The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

She let sleep take over her tired body, the excitement of starting fresh, making her look forward to the next morning. She knew her parents would be wondering where she had gone. She had turned off her cell phone before she left the house, and as her mother suggested, she took the unmarked car that they normally used to get away from the media knowing they would not be able to track it, considering it was destroyed.

The unhappiness with her profession was surmounting, and her mother asking her to meet the moron who had slipped his hotel room key card into her hand the moment she smiled at him, was the limit. It infuriated her that she was seen as someone who could be part of a one-night stand just because she worked in the entertainment industry.

She knew nothing other than the movies. She had no life skills, and she hoped to build some and be around people who knew her for herself, not as an actress or as the only daughter of the famous film producer and a retired actress.

Chapter 3

Later that week, Niha was in the library with Naani when one of the guards from the main entrance came in. “Madam, we have a visitor for Mahen, sir, and he is seated in the front room.”

“Okay, have Ratnamma send coffee and snacks.” Naani got up from the chair and gestured Niha to follow her.

“Should I go get Mahendra, Naani?” Niha asked.

“Yes, let him know he has a visitor. I’m sure he set up the meeting, but I don’t know why his visitor is here, at our home, instead of the factory or the office.”

Niha went up the stairs and looked through the glass doors. Mahen was on a call, and when he saw her, he hit mute on the call, and she quickly, as she had previously done the last few times she had to give him a message from Naani, opened the door and notified him about his visitor. He nodded, holding up two fingers, and she nodded before walking back to the front room.

She went down the stairs and walked toward the front room and was surprised to hear a lively conversation between Naani and a male voice that seemed to belong to the visitor. Naani was sitting with her back to Niha as she walked in, talking to a young man who looked surprised when he saw her.

Did he recognize her?

She was enjoying her new normal life she had been living for the past few days so much that in every situation where she felt she would be recognized, terrified her. She knew the town would be swarming with reporters to get the scoop on why she was in that town, dressed the way she was, and why she was in Mahen’s house.

The man stood up mid-sentence as if to greet her. “Hello, I’m Raghav.”

“Niha,” she said, ignoring his extended hand and placed her palms in a prayer pose to greet him.

“Niha, very nice to meet you.” The man had his eyes fixated on her face. He had a look of admiration she was used to seeing before, but she had learned to act casual and not react or respond to the longing looks she would get at times.

“Niha, come sit with us. Raghav’s family is from the neighboring village.” Naani smiled, and Niha nodded at the smiling man.

“Where are you from, Niha?” Raghav asked, and the way the man looked at her, worried her more. He was good-looking and tall, and the way he was dressed, he had to be from the city. Her nervousness started to creep up her spine.

Niha didn’t know how to respond but was thankful when Naani introduced her as her friend’s granddaughter.

“Niha, you should visit my family home. I’m going to have a party in a few weeks. It will be a lot of fun,” Raghav said, and Niha was surprised with an invitation out of the blue and looked at Naani hoping for an escape.

“Apologies for keeping you waiting, Raghav,” Mahen’s booming voice came from behind, and Niha let out a sigh of relief.

“No problem at all, Mahen. I was just getting to know Niha.” Raghav laughed, and Niha turned to look at Mahen, smiling.

She was surprised to see the grim expression on his face as he walked past Niha to sit across from Raghav.

“Niha, go check on the coffee and snacks, sweetie,” Naani asked, and Niha was about to go when Raghav called out to her.

“Niha, I just had coffee. Please join our conversation. Sit with us.”

“I’ll be right back,” Niha smiled and walked away from the group unable to endure the man’s overbearing looks as if he was trying to place her.

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