Anaisha pulled the door open, and warmly welcomed her guests in.
Each of them was carrying a huge packet, which they handed over to her as they entered. She was thrilled to be receiving gifts. This was the first time in many years that she was happy and finally at peace. It was also for the first time that she had invited anyone home. Her struggles were beginning to subside, her work was gaining acceptance, she was getting recognition for decorative items and showpieces. Despite not having any formal training, her designs were widely appreciated, those of the floor vases being most favoured. Business was improving and she had even got a few big orders through referrals. Her guests at today’s dinner had been instrumental in her journey on the road to success. Some of them were her regular clients, all of them were now friends. Dipin, a furniture and furnishings showroom owner, and Nayan, an interior designer had even helped set up her work-shop. She was hosting them for the Diwali party as a gesture of appreciation for their support, and also to celebrate being signed on as “Authorized Vendor” for Green World Realty’s latest commercial project – a shopping mall. She owed them at least this much.
Of course, the one person whom she owed it all to, was nowhere a part of her life now. It was he who had first encouraged her to transfer her doodles to fair drawings. It was he who had taken all her drawings and sketches, and compiled them into a collection. A portfolio of her work, he had said, while putting them together. Not realizing its significance, she had looked at him quizzically. It was a collection of her designs to showcase her creativity and her designing skills, he had replied proudly. After that, she had only added to the collection and the folder had grown quite thick over the course of their short but happy relationship. The frequency of her sketching was increasing and quality of her designs kept improving. Her last sketch had been added to the collection just days before their separation; and then, suddenly there was nothing. The rest of the pages of her folder were blank. Somehow, it was symbolic of their relationship.
It felt like a lifetime ago. Now, she was on her own and only had that portfolio, to remind her of that time; of him and what he had meant to her.
Anaisha had later started designing professionally using computer software, and had quite a few of her new designs on her laptop. She had even made an attractive slide show presentation which she would use to show her designs to potential buyers and clients. Even on the rare occasion when she drew on paper, she would scan them and save it to the desktop, and either stuff them in her drawer, or would leave them carelessly lying around, only to swept away by the house-keeping staff. She had lost many a designs in the process, only it didn’t perturb her. She would just make another one. She hadn’t even considered making another folder, like the one that Ravi had made for her. She’d occasionally look at it, maybe a few times a year; on birthdays, on Valentine’s Day or on days when she was missing him terribly. But never had she added any new designs to it.
She could see a silhouette in the dark, right behind the rest of the group, but couldn’t see his face clearly. Must remind the building maintenance to repair the light bulb outside the apartment, she thought.
As they all entered, one by one, she greeted them and chatted with them. Meeta gushed over her dress, while she complimented both ladies on their outfits.
Suddenly she felt a tingling sensation at the back of her neck, sending up shivers down her spine. She brushed away the hair that was falling over her eyes. She felt someone’s eyes on her as if watching her closely and observing her mannerisms. Must be their new found friend, the one Nayan had told her about, she figured. She unconsciously rubbed the back of her neck to calm herself down and continued chatting with others.
The group slowly inched forward and moved towards the living room.
She saw him move up closer from the corner of her eye. He had a tall built and a profile that looked strangely familiar
After chatting with the others, still laughing at something Dipin had said; Anaisha had just started to turn toward the doorway again, to greet the new guest when she heard a vaguely familiar voice.
Wondering if they had ever spoken on phone, she turned to welcome her unknown guest with a smile. The sight of him in the doorway sent shock waves through her and she froze in her tracks.