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Evan sat in his air conditioned office, behind a big oak desk stacked with files and endless documents. It was another new day in Opulence Ltd, another day looking forward to the piles of incoming work. He went through the reports, one by one. A disappointing start, he said to himself. The sun glowed gently into his office and behind his chair, the New York City skyscrapers grandly stood tall. In a city like this, his boss had said, the only way to survive is to strive. He dutifully put the reports aside and returned to his work, when a row outside startled him.
“Adrian! Why don’t you try to understand the situation? I did it for you. For us,” said a voice. A voice that could not go unrecognized by Evan.
He looked outside his cabin. There she stood, dressed elegantly in a rose shirt and navy blue pencil skirt, anxious expressions adorning her face. She was the sole reason why he was slogging here, when he could have easily enjoyed life at Brown University. Once upon a time they meant world to each other. Now, only she meant the world to him. Her world was Adrian. And when Adrian was there, no one else existed.
“Enough Stella! Enough! I do not want anymore explanations,” barked Adrian. Evans cursed him for being so harsh on her.
“But please…I…I,” she broke down and ran to her cabin. Adrian went his way.
Evan was delighted. Very delighted. This was really selfish of him, but these were one of the few days when Stella talked to him. He wasn’t going to lose that chance for anything on earth.
During Lunch Evan saw her sitting alone at the corner. He took his food tray and walked up to her table.
“Hey Evan! Really long time, isn’t it?” said Stella, looking up from her plate, her lips yielding a faint smile.
Yeah, really long time, he thought, all because I’m invisible when Adrian is present.
“Yes, quite a while. The workload never stops increasing. We hardly get time for ourselves. They are just so atrocious on us. Even the Easter Sunday was working,” he spoke plainly, all in one breath.
“That’s really bad. Why did they do that?” she questioned, uninterested.
“Nothing great comes without responsibilities. Sometimes, I think life was much better when I was an assistant manager,” Evan replied. At least I had you then.
“Oh no! I completely forgot to congratulate you on your double promotion. I just have been so tangled in my messed up life,” said Stella, burying her hands in her face.
Of course, he thought, how could you not?
“I get it. Everyone has their own priorities. By the way, why are you sitting alone today?” He asked her, just to continue the conversation. He was well acquainted with the reason.
“I just needed some time for myself,” she said, lost in thoughts, “I need to be alone.”
Evan observed her for a while. The miserable tranquility on her face almost made him cry. He couldn’t bear to see her any longer. With a sudden impulse, he stood up and lifted his food tray.
“Then I must be disturbing you. I will take my leave-”
“No, don’t go. I only get to talk to you once in a blue moon,” Stella intervened. She really needed him to be there. He surrendered to her will and occupied his seat.
Silence prevailed for a while. Stella prodded the tuna pieces in her salad. Evan stole glances at her between his food intakes. A little later, he spoke again.
“You don’t seem fine,” he said
“Does it seem like that? I’m absolutely okay,” she declared, trying to sound. She continued to play with her salad.
“Who are you lying to? It’s written all over your face”, said Evan, brows furrowed in concern.
“It’s the same issue again. Adrian never understands me. He just …”, Stella began to say, but left her sentence midway.
“It’s just a phase. It will pass away,” he said considerately.
“I hope so,” Stella put up a brave smile, “Thanks for listening Evan.”
Evan smiled back. “That’s what friends are for.”
“I really miss the old times,” she said
“Me too,” he agreed. More than you do.
Evan stared at her for a while. Then, with a sudden impulse, he asked, “Are you free tonight?”
“Kind of,” she replied, uncertain about what was going to come next.
“Why don’t we go for a dinner to the West End? It will be my treat,” he asked, seizing the opportunity.
Stella seemed delighted at the prospect. Why not? And after dinner we will go for a stroll to Kensington Avenue.”
“Wonderful. See you then at-”
“Seven p.m. sharp. I have so much to tell you. Dare you be late Mr. Evan Miller,” she said, pointing her finger teasingly. For the first time in the afternoon, her face had lit up with glee.
Evan shrugged and walked away.
When he returned to his cabin, he saw Adrian and Stella talking very intimately. Stella was crying. This quarrel was going to take long. He began to look forward his plans for the evening.
At sharp six forty five, he reached the West End. He took the table by the window overlooking the street. There was no sign of Stella. He sat down and waited patiently for her. Seven pm. Stella was never late. Will she even come? He thought. She will, said his heart, there was a sort of promise in her words. He passed time by thinking of the conversations they would have, of how pretty she would look.
“Sir, what will you like to have?”, asked the waiter, with all his poise.
“I will let you know, when my guest arrives,” replied Evan, with a smile.
Seven thirty p.m. She was still not there. Have patience; he convinced himself, maybe she has been caught up in the traffic. He continued to wait. Eight pm. It was almost an hour and her presence was doubtful. Maybe it skipped out of her mind. A phone call was necessary.
He dialed her number. The phone continued to ring until it disconnected itself. Five minutes later, he tried again. This time Stella disconnected the call. He stared at the phone, waiting for her to call back.
A text propped up on his cellphone.
I’m xtrmly sry Evan, I cnt tk ur cal…bsy running sm imp errand. I ws abt to cal u…its impsble 4 me to cm…I’m sry Evan…Gd nt 🙂
He re-read the text again, almost pitying himself. What were you even thinking?
His thoughts didn’t reflect in his reply.
It’s absolutely okay, Stella. I understand. Good night… 🙂
“Are you sure that I can’t get anything for you, sir?”, the waiter asked, as Evan was about to leave
“No. Looks like my guest is too busy to come,” Evan replied bitterly.
The next morning he went to Opulence ltd, with the events of the previous day still afresh in his mind. There was a lot of commotion. People huddled around Stella, mostly ladies. Everyone was talking animatedly, of which he could make out only a few words.
“…I’m so happy for you.”
Not paying much attention, he headed towards his cabin. Stella followed him. Before he entered, she called out-“Evan?”
He turned back and replied monotonously, “Good morning, Stella. You look tired.”
Stella fiddled with her fingers. A moment later, she spoke, “Actually, Evan, I lied to you last night. I was with Adrian. He just proposed me yesterday. I could not leave him, it would have spoiled everything. You know how much I love him.”
“Congratulations, Stella. I am really glad for both of you,” he said and entered his cabin. Stella was rejoined by her gang of girls.
In a city like this, his boss had said, the only way to survive is to strive. Evan dutifully returned to his job, the place where he really belonged.