Pratibha finished watching a serial in her guest house along with Simran and then switched the television off. They exchanged a few words about the program until Pratibha decided to change the subject. Remembering Sai Krishna, she said, “I’m eager to attend tomorrow's team meeting.”
“I wonder what Sai is going to talk about,” Simran said. “I hope he will end the project as per the schedule.”
“Don't worry. The product is ready for delivery as we have fixed all the errors. I'm sure we're leaving Hyderabad next week. And I must talk to my parents about Rahul.”
“Rahul will be happy to see you back in Bangalore,” said Simran. "Did you tell him you're returning next week?"
Pratibha’s heart raced. She had been trying to contact Rahul for a couple of weeks, but his phone remained switched off. Has he changed his phone? Why hasn't he informed me, then? I need to be patient. Rahul often behaves erratically and he must be busy with his office work. I'm confident Rahul will not betray me.
“Pratibha,” Simran said. "Are you there?”
“I'm sorry." Pratibha shifted her gaze back to Simran. "Rahul is not answering my calls these days. Maybe he is busy. I'll call him again and see what's wrong with him."
"Not answering your calls?" Simran narrowed her brows. "Is he upset for any reason?”
Pratibha’s chest constrained. “Well," she said. "I’m going back to Bangalore next week. I'll meet him and see what's he is up to.”
“All the best to you,” Simran said.
"When are you planning your wedding?” Pratibha asked. "Next month?"
Simran straightened in her seat. "I’ll leave that matter to my parents. I'm happy that we're going back home.” Her face lit with a smile. "My fiancé is willing to come to Hyderabad to take me to Mumbai.”
“Oh, that’s good to know,” Pratibha said. She was filled with jealousy. She composed herself. "Let's hope Sai will relieve us by next week."
Pratibha ate breakfast with Simran in the office canteen and hustled to her cubicle. She checked her emails. Sai Krishna’s meeting request popped up on the computer screen. She responded to the remaining emails and then went to the meeting. Simran and her teammates were already in. Sai Krishna had yet to arrive. Pratibha greeted her colleagues, grabbed a chair and sat.
They all exchanged small talk until Sai Krishna arrived, holding a laptop.
“Good morning," he said. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting.” He ran his eyes over the team members. ”I’m glad to announce that our customer is happy with the product. And they don't have any new features to add until next year.”
Pratibha cheered and so did her colleagues. She looked at Simran whose face lit with a broad smile. Pratibha winked at her and then turned to her manager. "Are we free to go home?”
He nodded.”Yes, but you're returning after one week.”
He paused. “I’m assigned to lead a new project and I want to retain all of you on my team because of your exposure to cutting-edge technology.”
Pratibha looked at Simran. “But Simran and I would like to return home. What do you say, Simran?”
She nodded her agreement.
“Okay, okay.” He smiled. “I know you're eager to return. You don't have to return to work for me." He paused and then said, "But you’re always welcome to work on my team if you want to. I’m really impressed with your dedication to making the project a success. ”
Pratibha’s pulse quickened. What if she didn’t have any project to work on in Bangalore? But she needed to set her personal matter right by talking to her parents about Rahul. She would think of work only after uniting with him.
“It’s always interesting to toil on different projects and learn new technologies," she said. "I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
Sai Krishna nodded. "I look forward to working with you. And you're most welcome.”
Simran seemed to be in a dilemma as to what should she say to him. She finally told him her intention to get married to her fiancé soon after going to Mumbai.
"I forgot to mention something important to all of you," he said. "We're meeting again tomorrow morning and I'm going to award one of you as the best performing member of the team."
"Why don't you let us know now?" A team member asked.
"Well," he said. "I'm waiting for the grading from the customer and will finalize the candidate based on their feedback."
"What about the remaining members?" Pratibha asked, her voice curious.
"Don't worry. They will be getting a goodie which contains a check of twenty-five thousand rupees. So, keep your fingers crossed until tomorrow at the same time."
He congratulated his team members once again before adjourning the meeting.
Pratibha collapsed on her bed heaving a sigh of relief. At last, she was returning home. She now needed to persuade her parents about her interest to get married to Rahul. She hoped they wouldn’t disappoint her by refusing.
Her phone rang. She sat up straight and took the phone out of her purse. It was Prakash. Why is he calling at this hour? She tapped on the green button and answered. “Hi, Prakash.”
“Yeah, hi. How are you?”
“I’m doing well. How about you?”
“Doing well.” He paused for a moment and then said, “Are you busy?”
Her pulse quickened. “No. Is there anything you want to talk about?”
“Yes. Can we meet at someplace? It's more convenient to talk in person instead of over the phone.”
“Is the matter very important?”
“Yes and it won’t take much of your time," said he. "We can talk over a cup of coffee.”
Pratibha was already tired and she needed to rest. ”What if we meet at the Starbucks near my flat?”
“Okay. I’ll be there in ten to fifteen minutes.”
Why does Prakash want to meet me? Is the matter related to Murali? I've already told Murali I've been dating Rahul.