The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

“Niha, are you okay?” Mahen gave her a few more paper towels as she wiped her saree.

“I’m okay. I just was… this is so sticky.” She kept wiping her saree a few more times before looking up at him. “I badly need a shower, and I’m going to lock your bedroom door. I just need thirty minutes, and I will be done.”

Mahen shrugged. “That’s fine.”

Niha smiled at Mahen and then turned to look at the woman who sat in the chair, looking shocked as a result of the conversation about the shared shower. The shared shower situation between Mahen and Niha wasn’t a surprise to anyone in the household, and she hoped that would get Radha to back off from Mahen.

Why did she want him to stay away from her? Why did she care?

Niha smiled victoriously as she walked away holding the tray with the empty mug of coffee, feeling successful. The feeling of achievement was riding high, and it didn’t matter to her what anyone thought or assumed about her. Even if Radha thought she was a slut, she didn’t care.

Relief swept over her along with the warm water as she closed her eyes, ignoring the never-ending questions as to why she did what she did. She had never even thought about such a stunt, let alone implement it. The sound of Mahen’s strained breathing played over and over again in her head, but she refused to acknowledge and accept that it excited her—just the sound of his hitched breath.


Later that evening, Niha looked at the open fields, ignoring the million questions that popped into her head. After the fiasco on the balcony in the morning, the reality of what she did sunk in. When she realized what she had done was horrendously stupid, she needed to get some fresh air to clear her head.

She had spent most of the late afternoon sitting in the open paddy fields, wondering what had gotten into her, and why she felt so compelled to somehow disrupt the conversation between Radha and Mahen. She finally shook them away, unable to arrive at an answer.

“Niha.” She looked up when she heard Urmila calling out to her from a distance.

“I’m here,” she called out from behind a tree under which she had been sitting for the past few hours.

“Mahen is here to see you.”

Shit! No.

Niha stood up slowly and stepped out from behind the tree trunk. Her breath trapped in her throat, and her heart started beating rapidly when she saw him walk toward her on the narrow, muddy platform that separated the two sections of the crop. He wore his standard cotton t-shirt and shorts as he walked toward her.

“Hi, Niha.” His tone was extremely casual, but she could still feel something building up between them that she had not felt before.

“Hi… Mahen.”

“What are you doing here all by yourself?”

“Umm… Urmila was with me.”

He cocked a curious eyebrow. “Hmmm… why did she just tell me you have been sitting here for hours by yourself?”

Niha didn’t have an answer to his question, and she looked away from him, her eyes downcast, looking at the greenery by her feet.

“What was that all about?”

Niha did not expect such a direct question, although she suspected he might bring up the incident from that morning. In her mind, he should have been oblivious to what she did or intended, but her target was Radha. Target for what, she was yet to figure out.

She was not ready to confess but looked up at him. “What?”

He looked at her in silence, his eyes boring into her like he was reading all her thoughts. “We need to talk about all the drama that happened on the balcony this morning when I was talking to Radha.”

She pursed her lips and took a deep breath. “I was… I was clumsy and the saree, it just happened.”

“What is it, Niha? Speak up.”

“Nothing.” She took a step to her side and started walking away from him, but she didn’t get too far. She felt his fingers wrap around her wrist, and the next moment, she was back in front of him, shock in her eyes.

“What the heck, Mahen?”

He stepped closer to her making her step back, tripping over one of the roots of the tree. Just when she thought her back was going to crash on the rough bark of the tree, he grabbed her—his arm circling her waist, and her arm going around his neck for support.

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