" ... really handsome..."
"I know. What did..."
Shashi frowned and shampooed her hair slowly, wishing the women showering in the nearby stalls would speak up. There had been an odd undercurrent in the gym today. Some news was circulating just below the surface and she didn't know what it was. The sensation of being just out of the loop was maddening.
She considered turning off the shower head to be able to hear better, but decided that would cross the line between overhearing and eavesdropping. Instead, she lathered up and wished people would have the basic decency to speak up.
After a minute more of straining to hear what the two women were talking about, she instead heard footsteps coming towards her and held her breath for a moment before letting it out. After all, she wasn't doing anything wrong. She pulled back the curtain between the shower stall and the changing stall to peek out at who was coming towards her. Emily must have spotted her peeking out because she gave a little wave, "Hey, Shashi."
Shashi managed a weak smile, relieved and annoyed at the same time. She and Emily were kind of friends. They talked every day and were even discussing becoming roommates. Her current roommate, the third in four years, had been perfect. She'd spent most of her time at her boyfriend's place for most of the time she'd been paying rent. But, she was moving in with him for real now and there were no more stops on the gravy train. Just as she'd announced she was leaving, Emily had started talking about how much she disliked her own roommate.
She was annoyed because she thought Emily must be looking for her. Otherwise, why would she have come all the way to the back of the shower room? Still, Shashi had promised herself to be extra nice to Emily. She couldn't afford to pay all the rent for very long.
"Heya, Em," she said. "What's happening?"
"Not much," Emily stepped into the changing stall next to hers. Shashi reflected that not much was ever up with Emily. She was a sweet, corn-fed Midwestern girl with proportions like a violin, but she seemed to lead the most boring of lives. That was just fine with Shashi, though. A roommate who was pretty and interesting would have been too much.
"You ready to meet with the new boss?" Emily asked.
"Yeah. The guy who bought the gym a few years back is going to start running it. Chase something."
"Chance," Shashi corrected her.
"That's it." Emily didn't say anything until her shower was running, "People are saying you used to know him pretty well."
"I was his trainer ... for a few months." Shashi continued to lather up her hair mechanically, not really noticing it, "I wouldn't say I knew him well."
"Oh," Emily sounded confused. "Clea said she thought you two had been an item."
Shashi's laugh sounded unconvincing in her own ears, "Clea says a lot of things. Supposedly, some of them are even true."
"But not this one. Huh?"
"No." The lie was out of Shashi's mouth before she'd even considered telling the truth. When she thought back to how her relationship with Chance had ended, it stung. Even now, she could feel the deep-down embarrassment she'd carried around for months later.
"Too bad," said Emily. "I hear he's loaded."
"Yeah. He was one of those Internet geniuses," said Shashi. Relieved, she remembered to rinse her hair, "He sold his company to Disney just before the stock prices started dropping. You should see his apartment up by Union..."
"His apartment?" Emily interrupted, "I thought you were just his trainer."
Shashi froze, unable to think of a convincing lie. To stall, she asked Emily to repeat herself.
"When did you see his apartment if you were only his trainer?"
"Oh," said Shashi. "Well, when your boss wants to move a workout to his apartment, you go to his apartment."
"Sure," said Shashi. "Besides, he's hardly a new boss. He's owned this place for like five years."
"I suppose not," said Emily, seemingly willing to go along with the abrupt topic change, "Where's his apartment?"
"A few blocks from here, on Broadway," said Shashi. "He's got most of a floor, forty stories up with a huge balcony that overlooks Union Square Park."
"That sounds nice," offered Emily. "I'd like to see that."
There was something in Emily's tone that set off an alarm bell in Shashi's head. If the receptionist set her sights on Chance, he might fall for her. Then, she would be out a roommate and she would have to see Chance with another big-breasted blond. Worse, she was afraid that Emily was prettier than she was, although it was hard to say. The milky white Iowa farm girl was about as different looking from Shashi as two women could be. It was like trying to compare apples and ... whatever kind of fruit grew in India.
"You probably don't want to get involved with Chance," she offered.
"Well..." Shashi considered her words carefully. She needed a room mate, but she needed a paycheck even more, "He's ... kind of socially awkward and a bit doughy. And, you know, it's never a good idea to sleep with people from work."
"Oh," said Emily a shade too quickly. "Right. Of course."
Shashi considered the two blouses on the bed in front of her. Both were red. Both would hug her curves and show a tasteful amount of cleavage. The one lying on the left side was embroidered in a blue and green paisley pattern and had a Nehru collar. The other was silk and would be appropriate in an office environment ... well, maybe an office Christmas party ... or to work if the office had "trampy Fridays."
She knew that Chance would like the more traditional-looking blouse better. The more she looked like she'd stepped out of a Bollywood extravaganza, the more likely he was to compliment her. But, she'd favored more mainstream clothes at work. Being a yoga instructor was bad enough without being a yoga instructor in a sari. She looked at the blouses again and smirked. Either way, she would probably look better than anyone else at the meeting. They would be all sweaty and dressed to work out.
Her smirk turned to a frown. Chance hadn't minded her being all sweaty. He might have even liked it better than when she worked hard to dress nicely. Either way, once they'd started sleeping together, it made a challenge of getting all the way through a workout.
She shook her head and picked up the plainer blouse. She didn't know why she was bothering to put much thought into the decision. She'd broken up with Chance more than four years ago. She didn't want him back. She did want him to want her back, though. Nearly all of her break-ups before and since had been messy. Men didn't get over Shashi Radivary easily.
She hadn't heard a word from Chance since the break-up. The closest he'd come he'd come had been a check for training sessions they'd agreed to, but never had. It had been generous, so much so that she would have torn it up and sent it back if it weren't almost exactly the same amount as her Visa bill.
She had buttoned the blouse up half-way when someone knocked at her door, "Miss Radivary?"
She sighed and finished the last few buttons, not rushing. She'd know that voice anywhere. With Chance working out of an office in the gym, Lin Bao couldn't be far behind. Shashi was pretty sure her dislike of Chance's efficient, Chinese, pretty-like-a-well-honed-knife assistant was mutual, but she could never be sure. She plastered a fake smile on her face before opening the door, "Yes?"
"Mr. Colby is hoping you can join him in his office." Lin was a head shorter than Shashi, but somehow managed to appear to be looking down her nose. It must be a trick with the delicate, gold wire-frame glasses she wore. Today, she was wearing a red blouse with gold embroidery and a Nehru collar. Shashi wondered if she should change or if she'd dodged a bullet.
"I know. I have like another hour," said Shashi, glancing at the clock to make sure time hadn't gotten away from her. Lin stood, looking at her, seemingly not even blinking. Shashi heard herself go on, "I wanted to get changed first. I know I'm supposed to be out on the floor, but I wanted to get changed. The buildings are even connected. And, it's slow. So..."
"Chance was hoping that you could come by a few minutes early. He'd like to talk to you privately first." Lin gave the first name a hint of extra emphasis as if her use of it was significant. She looked Shashi over, "But, if you're not dressed..."
Shashi knew that she was fully dressed and ready to go, but a moment passed as she wondered if the other woman had seen something she'd missed. She shook her head, "I'm fine. Just ... let me get my purse."
The sound of Lin's heels clacking across the empty lobby of her apartment building made Shashi realize that the two of them were nearly the same height at the moment. Shashi hadn't even considered wearing high heels to the meeting. She'd never had an office job, but she was pretty sure that the three-inch Jimmy Choos Lin wore weren't appropriate, even if she wore them like they were a natural extension of her own legs.
Being Chance's assistant wasn't really an office job, though. When Shashi had been a regular at Chance's apartment, Lin had been a nearly-constant fixture, as ubiquitous as furniture. Prim and professional, it had been hard to imagine her as having a libido, much less unwinding that tight bun, letting her hair down, and getting sweaty. But, Shashi's imagination had been up to the task.
.... There is more of this story ...