"Ok! Now I have a very interesting puzzle for you!" Fifteen year old Kritik's dark eyes were looking very mischievous as they were studying the fifteen year old Omi, who was sitting before him with a very smug smile on her face.
"Just don't make it too stupid." Omi said as pocketed Kritik's watch.
The two of them as usual, had been playing an intense game of chess and Kritik had bet his watch on the outcome of the game.
Kritik saw his watch in her pocket and sighed and then suddenly Kritik grinned to himself.
"We up the stakes, Omi." he told her, struggling not to smile.
Omi relaxed snuggling herself back on the chair, watching Kritik, trying not to laugh. "And what am I playing for?" Omi asked.
"My watch." Kritik said immediately.
"It is my watch, you ass," Omi said as she stuck her tongue out at Kritik.
"If you answer this question correctly," Kritik frowned for a few seconds. "This weekend movie is on me." He said finally.
Omi grinned. Kritik knew exactly what he was letting himself into. Omi looked thin but she really ate like a horse. Junk food kept before her just vanished before anyone could even blink.
"And if you give the wrong answer," Kritik continued as Omi snorted. "I get my watch back."
"Deal." Omi said grinning.
"In my puzzle, one is equal to five, two is equal to ten, three is equal to fifteen." Kritik told Omi and stopped deliberately.
Omi sighed. "What a shocker!" She said dryly. "I am guessing four is equal to twenty." she said watching Kritik with a dry smile.
Kritik looked at Omi very surprised. "How did you know that?" He asked chuckling as Omi groaned.
"Sometimes you are just beyond me, Tik." she said slumping her head on the table, looking bored. This puzzle showed all the signs of stupidity. As if she did not know five time tables. What the hell was Kritik playing at? Omi wondered, as she studied him again.
"My question is fairly simple!" Kritik said unable to stop grinning.
"If you ask me what is five equal to, I will spank you." Omi said in a threatening tone, putting her legs on the table, looking impossibly devilish.
"What is five equal to?" Kritik asked innocently, struggling not to laugh.
"That is the question?" Omi asked puzzled.
For the first time, Kritik actually looked annoyed. "The bet is on and I have asked my question."
Omi just could not ignore the fact that Kritik's eyes were looking very mischievous and she knew her best friend well enough to know what that meant. But Omi could honestly figure out nothing extraordinary about the puzzle. It was fairly straightforward. At least that it what it seemed like to her.
"Are you going to stare at me stupidly for some more time or are you going to answer?" Kritik asked, his eyes looking more and more amused.
Omi frowned replaying the puzzle in her head. If one was five, two was ten, three was fifteen, four was twenty than five was.... Omi watched Kritik. "Twenty five."
Kritik grinned pulling the watch from Omi's pocket in a fluid motion.
"HEY!" Omi yelled, and in a swift judo move, she pushed Kritik hard on the ground and placed her knee on his chest.
Kritik was completely expecting it, and still did nothing to stop Omi, as he fell hard on the floor.
"You gave me the wrong answer." Kritik said trying not to grin. "I get my watch back."
Omi was watching Kritik slightly confused.
And then was a sound of a door being shut, as both of them turned to see Kritik's father, looking sternly at the two of them. And Omi realized that it really was not a good thing that Kritik's father had to find them like this. Suddenly, almost everything seemed awkward, as Omi pushed herself back and Kritik got up suddenly. It almost looked like someone had switched off a light in Kritik's face and he looked glum.
"Father!" Kritik said almost with a frigid silence as Omi felt sorry for him.
Omi had tried explaining but honestly Kritik silently shook his head. She did not even know what she was supposed to say. Hell, she did not even know, why the man was looking so angrily at her.
And so, under Kritik's father's angry gaze, Omi had left her best friend's house, feeling very unhappy that Kritik was all alone facing his father.
Omi was struggling to breathe properly, as the memory of that day twelve years back hit her hard.
That was the last day, she had seen Kritik.
"Kritik?" Omi asked unable to believe what she was seeing. For a huge second she was sure that Kritik was going to disappear from before her if she tried to touch him.
Kritik grinned clutching her hand. "I am still here. And I want the answer to my puzzle."
Omi frowned. "What are you talking about Tik? And what happened to you?"
For the biggest second in her life, Omi forgot that she was in her law office and that Kritik had come to see her as a client. In fact she did not even remember that she was in her office.
"I am a researcher working in Biotec. I am a biochemist." Kritik told her.
Omi frowned. But she had learnt not to interrupt clients with their story. The story told their own way gave far too many answers.
"I earn reasonably well enough to boast about." Kritik said with the same impish smile. "My father..." Kritik paused for a few minutes and then shook his head. "He is not alive and besides, we have not seen eye to eye for a long time."
Omi frowned. "This is a lawyer's office, Tik. And none of what you say means anything to a lawyer."
"I didn't come here to see a lawyer." Kritik said grinning. "I came here because that was the only way I could meet you. You spend close to sixteen hours in the office. The only times you go home is to sleep."
Omi frowned some more. "And you know that because....?" For a huge second, she stopped talking because she was staring at his watch.
His shirt and his pant told her that the "reasonably well off" was actually a polite way of saying that Kritik was rich. Omi was more than sure that Kritik was probably drowning in money – if that was possible. The only thing which was wrong in the entire image, was the watch.
It was nicked and seemed to held to be together by cellotapes. Omi was not even sure that it could tell the time anymore. And Omi was more than sure that it was the same watch...The same one which....
"We up the stakes." Kritik said grinning at her expression. He removed his watch and put it on the table.
"What am I playing for?" The words were torn out of her mouth before she could stop herself. But then Omi got a grip of herself. "I am a busy woman, Tik." She said, but she just could not stop looking at the watch on the table.
"Please lady." Kritik said. Though he had said the magic word, he really did not sound like he was pleading – far from it.
"What am I playing for?" Omi asked taking a deep breath.
"To let me come into your life. To give me a chance to show that I have the characteristics to keep you as happy as I can, for the rest of my life."
Gone was the hesitation in his face.
Omi realized that Kritik was serious. As serious as he had been about anything in his life.
"I have spent my teenage being bullied, Omi. And in those times, I was friends with a girl who was the bravest one I knew. She taught me how to live life. At that time I was too afraid to know that I loved her deeply. I thought I was her friend and let my father bully me into believing that she would not like to spend time with me." Kritik shook his head. "Then when I came to live on my own, I realized what she meant to me. Now, I have many women falling for me and ready to love me. But then I realized that I needed that girl. For what she had done for me, I needed to keep her happy for the rest of my life. I hunted her up. I was thrilled on knowing that she was a lawyer. She was single and for whatever strange reason she never married. I want a chance now to prove that I can keep her happy."
"Interesting." Omi said. She wondered why she was smiling. It seemed stupid. But it seemed slightly involuntary and that knowledge bothered Omi – but she did not know why.
"What is the puzzle?" Omi asked. A part of her wondered whether she was really a lunatic. This was her life. And she was betting it on a puzzle – a game. But then Omi knew that it was not really that simple. Kritik was not here with a game. He was here for the woman he loved. He was here just to know whether the woman was interested in him too.
"My watch." Kritik said immediately.
"It is my watch, you ass," Omi said.
Kritik shook his head. "You gave me a wrong answer then so no, the watch is mine."
Omi frowned as Kritik grinned again. "Then it is the same puzzle lady. If one is equal to five, two is equal to ten, three is equal to fifteen, four is equal to twenty, then what is five equal to?"
"My answer stands." Omi said crossly. "You were wrong then and you are lying now."
"Twenty five?" Kritik asked struggling not to laugh.
Omi sighed. "Yes."
Kritik grinned. "That is the second time you have given me the wrong answer lady. And I am very serious. I intend to make sure you keep up your end of the bargain this time."
Omi looked at Kritik for a long time.
"Prove to me why I am wrong and we can start from lunch today." She challenged him. Omi was more than sure that she was right. It annoyed her that Kritik did not understand that.
"I said one is equal to five, so what will five be equal to?"