The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van


Mahen was sitting behind a large oak desk, the light from the laptop screen illuminating his face in the somewhat dark room. She slowly raised her fisted hand and gently knocked on the glass, secretly hoping he wouldn’t hear her. She was in no mood to talk to him and ask him for a job as his grandmother suggested, but she had no choice. She had nowhere to go, and she had no intention of going back to her life before the accident. Most of all, she was attached to the idea of spending time with the older woman who reminded her of her grandma, a life where she could be her, not Harika, the actress .

Niha almost jerked when he looked up at her from the computer screen. She could feel the heat from his glare through the glass door. He looked at her like he was trying to place her, and she wondered if he recognized her. The clothes she had on from the hospital and her messy hair were the complete opposite of how she looked on the screen and hoped people would never place her.

With the amount of exposure her family and she had in the media and movie events, she would have been identified in a flash in any city, but in this small town, she was a nobody. She was the girl who had an accident, and she knew it was the best place for her to be until she sorted out her life. All the more reason for some kind of an arrangement to be made to stay in this place.

She nodded, opening the door when he signaled her to come in.

“Close the door, please.”

Niha stood by the door and looked up at him as he walked toward her. “Naani wants you to have dinner.”

“Naani?”

“Yes.” She felt nervous around him. Intimidated. The cut-off sleeves of his t-shirt and the ripped jeans he had on made him look very much like a guy who worked in construction rather than behind a desk. He was good looking but not like the models and movie stars she had worked with in the past. His features were well defined and rugged and not soft unlike some of the actors. His presence made her nervous for reasons she could not explain.

“Barely a day and you’re calling my Naani, Naani ?”

“Oh. She said it was okay…” She swallowed her words when he stood up and took a step toward her, his tall stature towering over her.

“I need you to be gone by tomorrow morning. Don’t think you can get comfortable here,” he growled.

“Mahen, I… I don’t…” she stuttered.

“You will address me as Mahendra or as Mr. Rayudu. Understood?”

“Yes. I have nowhere else to go. Please let me stay here. I’ll do anything,” she blurted out the words.

“Anything?” His voice was low as his eyes bore into hers, and the look in his eyes questioned her motives.

“I’ll do any kind of work.”

“What kind of work do you do? What are you capable of?” he demanded.

“Anything I can help with, and there is no need to take that tone with me.” She was done feeling pushed around.

She saw the surprise in his eyes at what she said, but he recovered quickly. “I don’t care what you’re able to do. I want you out tomorrow.”

Reality hit her hard. “Please, I have nowhere to go.”

He stepped closer to her. “The car that burned to ashes, the dress you had on… you think I’ll buy your story?”

She looked at him for a long moment. “I have no one who cares for me. Even if I have everyone, it’s as if I have no one. My Naani was the only person who cared about me, and after she passed away…”

He held his hand up like he had heard enough and looked at her in silence for a long moment. He was not sure if he should believe her, but something about the sincerity in her eyes told him he could let her stay at his house. He had heard the laughter earlier that day as she talked to his grandmother and figured she might be good company to Naani. She seemed like someone who would get bored of the laid-back lifestyle of their town and would leave in a week, at best two weeks.

“Fine, you can stay here. But remember, you will be under close scrutiny.”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“What can you do around the house?” he inquired.

“I’ll need some training, but I’m a quick learner,” she said with slight excitement.

“You will keep my grandmother company and do what she wants you to do around the house. I’ll re-evaluate you staying here in a month. Same day, same time next month, remember to come talk to me.”

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