Chapter 2

Written by: Iliena Bosu

If, after all this time, anyone asks me about it, I would still say it was nothing. However, everyone made a big deal out of it then and, until this day, think it was entirely my fault.

The first time I met Sheila, we were riding an elevator to the top floor. Standing next to her, suddenly I was aware of her presence in the slow moving box, and of the tensed little space between us. She wore a cobalt blue saree with a thin scarlet border and a sleeveless blouse in a similar shade of red. She wore heels that day, nude pumps to be precise. I remember it so vividly because both her big toes, with nails painted in cherry red, were peeping out of the front of her shoes.

She shifted her wavy locks to the right side, baring a long, slender neck that graciously balanced her head. The rising temperature outside made me sweat profusely. But, I dare not move lest she get a whiff of the stench. I watched her as she too dabbed behind her ears. Guiltily, I took pleasure in gazing at the permissible nakedness of the parts of her body, which her attire proudly exposed to everyone.

 “Which way is the Benson & Parker office?” she asked as the elevator came to a stiff halt.

“This way, towards the right,” The words floated out of my mouth. “I work there.”

“Oh! Perfect!” we walked towards the office. “I am Sheila Narayan.”

My heart was beating faster and faster.

We reached the humble glass front door of the stately office. As I reached out to swipe my access card, my hand grazed against Sheila’s bare arm. I froze for an instant.

“I-I am so sorry!” I blurted.

“It’s alright,” I heard her say.

“You didn’t burst into flames.” She smiled as I quickly pulled my hand back.

Do you know what it’s like to live my life? It’s living yet being dead, feeling worthless and pathetic, as insignificant as a speck of dust, twenty-four hours a day. However, I felt alive that day. Love never happened to me before, so I didn’t know what to call that anxious ecstasy I felt in the pit of the stomach. If it could, my heart would have jumped out of my mouth and never come back.

Nevertheless, I never saw Sheila again until the office’s New Year party. She probably came as the plus one. She looked so happy dancing with other men. How could she? What would others think? That’s not how pious women behave. I couldn’t let anything or anybody malign her character.

“Sheila, what’re you doing?” I pulled her by her arm. “Do you know what they call a woman who dances with men?

“Do I know you?”

“You don’t remember me?”

“NO!”

I slapped her hard, right across her face.

Please don’t get me wrong. I just wanted to jolt her memory.