“It is! “ Joshua exclaimed as he slapped the shoulder of the gentleman in front of me. Grey piercing eyes studied my face as I looked for signs of familiarity. He looked unfamiliar and odd. His cream tailored suit and midnight blue shirt spoke of taste and class. I couldn’t take my eyes of him. He looked like an Indian but not completely. The dimple chin gave him a devilish charm. I blushed at his unwavering attention. I was sure Maggie would call him handsome.
“This is Ian George…my business partner.” Joshua said as he watched Maggie for signs of awe. I had to smile at his look. It showed a bit of insecurity and love.
Maggie smiled and showed no signs of noticing my blush or Joshua’s look.”Hi, Mr. George. I am Maggie and this is Jenny, my cousin. Did you like the cake?”
“Call me Ian. “ he said as he shook hands with her. His grey eyes glinted as he continued “ I loved the cake. I wondered on the secret that made it so special; it had an interesting mix of tastes. ”
Maggie nodded in agreement. “Jenny loves to try different things out. Don’t you Jenny?” she asked as she nudged me.
I felt hot as I nodded. This guy, Ian, was making me uncomfortable.
“We have more surprises for the upcoming events…” Maggie said as she began to sell our ideas.
I excused myself politely as I noticed Ganesh peeping out from the kitchen. There was more trouble from the looks of it. I had to get to the kitchen. I wanted to get away from Ian. His eyes made me feel like he saw everything about me.” I will just check on the food for a bit”. I nearly ran to the kitchen to get away. It was my comfort zone. Ganesh had mixed up the boxes of vegetarian and egg puffs. All I wanted to do was stay away from the party. I smiled as I took over to remedy the mix up; “Go and serve the guests. I will take care of this”.
The party was a great success. There were no more accidents. Maggie had charmed the guests and secured a few deals to keep us busy until January the next year. Joshua was a savy host. He was witty and knowledgeable on all aspects of his guests and their business. Maggie looked happy with him.
“Jenny, the party was a success!” Maggie said as she hugged me after the guests left. I felt her happiness. I laughed as I twirled her around in the kitchen. “Maggie, you goose, nothing can stop us when we are together!”
“Joshua says that Ian has a few high class exhibitions in town. He wanted us to cater for it. I think it is a great idea…what do you think?” Maggie asked as we began to stack the dishes for the boys to wash.
“Am not sure, Maggie. Are we up to doing fancy exhibitions?”
“Jenny, we will have less hassles. Besides, these are like collector items. Our menu will be fancy canapés and finger food.”
I thought for a bit. “Sounds interesting….how many of those do we have?”
“Well, seven in one week itself.”
“It’s worth a try…but we have to take advance…70%, ok?”
“Eh…ok, let me tell the guys. Am sure they would agree that it is fair.”
“Yes, Ian and Joshua! Ian was not sure if you would agree. Joshua says that it is a great idea; we will have a good exposure and a nice fat pay for it ….I told him that I needed to discuss this with you before I said yes.”
When did she get so friendly? I wondered. The Maggie I knew was weary of people helping her. Joshua was clearly helping her and yet, she didn’t seem to mind. It was interesting to see how he managed to get her to trust him. “Maggie, will he pay upfront?” the realist in me was always asking practical questions. I did not trust Ian. He looked like a charmer.
“Yes! Ian is great. He even volunteered to show us the places where the exhibition would be and promised to have the necessary arrangement as per our instruction. He loved the ideas I gave him for the interior and suggested I do the same for these too. So we are a package deal. Oh Jenny, I am so excited!”
I was not so sure. Ian looked like the snake oil salesman to me. I had no idea why he rubbed me the wrong way. Tomorrow, I would go to the exhibition to think.
We went to all the locations the next day. Ian was familiar with the city and Joshua was always sharing titbits on each location. Maggie was enthralled. Ian was successful in collecting items that people perceived of value. His exhibitions were on various items mostly antiques, paintings and old coins. The visitors to each one varied in style and taste. I was hooked the moment we got paid the advance. We spent our mornings for the next few days cooking various canapés and having sessions on shopping for the interior decoration. I suggested that Joshua drive Maggie around town for all the things she needed. It proved to be a success for Joshua. Maggie began to talk non-stop about him at night.
It was always Joshua said this and Joshua thought that. I could see that she was falling head over heels for him. Julian loved having Joshua around and hung on to his every word. Everything was coming together except for the fact that I was weary of Ian. Once the exhibitions started, I sensed that he was not who he claimed he was. According to Joshua, Ian was a ladies’ man. He was well travelled and hated to be tied down. He was also pretty good at getting people to do things his way. Joshua had benefited greatly from his persuasive skills.
I saw much more. Ian was amused by the attention women gave him. He flirted openly yet, it felt like he was waiting for someone. At the opening of each exhibition, he talked of passion and commitment that his collection evoked. He spoke of how valued the pieces were in terms of history and emotions. His speeches were never the same and I was drawn to those thoughts. It spoke volumes of what kind of a person he was. There was something so endearing and dangerous about him. It attributed to making his exhibitions truly moving.
Ian loved dim lights and would always sit down next to me to enjoy the music. At first, it was very unnerving for me to have him just sit beside me. He never made any small talk or even tried to probe about my scar. His quite presence felt reassuring. After a few nights of the same ritual, I realized that I felt drawn to him. The silence between us and the music felt soothing. I found comfort in just sitting beside Ian with no questions and a glass of wine. Every night, I dreamt of a stranger declaring that he loved me. The closer I got to seeing him clearly, the farther he went from my dreams.
To be continued….