Chapter 17: Landlord Troubles
Ishaani and Ranveer strolled around the park hand in hand, admiring their rings every few minutes, touching it so that they could assure themselves that it was real and not just a dream. After a few minutes, Ishaani spoke.
"Technically speaking, are we still 'good friends' or are we courting each other right now?"
"Hmmm. Interesting question. Well, what do you think?"
"Aren't promise rings usually exchanged once you enter the courtship phase?"
"Not necessarily. I was under the impression that one enters their courtship phase once they propose."
"Ah well, you've got a point. Good friends it is, then."
"Good friends it is." Ranveer and Ishaani stopped at the gate and hugged each other before parting ways for their respective homes.
Ranveer had been pacing about his cabin, a frown creased over his face while a piece of paper was stretched out between his fingers. He had read the note for the umpteenth time that day, a worry bubbling within him. The note had a simple instruction written on it.
Meet me at 4 at the café near your office. I'll tell you everything.
Ranveer paced about impatiently, waiting for 4 to strike on the clock. He knew that something was bothering Ishaani from the past three days but she had simply told him that she would tell him soon enough. He trusted her blindly, hoping that she would eventually tell him what the matter was. But now that the time had come, he actually felt worried. It had been two weeks since their declaration at the park and things had been smooth between them, until three days ago when Ishaani started looking worried.
Before he could think about anything, his assistant stuck her head through the door of the cabin.
"Sir, it's time for the meeting." Ranveer nodded at her blankly.
"Go on. I'll be right there."
His assistant nodded and left the cabin while Ranveer tucked away the note swiftly within his coat pocket. He took a sigh, only praying that things with Ishaani were alright and that he could help in making her worries go away.
The meeting lasted for 3 hours, ending at 3:30. Ranveer heaved a sigh as he looked at his watch, happy that he wasn't going to be late for his rendezvous. Giving his assistant several notes to take down and appointment schedules arranged, he quickly descended from the building and walked towards the cafe, his stomach growling in hunger.
Reaching the café, he swung the door open, the smell of rich coffee and snack filling his nostrils while Ranveer felt his eyes shut drowsily. Walking inside, he turned his head around to find for an empty table, when his eyes fell over Ishaani. She was absent-mindedly swirling her coffee, lost in thought. Ranveer couldn't help but notice how radiant she looked that afternoon and a sweet smile crossed his lips. He may have been a teenager today, happily admiring his crush love from far away, and content at what he had with him.
Crossing the path, he took a seat opposite her. Ishaani snapped from her thoughts and looked at him surprised, her features getting steadily relaxed. Ishaani smiled at him now while twiddling the ring on her finger.
"I've ordered the two of us some food. I'm sure you haven't eaten anything either now, have you?" Ranveer shrugged his shoulders simply while he took her hand in his.
"You wanted to tell me something?"
"Yeah." Taking a deep breath, she simply stated. "I lost my house three days back."
"What?" Ranveer looked at her aghast while Ishaani continued.
"My landlady returned back from the Bahamas three days ago. She said that she needed the house back, for she was going to be shifting in with her whole family."
"Just like that? What about your contract? I'm sure you can't simply barge in one fine day and throw someone out from their house."
"My contract got over three days ago. You see, she gave me one week's time to empty the house of my belongings since the grace period ends on Saturday. I've been staying over there for the past three days but I've been busy searching for apartments in a suitable locality. But either the rents are too high or the apartments are not suitable, or else the localities are too far off." Ranveer looked at her angrily now.
"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Ishaani looked at him nervously, her voice tired.
"I wanted to give it a shot before telling you." Ranveer shook his head slowly while he stared at her intently.
"Did you try convincing your landlady?"
"Yes, but it didn't work out."
"Have you tried contacting any agents or anything?"
"I have, but they don't have anything good enough for me." Ranveer drew up at a blank.
"Now what are you going to do?" Ishaani put her head in her palms, staring at her coffee solemnly.
"I don't know. I just... don't know." Ranveer could see her distress before he spoke gently.
"Alright. Let me come and meet your landlady. Let's see how that goes." Ishaani let go of her palms from her head and looked uneasy.
"But she is adamant on having the house. I've tried everything with her. She is way too rude and stubborn." Ishaani looked at him forlorn while he strengthened the grip on her hand once again.
"Let me give it a try. Please." Ranveer looked at her decisively and she sighed.
"Alright, fine. I won't stop you. Mrs. Kennedy will be home right now. We can finish our lunch and head for my place immediately, if you are free right now."
"Don't worry, I've finished all my meetings for the day."
Ranveer and Ishaani looked at each other in silent understanding and smiled, as their order finally appeared on their table.
It was 5:30. Ishaani unlocked the door and entered the house with Ranveer, who let out a small whistle at the sight of the house. The house from three weeks ago had changed drastically, its neatness and dapper replaced with a haggard stuffiness. The original mistress of the house was sitting on an armchair while a ball of wool sat on her lap, along with several other sewing instruments.
The moment she turned around, Ranveer recoiled slightly at her sight. She had the look of an angry chicken, tucked up around her eggs protectively while she stared at them with suspicious, green eyes. Ranveer tried to put up a smile, but somehow his muscles felt tied up and strained, so that his smile ended up turning into a grimace.
"Who is this with ya, girl?" Ranveer noticed that she had a slang European accent, but from exactly which region it belonged to remained a mystery to him. He assumed that Mrs. Kennedy was a well-travelled woman, the reason for multiple slangs accompanied with every different word.
"This is Mr. Ranveer Vaghela."
Mrs. Kennedy stared at Ranveer shrewdly before signaling them to take a couch. Once the two of them sat upon it, Mrs. Kennedy kept aside her sewing material and turned her fullest attention over to the two of them.
"I've heard all about ya. Yer the diamond merchant now, aren't ya?"
"Yes. The same one."
Ranveer felt embarrassed at the steady scrutiny of Mrs. Kennedy's gaze. Ishaani fidgeted with her skirt before Mrs. Kennedy spoke again.
"Delighted ter make yer acquaintance."
"The pleasure is all mine." Even though Ranveer felt no pleasure in meeting her, the phrase slipped unconsciously from his lips, habit from sharing pleasantries with countless clients during meetings.
Mrs. Kennedy looked at the two of them keenly before asking politely.
"Drinks, Monsieur Vaghela?"
"Uh, no thanks. I'm good."
Ranveer stared at Ishaani, understanding as to why she was reluctant to introduce him to Mrs. Kennedy. She smiled at him in a twisted manner before cocking her eyebrows up in malicious delight.
"But whatever on Earth are yer doing in ma house? Surely, Ishaani can't have brought ya here sight-seeing now, can she?"
"Oh no, I can certainly assure you that I haven't come what you termed as 'sight-seeing'." Ranveer didn't bother to hide his sarcasm and Mrs. Kennedy smacked her lips appreciatively.
"Certainly." Her tone suddenly changed into one of authority, her eyes turning sharply at him.
"What is it then?"
"I'm here to talk about certain... arrangements that have taken place between the two of you."
"And how may that concern ya, young man, if ya don't mind ma asking? I don't really see why such a busy and important man such as yerself would trouble yerself in matters as petty as this."
"Well, let's just say that Ishaani's well-being matters much more to me than anything else. And I'd prefer if we get straight to the point rather than circle about in chit-chats. As you said it yourself, I am a very busy man." Ranveer did not bother to conceal the disdain in his voice and Mrs. Kennedy glared at him, abashed at being cut so rudely. She spoke again, this time her voice cold.
"Alright. If that is what ya want. My answer is no. And, let me make it clear that if ya have come here to buy me out, ya might as well leave right now. I'm not interested in making any deals with ya." Ranveer smirked at her.
"Ofcourse. Not fond of being dominated in your own house by someone else now, are you?"
"Mind yer tongue, sir."
"I'm not interested with your banters. I've come here with a sole proposition and I'll make it to you. Accepting it is up to you. From what I've observed about you and this house from the last 30 minutes, I've come to conclude that you come from a lot of money and this certainly can't be the only house you own. I've come to learn that you have been living in the Bahamas for the last 15 years on and off, and surviving in that part of the world needs a good penny. And if you could charge such low rents for such a house, I'm sure money has never been a criteria with you."
"What are yer getting it?"
"Simply this. Given the rising prices of rents and houses around here, you want this house for an investment purpose. Your returning from the Bahamas with your family is an excuse. We all know about the recent depression that hit the Bahamas and all businesses there are in huge crisis all thanks to the economic supply from the city being cut down. Judging from the artifacts that you have around, you belonged to one of those businesses that have recently been shut down. And I certainly remember reading about a particular Kennedy and Lawson Co. Ltd. going bankrupt. So yes, this certainly becomes about the money now."
Mrs. Kennedy stared at him wide-eyed, astounded by the extensive knowledge he had about her financial crisis while Ishaani simply stared at him agape. Ranveer looked at Mrs. Kennedy firmly before continuing.
"So, I have a proposition for you. I'm ready to pay you 300,000 Euros in cash or cheque, whichever you prefer, to turn the ownership into Ishaani's name. You have several more estates that you can use up at mortgage or investment or for living, three of which are in Athens itself. I'll have the copy of the ownership papers within another two hours prepared by my lawyer and the money will be ready as well. You have exactly 5 minutes for the offer or else, it becomes void. It's your call."
15 minutes later, Ranveer and Ishaani were both in car, driving away towards the library. Mrs. Kennedy had refused the offer and remained intact over the fact that Ishaani should leave the house by Saturday.
"Well, it was worth a try." Ishaani patted Ranveer's hand while he smiled at her.
"I knew she wouldn't say yes. I'd offended her ego the moment I refused to answer about the two of us."
"But I don't understand. If she is in so much crisis, why wouldn't she accept the offer? It's insane."
"Ah well, it certainly is. I was ready to offer her double the price of what the highest bidder would have offered her for the apartment, yet she refused. Women are strange creatures really." When Ishaani glared at him, he looked at her innocently. "What? You know it's true."
"Uh, but at the end of it, I'm still homeless for now. But seriously Ranveer, if you would have indeed paid her the 300,000 Euros, how would I have ever repaid you?" Ranveer frowned his brows at her before he groaned at her irritably.
"Well, for your information, just because I didn't blabber in front of Mrs. Kennedy, it does not mean that the facts change. You are my wife. We are changing the dynamics of our very complicated and delicate relationship by re-doing all the steps in it, but the ultimate fact remains the same. Never forget that. So don't even think about re-paying me."
"Alright, alright! I didn't mean to offend you. But it's good that you didn't say anything about us. That Mrs. Kennedy is an evil cow as it is."
"Tell me about it. But how did you get this house anyway."
"You remember Shikhar? Well, when I came down here, he had given me the address of his cousin sister. She used to live two blocks from this place and used to work with Mrs. Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy was leaving for the Bahamas in two months' time and she told me to try speaking to her about having the house on rent. Mrs. Kennedy rented it out to me on a more than reasonable price, stating that she didn't require the money. I was always under the impression that she was a kind-hearted lady until she showed her true colors three days ago."
"That's always been your problem. You always rush to see the goodness of others without waiting to see how they truly are." Ishaani shrugged her shoulders at him nonchalantly while shook his head at her.
"What are we going to do now?"
"I'll call my contacts up and see if I can find you an ideal apartment or house. Now all we can do is wait."