The Imperceptible Nod – A short story

Aryan sensed that it would be one of ‘those’ weekends. He had gone home that weekend to unwind and catch up on some well deserved rest. He avoided prolonged conversations with his mom, because all she wanted to do these days was to get him to meet her friends’ daughters.

Adding to this aggravation was his happily married sister, who came up with lists of girls, who would be the perfect match for him.

Truth be told, he knew he would eventually marry, but right now, the thought of marriage scared him, and with his workload he hardly found any time to date.

A young man is no match for two determined women, and so he listened to both of them raving about this beautiful, young lady named Rhea, who worked in the same city as he did. Rhea was a teacher in a renowned private school, whose sister had gone to school with his.

He nodded without really paying attention. His mind took in a few words here and there, but he was more worried about whether he would reach home in time to watch the final of the soccer match on TV.

Finally, they spared him, and after quick hugs, and reminders to call Rhea, he drove back.

Once back at work, the weekend, and sleep, seemed like faraway destinations. He was into IT sales and  was busy chasing his number targets, meeting prospective customers and trying to close deals.

A couple of weeks later, he had a meeting with a new prospect – a private school. While he waited in the school’s lobby, he suddenly remembered that this was the school where Rhea worked.   He looked at the school through a different lens now.

There were two smart ladies manning the reception desk. He walked up to one of them and asked, “Hmm, Is there a teacher named Rhea, who works here?”

“Yes, sir. Would you like to meet her?” asked the receptionist.

“Oh, no, actually. I just know her through somebody”, he said.

And desperate to change the topic, he said, “Could I have the school brochure please?”

The receptionist replied, “Sure. Are you looking at admission for your children?”

He nodded vaguely, imperceptibly – a nod that could have meant a yes or a no! The receptionist walked over to a shelf and picked out some literature about the school. He thanked her and went back to his seat.

Suddenly, he heard the receptionist calling out to him, “Mr.Kumar, that’s Ms.Rhea. The one there in the grey dress.”

And as he turned to look at Rhea, he heard the receptionist calling out to her,  “Rhea, there’s a gentleman who wants to talk to you about school admissions for his children.”

He looked shocked as Rhea made her way across the lobby. She was beautiful.

“Mr.Kumar, I am Rhea. I teach primary classes here and am also the admissions coordinator for junior school. I understand you are looking at admitting your children here. What can I help you with?”

Aryan said, “Good to meet you. No, I mean…no children, I mean, (he realized he was blabbering). “Sorry, I am actually here for another meeting – with your IT department, so if you could give me your card, we can catch up at a later date?”

They exchanged business cards.

“Sure, no worries”, she said and walked away with a wave.

He had blown it and how! That irritating receptionist…grrrr. He would gladly throttle her.

Then again, the problem was non-existent. He would just not call Rhea again, and it would end right there. So what if she thought he had children.

He went on with his days, the incident completely forgotten.

A few days later, his sister called him to say that she was in town and asked him if they could meet up for lunch and if she could bring a friend?

He booked a table at an Italian restaurant. At 12.30 pm he was seated at the table, busy checking his email. He heard his sister before he saw her.

He looked up with a smile, and stood up to give her a hug. He froze when he saw that his sister’s friend was Rhea. His sister made the introductions and winked at him.

The colour drained from his face. Rhea smiled and looked at him as if his face was familiar. He could see that she was trying to recollect him from somewhere. She wrinkled her nose in concentration throughout lunch.

He wondered what his sister had told her about him. His sister looked at him strangely and was trying to make up for his lack of interest in the conversation.

Finally, and thankfully, the nightmare ended. His sister looked rather grim and said to him, “I will call you.”

From Rhea’s face, he knew that she had not placed him yet.  Thank God for small mercies.

The two ladies walked away and he breathed a sigh of relief.  It was over. He only had to give his sister some story about his strange behaviour during lunch. That would be a breeze.

He went home early and settled down before the TV with a drink. He was channel surfing, when he heard a ping on his phone.

It was an email about admission procedures at the private school where Rhea worked. It was signed simply as Rhea, Admissions Coordinator.

He cringed that she had placed him, and had let him know it this way.

Well…you can’t win them all, he thought to himself.

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