ABCD is my first ever novel. The characters and story as a result are not too different from people I know and customs I follow. The story itself is rooted in Indian culture - so keep an open mind. Chances are, if you aren't Indian, you're going to come across a lot of things that seem strange to you.
Anyway, this story is close to my heart. I hope you enjoy reading it. Keep in mind that this is the first draft, so yes there will be some grammatical errors and such - I haven't gotten around to editing it thoroughly. Remember to leave a review once you're done :)
As always, this story is under the copyright of Sanjana Balaraman. It cannot be reproduced in any form without the express permission of the author.
I shook my head, defeated, "I give up. Completely." I said with a sigh.
Amy laughed, "Oh come on Nish, my getting a boyfriend is hardly a bad thing."
"It is when he's exactly like your previous one, who cheated on you, right?" I asked flippantly, studying the new office building that the architect had drawn up according to my supervisor's instructions. Everything seemed to be in order.
Amy frowned, "You always remember the wrong things. Rob was completely charming, and handsome, and—"
"So amazingly perfect." I imitated her high-pitched voice through gritted teeth, "My god Am, you'll never learn."
Amy started laughing, "Why do we always end up having this conversation when I meet someone new?"
I managed a small smile, "Because you never meet someone new. You meet the same person again and again in different forms. And it all leads to a lot of heartache, on your part and mine."
"On yours?" Amy said, her eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Well you don't think I actually like watching you get hurt again and again, do you?" I asked, distractedly as I scanned the bottom of the document for the price quotation that made my eyebrows shoot up. "Am? Give me a minute I have to get on the phone with this architect we've hired."
I dialed the number Mr. Brown had given me and waited as it rang. After a long wait a woman's voice came on the other side, "Hello?" the voice said, curious.
I frowned and looked down at the name Mr. Brown had mentioned. Druv. This certainly was no Druv. I cleared my throat, "Hello, this is Nisha Kumar of Keidelstein and Co. speaking, may I speak to a Mr. Druv?"
Now the female voice was cutting and rude, "For what reason? Business or pleasure?"
I couldn't help smiling. Obviously this was Mr. Druv's girlfriend who was clearly very insecure, "I assure you madam it's purely business."
"Oh." She said, not even a little sheepish, "Druv! Someone for you!" she called on the other side. There were sounds of shuffling of feet and then a velvety smooth voice, irresistible in its tone and tenor spoke on the phone, "Hello?" the deep, male voice said, in the background he seemed to be asking his girlfriend, "Who is it?"
"A woman who says it's something about work."
"Hello Mr. Druv?" I said in my most business woman voice, although my eyebrows had shot up when I had heard that voice of his and my heart had skipped a beat. I berated myself and stayed focused on what I had to say.
"That's me." He confirmed in his amazing voice.
"I'm Nisha Kumar of Keidelstein and Co. and I'm calling about the blueprint you drew up for our new office building on Oak Street?"
"I thought I was dealing with a Mr. Brown?" he said, sounding genuinely confused.
"Mr. Brown decided he had better things to do and gave me the job. Now—"
"Oh so are you his assistant then?" Now he sounded curious.
I rolled my eyes, starting to get annoyed, "His subordinate." I said sharply before trying to continue but again he cut me off, this time with a low chuckle, deep and throaty, "Well Ms. Kumar it certainly doesn't take much to annoy you."
I closed my eyes and let out a long breath, "Contrary to your thoughts Mr. Druv I have very little time to spare and would like to get to the matter at hand."
He sounded immensely amused as he agreed, "Fine. What's the problem?"
"Well, according to the blueprint you've sent over you are charging us around $50,000 for constructing the plan of the building as well as supervising its erection."
"I am." He confirmed, still sounding too amused for a business conversation.
"Don't you think it's a little much Mr. Druv? Surely you could give us a better price."
"I probably could, but I think I'm well worth my high price." He said, sounding very self-assured.
"I'm sure you are sir, but—"
"Call me Druv." He said persuasively in that lovely velvet voice of his.
"I won't." I replied without losing a breath, "Could you maybe look into reducing your price?"
"I won't." he said, using the same dismissive tone I had; only I could trace the amusement in his voice.
"In that case we might have to consult some other architects and look at what they propose." I warned, hoping the threat of losing this job would get rid of this man's arrogance.
"That would be your loss." He said, the smile now evident in his voice.
Frustrated, I hung up.
Amy observed the furious look on my face and grinned, "You look so angry. It's been a while since I've seen you like this. What did he say?"
"He refused to change his price." I said, frowning, "I have to go talk to Mr. Brown about this." I looked up at her beautiful face, her short blond hair bringing out the sky blue of her eyes, "Was there anything else you wanted to tell me?" I asked her, pulling my long black hair into a bun and gathering the papers skewered across my desk.
"I wanted you to come meet him. Maybe that would change your mind about him." She looked so hopeful when she said that that I did not tell her that I wouldn't like him either way. Instead I nodded, "Sure, when?"
"Tomorrow night is okay for you? I'd say today, but it's Friday." Amy said, shrugging. Friday was the night I drove down to Irvine to have dinner with my family.
"Tomorrow should be great. Let me know the time and place and I'll meet you there." I said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Tell Raj I said hi!" Amy cried after me.
"Yeah sure." I called back, rushing out of my relatively small office.
"Is Mr. Brown in?" I asked Jenny, his secretary.
"He just got in from lunch." She said, smiling. She was a sweet girl, very likable, always helpful.
"Good mood or bad mood?" I asked, crossing my fingers.
She laughed, "Good mood. It was a romantic lunch with his wife. He should be okay with whatever it is you did wrong."
Just then a tall, lanky young man showed up and winked at Jenny, "Hey Jen! Can I go in?" His light brown eyes stood out in his dusky complexioned face, and his straight, jet black hair fell casually over his right eye.
I looked to him and frowned, "Hello? Raj? In the middle of a conversation! And no, I'm going in now." It looked like I was going to make it to the door before him when Jenny (who I always suspected had a thing for Raj) said quickly, "Raj he's in a good mood."
Raj's hand shot out and held the door knob before I could get to it. I frowned, "No way. I screwed up. I need that good mood Raj!"
He smiled down at me benevolently, "Aww, isn't that sad?" He gave me a quick peck on the nose, "I need it too." And before I could say anything else he opened the door and I heard Mr. Brown welcome him in. I watched him go inside and threw Jenny a dirty look, "Just because you're crushing on him."
She blushed and gave me a shy smile. I rolled my eyes and sat down to wait.
An hour later I watched as Raj slinked out of Mr. Brown's office looking a little shamefaced. The look on his face made me shrink a little as I realized that whatever good mood Mr. Brown was in it was probably gone now. I gave Raj a nasty glare as I tentatively knocked on the door. The harsh voice summoned me in confirming my fears. He was not in a good mood.
"Hey Mr. Brown." I said hesitantly as I walked in.
The slightly balding, plump man rolled his ice blue eyes, "What did you do Kumar?"
I worked in a magazine, or rather a company that made a lot of magazines, one of which was the fashion magazine I worked in 'The Fashion Lounge'. I was one of the Editor-in-Chief's many minions, running around doing his work, but recently he had started trusting me with more work, and I was finally getting the impression that he was ready to promote me to a writer. Not at the fashion magazine, not when I don't know anything about fashion! No, I might be promoted to a writer in the new magazine which was going to have its office in the new office building we are constructing, 'Around the World'. The writers for the magazine got to travel to various exotic locations and report on festivals, best time to sight see, and all that. I was thrilled at the thought of such an exciting job, doing two things I loved, writing and traveling. And I had a feeling I had just put my prospective future promotion in jeopardy.
"Sir, the architect? He was asking for $50,000 for the design and supervision of the erection of the building." I started.
Brown sighed, "Kumar I only have so much time. I already know all this. What is the problem?"
"Sir I-I had thought the price was a little too much so I—" By the sudden widening of Brown's eyes I knew that I had just ruined my chances at a promotion.
"Tell me you didn't tell him to change his price Nisha!" he cried, his eyes the size of dinner plates.
"I did." I said, flinching back.
"Nisha Kumar! What on earth is wrong with you?! Do you know how many people I had to get in touch with to finally get to this guy?! Do you have any idea how popular he is?! He's the best in what he does right now! The Friendship Bank building down the street? That was designed by him!"
I gulped, not entirely sure what to say, "I-I'm sorry Mr. Brown, I had no idea."
"Of course you had no idea! What else did you say?" he asked, a little calmer, his hand on his forehead as though trying to massage away a headache.
"Uh, maybe I should just go call him back now Mr. Brown." I said, not wanting to mention the part where I had practically tried to play the young architect by dangling the threat of looking for other architects to do his job. If he was as good as Mr. Brown said he was, it was no wonder he had been amused by my antics. God I felt like an idiot.
"You're lucky you're going back with your job rather than without it. Don't call him, I will. You're off the job. I don't want to see you for the rest of the day. Come see me tomorrow morning and I'll give you something lighter, more manageable, and less important to do." He said, his voice cutting as he gestured to the door.
"Yes sir." I mumbled, close to tears before I rushed out of the office.
I rushed past Jenny and into my own office. Quickly wiping my eyes, I sat down and took deep, calming breaths. So I had screwed up. That was human. I had probably lost my chance at a promotion. I shook my head and let out the breath I hadn't realized I had been holding. The architect had ended up being more trouble than I had expected. Just as I was sitting down, dejected, I heard my small office's door open and shut noisily.
"So how did you fare?" Raj asked, his light brown eyes twinkling with laughter.
"Terribly, thanks to you." I said, pouting.
"Hell, your talk couldn't have gone worse than mine." He said with a shrug, "You're his little A+ girl."
I shook my head, "Not anymore. I almost got fired."
This made Raj's eyes wide with surprise, "No kidding? What did you do Nish?"
So I told him about how I had called Druv, my admittedly strange conversation with him, my talk with Mr. Brown. He sat there, deep in thought, "He designed the Friendship Bank building? That's amazing!"
The Friendship Bank had been a bank running out of business and owned by a millionaire who decided he would make it profitable and make himself a billionaire. He had hired a hotshot new, young architect and spent a bundle of money on buying the man's design, getting the old building torn down and putting up the new one. Everyone had been flabbergasted at the sight of the bank building when it had finally been fully constructed. The entire wall facing the street was made of glass. Hard, bullet-proof, see-through glass. The bank had five floors and a majority of second till the fifth floor was taken up by a giant Ferris wheel! Instead of seats it had plush leather armchairs that went around with people sitting in them, waving and smiling. The bank's motto had become "We're a circle of friends. Tell us your problems and we'll be sure to help." Everyone had first found it a little over-the-top. Especially when the millionaire started hiring people to sit on the chairs. He gave the job to twenty, fresh-out-of-school students who didn't want to do much else with their life. They were given some basic training and knowledge about the bank on the off chance that some joker would question them about the bank like the sign said. In less than a year the bank had shot up to the top bank in L.A. and was looking to set up more branches. All thanks to the innovative building.
I shook my head, feeling like an idiot again, "Yeah it really is."
"And you tried to tell him we'd replace him." Raj sniggered, "He must have had a good laugh after your call."
"Oh get out." I said, dejected. The thought of this man, who I did not know in the least, laughing at me, bothered me for some reason. Raj shrugged and walked out of the room, still sniggering. Meanwhile I pondered about Druv. Had he sounded so successful on the phone? I thought about his voice and felt my pulse escalate. I had not paid the least bit attention to what he had sounded like. I had been too caught up with that voice of his. I shook my head, looking down at my papers, with a voice like that, money, and probably good looks to match he must be perfect. I shuddered at the thought. Almost like one of Amy's boy-toys only he had brains as well. Too perfect.
Suddenly I heard someone clear their throat and I looked up, startled. I saw Mr. Brown and rushed to stand up, knocking down a couple of books off my desk, "S-Sir?" I managed, taken aback. I had been quite sure that after our talk I wouldn't see Brown for at least a week! So what on earth was he doing here now?!
"I don't know what you said to that young man Kumar, but he said you were perfectly polite and that he had enjoyed his conversation with you. He said he would like to keep working with you on this matter rather than anyone else. He also brought down his price to $45,000."
I stared at Mr. Brown, dumbstruck. He had to be joking! Had Druv really blatantly lied to my superior to save my job?!
"So you're back on the job." Brown said gruffly, "Keep up the good work and give me regular updates on progress."
"Yes sir." I managed meekly. I sat down not able to believe what had just happened. Taking a deep breath I reached for the phone. I owed someone an apology.
"Hello?" That silky smooth velvety voice made my heart skip a beat again.
Frowning at my response to a voice I said a little gruffly, "Mr. Druv?"
I could hear the smile in his voice when he spoke next, "Oh! Nisha, isn't it? Call me Druv; after all we'll be talking to each other a lot more I think."
"I wanted to thank you." I said, blushing profusely, glad he could not see my face, "For lying to Mr. Brown about our conversation. You saved my job."
"You don't need to thank me Nisha. Just meet me for dinner." He said casually.
I was stunned for a minute, but I quickly recovered, "I don't get involved with people I work with. Sorry."
"Are you involved with anyone right now?" He sounded like he was frowning now.
"That has nothing to do with what I called to say." I managed, getting annoyed. What was wrong with this man? Didn't he know I was trying to be professional? "I wanted to apologize and tell you the designs are lovely. When can you get started?"
"In around a month I think. I need to get the materials and men together and we can go survey the plot and start work. Is that good for you?"
"Perfectly alright by me." I gave my consent, thrilled that he had gone back to being professional.
"I do need the blueprints back though. Could you have them sent to me? Or maybe drop them off at my office?"
"I'll send someone." I said, making a mental note to ask Amy to drop off the papers. No way was I going to go meet this man.
"Scared to meet me Ms. Kumar?" He sounded amused again.
"Maybe I am." I said truthfully, "You don't sound like someone I'd be very comfortable meeting."
"A frank woman!" He was taken aback, "You're a rare kind. Why wouldn't you be comfortable meeting me?"
"Mr. Druv I like keeping professional relationships professional and I don't think you do. That is a little unsettling."
"Unsettling!" he scoffed, "That's rubbish. You're just worried you might want to stop being professional as well." He was grinning now; it was evident in his voice.
I was a little taken aback; no one had ever read me as clearly as this man just had except for Amy, and he wasn't even looking at me! After a moment I managed in a steady voice, "Something along those lines. You'll have your blueprints tomorrow Mr. Druv."
"Thanks Nisha." He said with a short laugh, "Bye."