LEARNING THE ROPES
Asha’s mind raced as she processed what had just been said. She weighed the matter and considered the possible dangers in such a meeting. She quickly reached a decision and turned to say no, then glancing at his face she saw eager anticipation of the small boy in a man’s business suit and hesitated. Perhaps he’d be a useful advisor to her as she negotiated her divorce?
“OK, but nothing expensive. I’ve got simple tastes. What time and where do I meet up with you? Will your wife be joining us?” She added this as a precaution.
Jay gave a quiet chuckle. He understood the undertone of that question. “No wife; the place will be Taj Mahal just around the corner and I pick you up when you finish here which I presume is usually 6pm right?”
Asha felt her face flush as she realized how her comment could have come across as a mistrust of his character. She could have just said yes to a business appointment and checked with Sue to see if he was married.
The evening was a success. Asha had found the legal workings intensely interesting and Jay had thrilled at the prospect of having a date with someone who was not turned off by enthusiasm for his legal work or his female acquaintances in the legal fraternity who he found to be boring. He was good at his job so head hunters were constantly trying to entice him away from the corporation, but he liked the people he worked with professionally and turned down higher salary and package offers to stay on.
Asha finally asked if he’d be her guide through her divorce proceedings and find someone with the competence to deal with her situation. Jay advised her not to get into the dating scene until divorce was finalized and Asha wondered if he was a mind reader. Anil’s lawyers would be watching her like a hawk to try and pin the blame on her for the marriage breakdown with all the loss of face that would bring further on her family and the fall out in her relationship with family.
The divorce eventually went through and it was time to stop bluffing respective families they were a happily married couple. It had been hard to keep that information from them by a series of lies and half-truths for more than a year, so it was a shock to the families in India and the blame game started. Each side tried to pin the blame for this marriage fiasco on the other family until Asha’s father disclosed that Anil had been living with an American girl even before the marriage was consummated and later during the time they awaited a visa for Asha to enter the US. On checking discretely, Anil’s family discovered this was true. The rift between the families was never healed though and both Asha and Anil felt the cold winds of rejection. After grieving for some time Asha emerged a stronger woman and was grateful for the sisterly help through that experience by Sue.
As Tad’s work load steadily increased he delegated more and more to Asha as confidence in her ability increased. This meant Asha needed Jay’s input more and he was often called in for advice and action. She preferred him to the others in legal though she used them too. These contacts were professional.
One of the strict rules to be followed in this corporation was any hint of a relationship on the job would be grounds for dismissal. The powers that be wanted no diversions of any kind at work. Obviously this would be a flimsy excuse for dismissal in court so other ways were found to create a climate for dismissal. Everyone was paid well above the norm, but their lives belonged to the corporation.
Asha had often wondered why Tad had never indicated his interest in Sue other than a professional interest and now she could see why. His time belonged to the corporation and there was no room for a family with the diversion this would create. She began to question whether this was a healthy lifestyle. In the back of her mind she dreamed of having a family and a top administrative job as well, but it seemed now that one or the other ambition would have to be sacrificed. She tossed options around in her head during scarce personal time. She could see work pressure was starting to get to Sue as Tad’s work load increased and wondered why she continued under such pressure. Sue said she felt a personal obligation to Tad who’d given her such a responsibility at an early age, but Asha began to suspect there was more to it than that.
One evening after gruelling sessions with one of the clients she craved Indian food and took a break to eat at the Taj Mahal. They knew her well now. One of the waiters was a Maharashtrian and she enjoyed talking with him in her native tongue Marathi. The staff showered food in abundance on her each time and sometimes she had to laughingly beg them to stop. She enjoyed revisiting her cultural roots this way. She was enjoying her meal in a secluded place near the kitchen when Jay arrived with a beautiful woman in tow. They were unaware of her presence because of the positioning of her table almost out of sight so she ate and watched with interest peeping frequently around the corner. They seemed to be intimately acquainted as she watched, and a sudden resentment of this woman rose in her bosom.
She was shocked at the feeling, but this was her Jay, and this was their haunt. Asha fought the feeling off and withdrew further into her hiding place. It was impossible for her to have these feelings as she valued her job and wanted nothing to threaten her success. But the angry feeling persisted, and she lost her appetite. She peeped now and then to see if they were still there and only after they’d departed did she emerge to find solace in her apartment with Sue. She tossed around all night trying to deal with conflicting emotions and finally made it to sleep. She groaned when the two alarms went of almost simultaneously to alert her to the need to rush and prepare for a new day at the office. She was always frightened a single alarm may not function so set two to wake her each day.
Asha was still doing a slow burn during the morning and found it interfering with her work. She became alarmed. Everything was supposed to be professional, so she had to get on top of her emotions. She knew she had to seek advice from someone in legal on one of her assignments. Could she face Jay with these thoughts burning a hole in her mind? How could they interact as they had in the past now?
As she was thinking these thoughts there was a knock on her door and she looked up crossly trying to put on her professional smile. A pleasant voice said, “Hi! I’m Jay’s sister Miriam and he said I should drop by and greet you before I head back to London today. He said he works closely with you and Tad helping sort out legal problems. He told me about your immigration case as it was a long drawn out affair. I work with a charity that does work around the world including India. We have a branch in New Delhi. Are you from there?”
A great wave of relief washed over Asha and she jumped up to usher Miriam to the comfortable chair opposite her. She hugged Miriam involuntarily as she would a family member and chatted animatedly about India and her happiness about working with Jay. Miriam smiled as she recognized more than a professional interest in her brother from the conversation. She decided to foster this interest.
“Jay talks incessantly about you, so I was wondering who this perfect woman was. Now I see why he has such an interest in you. You’re stunningly beautiful Asha! He’s a bit shy so why don’t you give him some encouragement?” She laughed pleasantly and stood up to go. Asha flushed and stammered goodbye as Miriam swept through the door and back to legal to wish her brother goodbye.
To be continued.
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