On a day where Shreya was walking up the steps of greatness, someone was walking down the black marble staircase of his father's mansion, towards a destiny which would tie the two into an unbreakable bound.
Ron strolled across the black and silver Persian rug of the landing and sat down at the chair on the first left of the custom-made black oak wood table. R.J Singhania sat at the head of the table, while Jenny fussed around with the servants, asking them to bring various dishes to the table, like "bring the malai kofta please. You know how much baba likes it," and "don't forget the Moroccan Chickpea Soup, it's saab's favorite."
Ron's hand curled into a fist. Why couldn't she stop calling her husband saab, or 'sir' as it translates, in front of the servants. Despite being the lady of the house, she wasn't respected by the servants, who still thought of her as saab's assistant. Obviously, they would never be rude in front of Dad, but Ron knew, behind his back, they all snickered and gossiped about how "an assistant seduced her boss and married him for money". Ron knew it was not true, as he knew how much Jenny loved Dad; she deserved all the respect in the world for being there for Ron and Rajshekhar when no one else was, selflessly giving up everything in her own world for them two. Yet, Ron felt that if she didn't stop behaving like an assistant, no one will ever treat her as anything more than.
Dad cleared his throat and looked up at Ron."Ronak Singhania, future CEO of the Lux International Personal Care Brand Ltd, today I speak to you not as your Dad, but as the CEO of Lux," Dad spoke in a diplomatic tone. "As you may know, Mikhaila Kahn's contract with Lux expires next month, and as most magazines, newspapers, and other forms of celebrity gossip-entertainment mediums have highlighted, she definitely lacks any commitment towards our brand's priorities of integrity or respect, which she is clearly disregards, as shown by her recent behavior."
Ron smiled crookedly. Only today, he read about Mikhaila throwing a burning cigarette on a photographer, who tried to snap her up, while she left Panache's office following the termination of her contract.
"In current circumstances, we are planning to drop her from our next contract," Dad continued. "However, we need to do this surreptitiously, while introducing a new 'Face of Lux' in the same campaign as Ms Kahn, so that she is driven out of people's minds. This would require very strong personality and memorable face.Finding a girl of such talent is not very easy and I was planning to research the 5 candidates short-listed by Madeline, of Starlet MM, personally. Unfortunately, I will need to leave for Indonesia tomorrow, as one of our ads have had some unexpected opposition from the public there."
"This is where you come in. As I will be out of town for the next 2 weeks, your job would be to research and select 3 of the 5 model models, meet them personally to understand their personalities, and then hire the one you think would be the best. Then you must come up with a new campaign, involving Ms Kahn and your selected model, so as to launch her as the new 'Face of Lux'. Don't worry, my Creative, PR and Marketing team would be at your hand, as will be my office, and if you are successful, a month's worth of CEO's salary would be in your bank account the day Ms Kahn's contract expires.Is that ok?"
Dad fixed an intent stare at Ron, a stare which was powerful enough to force an agreement out of anyone. The Advanced Business Studies book was right! thought Ron. It does take a lot of charisma to be a leader, especially a successful one. Dad certainly possessed it, so did his forefathers. Ron wasn't sure if he himself had any charisma at all. Maybe, it's time to find out.
"Yes, Dad." Ron said confidently although his insides were turning to jelly just at the thought of meeting people, especially some shallow, look-obsessed girls.
"Thank you, son," Dad said in a more fatherly tone. "You know I could trust no one else with this." He tasted the soup. "Mmm. Nice."
Ron looked at Jenny through the corner of his eye. He loved to see how she blushed every time her husband passed any careless compliment towards her. She truly must love him, he always thought. Ron was slightly surprised to see that she was slightly miffed rather than blushing. So miffed, that rather than eating dinner, she complained of a headache and went to bed in her room instead. In her room. Dad and Jenny have slept separately since their marriage.
Ron knew what this meant. He was old enough to understand. Sometimes he feared if the society ladies were right in their gossip. The good-for-nothing rich wives of the business-men living in the other mansions of the locality; never failed to turn up any of the parties in Singhania mansion. Their presence didn't annoy Ron as long as they kept their mouths shut, which was rarely. They would constantly gossip about how Jenny and Dad were never together and how Dad still loves 'his model girlfriend . They would call Jenny 'a statue of a wife' for Dad, one used to hide his love for the girl who dumped him for a modelling contract in Paris.
"Just a dummy. A painting on the wall." Mrs Sahai would say.
"Another ornament for beautifying the house." Mrs Shroff would add.
"And a way of acting unavailable for young women suiting for a rich husband." Mrs Chatterji would say, in a controversial tone.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," Mrs Despandey would quote Jane Austen. It was a matter of much wonder that an educated man like English professor Mr Despandey married such a ridiculous woman, even more shocking than her quoting famous English novels, a habit picked up from her husband.
"But of course, why else would someone marry in a lower class, like an assistant?" Ms Nitu would add. She is known as Ms Nitu. after having divorced Mr Desai, Mr Wadia and Mr Khanna, no one dares calls her Mrs. Mrs Despandey would give her a dirty look, as Mrs Despandey was once a flight-stewardess, which is 'just a glamorized version of a maid' according to Ms Nitu.
Then all of them would join their voices in calling Jenny "another of Singhania's possessions; a 'show-wife'!"
Ron walked into his room, still despising the society-ladies. One day, he planned to call them hypocrites on their faces, reminding Mrs Sahai of the eloping of her daughter with a driver, and Mr Shroff of her son doing drugs everyday after school, and Mrs Chatterji of her husband's affair with the child governess, and Mrs Despandey of her husband's affair with a student in his university, and of course, Ms Nitu of how she is known as a sophisticated escort among the men, as they all think her 'marriage' with the previous three men were only part of her 'job'.
One day! So much to do one day! So much to achieve! Ron shook his head. Living in dreams wouldn't work. He needed to focus. Needed to do the work he had 'volunteered' for. Ron picked up the black leather folder from the glass coffee table in his room. Flicking through the portfolios, he felt his will-power and confidence diminishing. What will I do? None of them are up to the standard of Lux, let alone compete with the confidence of Mikhaila on screen. Terrible, he thought. What will I ever do to make this work? He hung his head down in desperation.
Suddenly, the black velvet curtains started to rustle. The glass jug next to the window swayed dangerously, wind creating turbulent waves in its water. The momentum made the jug shiver. The hair at the back of Ron's neck stood up. A storm must be brewing outside, he thought. Ron left the open folder on the table and walked to the window. Despite being blocked by thick black curtains, Jenny had insisted Ron let them be open, 'to provide ventilation'. He shifted the curtain to one side, to be faced by the frank enchantments of the night.
Lucky it is a cloudy night! Ron thought. The blankness of eyes couldn't take in the bright glitter of stars. When he was younger, Jenny had told him his 'Mum' was among the stars. He had not known back then that it meant that she was enjoying her modelling career somewhere as a star, not what the usual euphemism meant. Sometimes he wished she was actually dead, rather than knowing that she had left them by full will. Ron slid the window shut.
Outside, dry leaves were strewn across their personal golf-course, ruining its perfect neatness. Ron walked back to the folder. The wind had blown through the pages of the folder, opening it up an untouched page. It was the portfolio picture of a young girl, her face fresh and angelic, and possibly make-up free, apart from lipstick. Scarlet lipstick, matching her scarlet gown, the photograph stood out, glowing, in black and white room. The girl in a bright red gown was resting on a flight of white stairs, her head at a soft angle, oozing femininity yet confidence. Eyes like molten blobs of chocolate, standing out against pale, creamy skin, and a brilliant smile shining through bright red lips; she was exactly what Ron was looking for. Beauty, innocence, all in one.
Ron smiled. A genuine smile. A smile he hadn't given for years. Man, she is pretty! he thought. "Fix an appointment tomorrow" Ron spoke to Siri on his iPhone 5, "with..." he looked down under the photo for a name. "Shreya, Shreya Tanzin, yes," he said, and strolled off to bed.
Outside, the gale was at it worst, shaking and swaying the huge oak trees in the golf-course. Dry leaves and twigs blew, beating against the window, as if in warning of a disaster. However, the debris were too late in their warning. An open window had let through winds powerful enough to make a lone-child smile. Flying pages had brought colour into a monochrome world; a splash of crimson which would become fatal.