how he has ended up with two daughters and no wife. But he endures. For his mother’s sake. Mostly.

At last, his parents say their good byes. He disconnects the video call and heaves a deep sigh.

Truth be told, dating hasn’t been on the forefront of his mind lately. There were a couple of months, when the workload was truly overwhelming. He would come home exhausted and profoundly touched by the pain the victims’ families had to live with, and he just didn’t have it in his heart to go on a dating site. And then there was the rush of last month to get his girls ready for their six-weeks stay in Mumbai, with all the shopping, and negotiations, and phone calls, and…

Right…

Who is he kidding? The only reason he’s stopped looking for a girlfriend is the kiss. Sunny shakes his head. He sounds pathetic - the kiss that didn’t happen is what stopping him. Nothing else.

Sunny closes the laptop and walks to the window. The kiss that didn’t happen… “It was just cripplingly embarrassing…for you,” Cassie said to him then, and he still feels mortified every time he recalls it. Just as he feels mortified every time she teases him about it. And yet, and yet…

Before that non-kiss, he never thought about Cassie in any other term than his boss, the guv. Well, may be a little. Just like every man looks at any woman he comes across and for a moment thinks of her as, well, a woman. And Cassie is definitely nice to look at. And whatever he said to her that night, when he was half-drunk from the alcohol and half-drunk from the feeling of her sitting so close, practically tucked into his side… Whatever he said then was true. Is true. He realized it as soon as the words left his mouth. Yes, she is funny. And kind. And pretty. God, she is so pretty. And when she looks at him, with those big blue eyes…

If she would only let him, it would have been so easy then to unlock his arms, to touch her face, and to have… what? A kiss? A proper snog? A one-off? A relationship? A marriage? Tried as he might, Sunny can’t help thinking that Cassie is definitely not a one-off kind of a woman, and he likes that.

He looks at his mobile, sitting on the kitchen counter, almost mocking him. When the work is involved, he doesn’t hesitate to call her. Conversations, which start around their cases, sometimes veer off to other subjects: his girls, her house repairs… But there is no case to discuss tonight. No notes to compare. No plan to devise. Sunny sighs and thinks about calling her anyway.