16. The call
I knocked on the door and entered after I heard his authoritative “Come in”.
How did he make simple words sound authoritative? I couldn’t do it even if I tried.
In the middle of the huge office sat a rectangular black glass desk, behind which sat Aarav reading his blue file. He had like 10 different colours of files and all of them were filed (by me) on a huge shelf right beside his seat.
“Here are some accounts that I want you to go over”, he said in greeting as he slid a black file and a calculator towards me, “Check the calculations on each page, add all them together and check if the final amount matches to the previous one”
“Hello to you too”, I remarked as I pasted a fake smile on my face.
Predictably, he ignored me.
I collected the file and calculator as I pulled my chair to work on it. He had given me the most clerical and unproductive task he could. After reorganizing his shelf of files, I was now supposed to check -CHECK- the calculations that were already done and most likely correct.
Besides, who even used files anymore? And the physical calculation? It was so 18th century. Shouldn’t everything be automatized by now?
Rolling my eyes at the ancient task, I began my job.
A loud growl from my belly brought me back to the present. Looking up at the digital clock, I realized that it had been two hours since I arrived here.
It was 1 pm, and I was hungry. Starving might be the right word.
I shifted my brown eyes over his figure, only to realize that he was already staring at me.
“Let’s have lunch”, he said and got up from his seat with a grace that I envied. I loved envisioning myself as a graceful lady, but rationally I knew that I wasn’t. I was much too spontaneous and energetic for that. But he was graceful, not in a contemporary dancer’s way, but in a confident model stroll’s way.
Nodding my head, I followed him out of the door and just as I stepped out of his office, a plethora of Dev’s images flashed in front of my eyes and my heart clenched painfully.
I hadn’t realized it before, but as soon as I stepped inside his office, my worry wasn’t on the forefront. It was pulsing in the background and wasn’t as painful. Suddenly, I was immensely grateful to Aarav. By giving me a task - that was long and required focus, but which I could do with minimal effort - he had unknowingly helped me cope with the pain.
“Thank you”, I told as we sat down to have our lunch.
Serving bowls with steaming food and ceramic plates were already placed on the table and we helped ourselves to salads, chapatis (Indian bread) and paneer curry.
“You are welcome”, he said and took a bite.
My eyebrows creased. “Won’t you ask why though?”, I asked and dig into my food. If it were me, I would first ask why to decide if I had really been a help or not, and only then did I accept the thanks. Even then, I just said, ‘It’s alright’ most of the time.
“Why would I? I already know”
“There’s no way… How would you know?”, I asked, appalled.
He decided not to dignify that with an answer.
A moment later, as wheels turned inside my head, I asked, “Did you call me in office for this reason?”
He looked down at his plate, shying away from my eyes.
“Oh my god, you did! That’s so sweet. Thank you”, I cooed. More than the act itself, the way this confident, authoritative man looked shy was cute.
He cleared his throat, visibly uncomfortable. I shut up then. But what he had done really was sweet. Who knew this man had a kind heart? I definitely didn’t.
“Why don’t you talk much?”
“I talk enough”
“You don’t”, I huffed.
“Have you ever considered that you talk more?”
“I know I do, but...“, I didn’t know how to finish this sentence. What was the reason?
“Exactly”, he nodded, “You talk more, I talk enough. Besides, I don’t enjoy socializing on workdays during working hours”
I chewed my bottom lip, “Does that mean I can’t talk to you during work”
“I have nothing against you talking”, he said and I released my breath. Thank god, I could talk, I would go mad if I didn’t... “But I decide what I choose to answer”, he added and the breath I had released shot straight back into my lungs.
We finished our lunch in companionable silence after that and returned to his study room/office to continue our work. But now that I knew about his little trick, I couldn’t focus on the job he had given me. My mind kept wandering back to Dev.
Why hadn’t he called me yet?
Would he even call me?
Did he blame me too?
But bigger, more worrying questions overshadowed these pesky little questions.
Was he alright?
Liam didn’t lie to me again, did he?
Dev was safe, right? He wasn’t in any danger, yes?
Why did my brain work like that? It stayed good most of the time, but a bit of stress and my entire system crashed.
I rubbed my nails against each other as I stared at the insensible numbers. With each passing minute, a chill spread across my belly.
The sharp sound of my phone ringing put an immediate stop to my worry.
I rushed to pick up the mobile, Liam’s name flashing on the screen.
“Hello”, I greeted, a smile on my face, eager to hear Dev’s voice in my ear.
“Hey”, said he, and my complete body melted. Only he had the power to lull me into calmness with just a small word.
I pushed away from my seat and signalled Aarav as I walked out of the room. It might have just been my imagination, but I thought I saw his fists clenching over his files.
“How are you? Like, really”, I asked of Dev.
“I don’t know, to be honest. I feel funny. They gave me the highest dose of painkillers they could so I can’t even feel my fingers right now”
“Oh! But you will be alright, right?”
“The doctor thinks so, but the scars will probably remain. I have two scars that look so cool”
“Cool?“, I shrieked over the call.
“Yes”, he chuckled, “You remember the time you got so horny that you scratched my back with your nails and I had to physically stop you from combusting? Well, I do, and the new scars look similar to them. How cool”
Blood rushed to my cheeks, and I felt my whole face heating. I remember that day and it was embarrassing. I was on my periods, had a very heavy flow and was extremely horny. Do you know how uncomfortable that is?
That poor man couldn’t help me, I couldn’t help myself, but he tried all he could and ended up with scars on his back.
“Shh… You were not supposed to talk about this”
“Forgive me, darling, I am on meds”, he snorted as he laughed and immediately groaned, “oh, ow, ow, it hurts”.
“Oh shit, shit, be careful”, I warned.
“What a man gotta do when he has a witty little girlfriend?”, he sang to himself and asked, “You still red?”
I wasn’t his girlfriend anymore. I should have told him. I knew I should have, but I didn’t. I snapped instead, “No, I am not. Wait till I get my hands on you”
“Like you’d actually do anything. The moment you get your hands on me, you will be begging me to touch you”
“So I may, but I still have all the power to ruin you, just let me get my lips on you”
“Can’t argue with that”, he chuckled.
A moment of silence passed and just hearing him breathe on the other end of the phone was calming. The worry that had built over the past few hours was dissipating with every inhalation and I could feel my whole body relaxing.
“You sure you good?”, I asked, concerned and in doubt.
“What exactly happened?”
“I don’t really remember. I was drunk and unsteady on my feet, I think I toppled a table and then punched the mirror. I finished the bottle of tequila in my hand, after which I remember nothing”
“Are you telling me you drank a whole bottle of tequila? Dev, how dumb are you?”
“Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you”, he whispered in a slow voice.
“Dev!”, I warned.
He giggled. He really giggled. “So I drank vodka first, you know how I like it but it got over and so I grabbed the bottle of tequila I had, and puff”
I blinked my eyes, shook my head, cleaned my ears, was I hearing this right? I was surprised he was even standing upright right now.
“I am going to…”, he interrupted me, “I know, I am sorry, I was just sad”
And with those words, he removed the dreamy filter and we were pushed back into reality.