Ria heard his footsteps and tried to compose herself the emotional tsunami still in the throes of unleashing its torment. She had to be strong enough to see this through… she had to reach home as early as possible before any of the nosy neighbours realised her absence. She looked up hugging the coat as the chill continued to seep in through the partly open window bringing along a few drops of the now considerably reduced rain. Nature had a way to calm her senses and she was already feeling better and it’s when she saw him rub a hand on his fatigued face… he looked crest fallen. Why? Did she do something that was unwarranted for? She berated herself for her big mouth. Why was the need to bring up the office topic when she had anyways planned to discuss it with him later in the hospital? He had saved her life for crying out aloud and had only been a gentleman. He was drunk she had smelt it on his breath when he had helped her up last night though she was delirious… but he didn’t let it affect his professionalism even a little bit. The man had stitched her up in the darkness of the room, his hands not quavering one bit… what a talent and she couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t practise surgery. She immediately compared him to the asshole of a fiancé of hers and realised Vikram couldn’t even hold a light to him. Vikram never cared for her feelings, her thoughts…nada. But Gaurav had been a total contrast to not just Vikram but to his own self as the Bossman. It was unbelievable and she saw some traces of the man she had envisioned him to be three years ago… Nonetheless it was wishful thinking and nothing was to materialise out of her brooding. Her leg throbbed yet again reminding her of the current predicament she was in… and the biggest challenge for her… to reach home ASAP.
She saw him stand at the window looking outside with hands in his pockets. His shirt stuck to his back like a second skin… when did he get drenched? Not that she was complaining. His back muscles were contoured like an artist’s imagination from what she could see the wet cloth following the muscles commands… what if she got to run her hands on them… would they be hard underneath her palms? She shuddered with the sudden awareness coursing through her body… and pulled her coat closer, inhaling the traces of his fragrance on it. Something about him always gave her positive vibes, some sort of comfort, even if he had been nasty back in hospital… why did she now feel there was more to what he projected? Anyways, she sighed. Now was not the time or the occasion to get into all that…even her feelings for the enigma standing in her line of sight. Not even if it gave her the euphoric feel which she had rarely experienced in the last one year. She had to apologise to him.
“Sir…” Ria called out and he turned around, fatigue evident on his handsome face. “Sir, I um…I am sorry. I shouldn’t have loaded that stuff on you… especially after what you have done for me since last night. I just…want to say… thanks.” she tried to smile.
Gaurav looked into her eyes frowning said, “Its ok. I only did my job…” He then glanced at the window and said, “… Uh…the water has receded to a great degree and hopefully it shouldn’t rain for a while now. As you can see, its quite bright outside. The good thing is the water will completely recede soon. But on the flip side ….” he continued looking at her intensely, “…. you may find it difficult to independently climb down three floors. Also, it will be a while until help arrives. There is no network available on your cell phone either. So… we have no choice but to wait.”
Ria thought about the situation. She stood up and slowly took a few steps shuffling with the injured leg which was throbbing. Piercing pain shot up her leg and she winced losing her balance in the process… before she fell a pair of hands caught her and she grabbed the lapels of his wet shirt. “Careful on that leg Ria…” He whispered as he held her close to his chest and at that moment she didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world… in spite of the unbearable pain, she felt secure and safe. He held for a moment steadying her and making her sit back on the revolving chair, he placed a palm on her forehead. “Ria… uh… you are warm again… wait… let me get you that paracetamol… but here take this before I do it…” He gave her the Glucon D sachet. She bit off the edge and poured the contents into her mouth. He was looking around for water frantically. She now understood why her head had been throbbing… she needed that medicine. “sir… its fine… I will just…um swallow it without the water…”
Gaurav looked pained but nodded slightly. He broke the tablet into two. “Here… uh… this will help you swallow it easily…The…uh… taps here are old and not maintained so I can’t risk the water…”
“Its…it’s alright sir…” She took the medicine and swallowed it, grimacing at the bitter and hard swallow. It was irritating her throat as it passed down her food pipe and she wanted to throw up. He gave her another sachet of Glucon D and she had it, easing the bitterness a bit. Fever notwithstanding, she was parched.
She realized he was right. She may damage her dressing in her efforts to climb down or even walk more. They didn’t have supplies for covering the wound again. But… what about food and water…? She hoped she could get some water as soon as possible. At least she had that sandwich which could sustain her for some more time. But he hadn’t eaten anything since …probably… last evening. How long before they got rescued?
As if reading her thoughts, he said, “Let me go outside and check out the surroundings. Maybe I can find some help or transport… will you be ok for a while? I won’t venture far.” She looked into his eyes and replied, “Sir, I will be fine…”.
Suddenly he heard a vehicle and rushed to the window. He waved to someone and gestured to the person to come upstairs looking relieved. Hope filled her and she wanted to ask him if rescue had arrived. But he beat her to it and said, “My man Friday is here. I knew, he would come looking for me. Here….” he handed her the blanket. “… Cover it like a skirt. It will protect you from the chill outside.” he spoke looking at her with the usual expressionless mask firmly in place. Gone was the man who had just cared for her and in his place was the tyrannical bossman. But it no longer bothered her and all she wanted was to go home and lie on her bed and maybe cook up something. She could ask Joshi aunty but her bandage would raise a lot of questions.
“get ready… time to go…” Gaurav was out in the next minute closing the door behind him as if he couldn’t wait to get away. She wrapped the blanket as he had said and also buttoned the coat a couple of sizes too big for her but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Her dress… well it was as good as absent.
She was dizzy with the pain, weakness and fever but she didn’t have to wait long though. She heard footsteps and someone knocked at the door.
“Co… come in…” she replied with every ounce of energy she could gather.
The door opened and in came a tall dark well-built strange. So this was his man Friday… his butler or whatever he called him. The housekeeper Mr. Keith as she read on his name tag, was a huge man. He looked more like a bodyguard but had greying hair and a gentle face as he stood smiling before her. She judged him to be about fifty.
He came close to her and held out his hand. Where was Gaurav? As if he read her thoughts he said, “Ma’am, Let me introduce myself. I am Keith Sequiera, the official housekeeper for the Chopra household. Sir is waiting downstairs charging his phone and making some important calls. Why don’t I help you get up?”
Ria nodded and looked around for her tote bag… it was of no use as it was completely damaged because of falling in the water yesterday… the papers and her change of clothes were all ruined. She shook her head thinking of the load of reports awaiting her once she returned to work and a strong wave of dizziness passed through her. She held her head to quell it away and then once she felt stable she placed her hand in Keith’s and stood up.
He helped her slowly till the stairs then… she squealed as he lifted her in a fireman’s carry. He gently took her downstairs taking care to avoid touching her wound. She had never felt so light weight earlier. From the corner of her eye, she saw the damage to the first floor with the water seeping in… They reached a car parked close to the entrance and Keith settled her in the back seat adjusting the blanket around her legs. Ria was totally drained out and was only an onlooker with hooded eyes. Gaurav who was on phone disconnected the call when he saw her and joined her behind. The car was an old model Hyundai Assent. It was a pretty pearl colored car and had very comfortable backseats. The seats were not your regular leather but she couldn’t really make out. Just that it was extremely soft. After the chair that she had put up with for last few hours and the hard ground before that, the car seats felt like luxury. Gaurav gave her the medicines with fresh water which Keith had got. She had never felt grateful for the natural resource so much before today and sent a silent prayer to the Almighty for sending Keith when he did. She also had another cold sandwich that Gaurav handed to her and this time he was having one too. She wondered where he found them. Unfortunately, her phone had gotten wet and stopped working totally. Gaurav kept back his phone for charging in the car. As Keith drove them outside the hospital; compound, she couldn’t remain awake anymore and soon drifted off to sleep.
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