Joined: 22 June 2010
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Joined: 09 April 2010
Joined: 09 April 2010
Chapter 87: Money Matters
Prem entered the donut shop looking for a sweet snack to satisfy his hunger. He looked at the display case wondering what he should get. The teenager working behind the counter told him that they were about to make some fresh glazed donuts and if he didn't mind waiting for another seven minutes he could get some hot donuts. Prem agreed to the idea and ordered two boxes of glazed donuts for the family and a small cup of coffee from himself. The blue eyed and blond haired boy went to fill his coffee and requested another worker from the back to help ring him up as there was a small line beginning to form. Prem busily looked through his wallet getting his cash ready to pay. When he lifted his head up his eyes widened in surprise at seeing his younger brother standing behind the cashier. "Preet?"
"PB?" Preet exclaimed in utter shock.
A few minutes later after the line of customers had been taken care of the Juneja brothers were sitting at a table in the far corner of the donut shop. Preet had his head bowed staring down at the table in uneasiness. Prem gently cupped his hot cup of coffee and studied his little brother's demeanor. "What's going on here Preet? You got a job and didn't tell anyone?"
"I needed to make money," he softly replied his eyes still down casted.
"If you needed money you could have come to me. Did you run out of allowance? Something's wrong with your car?" Prem asked as he pulled his wallet out. "How much do you need? And if you needed work experience you can come to the hotel and work with me and Heer."
Preet quickly lifted his head up and shook his head. "No Bhaiya. It's not like that," pushing his brother's wallet back, "I need to know what it's like to earn money. It's something I have to learn to do on my own."
Prem nodded his head realizing he had made a mistake in thinking what he had thought. He was so use to helping his siblings that he naturally offered things to them. Just this week he gave Veera extra money because she was low on her allowance, he bought Harman two new designer ties because he was low on his paycheck and couldn't get them, and he lent Kulraj some money to help pay for Rishi's music lessons for next year. "I'm sorry Preet. I shouldn't have assumed," he apologized.
"I know you're use to helping us out. It's just a natural reaction. I know if I really wanted to I could work at the hotel with Bauji's permission but I really think I have to learn this on my own. Meher was right. I can't depend on you guys for the rest of my life," Preet said.
Prem knew what Preet was alluding too but needed to pretend like he had no idea Meher had discussed anything with him. He wanted him to be able to talk to him freely. "You and Meher okay?" he asked in a gentle manner.
"I don't know. I hope so," Preet answered. "We had a huge fight and we said some things to each other. She was mostly right," sighing, "okay she was correct in everything she said. I'm afraid to fail. You and Harman have never failed in anything you do. Ma and Bauji are so proud of you two...Harman...the soon to be big lawyer then judge...and you...the big businessman ready to make your mark in the business community."
"Harman and I have made our share of mistakes. We don't always succeed," Prem replied.
"Not when it counts, Bhaiya. You and Harman never let the family down when it counts. I'm always doing this and that making Bauji angry and Ma worried. I don't have the best track record."
Prem gave a sympathetic look at his brother and remained thoughtfully silent. He remembered what Heer had said to him and knew he needed to show him that he had his full support in this matter. "So, how long are we keeping this little secret?"
"I guess I should tell the family shouldn't I?" Preet mused as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"We were wondering where you were this morning," Prem replied.
"Oh, I was at school doing some homework since I knew I had the afternoon shift today. I'm so tired. I had to drink of a can of Red Bull to keep me going," Preet said. "I couldn't afford to fall asleep in class."
"You always work the afternoon shift?" Prem inquired.
"No, we have a schedule. This week I'm working the afternoon shifts on Monday and Wednesday and on Friday I'm working the morning shift. Learning to make the different variety of donuts," Preet said. "You know I picked this shop thinking there was no way anyone from the family would randomly stop in and purchase anything. This place is way out of the way from our house. I was really surprised you came here."
"I had to go and meet with a rental company about linens and tableware. There is this huge event going on at the hotel and the normal rental company we use doesn't have this item in stock at their warehouse. There is another event they are doing that took all of their stock. So I had to go out and look at this other rental company and talk to them," Prem said.
"I thought Heer Bhabhi did all the event planning stuff?" Preet asked.
"She does handle a lot of that. But we've got a lot of bookings for the next two months and the event staff is short handed. One of the employees is pregnant had to take leave early because she was ordered by her doctor to take bedrest until the baby comes. So, I'm helping the events department," Prem explained.
"Must be nice being able to spend time with Bhabhi."
"Not really...she wants to strangle me half the time," Prem chuckled.
"Oh that's right," Preet said in understanding as he recalled the fight he had overhead between them. "You guys okay now?"
"Yeah, we're okay now," Prem reassured.
"Good cause I really like Heer Bhabhi and I've gotten quite use to her. I don't want to exchange her for someone else," Preet replied.
"Me either," Prem smiled. "Your Bhabhi isn't going anywhere. So, you don't worry about that."
The brothers both grinned and softly chuckled at the light moment in their conversation. "Oh," Preet said as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded blue flyer, "I'm thinking about doing this. It's for a semester."
Prem read the crumpled paper flyer and raised his eyes back towards his brother who had an anxious expression on his face. "I think if this is what you want to do then go for it," he said with a smile.
"You think Bauji would let me go?"
"Why not? The thing about Bauji is that you just have to tell him this is what you want. List out the pros for the decision you're taking and it's always a good idea to be prepared for some questions he may have. If you talk to him logically like this explaining your decision he can't turn you down," Prem advised.
Preet nodded his head taking a mental note of the things his brother had told him. "Thanks Bhaiya."
"Before you tell him of your decision I think you should speak with Meher privately. This is going to affect your future with her. She deserves a chance to know your plans."
"Yeah I know. I will PB. I hope she can forgive me. But I need to do this for me and in the end it's for us too," Preet said taking the flyer back.
"Us?" Prem probed.
Preet gave a shy smile. "You know when you know, right?"
Prem grinned and nodded, "You do. Congrats."
"It's still something in the future...not right now...but you know?" Preet replied. "I'm sorry PB but I should probably get back to work."
"Yes, your break is almost up. I won't say anything when I get home. I'll leave that announcement to you," Prem said as he got up. "I want you to know that I'm very proud of you Preet. And if you ever need someone to just listen I'm there for you as well."
"Thanks. I'm sorry I didn't talk to you sooner. It's just this was sort of hard for me. I didn't know how you would take it. I guess I was afraid you wouldn't understand me."
Prem could see the guilt in his brother's eyes and shook his head. "I've always been proud of you. And I'll always be there for you no matter what. We're family and you're my brother."
"Love you PB," Preet replied as he hugged him tightly. "Please forgive me."
"There's nothing to be forgiven for. Love you too," Prem said patting his back firmly.
Veera sighed as she stood underneath the waiting station at the bus stop. It had suddenly started raining and she didn't have an umbrella with her. She ran to the bus stop waiting area hoping to seek some shelter there until the rain stopped. Unfortunately the more she waited the harder the rain fell. It seemed as if the rain would never let up. She moved back so she wouldn't get splashed by the heavy water falling from the edge of the glass roof of the waiting area. The bottoms of her jeans were getting soaked and the water was slowly seeping upwards toward her legs. "This is just great. Why did this have to happen now? The car garage is like two more blocks away. Maybe I should try to make a run for it?" She looked up at the sky and protested, "Can't you just stop for 10 minutes? Just so I can make it to the parking garage? Then you can rain all you want. Just 10 minutes. Is that so hard of a thing for you to do? Please? I'm going to catch a cold because of this. And I really don't want to be sick. I have two projects and a paper to write two weeks from now. Please don't do this to me." Veera frowned when the only response she received was the continual stream of rain falling down. She looked to her side and was surprised to see a stocky young man softly chuckling underneath an umbrella. She quickly turned away feeling completely embarrassed. She wondered just how much did he hear. She put her hand to her face in an attempt to hide herself as she turned her body away from him.
"I'm really sorry. I couldn't help but over hear. You normally talk to the rain like that?" the young man asked.
"Is it your business to eavesdrop on someone's private conversation?" Veera quipped back. She then realized she was showing her face to him and quickly turned back around again. This only made him laugh even harder. Veera could feel her cheeks grow warm despite how cool the air had gotten from the rainfall.
"Well, it's not private if you're speaking in a public place like this. Ears have a way of picking up on things. But I will apologize for listening in." He grinned when she didn't say anything back and continued to face the other way. "Look, if it's all right with you. I'm more than happy to lend you my umbrella so you can go where you need to go."
"Why would it be all right with me? Shouldn't it be with you? The umbrella is yours," Veera replied. "Don't you need it?"
The young man's eyes crinkled as his lips turned upward into a smile. "Thank you for your concern. But I insist you take this umbrella. I don't mind getting wet. I'll let you borrow it."
"But how will you get it back from me?" Veera asked. "I don't even know who you are."
"Oh, where are my manners? Do excuse me," the young man said bowing slightly in apology. "My name is Rishabh. Very nice to meet you...um..."
"Very nice to meet you Veera," Rishabh replied with a friendly smile. "Here take it," extending the umbrella out to her.
"But how am I going to return it back to you?"
"Let's meet here again at the same time tomorrow. You can return it to me then," Rishabh suggested.
Veera nodded at the idea. "Okay. Thanks a lot Rishabh." She took the umbrella from his hand as he hopped over to seek shelter underneath the waiting area. "You're not from around here," she mused out loud.
"Australia. I'm a new transfer student. I have a cousin who lives here and she suggested I come take classes here for a semester," Rishabh explained. "Good day mate." Veera gently laughed at the colloquial Australian saying he playful said to confirm where he was from. "You better go before the rains get any heavier. It will be harder for you to drive home."
"Oh, right," Veera uttered realizing he had a point. "Thanks Rishabh. I'll see you tomorrow at this time then."
"See ya," Rishabh replied.
Veera quickly walked the other way heading towards the parking garage. She got into her car and decided that perhaps she should offer him a ride home. But when she drove her car back to the bus stop Rishabh wasn't there anymore. She felt kind of bad that he was running around in the pouring rain because she took his umbrella. She glanced to the passenger seat where the umbrella laid and grinned. "Well, I'll be seeing him tomorrow. I'll buy him a cup of coffee or something for his kindness."
Meher sighed realizing that she had been staring at same paragraph for the past fifteen minutes. She couldn't concentrate on her studies at all because Preet had yet to come home. The family would be getting ready for dinner soon and he was still somewhere out there in the city of Toronto. He had left so early in the morning that no one had seen him and now he was the last one everyone was waiting for to come home. She put her textbook down and walked out of her room to get some fresh air. She ignored the commotion in the living room as Prem and Harman were fighting with Heer and Maya over what they wanted to watch. When she reached the foyer Rishi ran past her giggling as Veera chased behind him in a playful manner. Meher opened the front door and saw to her dismay a gentle trickle of rain flowing down. She decided to stand underneath the porch and simply watch the rain fall. She breathed in the musty grassy watery smell of nature and stared at the open gates of the driveway hoping to see Preet's car drive up.
Not soon after the thought had left her mind she saw Preet's red Mustang pull into the driveway. She was excited but also strangely upset. The thought of seeing him now was making her edgy. The red Mustang rolled to the front steps of the Juneja mansion and the passenger window slowly came down. Preet was waving at her to come inside the car. Meher just stood there with a peeved look on her face at what he wanted her to do. "It's raining Preet," she replied.
"Just come inside."
"We can go into the house," Meher answered.
"No, then I'll have to play twenty questions with everyone. I want to talk to you first."
"Fine then. Go ahead," she said crossing her arms.
Preet's eyes panicked at her reaction. "Please Meher? His voice pleaded. "I need to talk to you."
"Oh, now you need to talk to me? I was trying to talk to you all day today and you wouldn't even listen. Now you need to talk to me? So I can only talk to you whenever it is convenient for you?" Meher sharply said. Preet tried defending himself but was cut off as she talked over him. "And where were you this morning? Do you know how worried everyone was? Do you know how worried I was? Everyone was looking for you." Meher glared at him wondering when he was going to say anything. "Well, are you going to say anything?"
"I wasn't sure if I could talk. I didn't know if you were finished," Preet meekly replied.
"Go on," Meher said.
"This would be a lot easier if you were inside the car," Preet said. Meher sighed and got into the car. There was a moment of awkward silence as Preet tried to figure out the best way to say what he needed to say to her. As the seconds ticked by Meher was beginning to feel anxious. Her mind was wondering why it was taking him so long to say what he needed to say. Before she realized what was happening tears started forming and were gently flowing down her cheeks. Preet looked on with alarm at her state. "Meher?"
"You're breaking up with me aren't you?" Meher asked croakily. "That's why you didn't want to talk to me during class."
"What?" Preet uttered in confusion.
"I understand we're not right for each other. I tried changing you even when I told you I wouldn't change you. It's my fault," Meher said as she continued crying.
"No Meher I'm not breaking up with," Preet firmly stated.
"What?" wiping her tears with the back of her hands.
"Why would I do something like that? You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," Preet answered. He shook his head as he gently brushed her tears from her cheeks with the pads of his thumb. "You were right about the way I have been behaving. I just couldn't face it but I realized that if I want to make this work then I have to take some responsibilities."
"I don't want to change you Preet," Meher said. "I don't want you to do something because I said so. I don't want to force you into something you're not happy with. I would rather us break up then make you do something against your will."
"We all have to grow up one day Meher. I've delayed it long enough. I'm doing this for me," Preet reassured. He then gently held her hands and looked lovingly in her eyes and continued, "I'm doing this for us. Nothing is more important to me then you. You deserve someone who has goals. You deserve someone who can provide. Don't consider this a change. Consider this like an upgrade...Preet 2.0." Meher couldn't help but gently smile at his joke. Preet grinned that she giggled. "I'm still the same Preet but I just a more mature Preet...I hope. I'm sorry I scared you. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do certain things on my own."
"So where were you this morning?" Meher inquired.
"I was at the library studying. I got a part time job at this coffee and donut shop. I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I have the afternoon shifts on Monday and Wednesday. And Friday I have the morning shift. I wanted to know what it felt like to work an actual job not just something Bauji would give me or Prem Bhaiya would set up for me."
"Preet, I'm really proud of you," Meher replied.
"And there is one more thing."
Meher looked at the folded flyer he was handing over to her. She unfolded it and gasped, "An marketing internship in London?"
"I really like marketing. It's for one semester. The internship is for Spring semester which I thought would be perfect. I thought this job at the donut shop will help me interact with people and get a sense of what ordinary people want. You know the normal consumer...how they think and what they worry about. I've always been the socialable guy at parties. It's time I put that strength I have into some good use. So what do you think?" Preet nervously inquired.
"I think it's a great idea Preet," Meher smiled. "I think you should do it and apply for it."
"Yes. I want you to go for it."
"I'll be away in London for a full semester," Preet said.
"I know it will be tough but I think we can do it," Meher replied.
"Thanks!" Preet thankfully voiced as he hugged her tightly. "I love you."
"I love you too," Meher answered.
"I'm so nervous to tell Bauji and the rest of the family," Preet confessed after they broke from their hug.
"It's going to be okay. I'll be there for you and so will Heer Didi. And you know Kulraj Didi, Prem Bhaiya, Harman Bhaiya, and Veera will stand by your side. We are all here for you," Meher said. Preet gave a shy grin and nodded his head. "Let's go in. Everyone is waiting for you so we can cook dinner." Meher exited the car with Preet following closely behind her. He took a deep breath as he stepped over the threshold of the front door and prayed that everything would go smoothly between him and his father.
Lalit sat behind the desk in the office with his hands cupped in front of him. He noted the perspiring forehead of his youngest son as he finished talking about his future life plans. He let the silence fill the room as his mind mulled over the things that had been said to him. "Is this your plan?" he finally asked after a minute had passed.
"Huh? Bauji?" Preet nervously replied.
"The job at the donut shop and this internship in London...is this your plan?" Lalit repeated
"Yes Bauji. It's my plan. No one helped me." Preet watched as his father leaned back in his chair and exhaled deeply. His eyes zeroed in on his mouth as a sudden grin appeared on his face.
"This was all I was asking for. In fact you have said more than I needed. I was fine with you simply saying you wanted to pursue a marketing degree. But I think it shows great strength of character to go out and get a job of your own. You wanted to prove something to yourself. You wanted to learn something on your own. This internship in London is a great opportunity...you'll definitely learn a lot. And like you said once finished you'll look for a summer internship here in Canada with a marketing firm. I know you said you'll save the funds from your current job to help take care of some of the expenses you will have for the internship but it won't be enough. I will be more than willing to give you some funds to help get you settled. After that you live on what the internship pays you."
"Jee Bauji," Preet nodded enthusiastically. "Thank you Bauji."
Lalit got up from behind the desk and opened his arms wide for a hug from his son. He patted his back. "I know I have been tough on you. I know that I have said some things and I know that I haven't been the most supportive but I want you to know that I love you. I always have. I just wanted you to do your best. I just wanted you to try."
Preet nodded his head and gently sniffled back some tears that had been hiding behind his eyes. "I know how much Prem Bhaiya and Harman Bhaiya have made you proud. I didn't want to disappoint you. I didn't want to be the black spot to your name."
Lalit looked on in shock. He never realized how much of what he had said had affected his son. He didn't know he had internalized so much of what he had said to him. He always assumed the happy-go-lucky nature of his allowed him to simply roll his words off his back without a care. Lalit felt suddenly guilty and ashamed that he had made Preet feel this way about himself. He finally understood what Gayatri had been trying to tell him all these years. "I'm sorry," he sincerely apologized. "I should have encouraged you more positively than the way I have been doing. You're a Juneja and you should hold your head up high. You have the intelligence, the strength, and courage to conquer any obstacle. It doesn't matter what you do. I just want you to be happy."
"Bauji," Preet uttered. "I am happy with marketing. It is something I want to do."
Lalit smiled, "Then I know you'll be one of the best marketing executives out there." He hugged his son again and firmly said, "I love you."
"I love you too Bauji," Preet smiled happily.
She looked about her apprehensively in the auditorium wondering why he wasn't there already. Class was going to start in five minutes. She sighed and looked down the rows of seats. It wasn't like she couldn't sit down but she was hesitant to do so because of everything that had happened. Prem was sitting in the fifth row wearing a Polo shirt with blue and black strips. He was waiting like the rest of the class for the professor to walk in and start the lecture for the day. She never thought that she would be taking a class with him again. It wasn't something she had planned on purpose. She had simply signed up for a class she needed to take in order to complete her graduating credits. She was just as surprised that Kunal was in the same section as them. She was half expecting for Heer to show up as well on the first day of class but it turned out she was in another section.
Sanjana stood there in the aisle mentally debating with herself on what to do. Normally Kunal would be there and sit between them. He sort of acted like a communication go between for them when it was required. Most times though Prem didn't say anything to her and she didn't say anything to him. She knew him well enough to know that he was still extremely upset with her. And she knew that she deserved some of his treatment. She had betrayed him and had hurt him very deeply by trying to sabotage his relationship with Heer. She had thrown years of friendship away for a chance of something she knew deep down inside would never work. He never saw her anything but as a friend.
She checked her cell phone to make sure Kunal hadn't texted her or called her to say that he was running late or wasn't going to be coming to class. But there was no notification on her phone that said she had missed any calls or text messages. She took a deep breath and decided she would just sit a few rows behind Prem so she wouldn't have to deal with the awkwardness of sitting next to him. Just as she was walking down the aisle she heard the familiar and cheery voice of the man she had been waiting for, "Sorry, Sanju."
"Kunal!" she hissed. But the minute she turned and saw who he was with she immediately stopped her glaring. Her eyes softened and she politely greeted, "Hi."
Heer gave a small smile in greeting and repeated, "Hi."
"I was running a little late and well guess who I ran into," Kunal said. He continued walking down the aisle ushering the two girls to follow him as students began to quickly filter into the auditorium praying that they had made it in before the professor. "Looks like we're going to have to sit separately," seeing that Prem had only one seat open on his left. He smirked at Heer, "Go get that empty seat next to your hubby before someone else sits in it." Heer gently shook her head and rolled her eyes at his joke. "Hey, you've got to protect your property right?"
"My property doesn't have wandering eyes," Heer confidently replied.
"Hmmm'interesting. Well, he sure has a lot of onlookers'" making a perplexed face, "they like sniffing him."
Heer quickly turned around marching to the seat next to Prem mumbling, "That's it he's not using AXE anymore." Kunal just looked on with an amused face while Sanjana stared in confusion about what she was talking about.
Kunal and Sanjana walked down the aisle behind Heer and took the seats behind their friends. Sanjana watched as Prem greeted his wife with a huge grin. "Hey. What are you doing here?"
"Class got canceled for me because the professor had a family emergency," Heer explained. "And I ran into Kunal on my way to the library." Prem turned in the direction she was pointing to and saw Kunal and Sanjana sitting behind them. "He convinced me to come to this class instead."
"So, you're buying lunch for me tomorrow as a thank you," Kunal replied.
"Why would I need to do that? She lives with me at my house I can see her anytime I like," Prem answered.
"I'll buy you lunch," Heer offered.
Kunal's pouting face soon turned bright. "You're a great friend Heer. So caring, generous, and kind unlike some people," glaring at Prem."
Prem was about to reply back when the auditorium suddenly settled down as the professor had arrived for the day's lecture. He turned around and opened his notebook to take notes. Heer reached into her backpack and took out a highlighter and a textbook from another class and begin reading.
Fifteen minutes into the class the students were all busily taking down notes. Sanjana carefully wrote down the main points the professor was explaining in the current section of his lecture and lifted her head to listen. Her eyes however caught sight of what was occurring in front of her. Prem was taking his notes with one hand while the other hand held Heer's right hand. Heer held her highlighter in her left hand and continued reading and highlighting things in her text book. Sanjana watched on noticing how Prem and Heer's hands seem to move about and play so naturally together. Prem's thumb would gently stroke Heer's hand for a few seconds before curling inward bringing his fingers along so they could intertwine with her fingers. They would hold their position like that for awhile before Prem would lay his palm flat allowing Heer to rubbed her index finger along the lines of his hand. When she was done she would then lay her palm upright so Prem could do the same thing then the cycle would start all over again. Sanjana found herself giving a small smile at their actions. It was cute what they were doing and she envied them. Not in a mean jealous way but that they were so fortunately to have this type of relationship with each other and she prayed she would be so lucky to experience this once with someone in her life. Sanjana looked to her left and saw Kunal taking notes. His bangs were hanging low against his forehead. He had let his hair grow long over the summer and it was now at a nice length pass his ears. She usually hated when guys had long hair but it actually looked quite good on him. She grinned as she recalled the times they had shared together over the past two weeks. She didn't know if things were going to work out in the end but she was excited to go on this journey with him and see where this new relationship would lead. Sanjana scribbled something on her notebook and moved it to the side so he could read it.
Kunal glanced over and read what she had written. "We need to tell him about us. When will you do it?" He swallowed uncomfortably. Despite wanting to run away he knew Prem had to be told about it. It would be dishonest if he didn't. Kunal shifted his eyes upward and realized that since Heer was with them today that she could probably keep Prem calm if it came to that junction. He wrote back, "Today after class." He looked up and saw Sanjana give him an encouraging smile making him grin back in response.
Joined: 03 June 2010
Joined: 17 September 2008
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