To say I was getting any constructive work done that morning would be a lie.
I sat thorough one meeting after another, absentmindedly, daydreaming about her.
Shit, all we did was sleep in the same bed, but I smelt her flowery shampoo everywhere, imagined I saw her around every comer. Here eyes, her smile had captivated me.
She had been so excited that morning, excited to start university again, probably excited to get away from me.
But I knew it was all an act.
I remembered how she had snuggled her face into my chest when she was fast asleep, the way her body fit mine almost perfectly as I spooned her.
She had let me see her that night, the true face of her vulnerably and despair. I was tempted to take advantage of it. I wanted to so badly and in her emotional state, she probably wouldn't have resisted. But I didn't want to do that to her. I wanted her to come to me, to make that choice for herself.
My secretary gave me my daily briefing, but I wasn't interested. Instead I cancelled my appointments for the day and pulled out her pink battered laptop and scrolled through its contents. The thing that interested me the most was the pictures.
I watched her history in the coloured photos, pictures of her with her friends, doing things that teenagers do, I looked at her family photos. They were so different from the ones I had with my family.
In her pictures they were always smiling, always hugging. They were close and happy and it was apparent in the pictures.
There was something about her in her photos, the way she smiled, the sparkle in her eyes, the pure joy and beauty of her spirit could be seen clearly.
As I scrolled through the photos, an unknown number called my phone and I answered.
" Phillip Malhotra speaking."
The person on the other end of the line was silent for a while and I was just about to hang up when he spoke.
" Phillip, damad ji." It was Victorias father. He sounded tired and frail but that was none of my concern.
""I saw the missed call from this number." He paused for the longest time." You didn't bring her back for the homecoming ceremony. We waited and waited."
' The wedding ceremony was done. The homecoming wasn't necessary."
' It was necessary. Necessary for us!" There was pain in his voice. The emotion I felt was guttrenching. It was a contract marriage, at least it had started off that way, but for them it was more, much much more, and you felt it with every word he spoke.
" This is the longest I haven't seen here since the day she was born. How is she? Is she ok?"
' She is fine. She's back at university." Was all I could say. Why was the emotion in this old mans voice getting to me?I didn't know him and I didn't want to.
" oh..thats good. She was always proud of her studies. I won't keep you long, damad ji, I know you are very busy but I have one request from you." He paused again.
"I beg of you, please keep her safe, please look after her.
She is the light of our family, our Lakshmi, our heart and soul." His voice cracked as he spoke, his sobs although muffled, could be heard clearly over the line.
" I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to her. It was my biggest mistake to make her get married, I should have let them kill me instead. She's stubborn and strong headed but she's not as strong as she seems. Please promise me, promise me you wont break her, please keep her safe. Promise me you will look after her."
This time his voice was broken, the emotions he had held back were clear hear. It was strange to hear someone speak so plainly to me, his words and emotions veiled nothing and he had laid everything bare for me to hear.
This was so strange for me, I lived in a world where people only let you see only what they wanted to. this, pure and raw emotion was rare and unnearving.
' Sir, she is precious to me too. I promise to take care of her,' and I hung up the phone, unsure if I liked the sadness that my sympatric side was feeling for this man.
There was no chance of getting anything done now so I decided to go and find out what she was doing, after all, any surprise is a good surprise.
I had enjoyed watching her squirm and her shocked face as I sat down at the student cafe.
I'm not sure how she could eat there, the food was tasteless and the coffee was terrible but it was edible and cheap. Surely she could afford something better? I suspected that it might have been to do with her friend.
Stanford had been messaging me all day about Victoria's movements.
There was nothing that raised any flags, no secret boyfriend, no signalled looks to anyone else, in fact, apart from Simmi, she hardly spoke to anyone else. I had wanted to find out if there was anything in her life that was not included in her file and it seemed that there wasn't.
Simmi was an interesting girl, bold and brazen, her choice of attire was so much more different to Victoria, her hair wild where as Victoria's was always neat, and her mouth, that girl could cuss worse than some of the men I knew.
I found out that she was the youngest of three children, her oldest brother was a lawyer in the next state over, her other brother studying IT and was a budding Dj, her parents owned a Panjabi restaurant that doubled as a nightclub on the weekends.
I eyed her cigarette disapprovingly as she lit up while speaking about her family, ignoring the constant buzz of her cellphone as she talked, even if she noticed my disapproval, I doubt she cared.
I decided that this friend of Victoria's was ok, she had bad habits but she seemed a decent person under the facade of being a wild girl.
It was Victoria that I couldn't understand.
She was a hoteliers daughter so shouldn't she be used to a much more luxurious lifestyle and not eating at cheap student cafes, wearing cheaply made clothes, even her laptop was ancient and I guessed that there was a lot her background check couldn't tell me, such as that her parents hotel was not nearly as successful and she was not as sophisticated as I had been led to believe.
My mother had played me again.
I enjoyed teasing her when I got into the car, it wasn't entirely untrue what I said, I suspected that she liked me enough but I wasn't sure why she denied it so much but when she handed me her books, that was a turning point for me.
The books were old, dog eared and almost in tatters.
I had seen enough of her through her laptop, even as old and outdated as it was, she kept it in pristine condition. Even the phone, that I had so carelessly broken didn't have a scratch on it.
This is what the old man meant. She wasn't rich, she wasn't wealthy. She was making what little money she had stretch by buying these old second hand books and eating at cheap cafes. She was so stubborn she hadn't even asked me for any money and I suspected that even if she was down to her last dollar, she still wouldn't.
Why was she so defiant?
This was not what she deserved, she deserved better, especially when I could provide so much better for her.
And so I intended to do just that.
YOU ARE READING
An Arranged AffairRomance
To repay the debt owed by her parents, Victoria, a young Indian girl born to immigrant parents, is forced into an arranged marriage to the only son of the weathy Malholtra family. Unable to see past her familys betrayal she makes a plan to make her...