Hi friends, this is the next chapter of my YA "Silent Voices". If you have never come across SV before, then the following chapters might connect you more to the plot. Use them for reference if you want to know 'why' or 'who'. Otherwise, you are very welcome to read through this chapter on its own. I decided to put the previous chapters if anyone wants to delve into the plot.
I would be very grateful if you could leave me any comments you have on this, be it positive or negative, praise or criticism. Thanks you for reading my work and I hope you enjoy it!
"Today, Shreya," said Fatty, "is a big day. I know you are nervous but please don't be." She lifted Shreya's hand in hers. Judging by how cold her hands were, Fatty was probably more nervous than Shreya. "Ron is not a big businessman. He is just a young man, playing around with his Daddy's office in his absence. Impress him, and Lux will be ours!"
"But how do I impress him?" Shreya asked, absent-minded, pushing her hair into style in front of the mirror.
"Oh come on! He is a young lad. You are a pretty young girl. You know what he would be looking for in you. Just smile, act sweet and innocent, and he will buy the act."
"Act?" Shreya said, surprised. "Are you trying to say that I am not sweet and innocent in reality? Fatty, you do know--"
"Yes, I know that you are kind-hearted and of strong morals, but, please, for once, just do what I say! We need this contract! There's a penthouse up for sale in Juhu. A property like that is usually worth 10,000,000, but I found one which is less than half-price at 5,000,000. The Lux contract brings a nice 6,000,000, leaving you 1,000,000 for the future. If we manage this well, we will literally be on top of the world!"
"How did you find a penthouse this cheap?" Shreya asked. "You are sure there's no catch?"
"Nope, nothing at all. It belonged to an middle-class couple, who have decided to move to a 'less noisy place'. Rumors are that their son married a foreigner, that too, of different religion. The couple decided to move, in order to avoid the shame of facing their neighbours."
Shreya listened silently. She had a very good idea of how much people valued 'honor' and 'respectability' and 'the views of the society'.
"Shall we get going?" Shreya was suddenly impatient. "We don't want to be late!"
"Sure!" Fatty told Shreya. "Let me call Dado to come with the car."
The duo made their way down the stairs. Car arrived. Soon, they were speeding through the roads of Mumbai, taking them to the famous Lux Tower on the up-market Nepean Sea Road. The 20-floor glass building was a landmark even in it's high-end neighborhood. Rising higher than all buildings in the area, the building was a perfect home for the office of one of the most powerful brand names in not just the country, but the whole sub-continent.
Shreya and Fatty made their way up the marble stairs and through the revolving doors. Fatty seemed quite at home in the grand reception, but Shreya couldn't suppress her awe at the first sight of the office of her potential employers. The interiors of the building was as stunning as the outside. Large plasma screens were fitted on each of the windows, continuously playing the current Lux television advertisements. The marble flooring was so shiny that one could use it as a mirror. Chandeliers, crystalline vases of exquisite red roses and unconventionally aesthetic ZZ plants were scattered evenly all around the large foyer.
The receptionist requested Fatty to wait in the lounge area, while Shreya went to Ron's office, 'just up the glass stairs. Just before letting her go, Fatty whispered some last minute advise to Shreya: "Remember, smile, be sweet, compliment him and don't forget to hug; you want to be his friend, not employee! Now go"
"May I come in?"
Ron Singhania called the new model girl in. What was her name...Shruti? Shahana? Sonia?
"Hi, i am Shreya, Shreya Tanzin."
Ron looked up to face the serene figure he had seen in the portfolio Maddy sent. Only, the real deal was better! Big dark-brown eyes, dreamy pale complexion, dark hair forming soft curls, and a smile to dazzle the world out of anyone. No wonder dad loves his job!
Ron shook Shreya's out-stretched hand, while taking one good look at her, head to toe; he needed to ensure she was exactly what he wanted, or more appropriately, what dad wanted for the next Lux girl. She had chosen to go pink today, which brought out the soft blush of innocence on her cheeks. the shade of her dress would be somewhere between Primrose Garden and Soft Poppy, according to the colour-reference chart the production team had lent him. It was a mid-length dress, 'babydoll cut' according his prior research. Her clutch was a much lighter shade of pink, a midpoint of Pearl Blush, Cream Rose and Cotton Candy. Ron looked down and was satisfied to see that she was 'peep-toe heels' or 'peep-toe pumps' or whatever in the same shade as her bag. Eager to ensure not a detail was missed, he quickly noted that she was wearing a chunky floral bangle and pearl-drop earrings in the same shade as her shoes and bag.
Ron ticked the "appearance" section of his mental checklist, while offering her a seat, which she politely thanked him for. Now, Hun, let's see what you are made of. Just a plastic Barbie who is pleasant to look at, or a bit more than that.
Ron turned on the news on the big LCD. This is your big test; prove yourself worthy. Now, don't lose it here, please!"
Headlines rolled in. Ron clinically observed every expression on Shreya's unaware face,studying her response to the news items. Ron had to suppress the grin of satisfaction, as Shreya's reaction to the different headlines were exactly what he wanted; horror at the abuse story of a domestic maid, while pleasure at the international excellence award won by India's first private airline service, "Blue Heron Airways".
"So, what do you think?" Ron said benignly. Let's hear your views!
"I think this is brilliant!" Shreya answered enthusiastically. "An Indian company making it big globally goes on to show the potentials we have. The fact that an investment from our land has achieved global recognition proves that the manpower is there; only a push is needed to make greatness happen."
Interesting! "And what do you think about us? Lux?"
"I think Lux is brilliant too. Another Indian investment which is making us proud internationally. Thousands of women, worldwide, today swear by the gentle care of Lux. Truly, I am honoured to be able to come to its office."
Flattery? But those eyes had something in them; like a twinkle of honest appreciation...
"I am glad you feel that. Here's a question about us, 'if Lux was the brand of 2 fathers and 2 sons, and each had created a new soap type, why are there only 3 types in the market?"
Shreya smiled gently, making shadows of dimples visible. "That would be because the the two fathers were your great-grandfather and your grandfather, and the two sons were your grandfather and father."
Wits as well. Perfect!
"Miss Shreya, looks like you love Lux! Would you like to work with us? I mean, you are beautiful, talented and lively, exactly what Lux represents. Would you like to join me for the next Lux media campaign? I heard you are the Panache girl for this month. Clearly, you are the ideal girl for the 'Steal the Show' campaign."
"I am flattered... I would love to...I don't know how to say..." Shreya struggled with her excitement.
"Alright, then. I will send the contract over today." Ron concluded.
Ron stood up to walk Shreya to the door. He was about to put his hand out to shake hers, when she hugged him. Or, not really a 'hug' but a gentle fingers-on-shoulders-and-air-kiss hug, the usual glamorous greeting. The smell of her rose perfume felt oddly nostalgic. Ron felt something he had never felt before, a subconscious knowledge that she could be trusted. That the girl wasn't being nice just to win his friendship. That she genuinely was a warm, kind person. Maybe, she could be the true friend he never had. Being a rich heir isn't easy afterall.
While he tried his best to remain professional, something personal seemed to be forming. A sense of connection, a bond that had never been before...Despite himself, Ron said "take care and see you soon" as Shreya left his, or more appropriately his Dad's, cabin.
Pushing the signature fringe of dark hair covering his eyeline away, Ron walked back to the desk and pulled out his sketchbook. The goldfish in Dad's fishbowl swirled around frantically, bumping against the glass walls, as if in warning. But Ron didn't care. The sketchbook stored his emotions, the ones he failed to express. Today, he needed it more than anything. Today, he need to draw...
Office towers, apartment blocks, rushing clouds: the ruthless city skyline...
High road rush, broken hearts, caffeine-fueled race against time...
In the jungle of desires, lifeless
In the jumble of flying dry leaves,
The gentle rose blushed...
But don't be tempted by the innocence
It is a mirage, nature's cruel pretence...
For roses bring thorns too....