The day started good, went to bad, then worse and ended on a fine note. Shaloween cleared her desk for the day and was leaving for home. She stepped inside the lift, and just as the double doors were smoothly sliding shut, someone jammed a foot in the door. Shaloween looked up with an offensive expression, but her features softened upon seeing Shekhar Chandra.
He stepped inside and gave her half a smile. She smiled back, and he pressed the parking button. Shekhar Chandra stood with his hands deep in his pockets and sighed. Shaloween couldn’t decide if she wanted to thank him or confront him. The silence was awkward.
She cleared her throat. “Thank you for showing faith in me back in there“, she said.
He looked at her as if he just realised he wasn’t alone and blinked. “Oh! Don’t mention it. I rarely form an opinion on someone too soon, unlike some people.” He winked as he emphasised the word ‘some.’
She gave a sheepish smile and tugged a loose hair tendril behind her ear. She didn’t realise, but she was sweating. “It was very unusual what happened today. My work is usually impeccable“, she said, trying to sound modest.
He gave her a beaming smile as he turned to her. “Look at you, eager to earn a cookie point and redeem yourself.” His tone was condescending.
Shaloween was suddenly simpering with anger. What the hell he wants? One moment he is rude, then nice, then rude again. It was getting hard for her to discern him, and that made her mad.
She carefully chose her following words, not knowing if he was a friend or a foe. “I don’t need redemption. The error wasn’t from my end. I took the heat for nothing.” She was breathing fast. “And have we met before?”, she asked, looking straight at his face.
He turned to her, and a corner of his mouth curled. “You really can’t reach a decision about me, and that’s killing you; you like to judge people, don’t you?” his voice was polite, gentlemanly, yet it was cold enough to send a shiver up her calves.
She opened her mouth in protest, but he went on. “And No, we have never met before,” he said.
Shaloween was about to ask about the text he sent her when the lift doors opened, and he stepped out, heading straight for his car, without a word or backward glance towards her.
She went home in a sour mood and kicked her shoes as soon as she was inside her house. Her head was heavy, like a watermelon balanced on her neck. She drank a gallon of water from her fridge and ordered enough food to feed a family.
While waiting for the food, she made some calls. She scolded her brother, Mohit, for not reverting to her, shouted at her maid for not coming for two days, yelled at the Zomato delivery guy for not finding her address and lastly cried out in humiliation and anger.
When the food arrived, she ate ravenously. She ordered much more than she could ever eat and kept it in the fridge for the next day. Night, she lay in her bed and jumped from OTT to OTT to find something suitable to watch. She settled on Arya and forgot her troubles, losing herself in Arya’s troubles.
After crying for Arya when she watched Tej die, she closed the TV and knew sleep would not be coming tonight. She was too listless to sleep. She opened the book she was reading these days, titled ‘Fountainhead‘ by Ayn Rand. She pulled out a picture from the book she used as a bookmark and looked at it for a long minute.
Anubhav smiled at her from the picture. She ran her fingers on the photo, longing for him to hold her hand, just like he used to, pulling her close to him and hugging her tight despite her trying to get away. How many times in one lifetime are you blessed with such unconditional love, she wondered.