Chapter 19

“Here, the layouts”, Rihaan handed his iPad  to Ashi while sipping his coffee.

“Pre-prepared layouts? I mean –”, Ashi raised her eyebrows still viewing them with a muddled look.

“Yes.” Rihaan sounded like his usual bossy self.

Ashi sighed lightly and continued, “Okay. I’ll tell you what I felt after viewing them -”

“You didn’t even see them properly.” Rihaan spoke before Ashi could clinch her sentence.

“I know. But believe me, I can still tell you my views about them.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“I want things to be specific. This is too nebulous, Rihaan”, Rihaan’s eyebrows creased and Ashi continued, “I mean these designs or your ideas are too vague. I want you to tell me what you need specifically. If not that, do you mind me making the layouts and showing them to you? I mean that’s how I work. I know since you’re an Architect and an Engineer, you’re well-versed with these things but –”,

“You can go ahead with your ideas”, Rihaan gently retook the iPad from Ashi’s hands.

“I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m sorry if I sounded like –”,

Rihaan held her gaze and chuckled like a sophomore. He looked younger than his usual self. Carefree. In that brief moment Ashi realized that she liked him more when he was like he was now. Ashi surfaced her thoughts and regained her concentration to stay centered on his words.

“Oh, no no. Those designs were made by Taniya. I just showed them to you for I thought it might ease your work a little.”

“Bloody Leech. Sticks to every single conversation I try striking with him.”

Rihaan clicked his fingers bringing Ashi back to their conversation.

“Hello? Are you here sitting in front of me?”

“Yep. I’m still here. It seems like Taniya used to work for you”, Ashi said stirring her coffee avoiding looking at him directly.

“Yes, she used to. But, she claimed to have fallen for me. And I’d to take her off that work.

“Am I still working for you?” Ashi blurted even before her brains could realize that her words were sputtering out of her mouth.

“Shit!” She mumbled right after.

“Yes Ashi, you’re still on board. Now you would ask me, why? So, I’ll answer –”,

“I don’t want to know”, Ashi’s reply was prompt and crisp.

Rihaan looked like someone had slapped him right across his face.

“What?” He restored his mind and thoughts before settling for an, “Okay.”

Ashi took the last sip of her coffee and shifted a little uncomfortably in her chair before clearing her throat and asking, “Can I leave now if we’re done with the discussions?”

“Not before you eat”, Rihaan’s tone was adamant and non-negotiable.

“Umm.. Mmm.. I don’t want to eat. Actually, I’m not…”

“Hungry.” Rihaan finished for her and continued, “I know you’re never hungry. You’ve fucked up your appetite. You’ve slowly and nicely slaughtered your hunger, Ashi.”

Ashi’s pupils dilated at his choice of words.

“Stop gawking at me. Finish it fast so that you can reach there faster.”

“I can’t finish all these”, she stared horridly at the toasts and scrambled eggs in front of her.

“Of course you can. When was the last time you ate something? And by ate I mean solid diet, not the traditional liquid diet of yours.”

Ashi narrowed her eyes at him, “You’re making me feel like an errant, stubborn child.”

“Stop behaving like one then. And I won’t make you feel like one.”

“But..”

“Ssshhh. Eat.”

Rihaan pressed his index finger against his lips that somehow made Ashi to directly look at his lips.

“Why do I feel a sudden urge to kiss him? Ugh!”

Ashi’s expressions might have been apparent because they made Rihaan’s lips to twist into a half-curved smile.

“Okay now, enough with the side tracking. I’ll be back in a few minutes. And I want you to finish it before I come.”

“I don’t take orders.”

“You have to. If not, learn to. Because I’m officially your boss now.”

Rihaan smiled profoundly in his normal cocky manner and strode off holding his iPhone against his ear.

“How am I even going to work with this man?! I can’t even be myself around him! And what’s all wrong with me and my mind, with all these sudden urges and feelings to kiss him!”

“Don’t drag me into this. You’re as hopeless and desperate as the urge lying in your conscious mind.” Her subconscious rose from her sleep and meddled satirically.

Ashi rolled her eyes and started fiddling with the eggs and toast in front of her, partly putting it in her mouth and dodging it from left to right.

Ashi’s eyes wandered around the café looking for the only man they knew these days. It’s then that she took the full picture of the place around her and realized that she didn’t even know the name of the place she’s resting her perfect arse in.

“So vulnerable and oblivion, Ashi!” She sickeningly mumbled.

She’s seated in an open space environment in a white-rounded chair that ran semicircular from arm-to-arm securing her back, in front of a white-round table that’d a similar chair facing it. The place was spectacularly bright. Not because of the open space or the daylight but because of the combination – white and vibrant colours spattered all over the place. Even the staff and the waiters wore white. Except them and the table and chairs, the flooring, the curtains, the drapery, the café area, the counter, the design on the display glass behind which lay the colourful looking pastries and muffins, everything was covered under a hue of warm, bright, vibgyor shades.

The bright sunny day added to its already mesmerizing beauty. Ashi squinted at the cursive font printed at the corner of a waiter’s uniform who passed by her as she murmured, “Matin félicité”, slowly, thinking what that might mean and making a mental note to check it later on her way to Lodha’s office. The waiter gave her an awkward smile which she returned goofily. Suddenly, the tensility that seemed to have dreaded her this morning through the entire night withered off in the warm, fuzzy environment around her. The fresh gusts of warm and cold morning zephyrs gently brushed against her smooth skin making her soothe and melt in its presence. She closed her eyes and breathed in the air that seemed to have carried the magic of the pixie dust.

She’d just begun to relax and savour the present time in her life when Miss. Demi started singing – Somebody to You in her melodious voice. Ashi reposed the knife and fork and reached for her iPhone resting on the table. And what Ashi saw on the screen made the last few minutes of her life to fade and accumulate in the debris of her awful past memories. It felt like she’s in the middle of a fairytale dream and someone had deliberately switched on the alarm, wrenching her back to reality.

“Private Number” flashed on her screen for the second time in the last twenty-four hours.

 Next….

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