As the tables around him cleared, he was done with his sandwich. Before heading back he fished out his phone again. The voice note said, “August 17th, met subject seven at the office canteen. She seems to be trying to be polite and be a part of the group. But her smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She is smarter than them. Mother may approve of my choice.”

Continued From Part I…

Over the coming few weeks Kabir kept meeting her in the office canteen every now and then. The frequency managed to look natural, not every day like an obsessed freak but not to break these lunch meeting for more than two days in a row. He even accepted to sit with her group once during lunch. His notes for that day did not forget to mention how boring it was and how Amaya’s presence was the only thing that kept him seated at the table for all of twenty horrible minutes. They soon exchanged numbers and bonded over their mutual love for the Game of Thrones series.

One evening as Kabir was leaving from work, he spotted Amaya seated on the iron bench at the park outside, smoking. He watched her staring into space and letting her feet out of her sandals and onto the lush green grass below. He always knew the usual time she would leave from work – about half an hour before his scheduled time. Unlike his ‘coincidental’ canteen meet-ups he had successfully managed to keep after work ‘coincidental’ bumping into each other at a minimum. Remember what mother always says Kabir, your presence should not suffocate the girl.

“So, I see you have finally claimed the Iron Throne and are celebrating it with smoking. Very Dragon Queen of you I must say,” he said as he sat beside her.

She looked up with a vague smile. “You alright? You look pretty tired.”

“Yeah, working fourteen hours a day will do that to you,” she said still staring into space.

She scowled at people as some of them stared at her. “You know what? I have a secret place where I go every time I’m not in a great mood. Would you like to come?” Kabir asked. She nodded in agreement.

He led her to an under construction office building just a hundred meters away. As they reached the fifteen-floor building, they noticed several windows with their lights on right up to the eleventh floor.

“This does not look all that impressive you know,” Amaya said.

 “Hey! Don’t judge a book by its cover. This is the new building where they plan to shift in the whole IT team and also the top four floors are supposed to be residential suites for clients and directors I think,” Kabir said. “It’s almost complete, I mean the construction part is, it’s just whitewashing and interiors left I think,” he said as they walked towards the elevator.

As the elevator doors opened with a ding, Kabir offered Amaya his arm, “Shall we, your grace?”

“Yes, we shall my lord!” she replied, giggling.

They rode all the way to the fifteenth floor then took the stairs to the terrace. As they stepped outside, a cool breeze hit them. Amaya let go off Kabir’s arm, stubbed the cigarette under her foot, and walked over to the edge of the terrace to see how high they were. Everything on the ground seemed tiny. She could see the sea-link bridge in the horizon.

The terrace had a concrete floor slightly wet from the rain a few hours ago. It sported unfinished pillars with iron bars sticking out. There were strewn heaps of bricks and sand in the corner where the terrace was missing a parapet wall. “That looks pretty dangerous,” Amaya said pointing to the parapet-less section.

Kabir and Amaya sat on a makeshift stone bench.

Amaya lit another cigarette and asked, “So, how often do you come to this… secret getaway?”

“Every time I need to clear my head and don’t feel like going home yet. Although I’ve never told anyone about this place, you can come if you like. These people are taking their own sweet time to finish the construction so I feel we should enjoy the view while we can,” he paused. “So do you now wanna share what’s wrong? Also, I didn’t know you smoked.”

Amaya gave him a faint smile, “I don’t usually but sometimes I get too stressed and so I give in. My dad wants me to go back home. He was never really fond of the idea of me moving to another city. But, I really don’t want to go back yet. I like it here, at least for the most part.

I got into an argument at work today. A teammate, Sagar, and I were given a project to work on. He let me do all the groundwork. I swear I felt I was in school all over again where I was the only one who would work on group projects,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “Anyway, we were almost halfway through when Sagar suddenly realized that he should probably do a tiny bit of work too. He and I had a difference of opinion about something and it kinda ended up being a little less civil than I would have liked. In fact, today when we were to submit our weekly reports to Sonia, he picked a fight again and I remember Sonia calling us, ‘petulant children who were absolutely good for nothing!’ It’s not nice being called that when you have actually worked hard for something.”

Kabir patted her back and said, “I know this may not help but, the world is full of Sagars. They are filthy, lazy toads and it’s never easy to maintain your cool around such people though you do have to try. The good part though—because these toads are lazy—a good boss like Sonia will ultimately notice your hard and sincere work. Maybe you could try talking to her and ask for a solution?”

“Thanks, maybe I will. I mean it is a requirement for managers to listen to their team’s woes. So maybe it won’t hurt to talk.”

They sat in silence for a while and then decided to head home. As they came out of the building, Amaya turned to him and said, “Thanks, this was really nice of you.”

“No problems, always ready to serve my queen,” he said with an elaborate bow.  

“Hey, umm… just quick question, I mean don’t take it the wrong way but… Uhm… would you like to come to watch a play with me this Saturday and then maybe we could grab some coffee?” Kabir asked in a rush, pushing words out of his mouth before he lost the courage to speak them.

Amaya looked surprised and not in a pleasant way. “Are you asking me out?” she frowned.

Kabir felt his heartbeat thunder as he said, “Yes…?” he almost regretted asking her. Too soon I guess, please don’t freak out, please don’t freak out!

Amaya had a deadpan face and he couldn’t figure what she was going to say next. “Fine, text me the time and place,” she said with a smile.

Kabir let out a huge sigh, and Amaya chuckled at this. Admiring her dimpled cheek and her perfect doe eyes, Kabir said, “Perfect! It’s a date then,” trying very hard not to jump up and down with joy.

Today, he had a smile on his face even when he was being sandwiched in the crowd of the local train. As he entered his house, he put the key on the key-holder and went straight to his mother’s room only to find her asleep.

He quietly closed the door to her room and proceeded to his room. His room was always neat, everything in its place, everything arranged in symmetry. ‘A cluttered space led to a cluttered mind. Something you must avoid at all costs,’ his mother always said.

He kept his laptop bag beside his bed and his phone on the bed. Lost in thoughts, he started undressing in the mechanical routine he always did. He took off his shoes and put them in the small shoe rack right beside the mirror, socks went into the laundry basket by the bathroom. He then proceeded to untie the knot of the tie, neatly rolled and put it in the small drawer in his cupboard. Rolled out his sleeves before taking off his shirt; his mother didn’t like him rolling up his sleeves but he had discovered that somehow the rolled sleeves added a necessary note of casual confidence to his personality so he stuck with it. He hung the belt on one of the hooks beside the mirror, just above the shoe rack, and after dumping all his clothes into the basket, decided to take a quick shower.

After having changed into his favourite grey t-shirt and navy blue cotton track pants he finally sat down on his bed and stared lovingly at the wall opposite. A major section of the wall was populated with pictures of Amaya, his subject number seven. Adjacent to the wall was a study table with a lamp, a few books, a pen stand and most importantly his journal on top of it. He flipped its pages and sat down to write a new entry – September11th-  Asked Amaya, a.k.a. Subject seven for a date this Saturday. She said yes. This should be seen as a positive sign of her feelings for me. Have exactly three days to prepare for the perfect first date. Note: pick the café close to her place, the one she frequently visits.

To Be Continued…