Mahi sighed. “Samrat, I’ve already told you that I’m not that mean and aggressive girl from our college days anymore.” Samrat didn’t want to agree with her because that would mean that he will have to acknowledge that to himself. “Don’t forget rude and immature along with being a liar.” Her eyes flared, and she snapped out at him. “You were an arrogant ass, who has always felt superior to me with your holier-than-thou attitude. I would never like someone like you Mahi,” she imitated him mockingly from the night fourteen years ago. Samrat was taken aback and a little shocked at the reminder. “But I guess one of things that didn’t change about me is that I’ve still got a temper and some pride left,” she said calmly. Samrat felt disgusted at himself for acting like some throwback cultural police. Women’s dressing was the last thing he ever bothered with or even cared about. Mahi saw the disgust on his face. And that was her final straw. She began walking determinedly towards the door and then locked it. “What are you doing?” he asked, feeling slightly wary. She watched him, while walking slowly towards him with an exaggerated swing to her hips. “You are right. Maybe, I haven’t changed. Maybe you are right to fire me for ‘inappropriate behavior’,” she whispered sultrily. When she was close enough, she held his shirt collar ends with both her hands, and dragged his head down towards her. Samrat could have easily resisted, but his brain was no longer functioning. He felt hypnotized and was staring at her bright red lips, expecting her to kiss him. But he just felt her nuzzle him around his neck and shoulders. After a few seconds, she pushed him away with a devilish smile on her face. “Now you can fire me. I’m sorry for what I did to you and Ananya all those years ago. But for your behavior towards me in the past three months, you can go to hell and stay there! You’re so full of shit with your reasons to find fault with me and to fire me,” she hissed and stormed out of the door. Samrat had no clue of what she had done, until he checked himself in the phone camera. He was shocked to see red lipstick kissing marks all over his pristine white collared formal shirt. He had a few meetings coming up in a few minutes and no spare clothes or even a jacket to cover up. He also wouldn’t be able to pass through the office spaces without the red lipstick marks showing on him like beacons. He should be outraged, or even furious, but what he felt was something different. He kept telling himself several times that he was simply staying close to Mahi because he was trying to find a reason to fire her, which he now did. But at the back of his mind, even he knew what the real reason was. The signs were there all along, which he had been ignoring. He was slowly getting obsessed with her. With her playfulness, her smiles, and also because of seeing her regularly at his workplace and near his home. He had been going to work regularly, and sitting there thinking about her, wanting to see her all the time. The great inventor and entrepreneur known for his practical and cool headed ways, was almost wild with jealousy over harmless interactions or hugs. And it was jealousy over the woman who had almost ruined his life. Samrat cursed viciously. Again. ***** Mahi was upset and mad when she left the office building. She informed her team that she wasn’t feeling well and would take rest of the day off. They would soon know that she was fired for inappropriate behavior. “Maybe, he’ll even throw in assault charges. For the dirty sinful slut daring to touch his esteemed holiness,” she muttered as she got into her house. She thought she was finally settling into a good schedule. She had a great job that she enjoyed. And after work, she visited her aunt almost every day at her new place. She met Rajeev there most of the times when he visited his mom. He got a great job offer in the city that he took up. Rajeev left a message on her phone asking her if she was free in the afternoon. She replied back that she was at home and would be making Singapore street noodles that he really liked. As she lay on the bed, she realized that even with the job and a routine, something was still missing. She was missing having friends and some major companionship. Even when she was trapped in an abusive relationship, she had always liked socializing. Dinesh had tried to isolate her, and keep her from making any meaningful attachments. So she had only ended up with very few acquaintances during the past fourteen years. She couldn’t do anything about the companionship because she didn’t want to go through another drama episode in her life. Either she hurt the men who loved her or they hurt her. But she could do something about friends. She socialized with her coworkers as much as possible during the working days, but they were all so young, and even if they weren’t, everyone seemed to be busy with their own personal lives. She needed some friends from her age group, and someone who could connect with her way of thinking and actions. She had never made any long lasting friendships in her earlier childhood, since she was called ‘naughty’ and a ‘bad influence’. But soon she had learnt how to control and then temper her behavior near the right people, making some really good friends in college. When she got married at twenty-one, she had to give up her friends as one of the promises she made to her then-newlywed husband. Sighing loudly, she thought of her gang from her college days and missed them like crazy.