I first saw her getting off the elevator and my heart stood still. It was her very first day with the firm, and she looked every inch a lawyer, a partner, no less. On second look I wasn’t all that impressed. I’m used to doing lawyers, even partners. I saw a thirtyish Indian woman with pale skin three shades lighter than mine, skinny maybe, but still pretty. She wore a dark blue, aggressively stylish yet professional power suit, like all lady lawyers, as if it would be an insult to both of us if she cut my balls off while wearing anything frumpy.
I also saw the hunger. She’d been hiding it so long, she probably didn’t even notice.
I thought, This one’s gonna be a pushover.
But my sex demon senses picked up something else. A whiff of the old country? The hairs on my arms stood up.
It had been sixteen days since I last got laid. Maybe I was being hypersensitive.
She had good legs. She hadn’t acquired that lumpy look around the middle some Indian women get after a certain age. Probably plenty flexible. Good thing. I had moves that called for flexibility.
The senior partner introduced her to everyone in the reception area. I didn’t expect to be included, but the old bat was showing off how Bentwater Coralaine was the foremost civil rights firm in Chicago and everyone had personhood. I put on my humble face when my turn came, dead last of course.
“And this cheerful young fellow is Kamadeva, our mailroom manager. He also handles bulk copying and supplies, if you ever need a pencil or a thumb drive.” The old senior partner winked at me. “In a pinch, he’ll bring you coffee.”
Something about the new partner’s humorless face and condescending glance made me want to poke at her.
I pouted. “Ayo, for a pinch from you, I vould get you more than just cauffee,” I fluted in a fresh-off-boat accent.
The new partner turned shocked eyes to me. After all, sixty percent of our billable hours came from sexual harassment litigation.
I put my hands up in apology. “I only made a joke,” I explained, straight-faced.
The old bat shook her white head at me. As they passed into the inner offices, I heard her tell the new partner, “We keep him around to remind us how tempting sexual harassment can be.”
Two hours later, I called the Lair on my break. Baz answered, my only roommate who’s been a sex demon longer than me. I warned him I wasn’t sure what time I’d be home and told him why.
“Another feminist? This time, get all her stats for the monthly report to hell. We get paid extra for seducing those.”
“This will be snaps, yaiss,” I lilted, remembering my cartoon fresh-off-boat act and her fastidious, professional-caste, superior smile when we were introduced.
I ripped open an interoffice envelope addressed to me. Greeting card with puppy on the front. Big lipstick print on the outside. Inside: Thanks, Kama. I was such a mess last month and you really helped. I still miss my dad. But I know I’ll make it now. I fed it through the shredder, smiling.
“‘Snaps?’” Baz said incredulously.
I laid on the FOB accent some more. “I am loving these new jobs for a certainty. I mean real success story. Head of firm one day, see if I am not right.”
I could picture Baz shaking his head. “When will you pick up somebody fun for a change?”
“Funs is my middle name,” I said. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone had come to the counter at the mailroom door, and I amped up the accent. “This job is thee best one yett. I will have itt sewn together by Thursday. End of week at thee latest.”
“You’d better, if you don’t want to spontaneously combust. Twenty-eight days go by fast.”
“Don’t remind me.” I winced.
“But she’s a partner,” Baz said. “Means she can fire you without having to go through HR. Dude, pick women up in bars, not at work.”
“I am not worrying.”
“You never do. You’re a four-hundred-dollar-a-week mail clerk, and she’s pulling down what, six figures?”
I heard a sniff from the doorway. I raised my voice.
“Oah yaiss, six figures this year, seven in the next two years. Trust me. Hard-asses get paid more. You should have more faith in me.”
“Hard-ass,” Baz said with scorn. He proceeded to give me his favorite scold, Don’t shit where you eat. I pretended to listen while I stuck the phone between my shoulder and my ear and turned to my visitor, holding out my hand for the paper she carried.
It was my brand-new partner. She vibrated with energy—ambition? Feminist outrage? All the women here had those. She stood pressing her hands on the counter until her fingers turned white. Something in her eye made me cut my call short.
“I must to go now, love to Papaji, ’bye.” I stuck the phone in my pocket with an apologetic nod. “Moms.” I shrugged. “What can I do for you?” I gave her the dimples.
The new partner leaned toward me. Her glare drilled two eyeholes in me. In a low voice, she hissed, “You should be ashamed.”
That look made me double take. A very old alarm bell inside me began to clang. I forgot to use the accent. “F-for what?”
“For lying to your parents.”
I opened my mouth, but she silenced me with an impatient gesture.
“What’s wrong with you? They spent thousands of dollars getting you over here and they paid for your education and you’re treating this like it’s a semester of backpacking through Europe. What do they do for a living? Don’t tell me.” She sent her Indian girl’s glance over me, probably running my clothes through the cash register in her head.
I looked down at myself and then gave her a What? look. I had on the latest limited-edition Nikes, unlaced, ching, black khakis that hugged my gymnast-perfect rear end, ching, and a chaste navy polo shirt so tight you couldn’t slip a dime between the cuff and my biceps, ching.
She got to the diamond stud in my ear and her eyes widened. Ka-ching. “They’re small-town small business owners, right?”
“They own a drug store in Bangalore,” I confessed. Six thousand years ago. But she was darned good to get that close.
“And what are you doing with their hard-earned money?” she said scornfully. “Delivering pencils?”
“And the mail,” I offered. “Very important in a law firm, timely mail.”
She looked over her shoulder. Of course it was uncool for a partner to be seen talking to the mailroom guy. She must not have seen anybody coming, for she turned on me with both barrels.
“Shame. Shame on you! They put all their hopes into you. They want to be proud of their son. Now they’re going to tell their friends back in Bangalore about this fancy six-figure promotion you’re up for. And the truth is, you can’t afford to send them a dollar, because you blow it all on bling—and the gym.”
I allowed myself another ka-ching. I’ve developed my body just so. Too much muscle puts some women off, but they all like nice abs and nice arms.
I figured I might as well play this hand to the last card. I drooped my head. “Oah, I am wanting always to send them money. But this job does not pay many dollars.”
She snorted. “And you can forget the fake accent. This isn’t The Simpsons and you’re no Apu. Irene Bentwater told me you’ve been over here nearly your whole life.”
“Been back and forth,” I lied.
“Did you even go to college?”
I nodded, trying to look shamefaced, keeping my eyes on the countertop.
Her hands were beautifully kept. I saw a ring on her fourth finger. Huh. She didn’t come across married. Frankly, she came across like a stuck-up heifer.
“You could do better than this,” she said, her voice softening. “How were your grades?”
“Okay,” I mumbled. She smelled great. Very clean, but all girl.
She tapped the counter. “You should be able to do much better with okay grades.”
That ring—I frowned. It looked familiar.
“Kama.” I gave her points for remembering my name, which means love. “Look at me.”
I looked up, letting the puppy eyes do their stuff. I would swear a spark shot between us.
She snorted. “Cute, but you can do better.”
You have no idea, baby. I slumped. “Okay, okay,” I confessed. “I can do better. I just—I don’t know where to start. I kind of backslid after graduation, you know? And I got this job, and it pays okay, and I’ve been having fun—okay, okay!” I blurted, before she could say what she thought of my having fun. “It’s just—what can I do? I don’t think I’m good for much more than—than having fun.”
I looked away and worked my neck muscles awkwardly.
The vibe was running between us like a freight train.
She put one finger under my chin, and wow, the zing. Her eyes softened.
“I think there’s a lot in you.” Our eyes met, and the zing became a deep humming inside that rocked my style. She pulled her finger away and I swear the connection twanged when it broke like a snapped guitar string. “Why don’t you let me buy you coffee, and we’ll look into this more systematically. Bring your transcript.”
“I remember all my courses and grades,” I said, letting hope into my voice.
“Really?” She looked surprised. I nodded. “That’s a good sign.”
I widened my eyes, meeting hers, and the ka-ching hit an all-new high. It wasn’t hard at all to put humble sincerity into my voice. “If I haven’t screwed myself forever.”
She patted my arm. “I’m sure you haven’t screwed yourself forever.” She gave a tiny smile. “Meet me tomorrow with your transcript after the office closes. What do you say?”
I swallowed. “Sure. Uh, thanks.”
She nodded briskly, then handed over her requisition.
I gave it a quick glance. “I’ll have this at your desk by this afternoon.”
She started to walk away.
“Thanks, Ms., uh” —I looked at the form again— “Ms. Singh.” RathiRaani Singh. DesireQueen Warrior. Perfect. “Thank you, ma’am, your majesty.” I risked the dimples.
“You can call me Rathi.” She lifted that forefinger and smiled, this time for real, and walked away.
RathiRaani. Desire queen. Kind of inappropriate for an obvious virgin.
Well, she wouldn’t be for long. I could make her a queen of desire.
That little bell chimed in me again.
Was it possible?
I gave it ten seconds’ consideration.
Naw. No way. She was too stuck-up, too bossy, too much of a lawyer.
But oh, she made me zing.
Holy summer sunshine. My heart was pounding way too hard for lawyer poon. This was rock-star fibrillation. I took her req back to my worktable and started pulling pencils and yellow pads. Coffee tomorrow, score Wednesday.
I decided not to hit the singles bar. My queen of desire was worth the wait.