“I understand all too well, Mr Wahab,” said Nadia, almost running behind her boss to match his lengthy strides. “The Premadasa’s project is way too important now more than ever as we have reached the final phase. But she’s all I have left in the world!”
Without a glance at her, he said, “I’m afraid that it’s not my problem, Miss Hassan.”
She managed to grasp his arm in her desperation, surprising him. “Please Mr Wahab. I’m no Cinderella begging you for a chance at the Royal ball. It’s my grandmother’s surgery! I have to be close to her when it happens. Please…”
He gave her a blank look. “Cinderella who?” he asked.
It was her turn to look bamboozled and her question came out in a screech, “Didn’t your grandma tell you fairytales when you were little?”
His expression turned grim as he ignored her question, “I don’t believe that I’m even having this conversation with you, Miss Hassan.”
Her eyes shot daggers as he opened the door of his Audi to smoothly slide into the driver’s seat. “And no, she did not.”
Nadia leaned down to make direct eye contact with him and spat out, “She should have, you know. It would have prevented you from playing the part of Cinderella’s wicked step mother in reality.”
She talked back into the building, leaving him staring at her receding form, his mouth hanging open in shock.
Her ringtone woke her up three mornings after the successful surgery. Her hectic work schedule controlled by her slave driver boss amidst the anxiety of dealing with the hospital expenses had left her groggy. In a tired and raspy voice she managed a “Hello…”
“Yes,” she replied hesitantly.
“We are calling from the Nawaloka hospitals. Our patient under your care is being discharged today at 2.00 p.m.”
Her heart beat faster as she stammered, “I’ll be right there… I… Umm… After I have made arrangements for the payment of the balance due.”
“We have already received a payment of Rs 125,000 via your company’s incentive card, Miss Hassan.”
Nadia was stunned. “What! But…”
She heard them hang up and finished her sentence gaping at her smart phone. “… I’m not eligible for an incentive card. Yet. According to the company’s policy.”
She prayed “Shukur” to thank Allah for the ease he had shown her and got ready to meet the form in which her ease was been sent.
She gently tapped at the door before entering her boss’s office and managed an act of clearing her throat before speaking, “Mr Fernando wants to know if we could arrange him an appointment today.”
“Make it at four in the evening,” he said, without looking up from his laptop.
She studied him beneath her lashes and found new things about him that had gone unnoticed before now. The crease lines on his forehead and cruel crowfeet at the corners of his eyes that she had taken for signs of hard work now seemed to show her worries of its own.
The grim line framing the sides of his mouth that she had mistaken for arrogant determination spoke of some pain suffered long ago. She swallowed hard, guiltily wondering if she had seriously misjudged this man.
“Stop observing me as if I am some piece of art you had just stumbled upon in the museum, Miss Hassan,” he said, still without looking up.
She flushed and stammered, “I … I just wanted to thank you.”
Removing his reading glasses, he finally swivelled around to face her. “Thank me? Thank me for what?”
She smiled. “For my incentive card, of course. It covered my grandma’s hospital expenses.”
He shook his head, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Nadia. You are still not eligible for an incentive card according to the policies of the company.”
He raised his hand. “Let me finish. Yes, I decided to break a few rules to release one for you. You would have to reimburse the money. It can be done by means of deducting 15,000 from your monthly salary.”
Nadia was stunned. “What!”
“I need to have a look at the Premadas’s base plan,” he said changing the subject abruptly. “Can you get it for me?”
She stood like an idiot and he raised his brow to say, “Now.”
She was grumpy as she walked into her cubicle and slammed her drawer shut, muttering “Insensitive jackass!”
She received a fax and grabbed it without enthusiasm to read the contents carelessly. Her eyes widened in shock. It read that she had received a salary increment of Rs 15,000 henceforth.
She was grinning from ear to ear as Harper Lee’s saying popped out of nowhere, “You never really understand a person, until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around it.”
-Reema Iqbal | Edited by Farrokh Jijina