Sunday, September 25, 2022

#698 : Day - 4 - The Perfect Date - A Short Story - Part 2

 You can read part 1 here 

Years of being constantly reminded that interactions with the opposite gender should be strictly limited to a professional capacity unless he is your husband made it impossible for me to answer. I felt light headed in spite of the fresh carb intake. 

“Err…um….Sorry, but no, I don’t even know your name!” I replied. I hated that it came out squeaky!

“There you are! Engaellam unna theda bro! (Where do I search for you!) What’s wrong with your phone!?! It kept going off to voicemail” boomed in a voice. I peeled away my face from that distracting tuft of chest-hair on the man opposite. My work bestie, Shiva, made his way near the table with an exasperated expression. 

“Sorry bro! I lost track of time and my phone died. I forgot to charge it!” I replied standing up, grabbing my bang from below the table. 

The man had finished eating too and stood up. He wiped his hands on a tissue and extended his hands. I hesitated a bit before shaking it. His palms felt rough yet reassuring. 

“Nice meeting you chica. Would have been great to have gotten a “yes” but I can take a “no”! Have a good day. All the best with everything!” he replied with a sad smile and walked away.  

“Okay, yaaru idhu?! (who is this)” asked my work bestie eyeing the man who was fast blending into the crowd.

“Just a random guy who asked me out” I replied as we walked towards the exit, my eyes searching for the man. 

“Ooooh! Bro, looks like the men in Spain are falling in love with you too quickly! That’s the third one this week?! Should have said yes to this one. His shoes looked so expensive. Ingaeye settle ayirkalaam bro (You would have settled here!)” guffawed Shiva. 

“Ahaan….let’s go, we need to rush before the peak hour crowd packs the station” I replied trying my best to change the topic. I didn’t want to think about the man. The two guys who had asked me out that very week weren’t anywhere close to being the gentleman that this stranger had been. 

“Ennamo! At this rate, you are going to die as avvai paati 2.0 (Avvai Paati was a spinster who devoted her life to showing devotion to Lord Ganesha)” remarked Shiva as we boarded the train to our hotel. 

The next day….

The conference room in my office was all set for the major meeting with the client. We had managed to close out the testing activity - My company flew me to Spain 6 months ago to support testing activities for a major project. The close out of the project depended on this major meeting. My travel plans back to India in turn depended on the outcome of this meeting. I didn’t really want to leave Spain. I had fallen in love with the language and the culture. 

I strode in and began setting up the presentation as my people started trickling in one by one. My boss had previously indicated that there might be a CTO joining today’s meeting from the client. I wasn’t ruffled by the idea of interacting with a C-suite person. It was the primary reason my boss had picked me to present today at the meeting. Strangely, today was different. Anxiety hit the roof as I fumbled to  plug in the projector. Shiva stepped in to help me. 

I flicked a speck of non-existent dust from my coat and stood up to face the people in the room. I always scanned the room and read expressions - this helped me a lot in anticipating resistance and figuring out allies. I scolded myself mentally when my thoughts wandered to the man who asked me out yesterday. Get a grip woman! You need to nail this! 

“Hello Ladies and gentleman, sorry, I’m late” a familiar voice interrupted me as I opened my mouth to start talking. My heart skipped a beat - It couldn’t be! I must surely be dreaming. The man who asked me walked in looking dapper in a neat powder blue shirt, jet black trousers. A well cut black coat and a stylish smart watch completed his ensemble. His eyes widened for a split second in recognition but he managed to hide it well with a smile. 

My boss and one of the leads from the customer side stood up in unison and introduced him to the people in the room. They also ended up introducing me to him. He smiled politely as we once again shook hands and remarked that I seemed familiar. I couldn’t do much other than just nod. Words failed me. I was surely doomed! I regained my composure as I took a small sip of water placed on the table and began talking. 

Normally I would make it a point to look at everyone’s face in the room. I learnt very early in my career to read a room. Today, that was just exhausting. I couldn’t skip focusing on him for obvious reasons. It didn’t help that he listened intently with a blank face.

“And that gentlemen, bring us to the end of the presentation. We would be happy to take questions now” I closed out my presentation after an hour and sat down. 

There were multiple questions from people both from my company and that of the client, but the man, I knew his name now -  Randall Viera, just observed all the interactions. After all conversations died out, he stood up and walked to the opposite side where I was seated. I stood up when he was inches away from my chair. He extended a hand and I shook it. 

“I’ve never seen a better implementation in recent times. Great Job Shriya! I’m sure our next project will be a great success” he said. My name sounded way too exotic coming from him, it was all about the rolling of the “r”! My legs turned to jelly as I tried to think of something to respond. Shiva sat next to me and tugged at my shirt’s cuff to remind me to respond. 

Sensing my hesitation, he asked if we could meet in 20 minutes after a break in private to discuss some budget concerns from this project. I simply nodded before bolting off to the restroom. I was surprised at my reactions to a man I turned down hours ago. It had to be the damn hormones. 

I splashed some water on my face and rubbed my eyes, almost ruining my makeup. I had to get a grip of things and not let a handsome fact mess with my brains. It wasn’t going to end well for me at this rate.

Note : Thanks for reading through. There might me 2 more parts (instead of the original 1 more) to this story! what's your idea of a perfect first date?! Comment away, I might end up writing it if I love it!



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