Normally Ram would acknowledge her reception with the subtle nod of his head. But today that affirmation was not even attempted by the tycoon. Although Jenny found Ram’s rejection to be strange, being recently reappointed as his assistant prying into his personal affairs was out of the question completely. As her job description dictated, she followed Ram into his cabin with a copy of the daily agenda in hand along with a pen to mark any changes.
“Sir, today you have 10 meetings starting with the Saxena brothers at 11am. The files for the meetings...”
“No… no meetings or phone calls today Jenny.” Ram interrupted slumping lifelessly in his office chair. “Cancel all the meetings.”
“But Sir what do I tell them…”
Ram responded in a tone that highlighted his impatience and disregard, “I don’t care. Make something up if you have too. But no meetings today.”
“Okay Sir… Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Stretching his legs out under his desk Ram leaned back in his executive leather chair. “Yeah I need a bed.”
“Sorry Sir?” Jenny asked, confused.
Exhaling lazily Ram stared hopelessly at his flustered personal assistant, wishing she would transform into a genie of some sort. All he needed was a bed but even in his delusional and sleep deprived state Ram knew he had to be somewhat rational in his demands.
“Nothing Jenny.” Still very much slouched in his chair Ram requested drowsily, “Just get me a cup of coffee.”
“Coffee?” Jenny’s voice instinctively raised an octave. It was general knowledge perhaps amongst every employee in the entire Kapoor Industries enterprise that Ram hated coffee. In his own words, he had described his strong dislike for the very same beverage. The taste, the look and even the stench; he had once stated that he hated it all.
“Yes coffee.” He repeated, more sternly. Already in a foul mood from the night before Ram was not the least bit pleased with the ensuing informal interrogation.
Keying in on his crankiness Jenny quickly redeemed herself. “Okay Sir, how would you like your coffee?”
“Black and strong.”
No point in sugar coating the poison. He thought to himself. But god if he ever needed caffeine it was now.
“Right, Sir…” Jenny observed Ram as he shrugged his black suit jacket off his shoulders and swung it over the backrest of his chair in an uncharacteristically unkempt fashion. He tugged at the slack knot of his grey tie and loosened it slightly. Ram looked like hell and the day hadn’t even begun properly. Jenny could only imagine the kind of hell he would raise for her today. Silently whispering a prayer in her heart she left Ram’s cabin.
Ram’s jaw dropped in shock, shaken by the initial impact. Priya’s hands remained frozen on the steering wheel; her eyes shut tight as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. No airbags were deployed so it was safe to assume that the crash was minor. Priya had accidentally placed the car in reverse mistaking it for drive. So when her foot slammed on the gas pedal, Ram’s beloved beauty jolted backwards, kissing the brick wall mere inches behind it.
Finally exchanging glances, Ram and Priya quickly got out of the car heading to the rear end to assess the damage. “It nothing,” Ram thought to himself, obviously more concerned about Priya’s well being. However, her reaction was the stark opposite. Breaking down into tears she made a mad dash to the nearest powder room inside the house. Slamming the door behind her she locked herself in.
And now the creases of concern began forming on his forehead with only one thought replaying in his head in a frightening loop, “Is she hurt?” He cursed himself for letting her drive in the first place.
Sprawled out on the couch with his feet up on the glass coffee table, Ram chew desperately on a stick of gum staring pointlessly at the ceiling. Up until the point that he had a large sip of coffee Ram was simply feeling drowsy. But now he felt sick to his stomach, anxiously trying to rid his mouth of the potent bitter after taste.
“Ram what’s going on? Are you okay buddy?” The sound of Vikram’s familiar voice filled Ram’s ears prompting him to lift his head up for a quick second to glance in his direction. Confirming that it was in fact his friend who had entered his cabin Ram rested his head back thinking to himself, “Finally, the bastard has come around.”
“No I am not okay Vikram yaar. What does it look like?” Swiftly placing his foot on the floor Ram sat upright to analyze his buddy’s reaction. “But why do you care? You’re on team Priya.”
“Oye, stop being melodramatic you ass and tell me what happened? Jenny says you cancelled all the meetings for today. You can’t just do that.”
“Look at my face Vikram. No. Actually look at me in general. I am in no shape to lead a meeting let alone 10.”
Crossing his arms Vikram examined his sprawled out friend from top to bottom. “You’re right Ram.” He stated with a soft chuckle. “You look like shit man. One day married and this is your state? You’ve got a long way to go my friend.”
“Ha Ha! Very funny.” Ram exclaimed sarcastically.
“Well…” Vikram sat on the couch adjacent to Ram. “It’s obvious that you got little to no sleep last night. What exactly happened?” He probed, already trying to suppress his smile.
“Priya and Kush… That’s what happened.” Ram explained the events of the night from the moment he entered his room after work. “Can you imagine, I was a stranger in my own home. By the time I cleaned myself up and came out of the washroom, Kush and Priya were asleep on the bed. I had no choice but to sleep on a measly sofa. It was either that or the floor. My back hurts like hell, I got zero hours of rest.” He halted his tale of woe hearing his friend burst into a laughing fit. “Man shut the f*ck up, it’s not funny.”
Trying to catch his breath but unable to fully contain his amusement, Vikram somehow managed to form a sentence, “Karma Ram. Karma…”
“Yeah you laugh now. But when your child comes into this world you will be the self-taught expert on sleep deprivation. Just a couple more months you ass.”
“We’ll see when that time comes. But what are you going to do about your current situation?” Vikram took a few deep breaths and tried to focus on keeping a straight face. Tried, being the key word.
“I don’t know man. I need to sleep that’s the first thing. Only then will I be able to come up with some solution to this madness. But I can’t go home; she will be there along with that crying and pooping machine. Yaar, help me out man?” Ram genuinely begged for his assistance.
“Alright, here’s what you do.” Vikram, still very much amused, decided to help his buddy out, figuring he had suffered enough. “Go to your home away from home and relax. I will handle the meetings for the day.”
“Shit! See Vikram I am really screwed up. How could I have forgotten about my safe haven? Thanks man I owe you.” Ram scrimmaged through his pockets coming up empty handed. “Damn I forgot my phone also! I swear this woman will lead me to an early death.”
“This one is on you alone Ram. Even the wisest of men know better then to piss a woman off.” Vikram offered one of his many life lessons while watching Ram fumble through his cabin grabbing his keys and throwing on his now creased suit jacket.
“Save it man I am in no mood for your lectures.” Ram refuted his advice unwisely. Scurrying to the door he added before making his way out, “Call the house phone if you need anything. Seriously Vikram, I owe you man.”
“Many have come and many have gone. But it only took Priya one night to break Ram. Looks like you have finally met your match.” Vikram scoffed at the thought as the cabin door slammed shut. In all the years that he knew Ram this was the first time he had seen him so senselessly frantic.
Ram pounded the powder room door with the side of his fist, desperate for entry. Curiosity of her condition plagued his wandering thoughts. The weeping and sniffling sounds coming from inside the room made matters worse in his already uneasy mind.
“For god sake Priya open the damn door!” He yelled, having asked politely before with no results.
“No. Just leave me alone Ram.” Lacking the boldness and structure in her voice, Priya’s request seemed unconvincing.
“We both know that’s not going to happen. Open the door I just want to see you.”
“Why? I wrecked your favorite car. You warned me but I didn’t listen. Ram I don’t want to go out anymore. Just leave me.”
Leaning with her back against the door she waited for his response. Although, she had asked him to leave her alone, in her heart she wanted nothing more then for him to stay. But as the first minute of silence prevailed around her, she knew he had heeded her untruthful request.
“He hates me.” She wallowed in her self-pity and guilt unable to hold back the salty streams coursing down her cheeks.
But it wasn’t long before she heard a series of crashing sounds hailing from the garage. Unable to contain her curiosity Priya ran out of the powder room and towards the source of the commotion.
Swinging a wooden bat Ram smashed the passenger side window of the very same car that she had wrecked earlier.
“Ram what are you doing?”
“Proving a point.” He stated vaguely before raising the bat for another blow, this time aiming for the back seat window.
“Are you crazy Ram? Please stop this madness.” She shrieked over the sound of glass kissing concrete.
“Yes. I am crazy.” He chucked the wooden bat to the ground just as she’d ordered before walking toward her. “You are the root to my madness.” Ram’s voice sounded rough and edgy. Finally they were face to face, his fingers clasped around her arms, gently yet firm, assertive but with a strong presence of concern. Staring into the depth of his eyes, she was unable to read him. Perhaps her own strung emotions were the culprits that had thrown her off her game.
Almost in a faint whisper, Priya quickly recited the pressing thought on her mind hoping to ease her burden a little. “I am sorry for ruining your car Ram.”
His reaction was blank and impalpable. She was beginning to wonder if he had even heard her apology. But before she could confirm her suspicions with a statement, Ram offered her his own words. “Are you hurt?” He asked in tandem with his eyes searching her body for an answer.
Still secured in his hold, she replied softly, “No.” Gulping nervously, she added, “Are you hurt?”
“Next time when I ask you to open the door, you open the damn door.” Completely ignoring her question Ram masked his concern with assertiveness. And although she was irritated by his disregard of her question Priya knew by the look on his face that she was in no position to argue.
“Do you understand?” Priya had a hard time deciding which was more threating, Ram’s glare or the seriousness in his tone. Not that it was of any importance for her to decipher.
The nod of her head was a subtle response to his inquiry but it proved to be rather powerful, softening Ram’s expression. He pulled her into his warm embrace, one that she craved so badly. Resting against his chest she could feel his fear. Without miss, his heartbeat always found a way to report to her whatever he tried hard to conceal. It was as though his heart knew that she was only person that could settle him in his moment of frenzy. And of course, it was right. Kissing him softly, several times through his shirt, Priya whispered once more, “I’m so sorry.”
Robbing her of warmth Ram stepped back. Although, the look on his face had left Priya guessing, it wasn’t long before Ram had recaptured her wandering mind.
“I am hurt Priya.” Ram settled her curiosity with a rather unsettling statement.
“What? Where?” Unsure of her words, she anxiously reached out to touch him. However, Ram held both her hands, denying Priya of her desperate need.
“I am hurt that you think a car is worth more to me than our love and your well-being.” Letting go of her hands Ram added, “You obviously have no idea about the extent of my love for you. Or maybe you do and you just don’t care.”
“No, Ram it’s not like that.” Priya tried to muster up an explanation without breaking down. She just needed him to know that she never once doubted his love. But Ram was in no mood to listen.
“It is exactly like that Priya.” He stated outright staring squarely in her hurt, moist eyes. “Anyways, forget it. If you still want to go for that ride I will be waiting in the car.” Finishing the conversation on his own terms Ram made his way to another one of his luxury rides like nothing had even happened.
Starting the engine, Ram examined Priya’s unmoved figure in the rearview mirror. He watched with a rock on his heart as she brushed her cheeks with the palms of her soft hand. It was obvious to Ram that his words were the reason for her distress. But he was no stranger to the pain either, having experienced the same.
Unleashing his frustrations on the steering wheel Ram waited impatiently for Priya. This time around he desperately needed for her to make things better. In fact, he was insistent on it.
Although he was unfit to drive Ram quickly zipped through traffic focused only on his destination, a five-minute car ride away from the Kapoor Industries.
Shutting off his ignition Ram stepped out of his car with surprising speed for a sleep deprived man. A smile unmistaken on his face and a rich pep in his step Ram skipped up the mini staircase leading to the door. It wasn't the house that peaked his interest but the people inside who meant the world to him. Somersaulting in his chest as he rang the doorbell, his heart filled with glee impatiently waiting to see the serene face of the only woman he knew he could trust blindly. As the lock clicked and the door slowly opened Ram prepared himself to catapult into her warm embrace.
But when he caught a glimpse of the woman who stood in front of him, Ram's excitement faded just as quickly as it was brought on.
"Priya? What the hell are you doing here? Wait… Are you following me?" Ram squeezed his words through clenched teeth. Suddenly all emotion failed him with the exception of one, anger.
"I could ask you the same thing Mr. Kapoor!" She snapped back at him with equal distaste.
Hearing the commotion an old and slightly plump lady waddled her way to the entrance. Upon catching a glimpse of her grandson she shrieked, "Ram beta I am so happy to see you. Thank god you came. I have been calling you all morning but there was no answer. I even tried calling you at the office with no luck."
Normally he read her emotions like an open book. Had his judgment not been clouded by baseless rage he would have definitely picked up on the latent despair and fear in her uncertain voice.
Ram stormed through the doorway his eyes still seasoned with rage unwavering from his target.
"This is my dadi and dada-ji's house. I have every right to be here.” That statement alone was ample justification for his presence in the house. But being the angry, bitter man that he was, Ram added a final and arguable unnecessary blow. “Just because your family is no more doesn't mean you have the right to interfere with mine."
“Baas Ram!” Having heard enough Dadi finally put an end to the madness. She was no stranger to her grandson’s volatile nature but for the first time she felt like he had crossed a line and had she not stopped him when she did, he might have decimated Priya’s emotions beyond repair. But one glance at Priya’s face stirred an uneasy feeling inside her; perhaps the damage had already been done.
Reeling in the bitterness of his statement Ram’s ego cowardly took shelter in the shadow of his judgment. “What the hell was I thinking?” He thought to himself drowning in the sea of pain filling in her eyes. It was only then that it hit him. Priya had no knowledge of his Dada-ji. In fact, she had believed him when he told her that his Dada-ji had passed away. Although he had his reasons for shielding the truth from her, he couldn’t come up with an acceptable excuse for his rash behavior.
“I called her here.” Dadi stood next to Priya unfolding the events of a hectic morning. “Ram I called you on your cell and at your office number. But Priya advised me that you had forgotten your phone at home and Jenny said you weren’t able to take any calls at the office. Thank god Priya answered. I wouldn’t have known what to do if she hadn’t helped.”
“What happened Dadi?” He finally questioned, coming to his senses. “Is Dada-ji…” Dadi began weeping before Ram could finish his sentence. He took her in his arms his eyes scanning Priya’s body language for any clues. Silently Ram begged her for an answer, which she probably didn’t feel he deserved.
He guided his Dadi to the living room and got her to take a seat on the sofa. Ram sat next to her.
“ Ram, your Dada-ji fell ill early this morning. Priya answered the phone when I called you several times. Thank god she did. She came with Sudhir and they took your Dada-ji to the hospital. He is back now. Resting in his room.”
“What exactly happened to him Dadi? He has been taking his meds right?” Ram was now wide-awake.
“I don’t know beta. Sudhir just stepped out to fill your dada-ji’s prescription. He should be back shortly. You can ask him. I wouldn’t be able to tell you.” She paused momentarily and then as if a light bulb had switched on in her head, she quickly added. “Priya…Yes, ask Priya. She will know.” Scanning the otherwise empty living room Dadi looked back at Ram, “Where is she? Ram did she leave?”
Ram was equally curious. She couldn’t just leave like that after doing so much for him, he thought to himself. “Dadi, I’ll just check. You relax. I am here now and this will never happen again. I promise.”
Ram rushed to the foyer. For the first time he was anxious to see her face. One could tell by his changed demeanor that he was eager to apologize and make amends. Perhaps even extend his hand in friendship. However, when he got to the foyer, Ram was greeted by silence and emptiness. The closed door alerted him of her departure. He couldn’t deny the subtle rage building up inside of him. But this time his anger was directed at his own ego.
Running to the door he swung it open hoping to catch her just on her way out. But alas, he had no such luck.
“Excuse me…” Suddenly, the voice of a woman sounded from behind him.
Spinning as fast as he could, Ram turned to put a face to the voice, praying that it belonged to Priya.