A love story between two disparate colleagues
Sheila woke up with a sense of panic. She had forgotten to set the alarm for the third day in a row. Oh God, there would be hell to pay at work. Sachin was probably having a coronary by now. Just the thought of him brought a grimace to her face. Sachin. Erstwhile classmate. Once the world’s biggest nerd and her bete-noire at work.
Sheila recalled the first time they’d met five years ago. She had bumped into him near their college entrance and knocked him off his feet. When she tried to pull him up, he’d glared at her. Unperturbed by his “touch-me-not” attitude she had tried to draw him out. She soon gave up. On the last day of college he had approached her hesitantly. “Sheila, here’s my address. I’m going to my native village and then head towards Delhi. I’m taking up a job with an MNC there.” He had given her a hopeful smile. She took the note from him with a preoccupied air thinking about her job interview the next day.
On his first day at work she had literally ambushed him at the cafeteria. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me – you look so different. When did you move back to Mumbai?” She could barely recognize him. Gone were the glasses that had given him an owlish appearance in college. The crumpled shirts and well-oiled hair that had the girls running a mile away. Mr. Nerd looked like a movie star now. Well-tailored slacks, pinstriped shirt and cropped hair. Even the spectacles had been replaced by contacts. She rattled on for a few minutes before she realized that he hadn’t spoken a word. He stood there staring at her with a frozen expression on his face. “I didn’t know you were working here..l” he blurted and started drumming his fingers on the table. ‘He still hasn’t given up this habit since college’ thought Sheila. “We’re going to be working together on this project, let’s get started!” he said abruptly.
Two months in the project, she had come to know his little quirks. He was obsessed with cleanliness and was always tidying up after her. He had a habit of meticulously making notes during every presentation. He chose his words carefully whenever he spoke. Sheila was his antithesis and knew she grated on his nerves. She often caught that flicker of annoyance on his face when she made a mess on the table or leaped into the discussion at supersonic speed. The others were used to her ways but Sachem’s mood was getting blacker. “Did you guys have a fall-out in college?” Her colleague Rohini was curious. Sheila shook her head. “No, I don’t know why he’s on my case all the time!”
Yesterday was the last straw. Their client had convened a meeting at 9 am and she hadn’t made it on time. But she had given a spirited presentation and the client had walked away with a non-committal expression. Sachin had blown his top. “Sheila, we’re going to lose this account, thanks to you! Why are you never on time? How long can you get away with such a shoddy attitude?” There was a grim silence that followed. The others murmured and slinked out. Sheila felt miserable. Tears were welling in her eyes and she couldn’t look up. He just slammed the files on the table and walked off.
As she reached the office late, she dreaded going inside and confronting her nemesis. Her buoyant nature had simply disappeared with this project. “I’m going to quit now, can’t take this anymore!’ she muttered. When she walked into her cubicle, all her colleagues were busy at their terminals. Suddenly there was a shout from the far end of the room.
“Yeah! We got the contract! Congrats, Sheila – you did it!”
Sheila blinked. Was this some sort of joke? She thought she’d blown it yesterday.
“Mr. Jagmohan was so impressed with your ideas, he’s decided to go ahead with the proposal. It’s in the bag now!” Rohini was grinning.
While others came around to congratulate her, her eyes darted across the corridor. Where was he? There was no sign of Sachin the rest of the day. When she was packing up her things and getting ready to leave she sensed someone standing behind her.
“Ahem! Sheila, can I talk to you?” Sachin was looking at her warily. “I’ve here to apologize for screaming at you. And congratulations for winning the contract for us!”
“Thanks, Sachin. I know I’m impulsive by nature and say the first thing that comes to my head. I’ll really try to change, I want to..”
“Oh, no. Don’t change. Ever. I won’t love you any less…”
“Whaaat? Did you say love?” She almost screamed.
He chuckled and looked sheepish for a few seconds. “Sheila, I’ve always been the dull guy in the group whereas you’re the real thing!”
“But Sachin, don’t you know opposites attract?”
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