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They couldn't simply say her name without inhaling every syllable, longing for her essence to roll over their tongues longer, going aah all the way as if her name amused their profanity. Avantika. The eyes of all customers gazed at her every movement, ardently. Once someone visited her, they'd become her patron.

Avantika. She had some concealed magnetism that the rest of us lacked, which attracted white-collared, dark-hearted men and women with the biggest stack of greens. Her grey eyes always wore a monotonous expression but their melancholic abyss fevered who dared into them. She usually wore red on her voluptuous lips which curved in a way that always looked as if she was going to say something. And how everyone wished it was their name that she'd say. Again, and again. Like they'll give in their whole body, wealth, and much more to please her.

I had never witnessed her charm. Even though we stayed under the same roof, I had seen her full figure only once. That is when Rana bought her into the house, she was barely nineteen. Not much time has passed since then, her existence is more like an urban legend to me multiplying her impressiveness several folds as they pass on. Her effect seems to be that of a wildfire engulfing everything, feeding on rumours of her grandeur. Aah...Avantika how wretched you must be. I intend for you to stay just a name. A name that women in my business despised.

And thus, I have so far, no reason to explain why I walked up to her room and the events which followed after. The door of her room remained slightly open. I got this instant urge to peek inside. And so, I did. She stood in front of the mirror scrutinising her body. I had seen my share of good physiques but seeing her aphrodisiac curves, sent shockwaves through me. And I remember why I had chosen to acknowledge her existence merely as a name. She touched her breasts gently examining them, then turned around and squeezed her butt cheeks to inspect them, it was then that she noticed my presence. She looked at me in a way that assured me I need not explain myself. Turning towards the mirror again she continued measuring her proportions with a measuring tape. Flushing red with embarrassment I turned in the opposite direction and paced towards my room.

We live in the extreme opposite corners of the house, a distance of some few yards. Mondays are self-announced holidays for us. I won't have much to distract myself from the thoughts of her beauty. Avantika, I should have kept my distance from her.

Even if I had work, I barely think that taking some high-end clients could get her off my mind. I wished to see her more. I wanted to touch her perfectly sculpted body so that I could admire it closely.

The sun was setting down. I looked at the antique-looking wall clock hanging against the deep yellow of my room. The hour and minute hands were at maximum distance. In a failed attempt to deviate my mind, I tried remembering the colour of the walls of Avantika's room. Of course, I didn't pay attention to any of the surroundings which remained dead in her vivid presence. But I tried convincing myself if I had to think anything about her, it had to be about the colours of her wall.

Scarlett. No. The softest hue of flames, her hair.

Caramel. No. Tapestried with twilight and radiant golden brown, her flesh.

Walls. Think about walls. But again, my thoughts succumbed to temptations.

I was now lost deep in her thoughts, reminiscing the intricacies of shivers she sent down my spine with her beauty. Something tells me she knew I stood there long before she even looked in my direction. I couldn't care less. The only fact I now knew was, that I couldn’t get her off my mind. Her thoughts kept me up all night.

The next morning, I decided to go talk to her. But what was I supposed to say? So many ineffable things, I wish talking came just as naturally to me as grace came to her despite being one of us: we the taboo of society.

So, I decided to remain ignorant and alien to my feelings. Days passed by, and I needed an escape from this unending dilemma. What was it that created such agony in me? I have pitied men and women who are slaves to their desires. Of course, I have always been aware and pretty much thankful for this side of human nature for that is how we earn. But never did I imagine that I would submit to my imps and fancy doing the unspeakable just as meaningless on which our lot has existed since time immemorial. It wasn't just an infatuation or admiration but was it lust? After years of being witness to the betrayals and lies that people lived and called love, I was almost sceptical about the whole idea of attraction and the physical union that the Christians considered sacred. And yet here I was being just as weak and pathetic as those glib customers of mine.

Did I too have to resort to the same means as them to get my way out of this torture? I was now convinced that l had to do something. So I spoke to Rana and got myself in line with the customers waiting, to be with Avantika. We had certain perks since we were one of the most expensive establishments in the city of dreams. We had a say in picking up customers. So, will Avantika approve of me? Rana with his wretched smile mocked me saying, 'She wasn't into this.'

At first, I was a little embarrassed. I had always been an audience to the judgements that passed around behind her back, and now I wanted an arrangement with her. But after Rana's comment, I instantly regretted my decision to approach her. Later on, Rana told me that she had refused to be with me. This rejection left me a little dismayed in front of him and others who were present in the small reception area. I posed calmly and told him that I would no longer take the day off and would like an arrangement with the highest payer, to which Rana didn't reply. I simply left the lodging and decided to go stroll around. I had dinner at my favourite restaurant on the outskirts of the city. Almost a lifetime ago I came to this city with a burning passion to become an actor. It has been months since I last auditioned for a role.

I returned to my dwelling a little after midnight. To my surprise, the door of my room was open. And in the middle of diwan sat a divine figure, the room dimly lit by the lonesome urban moon, a gleam of light entering the room through the open windows behind her. Without thinking I walked up to the diwan and slowly undressed her. The sound of silence immortalised by the approbation in how her body comforted mine was the most poetic sound I had ever heard. Glaring into her eyes, passed a night engulfed by passion, distinctively lit by the fire of my desires which unexpectedly turned into reality. With every touch, she liberated my soul and released me from the agony that I had been living for a while. In the early dawn of contentment, I lay beguiled by the firmament of her beauty, attempting to prolong last night's magic and thus refusing any exchange of words. As the sun began to rise, so did she, bidding me farewell with three kisses on my cheek. I couldn't wait for the night to return so that I could see her again, and tonight, I decided would be dedicated to knowing Avantika. All her likes and dislikes, I wanted to know them all. And above all I was dying to ask her things about us, and how were we to move forward.

When I returned from work the house felt a little strange, a few women had gathered along the gateway, whispering in hushed tones. Eager to escape from the court area and eager to know whether Avantika had returned as well, I was a little exasperated by the people blocking my way. I unconcernedly asked Radhika, who stood nearest to me, why was everyone assembled there. She told me some girl from our house was shot by a client. It was rare but nothing unheard of, many of us are careless enough to get entangled in the affairs of clients with criminal influence. I asked Radhika about the unfortunate girl to which she replied they were gathered there waiting for Rana who was taken by the police to identify the body. Rana had an arrangement with the city police and in the occurrence of such an event along with the loss of an employee, he’d end up losing a considerable sum of money to legally suppress the matter. I began to worry about Avantika, and I instantly regretted overhearing someone say that it was an obsessive client who killed the girl when she discontinued seeing him. I almost choked on this ambiguous statement and as my body began to shake, I looked for her in the crowd.

Avantika, is our union just as short as that of the moth and the flame? With that thought, I waited for what felt like almost a century.


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