It was 12:10 pm exactly when Raveena parked her car alongside the street at Riverside Quay South bank and stepped inside the elevator pressing for the 14th floor. The elevator was jam-packed with people, some who worked there in the building and others who just wanted to tour the building and try out the
The elevator door opened at the 5th floor and a young tall and handsome man stepped in. He had his arms around a young woman and it was obvious to her they were besotted with each other from they way they held onto each other.
Raveena shut her eyes momentarily and wished with all her heart, that when she opened them a miracle would happen. She would find the man she loved the most in this world beside her. Oh wistful thinking again, she reproached herself silently. There is only two more days left…just two more days, she consoled herself with forced gaiety.
“Now reaching level ten,” the automated voice on the lift sounded almost musical. She slowly opened her eyes and realised she was staring straight into those dark and now so familiar features.
Oh Lord no, not him!
Raza in his tan business attire, carrying a leather briefcase, stepped into the elevator. If he was surprised to see her that certainly didn’t register on his profile, which left her musing so to how controlled the man’s expression always were. He gave her a brief nod in acknowledgment that she ignored on purpose, instead feigning interest in her fingernails.
She didn’t want to speak to the man. She absolutely resented his arrogant presence. As the last remaining four occupants beside them filtered out on the 11th floor, Raveena realised she was now alone with him. Her heart was racing so madly against her ribs, that she was almost positive he could hear it. Nervously she coiled a lock of her hair around her finger, wishing with all her heart that they reached the 14th floor in next to no time.
She couldn’t understand, nor could she explain to herself why she felt such a desperate need to get as far away from him, as humanly possible.
“Relaxxxxx, I don’t touch married women.” His lazy tones cut through the silence.
Her face burned. It was as if this man could actually read her befuddled bundle of thoughts and then map them out for her. Furthermore, he had an uncanny knack of making her understand precisely what it was that really disturbed her.
But today she wasn’t going to give him the contentment of knowing he was right, that would only add to his already over-inflated ego! The doors opened on the 13th floor and she looked around hoping against all odds that this stop might bring some passengers in, but alas her heartfelt hope remained unanswered. Anyway she reassured herself, just one more floor, not long now.
“What’s that got to do with me?” she couldn’t resist asking him as her chin lifted in impertinence.
His hooded eyes showing suppressed laughter, he replied offhandedly, “Blimey you are acting like an untouched bride whose virginity is under threat by some hungry dog.”
She found herself drawing in a sharp intake of breath. Good Lord this man was too much for her. He was far too worldly with a razor-sharp mind and an equally jagged tongue. Raveena was never easily bullied, nor pressured. Although she was recognised as inherently kind and compassionate among her own circle of friends, she didn’t suffer fools gladly and was also known to have an answer for everything.
However today she found that she didn’t know how to handle this man, whose constant presence increasingly threatened to shatter her securely sheltered world. How and why, she didn’t know. And if she were honest, she was too terrified to probe any deeper into it.
Her heart leaped with relief as the automated lift message announced, “Now reaching level fourteen.” Oh thank God finally! Eagerly she waited for the doors to slide open. When the steel doors remained sealed, she pressed the open door button on the wall.
She tried again, this time pressing it so hard that the mark from the door button imprinted onto her thumb.
“What is wrong here,” she turned to him in panic. He shrugged effortlessly, seeming not in the least bit concerned. “Dunno, most probably a malfunction.”
She gaped at him wondering how he could manage to appear so calm, and sound so cool and collected when she was already starting to feel suffocated inside the enclosure of the four walls.
“A malfunction? Then what are we going to do about it?”
Why oh why was this happening to her? The more she wanted escape from him, the more she found herself ensnared with this man!
“Just relax, take a deep breath and relax.” He reached for the phone on the wall, dialled the emergency number and then briefed the operator about the status of the elevator. Hanging up he turned to her.
“As I said earlier a malfunction, shouldn’t be too long,” he said briskly running his hand through his hair.
“But how could this be possible?” She started to bite her nails apprehensively.
“And why isn’t a mishap possible?” He inquired calmly, leaning against the wall with a lift of his thick arched eyebrows.
“Because…because…,” she trailed off helplessly not knowing how to reply to him. What could she say to him anyway? There wasn’t much she could say without sounding foolish. Suddenly exasperated she felt like kicking the four walls inside the cramped space. Why was this happening to her?
“Yeah go on because of what ner ner ner?”
“Why don’t you call me Raveena? Why do you always call me ner ner ner!” she fired instead. As though the stupid darn elevator was not enough, the nerve racking effect the man had on her made her plight even worse.
“I don’t call married women.” He prevaricate the question, his eyes and the tone of his voice reflecting that he was finding her anger very amusing.
“Listen you know precisely what I meant,” she grated through her teeth.
“Ner ner,” he suddenly sighed loosening his tie. ”We might have to stay here for a couple of hours if it takes the technicians that long to get us out of here, so please I suggest you calm yourself down and try to relax.”
“But why? Why would it take them that long to get us out of here? This is THE EUREKA we are stuck inside, don’t they keep back up emergency plans for such occurrences? I mean come on I’m sure they would, then why should it take them long to get us out of here?”
His eyes leisurely and almost caressingly traveled the length of her. He shook his head slightly. Good grief, this teenage bride was full of questions. Her temper…those sudden tantrums of hers, her false airs, she seemed a real handful…yet, undoubtedly, she was alluringly innocent. He chuckled.
“Now why are you laughing?” She frowned, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
In such a tense setting how could he afford to express amusement? Very likely he was laughing at her…was there something on her face that she wasn’t aware of? Maybe her lip liner or mascara had been accidentally smudged over her face and he was finding her visage comical.
“What do you mean why? Everything for you ends with a why?” he thundered abruptly. “And how the hell would I know how long it would take the technicians to get us out of here. You sound more persistent then my two year old niece, Why? Why? Why?”
Feeling crushed by the roughness in his tone, she sank down on the floor of the elevator. “You have no manners! Your parents didn’t teach you any manners!” she retorted.
“Kindly do not bring my parents into this conversation, they are no more.”
All at once she found her heart opening up to him in compassion.
“Oh I’m so sorry,” she answered apologetically from deep within her heart.
He frowned. “Why are you sorry?” And then he continued harshly, “You didn’t kill them. Every living soul has to taste death eventually that is promised by Almighty Allah. Death is a harsh reality.”
This man was too complex for her. To the best of her knowledge, she hadn’t said anything offensive; she had merely expressed her genuine sympathy. Why was he so abrupt and rough at times? He really did a great job in making her feel daft.
Bitting back the sharp retort which rose instantaneously to her lips, she told herself firmly that she wasn’t going to let this man get to her.
“Do you miss your parents?” she found herself asking curiously from her corner of the wall.
“Yes I do from time to time.”
“How long has it been since they passed away?”
“Maanji passed away a couple of years ago and my Babajani just a year go.”
“Oh ok…my mother died when giving birth to me,” she said quietly. “Aunt Sara, my mum’s sister, is like my mother. I do love her so much you know, she is my world. But sometimes I feel as though I was robbed of having parents.”
She didn’t know why she was opening up to him and she didn’t particularly care at that moment. Removing his jacket, he sat opposite her on the floor, and stretched his legs out. She couldn’t believe that a man of his status and power sat opposite her on the floors of the elevators like some carefree youth.
“Parents? And your father?”
“I don’t know much about my father, my aunt never speaks of him.”
“I see,” he replied and left it there.
“Would you like one?”
She offered him a bubble gum from the packet inside her bag. She certainly needed her sugar fixes, it always seem to have a calming effect on her. With much reluctance Raveena had ignored her favourite lolly pops inside her bag on purpose, assuming that he would really take her for a child if he saw it in her mouth again.
“Errrrm…ner ner thanks but no.”
Though he declined politely, he seemed openly amused. Then he smiled at her slowly, a smile so captivating that she felt mesmerized by it. A silence pregnant with anticipation suspended between them as he studied her, while she nervously averted her eyes.
The sound of somebody’s cell phone ringing was like a knife slicing through the air between them. She watched as he took out his cell, held it in front of him looked at the screen and then switched it off.
The instant those words left her bubble gum mouth, she felt really naive. The call could have been from anyone. He must really consider her an utter airhead now.
“Actually more like my woman.” She was stuck by his candour.
His woman? Who was his woman? Stephanie?
Hmmmm…his woman…she felt an uncomfortable sensation inside her heart. Why did his declaration cause her heart to sink? He wasn’t her boyfriend, lover or husband? Who he saw romantically was his business not hers!
“Then why didn’t you answer it?” Her eyes were wide with perplexity.
“When women get too possessive and clingy, to me they lose their appeal. I like everything in moderation, except for sex and for that I have all the stamina in the world.”
“Adultery is a sin in our religion!”
Later on Raveena often marvelled at what had gotten into her during those moments trapped inside the lift with him. Usually a reserved person especially when it came to open discussion about sex, she was instead recklessly outspoken during those moments.
“Being married to one and thinking of another man is also a sin,” he quipped immediately followed by a wink.
Her face flamed. She knew the implication behind his words. Damn him, did he have to constantly throw her earlier stupid infatuation with him right back into her face? But she was over him now! Well and truly over him!
0f course she was!
“Adultery is a grave sin,” she persisted, choosing to ignore his jibe but not for the world could she hide her open curiosity “Why don’t you get married instead?”
“Hmmm…I don’t want to get tied to one particular woman, which is why. Besides, a wife can be a pain at times.”
“How would you know if you were never married…or were you?”
“No I’m not married and never was. Let’s say I ‘m a good observer…and now are you my mum?” he said with a studied smile.
“I’m sorry if that sounded mean to you. Listen ner ner, I have a few principals which I adhere to. I won’t date a married woman, even if she turns out to be the most beautiful woman on the face of this earth. I don’t drink alcohol; don’t do drugs, neither do I gamble. I love my faith as you do but I’m not perfect. I enjoy women – get that it is as simple as that.”
“I see,” she said somewhat furiously.
“Good and now let’s get back to you – when are you expecting hubby back home?”
“Yaseer,” she took his name lovingly, her eyes lighting up with warmth.
His eyes held hers. She didn’t understand why he was watching her with such detailed critical scrutiny. It made her uneasy and breathless.
“How long have you known him for?” His question forced her to look up at him.
“Ever since early childhood, he has been my next door neighbour for as long as I remember.”
“Ohhhh I see! So was he your first boyfriend or was he your first lover?”
She tugged at her wedding ring nervously. Why was he speaking to her so unreservedly? It appeared to her that all his natural sensuality along with his education and wealth must had gone to his head. He was treading on dangerous waters, asking her such intimate questions, which no other man had asked before. Her father-in-law and husband would be outraged, if they ever found out how blatant he had been in all his conversations with her.
But would she tell them?
“Why do you ask me such intimate questions?”
He smiled and crooked his head to an angle. “You’re telling me you have never discussed sex with another man but Yaseer, whom you have experimented with obviously?” There was a hard edge to his tone as he said the last few words.
“I haven’t experimented anything with him or anyone for that matter yet.”
It was out of her mouth before she could hold it back. Oh she was such a stupid woman, why did she have to say that? Her effusive outburst was in direct reaction to the underlying accusation in his tone.
“Forget I said that,” she got to her feet and buried her face in her hands.
“No I won’t.” Slowly he got to his feet. ”So you’re telling me you are a virgin?”
He seemed almost stunned.
Her hands still over her face, she curtained aside her fingers slightly and peeked at him through one eye. He’s eyes twinkling with laughter, he threw his head back and laughed which only made her turn her back on him. This was turning out to be hell embarrassing!
“Ner..ner you aren’t on some stage, stop this shy act of yours and turn around please.”
“I’m not acting ok!” Was this man crazy? How dare he consider what came to her naturally, her modesty, an act?
He sighed rolling his eyes heavenward. “Fine my apologies now turn around.”
Unwillingly she yielded to his request, or was that an order? Winding a strand of her hair around her finger, she averted her eyes from his.
“Yaseer’s friend met with an accident on the night of our wedding so he had to leave me that night to be with his friend and his family.” She didn’t know why she felt the need to elucidate, but strangely she felt she had to. Yaseer’s bride had no idea how alluringly innocent she appeared at that moment.
“I see…ummm I thought virgins were extinct in this day and age.” His eyes narrowed, he seemed lost in thought before he said in clipped tones, “Anyway I bet you can’t wait for your wedding night.”
“Can we change the topic please?” she requested uneasily. He must be truly out of his mind if he, for one moment, considered she was going to discuss intimacy with him.
“No, answer me, you can’t wait to share his bed right?” What was wrong with this man? Why was his face suddenly so thunderous? Enough was enough! He had not a bit of honour left in him. Utterly shameless man!
“Just because you were born with that silver spoon in your mouth doesn’t mean that you have the rights to say what you like when you like and to whom you like. I do not appreciate your bloody intimate questions!”
Raza knew her reservations and understood her tight lipped furious approach perfectly. Yet he found himself enjoying her luscious innocence together with the tantrums of hers. She was quite a revitalising change from the chic and completely uninhabited women he was accustomed to. They were not only candid about their sexuality but also knew the right buttons to press in order to please a man.
He knew the power he had over women. If only it had been some other women, married, or not married, in her place, trapped alone with him she wouldn’t have lost an instant in trying to entice him. But here this red blooded naive young bride of Yaseer Malik,’s was causing him an aching headache with her constant “oh but why?”
Considering the status of the darn elevator and the fact they had no idea when the problem would be remedied, Raza had to admit conversation with her wasn’t that bad, in fact till the elevators were up and running it was good way to pass the time.
“Ner ner ner please, stop with your lectures, you’re giving me a headache. Tell me something honestly, you must be desperately anxious for your hubs to take you in his arms and show you the stars, then bring you back to the world if I may put that mildly with modesty, something you obviously believe I lack in.”
Her temper flared ninety nine degrees and automatically her chin went up in resistance. She flashed him a chilly look. He was a rude, arrogant man, not to mention only interested in conversation revolving around sex!
Well she was fed up with his sex reference conversation. She wasn’t going to answer that, it was as simple as that. Her eyes narrowed as an idea struck her agile mind. She should ask him what his horoscope was! Now that would be the most perfect way to manoeuvrer the topic away from his rude, intrusive and very personal questions.
Once she got him embroiled in discussions about horoscopes, he might forget all about about intimacy.
“What’s your horoscope?” she asked blowing on her bubble gum till it exploded on her face, the pink gum stuck all around her nose.
Oh shit! Oh shit! Her face burned.
What an absurd picture she was painting, with the sticky elastic mess covering her nose. He looked at her and slowly shook his head, his eyes glimmering with laughter.
“My what?” He was sure he had heard her wrong. Good Grief was this woman for real, with her absurd questions and that ridiculous gum over her nose?
“You haven’t asked me my star sign yet,” she frowned rubbing the chew off her nose and mouth. What a looser she was, that she had blown the wretched gum all over her nose. Blowing gums was just a habit, how was she to know that it would get stuck up on her nose, it had never happened before today.
“Oh am I supposed to?” And then he laughed.
“No, “she retorted. “You’re not supposed to, but trapped inside this damn lift, what else we are going to talk about? I’m telling you anyway, I’m a Virgo and now what’s your horoscope?”
“I don’t believe in that crap.” He took the cell out of his pocket.
“Fine at least tell me which month you were born in and from that I shall figure it out myself?”
“November 1st,” he murmured absentmindedly after punching some numbers into his cell, he held it to his ear and then spoke.
“Geoffrey well done dude! ...Yeah I’m fine just a bit tired…..no I’m running late for the meeting.......dude believe me you don’t wanna know where I’m right now.” And then he laughed with a wink at Raveena, who by now was past caring what he thought of her, as she popped a lolly pop into her mouth. She was stressed and she wasn’t risking another bubble gum bubble bursting on her nose. Raveena smiled back at him, thinking how incredibly handsome he looked when he smiled or laughed.
“Anyway dude,” he continued, “I was going through the Wall Street figures this morning and the trading to the volume of shares in foreign exchange was awesome. Aside from the stock markets overall performance of our trading everywhere is simply thriving; thrice what it did last year. And this is because of the entire teams hard effort, especially yours. You deserve a vacation…which starts from now! No ifs or buts........listen save your breath you aren’t getting out of it this easy...officially you are on leave which starts now! Take some time out for the family and take them on a vacation any place in the world – I don’t have to tell you that all expenses shall be taken care of…….listen dude relax, unwind, enjoy, and stop arguing with me on this – my love to Emma and the girls…ciao.”
Slipping his cell back into pocket, he turned to Raveena who had curiosity written all over face.
“Who was that?”
Holding his hands at the back of his neck, he stretched and his eyes racked over her as though he was trying to drive a point home.
“Now why so many, many questions? Listen missy it’s not as though you are my bride or the way people put it, ‘your other half,’ that you just have to know every little thing about me.”
His bride... other half?”
Those words completely muted her as she thought how it would feel to be his bride. To be married to him, to a man with immense sensuality and power and then to be loved by him.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue...Mrs Yaseer?”
Why did he take her husband’s name so coldly? Maybe he didn’t like Yaseer. But why wouldn’t he like Yaseer? That was one of the most insane suggestions that had ever entertained her mind!
“I don’t feel like speaking to you anymore and you can’t force me to!” Suddenly for some unknown reason she sensed danger in the conversation ahead and felt very disconcerted.
“Force…hmmm…speaking of force, many woman love that, actually they get addicted to it, are you one of them too?
He found himself inching closer to her, and she found herself backing away, until she felt her back pressing against the cold steel interior of the elevator. The atmosphere around them was thick with electricity. She swallowed hard, her heart racing insanely against her breast. He positioned his arms on either side of her, trapping her inside his enclosure. His face was only inches away from hers, and his lips in line with her quivering ones. His hypnotic gaze held hers a prisoner, yet he made no attempt to touch her. Raza’s face contorted with emotions she could never have understood at her young age, but which she would learn about in years to come. She was shocked at herself. Dazed by the deep, deep burning desire to touch his face, to tip toe and kiss him on his forehead, on the tip of that proud nose, then further down on his lips.
At that moment, the world and everybody in it came to a standstill.
His face, his eyes, and his whole being sparked a range of conflicting tumult inside her. This wasn’t only physical attraction, this went deeper, and this was something else. She couldn’t put her finger on it. Yet she could feel it mounting from the core of her being, to such a height that it left her aching to bury her head in his chest and feel his arms around her.
Copyright Raveena Khan 2008