Once she reached the house, Khushi ran upstairs to her room, locked her door and threw herself on the bed, hugging the pillow and chanting, “He’s not here. He’s not here. He had said he doesn’t care for me. I don’t feel anything for him. I hate him after what he’s done to me. He’s not here. He’s not here.”
How long she sat there calming herself with her pep talk, she did not know. It was only when darkness surrounded her that she realized it was late evening. Regaining her senses, she got up and went to the bathroom. After splashing a lot of water on her face, she got dressed for dinner. She had missed tea and she was sure that grandmother and Payal must be wondering where she was.
When she came down, all was quiet. Was there no one in the house then? Where was everyone? She went into the kitchen and helped herself to a plate full of jalebis. Coming out, she called out loud, “Grandma, Payal, Lalita, what’s up with everyone?”
On the dining table was a note. She recognized the hand writing. The note was written by Payal. “Sankadevi, you know how to worry us, don’t you!!! Lalita mentioned that you may have gone to get veggies from the market while taking Sophie for a walk. Before leaving, we saw Sophie in her cosy kennel so am assuming you’re in your room, napping. We’ve gone out for a bit and shall be back soon. Do not start the dinner without us. We shall be home soon! Help yourself to some jalebis if you want.” Payal
Khushi read the note and sighed while a soft smile played around her mouth. Yeah, so they’d leave her all alone and go to- a frown touched her brow. Where would have they gone to exactly? She shrugged her shoulders after a moment, relaxing. They must have surely gone to one of grandma’s friends. That old lady could never sit still for sure! Khushi grinned at the thought while she munched on the jalebis and switched on the TV and earned some chuckles while watching Comedy Central.
The phone rang down the living room hall. Khushi got up, picked it and absent-mindedly said “Gupta residence.”
There was a pause at the other end and then gently but firmly the voice said, “May I talk to Payal please?”
Khushi dropped her plate of jalebis as she heard the voice. Shock had her voice frozen.
“Hello? Can you hear me? May I speak to Mrs. Payal Raizada please?” A pause, “This is Arnav Singh Raizada calling.”
Khushi’s vocal cords refused to cooperate as her fears were confirmed. Arnav was calling for Payal here. “He knows!” Her mind screamed with panic while her heart rate went soaring high in the sky. She tried to speak but it was impossible.
“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there at the other end Goddamnit! Speak up!” Arnav’s voice came through loud and clear, annoyed at this non-response.
Khushi could take it no more. She hung up the phone as tears gathered in her eyes. How could fate be so cruel! Why would he call here! Why would he do this to her! Had he not done enough? Had it not been enough that she had left every one she loved, when she had to leave him for his sake!
“I do not want a woman who thinks it is fair to play the field, that I will allow her to sleep with another while I’m away. Had you played your cards right, I might have married you since I lust after your delicious body but now I know I don’t need to. I can have you without tying myself to you. If he wants you, he can have you AFTER I do.”
Khushi shuddered as she remembered the last meeting with Arnav. She still saw him when she closed her eyes and thought about him. His eyes had shone with disgust and anger, his body posture defining his revulsion; as if he couldn’t bear to share the same space, breathe the same air as she did. The way he had caught hold of her arms, bruising her. Cruelty that had dripped down his tongue and those lips that – it was all etched in her memory- his words, his anger, his hatred and what happened after…… NO! She will not think about it, never ever again! Get a grip Khushi, deep breaths!
The doorbell rang before Khushi could gather her wits. Numb from this encounter, she went to open the door.