“Sorry Shipra ma’am… but I can’t… I mean, today is my last working day before my study break… I have a lot to hand over to the new guy from Admin. He is clueless about the work here…” Kajal tried to argue. She had reached here early morning to get the significant work done and escape her maami, who was to reach mid-morning.
Last evening still lay heavy on her mind, and her curiosity about unanswered questions rose by the minute. She couldn’t believe what her parents had done. Whether it was about her aai’s extra-marital affair or her father trying to frame a young guy or trying to end his life. Nothing made sense. It was as if she didn’t know her parents at all.
Amidst all the emotional potboiler was her fierce attraction towards the Casanova, the parents always advised good girls to stay away from. But, she felt caught in a web, and no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t stop the resurgence of those feelings. Finally, Shipra’s voice brought her back to the present.
“…I can’t help it either Kajal. It is crucial else, I wouldn’t have insisted. You know how KB is. So today you don’t have to do anything. Just put me on the call when you are with the lawyers. There will be lawyers from KB’s side as well as the product company’s legal team. But come what may, KB should finish the shoot today. If he doesn’t, not only will his credibility be questioned, but my professional reputation will be on the line as well…. My son will be discharged tomorrow, and only after that can I come to the office or the site. So handle this for me, OK…?”
Kajal couldn’t help but remember her first fiasco with the press where she only had to read the release… which she later got to know Shipra had intentionally planned to take the heat off KB. But KB had saved her hide.
But there was much water under the bridge in this short period, especially that rendezvous in the vanity van a couple of days ago. She reflexly touched her lips which felt his touch even today. She gasped and quickly looked away. She had forgotten she was in office. She inhaled deeply; she had to hold her fort today. She couldn’t crumble for the simple reason that she couldn’t be a self-obsessed casanova’s toy.
She had loads of responsibilities, the most pressing being finishing her graduation and looking for a secured job so she could get Krunal out of that place. She had to plan for his education. He wanted to study Architecture, and the fees were enormous to sail through eleventh and twelfth grade with a good class for preparing for the entrance exams. She wondered how she could manage it all… Would her future salary be enough to pay the rent and fund his education along with their living expenses?
It meant she had to stick to this job. Shipra had told her that there would be a slight rise in her enumeration once she got a degree. Even now, her salary was beyond regular job standards, and a raise would help her sail through. But that meant she had to work for long hours… Krunal had been throwing hints about staying in a hostel after his ninth-grade final exams. There was one close by where he had some of his classmates staying. But at the moment, it was tough, given the extra expenses in the house beyond her contribution. Moreover, she still didn’t have any savings for the rental home deposit…
She sighed as she gathered the all-important folder. Today also she had to prep up, and she chose an orange salwar kameez with a colorful dupatta. The only aspect she had loved about this job besides the money was wearing pretty clothes that she could otherwise not afford. Maybe KB wouldn’t even notice her… but why did she think about him. She just had to do her job and get back to the office. She just knew he was in some ad shoot, and she had to meet Mr. Mehta, who would arrange her meeting with the lawyers of both the parties. Then, she had to sit back and call Shipra, who would conduct it.
She hadn’t read the contract details, just that a company called Sensations had signed KB as their model for their three premier products over a span of nine months. It was paying him a bomb… something she couldn’t even think of making in the next few years. So then, what was the problem? Why did these celebrities think they could make people work around their whims and fancies?
She stepped out of the company car and walked into the beautiful studio. She saw a popular reality show being shot in one end of the studio and was thrilled to see the action. But, since she was early, she decided to look at them a little more. Krunal’s favorite TV actor Rugved Choudhry was hosting the show, and she hoped she could get a picture or an autograph for her brother. The bearded veteran action star was an enigma in himself, and watching him conduct the show and interact with the participants with natural poise; she was in awe.
Through Rhapsody, she had seen a few two-bit actors throw their weight around, but Rugved was a star in the true sense of the word.
A participant fell of the rope ladder she had climbed on a makeshift pool, hurting her. Though the medicos present on the set tended to her, Kajal saw Rugved tend to the woman with the utmost care, and despite her pain, the woman smiled.
The man moved kajal. He was such a big name in the movie industry and an action hero though he was typecast, and these days he was busy with reality action shows and movies down south. Suddenly the group gathered again, and the shoot began with the next participant.
Right then, a rat scampered along and went over Kajal’s feet. She was startled and screamed, looking at the furry rodent dart away. But then, there was silence all over, and she looked up to see all eyes trained on her.
The director of the reality show bellowed. “Who on earth was that…? Cant, we get some work done here without disturbance?”
Kajal stood rooted to the spot. Oh God, would they complain about her? Oh No … not again. She couldn’t be a laughing stock today as well. So she retreated towards the dark corner behind, but unfortunately, there was scaffolding, and without warning, it gave away, and she fell into the other end of the makeshift puddle.
She stood up immediately covered with slush dripping all over, and oh goodness, the folder was dipped in the muck. She tried to take it, but it was stuck.
“Your priority should be to get out rather than looking for something….” A deep voice spoke behind her, and she turned to see an amused Rugved Choudhry standing in his handsomeness. He gestured to a couple of set guys who helped her exit the puddle.
“ I… I … please, I need that folder….” She requested the guys.
“What’s so important in it… you should get yourself cleaned up first….” Rugved chuckled.
“…It’s the con…” She halted mid-sentence, wondering how much she could reveal. “…It contains important documents… please….” Her eyes filled. She had lost track of time, and now she was late. Not to mention her mobile was soaked, and even if KB’s team called her, no one would be able to reach her
“Where are you from… you don’t seem to be from among the staff here…” the deep voice now set in the chills… she was feeling cold as the blower breeze hit her.
“…Rhap… Rhapsody… for KB sir…” she blurted.
There was a bit of murmuring, and from the corner of her eyes, she saw someone walk up to Rugved.
“If I am not mistaken, you are the same damsel in distress who ran out KB’s vanity van a few weeks ago, right?” the woman spoke and laughed in a shrill voice.
Oh God, she had thought the matter had died down, but it appeared everyone still remembered it. She had to get away but the folder…?
Someone placed a blanket on her, and she stopped shivering in the cold. She looked up to see Rugved smile with a kind look in his pretty eyes. Though the beard gave him a ferocious look, he seemed gentle.
“Let’s get back to work… look, miss, why don’t you clean up? I will see if the folder can be retrived….” He walked towards the shoot set with a warm smile and a nod, but not before instructing the boys to retrieve her folder. The crowd gathered also dispersed, and she hoped no one clicked pictures…
A little later, she emerged from the ladies changing unit, and there was a pair of undergarments and a pretty salwar kameez waiting for her. It was a bit oversized and hung on her frame, but at that moment, nothing mattered more than rushing to KB’s set. First, a female attendant helped her give touches to her face and a blower for her hair. Then, when she was a bit presentable, she wanted to thank Rugved for all his help. The folder was also retrieved and cleaned.
Fortunately, the documents weren’t damaged because of the superior leather folder exterior. But she was already late for the meeting with Mr. Mehta and hoped the shoot didn’t get hampered because of her clumsiness. She wrote a thank you note for Rugved Choudhry, left it with the attendant, and rushed to the studio where KB was shooting his ad.
The ad shoot was in progress from what it appeared. The door to the inner studio sanctum was shut, and she could see the shadows beneath the door… that meant lights were off, but why? There was some sound and music too, but she couldn’t make out anything. She didn’t have a mobile to connect with Mr Mehta, so she gently tried the door. To her surprise, it opened without noise.
She walked in and saw limited people around, and her eyes moved towards the director shooting at the center. Right before them, the studio was designed to form the most elegant bedroom she had ever laid her eyes on. The four-poster bed with the pristine white bedsheet, the floral arrangements on the nightstand, and the song from Ram Leela played softly… ‘And laga de re…’
The director gave the orders to stop the music and a model covered in a bedsheet walked in and sat on the bed. Her assistant then removed the bedsheet, and Kajal’s eyes popped out of their sockets watching the sensuous reed-thin woman in a two-piece bikini that left nothing to the imagination… lie on the bed. The door opened as soon as the music started and the director screamed “ACTION.”
Before Kajal could recover from her heightened awareness, KB walked in his boxers…. goddamn boxers, and they both gyrated a bit to the song. When the mukhda ended, the music dimmed along with the lights, and they both lay on the bed. The woman stretched out on the bed like a feline cat, and KB looked away, rubbing his face… WHAT?
“CUT…” The director screamed, and the lights came on. The model’s assistant rushed to cover her modesty, or whatever remained, and Mr. Mehta walked towards KB with his robe. The model and KB went back to their respective makeup rooms on either side of the set.
The director was fuming. “What on earth is wrong with KB…? He was a pro at these shoots. I have directed him so many times before… then why is he freezing? So we are delayed by another hour now. Fortunately, the female model is a newbie so she is adjusting…” the director drawled on.
Kajal stood rooted to her spot in the dark, wondering what on earth just transpired. She decided to meet up with Mr. Mehta and at least let him know she was here. She walked carefully, trying not to trip… one fall today was enough. She moved towards KB’s makeup room.
She knocked, and a deep voice boomed. “COME IN…”
She opened the door carefully and stepped inside only to see KB standing all alone in his boxers. Wide-eyed, she turned around immediately.
“What is it Ms. Righteous? Did being late not count? Now that you are acting all coy… “ he spoke in an angry tone. Why was he angry with her? And where on earth was Mr. Mehta?
“I am sorry KB sir, I was here on time… I just…”
“…I don’t want any excuses… you Rhapsody guys do as you please for some cheap PR thrills… you have absolutely no sense of professionalism or boundaries and…”
She had enough already. She turned around and, not bothering if he was clothed or not, walked towards him.
“…Just… mind your language, KB sir, you are the one crossing boundaries here…” She said, not knowing in what direction her emotional storm took her.
“…you didn’t seem to mind the boundaries broken the other day…” he murmured as he took a step closer, his cologne strongly making its presence felt.
She turned to go, but he held her arm and pulled her towards him. Her folder dropped as she hit his hard wall of chest… bare chest. He embraced her from the back, and she couldn’t rescue herself from the bind.
“…Let… let me go KB, sir…” She muttered, panting.
But his hold only tightened. He bent and kissed her shoulder, now exposed because of her loose-fitting kurta having shifted. It was a soft peck, but her heartbeat sored, and she could feel him breathing rapidly too, his warm breath right behind her ear, as he held her lobe gently between his teeth. She was frozen and curled her toes in her new slippers. There was a sharp prodding in her lower back as he pulled her closer while he continued to suck her neck and then blow soft whisps of air… She was transported to another world where it was only him and her. She wasn’t a nobody, and he wasn’t a TV super star.
Right then, there was a knock on the door, and someone screamed about the shot being ready. He unlocked his arms, and she now felt the chill and the sudden absence of his warmth.
“Thanks, beautiful… I had trouble getting into the mood… you were a huge help. See you….” He covered himself with his robe and walked out, the banging of the door reverberating through her body as she slumped to the floor, tears streaming down her cheeks.