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Swearing, he crushed the paper in his hands. This had been the 9th one since morning. It wasn’t coming right. Vaguely at the back of his mind he was aware of the reason behind his restlessness, but he didn’t want to relent into it much. Frustrated he rested his head on his hands; elbows on desk. He ruminated. He had been a wreck, and what’s more, he was the sole creator of the whole mess.
People might call him selfish, but no man dares to go against the league when the lifelong dream is the bait. He tipped the paperweight under his palm on the table. And tilting the glass with right angles rotated it under his skillful fingers.
He knew Priya Agarwal would be manipulative; after all leading ‘The Pinnacle’ chain of hotels wasn’t a child’s game. But she was the sponsor of his project and he had hoped that they wouldn’t cross paths often.
But how wrong had he been.
Initially he had doubted her posturing and clingy demeanour, but warded it off as his figment of imagination later. But she was obsessed with him. Two winters back, on one of the rare occasions of him being alone in the building at the eerie silence of the night, she had stepped into his chamber. And had walked towards him with that seductive gait of, opening the top two buttons of her shirt. He had been quick in realizing the gravity of the situation and had screamed at her, throwing the words ‘cheap’ and ‘desperate’ on her.
Rejection had been a slap on her face.
Or that is what he had thought, for when things became clear it was too late. Shrewd as she was, she had played her cards. Using her stature above his she had held her chin high and walked out through his cabin doors leaving a string of words to become the cause of his insomnia for the coming days.
“Marry me or find a new sponsor.”
He had let her walk out then but he knew he couldn’t let her walk away with all his dreams. Finding a new sponsor amidst the work progress was next to impossible. Capitals were already invested. He couldn’t have let more than thousand mouths that feed under him to go to bed starved. He couldn’t have let any child suffer the way he did.
Life had taught him one thing;
Laurels don’t come singly, sacrifices are sure to accompany.
Ankita was his anchor to sanity. He had never felt such exhilaration as he felt in her company. She was like a breath of fresh air in his life. She was his love.
But the stakes were too high to risk.
She had given him options but the decision was his to take. So he had done what his pragmatic mind had thought was right. He had sacrificed his only chance at love, because he couldn’t let his pride to be at someone else’s disposition.
How things came this far he didn’t know. He was supposed to be the one to set the pace of his life.
He pressed his fingers harder on the spherical glass, trying to bring its rhythmic motion under his control. But the glass, stubborn as it was slipped from under his hands, crashing with the ink container and slipping its content. The black ink tainted his pristine white shirt, thereby destroying its perfection. Such a contrast; black on white. The innocence of the white; scarred by just a simple inaccuracy on the part of the paperweight. He saw the glass roll to the floor.
Bending forward he examined the spherical glass; still sleek and shiny.
Only he knew cracks would be revealed when looked closer.
“I know you have little regard for my profession, but at least let your presence be known there for the sake of your son’s first venture. You know how important this is to me.”
“I would rather have you sit in my office chair than wasting your time in showing useless clicks of yours in that exhibition.”
“Dad don’t you throw your business crap on me now, photography is my passion and I’ll continue doing that no matter what. I give two hoots to your business.”
He should have known that there was no point in trying. But a small part in him had wished that he would come, this was a major event in his life, and his clicks would be auctioned along with other foreign adversaries. But whom was he kidding; he was his father, the same father who never had time to attend her son’s performance at school.
He grabbed his car keys and walked towards the exit of the room, but his steps halted hearing his fathers’ next words.
“I wish you could have learned something from your sister.”
He gave him a dry smile, “I couldn’t have let you bask in the satisfaction of having two pawns at the same time.”
And then banging the door he made his way towards the lobby.
Sitting on her cabin room she could hear her boss and his son from across the lobby. As she mailed another file to the creditor, she waited for the click of her cabin door that usually followed such heated conversation.
As if in cue the door opened and Rishabh entered. Hissing a string of curses he flung himself on the side couch.
“Touché, you shouldn’t be swearing on your father.”
“I can’t help it, why does he always have to be this obstinate; he should understand that I am not interested in his charade of a business.”
Without as much lifting her gaze from the laptop screen she continued, “He is not at fault either, when you spend your life nurturing your dream you expect that to flourish later too.”
He cocked his eyebrows, “Are you supporting him?”
“No, I am not taking his side. But you should understand that it is not us but our foolish heart that tends to move against the grain of circumstance.”
“Don’t you think I have had enough philosophical lectures for the day already?”
She sighed and looked up at him, not much has changed she had first seen him, except the absence of his dimpled smile and camera strap on his shoulders, he was still the boy whom she met six months back on train. Who would have thought they would become such close friends.
“OK fine, let’s give this topic a rest. Now tell me something about your upcoming auction.”
She saw his eyes lit up like a small child at the sight of his favourite toy. And she was happy to have done something to lift up his mood. His camaraderie had been her only source light to drag her from the unfathomable abyss of her heartbreak. It was her chance to be the light.
“Oh yeah, did I tell you that the famous Mr. Steve McCurry is going to grace the event with his presence. He gave her a glance and continued; “Only fools will miss this great opportunity to meet two famous personalities under a single roof.”
“Two?”, she raised her eyebrows quizzically.
“Yes, me and him of course.”
She smiled at that. “You are a charmer, you know that.”
“No charm done if the lady still says no.”
She knew they were back to square one. She took a deep breath; “You know how sorry I am for not attending the…….”
He raised his hands in mock surrender, “Yes, yes I know how busy the assistant marketing manager of ‘Optimix Corporation’ is, you have an important meetings, clients to attend, besides trip to Mumbai will be too tiresome a journey and blah, blah, blah.” He turned round the table to come near her and bending forward he continued, “Why don’t you quit these and just say that you won’t be able to resist my charm and fall for me during the stay.”
She drew back and looked at him exasperated, “Are you hitting at me.”
“There’s no harm in trying my luck, but even if I am, what’s wrong in it. How long are you going to deny it?”
“Not again Rishabh, how many times do I have to tell you, it’s better if you spend your time finding the right girl than wasting it on me.” She stood up and walked towards the window. “You deserve better.”
“Damn it.” He banged his fists on the table and followed her. “Stay put there.”
“For God’s sake stop underestimating yourself. When it comes to my father you give me enough philosophical speech to hold my ground but you can’t do that for yourself. Why do you always have to live under the shadows of the past?”
Frustrated he ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t know who did this to you but if I ever meet him; I’ll make sure he carries his broken limbs his way back home.”
She saw the fury in his eyes. Their fights had never been this ugly; she held his shoulders trying to calm him down. “Rishabh you don’t understand.”
“Like hell I don’t, I understand everything. I understand that you are a coward; you don’t have the guts enough to cross the threshold of the bygones. He was a fool to let you go but it is you who is letting him demean you by tethering to your past.”
Suddenly it was like someone had struck the right chord inside her, she withdrew her hands from his arm. The shrill noise of his phone saved her from the predicament of not having any response to his questions.
Still heaving from his outburst, he exited the room to receive the call.
She stood there watching his retreating back as he stormed out leaving her alone in the room. She may not be ready to acknowledge the truth but indeed he had shown her the mirror. How many times will she deny herself a chance at happiness just because of her one failure? No, not failure but a MISTAKE. She saw him through the glass walls, talking on his phone. He was right.
It was time to take the decision for herself and by herself. And herself alone.
She cautiously opened the door.
He gave her a look and turning his back to her continued talking. “Yes Mr. Patel ……yeah I said he won’t be coming, yes from 21st till 25th…yeah one ticket, all should be done…” and just as he was going to press the end button he heard her behind him.
“Make that two.”
He whirled round to face her with a confused look on his face.
She shrugged her shoulders. “What. I said tell him, to arrange tickets for two.”
With that she slowly walked past him as he gaped at her.
He could hear Mr. Patel on the other side of the phone. “Yeah…..yeah Mr. Patel I am here. No. Make that two….no I mean book the tickets for two. Thanks.”
He ended the call but couldn’t help to stop the curve from adorning his lips. With dimples intact.
To be continued…