This short story was published in www.induswomanwriting.com...
Leaving the office with my briefcase and portfolio, I got into my old Nissan and drove toward the estates in Pasadena. The appointment was at 9:30 AM.
I drove through the hills beyond Rose Bowl, overlooking the country club, where all the ‘old money’ lived. My boss Mr. Chen, the owner of Yin & Yang Designs had told me our new clients were Indian, and preferred an Indian designer for decorating their new home. The lady spoke no English.
“Better not mess this one up,” Mr. Chen had said.
I wish he had told me about the meeting yesterday so I could have dressed in an Indian outfit to better impress the client. I looked at my beige blouse and black skirt in dismay. I’d neglected to wear pantyhose for it was forecasted to be a hot day, and hoped the clients wouldn’t be too traditional.
Mr. Chen had hired me just for providing service to the occasional Indian client in a Chinese-American dominated neighborhood of San Gabriel Valley, but I had the least experience on field. I’d worked on the projects with other designers, but was yet to get a client on my own.
My career depended on this meeting…
Parking my car a block from the estate, I picked up my portfolio filled with designs and ideas for ‘Ethnically Oriented Interior Decorations’ that Yin & Yang boasted, and walked up the winding driveway.
An English butler opened the door and told me to wait in the morning room. The ‘mistress’ was a little late.
I looked at the beautiful home, bereft of professional decorating, but elegant nonetheless. The family room and formal living rooms still had a few unopened cardboard boxes. A spiral staircase led to an upper level, and from the room I was to wait in, I could see the hallway, in which stood an impressive oak table cluttered with old photographs, with an empty box beside it.
Unable to resist, I walked to the table and started looking at the black-and-white pictures, my professional mind already dreaming up beautiful oxidized silver frames which would show off their pristine beauty.
My eyes went to framed newspaper clipping dated seven years ago, about a rags-to-riches story of an entrepreneur who had made it big with his Indian pre-cooked frozen foods. The frozen food packets, initially launched for paying-guests and hostel-dwellers in Mumbai were now being exported to the United States.
I was familiar with the name “H & S Foods, Enjoy Home Cooked Meals Without Cooking at Home,” having sustained myself on those for nearly a year. H & S stood for Heat and Serve, the article informed me.
I placed the newspaper clipping back on the table.
Then I saw an old and yellowing photo of a family I knew a long time ago. Surely it wasn’t them? Yes, the old man, the frail woman, and the two girls.
The older girl with the plain face, and the little one with the limp.
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Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing physician in Southern California. When she is not by the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction.