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Wilma ran her hand along her hair and scratched her scalp in the process. She sneezed and slowly removed a tissue paper from her purse. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I must be allergic to something.”
“It’s okay,” said Ishita from across the table. “Do you want some tea or coffee?”
“Coffee would be wonderful, thank you.”
Ishita picked up the phone and ordered coffee.
Wilma wished Ishita had left the office and gone to some cafeteria instead. It would leave Wilma the privacy to think over the fee.
“Now we have to discuss the method of payment,” Ishita said.
Wilma nodded. “Can I use the washroom?”
“Sure. Just along the corridor outside the door. The washroom is at the end.”
In the washroom, Wilma studied her reflection in the mirror. She grabbed the sink and took deep breaths, hoping to strengthen her decision to make the deal. So what if the fee was twice her salary? She had enough savings. And this deal was important. She looked at her reflection and nodded. It’s important to maintain one’s image, she decided.
She went back to the office and handed her cheque to Ishita.
“Your coffee arrived when you were in the washroom,” said Ishita.
“No, I’m fine,” replied Wilma, leaning back in her chair. “When do I have to go underground?”
Ishita perused the photographs of Wilma that Wilma had given her on their previous meeting. “I’ll send you hotel tickets after two days. You’ll be checking in by a fake name. We’ll send you a fake identity card for that. The hotel is in another city so there’s hardly any chance someone will see you.” She looked at Wilma. “Once you check in, make sure your mobile is switched off. And no matter what happens, don’t step out of the room.”
“That’s all right. I’m used to staying alone. I just feel low that I won’t be able to go to Neelima’s New Year’s party this year. I’ve always celebrated New Year’s party with her.”
“Don’t worry, Ma’am. After she sees your party pictures on Facebook, everyone will beg you to hang out with them.”
“Absolutely,” replied Wilma. “Everyone’s going to envy my pictures. I can’t wait to see their reactions.”
“I’ll give you a call tomorrow for the fake identity card.”
“Can you give me a British identity? I’ve always wanted to be British. My friends say I speak in a snobbish British accent. I don’t know where it came from. Maybe sophistication is in my blood or something.”
Ishita laughed. “We only have an American identity on hand. But I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you so much. You’re a sweetheart.” Wilma left the office with joy on her face. She wore her sunglasses and boarded a taxi.
She sat in the back browsing through Facebook on her mobile. She had posted a good-morning status that had received only two likes till now. She turned the mobile off and put it in her purse. Soon she will have two hundred likes. Everyone will envy my pictures when Ishita uploads them on New Year, she thought.
Next day, Wilma received the fake identity parcel. On the day after that, early morning, she quietly opened her door and stepped out of her house. With a small suitcase and a scarf around her face, she walked to the taxi sent by Ishita’s firm. The driver had been instructed to not honk or make any noise. The windows were tinted.
Wilma checked into the hotel room and removed the scarf. She removed her mobile from her purse and called Ishita.
“Good morning, Ma’am,” said Ishita from the other end. “Do you like the hotel room?”
“Absolutely, it’s luxurious.” Wilma pressed her other palm on the soft bed.
“Well, you opted for the Diamond Package so we give you the best service, Wilma, or should I say Bridget?”
“Awww!” Wilma, or Bridget according to her new identity, stretched out on the bed. “My name is amazing. It’s like a dream come true.”