The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

“My offer still stands.” Mahen smiled.

“You rock, man.” Raghav hugged Mahen before nodding at Niha and walking out of the house.

Naani smiled at her grandson. “Mahendra… you sounded just like your grandfather. You make me so proud every day.”

Mahen smiled. “Just doing my job, Naani.”

He looked at Niha for a long moment before heading toward the back of the house. Her eyes followed him, seeing him in a new light. She was slightly startled when he stopped and looked right at her, giving her no time to avert her eyes from him. “I owe you one, Niha.”

She smiled, blushing, and looked at Naani.

“I’m taking you ladies out for dinner once the deal with Raghav is settled.” Mahen turned away before Niha or Naani could say anything further.

Naani smiled at Niha. “You did really well in holding the conversation.”

Niha shook her head. “Naani, stop it. I didn’t do anything.”

“You and Mahen make a good team. You’re wasting your talent spending time with me. You should be working with him on such deals,” Naani encouraged.

“Naani, there’s no better use of my time than to spend it with you. That’s what I enjoy the most.”

“Let’s see if you will still want to spend time with me after you attend Raghav’s party,” the older woman teased.

“Not going to that party.” Niha laughed.

“Won’t you go if Mahen takes you to the party?” Naani asked as Niha followed her back to the family room, making Niha wonder if she would go out with Mahen. The answer was yes, she would go out with him.

Mahendra Rayudu, you’re turning out to be an interesting man.

Chapter 4

Niha was having the time of her life spending her days with Naani in the house, in the library, and in the fields. In just a few weeks, she had grown so close to the older woman, she could not imagine leaving her, ever. She was very aware of the soon-approaching one-month checkpoint Mahen had mentioned when he would review her so-called performance and was glad that he was traveling for business. She constantly wondered what she would do if he were to ask her to leave.

A month ago, it was about not wanting to go back to her old life, but now it was all about Naani and the other people who were now an important part of her life. She had become good friends with Ratnamma’s daughters, Urmila and Deepa, and a few of the other girls her age from the town. She spent time with the girls, going shopping at the town center for her essentials, spending time in the fields, and watching movies at home. She spent most of her time with Urmila as she was her age.

In spite of all the development in the area, and with people migrating from different regions for their work, there was no movie theater that played Bollywood movies, which explained to her why no one recognized her. The people in the town enjoyed watching regional movies on the single screen theater that was located at the other end of the town.

After the initial few encounters with Mahen, she didn’t have much interaction with him. She still saw him when she went up to give him his coffee or ask him to come down for meals. She did so without stepping into the room he was in as much as possible.

“And we’re done,” Niha said cheerfully to the group of people gathered to sow the plantings for the paddy crop. Niha was dressed in cropped leggings pulled up to her knees, her ankles buried in the dirt.

“This was done in record time, Niha.” Deepa gave her a high-five with her muddy hand.

“Look at you girls, looking like you rolled around in the dirt.” Naani laughed.

“You know what would be heavenly now? A hot, steamy shower.” Niha still could not get over the fact that she has to use a bucket and mug to take a bath. Her daily routine still felt incomplete, and she knew she would never get used to it.

Naani laughed. “Then go take a hot shower when we get home.”

“Naani, I mean shower, not a bath.” She winked.

“I know what a shower is,” Naani teased.

“Wait. Do we have a bathroom with a shower in it?” Niha inquired.

Naani nodded. “Mahen has a fancy one in his bathroom.”

Niha got excited, then her balloon burst in a split second. “Oh… okay.”

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