Krishna hitched the strap of his laptop bag higher as is threatened to slip off his shoulder, and took a deep breath. He raised his hand and rang the doorbell, wincing at the shrill noise. Nothing happened for a few moments and Krishna wondered if Rukmini was even home, the heavy rain outside made him think otherwise. He pressed the doorbell again, and was appeased when he heard a muffled “I’m coming” through the door.
He fixed a broad smile, knowing he was probably the last person Rukmini wanted to see right now. “Hello --” he began when the door opened to reveal a frankly pathetic looking Rukmini.
“What do you want?” Her glower was diminished by a very violent sneeze that shook her entire body. Krishna resisted reaching out to steady her.
“I come in peace, bearing gifts,” he announced, not waiting for an invitation and striding into the hall. He kept the two cup noodles he was carrying on the dining table and surveyed his surroundings.
“Nice place!” he remarked. He turned to look at Rukmini, still standing by the door, and smirked, “Nice pajamas.”
Rukmini sneezed again, “I don’t have time for your shit, Krishna. I have a lot of work to get done.”
“And how exactly do you propose to get any work done without a functional laptop?” Krishna said, swinging the laptop bag off his shoulder, “Where have you set up shop? We should get started right away.”
He gave himself a mental congratulatory pat on the back when Rukmini sighed and led him to her bedroom. The layout of the apartment was simple, with minimal furniture. Krishna smiled when he saw the large bookshelf that took up half the wall opposite her bed. A coffee table, and tv stand occupied the rest of the room. He wondered why the tv was in here rather than the living room, but knew that would only serve to irritate her further. He settled himself on the bed, eyeing the clutter on the coffee table and bed with some apprehension. Some of it seemed work related, but he noticed most of the scraps of papers were drawings. Krishna thought he recognized a doodle of what seemed to be a tamagotchi, but Rukmini snatched the particular paper away before he could get a closer look.
“Mind your business,” Rukmini grumbled, as she collected all the other drawings and shoved them haphazardly on the bookshelf.
“Yes ma’am.” Krishna gave her a mock salute and bent to pull the laptop out of his bag. “Dinner first or business?” he asked, even though he knew the answer already. Rukmini looked like she hadn’t eaten anything since her small sandwich at the coffee shop earlier that day.
“I’ll set the water to boil,” she said, sniffing, “Sit here, and don’t touch anything.”
As soon as Rukmini disappeared into the kitchen, Krishna made himself comfortable on the bed, and began rummaging through the remaining papers on the coffee table. They mostly seemed like balance sheets, some of them, he noted guiltily, were damp and coffee-stained.
“I didn’t realise your job entailed accounting,” Krishna called out without looking up as Rukmini entered the room.
“It doesn’t,” said Rukmini, walking towards him, precariously balancing an electric kettle and a tissue box in one hand and the two cup noodles in the other.
“Here, let me,” Krishna stood up, relieving her of the stuff, “Why do you have like ten thousand balance sheets then?”
“I’m meeting with the funders tomorrow, and my regular accountant is sick,” Rukmini shrugged, helping herself to a tissue as she collapsed onto the bed next to him.
Krishna looked at her, before pouring the water into the cup noodles. He unbent the forks and began stirring the contents.
“Why are you here?” Rukmini asked suddenly, heaving herself off the pillows with considerable effort.
Krishna arched an eyebrow, “You need help. I’m here to help...”
“I don’t need your help…”
“I graduated top of my class in Financial Accounting. You need my help.”
Rukmini fell silent. The two of them waited for the obligatory two minutes before they picked up their respective cup noodles.
“How did you even find out where I live?” she said, between forkfuls of noodles.
“Subhadra…” began Krishna.
“Dammit Subhadra,” Rukmini muttered, as Krishna grinned into his cup.
“You must have backups of your data, yes?” he asked between bites.
Rukmini gave him a scathing look. “Of course,” she snapped. Pulling his laptop towards herself, she opened a web browser and logged into her email. “There. It’s all in these folders here.”
Krishna heaved a sigh of relief internally. At least the raw data was available so they wouldn’t have to start entirely from scratch. He set aside his empty cup of noodles and clicked open all the folders. It wasn’t too difficult to parse out what the client needed just from the data, but he made sure to clarify with Rukmini anyway. “Is this correct?” he asked, pointing to one of the spreadsheets.
Rukmini moved closer, and Krishna froze as Rukmini’s knee brushed against his momentarily. He fought against the giddy laughter bubbling in his throat. It’s just a knee, for fucks sake, get a grip, he chided himself. Except now she was leaning over his arm to open another document and her hair fell between them like a curtain, tickling his forearm. He took a deep breath. A mistake, he soon realized, as it only made him want to lean in and -
“...what I don’t understand.” The tendril of uncertainty in her voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He couldn’t remember Rukmini ever sounding unsure of herself in all the months he had known her. It made him want to do his damndest to help her.
“Not a problem at all, Rukminiji! I think I understand what the issue is here.” He moved a few centimeters away under the guise of reaching for one of the coffee-soaked papers.
Rukmini drained her cup of noodle soup and blew her nose spectacularly into one of the tissues.
“Seriously?” Krishna asked, raising an eyebrow, “Don’t you have some medicine you can take?”
Rukmini replied from the depths of her tissue with something that suspiciously sounded like ‘not important’.
“Just take an anti-allergic or something!” said Krishna with a long-suffering sigh.
“Alright! Stop nagging,” Rukmini snapped, getting up and helping herself to a few tablets from the nightstand, “Did you figure out what to do with the Women Mental Welfare and Rehab department’s figures?”
“Yes,” Krishna nodded, as Rukmini pulled a shawl out of the closet and wrapped it tightly around herself. She hopped onto the bed, next to him, “See, no, that’s the sheet for September,” she said leaning forward and taking the coffee-stained sheet out of his hand, “We need the figures for October. It’s saved on my cloud. We just need to set up your computer with my wireless printer…”
“Yes,” Krishna said hoarsely, his voice strained. He had inched as far away from her as was humanly possible in the space between her and and the coffee table.
“What are you doing?” Rukmini asked, sweeping her hair over her shoulder, the ends of which flicked his face, nearly sending him into cardiac arrest.
“What?” he asked, his voice still constricted.
“Do you not have space? You’re almost falling off the bed,” she clucked, “Here,” she said, shifting a pile of papers, “Is that better?”
"Sure," he said and reluctantly moved back. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and bit back a smile. She made an adorable picture curled up against the pillow with her feet tucked under her. He forced himself to look away and pointed at the old radio by her bedside. "Do you mind if I...?"
Rukmini shrugged. "Be my guest."
Krishna fiddled with the controls until he got the station he was searching for. The last few notes of Lata Mangeshkar’s melodious voice drifted softly and Krishna found himself humming along as he flipped open to a fresh page of the notebook he was using for all his calculations. The song ended, and he smiled when Kishore Kumar’s upbeat voice filled the quiet room.
“Do you have a sixth sense for stations playing Kishore Da songs?” Rukmini grumbled, sniffling into a wad of tissues. She readjusted her shawl, wrapping it tighter around her, leaving the tips of her toes uncovered. Krishna resisted the urge to tuck her in properly and bent low under the guise of looking over some files so she wouldn’t see his silly smile as he join in with Kishore Kumar during the chorus.
Kab tak mujhe
Aise hi tadpaoge…
Main aag dil mein laga doonga woh
Ke pal mein pighal jaoge
A few moments later he felt a weight against his shoulder. He glanced up, surprised, and saw Rukmini’s sleeping face inches from his own. A stray lock of hair fell over her cheek and Krishna moved to brush it away before stopping himself.
Don’t be a creep, he scolded himself.
In the background, Kishore Kumar sang on.
Ek din aayega
Pyaar ho jayega
Krishna scoffed mentally. If only.
He shifted slightly to make sure Rukmini was sleeping in a comfortable position that wouldn’t give her a crick in her neck. To his dismay, she stirred at the movement, and blinked in a daze.
“Wha’s happenin’?” she said groggily.
“Nothing,” Krishna said, softly, “Why don’t you sleep for a bit?”
Rukmini muttered, her hands coming up to rub her eyes. “Can’t. So much work…” she said, stifling a yawn.
“Okay, here’s the deal. You can take a fifteen minute power nap, and then I’ll wake you up and we can keep working,” he suggested.
She pondered for a few seconds, “Fifteen minutes? And then you’ll wake me?”
Krishna nodded, “Affirmative, Rukminiji. Fifteen minutes.”
Rukmini flattened the pillow and collapsed onto it. He waited till she was dead to the world before he decided to just be creepy and adjusted the shawl to cover her toes.
He continued to work as quietly as he could the rest of the night, double and triple checking his calculations before printing them and organizing them in folders. Rukmini had already started on the powerpoint presentation earlier so he only had to add the proper numbers and graphs before that was done. It was almost four thirty am by the time he was finished.
He debated heading home but his eyes felt dry from overuse and he doubted he was in the best position to drive at the moment. Risking Rukmini’s wrath was preferable than getting into an accident. Krishna moved the laptop and folders to the table and got under the covers, keeping appropriate distance between himself and Rukmini. Sleep took him before his head hit the pillow.
Rukmini stirred in her sleep, frowning at the stray ray of sunlight that had somehow managed to sneak in through a gap in the curtains. She sniffed. Her nose was blocked and her throat felt scratchy. She reached her hand out to grab her phone to check the time, only to realise that it was on the other side, on the coffee table. Sleepily, she turned on her side, her eyes finally flickering open as the sun fell directly on her face and found her nose mere inches away from Krishna’s. She let out an indignant squawk.