The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

The sun was setting over the hills, and the view of the green slopes was breathtaking. “Let’s eat here?”

She nodded, smiling. “Yes, absolutely.”

For the next forty-five minutes, they chatted as they enjoyed the authentic food. The food was too spicy for Niha, but she downed it, enjoying the heat. When they were done eating, and the restaurant helper came and took away their utensils, they sat there on a concrete platform built around the thick bark of the tree, looking over the hills.

“You okay?”

“Yes… all good.” She hesitated.

“Why are you so quiet?” he asked, keeping his eyes on her.

“Oh… just wondering what Naani is up to.”

“I’m sure she’s watching her favorite movie for like the hundredth time.” He snorted.

“She’s such a darling. You have the best Naani. I’m so jealous of you,” she confessed.

He laughed, shaking his head. “I thought we agreed she was your Naani, too.”

“I don’t know, Mahen. I just worry about the day when I have to leave the house. I think about it, and I want to cry,” she blurted like she had no filters.

Mahen didn’t say anything and looked at her in silence. A painful lump formed in Niha’s throat just at the realization that she didn’t belong there.

“Look, Niha, I don’t know why you left your home. I don’t know how long you will want to be…”

She interrupted him. “I want to be here, forever. I never want to go back.”


“I don’t know. When I left with the car, I had no idea where I was going. I just kept driving… and now I can’t think of living anywhere else.”

“Okay. You may feel that way about this place, too. What feels like an attachment now, you may not feel it later.”

“No, I’ll never leave Naani.” She was sure about her decision.

“I hate to break it to you, but Naani is almost eighty, and she…” He stopped when her palm swiftly closed over his mouth.

“Don’t you dare say it. I don’t want to hear it. I’ll be here. I’ll find someone I like here and get married. I’ll have kids so that Naani can play with them.”

“Interesting. You’ve made a lot of plans.” He smirked.

“Yes. I have made up my mind. I need a job, and then I need to settle down here.”

Mahen looked at her with amusement in his eyes. “Come see me in my office Monday morning. I’ll discuss a potential job opportunity for you.”

The plan she spelled out to Mahen, she had never thought about it, but at that moment, for the first time ever, she knew what she wanted in life. It was an overwhelming moment, but she looked forward to the conversation with Mahen.

“Done.” Niha was over the moon and had a tough time containing her excitement as they got up to leave.

The sun had set, and it was partially dark as they walked back to the car, and Niha picked up her saree skirt to avoid stepping on the hem. Mahen saw her take every step cautiously and stopped to extend his hand to her.

She smiled and placed her hand in his, and her heart jumped when he squeezed her hand. “Hold on.”

“Thank you,” she said looking down at the path as she stepped on each rounded rock carefully.

She held his hand, feeling the warmth turn into a burn of need inside her. Her fingertips grazed the side of his palm like she wanted to feel him, and, at that moment, she lost focus on her step, and her foot slipped on one of the smooth rocks she had stepped on in her path. A squeal escaped her, and she let go of her saree skirt and used the other hand to grab on to something and that something happened to be Mahen’s t-shirt.

She partly fell backward until she heard him grunt and then a moment later, her body slammed against his chest. “Watch it, Niha.”

“I’m sorry… I can’t see and…”

“This is not working. Stay put.” Before she could ask what he was doing, he reached around her knees and swept her off her feet, making her let out a cry of surprise.

“Mahen, what are you doing?”

“Putting myself out of the misery of watching you dance on those stones.” He laughed, carrying her to the car.

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