Before Chrissy knew, the day of party arrived and she got dressed to attend the party. Alice had helped her style her hair in a swiss role at the back of her head, thus enhancing her facial features. A pair of pearl earrings were her only accessories.
Chrissy was worried that her mother might be upset that she was going for a party on Saturday evening instead of being with them but Mrs Smith as well as Alice were quite happy that she was attending a grand party in the Regency Palace.
Her mother could see the change in her appearance since the time she had started working at the hotel and was glad she didn’t look stressed like she had been looking for a couple of months before the change. Chrissy had not told her anything but she knew there was something that had worried her deeply and now it was no longer there. Mrs. Smith was happy for her daughter and wanted her to enjoy life like any other girl of her age.
Chrissy reached the large hall named Celebrations at the hotel. She entered the place nervously holding a clutch purse tightly in her hand. A number of people were already at the party and her eyes immediately searched for a familiar face.
Most of the men were dressed in suits and ladies in exquisite gowns. They were holding drinks and chatting merrily. Some of the people were looking at her and she was worried if she had chosen to dress correctly. She hoped she didn’t do anything wrong to embarrass herself and others. She went inside the hall, looking for a quiet corner or seat where she could spend the next hour or so before leaving inconspicuously.
When Linda tapped her shoulder she jumped, almost bumping into a gentleman next to her. She expected him to scold her but he just smiled at her and moved on with a disturbing look on his face. And she was pulled away by a cheerful Linda who was looking great in her off shoulder dark pink gown with a high slit up her thigh. The gown was bit daring for Chrissy’s taste but Linda carried it very well as she was used to attending similar business parties. Linda took her to the other end
of the room where drinks were being served and got her an orange juice as she said no for alcohol.
She was drinking small sips from the glass when she experienced a strong uneasy feeling. On turning towards the source of uneasiness, she saw a woman staring her with disgust. She didn’t recognize the woman and was wondering why she would subject her to such a look, when somebody called her out as Susan. The woman gave her another look of displeasure, then turned and walked towards the person swaying her body in a red backless dress exposing her entire back.
It was then she remembered about that day in Nikloi Swaroski’s office long time back. He had kissed her to avoid a woman named Susan. Was she the same Susan Malkovish who had seen him kissing her? It was such a long time ago, some time she wondered whether that kiss actually happen between the two of them. He certainly didn’t act as if he had kissed her. But the look on that woman confirmed it did. Why else would that woman look at her with so much hatred?
Remembering that kiss suddenly made her extremely uncomfortable. She felt claustrophobic in the crowd in the room and at the same time lonely. Something was missing but she didn’t know what. She turned to Linda to tell her she wanted to leave but Linda brushed her dismissal aside and said she would introduce her to other people.
They joined a small group which had the same young couple who had purchased earlier from her shop. They were sweet to her and through her she met few more people who were interested in doing business with her. With talks around her known subject she started relaxing and to her surprise even enjoyed talking to these prospective clients. One of the men happen to be same man she had bumped into earlier in the evening.
His name was Henry Clark and she found him staring at her every now and then. She was quite embarrassed by the attention but didn’t know what to say
She was not sure if he had signalled something to others but after some time she found others had moved on and she was standing all alone with him. He was smart in his own way. Tall, curly hair, lopsided smile with a boyish charm. She was
thinking of ways of excusing herself when he said, “I have heard so much about you and your shop, I am glad to have met you finally”. She smiled politely but didn’t say anything. He moved in a little closer and said, “I only regret, why we didn’t meet earlier”.
Chrissy turned red at his seemingly innocuous comment, but she was not used to men trying to chat up with her. She turned to look out for Linda but she was busy talking to another group at some distance.
Following her eyes, he looked at Linda and then said, “Linda will be busy for some time. If you want I can keep you company, till she is back”
“It’s ok, I shall be leaving soon”, Chrissy said. She hadn’t seen Nikloi at the party but she was not sure whether he had even come for the party. May be he was busy. Anyways he didn’t invite her as his guest. He wanted her to attend as his business partner to ensure the business and the money it brought in.
A part of her was disappointed at not having seen him but she wouldn’t accept it even to herself. Why should she care where he was? She told herself. She tried to give her attention to what Henry was saying.
“Not before you have tried the apple pie. The chef here makes the best apple pie in London!” Henry said laughingly and guided her towards the deserts. Chrissy smiled at his enthusiasm and was thinking of asking him how he knows that she likes apple pies herself. Looking at the table full of various kinds of deserts, she couldn’t help but remember the last time she had eaten apple pies not so long ago. Two times in a week, she was not doing bad in life! Even though she was thinking of leaving early, he was right. She couldn’t possibly leave without having those yummilicious apple pies. She smiled to see Henry helped her and himself with two plates of apple pies. Taking her the plate, she asked, “how did you know I love apple pie?”
He replied innocently, “I didn’t. But I thought you will like them”.
Watching her enjoy her desert, he added in a heavy tone, “Glad to know I wasn’t wrong”.
They continued talking while eating their deserts. Henry knew a lot about antiques and Chrissy realized he has been a collector. He asked about a specific piece he has been looking for but has not found it yet. Chrissy knew about the particular piece and they got absorbed in discussing the history. She didn’t realize when they got separated from the rest of the party and moved to one of the wings towards the balcony. She was standing in an almost secluded corner and Henry was standing in front of her, blocking her view from the others. Since they were at some distance, their voices couldn’t be heard by others.
When she promised him that she will help him find that antique piece, he said that he was honestly surprised by her knowledge on the subject. When he told her that on the first impression she looked more like a college student than a business woman, she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. There goes all her efforts to look like a cool professional lady in her new outfit & hairdo, she thought. She was about to answer him back, when she heard the grave sound of a voice she had not heard the entire evening.
“Your mother is looking for you, Henry”, she heard the voice say. Hearing the voice, Henry stepped aside, giving her view of the man who had spoken.
She saw him standing few feet away, looking extremely handsome in his suit. He was holding a glass with amber colour liquid in his hands. She had not seen him for the entire evening and suddenly finding him standing in front of her in that devastatingly attractive look was enough to falter her breath.
“Nikloi, my brother!” Henry chirped enthusiastically, shaking hands with him.
Nikloi took the extended hand in his hand but his body didn’t seem to reciprocate Henry’s enthusiasm. “Aunt Martha is wondering what has gotten you so busy. You
should go to her before she finds you, he said as a matter of fact without any expressions.
All this while, Chrissy couldn’t tear her eyes away from his gorgeous looks but he didn’t even glance at her. Henry’s thoughtless comments about her looks had not hurt her so much but his ignoring treatment was effecting her already. After all, it was he who had invited her to the party and was now giving her a royal cold shoulder.
Trying to ignore what she was feeling, she tried to focus on what Henry was saying, “In that case let me find Mom, like a dutiful son. I wouldn’t want her to be troubled because of me. He winked an eye at Nikloi but Nikloi seemed to be unaffected by any of his merriment.
Henry turned to Chrissy and said, “Excuse me, Chrissy, but I need to find my mother before she sends everyone at the party looking for me. My mother can be quite persistent when she wants to be.” Smiling, he went back to the group in the main room.
Chrissy was left standing there with the brooding hunk of a man. He was still not looking at her. She was still trying to figure out reason for this cold behaviour when it struck her that Henry had called him brother. Were they related? Not that they looked or behaved similarly, in fact they were quite different from each other. She knew there was no way of finding that out from Nikloi. And she didn’t even want to be interested in knowing more about either of the men. Seeing there was nothing more to do and she decided she could very well make her exit. It was anyways later than she had planned to stay. Just as she opened her mouth to excuse herself, she heard him say, “You were asked to join this party to help your business but I see you have been enjoying your time making personal… acquaintances”. He paused before adding the last word, as if he actually wanted say something else.
Chrissy felt as if he had slapped her. And he was not even looking at her. She felt humiliated by his demeaning comment. Here she was, making every effort to be nice and meet and greet people when the only thing she wanted to do instead, was to curl up in her bed with her sister. And the man was criticizing her to be having fun as if she loved partying and chatting with people!
The rage she was experiencing on being insulted fueled her to take him head along. She turned fully towards him and said through gritted teeth, “I was doing exactly what you had told me to do”.
He looked at her heated up face, but continued coolly, “I do not remember telling you to gossip with men at the party.”
I was not gossiping! She spitted quickly. I hardly know anyone here and I absolutely hate this party but I was making all the efforts to meet all the people
who might be interested in the business, talking to them to turn them into prospective clients…”
“Is that what you were doing with Henry, in your own private corner, secluded from the rest of the party?” He asked cutting her in.
She couldn’t believe her ears. His words were insulting her by asking such a question.
“We were talking about business. He seemed to know a lot about it”, she said frustratingly.
“Must be quite an interesting business, with you laughing at his expert knowledge” he commented sarcastically.
“Fine! If that’s what you think, you can continue with your sick thoughts and your party. I do not need to be a part of the either”, she said raising her head high and turned around on her slim heels.
She moved towards the main room and without giving anyone another glance, she quickly stepped out of the room. While she had told him what she wanted to say but she was deeply hurt. The man and his insufferable arrogance! She thought. He made her attend the party, giving her no choice to refuse and was then criticizing for having fun!
She was having fun? In that ridiculous party where all people were doing were drinking and wasting each other’s time! She had no interest in adding to their wastage. She was fuming from head to toe, not knowing where she was heading except to be out that place as soon as possible. Just when she had reached the park
ing area someone reached for hand and pulled her back.
Chrissy was knocked up across a hard chest and a menacingly deep voice said, “Where do you think you are going?”
She was lost for a breath but looking up she saw deep blue staring at her intensely. She spat out, “None of your concern. I am leaving the party.”
“I didn’t say you can leave the party.” He said calmly.
Chrissy was surprised at his behaviour. She would have laughed at him if not for the anger she was feeling. His hand was still holding her elbow against his own body. She pushed her hand up on his chest and created distance between them. Snatching her hand free of his hold, she took one more step back, straightened her back and said, “Mr. Nikloi, I work at a shop owned by you but you don’t own me. You don’t tell me when to come and leave this damned party. I said I am leaving and that is exactly what I am doing.” She tried to turn around and move, when his next words pierced her ears.