Chapter One- the proposal

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I should have known something was up when Mumma asked me to bring the tea and refreshments, normally something Sarah the maid did.

Mum had been buzzing around all day like a bee making sure the house was spotless and everything was perfect. She had splashed out on fresh peony flower arrangements and had worn her best dress suit and pearl necklace set.

She only did that when there was someone she wanted to impress.

It was a good thing that I was used to all this, so I wore a red maxi dress with some layered bangles and pulled my hair back neatly. I popped some make up on, just enough to highlight the better features of my face.

Mumma often had clients over who wanted to hire the hotel as a private wedding venue or for private function hire and it was my job to take the potential clients around the grounds to show them the facilities. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and put on my well practiced smile. Time to get this show on the road.

By the time I got downstairs Mumma was beside herself.

' Rajneesh are you dressed? They will be here any minute now!". She yelled to Papa, who was walking down the stairs adjusting his tie and failing miserably.

' Papa, who are these clients that's got Mumma all worked up" I asked helping him with his tie.

' You think the queen of England herself was coming to visit the way Mumma is acting.'

He looked at me sadly , putting his hand on my shoulder.

" Never you mind Beti ( Indian for daughter) , these people will change our lives, one way or another.' And with that he left me and joined Mamma's side as a very expensive car drove down the gravel driveway.

I should have known something was up as I handed the tea to the very well dressed Indian couple that had come to visit my parents they way they eyed me like I was pet on display.

Mumma had ushered me in to the kitchen and shoved the tray into my hands and told me to make a good impression. It was obvious that they were very wealthy, from the designer clothes they wore, and it was obvious that my parents wanted to impress them, laughing at some of the mans distasteful jokes.

I had sat down next to my parents as I normally did when clients came to visit as it was also my responsibility to try and facilitate any special requirements they might need, such as private spa treatments, food preferences and childcare arrangements .

I should have know that something was up when Mumma hissed at me under her breath to go back to the kitchen.

I should have known something was up when after the couple had left my parents asked to talk to me after they had left.

" Victoria, you know we love you very much" Mumma started, her eyes on the floor. ' But things have happened in the past that we wish we could change.' She paused.

Papa looked grief stricken as he loosed his tie, he leaned back on the couch and rubbed his temples.

' Beti, when the recession hit, we were in financial trouble and Papa borrowed a lot of money from some very important people.'

I looked puzzled at Mumma, this I knew, but how did it apply to me.

' They have been making demands on us to pay the money back. The whole amount. We have tried to talk to them, to negotiate a repayment plan but they wont budge. The hotel is just picking up again but we are not there yet.
They started to make threats against your brother and Papa, and we didn't know what to do, then the Malhotras sent us a proposition, a proposition that seemed to be too good a deal.'

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