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Crashed and burned


Two weeks after the show…

Rania was having a tough day. One of the machines had broken down, the buyers had rescheduled and now she had to take a job interview. She looked down at the CV and went over it.

Belal Ahmed, the applicant, was a Fine Arts graduate. He had worked as a designer for Srishti for a number of years. That sounds familiar, Rania thought but promptly had her thoughts diverted by a phone call. She picked up the phone and was told by her secretary that Mr. Ahmed had arrived. Rania asked her to show him in and turned her swivel chair around and picked up her now ringing cell phone.

As she spoke to the production manager with her back to the office door, she heard it open. Without turning she signalled with her hand for the new occupant to sit down as she wrapped up her conversation. Finally done, she turned around while apologising for keeping him waiting. Rania did a double take when she was finally face to face with Mr Ahmed. He did the same. Rania immediately thought back to a day four years ago.

Rania knew that it was going to be a bad day the moment she saw the mess around her desk. Upon asking around she discovered that Belal Bhai had littered around her desk while doing his project. If words could kill, she thought and sarcastically asked him about the mess. To her astonishment he arrogantly gave a nonchalant answer and she could almost picture herself strangling him. Jerk, she thought as she concluded that her refusal to type his training assignment had brought this about. As the day progressed Rania found herself competing to get her samples made. She might be an intern but it was still company money.

In the middle of the afternoon as Rania went down to check on the progress of the embroidery craftsman, she discovered Belal Bhai attacking the poor woman. Rania felt guilty and explained to Belal Bhai that she had asked Selima Apa to do her work first. But Belal Bhai wouldn't let it go. Five minutes into his biting remarks, Rania retrieved all her half done samples and marched up to the design lab fuming.

She ran into Toto who sensed something was up. She completely lost it. She let Toto (and everyone who was desperately trying to eavesdrop without being obvious) that she was sick and tired of dealing with the condescending attitude of those people who weren't even qualified fashion designers. I'll get you Belal, she thought as she glared at him when he arrived.

'Belal Bhai,' Rania said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. 'Rania…umm…hello…'stammered a fidgety Belal. Rania was enjoying herself. Revenge is sweet, she thought but then checked herself. She was now the head designer at her Dad's company that was now up and coming and it didn't suit her to act this way.

She tried to keep an objective attitude as she conducted the interview but already knew that she'd never hire Belal simply because she knew (from working with him) that he didn't have a single creative cell in his mind. The interview finally ended and Rania could see that Belal Bhai was as relieved as she felt. After he left, Rania stepped outside her office.

It was 7pm and everyone had left except for the cleaners. Rania decided it was time to go home and went back to her office to wrap up.She became engrossed in cleaning up her desk and throwing stuff into her bag.

'Next to smudging your nose, you also seem to have a habit of leaving right when I'm about to say something.' Rania jumped in surprise and turned to see Aryan at the door. 'You startled me. Hi!' Rania replied. 'Sorry about that,' he apologised. 'That's ok,' she assured him and asked him to have a seat. Rania went to her seat behind the massive desk. Aryan looked around the very retro office and whistled softly. 'Come a long way, haven't you?' he asked. 'So you finally remembered. Yes I have…from the queer and dishevelled intern to this,' Rania replied, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. 'I'm sorry I said that. I didn't know that you had overheard,' Aryan said sheepishly.

'Bygones. What brings you here?' she asked. 'This,' he said holding up the watch she thought she had lost. 'Oh. Where did you find it?' Rania asked. 'In your hurry to leave after the show you dropped it,' Aryan explained. 'Thanks for coming all the way to return it,' she replied. 'Oh I could have come earlier but it was one hell of a job locating your office,' he explained. 'But nonetheless you're here. I'm sorry I'd have offered you tea but as you can see the office is about to close,' said Rania. 'That's ok. I can see that you were just about to leave. I won't keep you any longer,' said Aryan.

They got up together and Rania grabbed her bag as they headed out. Once in the parking lot, Rania looked around for a CNG. Aryan noticed and remarked, 'No car?' 'Workshop,' she confessed. 'Come on. I'll drop you,' he suggested. 'Thank you but you really don't have to bother,' Rania countered. 'I'll be very bothered if I see you leaving in a CNG at this hour. I'm not taking no for an answer,' pressed Aryan. With a shrug of defeat she followed him to his car a blue convertible. Two words, she thought, boy-toy. But she was quick to check herself. What's wrong with you Rania, she thought, you're twenty-four not fifty-four.

He held the door for her and she got in. 'Nice car,' she remarked hwen she finally set the car in motion. 'Thanks.' 'How do you maintain it in Dhaka,' she asked. 'Don't ask,' Aryan said with a mock expression of exasperation. Aryan asked for her address and soon they reached her apartment. Rania got down and thanked him. He watched as she walked in and then started the car.

The apartment was quiet. Her parents were away on a trip with her sister. It was Thursday and Rania had given the household staff a weekend off. Half an hour later after a quick hot shower and after changing into comfy sweats, Rania was just about to sit down to dinner when the bell rang. It was eight-thirty. Rania padded into the foyer and opened the door.

Aryan was leaning on the door- Rania's watch dangling from his hand. 'Oh no. I'm a dimwit,' Rania said sheepishly. 'It's my pleasure,' Aryan replied cheekily. 'Do come in and have dinner. I was just about to sit down. Sorry about my dishevelled look,' Rania said with a wicked grin. 'Never forget to rub it in do you?' 'Never,' Rania agreed with a laugh and then insisted on dinner. This time Aryan accepted in defeat. Over dinner they talked over their individual professions, their families and their aspirations.

Aryan's parents lived in England while he looked over his Dad's printing house in Dhaka. He had two brothers and a sister all married and living around the world. He was the youngest. He confessed that he'd gone to an audition at a friend's request and modelling had turned into a full blown career causing the printing house to take secondary importance.

Rania told him about her parents and her sister and explained how she believed that fashion designing had been her destiny and calling. They talked about books and movies and Rania discovered in sad humour that apart from fishing, they had nothing in common. Rania was surprised that he'd be into something like that while Aryan confessed that he wouldn't have guessed in a million years that a girl, any girl would like fishing. They were so different in every possible way.

She was a workaholic yet the homely type while he thought work was one big party and also a big partier. It was eleven when Aryan grinned and said, 'I'd love to stay some more but I'm not that rude that I'd keep my hostess from her sack just for my pleasure. It's bedtime Rania.' Rania stopped halfway through a much-needed yawn. 'Oh gosh. I lost all track of time. Thanks again for bringing over the watch Aryan. I'll see you to the door.'

They both got up and Rania led him out. Just as Rania was about to shut the door, Aryan whisked around and put his hand forward to stop her. 'I don't know if it's too much to ask but can I have your number so that we can do this again?' he asked seriously. Rania was about to put up her guard but then chided herself and complied. When he was done taking down her number, Aryan looked up and whispered 'Goodnight Rania,' and was gone before she could say a word.

What began as a friendly invitation to heated leftovers soon snowballed into bigger things. A week later Rania was surprised to find Aryan calling her about going to lunch. Lunch invitations soon turned into dinner dates and then into outings to events such as plays and concerts. Rania soon found herself thinking about Aryan at impromptu moments. This is not suppose to happen, Rania thought.

She was relieved that she didn't have the added situation of working with him even though he was the best male model in Dhaka. I shouldn't feel the things I do feel about him, she thought. I don't even know what it is that I feel, she argued with herself. It's not like I love him. And even, let's just say for the sake of argument that I do love him, it's not that he has indicated that he loves me too. And why would he? I mean he's always surrounded by gorgeous, sophisticated woman while I act like a dolt most of the time. We're just good friends, she finally concluded.

That afternoon when Rania went back home, she found Aryan there, sitting and chatting with her mother. Ria, her little sister came running up to show her the stuffed Pooh that Aryan had given her. He fits in so well…don't go there Rania, she thought.

Seeing Aryan got up and said bye to her mother. 'You're coming with me Rania,' he declared. 'But I just got back. I look terrible, I need to change,' Rania protested. 'Oh woman, it's not like we're going and getting married,' Aryan replied with a chuckle. Rania flushed crimson. 'I just want to go to Café Mango. I need to talk to you,' he explained. Left with no other choice, Rania dumped her stuff in her room and joined Aryan as they strolled around the corner of her apartment and down the narrow road to Café Mango.

When they finally reached it, they went in and sat at their usual spot near the little fishpond. 'Two hybrid brownies and one iced tea with a twist of lime,' Rania ordered. 'I can't believe you just ordered for me,' Aryan teased. 'Well duh, that's what you always have Mutley,' Rania said cheekily. 'Ok, you've gotta tell me, what is up with this Mutley business? You keep calling me that from time to time,' Aryan asked perplexed.

Rania explained and Aryan burst out laughing. 'We've come a long way haven't we Rania? I feel like we've known each other since our diaper days even though it has only been three months. We are more then close friends aren't we Rania?' he asked. Rania was too confused to answer. 'We're more like best friends,' Aryan concluded and Rania readily agreed. Why complicate the situation, she thought. 'Well as best friends I think I should tell you something that I didn't mention earlier. I'm in love Rania, or I think I am,' Aryan confessed. Oh God…Rania thought. 'I should have told you earlier. I should have told you about her earlier,' Aryan declared.

Rania was lost for a second and then it hit her straight in the gut and she felt physically weak. Aryan was talking about another girl! 'I met her in England three years ago. She's studying there. Oh Rania, she's beautiful and witty and more than what I could ever expect to have. You know one of the reasons why I go to those dumb plays at Bailey Road and those boring orchestra recitals with you even though I hate it is because Ononna loves doing those things too.

I told her all about you and she was glad that I'd found someone similar to bug me. I still haven't told her how I feel though. But I know she loves me.' Rania listened in dazed silence. 'I haven't seen her in two years and now that I have to going to England for two months, I'm going o tell her and ask her to marry me,' finished Aryan. 'Congratulations,' said Rania in the cheeriest voice she could muster. 'Hey what's wrong? You're upset that I'm going to miss your birthday aren't you? Well I'm not a Mutley you know.

Here I got you an early present.' Aryan took out a tiny, beautifully wrapped box and put it in her hand. 'Thanks Aryan,' said Rania without opening it. 'Hey are you ok? You look like you're about to collapse. I'm a dimwit. I should have let you rest and said all this later. But I'm just so excited and I leave in two days,' he explained. Two days, she thought, and then you'll be gone forever Aryan.

Two days later when Rania drove him to the airport, she put up a mask of cheerfulness and joy for her friend. After Aryan checked in, he hugged Rania and went in. As Rania saw his receding figure she knew that unknowingly Aryan was taking a piece of her with him forever. I love you Aryan, she thought over and over again. Goodbye...

By Riyana


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