Hey Guys! As promised, here is the first episode of the story, hope you all like it 🙂
PS : i am extremely sorry for not being able to respond to all the lovely comments. I promise I will respond to them tonight 😀
I looked longingly at my complex’s garden as I walked to my car. It was February, and I could almost feel the cosy warmth in the air. I knew I should probably enjoy the season because soon enough I’d be complaining about the heat and humidity Mumbai residents suffered through every summer, but I felt like saying, “Bring it on.” The winter had been harsher this year than we Mumbaikers were used to. But, I reminded myself, I survived four winters in Delhi, almost decade ago.
It was hard to believe that it had been that long since I had graduated. That thought made me feel like I was all grown up, especially today of all days.
My stomach fluttered at the thought of being promoted to Marketing Director of Rumtek Media. I knew I wasn’t the only candidate in the running, though, so it wasn’t a done deal, but I was the only in-house candidate. Even though I knew I was young to be heading up a marketing firm, I’d proven myself as the Regional Marketing Manager, and I figured the cards were stacked in my favour. I knew the company in and out, and Anirudh Verma, the owner and current Director, adored me. So did his wife, Mrs Aparna Verma. It also didn’t hurt that my idea for digital ad software was being adopted rapidly by our financial institution clients. And not to be immodest, but I was well liked and respected by my colleagues in the office. I had even won over some of the old-timers who had been passed over when I received my current position three years ago.
My promotion then had definitely ruffled feathers, due to my age and the fact Anirudh Sir and Aparna Ma’am were old family friends, but I had worked my butt off and I deserved it, if I do say so myself. Now Boss was ready to enjoy more time with his wife and his sons and grandkids, and I just hoped he trusted me enough to hand over the reins.
I would sorely miss him, though. I loved sharing adjoining executive offices with him, and he was more than my boss, he was like a second father to me. I climbed into my Sedan and let down my windows. Oh, the fun and the freedom of having the wind blow through my hair and the sun beating down on me as I drove through the lanes of BKC.
As I made my way through the early morning Mumbai traffic, I could barely contain my excitement. I was meeting with Boss. Anirudh Sir had a rule in the office that no one would address anyone as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mam’; he wanted everyone to feel equally important to the organisation. Infact, he and Aparna Ma’am insisted that we call them by names, even though they were much older than us. But I fondly called him Boss and her aunty (after work though), and they didn’t mind that.
I had dressed up for the occasion today. Our office typically took a more casual approach, unless we had clients in the office, but with the way technology was now, that was a rarity. I’d done more conference calls than I could count. Personally, I liked face-to-face visits best, but they could be inconvenient and expensive. Today I definitely looked like I was ready for a face-to-face visit: I wore a classy navy blue formal dress that left no doubt I was a woman, and I went a little glam with my dark hair. To pull it all together, I brought out the brown. It looked great with my fair skin and deep brown eyes. My look screamed, I’m ready to take on the world! … or at least Rumtek Media.
When I pulled into our office parking lot, there were already a few cars there. I noticed Boss’ sports car. I shook my head and laughed when I remembered aunty telling Boss she didn’t mind the car, but if he ever decided to indulge in other midlife crisis activities, he would be sleeping in that car. I knew Boss would never, he still looked at aunty like a man that had wandered in the desert and she was a tall glass of cool water. Then I noticed Akriti’s car. She was the most fabulous executive admin assistant ever. She almost always beat me to the office. Then there was a stylish white Mercedes. I smiled and wondered who got the new car, but then I noticed the Delhi license plates. Weird, I thought.
The license plate made me reminisce. I loved Delhi. I missed the weekends we used to spend amongst Rocky Mountains in Dharmshala, with the hiking and camping and the amazing but barely snowy winters. I think I would have stayed there if I hadn’t been a lovesick fool. Everything in Delhi had reminded me of my past: Lakshya, so I just couldn’t stay. As soon as I graduated, I hightailed it out of there. Never mind, this was not the morning to think of Lakshya. Actually, no morning was. He wasn’t deserving of my thoughts.
I took a deep breath and tried to cleanse my thoughts of the evil Lakshya, killer of dreams and love. I began to repeat in my head, Director of Marketing at Rumtek Media, Ragini Gadodia. It sounded perfect. I chanted it to myself silently as I walked in through the empty reception area. It was only seven-thirty, and we didn’t open until eight. By the time I made it to the staircase, I was feeling cleansed of the evil that was Lakshya. With my thoughts back on track, I took the stairs practically two at a time to the executive level. This was going to be an incredible day. I could feel it.
As I walked toward Akriti’s desk, which sat outside and between the adjoining offices Boss and I shared, I noticed her humming away, busy as a bee. I admired her so much. She was the epitome of someone that took lemons and made the best lemonade you would ever taste. At forty-two, with two practically grown children, her husband left her. He was the world’s biggest idiot, but she picked herself up by the bootstraps and did what she had to do.
She’d been working for us for the last couple of years, and I didn’t know what we would ever do without her. When she noticed me approach, she smiled. “Good morning, you beautiful little thing.”
Did I mention how much I loved this woman? I posed movie star style.
“Do you love the new dress?”
“Yes, if only I could fit into it,” she replied.
I laughed at her and rolled my eyes. She looked great. I could only hope to look so good in my forties. I noticed Boss’ door was closed. That was odd. “Is Boss here?”
She gave me a funny look. “Yes, he’s meeting with some gentleman that wasn’t on the appointment calendar.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Huh. Did you catch a name?”
“No, but he asked about you?”
She grinned mischievously. “He was quite attractive. Is there someone you’re not telling me about?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Akriti, I’m trying a new method. I thought I would have Boss interview all potential new suitors at seven-thirty in the morning. This way he can weed out all the jerks and save me the trouble.”
She laughed at my sarcasm, but honestly, it wasn’t a bad idea. I should consider it. “So, no name, huh?”
“Nope, but he seemed anxious to see you. He kept asking when you would be in.”
This keeps getting more and more curious.
“Well … ok.”
I walked into my office, and the door between mine and Boss’ offices was closed too. Just for curiosity’s sake, I checked to see if it was locked, and to my surprise, it was. He never locked that door. I was more than intrigued to know who he might be meeting with at such an early hour. Maybe he was interviewing him to take my current position.
That made sense, so I relaxed a little and began to think of anyone I knew that would be a good candidate. While I thought, I started up my laptop and scrolled my phone for any new messages. There weren’t any messages and I couldn’t come up with any ideas of who it might be, so I walked back out to ask Akriti what he looked like; maybe I could guess then.
But before I could say anything, Akriti beat me to the punch. “Are you still taking the dance class at the Gym Arena?”
I smiled. “Yes.” I turned to show her my backside. “Can’t you tell by the way my butt looks?”
It was then I noticed, too late, that Akriti wasn’t my only audience.
While she laughed, I stood there mortified. I no longer needed to gather any more clues as to who Boss was meeting with. It was someone I thought I once knew very well, someone I thought I would never see again. It was the one person I didn’t need to think about this morning.
“Lakshya,” I practically gasped.
I could feel my face redden and my heart rate increase. I couldn’t believe he was here and that he’d just heard me tell Akriti to check out my butt. Could someone please shoot me now?
He cleared his throat. “Ragini.”
I stood up straighter and tried to gain my composure, but that was a little difficult under the circumstances. Had it been Boss that just witnessed my headiness, we would all be laughing right now, but no, it had to have been Lakshya. I was sure that God hated me for some reason, or I was just such a good source of entertainment he couldn’t help it. It didn’t help matters either that Lakshya looked; um … let’s just say freaking amazing. I wasn’t sure what he had been doing for the last twelve-and-a-half years, but it looked like a stylist had gotten a hold of him. He was in a tailored black suit that fit him to the tee, the glasses were gone, and he’d grown out his hair slightly. It looked even more deserving of fingers running through it.
All he needed was a ramp.
“What are you doing here?” I spluttered.
Just as he started to answer, Boss walked out. “Ragini, my girl, you’re already here. Good, I see you’ve met Lakshya.” Boss sounded unusually nervous.
It was making me nervous. I looked at Lakshya and raised my eyebrow. He, too, looked nervous. I wondered why Boss thought this was our first meeting. Fine, I’ll play along, I thought. “No, I haven’t had the pleasure yet.” I walked toward Lakshya with an evil grin on my face.
He was looking a little panicked now.
I held out my hand. “I’m Ragini Gadodia.” I wanted to throw in, “Remember me, the girl who loved you? Whom you left in a lurch and walked away”
He held out his hand, but he looked wary.
I kept up the act and shook it. I didn’t want to touch him, but what else could I do under the circumstances? As soon as we touched, I felt a surge of warmth. Not good. While we shook hands, I tried to dismiss my conditioned reaction to him.
He stared into my confused eyes. “Lakshya Maheshwari. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I smirked at his mock sincerity. For a moment, I thought he was going to smile, but that was very un-Lakshya like. He did squeeze my hand once before letting it go, though. I took the opportunity to look toward Boss. I wanted to know what the heck Lakshya Maheshwari was doing here. Boss looked redder than a red chilli, and his balding head had beads of perspiration on it.
“So what are you gentleman up to this morning?” I was never one to stand on ceremony.
They looked at each other before they looked at me. Why did I feel like this didn’t bode well for me?
“Ragini, can I talk to you in my office, dear?”
Yeah, this wasn’t good. He never called me dear; honey yes, but never dear. I looked back at Akriti, and she knew too. Boss looked at Akriti too.
“Akriti, could you please get Lakshya some coffee.”
He was staying?
“Anirudh, is there somewhere I could set up my laptop?” Lakshya asked.
“Akriti, please show Lakshya to the conference room and give him access to the Wi-Fi,” Boss directed.
I couldn’t believe this. My head was spinning. Before Lakshya followed Akriti, he directed his attention to me, or at least I thought it was to me. “I look forward to meeting with you later.”
Was he talking to me or Boss? There was no reason for us to meet later, and I had no intention of doing so. I looked at Boss to respond to him.
Boss was rubbing the back of his neck now. Whoa, he was on edge. “We’ll all meet together after I’ve talked to Ragini. Then there will be plenty of time for you and Ragini to meet together.”
What was this? I was absolutely not meeting with that man. Boss couldn’t make me, either. What could we possibly have to meet about anyway? I stared at Boss blankly. He wouldn’t make eye contact, and I refused to look back at Lakshya. I just marched right into Boss’ office and sat down in one of the leather seats in front of his desk. I heard him mumble something to the moron before he walked in and shut the door. He didn’t sit at his desk; instead he sat next to me. This wasn’t good at all.
Next Update : 15th July