You are currently viewing Chapter 3: The First Interaction – Is this the beginning of something wonderful? (Healing Hearts)

Chapter 3: The First Interaction – Is this the beginning of something wonderful? (Healing Hearts)

Chapter 3: The first interaction

Table of Contents


The first interaction

Nivi

I grabbed my phone but put it down a second later. 

Had I ever spoken to a stranger? Sure. Had I ever spoken to a stranger on the phone? Absolutely not. 

When I had my interview for this job, I had my first interview on Google Meet and I was trembling all over. But it was a lady, and I could thank my stars for that. Then, after I was hired and came to Mumbai, a guy did my induction and showed me around. But he was a decent-looking guy in his forties.

This Rajveer already sounded like a problem I had to get it done with. But I just wasn’t getting the courage. I had avoided speaking to him yesterday, making the background designs, and deciding on the fonts and other things, all without consulting him, which could come back to bite me in the back if he raised a formal complaint against me. 

But if I do any more without looping him first, my manager would have my head. I was wasting time, but I just couldn’t muster the courage to call him. I just got Rajveer; no last name, scribbled on a paper with his phone number. Who does that?

This work took time, and I couldn’t afford to do all of it again if Rajveer didn’t like it. I didn’t even know what color combinations he wanted. I had been working blind, but it was better than calling him. And I was a professional. For sure, I could convince him that I knew better than him. After all, he had hired me to make the invitations, not the other way around.

Normally, client interactions weren’t my responsibility. My manager or Shreyas, our bellowed editor, handled it. He gave me the requirements in a particular format we always used. We had a standard format we made so there were no misunderstandings. 

It helped immensely in choosing the color combinations and narrowing down the fonts and the overall theme of the designs. But this time, all I got was a brief of creating 9 invitation cards along with Rajveer’s number. If he was waiting for my call, he hadn’t called the CEO yet to complain. Because if he did, Dhruv would have been on my back long ago. It was eleven in the morning, and I had already lost 2 hours of my valuable time.

Just pick up the phone and call him.

My insides churned with nervousness, just thinking about it, and I stood, heading for the breakroom. Another coffee was in order before I tackled the day ahead. Pushing open the door, I took a few steps and froze as if I had seen a ghost. I pivoted, wanting to get out of here.

Damn, how had I forgotten to check the cabin? That was our rule. Whenever you wish to go to the breakroom, you first check if the boss is in his chair or not. Not that difficult. But this Rajveer dude was already causing problems in my life.

“Nivi, where are you going?” Dhruv called out just as I was about to close the door. I had hoped he hadn’t seen me, but our breakroom wasn’t big enough to get lost. We usually bumped into each other due to the limited space.

“Um…” I turned reluctantly, forcing a smile. “I was just going to grab a coffee…”

He furrowed his brows, taking a bite of his cookie. I waited for him to finish chewing.

He pointed his chin towards the coffee machine. “Then go ahead. What’s the problem?”

“Nothing,” I shook my head, adding, “Everything’s fine.”

He tilted his head. “Do you want me to leave?”

“No, no. You can stay.” Yes, please leave, I muttered inside my head. 

“I don’t know what problem you girls have with me. You interact well with me inside the cabin, but if you catch me in the breakroom, you freeze as if you have seen a ghost,” Dhruv remarked, his tone a mix of confusion and frustration.

He couldn’t have deduced it better than this, but… he should know he was intimidating when he wanted to be. Like yesterday, when I told him I didn’t want to take this project, he casually reminded me he was the boss. And employees were afraid of their boss. That was a given.

I was good with Dhruv, and he was good with all of us, but it was an unspoken rule to never be in the breakroom with your boss. Because then it wasn’t a break. Also, I was okay with Dhruv in the professional environment, but not otherwise. Plus, I wasn’t exactly smooth around guys outside of work. My nerves always seemed to get the best of me, turning me into a stumbling mess, and I didn’t want Dhruv to think any less of me. He always thought I was a confident young girl with a bright future, and I wanted to keep it that way.

“Are you anytime soon going to make your coffee, or do you like me and want to keep staring at me…” Dhruv said with a hint of a smile.

My eyes widened, and I shook my head. “Sorry…” I mumbled and headed towards the coffee machine. Grabbing an empty cup, I got busy preparing my coffee. The next five minutes were silent, and I prayed it remained like this until I left. 

I only had to add the sugar now, but maybe I could drink it without sugar. 

Yes, anyway, Tanvi was behind my back to do dieting, so this was my chance to start and get her off my back. What they say, two birds, one stone.

 I grabbed the cup and headed for the door when Dhruv stopped me.

“Sugar?”

“Um… I have stopped taking sugar in my coffee.”

“But you added some to your morning coffee. I saw you,” he pointed out.

Did he now?

“Only in the first cup,” I muttered, pulling the door open. But before I could close it, his voice stopped me.

“Did you get everything sorted with Rajveer?”

My shoulders drooped as I turned back to face him. “I am just about to call him,” I answered, not meeting his eyes and fidgeting around.

Dhruv turned to face me, giving me his full attention. “What? You haven’t done it yet? You came at nine, and you are yet to call him,” his tone was laced with disappointment, adding to the weight on my shoulders. I felt like shit. Dhruv’s disappointment was palpable, and I could feel my face flush with embarrassment.

“I… I was just gathering the details,” I stammered, unable to hide my nervousness.

Dhruv sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You need to put more effort into this project, Nivi. I know you didn’t want to take this, but this is not professionalism. It’s not every time we receive a job we like. Sometimes, we have to do things we aren’t fond of. I can see you growing in the future, but not like this.”

I swallowed hard, a knot forming in my stomach as I struggled to find a response. I hated it when anyone pointed out my mistakes, and Dhruv had a knack for doing just that. He was an excellent boss, but he liked perfection, and while I always tried to give him what he wanted, he should have understood calling a client wasn’t an easy job for me.

“He didn’t pick up, so I will try again,” the lie slipped out before I could stop it, and I immediately regretted it.

“Okay, talk to him. If you still aren’t able to reach me, then let me know. I will speak to Gurvinder. He will provide us with an alternate number.”

I nodded and left before he could stop me one more time. I had to call him now. There was no other option. I couldn’t delay it anymore. Chaitali waved from her desk; her brows furrowed. My face must show how I was feeling right now. I waved her back but didn’t stop at her desk as I made my way to mine.

Settling in my chair, I pushed my untouched coffee aside and took a few breaths. I squared my shoulders and picked up the phone, wanting to get this over with. I dialed the number before I could stop myself, my heart pounding with nerves, and waited for Rajveer whoever to pick up. I could be a professional. No one needed to give me a lecture on professionalism.

The phone rang. Once, twice, the third time. I was about to end the call when a deep masculine voice spoke. I gulped, the voice sounding intimidating, but it may just be my nerves because how could a voice that I hadn’t even heard before make me feel like this?

If you would judge anyone by their voice, then I could use a few adjectives. It was deep, resonant, and carried a hint of authority. There was a smoothness to it, like velvet gliding over rough edges and a warmth that wrapped around you like a comforting embrace.

“Hello… who is this?” the voice spoke again, and whatever I felt before multiplied.

“Hello…” I croaked.

“I already said that. Who’s this?” came the curt reply. The guy was already losing his patience. Damn, how had I achieved that now?

“Nivi from Prism Solutions…” I managed, recalling the script Tanvi had drilled into me earlier. But as I spoke, my voice faltered, betraying my nerves, and I just stopped, putting Tanvi’s hard work down the drain.

“Nivi, what do you do?” His voice was firm, demanding. But why did he want to know what I did? Why would he ask me that?

“I am a designer. Um… you wanted to design some cards, right? Is this Rajveer?”

“Ah, yes. It is. I was expecting your call yesterday. I thought you ditched me.”

It felt as if he was scolding me. I stayed quiet. But I had to say something because he couldn’t see my face and gauge my reaction.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” I murmured, twisting a lock of hair around my finger nervously. ”Um… what do you do?” I returned his question, trying to shift the conversation.

“You don’t need to worry about that.”

I frowned, feeling a bit off balance. ”You asked me, and I answered.”

“But I won’t.”

“Okay…” I said, clearly taken aback by his bluntness. My heart raced, and I struggled to find my next words. “Sorry…” I managed, my voice barely above a whisper.

“Hmm… I forgive you, but only if you make the best designs for me,” he said, his tone softening slightly but still carrying an edge of authority.

“I will give my hundred percent,” I promised, my voice steadier now, trying to match his confidence.

“I am the guy who needs more than that. Hundred percent doesn’t cut it for me, Nivi.”

“I will try…” my voice was barely a whisper now.

“Are you nervous, Nivi?”

“A little…” I admitted, my honesty slipping out before I could stop it.

“Why?”

“I… I normally don’t do client interactions. My editor or my manager usually handles it.”

“It’s okay, Nivi. I am not a client. I just wanted to design a few invitations and used my name to get someone to do it for me. That, too, for free. Just think of how resourceful I am.”

“That makes you a client even if it won’t be counted in my yearly review,” I said with an edge.

He chuckled, and the sound filled the air with warmth and ease. It was a genuine, hearty chuckle that melted away my nervousness like sunlight breaking through clouds on a rainy day. Instantly, I felt more at ease, as if I was talking to an old friend rather than a stranger. My stiff shoulders relaxed, and I leaned back in my chair, the phone plastered to my ear.

“A client who you could easily convince. I assure you, I don’t know much about designing. I just want the invitations. It’s for my niece’s birthday party, and I promised her I would handle this. Also, I can make the call at the end of our transaction and tell Gurvinder how good you were. That would be much better than the yearly review.”

I offered him a soft smile that he couldn’t see. 

“Okay… um… thanks for that. This is my first time doing something like this, and not to forget you are our CEO’s connection.”

He chuckled, the sound deep, and resonant. “Fair point. But let’s make this enjoyable, shall we? Tell me, what’s your favorite part of designing?”

Caught off guard by the sudden shift, I paused. ”I… I love the creative freedom. The process of turning a blank canvas into something beautiful. I used to love drawing when I was a kid, and then when I took this job, it never felt like it was a job. I just get lost in creating something new, and it feels fulfilling.”

“That’s what I like to hear. Channel that passion into my invitations. I want them to be a reflection of your talent.”

“I will,” I said, my confidence building slightly.

“Good. And remember, this is as much for you as it is for me. Show me what you have got, Nivi. Impress me so I can put in a good word for you to Gurvinder.”

“I will give it my all,” I said, my voice steadier now.

“That’s the spirit.”

I exhaled slowly. This wasn’t a professional conversation. It was just Rajveer trying to calm me down. It wasn’t his job, yet he was doing it. Warmth spread inside me as I got back to the matter.

“How do you want to start?” I asked him, my voice sounding more confident than before.

“You say. I am okay with anything.”

I turned to the monitor and clicked on an icon. “We have a meeting app. I can send you an invitation. We can discuss it there, and then I can share my screen and show you what I have done until now. You can give your suggestions, any and every, and I will make the necessary changes.”

“How about you make an invitation and email me? Then I will get back to you. I am not much of a video chat guy.”

I frowned. It felt as if he didn’t want to come face to face. 

“Um… if that’s how you want to do. But… that would waste a lot of time.”

“No problem. I can get you an extension. Your sole focus for the next week should be on me. Is that understood?” Rajveer’s voice held a firm tone, commanding attention and obedience. On me… that sounded so weird, and where was the warmth he had offered me just moments back?

“Is that understood?” he asked again.

My heart quickened at his words, a rush of adrenaline surging through me in response to his authority.

I nodded, though he couldn’t see it through the phone line. ”Yes, understood,” I replied, my voice wavering slightly with nerves.

“Okay, Nivi. Call me before you leave for the day. Or let us make this clearer. Let me spell out to you about how your schedule will be for the entire next week. Are you listening to me?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Every day, you need to call me three times at least. First, as soon as you reach the office, so we can discuss the agenda. Don’t be late. I should receive your call by nine because Gurvinder told me that’s when everyone starts work for the day. I don’t like people who are not punctual, and you don’t want me to complain to Gurvinder. The second call should be just before you head for lunch. And the third call before you go home. Any questions?”

“No,” I responded, trying to mask my apprehension and fear. 

I had already been nervous when I called him, but then he put me at ease, only to pivot suddenly, catching me off guard. I felt my hands tremble as his words sank in. I just wanted this call to end, but I didn’t want to be the first one to hang up. And how low of him, threatening to complain to my CEO.

“It’s going to be an eventful week. I cannot wait to see your designs. Have a good day, Nivi. Can’t wait to hear from you again. Waiting for your call before lunch. I will message you my email ID on this number. Send me whatever you have done until now so I can see how creative you are.”

I ended the call and tossed the phone on the table, feeling as though it had been burning me. Grabbing the cup, I drank the coffee in one go. Even though it was cold, I just wanted to drown out the lingering unease that clung to me like a suffocating shroud. 

What the hell was that? And why had I agreed to all his absurd demands?

With a deep sigh, I set the empty cup down and rubbed my temples, trying to shake off the tension that had settled there. It was going to be a long week, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that things were only going to get more complicated from here.

My desk phone rang, and I couldn’t help as I groaned. It was Tanvi, and I took a sigh of relief. Of course, it couldn’t be Rajveer. I had called him from my mobile phone, which was the wrong move. I should have called him from the desk phone. 

Now he had my number.

“Hey, how did it go?” she asked without any small talk or even asking me how I was doing? Of course, that was lame because we had just met in the morning, and she knew my stomach was upset because of the constant churning in my tummy.

“Not so well,” I said bitterly.

“Why? Meet me in the cafeteria.”

“No, no. Dhruv has already caught me having coffee twice, and I need to work on the invitations. I am on the clock, and this guy is more of a nag than any of my bosses before. He has already ordered me to call him thrice in the day as if I report to him. Argh, I hate this.”

“Oh, baby. See, he cannot order you. You can tell him that he has no right to do that. Or speak to Dhruv.”

“I would just get this done and over with. Meet you for lunch. Bye.”

End of Chapter 3: The first interaction


Author Payal Dedhia independently publishes books on Amazon Kindle. You can check her collection by clicking here.

Image credit: Freepik

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Payal Dedhia

Hi there, I’m Payal Dedhia. I’m a proud Mumbai local who spends my days guiding budding coders through the fascinating world of development. But when I'm not deep in the tech scene, you’ll find me exploring new corners of the city or jetting off to faraway lands in search of adventure. As a lifelong bookworm, I’ve always devoured stories faster than my friends could recommend them. Eventually, I couldn’t resist the urge to write my own. Some of my tales dive into the darker corners of romance, while others highlight the beauty of contemporary love, where hearts connect in the most unexpected ways. Just like I strive to bring out the best in my students, I pour the same passion into my writing. My goal is to captivate you with every word and take you on a journey through the many forms of love—sometimes twisted, sometimes tender, but always compelling. Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Welcome to my world, where passion meets the page. I hope my stories whisk you away on an unforgettable journey.