“Please come in and make yourself comfortable,” She said with a smile. She was nervous but managed to keep it hidden from her client. She had heard that Aditya was very influential and handsome but when she met him she could not believe that someone could be so attractive. His honey colored eyes almost pierced her heart, she felt. He gave his hand and the firm handshake told her he was a ‘no nonsense’ man and meant business.
“I hope my office has informed you the reason for our meeting?” he asked matter of factly. “Sort of, but I would like to know more from you,” she tried to probe for more information. “As you know, we own many companies all over India and our business is much diversified. We are having some labor problems in one plant and the reason is that a tribal woman was molested and it has been blamed on one of the managers. We want you to take that case and win it. We don’t mind paying anything for this case, but we have to see that the company’s name does not get affected in any way. These youngsters …., they don’t know where to draw their limits.” He sounded very irritated.
Neeta was a successful lawyer and specialized in industrial law. She had been practicing for about 3 years, but this was her first big case. The company law office had approached her for taking up this case. The company was very big and Neeta knew that if she won this case, her career path would move by leaps and bounds.
She was escorted by the security guard to the office of the General Manager of the plant. “I need to know all the facts of this case. I need to speak to the person who is accused” she showed him that she meant business. “Sure, I will call for him, please sit down.” Mr. Ramanathan asked the peon to call for Neeraj. Neeta stood up when she saw her client to shake his hand, “Hi, I am Neeta” she said and then there was a moment of silence when both pairs of eyes exchanged knowing glances.
In the hotel room, which was not up to the mark but supposed to be the best in the small town, Neeta was trying hard to concentrate on the case as her thoughts were just wandering. The points mentioned in the case file showed that Neeraj was guilty, but her heart said that was not possible. She knew Neeraj as a kid. He was mischievous, but how could he become a convict. Her phone rang. “Hi, Neeta. I never knew I would meet you in such dire circumstances. Please believe me, I am not guilty. I am being framed by the Factory Manager and his group of men. My mother is very ill, I need the money and so I am not able to quit this job. Looks like God has decided to help me. Please Neeta, help me. I beg of you.”
Neeta listened carefully to all the things Neeraj told her. She knew that she had to help Neeraj. Her sixth sense told her that he was innocent.
The eleventh floor of the office building was tastefully decorated. She knocked and opened the door; “Come in” the voice was almost automated. “Ah! Sorry I did not know it was you, please come in.” Aditya looked very poised and Neeta’s heart was beating fast. “Sorry for barging in without an appointment, but the matter is urgent and confidential, I had to do it this way.” Neeta sounded very authoritative. “No problem. Please give me a moment to inform my assistant not to disturb me.”
Aditya typed the email and showed it to Neeta before sending it. It was a termination order for the Factory Manager. She was confident now to be able to settle the case out of court and the company name would not be affected.
Neeraj sent her a bouquet of flowers with a note, “Thanks for being my messiah. I owe my life to you. You can keep it as a credit which you can use whenever you need it.”
“Thank you” she said as she handed the courier person his papers. Neeta read the contract and her designation as ‘Legal Head, Aditya Group of Companies’. Neeta had decided to leave her private practice and join Aditya when he had asked her.
Neeta worked closely with Aditya. She knew he attracted her and it was a kind of feeling she could not explain. It was more than love, some kind of worship. She flew all over the world with him whenever he had to sign a contract. Her financial position also increased by leaps and bounds. Aditya always worked very formally with her, but she enjoyed his company.
“How can you work so much?” Neeta tried to get Aditya’s mind away from his work. “Come let’s go for a walk on the beach. Please switch off your phone for a few minutes.” She gave him her hand and strangely he reciprocated. He switched off his phone and gave her a sweet smile. They walked on the sand. It was twilight and the sea breeze with light rain in the atmosphere made the weather very romantic. Neeta was for the first time spending time informally with Aditya and realized that it is ‘pretty lonely at the top’ so to say. She found out that Aditya had been in and out of relationships but nothing seemed to last as he felt the woman in his life was in love with his money and not him. “Thanks Neeta, it’s been ages since I felt so refreshed. Your company is magical. Let’s do this more often” he gently kissed her hand.
Neeta was lost in her thoughts when the door bell of her hotel room rang. She thought it must be room service for cleaning but was surprised to see Aditya. “Sorry to barge in, but I just could not concentrate on my work. Can I have a drink with you?” “Of course, please be my guest.” She opened the bar and poured him a drink. The atmosphere in the room had a magical attraction about it and Neeta was enjoying herself. “I don’t know if it is asking too much, but will you be my friend?” Aditya asked hesitatingly. “I like your company and have tried as much as I can to keep it purely business, but you have something which none of the other women I knew had. You have a mind of your own and I know you don’t love my money.” Neeta did not know how to respond to him. She knew that there were times when Aditya behaved very irrationally and because he is the boss, people took it and didn’t retaliate. She also knew that she had a feeling for him, which she knew was not love but more than that, a kind of adoration. “I’ll be privileged to be your friend Aditya!” she smiled and shook his hand.
The days turned into months and years. Neeta and Aditya became very close friends. Aditya told Neeta the smallest of his secrets and concerns and she always had a caring word or advice for him. He had become very dependent on her for his emotional happiness and looked at her as his good luck charm. They worked non-stop and had very long hours but somehow Neeta never felt tired and Aditya’s proximity gave her the energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes during their meetings when something went well, he would plant a kiss on her cheek but nothing more than that. He always introduced Neeta as, “My best friend.” And she felt very privileged though she knew she would have liked to be called something more than that.
“I have decided to quit.” The last sentence in Neeta’s email shook Aditya. He immediately walked to her office and was disappointed to see that she had already left and the room looked deserted. His mind was spinning. He knew he had behaved badly with her in the last couple of contract finalization meetings. But then, she was his friend, and friends always understand, he thought. Business had been hard to come and he had asked for contract relaxations on some clauses and that had annoyed her. But then he never thought she would quit.
He took the elevator and went out of the office. He dialed her number and it said “switched off”. He asked the driver to get down and he decided to drive the car himself. He kept trying to call her cell phone and every time he was disappointed. He was cursing himself for having behaved so childishly with Neeta. All the good and bad memories kept coming into his mind like movie scenes. He went to her house, it was locked. He was desperate to meet her and apologize but she had not given him a chance.
After a lot of roaming around he returned to his office. It was much past midnight and the security staff was also surprised to see him. He went into his office and sat on his chair. He realized now that Neeta meant more to him than just a best friend. He realized that he was in love with her, but now it was too late. She had left without even meeting him.
Aditya had just dozed off in his office chair when his phone rang. “Hi Aditya,” she was crying bitterly on the phone. “What happened Neeta?” Aditya was wide awake now. “Please be there, I will come at once don’t worry, I’ll be there in less than ten minutes.”
Aditya hated to go to any hospital but at this moment what mattered was Neeta and her happiness. Aditya signed the papers at the hospital and sat outside the operation theatre waiting for some message from inside. After what looked like many hours, the doctor came out and said, “He is out of danger. He will not be able to walk for at least three months but otherwise all is well.” Neeta pressed Aditya’s arm and softly said, “Thank you”.
“And that’s how he repaid my credit in this life itself. I am so thankful he is out of danger” Neeta was narrating how Neeraj had pushed her away from the oncoming truck when he saw her crossing the road after leaving the office. She was sad and not paying attention to the traffic. Neeraj had been in the office and saw her cross. He pushed her but came in the way of the truck. Before going in for the operation he told Neeta, “I am happy to be of some use to you. You gave me life once before and I am happy I have been able to save you.”
Tears were rolling down Neeta’s face. “Come with me,” Aditya led Neeta to the café opposite the hospital. Over a cup of coffee he told her, “I am not sure if the ambience is right, but I have to tell you Neeta, only when you left me, did I realize what you mean to me. I am madly in love with you. Will you marry me?”
Neeta smiled and nodded. She knew the feelings were mutual but it needed a shake up for both of them to acknowledge it. “And you know I am a business man, so I save on your salary but you still work for me, I need you to be up and close always!” “Umm…let me think” she said and they both laughed together.