A Starry Night

The chair stopped spinning and Ammu shook her head to clear it. She saw her manager walking towards her and pretended to check something under her desk as her head was still spinning. Round and round. She found her charger cable and plugged her phone just as Jatin stopped in front of her.

“Hi Ammu, everything is fine?” He asked.

“Yeah Jatin, I was just…. Phone ka charge..” She shrugged. He smiled.

“Well, thank you for doing this. If there is anything you need just give me a call.” 

“Okay, I’m sure I will be fine.” 

“There will be few people from the Accounts team here in some time, they work night shifts for US clients.” He said as he was about to leave.

“Oh that’s great, Is there anything in particular that I need to look out for?” 

He gave her a few pointers that was nothing different from what she did everyday and went on his way. 

She looked at the door to make sure he left and then flopped on her chair spinning it as she went. She put on the music on her phone and turned the volume down enough to know if anyone was coming her way.

The room was empty except for her, illuminating the area around her with the overhead sensor lights. A sense of exhilaration crept over her as she looked around the room, pitch black as the lights went out when no one was around.
Occasionally few lights would flicker and stay for some time when any of the night shift staff walked through the corridor on her right, leading to the bathroom. 

Her team sat in the most secluded area of the floor and was essentially separated from the rest. She could hear the faint sounds of people typing at a constant speed. She stood up to see the Finance team working hard at the far end of the floor. Outside the world went around at it’s pace; the moon peeked from behind the clouds as if they were playing hide and seek and the stars winked at each other.

Ammu thought about the Finance team who would leave in a while when their shift ended but she was stuck in there for the rest of the night, alone, sceptic and bored.

She worked night shift for a Finance firm with clients in different countries, she woke up when the country she was working for woke up and her world slept, she worked according to her clients needs. That day when everyone else in her team was happily at home enjoying a rare holiday she was stuck at work waiting for that one call her client wanted her to be a part of. She stared at her computer screen for a long while before dozing off. There was no work to do other than attending that call.

She was startled awake by the sound of the door and saw someone coming in, she hurriedly turned off the music that was still going on and rubbed her eyes to see one of the Accounts team analysts at his desk.

“Hi!” She called him.

“Hello.” He glanced up from his computer and waved at her. She walked towards him.

“Where are the other’s from your team? You guys have a holiday?”

“Few of us have but I’m covering for my team. I just dropped in to pick up a few things. I’m logging in from home.” He said and smiled. Cute, she thought as her heart sank, she didn’t like staying alone and was counting on having those guys for company.

“What about you? Staying alone eh?”

“Yeah I am covering for the team but it’s only for a call.” She said frowning. 

“Oh that’s bad. I can’t imagine anyone staying alone in this place. Why don’t you work from home?” He asked, looking up at her with earnest eyes.

“Yeah no, We just moved houses so the place is a mess and I still have to get the wifi fixed. Didn’t want to take a chance with a hotspot.” She said as she looked at him properly for the first time.
He had high cheekbones and there was a perfect jawline hidden behind the stubble, his curly hair was disheveled after a fashion and his chocolate brown eyes held her attention like never before. He looked tall from how he sat with his broad shoulder.

“I understand. What time does your shift end?”

“Well, it just started the same as yours.” She shrugged.

“Seriously? You work in this shift? How come I’ve never seen you before?” He asked. The lights played on his face lighting up his eyes. She giggled at his curious smile.

“I was working in the BGM  branch. I moved to this location last week, I told you changed houses and BGM was too far to travel.” She shrugged.

“Ah no wonder. So how do you like it here?” He asked, looking intently at her. He pulled up a chair for her as he spoke.

“The work is the same but with the new team, people are good, for now at least. I’m just happy I don’t have to travel for 4 hours everyday.” She said and there was ping from his computer.

“So how long have you been here?” She asked him as he checked his mail.

“Oh, it’s  been 4 yrs now in the company. I was working in the Data analysis team down on 6th for 2 yrs and now I’m here.” He said not looking away from his system.

“That’s great. Umm….are you busy? I don’t want to disturb or anything.” She said to his back as he looked at his screen in deep concentration.
She looked at him properly for the first time without him noticing.
She couldn’t help noticing his vibrant charm. She couldn’t explain to her brain why she was sitting here talking to a stranger for this long.
She also didn’t know what was nagging her, it seemed like she was unable to recall something she’d been wanting to know.

“Ah! No not really. I just had to reply to this one email….. And… now it’s done.” He said as he turned around with a brilliant smile.
She smiled at him for a moment too long not knowing what to say; ensuing an awkward silence in which gazes locked and were held there until there was another ping from his computer

“So… ah how long have you been here?”

“I’ll finish 2 years this June. I’ve never been to this branch before. How’s this place, food and all?”

“Food is not that bad but if you really want something nice you can just go across the street. You’ll find a lot of options.” He said and she studied him as he worked.

But before she could say anything further a loud ping from her computer called her attention.

“That must be my call, I’ll talk to you later.” She said as she stood up to leave.

“Yeah Sure, All the best.”

“Thanks. Bye.” She said and ran to desk

 The call went on for almost 2 hours there was nothing new to take away, the client wanted quicker deliverables, more work in less time. After a while she zoned out and filtered the sound from her call and replied with an Yes at continuous intervals. Dum Dum da dum, her mind hummed a tune trying to stay awake. 

Good bye and happy holiday’s were exchanged and the call ended. Ammu smiled sardonically at the phone thinking about what could have been a happy holiday if it wasn’t for this call. She stood up and stretched her arms, freeing her body;   the curly haired one was gone and she looked at his desk disappointedly. 

Growls erupted in her tummy and her feet automatically started leading towards the door as her hands hastily grabbed her purse and ID card from her desk.

She walked into the cafeteria thinking thoughts about the curly haired guy and what could have been a happy holiday if he had stayed.
A plate of sandwich and a cup of coffee accompanied her out of the cafeteria. She sat on one of the chairs in the makeshift, wannabe garden that her company had fashioned in the middle of the building munching on her Sandwich and enjoying the midnight cool breeze, leaves rustled, dogs moaned, the wind picked up speed and the coffee went cold. Again a little thought nagged her and she tried hard to think what she was forgetting.

An empty elevator ride back to her floor was all that was left but just as she was about to step in she glanced towards the stairs and she changed direction. She had been meaning to get some exercise for a long time and she thought of using the stairs instead of the elevator.

The lobby was cold and silent and her heeled footsteps echoed all the way up as she went. She swiped her card at the entrance on her floor, it beeped unlocking the door and she also heard a faint creaking noise coming from upstairs and then a loud thud as if someone fell down. She heard as her eyes followed the sound and her feet dragged her upstairs. Curious and nervous. Her team sat on the last floor and as far as she could remember there was nothing up there other than a sealed off terrace.
The door was still creaking and wind blew at her in gust; she felt goose pimples on her hand as she climbed one step at a time. Listening carefully to the creaking sounds, thumping sounds and the groaning sounds. She paused for a moment uncertain on how to proceed. Someone was clearly up there. She paused at the door listening intently, shivering, her hand moved forward and pulled the door open. The wind came like a blow at her face and she froze for an instant scared out of her wits at the sound of it. 

She sighed in relief after a second and looked around the place. The terrace was deserted except for the electric equipment, solar panels and what seemed like water tanks at the far end of the building. She looked around the place cautiously, scared still but found no one there.
Relieved but disappointed somehow she stood in the middle of the terrace looking up at the sky in awe. It was a beautiful night sky alight with stars and the moon looked as though tired from playing hide and seek. The clouds too had disappeared probably on their way to find the sun.

For some reason she had always assumed that this place was off limits and probably sealed off and she chided herself for being so scared. The wind was picking up and the goose pimples returned on her skin. Ammu walked around for a bit, edged over to the end and peeked down but withdrew the next second too afraid to look further. She decided to get back down as it was getting too cold and also because she was far too long away from work.
Just as she was about to leave she heard something move, there was thud like before, only louder. She looked around shocked and bewildered; for the first time since she stepped out on the terrace she noticed that there was still a lot of space on the other side of the solar panels and now there was something there. As she stood there frozen and cold she noticed a dense cloud of smoke dissipate in the wind and then there were feet moving and wind taking the form of something.
It sort of fell out from behind the solar panels, huge and then she closed her eyes and screamed.
It was more of a short yelp that left her and it stopped mid way too scared to go further.

The feet were still moving and she could hear incoherent mumblings.

“You fucking scared the shit out of me dude!” A voice said, deep and nervous. It sounded too near to her and was strangely familiar. She opened her eyes slowly. 

“What was that? What are you doing here? And God! What the fuck happened?” 

She stared stunned as the curly haired one spoke. He was looking at her with an expression of disbelief and shock. Now he was waving at her and saying words that were slowing making sense. She shook her head and wiped her eyes.

“Uh… Ah.. no why are you asking so many questions? Why were you hiding behind that thing?” She said as she tried to bring her emotions in control. 

As she looked behind him at the solar panels she could see the lights from the opposite building shone directly at them casting a huge shadow of anything that was there which had made him look gigantic. 

“I was not hiding…. Well, sometimes I come here to smoke. It’s peaceful here.” 

“Oh that explains why you looked like a giant monster coming out of smoke or something, that hair added some effect.” She said and rolled hers at her own stupidity. He ran his hands through his hair trying to fix it.

“That doesn’t explain your screaming or whatever that was, did I look that scary and what were you even doing here?” 

“Whoa! Hold on mister. Yes you looked very scary so much that I couldn’t even scream. I mostly saw your shadow, assumed the worst and why shouldn’t I be here?” She countered looking at him eyebrows raised, hands on hips.

“Because this is supposed to be restricted, sealed off actually and if the management gets to know, they might throw me off from here.” He nervously fixed his hair as he spoke. Her jaw dropped in shock.

“Oh my God!! Then how do you have access?” She looked at the door nervously.

“I don’t have any, I just came up here once and apparently the lock was too old, a little pin and a hard tug, it came off.” He said and shrugged. His face was a conflict of emotions, trying to be smug and ashamed at the same time.

“Wow! I don’t know what to say but you scared the shit out of me, I heard the door creak and then there some sound. I was so scared, you idiot.” She laughed and then he joined.

“I had closed it tight but I guess the wind was too strong. I’m glad you found me; Would’ve probably lost my job if it was someone else.” He sighed and looked up at the sky.

“It sure is beautiful isn’t? I love this place.” She said and sat down on the ground hugging her knees.

“What are you doing? Come on, let’s go down.”

“Just sit na and close the door tight. I don’t think anyone’s coming up today.” She said, smiling up at him. He closed the door tightly and came back to sit next to her.

“So what’s the real story and why do you come up here to smoke? Why not in the smoke zone and why didn’t you go home?” She asked. He looked at her earnest and adoringly at her last question

“What’s the real story?” 

“Come on now, no one comes up here one day and unlocks the door just like that.” She said, elbowing him and laughing at his discomfort.

“Okay I’ll tell you but I’ve been dying to ask you this, What’s your name?”

He asked and then she realised this was what was nagging her all night. This was what she wanted to ask him and very strangely had forgotten. 

She chuckled and said “I’m Ananya, very pleased to meet you Mr..?”

“I’m Harsha, the pleasure’s all mine.” He said and they laughed gazed up at the beautiful, bejeweled and unending starry sky.