Felix was married. At least, she believed she was. Hold on, she knew she was married. Belief… let’s not go there yet; what she believed in was still a little unclear in her brain.
The sun shone every day and so did she right alongside it. She would hustle into the toilet and brush her teeth, a full three minutes of brushing, just like they'd specified at the dentists’. Staring at the mirror, wondering where she went wrong all this time, trying to think of why she was standing in that very toilet with that very smudge stain on that very marble tiled wall, in that very small 2BHK apartment with her larger than life husband, Gnash, and in that very town where they spoke a language that sounded like Hebrew but had a Russian accent buried somewhere in its roots- this was how her day begun every morning. She would then spit the paste out and grin like a madman wondering whether her brilliant, sparkly smile ever managed to fool those weasels she would have to face once she stepped out of the house.
Felix had a problem. She was not sure whether this was a problem, yet. But to her, it wasn’t normal and that was a problem. She would go outside her room at exactly 6:55 in the morning and find Gnash, a sweet and beautiful Indian guy, whose full name was Ganesh Putkar, sipping tea at the kitchen counter. Now, here was the problem. When she looked at Gnash, she didn’t see that sweet and beautiful guy she had met at Nariman point one fine day. She didn’t see a brilliant doctor who saved a countless lives as a neurosurgeon every year. Neither did she spot the trekking and swimming enthusiast who had decided that Felix, a mere journalist from Ohio, was an interesting and cute girl he wanted to get to know more about. Instead, when she looked at him, she saw a blur in the vast expanse of her life, which had seemed to draw a blank whenever she tried to think about it.
Now, this confused her. When this shift from reality to virtuality occurred, Felix wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she didn’t know what her tastes were, she didn’t remember what little things made her feel alive, and neither did she know why she was stuck in Samara, Russia, with people who were all far more accomplished and brazen than her. Being afraid would have relieved her a bit, but that too was a lost pleasure. She did not know what she felt, and deep inside her brain, she seemed to have lost a will to enjoy simple things. Nothing mattered anymore and nobody affected her emotions. But that was because she didn't feel any of those, anyway. Everything was always the same, and everyone was always droning on useless life lessons, or worse, stories. Why did she care that Mrs. Belatrix next door was reaching her menopause and that led her to make not-so-intelligent life decisions, and she probably needed a boyfriend to “complete” her? Why was she to show interest in Gnash’ best friend’s son who had just gained admission into Harward and wanted to become a neurosurgeon just because he was so inspired by Gnash? Honestly, did that great old aunt ever ask her about what she wanted to do before calling her personal phone and gently letting her know that she needed to get a wax and it would be a great idea that Felix accompany her?
No, the answer was no. And it had been no for a long time. And she couldn’t really remember how long.
Clutching her purse and strapping up her sandal, Felix rushed to kiss Gnash and grab her mug of black coffee before bolting out the door. It was 7:00 AM, and she was already running late. Driving the car at the maximum possible speed, she parked at her spot in the basement, then rushed into her room on the fourth floor, and was just about to approach the desk when she heard someone scream “Felix!” She turned around in response, without remembering to slow her gait, and collided into something hard, which in turn snapped her stiletto heel and made her tumble sideways into the arms of that very “something hard” that she had collided into, and blinked twice before she looked up and into the eyes of her new boss, Mr. Namor.
She gasped in earnest, and quickly gained her composure, then nonchalantly offered a silent sorry before scattering away in haste. Mr. Namor just smiled in return and continued onward, pointing at his list and then his assistant, who was scurrying alongside, trying to catch the words he jostled in her direction in a tiny notepad. Felix, embarrassed beyond repair, shifted into her seat adjacent to Norah, the giant-“I-own-8-cats” lady, when a tiny mouse-like woman appeared at her desk with beady eyes even larger than usual. “FEEEEEELIX, I’ve been calling you since, like, forever! Are you, like, deaf? By the way, that was quite a leap into Mr. Namor’s muscular arms- I had no idea you were such a playaaaa.” She giggled at that and scooped beside Felix into her seat. Felix rolled her eyes and whispered, “What do you mean, Patricia? YOU called me because of which I looked around and stumbled. Ugh, I even snapped my stiletto, how am I going to get anywhere today?” Felix whispered sideways, evidently irritated. Patricia was Felix’ only friend here, simply because Pat didn’t seem to mind Felix’ quiet and moody disposition. In fact, Pat thought she was a great listener and watched good movies. The truth was, however, that Felix watched all kinds of movies. They helped her disappear into somebody else’s thoughts and moods, feelings and imaginations.
“…but don’t you think Mr Namor is just sooooo dreamy?” Felix caught onto Patricia’s last sentence and nodded.
“Yeah, yeah, sure.” Felix said, trying to fix the telephone onto her computer.
“Oh, obviously you won’t agree- you are married! To a hunk of your own!” Patricia giggled and stood up. “Ok listen- I was thinking! Wanna meet up today at my house? Around 6? We can get pizza and watch the new Twilight movie we missed during sales season! What say?”
Felix smiled up at Pat and said, “Done, see you at 6 near the elevator.” Pat squealed like a baby and hugged Felix, smooching her cheek before sashaying away down the hallway to her desk.
The first call for the day suddenly sounded and Felix picked up before the first ring rang out. “Hello? Enrich Enterprises?”
It was fifteen past 11 and Felix was immersed in a call trying to explain to a customer why he should be interested in a vacuum cleaner which ran on kitchen oil; when she herself, did not believe a word of what she said. Fraud is the biggest asset of this company, she solemnly whispered to herself, slamming a disheartened telephone back to its receiver. “Excuse me?” a voice suddenly perked up from behind her. Mr. Namor’s assistant, Chloe was looking down at Felix, smiling. “Yes?”
“Felix, right? Mr. Namor wants to see you in his office, right away.”
“Uhm, what is it regarding?”
“I’d tell if I knew.”
Felix followed Chloe into a small room on the third floor, which had a mahogany table and awkwardly large bay windows. Mr. Namor was seated on the window sill, sipping something from a mug that very subtly stated, “World’s best boss!!” He turned around and smiled when he saw Felix appear and immediately stood up, gesturing for her to be seated. He ushered Chloe out and then, very inconspicuously, drew all the blinds so his other employees wouldn’t see him; all this while maintaining an air of dramatic reticence. Finally, he turned and sat in his seat, and after a two second pause, smiled at a very confused Felix. “Listen, I know this is weird, but… I’ve been observing all our employees for the past month… and… ”
“Uhm, am I in trouble? It’s okay, you can tell me, I won’t freak out.”
“No, of course not… I just… Um, wanted a favour.”
“Uhm, sure… go on…
“Well, I’ve been listening in to all our customers’ calls for the past month, and I found nothing but droning voices and sappy sarcasms. Nobody, not one person, was patient with a customer, until, of course, I came to your calls. You have an air of monotony which is just enough to not be ignored, and taken seriously, and plus… you are the only person with a track record of a million dollars worth of items sold in two years.”
Felix mustered up a smile, but she was still very confused about why her boss had decided to bring her in to praise her like this, so covertly.
“You, Felix, can do so much better than sitting behind a desk and dealing with angry customers to sell used and second hand items.” Mr. Namor stated, with a sudden passion emerging in the prominent veins in his arms. “What if, I offer you a sort of negotiation? I need somebody to be the face and sound of my advertisement for Enrich. We have been holding auditions but those blunt and pretentious actresses are really missing something. We need a real voice, a strong face and a bold personality. All this, I see in you, Felix.” He smiled at that and waited intently for a reaction from Felix.
“Uhm, what’s the negotiation?”
“Oh! Right. Well, you see, if our panel of judges are impressed by you- and are to choose you for that ad, and you do a good job, you win your seat next to me as the deputy in chief of Enrich Enterprises. Your resume is good enough for this post and you are educationally qualified, I know. But, you lacked experience, and now, you will have that right under your bag. So, what do you think?”
Felix blinked twice and then closed her eyes. “But, I have no experience with acting- I’m really not sure-”
“Oh, I’m only telling you to audition! Nothing more for now. If you make it past the audition, only then will this offer stand. And of course, your current job remains if it doesn’t work out. What’s the harm?”
Felix thought for a moment and realised he was right. “Okay, its just an audition, what’s the harm?”
Mr. Namor smiled and nodded. “Right! So see you today? At 6? Come down to the basement and I’ll take you. And yeah, there would be no need for us to mention it to anybody else who works here, okay?”
“Today? Oh, um okay. Yeah, sure. See you, then!” Felix stood up in haste and shook Mr. Namor’s excited hand before escaping his office as fast as she could. She heaved a heavy sigh and made it to her desk, but there was a buzz of excitement making its way to her body, a buzz she hadn’t realised she missed so, so, much.
6 PM came faster than she realised, and Felix quickly made her way down to the basement. She had texted Pat that she was really not feeling okay, and wanted to spend her evening tucked in bed with Gnash, to which she had gushed like a happy puppy and replied, “Coolio BABE!! You guys have fun *WINK, WINK*”
Next thing she knew, she was riding in a Lamborghini next to Mr. Namor, who was trying to make small talk in an attempt to ease her nerves. But Felix wasn’t nervous. She was just mildly excited, anticipating this little joyride, loving the suspense of it all.They stopped before a large corporate looking building and made their way to the 14th floor. They entered a dingy hall to their left, and Felix was suddenly surrounded by a myriad of chattering ladies, dressed up to their toes. A sweet looking receptionist took her by the waist and handed her her badge. Mr. Namor took her shoulder and whispered, “Wait for your turn, okay?” before disappearing through a door at the end of the room.
Twenty minutes passed before Felix was ushered into the main hall. The four judges greeted her and she recognised one of them as the CEO of Enrich. She smiled and shook their hands, then took her place on the stage. The receptionist had announced a very open ended brief: the actresses were required to speak passionately about anything- it could be their life, or their dreams, goals and ambitions, or even someone they’ve always aspired to be. They were looking for passion, and the content could be anything that drove it. She was nervous, she hadn’t prepared anything; but that was the point. She looked straight up ahead with poised shoulders, put on her heartiest of smiles, and transformed into the character of a woman who had everything she ever wanted but never had.
It was a long, but transfixing two minutes before the four panelists stood up, all teary eyed, offering an ovation to the most heartfelt soliloquy they swore they ever heard. Felix was electric with passion, her veins still fumed from the ardent delivery. The rest was a blur. The judges all decided to cancel the remaining auditions because their job here, was done. Felix was ushered to the side by Mr. Namor, who looked deep in her pulsating eyes and then hugged her, whispering, “I knew it! I knew from the moment I looked at you- I am so stunned- you have great talent, Felix, great talent.”
“Uhm. Mr. Namor, if you don't mind, could you please drop me home? My husband is expecting me, and I told him I’d be back by 9.”
“Oh, of course. Let’s go.”
For the first time in years, Felix spoke loudly and laughed excitedly at Mr. Namor’s quips at the CEO for crying at Felix’ speech. They even spoke for ten minutes after having reached Felix’ residence, and Felix was taken by surprise when Mr. Namor asked her suddenly amidst laughs, extremely cautiously, “Felix, um… Did you mean what you said? Back there? About how you wanted your life to be played by your rules, and everything was too perfectly settled for you to play a role in it? Did you really feel that way?”
Felix smiled at Mr. Namor and paused for two minutes before erupting into a swarm of giggles. “Oh, Mr. Namor! Of course, not! All this is in the name of acting, nothing more than character play.” Saying this, Felix glanced at her watch and unstrapped her seat belt. “Well, it’s five past nine and I better go. Thank you so much for this, Mr. Namor. You have no idea how much this means to me.” Felix exited the car and waved at Mr. Namor, who smirked at Felix’ apathetic tone and waved away into the moonlight.
Felix smiled as she saw Mr. Namor’s Lambo turn the corner before making her way to the penthouse she called her home.
Gnash seemed thrilled to hear about Felix’ “little twilight adventure” as he called it; but unfortunately said he wouldn’t be able to make it for the shooting because of work. He also remained distant that entire evening, scheduling calls and meetings on his phone. Felix understood, of course.
That evening when Gnash returned to bed, he was weirdly snappy. Felix trying to lighten up the air, said, “Gnash, what’s up? How was your day?”
Gnash looked up at her and said, “Oh. Are we talking about me? Why me? It’s been all about you the past two days. I must be so boring to you, now.” Felix took his snappy remark as a joke and laughed lightly, though a pit had developed in her stomach as he said it, with a tone filled with spite.
The next day, Felix was picked up by a fancy cab who took her to a hotel. The next two days were spent in a frenzy where she got to stay at the same hotel and shoot day and night. She was filming a series of 4 advertisements, and was also posing for a number of photoshoots to set her as a face of the Enrich clothes line. Mr. Namor stayed for each shooting, personally ensuring the camera captured the best of Felix. Mr. Namor and Felix became steadfast friends, and she discovered that Mr Namor’s first name was Dill. Dill! Who woulda thought? Dill, was a widower, and his wife had died five years ago while giving birth to their daughter, who had died shortly after she was born. He moved then, from Ohio to Indianapolis, and then finally to Samara. Felix realised that Mr. Namor could speak about anything and everything. She had a legitimate conversation with him about why cats should not be trusted, and that the state of the world is quite sad, because there was nothing that could be done to save it from the climate change or the robot intervention that would take place in the forthcoming century.
Two days later, she was on every billboard in the little town and the money swarmed in like rodents. Gnash said he was pleased, but remained distant by the state of events- which consisted of his wife now surpassing him on all levels of success and fame. Felix found it all a little difficult to believe; it seemed to be some sort of dream she still hadn’t woken up from.
Mr Namor even held a little gathering in the office to commemorate Felix’ success. Felix was asked to bring Gnash along, and she approached him one breezy Saturday morning, when Gnash was slightly free from work.
“Gnash… I, ummm… I know you’re a little busy, but… Mr. Namor-
“Who? Oh, yes that boss of yours who suddenly decided you were Your Highness Ultimate-
“Gnash! He’s really sweet, and he’s held a ceremony to celebrate our success, and he wants us to be there.”
“Oh, yeah? He does, doesn't he? Well I guess he knows what’s right or wrong now. He knows everything, seems like. When is it? Oh never mind, I’m gonna be busy.” And saying this, he stormed off into the room and slammed the door shut behind him. Felix couldn't understand what was with him, and with teary eyes and a solemn heart, she called Dill and explained to him how Gnash was busy being a Neurosurgeon and wouldn't be able to attend the ceremony, and she was left dateless. Dill announced that that wouldn't be a problem, because they could go together, as Chief and Deputy Chief of Enrich Enterprises.
The day of the event finally came the next Friday. She spoke with grace and charmed her way through all the higher ups of the corporate world. Mr. Namor admired her from a distance and tried to rid his mind of the knots bundling up in his stomach whenever he looked upon her. Pat was there too, and Felix and her had a lot of catching up to do; she was more than overjoyed to learn the entire story of Felix’ big success. Her ending remark was, “Totally knew our boss was crushin’ on ya!” with a wink and a giggle. Oh, it was good to see her again, Felix thought.
The party was over before the stroke of midnight and Felix found Mr. Namor seated at the balcony, looking over the dusky little town. Felix approached him and softly sat down beside him. She looked at him, and then the view, and couldn’t help a tear escape her eye. Mr Namor immediately took her hand and stroked it softly, not saying anything. “Remember when you asked me whether I meant it? I meant every word, Dill. I was so lost, I felt useless. Every day was the same, everything was boring. I was craving for something to make me live.”
“And now?” Mr Namor asked, looking at Felix’ hazel eyes, ever so intently. “How do you feel, now?”
“I feel… charged. Electric. Dill, I… I feel alive!” Felix whispered, with a little excitement escaping her voice. She looked over at Dill, who mimicked her expression of teary eyed glee.
It happened so fast, so naturally, that you wouldn’t even have imagined it. Dill pulled Felix’ hand toward his chest and leaned in, toward her face. His free hand cradled her waist until she was pulled in, almost magnetically into Dill’s force, and was sucked in by electrifying love. A theory, you would believe, to be backed up strongly by Michael Faraday.
Felix had realised it sooner than the slap had resonated in her ears. Her husband was a big phoney, and she never loved him. “Gnash. We have nothing. We don’t have each other anymore, either. I know, you’ve been cheating on me since that bloody little honeymoon at Paris last year. I can’t do this.” He growled in anger. Another slap.
They found Felix passed out on the floor of the penthouse and Gnash missing with his car. She was rushed into the ICU with Dill trailing her, heaviness settling in his heart. No, he couldn’t afford to lose her. However the damage was minimal, and Gnash was too weak to be a murderer. He was a psychotic lone animal, sure, but no murderer. She regained consciousness in two hours, waking up to find Dill seated on her side. Dill never left from there, not for a second.