Joined: 20 May 2012
"Miss Gupta? Would you do us the honour?"
Her head snapped in the direction of the speaker. He did not mean her, did he? Oh, yes, he did. The sadistic damned man! What was wrong with him? And why the hell was he so creepily familiar?
Arnav Singh Raizada! The founder and CEO of AR Communications! Shit! What would she do now?
Khushi glared at her friend and colleague, Lavanya Kashyap, who sat to her immediate left. She had just jabbed at her foot with her five inch high Clark's stilettos.
"Say something, Khushi," Lavanya hissed at her from the corner of her mouth. "They're all waiting for you!"
Just then, Mr Raizada addressed her again.
"You were following, Miss Gupta, weren't you? Or were you lost elsewhere?"
Her eyes darted around the room. Everyone was staring at her expectantly. She had really screwed up this time. But she needed to get out of this mess. The store closed in exactly fifty minutes now, the sales ended tomorrow and she needed that scarf! Where would you get a Denny and George scarf at seventy percent discount? That's right! Nowhere! Trying to appear confident, she cleared her throat.
She paused as several people shifted in their seats and Arnav Singh Raizada raised his brows at her. If only she had followed...
"Actually... I... uhh... I was not exactly listening..."
There were several gasps around the room and even Lavanya twisted around to stare at her with a what-the-hell-are-you-doing look. Well, what was the big deal?
"You were not listening?"
Was that a spark of amusement she had just seen in Mr Raizada's eyes?
"Any particular reason for this disinterest, Miss Gupta?"
Shaitan! Laad Governor! Khushi blushed crimson as her mind poured out curses at him. If Jeff heard any of this, she could bid farewell to her career. It was not like she love her job, but it was a way she earned money lucratively and that let her do her shopping.
"I was not disinterested!" she blurt out in her defence.
"Yes, I was... I was... occupied... by... uhh... by something..."
"I hope that the something which was occupying you is a valuable excuse to miss the whole presentation."
"Yeah... actually... it's... it's about... My aunt! Yes, my aunt!"
"You aunt?" whispered Lavanya.
Now why did this stupid girl have to open her big fat mouth?
"Yeah, my aunt! She's in hospital poor thing. She... she... actually, she just had a cardiac arrest. Her second," Khushi said innocently, amazed at how she could lie so smoothly. She wished she felt as cool as how she sounded and prayed fervently her little story would convince Mr Raizada.
"I was thinking if I could leave a bit earlier because I needed to see her and the visiting hours end in," she looked at the clock behind his desk. Forty minutes left! "In forty minutes, actually. So can I go?"
He watched her for some time, before finally nodding in assent. Khushi thanked him, grabbed her handbag and took off.
Thank goodness she had worn flats that day! She managed to reach the store within fifteen minutes.
"Hello again," she said cheerily to the salesgirl, once she'd caught her breath. "You still have my scarf?"
"The scarlet Denny and George?"
Minutes later, she walked out of the store a glittery black carton bag in hand. As soon as she was out, she removed the precious little ivory-coloured box and excitedly untied the black ribbon which held it shut. Her smile changed into a full-fledged grin as she opened the box.
She felt like a child at Christmas. It was a festival she had just discovered. When she was little she had never celebrated it, because she lived in India within a traditional Indian family who was totally anti-angrez and also because they were not that rich to afford the toys she and her sister would want. It was only when she had moved to London she had discovered many new things. She was overwhelmed with joy. She had never lived live like this.
And she had turned into a shopaholic. She worked for a finance magazine, she had her own column where she advised people on finance but she herself had no notion of saving money. She was indebted too. Not much though. Maybe just a few hundreds, here and there, but she would repay them back soon enough.
When Khushi had opened the package and removed the black tissue paper, the red fabric she had so much coveted spilled graciously in her hands. A dream come true! Khushi Kumaari Gupta owned a Denny and George scarf!
She giggled to herself. She could not wait to show it to Anjali, her best friend since university and equally her roommate. She tried wrapping it around her neck in the most elegant way possible and checked her reflection in a glass pane of one of the shops. Oooh! Was there a scarf in this whole universe that could make her look any better than this?
Khushi froze instantly, her eyes wide as saucers, and a look of pure horror settled on her face as she recognised the voice behind her.
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She turned with a fake smile plastered on her face.
"I thought you had to go and see your aunt?"
"Hello! How are you? Oh, I'm fine, thank you very much! Well, yes, I was just going to meet my sick aunt."
She hoped her sweet innocent smile would work on him; in did work on everybody else. His eyes roamed over her figure to pause at her neck and Khushi suddenly realised the Denny and George was still there. Shit! He knows! He met her gaze quite sarcastically.
She lifted her chin defiantly, her smile gone.
"So what are you doing here with a... Isn't that a shopping bag?"
Her heart leaped. He knows! He knows! No, Khushi, act cool. Cool!
"Yeah... I thought I'd buy her something nice... you know... make her feel better..."
"So you bought her a scarf?"
She frowned. What was his problem? She could buy whatever she wanted for whoever she wanted to. None of his business!
"So? I liked it... I mean, she'll like it... She loves scarves..."
"You bought it for her right?"
"Obviously!" Khushi rolled her eyes.
"Then how come it's around your neck?"
Shit! She should have known he'd come to this!
"I... I... uhh... I was... just... you know... trying it on... to see... to see how..."
"Miss Gupta, do you mind telling me your aunt's name?"
Crap! Crap! Crap! She willed her bewilderment not to show on her face as he frowned down at her. What would she tell him now? Oh, shit! Several times, her mouth opened, but then closed as she had no idea what she could call her so-called, made-up aunt. She scanned her surroundings for help, for inspiration, anything. Just then, a little girl dress up like a fairy walked by, lighting a bulb in Khushi's head.
He was staring at her with stark disbelief and she prayed he had not seen the child. She cleared her throat.
"I mean, her name is... Parineeta, but... uhh... I... I call her Pari Maasi."
Mr Raizada appeared to be trying hard to hide his laughter. Khushi shook her head. No. Impossible! This man had never been caught even smiling! No! She was seeing things wrong. Yes, it was definitely that. The stress was making her hallucinate. She had to concentrate on convincing Mr Raizada. She had to save her career, the money it gave her for her shopping!
"Are you sure, Miss Gupta?"
"Then I should not delay you."
"Thank you." She hurried past him her heart beating erratically.
Her Devi Maiyya had saved her today or her job would be lost. Thank goodness he had not asked about the hospital where her 'aunt' was admitted or Khushi Kumaari Gupta would be a living dead duck!
"What is it, Khush?"
Anjali Jha walked in the small living room of their apartement, paint smeared on her face. She was clearly annoyed and Khushi felt a pang of guilt. Anjali had been painting for her art courses she had just taken up when she had lately discovered her artistic side. However she hated it when people disturbed her, even if it were Khushi, her best friend, or even Shyaam Jha, her cousin.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Anji. I didn't know you were painting."
A small smile crept on her friend's face.
"It's okay, Khush! I've nearly finished it."
"Hey! I've got a surprise!"
"Guess what I bought today?"
"What? Oh God! Show me! Show me! Show me!"
Anjali bounced excitedly as Khushi removed the scarf slowly, dramatically from her bag. Her friend squealed as soon as she realised what it was.
"Wow! Khush! You bought it? Wait!"
A stern expression quickly replaced her happy one.
"How much did you pay for it?"
Khushi saw Mr Raizada's face again.
"Don't ask me. I will never ever forget the price."
"What?! Was it that expensive? Khushi, why did you spend so much money on a stupid scarf? And you're facing problems with the bank too on the top of that!"
"No! Anji! It was on discount at a clearance sale!"
"Then what were you just saying?"
"Sit down, and I'll tell you about it."
By the time Khushi had finished her story, Anji was laughing hard.
"So, you conned Arnav Singh Raizada? Oh dear!"
"It's not funny, Anji! I near peed right there! He's so damn scary! And he asks so many questions and it's like he's reading your mind or something because he way he looks at you it's like he knows what's going on inside your head!"
Anjali rolled onto the floor, laughing even harder and making Khushi get even more pissed. The doorbell rang and Khushi grimly went to open the door. She found Shyaam on her doorstep. Khushi cringed internally and moved aside to let him in. She took a deep breath to clear her mind so that she could try being nice to Anji's lousy cousin who had been sweet on her ever since they had known each other.
And Khushi felt nothing but pity for him. The guy had absolutely no sense of dressing. She had always seen him in pants you'd expect old men to wear, with a pale, crappy shirt and one of the jumpers his mother knitted for him every year. His hair was always oiled, with a neat parting on the right. Seriously, he looked like an uncle! This guy who was the sole heir to a company worth millions! He did not have a fashion sense at all! And, God only knew why but Anji was always trying to get Khushi to like him!
He peered inside the living room, hearing Anji.
"She's gone mad." Khushi told him, answering his silent question.
Anji came to greet Shyaam panting.
"Hey Shyaam, just don't listen to her! She's gone mad. You know what she did?"
Khushi closed herself in her room before Anji could even start narrating to her cousin how she had screwed up.
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