The Pearly Laugh

He sat on the ledge by the sea staring at the large office building towering in the front of him.
Just a few hours ago he was sitting inside the corner office of the same building looking down at the beautiful view of the sea, the cars zooming around on the road below, the people walking along the pavement enjoying the waves hitting at the edge of the drive splattering all over them.

He had a smile on his face then as he thought about what he would be getting his son, for Diwali the next day. Maybe he would get him that remote control car the kid always wanted, he had thought.

This was before his Boss had called him into the conference room and told him they no longer needed his services.
No longer needed his services? After spending 15 years of his life, giving everything to the company they suddenly didnt need him anymore?
The Boss had given the usual reasons, how the economy was not doing well and how they had to let some people go. Yes, he knew things were bad, but why him? He didn’t expect the axe to fall on his own shoulders which had helped the company grow to its current position.

He was furious as he got out of the glass tower and made his way across the road to sit on the ledge where he was sitting now.

He sat there brooding about what he was going to do now. Not sure for how long he sat there as the phone rang.

It was his wife…. He checked his watch.
“Sorry I am a bit late, I just…. “, he began as the crackle of the voice at the other end cut him off.
“Oh come on, you know that your Boss just wants to get into your pants. Why don’t you just say No? “, he almost screamed into the phone as the voice from the other side continued.
“Yeah yeah go for your F@$?!’ meeting. I know what they are all about, you $@$@’?$ whore!!”, he shouted into the phone as he angrily cut it off.

His wife headed the Marketing Division of a large MNC, he did understand the importance of her job, but somehow he had never managed to wrap his head around those late evening meetings, especially with her boss always trying to paw her, or so he thought.

He stared at the blank screen of the phone in his hand as if his gaze would burn it down. He continued to stare at it till his reverie was broken by a voice coming from besides him.
“Such a lovely night, isn’t it? “, said the voice, breaking his solitude and interrupting his thoughts.
“What the hell is so lovely about this night. And why don’t you just mind your own f@$(….”, he said angrily turning towards the voice only to stop the last bit of words coming out from his mouth, just in time.
She was a vision of absolute beauty, in her early 20s, standing on the ledge a few paces away from him.
He looked her up and down, from her elegant black high heels slightly covered by her flowing floral printed skirt. A plain white top, it’s lapels fluttering gently in the breeze. And her face….. Her gorgeous face, with her long straight hair, part of which were stuck to her cheek due moist spray of the sea.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her as she said, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you”
“It’s okay…. “, he muttered as she jumped from the ledge onto the pavement besides him.
“Do you mind if I sit down here? “, she asked.
He frowned, “I don’t mind, but I don’t think I would be good company. I have had the worst day of my life today”
“I promise I will be as quiet as a mouse”, she said, though her mischievous eyes did not confirm to her words.
He half smiled, “Why don’t I believe you? “
She laughed.

There was something about her laugh that mesmerised him. It sounded like a string of pearls had broken and clanked on a marble floor. A tinkering happy sound. Almost musical. A pearly laugh.

They sat besides each other on the ledge in silence, the sound of the sea in the background as the waves broke against the rocks behind the ledge.
“Look”, she said, suddenly breaking the silence as she pointed to the sky being lit up by a burst of firecrackers, “Isn’t that beautiful? “
He grimaced as he looked up at the sky and grunted.
“What’s eating you?”, she asked.
“I told you I wouldn’t be good company. My life is in ruins at the moment and I frankly can’t enjoy these stupid firecracker moments”, he said almost angrily.
She jumped up to her feet and held his hand pulling him up with her.
“Let’s walk”, she said.
She tugged at him as they began walking by the sea, her soft hand holding his, gently, almost kindly. Silence surrounding them only to be broken by an occasional firecracker going off in the background.
“Why don’t you tell me about it?”, she said suddenly.
“I don’t want to bore you”, he said in a. sullen voice.
“Don’t worry, you won’t bore me with your talks more than you can bore me with your silence”, she said laughing that pearly laugh of hers again.
Usually he would have been offended by such a statement but her laugh took away any edge off her comment. He looked at her face….. Those eyes… There was something about those eyes that made him open up. It was almost as if he could pour his heart out while looking into them.

And he started talking. Telling her everything. About his work, his Boss, how he had given everything to his company without paying attention to his family, his rise up the corporate ladder, and how they had unceremoniously sacked him today…. And then about his wife, her career, her pawing boss, their frequent fights….. Everything…..

And she listened to him, quietly, with an understanding look on her face, her hand holding his gently, not letting go.
“Well, now you know everything, and you know what…. I feel better. I think I just wanted someone to hear me out”, he said as they stopped.
“And just in time too, for here is where we part ways. You see that.. “, she said pointing to a dimly lit alley next to the pavement, “that’s where I have to go. Thanks for the lovely walk”
“And thanks to you for listening. You definitely are a great listener”, he said with a smile.
It was almost as if a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulder and he could smile again.
“Part of my profession… Listening… “, she said, her pearly laugh accompanying her words.
He smiled again.
“Hey, I never asked you… What is it that you do?”, he asked with a smile not wanting her to leave.
“I am a prostitute”, she said flashing him a smile.
“A what….? “, his face going wooden.
“A Prostitute….. Randi…… Whore…. You know that word, you were using it on the phone, so don’t ask me what it means”, she said with a cheeky grin.
“I come out here everytime I feel sad, standing on the ledge looking out at the sea makes me feel happy again”, she said before he could say anything.

“My sister will be 18 tomorrow. And tomorrow she will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Tomorrow is the day she loses her virginity to whoever can afford her”, she continued despite the growing horror on his face.

“But never mind, I have been saving money. One of these days I will have enough money saved for me and my sister to leave this place and go and live in a small town and make a decent life of our own and be respected by the society, hain na?”, she said looking at him questioningly as if demanding a response.
“Err yes…”, he stammered unable to find the right words.
“Don’t be so confused”, she laughed her pearly laugh again, “Life has its ups and downs. Nothing is permanent. I don’t plan to let life beat me. One day I will beat life and be at the top….. There….”, she said pointing to the sky which suddenly lit up by a burst of firecrackers, as if on cue.
When he looked down from the sky, she was already half way into the alley, her figure outlined by the single dim street lamp.
“Hey… Wait….”, he shouted his hand reaching for his wallet, “If you want I can help you with some money”
She stopped, turning her head, that mischievous smile back on her face.
“Rehne Do, this one was on the house”, she said before disappearing into the darkness, the sound of her pearly laugh fading behind her.
He stood staring at the alley a slow smile coming to his face.
He took his phone out and dialled.

“I am sorry”, he said into the phone “Sorry for everything I said to you. I was taking out my frustrations on you. Forgive me. I am coming home…… Yes everything is okay…… There are some issues but nothing that can’t be sorted out….. Yes….. Tomorrow will be another day”

He reached for his car keys just as he remembered that they had taken away his company car when they fired him. He laughed to himself as the sky was lit up once again by the crackers…..
He looked up with a huge smile on his face and gave the sky a big Thumbs Up.
“Happy Diwali”, he shouted, to no one in particular or perhaps the whole world, as he started walking towards the Taxi Stand……Tomorrow will be another day….
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and is not meant to offend anyone. Wish you all a Happy Diwali. May the Light of the Lamps overcome all the darkness in your life.

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