Five years since she last held his hand, talked to him, argued with him, touched him. He was such a foodie; she learned to cook for him. They used to go for long drives on his motorcycle in the middle of the night. He loved his bike, and the bike ended up killing him.

She was with him for five years, and it has been five years without him. But the love he gave her in their short eternity was enough to last her a lifetime. Today was his birthday. She spent the day doing things he loved in his memory, but she will have to go to the office as the assessment team will expect her, and she can’t afford a leave.

She thought about Shekhar Chandra again. She went over his profile again, on FB, on Twitter, in LinkedIn. She dug deeper this time and realised he was single. Except that there was nothing more on him apart from a few reshares. He looked much younger in a couple of pics on his social media in a stylish tee, running shoes, sans his glasses, suit, and salt and pepper hair.

She picked up her darts and looked at her dartboard. She saw the ugly face of Mr Mahem and chucked one dart; it missed the target. Next, she imagined Mr Singh’s face in the dartboard, another miss. Mr Sikdar followed, and she missed his face by the width of a hair.

She sat up straighter and saw Chandra’s face in the dartboard and let it fly. It was Bull’s Eye. She punched the air, whooping in delight.

She was mulling over and over about what Shekar Chandra said to her in the lift, “YOU LIKE TO JUDGE PEOPLE, DON’T YOU?” What was about the cryptic words he said? She was sure there was a hidden message for her in there, but she couldn’t decipher it. She wasn’t judgemental as far as she knew.

She racked her brains but couldn’t tell when or who, or why she had wronged anybody. She slept for more than a couple of hours before she woke up, got ready and left for her work. But the first thing in the morning she simply distributed Anubhav’s favourite Chocobar ice cream to poor kids on the streets and ate one herself on her way to her office.

She went straight for her desk and got to work when she noticed a rose tucked away in one folder on her desk. She opened it and picked the red rose when a thorn made her finger bleed. She used a tissue to wipe the blood and was sucking her finger to stop the bleeding when she saw a note on the file.

Don’t be sad. What’s gone’s gone. You are not alone. I am here.
Remember, I am watching you.”

She read the note; it was Anubhav’s handwriting. She had goosebumps erupt all over her skin, and she called her mother. “Mom, Mom!!!” she cried. “Avi Mom, Avi…” she said and heard a knock on her door. Shekhar Chandra was standing at her door with an odd sneer on his lips.

She hung up the call and closed the folder with the rose and the note inside it, stood up from her seat and nodded for him to come in.

She turned around and wiped her eyes on a tissue, and composed herself. She didn’t want to seem weak in front of this man. She turned around and saw him sitting in a chair opposite her.

She managed a weak, welcome smile. “Good Morning Sir,” she said.

A perfect morning to you too, Miss Shaloween Duggal. How are you this morning?” he asked, swaying in the chair, left to right to left again, while fiddling with a pen.

Very good, Sir, thank you for asking. How are you, and what brings you to my chamber?” her tone was polite but firm.

He leaned on her desk. “Today is my birthday. You can wish me if you like.” He wasn’t kidding; his tone was solemn.

She swallowed. It felt like someone had just tainted her purest memories with something sinister. The taste in her mouth went bad.

Happy Birthday, Sir,” she said with a pale smile.

Thank You”, he said, and a peon came in with a tray with two coffee mugs on it. He laid it on the table.

I hadn’t ordered coffee, Shiva,” she told the peon who looked at the man sitting in front of her.

I did,” he said, lifting one mug and offering the other one to her. He crossed his right leg over the left one elegantly.

She accepted the coffee, and he dismissed the peon. “I thought I could start my day on a lighter note”, he said, pulling out a packet of Marlboro from his pocket and holding one between his teeth.

Shaloween gave a disapproving look as he clicked his lighter. “Forgive me; I have a very habit of having a smoke with my coffee.”

Anubhav, too, had this irritating habit of having coffee with cigarettes.

What coincidences are these?