The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

“Maybe it’s time to go back to the city life if you’re missing a shower so much,” he taunted.

His words were like darts, but she wasn’t going to take his patronization. “Mahendra, I’m here according to our arrangement. I’m here to take care of Naani. Just because I want to take a shower doesn’t mean I want to leave.”

He took a few steps back as she walked out of the shower stall, her clothes dripping and reached for the towel. “Thank you for letting me use your shower. I came in only after getting Naani’s permission. There was no need for you to be so mean.”

“What’s your end game?” His question surprised her.

She dabbed the towel on her damp clothes. “What do you mean, end game?”

“How long do you intend to stay here?” His voice was softer.

“I’ll be here however long Naani wants me to be here. I’m here for her,” she almost spat.

“She doesn’t need you here. She was fine before you got here,” he retorted.

“What do you mean, fine? She was bored out of her mind. You spend all day in your office or traveling, and you go away to visit the factory most weekends. You’re such a workaholic.”

“What?” She saw the shock in his eyes.

“Yes, she was bored out of her mind, and she loves you too much to tell you to do what she wants you to do for her. I’m telling you, you need to spend more time with her. And for me, I’m going nowhere until Naani says I should leave.”

Mahen did not respond and looked at her in silence.

“You have no idea how jealous I am that you have her in your life. My grandmother was the only person I had in my life and now Naani… I’ll do anything for her. Please don’t try to push me away.” She held his gaze for a few moments as he looked at her silently.

“And, I’m sorry I used your shower without asking you. It won’t happen again,” she said before turning to walk away from him.

Mahen stood by the shower, somewhat of a shock gripping him. He did not expect Niha to lash out at him as she did, but as her words sank in, he could not deny the truth in what she said.

He didn’t spend enough time with his grandmother. He thought he did by living and operating his businesses out of the small town, but Niha was right. He could see that his grandmother was a lot more active after Niha showed up at their house. He had seen them take walks, go for drives, and even watch movies together, the laughter echoing against the oil-painted walls of the older part of the home.

The house seemed to be at a new level of energy as a result of Niha being here and spending time with his grandmother. Urmi and Deepu who were like his sisters, spent most of their evenings in the house since Niha’s arrival, and he had mixed feelings about the changes. The change he noticed in his grandmother was what he was pleased with the most and could not think about taking that happiness away from the woman who loved him most in the world.

What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement for Niha to be in his house was turning out to be longer than he had anticipated, and he didn’t know what to think.

Chapter 5

Later that night, Niha was in the living room looking through the stack of movies. “Naani, it’s your turn to pick the movie.”

“My turn,” a deep male voice said from behind, sending a wave of excitement through her.

“Naani, you okay with that?” Niha did not look up at Mahen and kept her eyes on the stack of movies.

“Sure. Let him pick the movie.” Naani laughed.

Niha was on the floor in front of the shelf that had the stack of movies looking at the list. “What would you like, Mahendra?”

She didn’t get an immediate response, but a moment later, she felt him behind her. She scooted aside when he squatted next to her to look at the list of movies. “What do you think I should pick, Niha?”

“How would I know, Mahendra?” She maintained a curt tone.

“Call me Mahen, please. What do you think we should watch?” His voice was soft.

She looked into his eyes, trying to decipher his intent. “Naani likes mythological movies.”

“Okay, mythology it is. Pick one for me, would you?” He stood up and walked away from her, leaving her jittery like the other times he had gotten close to her. She had forgotten how antsy she felt around him, and she still could not figure out why.

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