chapter 19 - the proposition

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The next Saturday came all too quick.

At least with the banquet there were a lot of people to talk to, to distract Mrs Balaji, but today, it was just going to be us.

Brunch sounded very informal so I wore a western styled high low kurti over skinny jeans, pulled my hair back into a stiff ponytail, kholed my eyes and mascaraed my lashes, red lipstick , the sindoor and the mangala sutra completed my look.

I thought I looked ok, but Phillip on the other hand, with his polo shirt, slacks and casual shoes looked as dashing as ever.

Simmi had done some more digging for me and this time , what I learnt was not going to be easy for Phillip to comply with.

An hour later we were at the Balaji estate sipping tea while we waited for our husbands to change. There was a certain silence between us that was unnerving, and she looked at me as if she was a tiger sizing up her prey.

Slowly they came out, in deep conversation about something to do with the stock market and I walked to Phillip, just out of hearing distance from the Balaji's and pretended to adjust his sweat band and again making a smear of khol on the back of his ear.

' how well do you play tennis?" I asked, it was probably the wrong time to be asking but I had been avoiding this conversation the whole week.

" Its been a while but I was on my tennis team at high school."

' ok, well Mr Balaji fancies himself as an excellent player. Give him a hard time, a good fight but in the end let him win, he's not a good looser."

" shit, your telling me this now?"

" Yes, can you do that?" I said handing him a water bottle to take a drink and he nodded.

'Good. Good luck! ' i said chastely kissing him on the cheek impulsively before sitting back down with Sheela.

' My Husband is an excellent tennis player, what about yours?"

" In truth, I don't know, he says he used to play when he was younger but its been a while, we haven't known each other for that long."

She leaned into her chair, sipping her cup of tea, and studied me closely again.

What was she looking for?

' Nasty business, that incident with Philip that was splashed all over the papers.'

And there it was, that tabloid story had reared its ugly head. I took a sip of my tea and thought deeply before I responded.

" I knew nothing of it when I got married, in truth, there is still a lot I have been learning about Phillip over the past few weeks. I am sure it wasn't a big deal that got blown up by the tabloids and was possibly from his bucks night. He has been a wonderful husband so far and hasn't given me any reason to doubt him.

Besides the past will only hurt you if you let it hurt you. it didn't bother me then, it doesn't bother me now."

' Spoken like a true Indian wife. Gracious and accepting, willing to support her husband in any situation." She put down her cup of tea and leaned back against her chair, her hands in front of her, fingertips touching.

'What about you , Victoria, where do you fit into all of this? What about you, what do you want for yourself? And don't lie to me child, I always know when people are lying."

Oh hell, this woman just went from motherly figure to card core business woman in an instant.

' Well, Philips parents approached mine with the marriage proposal, mum thought it was too good a match to turn down and we were married about 3 weeks ago. I would have liked to wait until I finished university but the pundit said our horoscopes matched well and that was the only auspicious time.

So we got married.

As for me, I've got one last semester at university then I want to get an internship in the city, work for a bit and get my CA as soon as I can but eventually i want to go solo, doing small business accountancy and perhaps business management.

I've seem so many new immigrants get conned and cheated by the wrong kind of people."

"Its an honourable aspiration. And what about your role with the Malhotra's. Surely Phillip has plans for you to join his company. I am sure he doesn't expect you to be a housewife."

I laughed a little.

' No, Philip and his family have never mentioned me having a role in their business, its probably to early to say anyway,' I said playing with the pendant of the chain Phillips father had given me, it was becoming a habit when I was getting nervous.

' Besides, even if they had, I don't think I would have accepted, I will leave the big deals to them. Besides, having my own business, being my own boss would mean that I would be able to be more flexible when I have children.

You just don't get that kind of flexibility when you work for someone."

' hmm, I suspected as much. You have ambitions but you are not ambitious. Any other woman in your position could try and fast track her career using her husbands contacts. You, on the other hand, seem not to want any of it.

Well lets not waste any more time shall we? I was already very keen to invest with Phillip, he's young, handsome and very successful.

A worthy investment strategy when you consider that there are more and more women who are becoming investors.

And then I make an offhanded remark to one of members of my marketing team about how we should make our company more family oriented, mostly a PR stunt really, and then within a blink of an eye, our handsome bachelor was married.

And to whom? A nobody with no social or political standing."

' So you would have invested with him anyway? Then why wait so long?' What she had said had hit me like a tonne of bricks and sent a bitter taste to my mouth. There had been no need for the marriage and now I was stuck with it.

' Actually, it was because of his mother, pretentious little bitch she is, acting as if she is so much more better than everyone else.

Anyway, we were waiting for her people to contact us, but she ever did, I expect that she was waiting for us to contact her.

So when I heard about the plate throwing incident at your mansion, oh darling, don't give me that look, I know every detail about those I invest with as possible."

I grabbed my cup of tea and took a sip, how would she have known about Sheela's tantrum? Stanford and Martha seemed so trustworthy. The other maids? The gardeners? No wonder Phillip had serious trust issues.

' Anyway, after the plate throwing incident, I did a background check on you and you don't seem to be anything remarkable, but possibly a great way to sub Mrs Stuck-up. The question is how deeply invested are you with this marriage?"

" Honestly?' i was more than irritated and past caring what happened to the deal, I had been married off, my life turned upside down for no particular reason other than that woman's pride.

She nodded her head. "I expect nothing else, lie and I will know."

I took a deep breath and started.

" My parents were in a lot of debt, they agreed to marry me to Phillip in exchange of the debt with Philips parents, except I didn't know that the my parents hotel had been demanded as the dowry. I need to stay with Phillip for the next three years before I am free and my parents must pay the loan back to get the rights to the hotel back.

Whatever you decision is, I am stuck here, in a marriage not of my choosing to a man I barely know, but for the sake of my family I am not going anywhere. I could have run away if I wanted to, in fact I tried, but that ended badly.

I am not going to further shame my parents. They have given me everything in life."

She smiled, a sadistic evil smile knowing she had the upper hand.

' Good girl, I expected to hear as much. Now, lets play a game shall we?

I don't like Sheela for my own personal reasons, but her the reputation of her family's money precedes her, not to mention , Phillip would be a very good person to invest with financially, he seems to have kept clear of his families businesses in India and built himself a solid little empire here.

Since I was going to invest with Phillip anyway, lets do this, I will invest but only on the condition that it is a company run by both of you.

Now won't that aggravate our darling Sheela greatly? What do you say?

Can you imagine, you, the director of a company that will in charge of a multi million dollar build, backed by your husbands reputation and money, and your mother in law, who was so hungry for this deal, having this golden carrot dangled in front of her, yet she cant touch?

Do we have a deal?"

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