Aru gets up from his comfortable chair in the middle of a suspense thriller flick to pick up a call. No sooner has he spoken to his phone than a voice begins bossing about.
“We need to talk,” the voice says.
It is his senior from work, Priya. He sighs in exasperation and feeling irritated for the nth time in half a year, he asks her, “What did I do now?”
“Not yet,” she replies. “You’re going to buy me lunch and do something for me . Do you have a place in mind?”
Aru’s mind is reeling. What is it that I need to do for her? he thinks. And why am I supposed to buy HER lunch? “Park Lane,” he says, “Tomorrow afternoon, 1:30. Is that okay?”
“Fine,” she huffs. And hangs up.
He plays this twenty-seconds-long conversation over and over again in his head, trying to figure out why she was asking for help. She never does that. Even if she wanted help, she would boss about and say that it was the for good of everybody and never admit that it was for herself. He tries remembering if there was any change in her voice, but quickly dismisses the idea. If there’s anything she hates more than asking for help, it’s looking weak. As much as he despised and feared Priya, he always pitied her.
The next afternoon, he sits waiting for Priya at Park Lane. He picked this restaurant because it calms him. The restaurant has plants all over the place and the furniture is all wood and picnic themed. It’s an organic restaurant, actually, but it serves some of the best quality food in the city. There are flower baskets hanging from the roof top and his hair just brushes the bottom of the pots. It gives him a feeling of forestry in the heart of the city.
It’s 1:30. And he’s expecting a grand entrance by Priya. But it doesn’t come. Instead, a red eyed Priya enters. Except for that, she looks the same: a five feet tall woman with two feet high heels and always overdressed for the occasion. She’s probably running out of ideas to torture me, Aru thinks. Or, maybe she’s quitting.
They decide order their food before their “talk”. Aru orders a North Indian Thali and Priya — no surprise there—asks for a vegetable salad, a glass of orange juice and bottled water.
“So.” He says as he pours water into the glasses.
“No one must know about this meeting,” She crosses her arms and looks out. “Ever.”
Aru doesn’t speak.
“I’m leaving,” She says.
His head jerks up. “What?!”
“You heard me.”
For he reasons he still doesn’t know, he starts laughing, holding his stomach and his eyes watering. He doesn’t stop for a while. She doesn’t say anything. Instead, she has a soft longing look in her eyes and a tiny smile of defeat. Aru sees this and stops.
“Why?” he asks softly.
If this was any other girl, she would’ve burst out crying.
But she is Priya. Priya doesn’t cry. At least, he has never seen or heard her breaking down.
She seems guarded. She has the same hard look on her face as she had when she lost her mother, which was when Aru had started working for her. He sees her as a human now. He leans back and says, “Talk to me.”
She raises her eyebrow in that unnerving way that suddenly becomes endearing. And for the first time ever, she obeys him.
(This is a reply to a prompt given by WritersWrite.co.za Thanks very much for reading! Help me improve this! Your feedback is valuable.)