September Last Year
It was a routine day, just like any other day in office. He was busy with work as usual. Work had always been his priority. He always took things as a challenge or rather a game, where he is on a mission to finish certain tasks, running against time, beating opponents, crossing every huddle. Though it was a different thing that He didn’t get what he deserved.
His desk was almost at the middle of the operations floor, a single desk under the pillar, making it a corner one. He chose his desk by himself as he didn’t want anyone else to bother him while working and most of the floor had two people sharing the desks. The entire floor was covered with CCTV cameras and He was the only one having one camera over his head but he knew it does not cover him. As there was nothing illegal going on his desk he was not at all worried if any other CCTV does capture him.
The phone at his desk rang.
“Hello!” He answered the call which was from his reporting officer Tom.
“Can you come for a minute in Himalaya?” Tom asked. Himalaya was one of the meeting rooms in the office.
“I’m on my way.” He replied.
He wrapped up the open tasks, locked the computer screen and headed to Himalaya. It was hardly fifteen steps away from his desk.
There were already three members in the room, Tom, Manager and Emma.
He got inside, took a chair and sat adjacent to the Manager, facing Tom and Emma.
The formality began.
“Neal, we called you here as we wanted you to meet Emma. She is going to be the part of your team.”
“Hi!” He greeted her with almost no smile on his face. He couldn’t help it, no matter how hard he tried those days. It was not the work pressure which used to keep him off but because he used not to show his heart to anyone and he was also not at all good with strangers.
“Hi!” She replied with smile on her nervous face.
That only smile was enough to make the impact.
“Emma, this is Neal, lead of the team; he’ll give you training. Catch him tomorrow when you reach office.” The RO said.
“Ok!” was her response with another smile but it was different from the first one.
The meeting ended after a couple of more formalities and Emma left for home as she arrived office early that day. Neal was happy that finally there was a nice girl going to be the part of his team. The entire team did not have many nice faces; only a few but those were not nice for him.
Rest of the evening ended as normal.
Next evening, he was at his desk, about to begin working, the office was just begun. After few minutes she arrived too, somehow reached to his desk. She started talking to another team member sitting behind him.
“Hi Neal!” She greeted from behind after a couple of minutes. He turned back, greeted her in return and continued working. This is how he used to treat every stranger then.
“Can I sit with you?” She asked for permission.
“Sure!” Instantly, he allowed. She was supposed to sit only with him as he was the one who had the responsibility to train her.
He always hated training new members but his irony was that he always had someone sitting with him to eat his head. Since there used to be only one or two members at a time, it used to be on-floor training rather than the classroom one. At that moment, he didn’t know as how this training experience was going to be.
He started the conversation by asking about her work experience, about previous office etc, certainly a boring topic but it was just the beginning.
“Let me finish my emails then we’ll start with the process overview.” He said and she nodded in agreement.
They continued talking while he was working on emails.
For a first few weeks, most of the times she used to sit with him for training, they talk in general, he avoids asking her for breaks, sometimes he used to leave his computer unlocked for her while he goes for smoke with friends, or log another computer for her to go through the SOPs when he gets himself too occupied with work. A regular business affair was it.
Slowly, they started becoming friends. An unconventional mingle was it. Where she was childish, always laughing and fun loving, he was silent, to the point and ignorant. People used to consider him rude because he never used to talk with them much.
He was rather not rude but not so social. He had been living away from family since he was only sixteen, during the initial days he used to cry at the times of separation from family but time had changed everything, now he had made himself strong enough to not to feel the pain of distance but surely he was lonely, very lonely. His friends were his family now and he was very choosy while choosing them.
He always wanted people to be smart and intellectual; He hated stupid people being around. Most of the times in office, he used to be either at his desk working or chatting with friends. These all things had classified him as rude. But he was least concerned.
He was unaware that everything is going to be changed. That 4 years’ old perception will demolish soon.
During those days, they talked little further, other than office things. They talked about friends and personal lives but not too personal at the same time. It was her who started it all. He generally didn’t talk about these things to any stranger. Maybe she didn’t like his mechanical behavior and wanted it to be little friendlier.
“She is Neal’s ex-girlfriend.” One day, Roger told Emma while talking about Alice in his absence.
Roger was another team member used to sit next to Neal. He was a good looking guy and an attention seeker. People always thought that he is a very good friend of his as they go to office gym and on breaks together. Undoubtedly, he used to spend maximum time with Roger in office but both of them never tagged each other as friends.
“Really? I don’t believe it. She said it surprisingly.
“Ask him for yourself”. He replied with confidence.
“Wasn’t she your girlfriend?” Roger asked in Emma’s presence when Neal reached back to his desk after the break.
He smiled and nodded to confirm.
He didn’t want to talk anything about it so he shut the topic and started working.
“I would have not believed it if you had not confirmed.” Emma said dragging her chair towards him when everyone got settled down.
“Why so? Can’t I have an Ex-Girlfriend?” He asked while looking towards the computer screen.
“No, it’s not like that. It’s just that she is so different from you.” “She talks so lot and you don’t speak much.” She explained as to why she was surprised.
“Yeah!” “But how and what happened then?” She questioned after the confused agreement.
“Will let you know some other day maybe. Let’s get back to work for now.” He didn’t want to talk about it at that time as it was just started.
Few more weeks passed. One day she said.
“I need morning shift.”
“Why? Your training is yet not finished.”
“I have some family issues with night shift, that’s why. But I guess I have learnt enough to start with. I’ll take support from old team members and will keep on asking you via email or phone if anything tricky comes in”
“You reach office at 2:30 PM and I’ll be leaving after 4:00 PM. I’ll have enough time to get your help during that time as well.” She explained.
“I come early for gym not for work.” He had the point.
“I promise there won’t be any problem. Let’s give it a try at least. I’ll be back in night shift if it doesn’t work.”
“Okay! Ask Tom if he approves.”
After a small conversation Tom approved and from next week onwards Emma was in morning shift. Now, they used to meet only for half hour everyday. She used to pile things up where she needs advice, sends him emails with questions, and sometimes calls from office when he used to be in bed at home after the night shift. Though, she was also concerned about the timing so that she does not interrupt in his sleep. For that reason she calls him only after he was awake.
He didn’t know about her but he started liking her. He started waiting for her call even if for official purposes. He started liking her because she was charming, smart and sensible.
During the same phase, in office, a guy told him that Emma is in relationship and committed from last 8 years. Her boyfriend earns handsomely with nice family and a decent job. It was a school time affair. He had no doubt about the information because the guy who shared this information was a good friend of Emma. It was nice that he got to know these things very early. He didn’t say that he knew this much and neither did she tell him. There was no point of being worried about anything then as there was nothing fishy.