The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van


She should have taken a flight out of the country. Next time.

She watched in silence as the man got out of the car and started walking away. He stopped after walking a few feet and looked at her. “What are you waiting for? A welcome party?”

“I’m getting off here?” She looked around the front of what seemed to be a beautiful ancestral home.

“Feel free to go back to jail,” he barked, and his tone annoyed her.

She pushed open the door and slammed it shut. “Why the heck do you keep saying that I’ll go to jail? What did I do?”

He stepped closer to her, and she swore she heard him grind his teeth. “For what you did, if it were up to me, I’d have left you in jail. Be glad she sent me to get you.”

“Where is she ?” she asked angrily wanting to have a face-off with her mother instead of walking away like she did the previous night.

“Have some gratitude for the woman who got you out of jail.” His words were abrasive, making her walk past him and into the house.

She walked into the large living room fully expecting to see her mother huffing and puffing, but she stopped short when she saw an elderly woman look up from the book she was reading.

Niha stood frozen, not sure what was happening and watched the woman slowly walk over to where she stood. “I’m so glad you’re okay. I am so glad Mahen was able to get you out of the car before it caught on fire.”

“What?” Niha turned to look at the man standing behind her like she was sure he knew everything.

The man took a deep breath. “The speed at which you were driving, you spun out, running into the newly constructed office building, setting it on fire. Who’s going to pay for all the loss?”

“Mahen… we talked about it. I’ll pay for it. It was an accident.” The woman’s words were stern.

“No. The accident could have been avoided if she weren’t driving so fast on the narrow road. Were you drunk?”

Niha shook her head. “How did it…”

He didn’t let her finish. “Your car overturned, spilling fuel from the spare container in the trunk of the car.”

“I… I don’t remember any of it. I was just running away…” her voice trailed off when the man raised a curious eyebrow.

“Running away from?” he inquired.

“I was… I was being chased by a bunch of drunk guys on motorbikes, and I was running away from them.”

His brow furrowed. “What were you doing in this area that late at night?”

“I… I…” she stuttered.

“Mahen, stop your investigation. She’s safe from that dreadful accident, thanks to you.” The woman looked at the man.

Niha looked at the man. “You saw the accident happen?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your name, child?” the woman asked, her voice gentle.

“Ha… Niha. My name is Niha.” She almost said Harika, her professional name, but the woman was so affectionate, she wanted to be known as Niha , the name used by her now deceased dear grandmother.

The woman smiled, placing her hand on Niha’s cheek. “I’m so glad you walked away from that accident without any injuries.”

A lump formed in Niha’s throat when the elderly woman’s tone and affection reminded her of her late grandmother. She fought back tears that welled in her eyes and smiled at the woman. “Thank you for saving me.”

“You can thank Mahen for that. Niha… this is Mahen, my grandson.”

Niha looked at him and said, “Thank you, Mahen.”

“Mahendra… you’re welcome.” His voice was hoarse.

“I’m sorry for the damage that was caused… I can pay…” She bit her tongue and stopped talking when she realized she couldn’t really pay for it without contacting her parents or without them knowing. She was pleasantly surprised that the half dozen people who had seen her that day had not recognized her. She remembered crossing a few state lines on her escape route, and she wondered if she was in a location where the regional movies were more prominent than the Bollywood movies.

Her heart longed for the anonymity and not being chased by paparazzi for the next tabloid story. She did not really think about what she would do when she drove off but welcomed her unexpected favorable conditions.

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