• Sulogna Mehta

Cupid’s Arrow Gone Awry

Milie noticed the young man every day, just after sunrise, jogging on the pathway that skirted her bungalow. At times, his pet accompanied him. A couple of times, she had spotted him gazing towards the bungalow, her garden rather. And that gaze, though not directed at her, made her heart skip a beat or two.

He seemed to have a pleasant personality. And Milie, pursuing her post-graduation in Literature and an avid reader of romance fantasies, tried to fit him in as the tall-tanned-handsome hero of some Mills and Boons romances or novels of Nicholas Sparks.

Milie’s garden had evoked responses from curious onlookers. It housed a variety of bright flowers, creepers and climbers and well-maintained decorative plants, lush green lawns and manicured hedges on either side of the gravel path, leading to the staircase. It seemed like a rainbow of colourful flora had descended on her garden.

So, when her new neighbour from a few houses away looked towards her garden, Millie’s mind conjured up the sweetest images drawn from her romantic reads. “He won’t be more than 27-28. He is a bit serious and looks absent-minded like poets or professors. I have to find out more about him,” she mused.

Around a week passed with no significant development, which made Milie impatient. She therefore decided to hover around the boundary wall hoping to strike up a conversation with ‘Mr Professor.’

So, the next morning, when Milie caught him staring at an uncommon lilac hibiscus in her garden, she popped her head from the gate and said “Hello!”

Mr Professor was startled, clearly not expecting anyone and looked a tad embarrassed. To Milie, it seemed the cutest blush on his face.

“I am Milie. Do you like my garden?”

“Yes Miss. It’s a very pretty and well-maintained garden. Well, call me Sunny and she is Pastry.”

“She? Oh you mean that dog of yours?” Milie grimaced. She had antipathy towards dogs, having been badly bitten twice in childhood.

“She is a friendly Spitz.” “Pastry, say hello to auntie.”

Pastry’s amicable yelp didn’t amuse Milie a bit. Rather she was miffed and said to herself, “Do I look like an auntie? I am barely 22.”

Concealing her vexation, she invited him for a cup of coffee, which he politely declined. “Pizza and Pasta are waiting at home. It’s time for breakfast.” And he was about to leave with a hurried “Bye, see you soon.”

Milie stopped him. “Just wait a minute Mr Sunny.” She briskly walked to the hibiscus shrub, plucked one (though she never gave her garden flowers to anyone else, not even offered the Gods) and handed him a freshly-bloomed lilac flower.

“Thank you so much Miss Lily, I mean Milie. This is a rare hibiscus. Amazing ! Appreciate your kind gesture,” Sunny said, his face overflowing with happiness while Milie wondered about a fitness-conscious man’s obsession for high-calorie pizza and pasta.

Over the next fortnight, Milie and Sunny often exchanged morning pleasantries and inevitably Sunny would return with one flower or the other. Roses, Lilies, Gerberas, Hydrangeas, Carnations and what not! Hibiscus and Hydrangeas seemed his favourite because on days Milie offered him these flowers, she felt his eyes and teeth never ceased sparkling in her presence.

Eventually, Milie expressed her desire to visit Sunny’s house. Though Sunny courteously said, “Of course Miss, you must come down for coffee,” nevertheless, he added, “Well, I am afraid you won’t like an unkempt stand-alone building, which has hardly any place for a flower garden. But I do have samples of your flowers, preserved a few petals from all.”

And hearing this last line, Milie got butterflies in her stomach and her heart raced faster. “There! It’s a clear indication that Sunny has fallen in love with me. He values even my dried flowers!” She thought.

And the next Saturday afternoon, Milie pressed the door-bell of Sunny’s house. A surprised Sunny welcomed her.

Milie had visualised her recently-gifted precious flowers adorning Sunny’s study or the flower vase on the centre table. “Those flowers must be reminding him of me constantly and so he rushes to meet me in the mornings. Jogging must be an excuse to see me,” Milie had been contemplating while coming to his place. She had expected his house to smell of flowers but instead it strangely smelt of rats and cats.

Seeing all his books and a small laboratory, Milie realised her guess was correct. Sunny was associated with some academic and research projects with a university in the city. Much to Milie’s surprise, he said, “Let me introduce you to the other members of my house.”

“That’s Pizza, my Persian cat and Pasta in that big cage over there is my rabbit. You have already met Pastry. That’s Stuart in the corner cage and he is not a rabbit though everyone mistakes. He is a white mouse who has become obese.”

Looking at a bewildered Milie, he continued, “Miss, I must thank you for the floral diet that has enabled these animals to gain weight and grow in size within a fortnight. Actually, I am not only an assistant professor of zoology but also a researcher. I have been experimenting with a plant-based diet on these animals. I discovered that just like humans, even carnivorous animals can become vegetarians if they daily get habituated to a vegan diet.”

“And I must say, your flowers have worked wonders for them. Even an herbivore like my rabbit prefers your English Roses to carrots and cabbage. And your hibiscus and hydrangeas have been a hit with them all. Pastry and Pizza don’t care for chicken, milk and fish because the dried, crushed, distilled flowers with some dietary supplements added make an excellent vegan meal for them. From tomorrow, I would require more flowers from your garden,” Sunny averred.

Getting no response, he turned around only to find a shocked Milie had fainted!

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