Soon after my decision to transfer the power, things changed very fast. Our house turned in to corporate headquarters where everyday dozens of managers come with reports and Hasini would meet them at the front table. She was continuously on the phone or at computer terminal during the day. She also bought an assistant to help her, a pretty girl around her age. I was happy to see these things because for the first time in my life, I felt free to do what want. But I have no idea where to start. The only thing that came to my mind was ask Jerome. Nowadays I don’t see him as often as I used to. It could be that Hashini’s presence has made him uncomfortable to come here. As far as I remember, Jerome was a party animal and it seems suddenly that has changed. Most of his friends now call me and ask how Jerome is doing. Apparently Jerome is not answering their calls or returning messages. I wonder what caused Jerome to change his behavior like this. I could only think of two reasons. Maybe he was afraid after contracting the skin disease and wanted to limit sexual encounters. Or is he…I didn’t want to explore the second reason as I was not ready to face the consequence. I need more time, I said to myself. I always avoid it hoping for something better. But my heart tells me that one day I would regret for not being an honest with myself. That evening I decided to visit Jerome at his place.
‘Hey, I haven’t seen you for ages. Where were you?’ I asked when I saw him at the front porch.
‘Just busy with work Randi...How you doing?’ he replied.
‘I am alright, I guess’ I replied.
Then I explained him the changes happening at my place and my decision to hand over the control of business to Hasini. He listened to what I said diligently but didn’t say anything about it.
‘So what you are going to do now’ he said.
‘ I don’t really have any clue..that is why I came to see you actually. Hey are you free tonight? I asked.
‘Why do you want to go clubbing. Sure I will come with you’ he said.
‘Not clubbing, I was thinking of some quite place’
‘Then how about Galle-face green? Don’t think today is going to be busy as on the weekend ‘ he suggested.
‘Actually that’s what I was thinking too. Let’s go there’ I said.
When we were driving, I told him about the phone calls I was getting from his friends. He said he decided to take a break from clubbing and going out with guys for a while. I didn’t want to probe it further than that. After we parked the car, we walked towards to the sea and looking for a bench to seat. Being middle of the week, it was still fairly busy. It seems this is the only place left for people in the city to have a break from their busy life.
‘Ah…we should sit there’ I pointed to a bench.
‘Why that bench so special’ Jerome asked.
‘Look at the handsome guy who sells “kadala” next to it’ I said.
‘Oh that guy. I already noticed few guys who beamed at me. This one is not bad either. Anyways let’s sit there, so you can have a good look at your fantasy boy’ he said smilingly.
‘Give us Rs. 100 kadala’ Jerome went to kadala guy.
‘By the way…my friend over there is keen on you. What is your name? Jerome asked while I was laughing.
‘I am Hemantha’ he said in a shy voice.
We learned that he is the only breadwinner in his family of four. His parents don’t work and his sister still at school. He said income he gets from selling kadala is barely enough to pay the house rent and put food on the table. So he is thinking of starting a business but he doesn’t have enough savings. Most of all he doesn’t know what to start. In a strange way me and Hemantha are in a similar situation, I thought.
Because we were interested in knowing about him, he also got interested in two of us. The way we speak, the way we touch each other and look at each other all meant we were no regular friends. He must have realized that there is something unique about us. However he didn’t get freaked out seeing us the way we are but actually relaxed. Wouldn’t it be nice if others in this society appreciate or accept the differences among their fellow beings like Hemantha does, I thought? As the sun is about to set, I looked at Jerome. His face was washed with golden rays and looked serenely beautiful. I bit his ear gently. We held hands.
‘I was thinking of finding a day-time job’ I said finally.
‘I guess you don’t want to work for any company that your family controls, right?’ Jerome asked.
‘No, I want to be like everyone else. I want to see what I really got inside me to make a difference in my life’ I replied.
‘I am sure if everyone else got what you have, none of them would want to work again’ he smiled.
‘That’s the thing. Often we don’t appreciate what’s given to us and look outside for satisfaction’ I said. I shouldn’t have said that, but it’s too late for that now. I hope Jerome wouldn’t read into too much. But I felt the subtle change in his face and eyes. He is too smart not to miss the point. At the same time, he is too decent to not to show his displeasure either.
‘Let me make some calls tomorrow. I am sure I’ll be able to find something for you. The question is whether you like them. Since you been doing finance type of work, I’ll look for those positions’ he said.
‘Thank you’ I kissed him on cheek.
We spent next few minutes listening to the sound of the waves crashing. After a while, Jerome saw I was looking at Hemantha, and he asked.
‘I thought you were joking. Are you really into this guy?’
‘Not him but what’s on his cart. Did you notice’ I asked.
‘Notice what’ Jerome said.
‘Look at the paintings on his cart. That’s serious work. Don’t you think so?’ I asked.
Jerome looked at the cart carefully and nodded his head.
‘Hemantha, who did this art-work on your cart’ I asked.
‘That’s my sister’s work’ he replied.
‘Wow, she must be really talented’ I told him.
I thought about it for a while.
‘So why don’t you bring her paintings and display them here? You never know because some of the people who come here might want to buy them. Ask her to paint on canvas paper so people can frame it’ I suggested.
‘I never thought about it. Actually it’s a great idea. I don’t need lot of money to buy her canvas papers. Today when I go home, I will ask her to work on it so I can bring the paintings next week. Thank you so much for that idea’ he said with a smile full of gratitude.
We said goodbye to him and dove home. I felt good about the day.
Part 6 next
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