The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

She stiffened when she suddenly became aware of his touch, his fingers on the bare skin of her waist and her face so close to his. It was dark, but she could see his outline as he carried her, and with every step he took, she inched her body closer.

As they got closer to the food shack, she became more and more desperate, and her need to be close to him was getting out of hand. She took in a deep breath and moved her forehead close to his chin, wanting to feel his stubble again on her skin.

She felt the gentle prickle tantalize her senses, and she inched closer, tightening her arm that ran around his neck. Mahen was breathing heavily from carrying her up the slope, and she felt the thudding in her chest send vibrations through her nerves.

“Mahen, put me down,” she managed to plead in a hoarse voice.

“Almost there, hold on tight.”

She didn’t need any more encouragement. She moved her upper body closer to him, placing her cheek on his chest with part of her face buried into his neck. She gave in to her need to be close to him and told herself that she would curb her feelings after that night since he offered her a job and would soon be her employer.

Office romance.

She shook her head like she wanted to shake away all her weird thoughts, chastising herself for fantasizing like a teenage girl running high on hormones.

Chapter 8

Niha spent the next few days waiting for her meeting with Mahen. It was the one thing that gave her the confirmation that she didn’t need to go back to her old life, the one she was close to wiping out of her memory where no one cared for her, the real her, and not about her façade on the cinema screen.

Although she had spent only a month with the people in this town, they knew her for who she was, not for how she was portrayed to be by her parents. She enjoyed spending time with Urmila and Deepa, considering they lived in the outhouse close to the main house when she was not with Naani. All in all, she was gearing up to plant her roots in this town and then eventually, at some point, tell her parents about her decision.

“You’re all dressed up early this morning? Where are you going?” Urmila asked, looking at the new outfit Niha had put on.

“I have a meeting with Mahen. I’m going to talk to him about getting a job here so I can be here for good.”

Urmila let out a squeal of happiness. “That’s wonderful. It will be so good. Why don’t you ask for a job in the new factory? You and I can go together.”

Niha got excited. “That will be so awesome. I’ll ask him.”

“What time is your meeting?” Urmila winked.

“No specific time, he said Monday morning. I’ll go in ten minutes because he will be done with his early morning call at eight.”

Urmila shook her head. “You should go later.”


Urmila stepped closer and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone I told you this… Radha, the only daughter of Mr. Rao of The Radhakrishna Group of companies is coming to meet Mahen this morning. In fact, she’s in the front room talking to NaaniMa.”

Niha scrunched her nose. “What’s the secret here?”

“Well, the talk of the town is that she’s meeting him for a marriage alliance rather than a business meeting. No one can tell me what she does, but she’s a famous socialite with a huge following on social media. And she is known to hate villages and small towns, and people think she will make Mahen move to the city if they get married.”

Urmila’s words gave her immediate heartburn, but she ignored her internal reaction. “What? Does Naani know this?”

“I don’t know, but NaaniMa wants Mahen to get married, so if he likes her, they will get married.”

Niha turned away from Urmila and walked toward the front door wanting to catch a glimpse of the woman who Urmila had mentioned. She could hear the sweet and soft voice of the woman, and to her utter disappointment, a beautiful woman, most likely her age, sat right next to Naani, holding her hand and smiling at her. The woman wore a designer saree, wrapped perfectly around her, and everything about her screamed elegance, making Niha feel unkempt.

The woman looked at Naani with genuine fondness, and that made Niha extremely jealous. It surprised her how much she despised the woman in a split second.

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