It’s been a month since I left India. I had to leave. I had no other choice. I had to save myself and the little one that’s growing inside me. My hand instantly reaches to my stomach. It’s six weeks now since I am pregnant.
My parents arranged my wedding. Even though I didn’t believe in arrange marriages, I agreed for the sake of my parents. Besides, I didn’t have any choice. They’re my family. What could go wrong with their decision, right?
My so-called husband abandoned me within a week of wedding and took all my money and sold all the land gifted to him. It was more like a dowry. It turned out the whole wedding was a sham. It wasn’t marriage at all. It was all manipulations and lies. I was not allowed to question any decisions. And my family agreed without verifying anything about them.
When he left, my family asked me to forget about him. They said no one should know about this. They didn’t want to spoil their reputation. When they found about my pregnancy, they wanted me to get an abortion. I just couldn’t go through with it. I couldn’t kill my baby. So, I went against my whole family. This time I stood my ground, for my baby. I ran away from home.
“I will never let any harm come to you, my little blip”, I say as I wrap both my hands around my stomach.
As a very strict religious people, why didn’t they find this wrong? How could they not even bat their eyes when they asked me to kill my child? I cannot believe how people would twist and turn the religion into something that benefits them alone when the holy book says a lot about a woman having a choice, the same way as men do.
The sacred scriptures in our holy book is beautiful in its true meaning. It speaks against domestic violence, respecting women and their opinion. It is against forcing someone to follow our religion.
I have never been much of a religious person. I believe in Allah and I pray. But my family seems to care only about their reputation.
The only person I knew in States was residing in New York, my childhood best friend.
So, I decided to come here. She moved here few years ago for studies. Now she’s happily married with a husband and have a child.
“Hey, enough with tears. Get ready for the interview.” Pooja says as she calmly places her arm on my shoulder.
“Sure”, I reply.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get the job”.
“I sure hope so, Insha’Allah”. I know I cannot stay here forever. Pooja and her husband Steven have been nothing but generous, but I don’t want to impose on them.
She hugs me before moving about the kitchen to prepare some breakfast.
“I will drop you on my way to work”, says Pooja placing breakfast in front of me.
“Are you sure? I can take a cab”. I really didn’t want to be a reason for causing disruption in their lives, no matter she’s my best friend or not. She had her own family to look after.
“Don’t be silly. You’re new here and you haven’t been anywhere. You don’t want getting late for interview now. Do you?” she says as she waves off her hand dismissing me.
We drive for about an hour before reaching to my destination – Lennox Enterprises. The office structure was massive and it was one of the largest skyscraper in the city. Pooja bids me goodbye and good luck before she drives off. I enter the building and the receptionist at main desk directs me to the top floor.
I fret as I wait for my turn. I see the way women before me were dressed. Was I overdressed or were they underdressed? As I ponder over the thought, I’m interrupted by my name being called by an older lady probably in her late fifties. My palms are sweaty and I am a nervous wreck from within. I’ve never worked a day in my life before.
I need this job. I need this job. I keep chanting it as it were my prayer. Allah, help me out here. I mutter to myself as I knock on the office door and I hear a soul calming deep voice asking me to come in.
The moment I step inside, I see him. The man from that night. My guardian angel. He’s the interviewer? My future boss if I ever get this job now. I stole his cab. Well, I had asked him before taking it, but he never responded and I was running out of time. He was covered with tattoos on whatever part of his body was visible. Well, except for his handsome chiselled Greek God face. His Adonis features only seem to have gotten more and more handsome with his nose and ear piercings.
If Baba were here, he wouldn’t let me within one mile radius of this man. This was not the time to think of past. My future awaited me here. I need this job. If anything life has taught me, It’s not to judge a book by its cover. I have always loved tats and the piercings. I wouldn’t dare to get one for the fear of my Baba. If I ever did and if he found out, he wouldn’t hesitate to burn my skin. Nevertheless, I always loved tattoos and wished I had one.
The interview started fine and then it was a little rocky. Finally, after series of questions, he decided to hire me.
The older lady from earlier, probably his secretary handed me the address of the new apartment and I was provided with office phone with her and Mr. Boss’s contact. It took half a day to complete the paperwork with Human resources team.
Finally, I am excited to get out of here so I could call Pooja and tell her the good news. But I was stopped again by the older lady.
“I am so sorry dear. I couldn’t find the keys to the apartment. Could you please reach out to me once you arrive there? I will send someone with the keys.” She says.
“Sure. I will be relocating by the end of the day. I hope that’s okay.” I respond back.
“Sure, Ms. Khan. What time can I expect you?”
“At 4.00 pm?”
“Alright then, dear. Congratulations.” She shakes my hand and then leave for upstairs. I immediately dial Pooja’s number and she picks up on first ring.
“Hey, Sana. Did you get the job?” she asks and I squeal in excitement.
“I got the job and I’m moving out of your apartment”.
“What’s the rush?” She asks me.
“I- You’ve done a lot. I don’t want to -.” She cuts me off immediately
“Where are you planning to go? I swear to God, if you say “impose” one more time, I am going to sit on you like I did when we were kids.”
I laugh at that, reminiscing our old days together.
“I am getting an apartment from my office”. I tell her.
“Congratulations Sana. You deserve this. When are we celebrating?”
“How about next week? I will invite you all once I’m settled in. Say, Friday night?”
“Sure, Hun. I still wish that you’d stay with us, but I cannot force you”
“I appreciate it, Pooja. But I need to take this step for myself. Get Christina, Steven and Matthew to come too.”
Christina and Matthew were Steven’s siblings. Christina is currently studying to be a doctor while Matt is already a successful gynaecologist. Matt treated me for the last month and I had developed a lifetime friendship with Holt siblings. All three of them.
“Sure. You take care. Call me if you ever need anything. Okay?”
“I will. Thank you for everything, Poo bear.”
Well, Pooja is from Hindu religion and although most of Hindu families accept Son-in-law with different culture and religion, Pooja’s parents didn’t accept her. She went against their wishes and married the love of her life and she’s very happy. The only tie she has is with her older brother.
There was some silence on both our ends and she breaks it by asking if she should come to pick me up. This is one of the things I loved the most about her. She was always so caring. She’s the older sister I never had and always yearned for.
“I’ll be taking taxi back to your place.”
“A warning. Never ever call me “Poo bear” in front of my husband or my child.” I giggle at her warning.
We end the call soon after that and I take taxi back to her place. I didn’t have much to pack, so it was easy. I book another cab and head out to my new apartment.
I take one look at the mansion right in front of me. There must be some mistake. This isn’t some apartment which you’d give to some personal assistance. I was standing outside a mansion. A huge mansion.
I take out my company phone and was about to call Mary when I hear a deep voice behind me.
“Didn’t you like the place, Sana?”
I instantly turn around, losing my balance and he holds me there to keep me steady. This was happening for the third time now. Whenever he touches me, I feel this wave of electricity run through my body. And when he removes his hand off my person, I feel empty and hollow.
“I….. I”. Just great, Sana. Start stuttering with your boss.
I felt nervous around him. Not a bad kind of nervous, like how I felt with Baba or with Saif, the man I was supposedly married to, at least until we all found out that the marriage was a sham.
I felt nervous around my boss. I have never in my life come across someone who is just so handsome and literally towered over me and wielded so much power. Those dark green eyes had a depth of forest and those strong chiselled jawline would probably cut through diamond His broad shoulder and those muscled arms outlined through his jacket.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Moreover, he was wearing the half sleeve t-shirt and I could see his arms flex and his tattoos outline with his every movement. We were still locked in our little embrace from earlier where he saved me from falling off my ass. Those piercings, tattoos and that dark blonde shoulder length hair tied neatly into a bun with loose strings of hair strewn across his face screamed “danger” and I know I should break the eye contact. I knew I should look away. I just couldn’t help myself. I don’t think any women was strong enough to look away. He was dripped with charms. I bet women swooned all over him, without him even trying.
Before I knew, I blurt out the most stupidest thing to my boss.
“How tall are you, Val?”
My hands were still resting on his shoulder, causing them a tingling sensation when I felt his warm body underneath that t-shirt. I know I shouldn’t be this close to him, inhaling into his rich woodsy scent. I was just incapable of moving away. He looked startled and a little surprised by my question.
“I am 6’4”,” he replies.
We were both in trance. Neither of us wanted to pull apart. I’ve never felt this way before. Not even a fraction of what I was feeling right now. Not even the short time I was “married”.
A sound of cough finally pulls us apart. Val looks frustrated by the intruder.
“Hey, Andrew.” Val greets the man.
The man – Andrew, looked somewhat similar to Valor. They had same pair of green eyes. But the similarities ended there. Andrew was younger and few inches shorter compared to Val. And he had no tattoos or piercings. At least, none were visible and I was not curious or interested to see if there were any hidden.
“Hello, Big brother.” Andrew greets back. So, they are brothers!
“Where the fuck have you been and why didn’t you come to office?” I notice that the boss man have raised his voice and it also looks like he is on verge of losing his temper.
Temper was something that scared me off. I knew the outcome of most of the temper. It always ended bad for me back at home, no matter who started what.
Andrew just shrugs off and walk towards the apartment.
“I didn’t think you would need me.” I can feel hurt in Andrew’s tone.
“I will always need you. You little piece of shit.” Valor responds back. I was just wondering if there is any tension between brothers. But Andrew just pulls his brother into a hug.
“This makes you look like a pussy in front of a lady.” Val says as he returns the hug before shoving Andrew away.
I blush to the roots of my hair. My gaze suddenly falls on the ground, at my shoes.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be using such words in front of a lady.” Andrew replies as he looks at me.
“So where’s our little pain in the ass?” Val directs his question to Andrew for which he laughs and replies- “You mean our sister?”
“Obviously!” I bob my head back and forth, watching the interaction between brothers.
“She’s out with her friends,” says Andrew.
“Keep an eye on her. Will you? I don’t trust that excuse of a man who calls himself her boyfriend,” says Val and I wish my brother was home to protect me when things went wrong with my life.
“Sure thing, Val. She’s my sis too, You don’t have to ask me twice.” They give each other a nod in understanding before Andrew looks at me again and says, “So, who’s this beauty?”
It was like watching a tennis game, the rubber ball being thrown by one player to the other. Two brothers having such a normal conversation with a lots of cuss and then they finally decide to spare me their attention, remembering that I was still here.
“She’s my new personal assistant”, says Val as his gaze sweeps me from head to toe, causing me to blush even more and making me nervous.
“Hello.” My voice comes out so meekly.
Andrew shakes my hand and it doesn’t feel same as Valor. I was guessing on something being wrong with me to feel electricity course through my body, but it only happened when Valor touched me. Andrew didn’t have any such effect on me.
“So did you like the apartment, Sana?” asks Valor disrupting my thoughts.
“This is a mansion. I cannot stay here”. I say, still in awe of this place.
“You won’t be staying alone in here. The left wing upstairs in empty. Come, I’ll show you”, says Val as he picks up my luggage and starts walking towards the main door.
“Mr. Lennox, I can carry my own luggage”.
He waves his free hand by saying, “Nonsense. My mother would be bending me over her knees and spanking me if I didn’t treat a lady with respect.”
I hear Andrew snort at that and Val turns around to address his brother. “What’s so funny?” he asks Andrew.
“As if Ma could ever spank you”.
Val turns his attention back to me as leans his face down to my height, his lips slightly brushing against my skin, making my heart race and he slowly whispers in my ear, “Are we back to Mr. Lennox now? Just so you know, you make me feel that I am too old.”
“I… I am sorry, Valor”. I stutter and his face turns into a devilish smirk.
“My name sounds good on your lips”. He whispers and I blush again. I release my hair which was tucked behind my ear, hoping that would cover my face.
Valor steps back and stands straight to his full height, looking regal. “This is the only entrance inside the house.” He says to me and I bent down to untie my shoes as we reach the main door. When I am done, I look up to see both brothers having questioning looks on their face.
“Sana, What are you doing?” asks Val.
“Well, We don’t wear shoes inside our home.” I reply.
“What?” asks Andrew, surprised.
“We pray inside the house and hence we don’t wear shoes. Force of habit.” I respond back, unsure of what else to say.
I move inside looking around the house when I notice Val removing his shoes and slapping Andrew on the back of his head to follow the gesture. This place is huge. I may need a map for navigation.
“This is my living room. I stay upstairs on the right wing. You will be staying in the left wing of the house. It has separate living room, kitchen, bedroom and the bathroom for your use.” Says Val and all I can think is how wrong this is. I know he’s giving me my own space. But still. Every time, I enter house, I will be seeing him.
My family would be honour killing me just for this reason, if they hadn’t already tried that a month ago. I need this job and I need a place to stay. And this is as comfortable as it gets. I am living my life on my own terms now and I have a baby on a way.
“This is the main kitchen. The maid comes three times a week. You ask her to clean your place too.” Maid? Of course he would need one. Mansions like these didn’t get cleaned and stayed clean on its own. But I am used to doing all my chores myself.
“I wouldn’t be needing her. I do all my work on my own”. And there it is again. That shocking look on their faces.
Val snaps back to reality, composing himself as he walks around, showing me the rest of the place downstairs.
“We also have gym and an indoor pool. There’s also a jacuzzi. I will show you around some other time.”
We finally reach the left wing of the house and this space itself is huge. It looks like a beautiful little cosy apartment is placed inside of the mansion.
“You take rest now. We will go through some details tomorrow related to your job. I know it’s weekend, but it may really help you.” I turn around to see him staring at him and Andrew is no where to be seen. Val places my luggage in living room and walks out the door.
“Sure. Thanks for everything Sir.” He smiles at me, a genuine heart-warming smile.
Val takes a step towards me and whispers in my ear, his lips lightly brushing against my skin leaving a tingling sensation.
“It’s my pleasure, sweetheart.” I lower my gaze. I feel cool tip of his finger on my chin as he tips my chin up to look into his eyes.
Allah. Is it sin to think of him in a way I have never thought of any other man before? With all the piercings and tats, he would still be the most handsome man in any room. His eyes are gentle when they gaze at me. But his beautiful green orbs have turned a shade darker.
He hand drops down and he walks away abruptly, leaving me stunned. I finally found my will to get inside and close the door. After a much needed long bath, I decide to cook something. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to cook.
What wouldn’t I give up for some Indian food right now? Or maybe some pasta. I loved pasta. But first, I need to look around this place and find a grocery store.
I put on my new blue jeans and long-sleeved white jumper in a soft loose knit with a deep V-neck, low dropped shoulders and a shorter front with a twisted knot detail at the top. This was one of the top I purchased when Pooja took me shopping after I reached here. I absolutely loved this, but never dared to wear it since it was not my style. This itself was bold as I was not allowed to wear jeans or tops that showed skin back at home since baba didn’t approve of it.
I head downstairs only to find Val having a workout session outside. My throat goes dry at the beautiful sight of him. There’s no sight of Andrew and I notice his hair is loose and splayed across his shoulder and the sweat glisten as it runs down his back, like a drops of dew. His upper body was bare and I had an entire access to check his tattoos on his bare back and broad shoulders.
Maybe he wouldn’t notice me. After all, he is facing the other side. I can just walk around and look for the grocery store. The minute I take few steps, I curse to myself. My damn anklets. I hear him calling my name.
“Sana”. I like the way he calls my name too. It sounds so beautiful. So pure and so dirty altogether.
I turn to see him walking up to me. I can see the bead of sweat dripping from all that workout. He wipes it with a towel before reaching me.
“Where are you going?” asks Valor.
“I am looking for a grocery store nearby.” I reply.
“It’s nowhere close. We have to drive”
“Alright then, I’ll book a cab.”
“No. Give me 15 minutes tops. I will drive you”. Before I could protest, he runs inside the mansion. He is out within few minutes.
“Oh, Thank fuck. You didn’t ditch me.” I roll my eyes at him for the way he uses curse words.
“Do you mind if I drive motorcycle?” he asks and I couldn’t contain my excitement.
“You have motorcycle?”
He lightly pulls my hand before taking me to garage. He puts helmet on my head, checking it few times and starts his motorcycle.
It’s seems like a perfect romantic novel. Maybe it’s cliché, but there’s something irresistible about the idea of a rugged type with rock hard abs whisking me away on the back of his motorcycle.