A story of a regular girl and a regular guy who fall in love gradually without any lightning bolts or sudden realizations. This story revolves around the lives of Rosalyn Sehgal and Neil O'Connor and how they get to know each other, embark on a journey of love, stand together in times of grief and celebrate their moments of joy.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It was nearly seven in the evening and the only thing on my mind was to put my feet up and catch up with some much-needed sleep. It had been that kind of a day at work. From getting vital information from a new client to filing a couple of briefs, rushing to meet my girlfriends for a lunch date and then making sure that the new conference room was ready for next week's presentation to one of the largest advertising firms in the city. I was just glad that it was over and that I had a full weekend to get recharged for the grueling week ahead.
I got into the elevator and pressed the button to take me down to the main lobby. It took me three tone-deaf whistles and a verse from the latest pop group on the horizon to reach my floor. I got out into the lobby, smiled at the guard, whose name I always remembered only after having sauntered past him, and then as I looked past him onto the street ahead, I cursed myself. Mama always bade me to keep an umbrella close by for emergencies such as these. But just like all other essential instructions that she had given me, I had totally forgotten about this one as soon as I left home to start my brand-new life as a "career-girl".
It was raining, or to be accurate, pouring like cats and dogs. I know it's a cliche but that's exactly how I would describe the scene. It was like God had been listening in on my relaxing plans for the rest of the evening and decided to have some fun at my expense. I looked at the gloomy skies, seeing no let-up in the near future. So I decided to risk my favorite practical, low-heeled shoes and make a run for it. Having made up my mind, I still wasn't sure why I was stalling. The guard whose-name-I-couldn't-seem-to-remember walked up to me and asked me if I wanted him to hail a cab for me. I hurriedly refused his generous offer because I could only imagine the time it would take for me to navigate the traffic snarls in this downpour. It would be much faster if I took advantage of the deserted sidewalks and ran down the fifteen blocks to my apartment.
I bravely stepped into the lashing rain and braced myself for the chill and cold to hit my face. I grabbed my bag close to me and started to walk towards my destination. Already puddles of muddy water were beginning to form underneath my beloved leather shoes. At least my brother would get his wish to see the demise of my faithful companions fulfilled. I walked faster as the chill began to seep in through my jacket. This being another reason that I hate winter rains. In spite of all the layers that one piles on, it still seems to get through.
I may have walked a couple of blocks when I heard three loud honks behind me. I turned back to see a black car (I am sadly ill-informed about the models and makes of any kind of automobiles, so all I could see was really a black car.) It slid to a stop beside me and the window rolled down. I looked into the dark interiors and couldn't understand who it was that wanted my attention. A couple of seconds later, when my gaze adjusted to the lack of lighting, I realized that this was a face that I had seen before somewhere. If only I could recognize him....
Thankfully he broke the awkwardly lengthening silence and laughed out, "So, you really have no clue about who I am, right?". I could feel myself blushing at his comment and could not say anything to deny his observation. "I am Neil O'Connor...from Accounts. I have seen you a lot of times when you are down there with that stack of receipts from Mr. Peters. I helped you with the corrections in his expense account calculations last week." As he smiled at me I suddenly recollected that particular encounter with him and managed to smile back at him. "Hey, I am sorry to not have recognized you straight away. It's just that it has been a mad day and I actually am soaked to the bone". He leaned in and opened the door right in front of me and asked me to step in. It did not take me an instant to think about it because I could already feel the shivers setting in. As soon as I closed the door, I found myself enveloped in the scent of expensive leather and the warm blast of air from the heater. I wrapped my arms around myself and suddenly realized that the car had not moved an inch.
I glanced over at this generous not-so-strange-stranger's face and felt a fresh bout of redness spread over my cheeks. " I am so sorry but what are we waiting for here?" He cracked a smile at me and cocked his head sideways and said, " I do know your name but since I haven't taken to stalking you yet, I don't know where you live."
I chuckled lightly at his humor and felt a little flutter in the pit of my stomach. " I guess I should start over. I am Rosalyn Sehgal and I am very embarrassed right now. Actually it's a contest between embarrassment and frigidity. I am just keeping my teeth from clattering together." He laughed instantly at my feeble attempt at comedy and revved up the engine. " It's fourteen blocks from here. Reed Apartments."
He turned on the music to one of my favorite songs, Lady In Red, as I sank back in the plush seat. With a jolt I realized that I had gotten his seat sopping wet with my rain-soaked self. I immediately started to take off my jacket when I was interrupted by the sound of him clearing his throat. "And what exactly do you think you are doing?" I could hear the smile in his voice and I laughed quietly and said, "At the risk of sounding like a broken record to you, I really have to apologize again."
"And what crime are you guilty of committing now?"
"I got your seat all wet." He burst out laughing at my statement and looked at me from across his seat. "You are actually apologizing for getting my seat wet? And you aren't joking? God, this is something else. Listen you don't have to worry. It should be me who should be apologizing for being such a clod. I should have helped you with your jacket earlier."
I smiled at him and took off my jacket and folded it haphazardly into my lap. He leaned in towards me and took the jacket from my grasp and flung it onto the backseat. "What..."
"Please let it be where it is. You are already risking the sniffles. Let's leave it at that." He then switched the heater onto its warmest setting and adjusted it so that I felt the full blow of the hot air in my face. "Thanks a lot. For this and for giving me a ride home. It was really nice of you. Especially after I didn't recognize you. You could have easily left me dripping on the sidewalk but you didn't. Thanks for that."
He only muttered something to himself which I couldn't catch. The car slowed to a crawl and I thought that maybe I had reached my apartment. I turned back and felt the backseat for my sodden jacket. "And what do you think you are doing now?" I was startled at his question and looked at him questioningly. "We aren't at your place yet. It looks like we are stuck in a jam." I followed his gaze and saw a never-ending stream of cars ahead of us. "Now that's exactly what was missing from my day-from-hell", I exclaimed as I glanced at my watch and then at the long line of vehicles being pounded under the heavy rain.
"Looks like we are going to be here for a while. So Rosalyn, what exactly made your day so hellish?" I turned in my seat to face him and saw him clearly for the first time. His inky black hair fell onto his forehead and nearly hid his brows from view. His dark eyes were crinkled with the seemingly ever-present smile on his face and his teeth were shining under the green-blue light of the console. His skin looked flawless, but then everybody's skin looks like that to me since I am an oily-skinned woman who is always waging battles with the breakouts that threaten to take me back to my high-school days. His hands were folded in front of his chest and he was half-turned, facing towards me.
I suddenly realized that he was looking at me as if he was expecting something from me. "Excuse me. What did you just say?" His smile broke off into a laughter and he said, "I asked what went so wrong with your day. But it looks like you were a little distracted."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was thinking about..ummm.. something else. Well, if you really want to know." I sighed and settled back into the seat to ramble on about my torrid day when the sound of horns blaring startled me. The traffic ahead of us had already begun to crawl ahead and we were now being an obstruction to those behind us. "I'm going, I'm going", Neil muttered to himself and the car lurched forward.
"Guess we'll get back to my woes later. So tell me more about yourself Neil. I mean apart from the fact that you work in Accounts, I know absolutely nothing about you." He glanced at me fleetingly and said, "Well there is nothing too interesting about my life really. A good boy from a good family with a good education and a good job. Nothing path-breaking and all quite dull." He smiled to himself and concentrated on the slippery road.
"So you are one of the good boys huh. That's a rare breed these days. So no leather jackets and bikes to boast about?"
"Not at all, never. I have this phobia of anything that zooms about on less than four wheels. Even my bicycle had training wheels. And as far as the leather jackets go, I fulfill my leather fetish with having a leather couch in my living room and this leather upholstery."
I laughed at his disarming mannerisms and tried to visualize a cute four year-old boy with unruly hair, riding in the park on a red bicycle with chrome training wheels. The seat of the bicycle in my head was plush leather. I shook my head to rid myself of the scene and teasingly launched another question at him. "So the good family you were talking about. Aren't they worried that their good boy isn't home yet?"
"I may be good, but I'm not twelve anymore. And they do know where I am since I called them before leaving work." He saw my raised brows and explained, "My sister worries too much. She has two kids who are growing up too fast and she can't help but transfer some of that anxiety in my direction."
"Oh. So do you guys live close by or...?"
"Thank Heavens that she doesn't live close by. We are separated by more than a thousand miles or else I would have had to mark my attendance each evening." He laughed again and I couldn't help but notice how addictive and warm the sound of it was.
"Enough interrogation Ms. Sehgal. Why don't we focus on you a little bit. Tell me about your family. Are they as weird as my sister?"
"Maybe a little more. Because I still have to mark my attendance every weekend when I can't excuse myself with a good enough work emergency." I grinned at him and continued. "Papa is the worry-wart in my family and Mama is the one who keeps him from driving down every weekend when he doesn't get to see me. He still thinks of me as his baby girl who needs his support to wobble a few steps. But Mama's really cool."
"Sounds like the perfect family to me. So no siblings taking away from your spotlight?"
"Oh there is. Vidal, my brother. Big brother to be precise, 'cause it's something he never lets me forget. And..." I stopped mid-sentence when the car came to a screeching halt. "What..."
"I drove past your apartment. I was so engrossed in our conversation that I missed the entire building. Let me find a parking space."
"No no it's absolutely fine. I'll just get off now. You won't be able to find any good spots in this rain. And you better head home now. It's nearly eight."
"So no coffee invitation it seems", he smiled at me teasingly and cut off the engine.
"I'm sorry. I was being rude. Of course, you should come up. Get some warmth into your system."
"I was just kidding. You do apologize a lot. It's quite endearing when it's not infuriating. I really have to be on my way now. But thanks anyways."
"You sure you don't wanna come up. I make a great coffee. It's instant of course. But I promise you won't miss Starbucks." I smiled at him, trying to inject as much warmth into my smile as I possibly could. "Well, here's my number. If you ever are in the neighborhood and want some instant perk-me-up coffee, you know where to look."
I recited my number to him and then slid out of the car. "It was really great. Thanks a lot for the ride home. The coffee's on me next time."
"I'm definitely going to take you up on that offer."
"I'll see you... Monday."
I closed the door behind me and stepped onto the sidewalk. I was aware of the rain sliding down my shirt collar towards my waistband but at that moment I couldn't have cared less. I waved him goodbye and saw him pull out into the street and away. I followed his tail-lights until they disappeared into the sludge of cars some distance away and then turned towards my building.
I walked for a couple of minutes and then stepped into my apartment building and headed straight to the second floor. I unlocked my door and started stripping as soon as I closed it behind me, flipping on the light switches as I went along. I stepped into the bathroom and took off my watch and set it on the sink. Turning on the warm water, I slipped into the shower stall and drenched myself from head-to-toe. The only thought in my head being that of a certain someone named Neil.