I loved him the moment he began his 20 minute presentation about the company’s new marketing strategy in the darkened conference room. I loved the way he exuded confidence and the passionate way in which he gestured as he spoke. I loved the way he thanked everyone and held the door open as we walked out.

My heart almost skipped a beat as he stopped me and said ’’ Are you new ? I haven’t met you before.’’ I introduced myself as the new systems analyst. He smiled in a way that made my heart flutter; he shook my hands and wished me luck.

Being a new generation startup company, we had a relaxed work environment. Everyone was friendly and called each other by first names. The next time I met Ashok was at the cafeteria when I was having my mid afternoon break with the tasteless coffee from the vending machine and my latest book for company. He poured himself a cup, took a sip and made a face.

‘’We really ought to do something about this horrible coffee. How do you even drink this thing?’’ he asked.

With his intense, searching gaze focused on me, I was completely tongue-tied.

‘’Oh! Come on Preeti, why don’t we go to that place around the corner and get ourselves a decent cup of coffee?’’ He asked.

Thus began our unusual friendship. I couldn’t believe he’d taken a liking to me.  I obviously knew that he was just being friendly, nothing more. But trust me Dear Reader, I was smitten. Our afternoon cup of coffee became a ritual that I started looking forward to everyday. I slowly found myself opening up and getting comfortable in his presence. We talked about many things and I realised we had a common love of books and movies. As I said, I was love struck and tried my best to impress him. I paid a bit more attention to how I looked started wearing make up for the very first time! I googled up intelligent doubts to ask him and impress him with my intelligence. I even tried my hand at humor to make him throw back his head and laugh, just to see his dimples.

But there was a catch – Ashok was a married man. I knew it was simply wrong to flirt with a married man. But there was this voice within me that kept asking, ‘’Why not? Everybody deserves their shot at happiness. So if loving him makes you happy, then why not? ’’. And so I continued my silly dalliance over the months.

Ashok was planning a big birthday party for his 5 year old son and the entire office was invited. Obviously I was going as well. I met his lovely wife and adorable kid, Rajiv. The party was fun and we all had a good time. Rajiv somehow took a liking to me and we played on his PS3 for a very long time. Afterwards, as we sat on his 6th floor balcony, feeding pigeons, the bracelet that I wore, which was a trifle loose, slipped off my wrist and fell down. In an instant he dashed out to retrieve it. He was gone for ages and I began to get anxious. Finally he walked in gasping and dishevelled, bracelet in hand. I thanked him and asked him what took him so long. He said ‘’ Aunty, the lift wasn’t working, so I had to take the stairs.’’

I smiled at him and glanced towards Ashok and his wife who were busy with the guests. They’d done a good job of bringing up this child. I realised I had to stop this madness and stop pursuing him for good – if not for the rules of society, at least for this amazing child who needed his family intact.