Deepak lay back on the sofa, freshly lit joint in hand and naked as the day he was born. Looking out of the fourth floor window, London hummed and bustled in the night. Even at this late hour, the city was full of buses, taxis and groups of people moving from pubs to clubs to drink and dance the working week away.
Deepak felt around on the floor to the side of the sofa and located his glass of red wine. Taking a large gulp he thought about his week just past. Deepak owned a number of corner shops that he had staff working in. He didn't like to call it a chain of stores as he found the phrase distasteful. Chain stores were the first step on a slippery slope to losing any identity at all. Deepak insisted to all his staff that the way to repeat sales was personal service. Get to know your customers and their buying habits. Be friendly and interested in them. If you don't have what they want today, get it by tomorrow or sooner. He had come a long way from selling pretty much whatever he could lay his hands on in Brick Lane Market and sleeping in a YMCA. He made enough money to keep him in a very nice apartment in Shoreditch where it was all very hip and happening of late.
Deepak (or Dee as his friends called him) left Milton and the safe confines of his mother and fathers shop for the bright lights of London when he was 19. His parents wanted him to take on the shop when he was older, but Dee had his own plans about making his fortune. He took all his savings, a rucksack full of clothes and a bicycle on the 90 minute train ride to London and went for it. He was very competitive and discovered very early that he had a knack for wheeling and dealing. Even when he was in school, he would often take twenty or thirty packs of loose sweets to the yard before school from his parents shop. There were say twenty sweets in each paper bag which he would sell for the princely sum of 15 pence. For every bag he sold, his father would give him a 5 pence cut. That's how he made his pocket money. Eventually, he ran a concession of his parents newsagent in the school yard. Kids would place orders for magazines and stationery. Parents would send their children to school with notes for the weekly paper deliveries. Teachers cottoned on to it as well and he would often be laden with daily papers, magazines and packets of cigarettes which he would deliver around the school before sweet sale before morning registration. When the Mr Jones, the school head decided that a tuck shop might be a good idea, Deepak was the first person he turned to. His knowledge of prices and lightning quick maths were legendary. Deepak Ghosh was one of, if not the, most popular kid in New Hill High School.
Business was ticking over very well. His accountant was making noises about expansion outside of London. Taking the Deepak's brand all around the country. That was a big step and required thinking about, hence the joint. Taking a very big toke and holding it in his lungs before blowing it out in a grey-white cloud, he decided to think about it tomorrow.
Once again he felt around the floor for the remote control for the audio system he prized above all his other posessions. It was custom built for his apartment and as long as he had the remote control, music followed him all over his abode. Deepak's music collection was his real passion, on his rare days off he could be found in record shops and fairs searching for obscure early house white labels, prog rock first issues, limited edition singles and EP's. In another life, he dreamed of being a late night radio DJ. Right now, he thought that Portisheads Glory Box might be a good accompaniment to the cannabis. After thirty seconds, he decided he was right.
There was a pile of mail on the floor to be gone through. He noticed an invitation to the New Hill reunion. It sounded like a grand idea. He still kept in touch with a couple of old mates from Newey and made a point of looking them up for a quick pint when he did return home to see his parents. He padded over to his laptop to RSVP thinking that it might be fun to take a few packets of sweets to the event. People would love that, the nostalgia of it all.
On the desk his laptop generally lived on was an old photograph of a young woman. She was probably about 22 and sitting at a teachers desk at Milton High School. She was mixed race, afro carribean and white. Black curly hair cascading down her shoulders and brilliant blue eyes. Her face showed surprise of being snapped at her desk but with a grin of a joke shared. Elaine Jarvis' photo was fading a little now after all these years, but to Deepak, it was like being transported back to the moment when he took it. Elaine took delivery of Ebony magazine from the states once a month from Deepak and one morning he was cheeky enough to snap the photo. It was a slice of time and Elaine's' face was all the time you needed in Deepak's opinion. Her death in the fire was heartbreaking to all, but it cut a little deeper with him. You see, Elaine and Deepak's relationship had been occasionally... extra curricular. No one knew and it was only a few times in his last year at school, but even now Deepak still held a torch of sorts. All the women he had met and spent time with since then were unfairly compared to Elaine and as a result none of his relationships lasted much longer than a year. He pressed buttons on the remote control and momentarily Rod Stewart sang Cat Stevens' The First Cut is the Deepest. He was right too.