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SS - Cold Fire

sareeta IF-Sizzlerz
sareeta
sareeta

Joined: 14 August 2006
Posts: 11542

Posted: 07 November 2008 at 10:33am | IP Logged

Hey everyone, 

This is my first post on Writer's Forum. All though not new to writing, and having been at it for quite some time now , this kind of story telling is something I attempted from my usual style and I was hoping to receive some feedback on how it is. I am still in the midst of completing, but I have posted as much as I have completed as on date.

Much appreciate all feedback...Thanks in advance.

Sareeta


COLD FIRE

"Take care of her" … she said to him, stuffing the diary and the files on the table into her brown day bag.
The room was empty except for her and the man standing beside the window overlooking the view of the busy city stretching below, the golden rays of sunlight streaming through the window into the room.
Boxes stuffed with books and files and unused stationary, along with framed photographs stood in the corner beside the door.
Picking up her bag and casting one look around the room, she said "I'd better be leaving'.
The man turned around, to face her, still leaning against the window, with a hand in his pocket, looking straight at her. For a moment, they stared at each other, not uttering a word, when he finally gave a curt nod and said "I'll get the car" and making his way across the room, picked up the boxes in the corner and walked out of the door, leaving it ajar.
The room was now completely empty except for the large mahogany table in the center. She walked around the table to the window and stared out at the view; she had always enjoyed the view and the warm sunshine.
Staring at the city below for a few moments, her thoughts drawing a blank, she turned away from the window and looked at the room and sighed deeply. It was time to leave.
She made her way across the room and through the door never looking again, grabbing the door knob as she walked past it and closed it shut behind her.
As the door clicked shut, she turned to face the door and pulled out the name plate bearing her name and with an air of indifference walked through the corridor towards exit at the sun lit end of the corridor.
He stood waiting by the black ford, in the parking lot, fiddling lazily with the keys in his hands.
As she approached him, he looked up at the sound of her footsteps, noticing the metallic frame in her hand, the golden letters gleaming in the sunlight.
"Do you want to -"he started, holding the keys forth.
"No" she replied curtly, opening the front door and slipped inside and waited.
He joined in and started the engine, and maneuvered the car out of the parking lot onto the metallic roads.

***

The drive through the maddening traffic was silent, with none of them uttering a word, lost in thought. He pulled the car over in front of an open air restaurant, when she spoke again, after the conversation in the room – "It's her favorite", in a tone so low, she seemed to be talking to herself.
He heard her but didn't reply. He followed her, as she walked in. Several wooden tables and chair were arranged in sets of twos and fours, with little shrubs growing in large pots arranged between them.
She chose a table in the far corner that was surrounded by two potted shrubs, with a view of the lake.
They sat in silence, watching the golden rays gleam off the ripples of water, when an excited voice shot through the silence startling her.
"Meni!" - She turned around, just to find arms wrap around her neck and soft black hair fall over her face as the young woman hugged her. "Free eh?!" the young woman smiled and walked around behind the man and threw her arms around his neck – "Hey Bro, got off work early or are you heading back?"
"Heading back, got off for a while for lunch." He replied, patting her arm softly.
"Same here" the young woman said, moving across to her seat beside the young man, picking up the menu as she sat down. "So what are we having today or oh... what are you guys planning to have?" she smiled naughtily.
The attendant arrived, and the young man, recited their choice, stopping only to look at the young woman, when she said airily..."The usual - with extra cheese".
"Try something healthy for a change, will you?"
"Oh, no problem then" she replied earnestly and turned to the attendant "Drop the extra cheese please", when the attendant smiled and replied "Sure Ma'am" and walked away smiling.
The elder of the two women smiled knowingly and spoke for the first time, since the young woman had arrived – "It feels good, you know."
Noticing the serious tone, the young woman, turned to look at her.
"Meni, are you all right?" she asked
"Never been better I guess"
"It's been rather difficult, you deserve better" the man said.
"Yeah" the young woman piped in.
"I suppose so "Meni continued in a pre-occupied tone "I just wish it hadn't been so – "… she seemed to not want to voice the thought.
"Ugly" the young woman finished the sentence for her.
With the word said out loud, reality seemed to finally hit them all, of how ugly the turn of events had been and how they seemed to have been fighting it all, daring through, without realizing, how ugly it was, and how undeserving they were of this mess, they were forced into.
It was the first time, that they had the time to look back at what happened over the past few weeks, or was it months? They had been too busy battling through it all, together yet alone, alone and yet together.
With their lunch served, they ate in silence, until the young woman spoke –
"I suppose battles are always ugly, grotesque, so this couldn't have been any other way"
"Battles are different Arni" the young man said, with an air of maddening calm, that made her stop midway munching her food and stare up at him.
"You still believe, that we have been playing kindergarten games are you Bro?"  She shot back, in a tone of incredulity.
"Well, it wasn't exactly child play, I agree his attitude was problematic" he intoned…
"Problematic? Problematic!??? " she repeated with growing incredulity in her voice, her tone bordering on anger.
"He was a conniving sleazy slime ball Bro and you know that, why don't you just say it! He gave us hell and he more than deserves the same!" she finished, unable to continue, her anger, leaving her speechless, as she took a bite off her burger rather forcefully and munched in silence, her face still red with anger.
Meni, who was silently nibbling on her lunch, listening onto the conversation, spoke now – "Arni, I know you are mad at him, but you don't have to use the language –"
"Of course I will, he is a sleazy stinking skunk and he made our lives hell and he deserves worse than that; Don't you go stopping me calling him names Meni – I am tired of it!" she shot back and Meni resigned to nibbling at her lunch, realizing that it was no use prodding her about it any further , when the young man decided to continue "Arni, look, I know you are mad at him, but we don't have to fall low , to fight with him, we can still play fair"
"– And lose the game or war … oh whatever you want to call it "she seethed.
"There is really is no point continuing this dirty game, Arni, we've had enough over the past few weeks.  We've tried and there is only so much one can do. He is far too low."
"Well, he doesn't realize it and someone has to make him realize it"
"You think he doesn't realize?" the young man asked.
"I don't care" she hissed "I want to hurt him, hurt him so bad, Oh… I wish I could just make him cry in pain…"
"Arni …! Stop it" Meni jumped in, raising a hand at the young man, who had begun to retort "Amey, let her say it, she has been bottling up too long!"
"Meni, you can't possibly mean – "
"I've stopped her for far too long and I made her fight the battle my way, it is time, she had it her way –"
Stunned by what she heard, Meni allowing her to go ahead with her way, Arni stared at her .
"Meni, you really -" she began in a low tone …
"You heard me- what do you want to do Arni…?  I wanna know "she dared her to answer.
"Oh – Erm -"Arni seemed suddenly lost for words. Until a moment ago, she was sure, she knew what she wanted to do and how, and yet know, with the simple question glaring at her, she had no answer , no clue of what and how she would do.
"Well -?  Meni prodded
Noticing that she was silent, she continued – "You might want to ponder over it when you are less angry."
"But it still wouldn't change the way I feel about that f**king git –"Arni shot back, the anger returning to her, her face growing hot.
"It sure would change the way you want to deal with him. Channel your anger in the right way dear"
"You are always telling me this, but you never tell me how!" her voice sounding tearful and angry at the same time.
"You just need to calm down Arni –"
"Well - you were calm, where did that lead you? "She shot back, unable to control the fury now, unaware that her words cutting through the others like cold knives.
"I've lost and it is there for you to see – "
"Then don't tell me what to do because, cause it's not going to make me win is it? "She seemed ballistic now as she threw her fork down and stood up, and walked past the table and stood facing the lake.
Amey had stood up now "Meni, she really didn't mean – I – you know, she just –"
Arni turned around – "Oh, go on say it again – that I don't realize what I am saying – It's all you ever say; you don't really understand – do you?"
"What do you want us to understand – Arni?"
"That he is out to ruin us, just because he doesn't like us" she pleaded, begging them to understand.
"Well, how different does that make you from him?" he lashed back.
"What do you – "she stopped mid sentence, trying to grasp what he was trying to say.
"How different does that make you? – "he repeated, daring to answer him, while she watched him, surprised.
Struggling to regain her composure, she blurted "You are comparing me with the chickening sleaze Bro?"
"Arni stop swearing, it doesn't sound good" he said exasperated.
"Oh it doesn't sound good, is it? And what he is putting us through feels good? "She snapped, her temper rising, the sarcasm in her tone, ringing in his ears.
"These are different things –"
"No they are not – it's – it's all the same damn thing" "If he is filthy toe rag, he would be called that and not a furry little rabbit!" she finished.
"But using language like that won't make you sound any better!"
"I don't need to sound better, I don't give a damn" she shot back, her face growing hot, as she stormed back to her seat and sat down fuming.
"Arni – look, we know why are you mad at him –"Meni spoke in a calm voice, patting her hand gently, "but we don't want you to stoop low to fight. "
"No you don't understand Meni – it's this insane thing, I just know, he is going to go lower than what he is – I just know it"
Noticing that she had seemed to suddenly calmed down, Amey seized the opportunity "Arni, you are justified in your anger, but you've got to find a way to not show your dislike, it would turn things against you – "
Arni tried to cut in, but he just placed his palm on her cheek and she seemed to calm down and fiddled with the fork that lay on the table.
"Arni, if you've got to win, then make sure you play your cards right –"
She looked up at him, puzzled.
"– Cause he sure is playing his cards right –"he continued, while she looked astonished and he continued further - "
"But – "
"Dirty yes, but definitely right, we can't deny that Arni" he said patting her shoulder "He is playing to win"
"It isn't over yet then, right?" she asked
"No, I don't think so- No"
"Who decides then?"
"I am not sure" he said doubtfully.
"We'd know, Arni and that is all that would matter" Meni chipped in.
She turned to look at Meni who was watching her and then looked away at the lake, the soft breeze feeling cool on her face, calming her.
She faced Meni, looked directly at her, and asked "Do I have to play dirty too?" a trace of worry evident in her voice, that did not go unnoticed by Amey.
"No – "he answered her worry.
"You don't have to, but you've gotto to play your strengths"
"My strengths?" she looked at him puzzled.
"Facts"
"But you had them too, Bro, you still have them, Meni had them too"
"Yes, we did, but we didn't use them well, we believed the approach mattered and it would suffice – "
"Bro, are you telling me – "
Meni cut in "No Arni, we were not wrong, our approaches were – erm – rather inappropriate"
"Facts were never his strong points, they unnerve him, Arni and you know that" Amey intoned.
"But he has tweaked them –"
It was all very confusing. They didn't seem to understand or was she the one, not able to understand what was happening.
"Oh yes, he has, and twisted them pretty bad"
"Yeah, coz we didn't stop him at it" she snapped, the temper beginning to rise at the thought of the injustice of it all, daring them to deny it.
"Arni, look, we might want to prove to them, that we were and are right, with the facts "Meni spoke calmly.
"Prove what Meni? And to whom? You've been trying to do that all along and we've got nowhere. I don't freaking care about proving anything to anyone. Don't you see it doesn't matter? What matters now is -"
"Hurting him. "Amey finished for her. He understood only too well.
"Yeah", she pointed at Amey and nodded with the air of the argument won, when he continued "Arni, but it isn't all – "
"Yes it is Bro, he hurt Meni and you, and for no apparent god damn reason – "she stopped at the look on Amey's face "Well except that he was an insecure dimwit"
"Don't you see that is your biggest challenge Arni" Amey cut in.
"What?" she said exasperated "His stupid insecurity… oh cmawwwn"
"Yes it is – it is the thing, you'd have to battle." "Arni, insecure people are the most dangerous and he is as dangerous as can be – Arni, you've got be alert"
"Alert? Of what? That dimwitted scumbag?  Bro cmawn, he wouldn't recognize a challenge even if it stared him in the face like the devil of hell!"
"Arni, you don't get it – he will stoop to any depths, to get to you, to hurt you – "
"He can't, I won't let him"
"Arni!" he snapped at her, making her stop midsentence and look up at him.
"Don't you see, he has already got to you – "
"But he hasn't -"
"Yes he has and it is there for us to see right now –"
"Bro –"
"I am not finished yet –"he silenced her with a stern look and she slumped deeper into the chair, her arms folded on her chest.
"You are mad at him, because he didn't treat Meni right or me right. You see the injustice of it all and we see it too, but that is just one of things we have to battle - "he continued struggling to keep his emotions in check. "There are things you haven't yet seen or know and I am not sure if that is good or bad, but you are not prepared for them Arni  - " he turned to look at her straight in the eye, only to find him watching him intently and his voice faltered as he finished " Not- Not yet"
Her reply, caught him by surprise – "If you knew, why didn't you tell me, prepare me then?" and without letting him reply, she continued "Oh let me guess, you've been too busy trying to tell me, how wrong I was in my approach dealing with the f**king swine and telling me off for swearing, when you could have told me what was happening, that I ought to have known?"
"Arni – we wanted to, we did – we just wanted to be sure, you were prepared"
"HOW DO YOU KNOW I AM NOT PREPARED?" she shouted, losing sense of the surrounding, shaking, and her face flushed with anger, throwing the fork on the table, standing up.
Why did they always think, she couldn't handle things? She could handle it, why didn't they let her try? It incensed her.
With an immense effort, she mustered all the control she could , while they sat in silence stealing glances at each other as they watched her, and finally she spoke in a hissing tone – "Look that git played dirty, he hurt you Meni and you too Bro and I won't spare him. I don't care what this means, personal or not, I freaking don't care, it's not about me, it's about what he did and I won't let him blow our lives apart and walk around scot free – If this a battle, then we duel to kill" she finished and with that, she picked up her sling bag and slung it over her shoulder and said in a low voice "See you around ", walked over to Meni and hugged her " Love you Meni, you know that" and turned away to find Amey standing facing her , with a soft expression in his eyes and before she could utter a word, he patted her cheek , setting her messy fringes right with a swift move of his fingers and said "You'll be fine – " assuring her.
"I know "she shrugged lazily, "it's that scumbag you've got to worry about" – "See you at work Bro" and after a quick cursory hug , stared into his eyes, for a moment and then swiftly walked past him.

***

He looked at Meni, who was smiling knowingly. He slid into the chair and sipped on the drinks that had been served.
"Sometimes I wonder if we worry too much about her, and yet -"she began…
"And yet, you can't stop worry about her. " He finished for her. They sipped their drinks in silence for several moments.
Meni finally spoke – "I think it's time to let go" she looked at him "If anyone, she knows, if she is prepared and I – "
"Meni, we can't possibly let her go on alone – the aftermath might be too disastrous. It's really dirty out there and she may be vulnerable"
"Do you really believe, she is vulnerable? "She looked him straight in the eye and with him remaining silent she continued -
"She has seen it, she has battled it alone several times, without realizing, while we watched – Trust her."
"I do – but I am scared too – "
"But natural – "she smiled warmly.
"Meni, don't get me wrong, but aren't you letting her onto it in hope of retribution to what happened? It's - "
Her face fell and he felt ashamed of what he had uttered and yet the thought was burning him ever since the last conversation they had had a few days ago when she had announced her departure.
"Meni, you can't do this to her – she believes you - "
"I know - "she cut in.
"Then why? – Why Meni?"
She didn't answer for a few moments. It irritated him. She had no right to do it and yet she sat there in front of him, giving him no answer, no reason for her actions that had affected him and Arni in a way that neither had imagined.
"Because I realize – you'll are capable".
"You realize what? You used us as baits and now you don't mind us going down? "He felt his temper rising.
"Meni, I've been calm, only to not let it out in front of her, she wouldn't have been able to take it, but now, I need to know."
She was listening and not answering and it made him angrier –
"Answer me, answer us, Meni – you owe us one"
"I've told you "she said finally – "that you are capable, more capable amongst us, who were tested for patience and tolerance. "
"What do you mean? "
"I've lost , lost it bad purely due to my incapability to stand up for what I believed was right, I tried to play his game and I failed  -"
"But – "
"I failed because I didn't know to play the game his way – I ought to have played the game the way it was meant to be – "
"I don't care - What about us Meni? What about her? "
"You are beginning to sound like her – "she smiled.
"Yeah well –"he shrugged it off –
"You'll are a lot alike and complement each other too" she smiled. He was growing more irritated by the minute with her evading his question and yet he waited. She often tended to test the patience of her listeners, until she eventually came around to say what she wanted to. People had to just have to learn to live with that, when they worked with her.
She finally looked at him, straight in the eye and said "The game isn't over yet -"when he looked quizzically at her, when she continued unfazed – "simply because, none is defeated "
"But – "he began
"I chose to walk away – can't you see?  He didn't defeat no one –".
"Chickened out – she would have called it – " he smiled wryly.
"Yeah, that's what she would have said - " she nodded smiling.
"She won't rest, until she has defeated him. Challenges were always a serious matter for her" she continued "I should have known – I ignored perhaps – "
"But no one really challenged her Meni – "
"She recognizes one, when she sees it – don't we know that ? " she smiled.
He knew she was right. Arni had always recognized a challenge well before any of her peers and more often than not, she was dangerously quiet about it , unless it was necessary to mention it.
Sitting there, in her favorite coffee shop in the warm afternoon sun, he couldn't shake off the feeling that it was only the beginning – He only thought he knew her all along – perhaps not!
"A challenge was thrown at us "Meni's voice jerked him out of his thoughts "and she was the one who took it, while we were forced to invariably. It's the injustice of it that drives her mad, and she would need to battle to accept it and win against it." "The injustice of it all is I fear what may get to her, and she'd need someone to fall back on – be there. It's injustice of anything, that she has refused to accept as part of life and she needs to understand that it is what is to be fought against, before it gets to us."
"Hmm…" He seemed to ponder over what she had just said, looking at his empty glass.
"All is not lost – "she said
"Yeah, not yet – there is a battle to be won" he smiled.

***

Sipping his coffee, in the caf, he waited, perusing the mundane information, flipping the pages of the newsmagazine noisily.
Realizing she would be late, he let himself get immersed in a rather interesting new post, when her sudden arrival startled him –
"Hey - Sorry was a bit late, ran into the boss, who wanted some quick information for the presentation this evening. All well?
"Morning. Yep" he replied, folding the magazine and throwing it across onto the adjacent table.
"Been to meet the pea brain yet?" she quipped, sipping her tea.
"Not yet" "Scheduled in about an hour"
"Good luck" she smiled impishly.
"I'll need that!" he sighed. "Nasty piece of work that he is!" he muttered that didn't escape her ears.
"Hear! Hear!! " she laughed.
"Oh cmawn – Don't rub it in!"
"'Course I will – You finally see the light – he is indeed a nasty piece of work!" she finished taking a sip from her cup.
"Hell is the earth, tread upon by imbeciles my friend!" she said is a wisely tone, the impish note unmistakable, while he smiled and nodded in agreement.
"Oh, it might interest you to know that Big Mouse sent in an invite for a discussion this afternoon" she mentioned lazily, fiddling with her id card.
"Did he? What about?
"Dunno, wouldn't say."
"And why would I be interested, you say?"
"Because you are the only weirdo, who actually listens to him Bro, normal people don't and not to mention it would be something terribly boring, interesting to you, that he'd choose to kill us with!"
"Thanks for that assessment dearest!" he smiled affectionately - "You are going aren't you?" he asked.
"I'd rather kill myself with an extra dose of sleeping draught than to listen to him ramble on"
"It could be important – "
"His important meetings, don't really end up in any concrete decisions so what's the damn point, not that the discussions are worth a listen, they are as dry as the hay that fills his big fat head"
"Gosh, you really, are too much. Listen, I know you hate the discussions, but go on and attend this one and see what he has got to say – "
"Oh Bro – "
"Go on – it won't hurt "
"Yeah, it will just lull me into a deep slumber"
"Yeah "he smiled.

***

There was a knock on the door and she walked and slumped into the sofa beside the door, facing him behind the table.
He looked up at her and still slouched in the sofa, swirling her pen in her hands, she hissed -"If you ever – ever again tell me to go and attend Big Mouse's discussion another time, I'll kill you – "
He laughed, watching her irritated expression, knowing she was ready to throw anything she could lay her hands on at the moment at anyone who mentioned the possibility of another discussion with Big M.
"It was really lousy eh?"
"Oh he killed me, the grass headed pea brain." "Couldn't understand a thing we were saying. What a waste of time."
"What was it about anyway – "
"Process, Change, Improvements and Foresight" – "Flight was what on my mind – I tell ya! – Doesn't Mouse ever tire of that crap he churns out every meetings? "
"I am sure he loves the sound of his voice, as you'd put it!"
"Oh sure – the only problem is that we don't!" She let out a snort.
"Well, that's how meetings are Arni – "
"Who ever made him -"
"Oh, let's not get there – it's not our bother really is it now? "
"Yeah – well – "she said, getting up – "I'd better be going, Emperor is due in office in 15 minutes and I've got a meeting with him first!"
"A meeting? You really are sure about that? "
Smiling sheepishly, "Yeah well – you know I like the way he storms into office, it makes people jump in their seats – it's hilarious!"
"- And the meeting? –
"Oh you know, it's the best work, he likes to see first! "She laughed - "Remember the presentation? – Sure the Oldie would like it!"
"You really are hopeless - you know that!"
"Can't help it, it's just me" – "See you at lunch" – with a wave of her hand, she turned around and walked out, closing the door behind her.

***

He could hear her laughter – she seemed to sharing a joke with her co workers, her new team mates. He sighed and smiled. It was about time, she enjoyed herself at work.
He stared at the screen, and dug through the plethora of emails for the one email that had marked the change – there it was - a crisp one line from Big Mouse addressed to her, mentioning that she had been assigned a new project. She had been exceptionally calm that day, forwarding the email across to him immediately to him without a note and never mentioned it since, except for the flow of emails that followed, related to the handover of the project.
It had been nearly six weeks since and yet the pea brain had still not given up and seized every opportunity to utter low blowing remarks at her, in her absence. It didn't matter to her, she didn't know, she didn't need to know. She was happy now.
She had forgotten about the battle, the challenge. He smiled and closed the email window on the screen and leaned back on the back rest of his chair and closed his eyes. It was all going to be fine. A few more weeks, and he'd move too, like her.
He didn't realize how very wrong he was.

***

"What good is that? He goes around, tainting our reputation and integrity and we smile and watch? Bro, can you really hear what you are saying? I am not sure, you do "
"Of course I do" he said in a stern yet calm voice.
"We can't let go – it's our lives he is messing around with! " She kicked the trash bin in the corner of the room so hard, the pain in her toe, made her wince – "I'll kill him, that f**king swine, I'll kill him – "
"Arni – Stop it! "
"NO I WON'T" she bellowed. He thanked god secretly for the room being sound proof; she hadn't gotten over it. Not yet. A passing mention of it was enough to make her go ballistic.
"Arni – there is a way, dignity cannot be risked at any cost" he tried his best to reason, hoping against hope she would calm down.
"Who is risking it Bro?" she screeched -
"Arni, you don't realize, stooping low as the others is as good as risking out dignity"
"Well, then fighting from behind the barriers is as good as being cowardly" she shot back, her voice louder than usual.
Stung by the impact of her words, he turned around to look at her, momentarily lost for words and then slowly, said in a low tone –
"Oh yes, I knew, it would come to this."
"Bro, I ...I…"
"No matter" he silenced her with a wave of his hand and turned his back to her.
She stood watching him for a moment, feeling shameful and apologetic, body her band then slowly turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Why did he always say things, that drove her mad and make her say things, that made her feel like a rotten apple afterward. She walked into her cabin, kicked the trash bin that fell with a loud bang under the cabin.

***

The nightmare hadn't ended. It was still happening. It was going to be tiring day. He let out a sigh and nibbled on his breakfast.
It was now two weeks since they had had a decent conversation between, except for curt nods, when passed each other, in the corridors or the isles. It had bothered him no end. He worried for her and yet the last encounter, where he had turned his back on her, when she lost control over anger, had seemed to leave an uncanny embarrassing silence in the air between that felt like vacuum closing out all communication.
He had always prided himself in being able to convince people, and now it seemed he had met his match. Convincing was a far cry, even conversations that exceeded that went beyond five minutes , with the mention of the un-mentionable, was as good as asking for a moon.
He had to talk to her and he had to do it today. He had been buying himself time, but it was time now. Things were getting far out of hand. He had no clue, how she was battling it, but he knew, she wouldn't be able to withstand for long. She would crack and crack soon. He needed to be there, he wanted to be there with her.
He stuffed a large piece of boiled egg angrily into his mouth and finished the rest of his breakfast, lost in thought.

***

Never had his vision of his mail box filled him with such a horrible sense of dread. Unable to shake the feeling, he opened his mailbox and stared at it on the screen, watching the mails being synced into this mailbox. It was only after a few moments, as he sat there watching the screen, did his eyes register the emails that lay there in his inbox, waiting to be read.
With a maddening frenzy, he read through the emails, dreading that what he feared all along was now a horrible reality. Was he supposed to be thankful or worried? He didn't exactly know. He hated being in situations like these, where he had no control. Oh yes, things way well out of his hands now.
"Take care of her", the words flowed inconsequentially into head and he felt his temper rise. It was so easy for her to say. What did she think he was - some kind of a magician?
"How am I supposed to? "He muttered aloud in the empty room, skimming through the emails, trying to take in the contents.
It was all over in a flash. Over, just as much without a warning as it had started, and blown their happiness apart. The emails that lay open on his screen were proof of it all.
Insinuations, justifications, it was all that seemed to have filled their lives. Justifications for a life, that no other had a right to question. Insinuations that were baseless, nonsensical and totally undeserving.
It had ended.

***

Discussions with Big Mouse were what she detested the most and yet she had made her decision. She sent an invite, more of a demand, that she dared him to refuse. Emails that were, formal and deceptively polite with an unnerving note of coldness to them.
Replies from Big Mouse were a privilege and she had earned it fair and square.
The discussion was scheduled at ten minutes past five in the evening.
At five past five, she walked through the security door and knocked on his cabin once and stepped in after she was asked to enter.
It was now or never. There was nothing to lose. It was all or nothing. The job was not important anymore, her stand on the matters was and it was all that mattered, and would matter.
The facts were there – no arguments, no discussion and no bargains. They never mattered, they wouldn't now. It was facts and just the facts. They would suffice. She didn't care about anything, people had to be shown their true place, no matter, how ugly the place or the picture.
After fifteen minutes, the printouts with the facts, figures, the emails, lay on the table, the only occupant of the room now, Big Mouse staring out of the window, the creases on his forehead never as evident, the footsteps of the young woman who was in the room a while ago, fading away as she walked down the aisle, out towards the lifts.
It was over. She felt light, relieved. She went over to the caf and made herself a hot cup of tea and sat at the table in her favorite corner of the caf beside the window, overlooking the city view.
Sipping the hot tea, she smiled watching the sky turn a bright orange – It was time to tell him.
Typing in a quick note for him, she sent across the details of the all the communications that ensued. The results were to be seen the next day. It was her surprise for him.

***

He sat there staring at the screen. The words staring at him back from the screen. How, when had she done it ? And why ? - Although he knew why, it was rather silly question he thought to himself, and yet he wanted to know why now, after all he had done to explain the risks to her - Why?
He felt his palms go cold and sweaty, as he looked away from the screen to the door or his room. He could see shadows move behind through the translucent screen and he wondered - where is she now?
He instinctively picked up his cell phone from the table, only to quickly replace it -  No. Not Now. He thought and pulled himself up from the chair and ruffling his fingers through his hair wearily, made his way across the room. The screen behind him blinked and blanked out silently, as he clicked the door shut behind him.
He stood there in front of his room, his back to door and watched the scene ahead. It was a normal day, the sound of fingers tapping away on the keyboards, the dull hum of machines and the constant ringing of the telephones sometimes distant and at other times too shrill for comfort!
His thoughts drawing a blank, he realized, he was feeling cold. "Must be the air conditioning" he muttered , shoving his hands deeper into his pockets and slowly made his way down the isle towards the lifts.
"Where would she be?" he wondered and no sooner had the thought occured, he knew where he'd find her. Entering into the empty lift, he jammed the button "T" and waiting as the lift slided up to the cafe' on the terrace.

***

It had to be shortest meeting ever, that he had, he thought. He dreaded to think of or worse relive what had happened, but the fifteen minutes that had passed were possibly the worst - how much more worse was it going to get? He wondered.
His head felt muddled. The young man ought to have been there with her. Things could have been reasoned out. He was the only who could. Damn! He thought.
The young woman's temper was not new to him, but her behavior today was unexpected. It just didn't seem like her. She was not angry he thought, but cold. Yes cold, that was it. Strange it had seemed to him, when she sat there listening to all that he had said and finally just handed him the files and the CD and then stood up and walked out - not before cutting him midsentence when he tried - "Arni, you have to trust us - " he paused squirming under her cold stare - "we are here to help - I am here to help -"
"You have proven , leaving no reason for any qualms , that you are incapable of providing anything close to being called HELP" - she turned to snap back at him, stressing on every syllable of the last word. "It's best you or any of the management don't try, 'cause, y'all just don't know how to" - She finished and turned around and walked out, snapping shut the door behind her.
Reacting instinctively , he thought "The nerve of her to say that" and just as quickly when he noticed the files and the CD and the print out the email , he lost all thought of the temper , feeling the sense of panic rise in him again.
"I've got to talk to him" he thought. He was his last hope.
How had he let it get this bad? He closed his eyes, resting his chin on his palms and sat in silence.

***

Stepping out of the lift, he felt the little instrument inside his pocket vibrate and pulled it out to answer the call, absentmindedly, not looking at the tiny screen - "H'llo"
"Amey, meet me in five minutes please. In my cabin."
"Alright" he answered, and felt the click as the caller hung up.
Big Mouse never used the word please, with his team members, that word was reserved for his choicest and nastiest clients as Arni would put it. He smirked at the thought and walked into the cafe.
The room was empty. She wasn't there. It was odd. It was her usual tea break time and yet she wasn't there. Something was really odd. She'd never miss her tea. It was an unpardonable mistake in her eyes, if one attempted to delay her from getting to the cafe during her tea break. Everyone who knew her, knew better than to request her to stay let alone demand, when she decided she wanted to have tea or step out to grab a bite.
Reluctantly he made his way down the stairs to Big Mouse's cabin, wondering as to where would be at the moment.
Funny he thought to himself, he didn't feel anxious about what Big M would have to say, it was Arni, that his thoughts wandered to - Where was she ?

***

He knocked once and entered the spacious and sunlit room and sat down across the table facing the man, who seemed to have aged several years in the just a week – and a torment of a week, that was.
"Thank you for seeing me." "Amey" the old man added after a pause.
"Erm – "Amey began, feeling odd, at Big M thanking him for this. He wasn't doing the old man a favor, was he?
Odd things were happening since morning, but they seem to be getting odder with every passing minute.
"Please let me finish –"the elderly man cut in gently.
Amey leaned back into the chair, crossing his legs and waited for the man to continue.
"Well – Amey, there have been a few changes , since we – erm – last spoke "; Amey had an inkling about where Big M was getting to with this conversation and he hoped desperately , he was wrong.
Big M continued resolutely - "I dare say, the changes don't seem favorable. " He sighed and continued "You are aware, that Darren wants to get the new vertical expansion project started soon and we are erm – "
"We don't have a resource for it – ""- except "he added after a slight pause.
"– except her" Big M intoned "And well, I don't think it's possible now – we might have to look for an alternative - we stand to lose a lot more, than just this project – and unfortunately, our current project hasn't left a good impression about our execution capabilities on them – "
Amey realized what the old man was getting at and cut in – "Execution capabilities are just fine, it's the support that was lacking, that we needed so desperately and still do  - "
"It ought to have been brought to our notice, the ground details – "the old continued, a little irritably now.
"And you believe, the facts weren't given to you? " Amey asked coldly.
The old man was silent and Amey felt his own temper rising. The old man was lying so blatantly and finally controlling his temper he asked in a curt tone –
"You do have the facts Arni and I sent across months earlier, and have been since repeatedly every week ever since the first incident – " – "Surely , they are quite obvious proof of the – "
"They aren't enough –"Big M said wearily.
"They would've have been if they were used at the right time – "Amey said flatly.
"I don't need to be spoken to like that – "the older man snapped
"And we don't need to be treated like this" Amey snapped back.
The two men stared at each other for a few moments, when finally the old man looked away and said wearily –
"Be patient – we are sorting things out – right now what is important is, we -"
"What do you want me to do?" Amey cut in impatiently, the irritated tone evident.
The old man looked straight into his eye and said softly – "Convince her"
Amey silently watched the man for several moments and finally said "So you accept you failed and miserably at that – "
The old man just turned away from him, towards his laptop as Amey got up and addressed him – "In my office, tomorrow 10 AM" and added after a short pause – "Both of you".
Amey just looked at the old man, tapping away at his keyboard for a moment and rolling his eyes turned around and made his way out of the room, snapping the door shut with a bang louder than usual.

***

"What a fine day!" she thought, sitting there on the terrace, with one leg folded under the other , watching the clear summer sky , feeling the soft breeze on her face, sipping her tea.
It was then that she felt the little black instrument , vibrate next to her and glanced at it to note the caller – A faint smile spread across her face, as she picked up the instrument and answered the call – "Hey Bro! "
"Aah, you are alive , I see!" he laughed at the sound of her voice.
"Yup, alive and kicking!"
"Where are you at the moment"
"Enjoying some fresh air – "
"The usual - ?"
"Yup!"
"See you in 5" he said and hung up.
She tossed the instrument on to her side and continued to sip her tea, watching the clear sky turn a deep orange.
He sounded happy and it made her happy. It was worth it, every bit of it. He was smiling , Meni would too. It was all definitely worth it.
She spread her legs and crossed them and leaning back on her palms, she let her thoughts wander as she saw the little white birds fly past, as she waited for him to come.

***

Sitting there beside her now, sipping his tea, he broke the silence – "Alright, fill me in "
She laughed, "You've been really waiting eh?"
" 'Course !"
"Yeah I can see that.  Well, I was bored and I thought I'd have some fun and then well – "
"You did this because you were bored? " he asked , feigning incredulity.
" Oh cmaawwn , do you want me to continue or not ?! " she said, obviously enjoying his complete attention.
"Yeah well alright – go on" he smiled.
" - And to make my boring day a lot more interesting , I decided to whip up some entertainment for myself and what has been more entertaining these days ?!
"Yeah – "he said. He knew what she was referring to and he agreed.
"I sent in a teeny weeny email to Big Mouse – informing him I wanted to see him"
"Must have been more of a cold threat! " he laughed
"Oh cmawn – I am a nice girl, you know me, I am harmless!" – She replied quickly, with an impish smile.
"You bet! "
"It was a nice short meeting though – jus about quarter of an hour. Told him to keep his twitchy little nose and shaking little fingers out of the mess."
"And he agreed? – Jus like that? " he was serious now.
"'Course not, the facts were there – "
"How did you get all the information - ? " he felt a slight shiver run down his spine. This was not something he had expected.
"You forget dear bro – I was the one who sent out the reports, I had to have them – just a bit of skimming through the old forgotten cupboard and all the dirty secrets were out there to see! "
"What facts did you – "
"Oh – the works – emails, the agreements, the conversations, the escalation drafts, the billing fiasco details, and the version history records – all of it."
"All of it?! "
"But the reports were deleted. Pea brain did it himself! Then how – "
"Reports were, not the records – the backup was always there, only I forgot about it too for a while, only to remember it now!" she winked and smiled "It took some to organize it all, but it was there – alright"
"Oh and the recording of the session by Darren on the plan ahead, he gave earlier this year – It was on the CD." She added.
He sat there staring at her. She had taken the biggest risk that could have cost her more than her job and yet she sat there next to him, sipping her second cup of tea.
"Arni – when  - when I mentioned facts,  I only knew about the emails – "
"Well  – I just took it a little further"
"Arni, you could get into trouble – "he sounded worried "It's not just about that pea brain now, a lot more people will get involved "
"Not will, they were – " she corrected watching the worried expression on his face  " And No. I won't – get into trouble " she added , the tone of her voice made him wonder.
How was she so sure?  "None of us will. It's someone else's turn now!" she finished, looking at him as if he wasn't able to comprehend the obvious.
"Arni – I don't get it – " he said perplexed.
"Darren knows about it now and so does everyone there except for pea brain – "
"How did he - ?"
"A simple mail was all it took - "
"Arni -!"
"All facts about pea brain and his actions and decisions, baseless ones, that have put us through hell – Darren has been informed – A nice crisp email was all it took and another one to Big Mouse that was sent about two weeks , that is still lying unacknowledged in his mailbox – a copy of it in print was all it took to get Big Mouse to act – "
"But Arni, what if it went wrong – "
"Well it didn't - did it?"
"And what about Pea brain, how can he not know we have done it ?" he asked .
She noticed the way he used 'we' and she felt a smile escaping her lips – Her Bro was with her, no matter what she did.  She knew now more definitely than ever before, just as she knew all along – they had won the battle – won it fair and square. The blow was devastating.
"Look Bro – we've taken enough crap and I refuse to anymore  - so it was time to cut the crap and act – " "Someone had to Bro  - "
"But how can't he know –"
"'Coz he , in all his stupidity and arrogance, wouldn't have expected it – He stands to lose a lot , not me- and I frankly I don't care"
He sat there watching her. It was all coming back to him, the conversation with Meni and her in the caf.
" – and he is scared to lose Bro and well, I chose to hit to him where it hurts !"
"What does he lose? "
"His job - ?" she raised her brows a sarcastic expression on her face -
"And yeah, you never cared about job - " he said resignedly
"I like my job Bro, but its not everything - I wont take anyone messing with me or my life - "

"Arni – how – "
"Insecurity remember?" she said. He stared at her openmouthed – what had this girl been thinking , what had he been thinking lecturing her back then. He should have known she was as unpredictable as the summer rains.
Noticing the stunned look on his face she said " – And you think, I never listen to you" she smiled.
He swallowed hard. She thought it was over, but how was he to tell her, it wasn't ? He began to attempt -
"Arni , there is something you ought to know – " "It might not be over  - as – "
She turned to face him now, looking at him. "As yet ?  Yeah 'course, I just shot the arrow with a good aim, the howls and cries will come in tomorrow – "
" Well, your aim was well – it hit the bull's eye. Big Mouse wants to meet us tomorrow- "
"Cool. Now tell me the entire truth  - Bro! " She smiled knowingly.
Pursing his lips momentarily, he smiled and continued  - "Big Mouse called me for a discussion and well he'd like me to convince you – "
"About - ?" "Oh let me guess – that shelved project ? "
He simply shrugged.
"He still thinks he all this can be sorted? " "Old man has really lost it, I tell ya!"
"Only we know better now!"
"Huh?"
"Well, time to aim one final blow and this time, it's got to be bull's eye – we have no choice!"
"Bro – you know you don't sound yourself, when you talk like that!" she humored him, laughing!
"Yeah – " he smiled self consciously.
"You know, when I was in the room with Big M today, I got a feel of how it felt to be you – "
"Me ?"
"That coward! – I nearly lost it!"
"Hear! Hear! – You lost it, your cool?"
"Yeah – almost!"
"oh, what was the final blow you were mentioning about? "
"You know better!" he smiled impishly.
She stared at him for a minute and said slowly – "You don't mean – You really don't mean – " she said in an incredulous tone , while he just nodded smiling.
"Time to have some fun - " he patted her gently on her head.
"Fun it is going to be – and obscene display of vice eh?"
"Big M doesn't know what's gonna hit tomorrow – You know I am worried for him!"
"Yeah , you've had a soft spot for that man – what is wrong with you Bro?! "
"Arni – c'mon, we agree, he is too good and soft spoken for his own good"
"Soft spoken yes, but good ? – Naah!"
"Hmm, yeah, I have to agree there – discussion this morning, rather ticked me off – " "But don't be too hard him will ya ? – "
"Oh Bro – "
"Please –"
"Only, if you promise not to force me ever to attend his discussions ever again!"
He laughed heartily and said  - "I'll remember that!"
"Cool! Anyway, it pea brain, I wish to watch wriggle and whine" she muttered , which didn't escape his ears, as they made their way down to their workstations.

***

- To be continued ...



Edited by sareeta - 13 November 2008 at 12:33pm

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Posted: 11 November 2008 at 2:46pm | IP Logged
Wow, Sareeta, that was a mind blowing piece of the story! Loved it thoroughly.

First off, I just love Arni.... even though she swears a lot and I hate swearing, I just love her guts and her sense of humor.  I think she is one of my favorite characters so far.

Sareeta, I just love your writing style... i love the mysterious sense to the entire passage.  It seems like there's something great going on and I don't know about it and I can sense it through the different conversations.

As I said your style is just awesome... I love the insights here and there to the characters and it just adds on to the whole reading experience.

One thing I'd like to say though is that from next time try posting shorter parts because then one can sit down an thoroughly enjoy it instead of thinking and I should rush and see what's going on ahead.  At least that's true for me.  If I am reading shorter parts I'll slow down and read it and then maybe come back and read it again to pick what I wouldn't have the first time.

But overall, it was excellent! Keep it up!

-Mahi

sareeta IF-Sizzlerz
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Posted: 11 November 2008 at 10:42pm | IP Logged
Thanks a lot for the comments Mahi. I am so glad you enjoyed the piece

I am nearly done with the story and am jus working at wrapping it up now!

Will be posting it in a bit.

Will get back here later and edit the comments in detail!

Thanks again!
Sareeta
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Posted: 12 November 2008 at 6:57am | IP Logged
Updated on 12th Nov '08
Morgoth IF-Veteran Member
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Posted: 14 November 2008 at 3:31am | IP Logged
Sareeta, I think this story has potential. However here are some things that concern me:
 
1) Who are Amey, Meni and Arni? Why should I as a reader care about them to read their conversation?
 
We need some more information about these characters from the beginning.  What do they look like? Where do they work? What are their relationships? (We can deduce that Amey and Arni are siblings, but what about Amey and Meni?)
 
It's okay to have a mystery in the plot. But we need some basic facts to get interested in it.
 
2) Referring to your characters as "the young man" or simply by pronouns such as he/she is okay - as long as the reader can immediately infer who it is.
 
In a longer story, such as your's, it is very difficult to keep track of the multiple "he"s and "she"s. Especially since you are changing points of view from time to time.
 
When you change a POV, as a reader I need to immediately know who's thinking or talking. I should not have to read through the entire passage to figure out who "he" and "she" are.
 
Using pseudonyms such as Big Mouse is fine. (As a point of curiosity, why is he called Big Mouse? You could insert that bit of info into the story.)
 
 
 
3) As and --ing constructions:
 

One easy way to make your writing more sophisticated is to avoid to stylistic constructions that are common to hack writers, namely: 

        Pulling off her gloves, she turned to face him.

Or

        As she pulled off her gloves, she turned to face him.

This is what Renni Browne, former editor for William Morrow has to say on the matter: 

"Both the as construction and the ing construction as used above are grammatically correct .  But notice that both of these constructions take a bit of action ("She pulled off her gloves") and tuck it away into a dependent clause ("Pulling off her gloves . . .").  This tends to place some of your action at one remove from your reader, to make the actions seem incidental, unimportant.  And if you use these constructions often, you weaken your writing.

Another reason to avoid the as and --ing constructions is that they sometimes give rise to physical impossibilities.  We once worked on the autobiography of a behavioral biologist who, in the process of describing her field work, wrote, "Disappearing into my tent, I changed into fresh jeans."  The --ing construction forces simultaneity on two actions that can't be simultaneous.  The doctor didn't duck into the tent and pull on clean pants at the same time -- she was a biologist, not a contortionist. 

You don't have to avoid these phrases entirely.  There are going to be times when you want to write about two actions that really do happen simultaneously, or when an action is genuinely incidental and deserves no more than a dependent clause.  And given the choice between an as or --ing construction and a belabored, artificial alternative, better to use the as or --ing.   

Note: please don't take offense at this criticism; it is just a personal opinion. See what works for your story and what doesn't and rewrite it accordingly.
 
Good luck! 
 

 


 
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Posted: 14 November 2008 at 5:38am | IP Logged
@Morgoth - THank you so much for the feedback! Exactly what I was hoping for . Your comments are really detailed and I do see the point in possibly tightening the narration.

Admittedly, I am in the process of wrapping it up today and I would rework on it possibly next week again sometime

As for the characterizations, I do see where you are coming from and although I admit the points you mentioned never crossed my mind, they've got me thinking now and I possibly know why now , the narration turned out the way it did.

Could I PM you about it detail, if it is okay with you?

And oh, may I know your name ? Its rather odd to address you as Morgoth. :-)

And no, no offence taken , none at all. Infact I really appreciate you taking the time to read and show interest to leave your comments! Thank you so much.
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Posted: 14 November 2008 at 1:51pm | IP Logged

sure, you can PM me, but do excuse the delay in replies - i rarely log on IF these days.

you can call me tanaz.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 at 2:19pm | IP Logged
Thanks Tanaz. I probably wouldnt be able to update it this week. Hectic schedules at work!

Should be sometime next weekend , when I can update again! :-)

-Sareeta
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