Joined: 31 August 2011
"Monsieur Bourg will see you now," said the cool voice of the receptionist, and Abhay looked up. "Florean, if you will-?"
At her words, a young man came up to him. "Sir, this way, please." They all spoke perfect English, albeit however with an accent, and exaggerated the "i" and spoke the "h" sound less.
They stopped in front of a room with a cream-coloured door. After showing him in, Florean exited, and Abhay focused his attention on Nicolas Bourg.
He was handsome, in a suave, polished way, and his clothes were extremely well-cut- showing his taste. However, Abhay's attention was drawn to a large frame holding a picture which showed a very attractive model, wearing a white, bridal-style dress, the skirt billowing upwards, while her eyes, highlighted by dark overtones, smouldered at him, and her lips, painted a vivid red, turned slightly upwards with the hint of a smile.He did a double-take before he recognized her as Pia. She looked completely different- even her unruly curls were falling onto her bare shoulders in soft ringlets.
"Ah, yes, that was an excellent shoot," said Nicolas, who had evidently followed the direction of his eyes. "Would you believe, the model in it was only an assignment old when she did this. She added 'er own flavour to the creations…..Ah, I forget my manner. Please- how do you say it- 'ave a seat."
Abhay sat down, still hardly daring to believe that Pia was the siren in the photoshoot. In college, she had worn casual clothes, but hardly gave off the air she seemed to have here.
"Actually," he began, "I was going to ask for- the current location of Pia Dobriyal."
Nicolas' eyebrows curved upward. "Forgive the impertinence, but- if I may ask, what would be- your reason for asking?"
"Never mind them," said Abhay.
"Well," said Nicolas, "I am sorry, but unfortunately- I cannot disclose her address. Strictly contractual, you understand…."
"Then- you know where she is." It was not a question.
"Indeed I do," said Nicolas. "She 'as, 'owever, requested me not to give away 'er address to anyone, and as a friend…"
Abhay stared at him, stunned. So Miss Gupta had not been lying. She had been telling the truth!
Could Nicolas be lying? He sifted through Nicolas' thoughts, not caring what he heard, when he stopped on hearing Pia's voice. He focused on the memory.
"Nicolas, I need you to help me," said Pia , calling him up when Nicolas was lounging in his office in the late afternoon.
"What is it, Pia?"
"Nick, I need you to let my family know that I am safe and happy," said Pia, sounding worried."I'm taking a break from everything that's going on here. Please, Nicolas, I don't want anyone to know."
"As you wish, Pia,".
Abhay opened his eyes to see Nicolas towering over him. "Are you feeling fine, Monsieur?"
"I'm fine, Nicolas," said Abhay. He supposed his concentration on the memory had led Nicolas to believe that he was in a daze. He wished he could have seen the entire memory, but that had been sufficient enough. Pia's voice was unmistakeable, and Nicolas' memory had definitely not been tampered with : He had checked that already.
He resolved to make a final test.
"May I see a copy of her contract?"
Nicolas looked extremely put out, but pulled out a folder from his drawer.
Abhay flipped through it. It seemed pretty standard, that Pia was going to do a shoot for the agency, on the conditions that her location would be kept a secret. Pia's handwriting, whom he knew by heart, was perfectly visible in her signature.
Abhay looked up at him.
"Nicolas, can you give me an idea of her return?"
"Oh, it won't be long," said Nicolas. "Only a week at most. I will contact you then, n'est ce pas?"
"Yes, thank you." Said Abhay, standing up.
As he boarded the flight back to Dehradun from the Delhi the next day, he couldn't help but think that he was going to get a lot of "I told you so's" from Haseena in the coming days.
"Punch, look," began Misha, trying to draw her sister away from her cell phone.
"Stop disturbing me Misha, I can't get Abhay to answer my calls or messages…what's wrong with him?" said Panchi.
"Panchi!" snapped Misha. "Our sister is missing, she's left our house, and all you can think of is why Abhay won't return your calls?"
"I can't think why you're so upset abut her," retorted Panchi. "So Pia had a tantrum and left , and automatically we're supposed to forego everything?"
Misha gaped at Panchi.
"I hate you." And then she left, banging Panchi's door. She viciously hoped that Abhay would not take her calls….
"What's wrong, Champ?" said a voice, as Misha sat despondently on the canteen.
She looked up and saw Kabir standing near her.
"Oh," she said in a flat vice. "Found a way to unwrap yourself from your darling(Misha gritted her teeth) girlfriend's arms, have you? Or have you fought with her? No, let me correct that- are you asking me to help choose your latest gift for her. Because if you are, mate, you've got the wrong girl. I'm just not in the mood!"
Instead of going away, as she had hoped he would, Kabir merely sat down next to her.
"That bad, huh?" he said sympathetically.
Misha felt tears prick her eyes. Angry and ashamed, she dashed them away with her free hand, but Kabir noticed, and put an arm around her.
"Tell me about it."
Misha tried to wave it off as "nothing" but soon, she was spilling everything to Kabir : How Pia had left home, how they had no clue where she was, how Panchi refused to help her, till she started sniffling. Misha was startled when Kabir handed her a large white hanky to mop her eyes. She could see she'd made his shirt wet- and wiped her eyes as fast as she could, and then looked around in case someone had seen them.
"Don't you worry," said Kabir. "Everyone's at class- or was, anyway," for the bell had just rung. Students came spilling out. Amidst all the din, Misha heard the loud , carrying voice of Tracker.
"Yeah, honestly! He really has gone to France, I promise!"
"Who's gone to France?" muttered Misha , not really caring.
"Abhay," replied Kabir .
She turned up to stare at him in shock.
"Today, apparently," said Kabir, sounding surprised. "Why, did you want to meet him or what?"
"No- I- "
"Yeah, he left in the morning, Tracker was shouting all about it- Were you that zoned out?"
Misha had no answer.
"Look, I'm not good with words," began Kabir again, "But honestly, I think you lot went a bit far with her. I mean, she still loves Abhay, it was cruel to put Pia through all that pain. And somehow, I don't buy Abhay's line that he doesn't want Pia anymore. I mean, we've seen their bond, right? Like, you know, the Danish time, when….."
He trailed off, looking awkward and uncomfortable.
Misha gave him a watery, half-ashamed smile.
Kabir raked his hair. "And, well- just so you know, I , um- dumped T," he said.
"She wasn't that good-looking anyway."
Misha supposed she should feel sorry for Kabir, because breakups, from what she'd heard weren't particularly easy. But somehow, she couldn't bring herself to feel anything but….strangely victorious. Which was confusing, but still…….
"You leave my sister ALONE, Tanushree Ambolkar!" came a shout.
Misha and Kabir turned around to see Jeh, furious-faced, walking up to a petite girl wearing thick glasses. Clearly, one more victim of T's ragging.
Putting an arm around her, Jeh walked up to them.
"Hey guys, this is my sister Alina," he said. Misha and Kabir stared at her. Alina was , appearance-wise, a total opposite of Jeh. She seemed extremely shy, and wore thick glasses and her hair in two ponytails, and when she smiled nervously, Misha noticed the braces on her teeth.
"So, well- where's Pia?" asked Jeh.
Before Misha could answer , Kabir replied "Modelling assignment." As though that would explain everything.
As Alina and Jeh left, Misha and Kabir looked at each other. "Different, isn't she?" said Kabir, grinning. "I ought to set her up with you, opposites attract and all that…You want me to talk to Jeh?" He trailed off, now openly laughing at the horrified look Misha was sending him.
"Kabir!" she said, and hit him on the arm, but she was smiling- a genuine, warm smile that reached her eyes. Kabir mentally congratulated himself- a down-in-the-dumps Misha was not good for the fate of humans at all.
The newly elected manager of Malik Industries was talking to his board, ignoring the many appreciative glances from some of the female members.
"So, Dehradun is a better place for our headquarters, is it?"
"Indeed, Sir," said Rahul Khanna. "However, there is also stiff competition from the Raichand and Khurana groups."
He dismissed it with a wave of his hand.
"Competetion is no matter," he said dismissively. "Now, as you were saying, Miss Malhotra, I hear there is to be an auction for the land in the east side of the forest?"
"Yes, Sir," she said eagerly. "It would be the perfect place."
"Thank you," he said. "So now we should shift headquarters to Dehradun.Incidentally, this also gives us the chance to recruit some younger employees : I wish to have younger, dynamic minds in our taskforce. Dehradun it is, then."
As the meeting got over, Siddharth(now Malik) smiled to himself. So far, Maithali's plan was working to the hilt.It had been easy, so easy, to get Vineet Malik out of the way. He thanked his stars that he could still compel humans- even as he wondered for the umpteenth time exactly what category of creatures he now belonged to, given that sunlight no longer affected him, and human food seemed infinitely better-tasting than metallic blood. And of course, he had to get information on Pia…..He could not hope that Abhay would swallow his story. Pia it would have to be….once again.
^Happy Birthday to Tanzie, who is one of my favourite writers
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