Around six that evening, when the doorbell rang, Eshan was busy getting things ready for the evening’s party. Wondering who had turned up so early, he grumpily went to the door. It was Nathan. “I’m here to help you,” he said with a smile. “How much can you possibly do all by yourself.” Holding forward a single rose that had a long, slender stalk, he bowed dramatically. “Congratulations. For now, you could stop being jealous,” he sneered. Eshan knew that the emphatic ‘all by yourself’ was hardly intentional, but it bothered him.
“That’s so kind of you, Nathan. But I am almost done with it and was going to give a bath to Bruno. You can make yourself comfortable if you wish, or else, I will see you in an hour,” Eshan said reluctantly. Somehow, he wanted to get rid of Nathan. He never wanted to invite him at all, but as a colleague, choices were limited.
“Alright, then. I will see you at seven like others,” Nathan said. Eshan found that a deep sigh of relief and went back to wrap up the mess around when the phone rang. It was Laila. “Where the hell are you? I am waiting for you for almost an hour. On top of it, that jerk turned up and was offering his help.” Laila laughed over the phone and said, “I always knew it, he is gay and has some sort of inclination towards you.”
“Oh, really? You are ignoring the fact that he is happily married,” Eshan said irritably.
Laila quickly responded to it by saying, “Come on. Happily married is not something meant for men. And his marriage has always made me feel deceptive. Do not worry. I am almost there and cannot wait to hear more about it.”
Eshan was frustrated to the core and fumed over Laila for those remarks, but before he could even respond, she hung up the phone.
She invariably cherished the heated exchange of words between the two at work. Nathan was senior to both Eshan and Laila at a pharmaceutical company named Pfizer. A couple of days back, Eshan was reported to be promoted at a senior position than Nathan which was announced through email notification by the senior leadership.
Till that day, Nathan exploited every subordinate who worked under him, specially Eshan in particular. He often asked Eshan to prepare the presentation deck and presented it himself to the client without keeping Eshan in the loop. That way, he earned a good reputation among the leadership team, which got him remarkable hikes and promotions in every appraisal cycle.
Even the best of boot-licker ability was of no help, and on the other side, nothing stopped Eshan winning the sympathy from across the board. Getting promoted two-level up in the hierarchy was something that had never happened before within the organization. The hard work of all those years finally paid him off. He got promoted to the position of General Manager for the sales team. Patricia left the job immediately after her marriage because she could not face Eshan any longer. But Bruno continued to be in his life as a symbol of their love. It was a gift to Patricia when she was down with a high fever last year. After breaking up with Eshan, she abandoned the dog as well. Maybe intentionally!
While giving a bath to Bruno, Eshan remembered his girlfriend Patricia who broke his four-year-long relationship with Eshan and eloped with Nathan to marry him. Everyone at the office knew that Nathan took advantage of his position and deputed Patricia as one of her assistants. They used to gossip that he seduced Patricia to snatch her away from Eshan to envy him. That caused a severe loss of reputation for Nathan at the workplace, and that year he failed to receive a single penny of hike in his salary for the first time in his career.
Laila came within ten minutes of their conversation over the phone and took the charge of catering services and checked the arrangements for the drink and cocktails. She had prepared two cups of coffee by the time Eshan took a shower and found it entirely mesmerizing to see Laila in a red gown. She looked fabulous. “So, what do you think? Why did he turn up early today?” she asked while sipping her coffee.
“I don’t know. Maybe Nathan wants to rub the salt over my wound like always or maybe to satisfy his ego by taunting me for being single after he snatched away my girlfriend. By the way, who even cares about the wisdom of a dumbass like him?” Eshan said reluctantly.
“Ah, how many times do I need to correct that he was not the one who snatched away your girlfriend. The bitch never loved you truly and was looking for an opportunity to dump you. She was living with you and worked with you. She saw you being hunted down by Nathan at work on multiple occasions, and you never resisted it till the time she was with you. That certainly made you look like a spineless person who could not defend himself in an adverse situation. She might have attested you a looser in her mind,” She growled.
Now, it was Eshan’s turn to tease Laila. “How could you be so sure? You are not a psychiatrist, and your life is itself a hell. I mean, a lady who herself had more than three breakups all in one year is preaching me about infidelity. I mean, that certainly deserves an applaud. By the way, thanks for the coffee,” he said and was about to leave to get dressed up for the party. But she was not going to give up that easily.
“I may not be an expert and might have suffered a couple of more breakups than you, but I certainly know about a woman slightly more. You are forgetting the fact that she was a close friend of mine before she dumped you and fled with the favorite foe. We had many great conversations, and as proof, I know a lot of secrets, which she told me about you.” She said that and looked at me with a tilted head.
Eshan preferred to put the conversation on hold and walked towards his room. She followed him there. While combing his hair, he asked, “What secrets did she reveal to you?”
“Don’t ask me. You can ask her directly as she too is going to come today.”
He was about to faint hearing that. “What did you say? Is she coming over to the party? That’s not possible as I did not see any sign of her when Nathan came at six.”
Laila smiled to see his uneasiness and said, “Let us wait and watch. She texted me in the morning today. And why are you getting excited about it? Maybe she is coming over to check on Bruno. She often misses him.”
“Huh, let her come. Bruno will bite her ass off. The boy is eagerly waiting to avenge his master.” Eshan said while slipping into his pant carelessly.
“I know. Even dogs are insane in this house.” And she burst out in laughter saying that.
Eshan grabbed her in his arms and locked her lips into his own. For a moment, time stopped in between their mouths, and then he slowly kissed her neck. She too embraced him tightly as if never to let him go. Laila was the only hope left in Eshan’s life. She provided the required solace to him after the betrayal from Patricia.
“Leave me else I will remain unstoppable throughout the night in case you pour any more romance in me. We have guests to come,” with that Laila managed to untie herself from his grip. She loved Eshan insanely from the very inception of their friendship at work but silenced her emotions seeing Eshan’s love for Patricia. Soon after their breakup, Eshan proposed Laila for marriage but she asked for some more time citing the reason for the ongoing treatment of her mother.
Quickly after the bell rang seven, guests started to assemble at Eshan’s house, and soon everyone started enjoying the ecstatic combination of champagne and lobster along with a soul-nourishing Jazz that was being played over the gramophone. Eshan had a great collection of music albums. He traveled across the world with the sales team to have a great collection of wine, scotch, and folk music.
He was overwhelmed to see Laila playing a perfect host at his house and while he was overlooking at everything from a corner, someone kept her hand over his left shoulder. “She blends naturally with your house. Isn’t it?” It was Patricia, who looked elegant like always in her long black dress. “I hope it doesn’t bring much discomfort to you seeing me here,” She said while picking a glass of wine from the tray. For a moment, Eshan was not able to utter anything as words simply did not find a way to emerge out of him. There was a magical radiance present all over her face.
“Is she expecting a baby?” He murmured to himself.
“Did you say something?” She asked which made Eshan think whether she can still read his mind.
“No, I did not say anything. In fact, I was so captivated by your magical presence that I could not hear anything you said so far. I am sorry about it.” Eshan was having no idea how to continue the conversation with her.
“Oh, really? Am I still so desirable to you or is it just a fling of yours?” she worded it again in her usual style of questioning every intent around her, making it complicated for others to answer.
“Ah, I had always been a great admirer of beautiful women and you know that. As per me, every woman is desirable irrespective of her relationship status. Now, for you, the answer is no because you are married to one of my colleagues, and I can be anything but not a wife poacher,” Eshan knew how to handle her tantrums. Both knew about the worst secrets of each other.
Laila was keeping a close eye at them and her concern was the irritable character of Eshan. It was easy to break him specially by a witch. But the moment she started to walk towards them, Nathan stopped her and asked for a dance, which she politely refused.
“You are forgetting that even though Eshan got the promotion, I am still your boss and I guess this is the first time I am asking you for a dance. You should oblige me today,” He said giving a devilish smile, but unknowingly got on her nerves.
“Why don’t you ask your beautiful chirping wife for the same? Or maybe it is your personal ambition to try charming every woman in Eshan’s life. Trust me, I am not among those bitches who can be inspired to taste the filthy stinking tongue of yours. Now, please go and settle off your butt somewhere else. I got a lot more people to oblige,” Laila gave it back for all the trauma she and Eshan had to bear due to Nathan’s superiority over them at work. But the shameless creature continued smiling even at the worst response.
On the other corner, Eshan could not say no to Patricia for dance, but before they could even start, Laila came and joined the duo. “Hello dear, I was telling it to Eshan that you look more natural and insidious to this house,” Patricia said to Laila.
“That’s true. Because I do not have any hidden agenda with me. I genuinely love him. By the way, how is your life with that jerk husband of yours? Looks like he is still trying his luck with other women.” Laila was in no mood to give it up that day. Seeing Laila in such a fit of anger, Eshan decided to go along with other guests. “Let me see what all they need.” He said and left.
“Laila, my sweetheart. You know adequately how desperate he is and still questioning me. Unfortunately, both turned out to be the same.” She said keeping Laila puzzled with her last statement. “Anyways, you tell me. How is your mother and when are you guys planning to shift here?” Patricia tried calming down the annoyed Laila and it worked.
“Not anytime soon. Mom is going to have her last session of chemotherapy in this week itself and then most likely she is going to be discharged from there. All my savings are gone behind her treatment and so I need some time to restructure my life before I get into marriage and all,” Laila shared her feelings while sitting over the railing and covering her face with a face towel.
“Don’t overthink in such matters. You are simply doing great and every mother wishes to have a daughter like you,” Patricia was looking for something while encouraging Laila with her kind words. Somehow Laila found it to be metaphoric.
“Where is Bruno?” She asked Laila.
“Might be in the basement. That is where I saw him last before the party began.” She responded reluctantly.
“I think I shall go and look for him. Would you like to join me?” She said and started heading towards the basement.
“Sure. But, let me get some food for him.” Laila said. She picked up a torch and the packet of pedigree for Bruna. While they were on the stairs itself, they heard someone moan while making love in the basement in between the constant barking of Bruna. Patricia signaled Laila to remain quiet and slowly started moving down the stairs.
Finally, they reached the basement silently, and Laila lit up the torch. It was Nathan and Eshan sleeping over the floor in a semi-nude posture.