The Call of a Lifetime (18+)

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The Faceoff

Arin

The buzzer rang in continuous bursts, breaking my sleep. It was five in the evening and a couple of days since I decided to toss my life away for Roger and his company.

My benefit in all this- I would head a team, gain experience and be absorbed into Oswalds’. Dad hoped for me to take over and it was about time, I decided to walk the path. My secret wish in all this was only privy to my heart. I hoped, with Roger spending time with me in close quarters, he might feel something too.

Now don’t judge me and don’t set your eyes rolling. Haven’t we all done or at least thought of something like that?

The buzzer kept ringing and I growled, tossing the quilt aside and pressing the button to let the delivery boy enter. Since the day I resigned and then rejoined the very same one, I have been eating away my feelings in pints of ice cream and Chinese. The perfect combination for sorrow.

The door banged with a soft thud and I opened it in one swing before falling back.

“Your delivery is here.. and so are..” Roger stood at the entrance, holding Ben and Jerry’s in one hand and the contract papers in another. He didn’t finish his statement. Instead, he stepped inside, unhinged jaw eying the place.

Moving back, I tossed the pile of tissues into garbage and stuffed some inside my pockets.

Shit. I resembled a manatee now. A woman in a hoodie who hadn’t washed herself for a couple of days and who might be reeking of garlic and fish sauce.

But Roger had something else altogether, enticing his to notice. He walked over to the side of my bed and checked the empty chunky monkey and cookie and cream pint boxes.

“Do you have some kind of a death wish?” He turned, his hands working in swift motions to open the brown paper bag he held, nodding his head to both sides and tossing it in the garbage.

“HEY.. it’s a crime to throw away ice cream..”

“It’s also a crime to die of diabetes in your twenties.”

I scoffed before moving to a chair. Roger stood stagnant, evaluating my apartment. His eyes roam everywhere in a split second. Not that I was surprised. I lived in a matchbox. Knowing that he was merely checking what his wagon was being hitched onto, I crossed my arms and sit in complete silence. Roger walked around some more, eying my bookstand and smiling at himself before settling on a chair.

His x-ray vision landed on me and suddenly, I felt intimidated. My skin slid into my clothes and goosebumps trailed over parts, his gaze landed. There was no double opinion on me being nervous around him. Even in office, I used to walk around eggshells when it came to Roger. But in my current state, sitting in my jammies and looking like a homeless person, my confident too a plunge towards ground level.

I slid in my chair, uncomfortable hold of his slid gaze still holding my spine. Reeling out of my chair, I pulled a towel and headed to the washroom. Roger nodded to himself, as if he was allowing me to wash away the dust and dirt accumulated over time.

The warm water was soothing but short lived in enjoyment. Knowing the person who was sitting outside knew about me completely, I took longer to get cleaned. It was then, a weird though drifted up in my mind.

What if he thought I am pleasuring myself? Heck..

Turning the knob off and dried myself in a haphazard manner. When I escaped the warmer cubicle to the colder regions of my bedroom, my eyes roamed the place, now devoid of Roger.

Did he leave?

A pan clattered in the kitchen, pulling my attention to him. His back faced me as he opened and closed cupboards, searching for something. The roasted coffee bean smell made it obvious of what he was upto.

Clearing my throat, I declared my presence.

He turned and said, “Hi, sugar.”

“Huh.. what did you call me?”

His lips made way to sprout a smile, still capable of arresting my heartbeats. “I asked, how much sugar?”

Beating myself up figuratively, I answered before sliding into my usual place. Roger walked back and placed his concoction for me to drink. Picking the cup, I sniffed at the rim. Warm rich coffee aroma tickled my senses. The room echoed with his laughter as he saw me inspecting his drink.

Defending my act, I grinned. “One can’t be too careful.. can they?”

His laughing act made for a straighter nod of agreement. I sipped his first creation. I assumed Roger was new to the whole coffee making business. To my surprise, the beverage was tasty. It wasn’t too hard or bitter and neither was it sugary. It was a perfect combination of the hot richness of the coffee beans, packed with something extra he incorporated. I couldn’t tell what, but it hinted at vanilla. The warmth and the tasteful bitterness engulfed my taste buds to a state of aromatic, warm sense of calmness.

What surprised me more was that he knew how to make coffee. All those coffee runs that I made while he sat in his office with a perfect barista machine by his side.

“You know how to make this well and yet..” I protested but he was intuitive to understand, where I was going with it. Pulling himself off the couch, he moved to pull the stacks of papers before placing a set of it towards me.

“Knowing how to make coffee doesn’t mean that I have to make one for myself everyday.”

I didn’t know if it was his mere words or the sheer rage in me from events, not long back, but I didn’t reciprocate to his statement. Instead, I stared hard at the sheets of paper, hoping if I could burn them all to ashes.

Not that it would solve my problem in any way. I was bubbling my blood on the inside, seething at Roger and his nonchalant attitude. Hurt turned into a molted form of anger and boiled up, every time I saw of, thought of him.

We went through the entire document, clause after clause. I haggled wherever I could and so did he. It was not Arin and Roger on two sides of a table. It was an Oswald and a Murphy. Both were good, strong in law and both knew how to encash their gain. Any part of me which felt anything for him was shoved behind the vaulted doors of my heart. The bitch who negotiated the deal wasn’t the googly eyed girl but a headstrong woman. The woman, who felt nothing, needed nothing and craved for nothing. She was a ruthless being.

By the end of it, the clock ticked quarter past eight and the rumbling in my stomach couldn’t be suppressed with beverages. Dialing up delivery, I was ready with my usual orders when Roger pulled the phone from my hand and ended the call.

“Hey, I have to place my order before they take last call..”

His face contoured for a moment before a smirk came on display. “And when would that be? 3 in the morning?”

His class act was riling me up since his arrival and the time he tossed away my ice cream away. Nobody should mess with an ice cream order. Roger was no exception.

Which school did he attend to not know that?

“We will go out. My treat.” His words hung in the air and set my mouth ajar. I stared at him and he per usual kept his calm, even smiling to piss me further. My world went into an upheaval since he conveyed we were nothing more than mere contractual entities. Yet, he acted as if nothing changed. “I would love to take you out, you know.”

Not that I didn’t understand him at the first instance, his re-emphasized sentence made me want to hurl a shoe at him. I remembered reading somewhere, there was a thin line difference between love and hate and the crossover wasn’t always noticeable. Well, it seemed like I may have crossed all the way over to the enemy front.

Pulling his coat off the rack, Roger waited for me to accept his offer. “Let’s not fight. For a change..”

The last of my patience string broke off, letting anger seep through the crevices. “FOR A CHANGE? As if we have only been fighting. When were we fighting before?”

With hands surrendered from their side position, Roger walked closer. He even managed to pull out a white kerchief from his pocket, waiving it in the air. His act of parley made my insides turn into a pile of mush but my ego, well that thing was a bitch. It didn’t allow any form of smile or laughter to seep through. Instead, all it did was let me acceptance his offer.

Pushing him out of the room and into the hallway, I closed the door to change in peace. I didn’t want him to keep scanning me while I got ready. It took twenty minutes to don my black dress and look and another five to simply twirl and adore myself in the mirror before opening the door. The trench coat over it may have hidden the beauty of my dress but I would rather be warm than die of a cold.

Roger was missing where I left him. I felt stupid, believing he would be waiting for me.

But I was wrong too.

Sitting on the staircase, I saw him scrolling through his phone. His eyes bore into the device without realizing, he was being watched. Roger never looked more calm and composed. In all, he looked like another person altogether. A man who wasn’t burdened with the troubles of his company or with the issues of his father suing him. His features remained the highlight, his jawline reflecting in perfect slant with the cold white light hitting his face. I gulped the saliva formation in my mouth and tired hard to steer away from his face. His whole body, for that matter.

I closed the door and moved to the side of the railing, eying him read. When his vision caught a glimpse of an entity standing in front, he stood up before his gaze roamed over me and back at his screen. I waited for a compliment, a comment. Anything.

What came out from him was, “Ready?”

Nodding, I tightened the belt of my coat. The knot in my gut tightened. It was useless to expect anything from him, yet, like a willing victim I let my heart out, hoping for a miracle. When would I learn, with Roger there was only one surety. Heartbreak.

Roger stepped ahead of me while I followed, a loyal puppy trotting behind him. The place he proposed to dine-in was close by, walkable. The façade of fancy drifted away while we dined. Silence crept up between us. If you’d ask me, I was more awkward than calm. Imagine a man you had phone sex one day and months later, negotiating your life away in a contract then then having pity food with him. That’s how I felt. I felt pity for myself and my state of existence. It was then, where I considered leaving and going back home instead of enduring through a silent torture.

Every part me hurt from the inside. There was no physical pain but I was in agony. My skin and bones were crushed under the weight of the impending doom, my mind tried conjuring up. I felt the pang in my chest, every time I looked at the man seated affront, for whom I was a mere business deal. I cringed, every time I felt the need to touch him but shook them away. He wasn’t mine. He would never be.

Reminding that I have signed an agreement, I kept my calm and continued. I rushed through the dessert, desperate to leave. Roger didn’t speak much, as opposed to the person whom I had the previledge of witnessing over calls. He donned the silent attire too.

Once outside the restaurant door, my feet quickened. Roger called me out. “Are you trying to leave?” His eyebrow furrowed, his gaze unwilling to leave its hold.

“Nope.. You are leaving?” I know, not a great comeback.

Holding my hand, Roger smiled at me. I could feel my heartbeats diminishing to flatline. He walked us to a nearby bench and we sat in silence. Roger looked at the shimmering skyline in the distance and up, into the starless sky.

“Why are we here?” I asked, unaware of his intentions. Maybe he wanted company.

Quick witted, Roger responded, “To know you better.”

His answer tickled a hint of hope but I extinguished it. Hope was a dangerous thing for me. “You already know me, Roger. I can give you a list of my likes and dislikes.”

His happy face contoured into a frown upon hearing my words. Till a few days back, I longed for him. I wanted him to want me. But under the light of our newer decisions, all I wanted was to avoid him. Run away from his sight and the fictional hold he held over my heart. One, which made me dance to his tunes.

Roger didn’t push me further. He rose from the bench and lend me a hand. We walked back in silence to my apartment and inside, where he picked up the signed papers and walked out.

All my rage deflated into regret as he walked out of the door and my sight. Why was I even angry? Could I justify my act? I had no answer.

What I did know was, this was all a façade. I placed a wall to ensure Roger didn’t hurt me anymore. But I ended up being the bad person. Feeling horrible, I drove my tired body on the couch, watching the open door with a hope that he would reappear.

A ringing alter from my phone too didn’t vitiate my gaze from the door. Hoping Roger would walk in any minute, asking for an explanation for my behavior, I answered the call.

“Good night, babydoll.” Ragged breath on the call followed his soft, whispery voice. One which I was in desperate need to hear.

Although with that Roger ended the call, he ensured I was reeled back into the same state of trance, every time I talked to him. The state, I struggled hard to escape and failed.


~8~

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