Part 13There was a conniving undertone highlighted in this man's smile that Ram's eyes were not to keen on seeing, especially if was directed towards his Priya. Following the man's gaze Ram looked at the ground, which seemed to be fueling the cunning smile he shamelessly adorned. Gripping Priya's phone tightly he unleashed his rage violently on it seeing the paper, on which he had signed away his greatest accomplishment, laying invaluably on the ground behind her. A new shade of emotion flickered violently from the flames set off inside of him watching the love of his life in the arms of another man. His heart tightened in his chest constricting the space that was left for it to beat. Standing at edge of the last step up the stairs he scanned his nightmare without blinking, facing his fear head on and trying to be strong notwithstanding the fact that her deception could shatter the vulnerable threshold of his destruction.
"Priya it's so good to see you" elation in his voice was at its peak as he sweet-talked the initiation of the conversation peeling himself off of Priya.
Boldly her feet graced the ground behind her. Now that she was free from his unwelcome clamp onto her unexpecting body she took matters into her own hands, curing her uneasiness by widening the crack of space that he had defined between them. "Hi Ashwin what a surprise!" Amplifying her voice, she hoped to conceal her lack of interest in his presence. "When did you get back from America?"
Hissing, he aimed to rush past the formalities with bigger questions unrightfully stinging his interest. " This evening!! I came to your apartment to meet you but uncle said that you went out?" Intonating the last two words he steered clear and headed straight to the meaty details that itched his curiousity.
He blindly drove the conversation unsuspecting of the fact that she had a map stretched out on her lap from the beginning. She anticipated the next destination, "none-of-your-business" ville the capital city of "It's-my-life-so-buzz-off".
"My husband took me out for dinner. He arranged his whole office for me, it was the best dinner with the best person, Mr.Kapoor." Mustering up her nerves she smothered his diabetic tastebuds with the sweetest, indigestible account of her whereabouts. Automatically and unconsciously like the blink of his eyes, she redeemed herself greatly rising from the sea of doubts that Ram's subconscious had lathered her in.
But Ashwin's persistence followed fueled by the awareness of her publicized relationship, which was ample insulin to her prior verbal injection of glucose. Snapping back at Priya like an elastic band stretched beyond its capacity, Ashwin snorted, "Out? With your husband? Than what are doing back here and where is this lucky husband of yours?" He strip searched Priya with his beady eyes, gazing the length of her figure as if the truth lay neatly tucked underneath the invisible stitches of her skin patched together with perfection.
Priya knew Ashwin very well; despite him being in her circle of close friends from University, she never really liked him that much. Beyond having casual conversations she actively avoided any interaction with him. There was always a disgusting vibe that exuded from his freaky, stalkerish nature whenever he was around her. And due to her friend Shruti's amateur crush on this slime-ball, she found herself around him more often than she would have liked. No manners were ever evidently instilled in him. He spoke out inappropriately fortifying gossips and prying like he was a tool designated for that job.
But alas, like always, she tickled his fancy guided by her friendly personality, which she would often feel was a curse in his presence. Sometimes she wished that she had the ability to ignore an irritating individual like Ashwin and not feel her guilt consuming her conscience. But once more she failed in her effort, replying nicely, "No it's not like that Ashwin� I love my husband a lot and he loves me too. Mr. Kapoor is so understanding, he granted my wish without me even asking. Ayesha is set to get married and that too, to Mr. Kapoor's younger brother. We both raised our siblings like they were our own children and so he found it apt that I stay with Ayesha giving her my undivided attention."
Scratching the side of his head with one finger he stimulated his sinister mind preparing the fake enactment of a remorse that he would reflect in his expression after digging up a topic that at this moment was uncalled for. "Priya I am happy that Ayesha is getting married. But it must be hard to celebrate so soon after your own child has passed away."
Completely disarming and equally alarming her with his words her insides curled up in a fetal position trying to shield herself from the anguish ridden thought. Ashwin continued his onslaught, "Ram really should not have played with you like that. I feel so bad for you. You never wished any harm on anyone and yet destiny etched the most painful lines on your soft, delicate palms, which always stuck up in protest of injustice. And now that the effects of injustice is melting off the walls of your heart god is silently witnessing it all."
The last sting from his words slapped Priya's heavy heart making her review her control over the incident by replaying the events of that night painfully in her disturbed mind. Ram's nostril flared in anger, he strode furiously past his emotionally paralyzed wife sensing her despair that matched the turmoil in his heart. Karmically inclined his well-padded fleshy palm sliced the air as it rose and landed on Ashwin's face in one consistent motion. The impact from his hard slap echoed thunderously clapping of the walls of the corridor and into Priya's ears replacing her feeling of comatose with trepidation. Advancing towards Ashwin with his rioting feelings getting the best of him Ram curled his long fingers around Ashwin's collar fisting his washed out blue shirt around his neck chokingly. "Who the hell do you think you are? How dare you even mention my daughter from your dirty mouth? And how dare you put your hands on my wife?" Ram's words wedged itself through the miniscule opening of his gritted teeth. "Get of me man!" Ashwin commanded squirming unsuccessfully to free himself from Ram's aggressive grip. Ram did the opposite and replied immaturely, "And what if I don't? What will you do? You're so curious about my relationship with my wife right? Well than ask me?" He offered him a mirage of freedom to ponder.
Finally digging through the blur of confusion Priya's trembling fingers touched on either side of Ram's muscular arm, tugging at it as she spoke in intervention, "Mr. Kapoor� Please stop it! What are you doing? Are you crazy? Leave him Mr. Kapoor�"
Not fazing him enough to let go, he acknowledged her words justifying his action. "Don't stop me Priya� Today he insulted you and our daughter� And now I am begging him to insult me if he has the guts�Come on Ashwin, ask me about my child, ask me about my relationship with my wife?"
"Mr. Kapoor, leave him� He did not say anything wrong. Thanks to you the whole world knows that our past was not perfect. Now stop ruining our future by acting like this� Please for gods sake. STOP IT!!" she escalated her tone providing him with a pill of truth to big for him to swallow, defending her friend, whose intentions were spoiled and this fact was not hidden from her. Ram's hands loosened and his numb arms lethargically fell to his sides unable to carry the burden of her hate any further. "Priya, I don't like this man one bit and I don't want you to be around him�" He spoke warning her of the negativity of the unforeseeable future that he was able to sense.
"Mr. Kapoor I am not a child that I would need permission from you about who I can and can't be around� And Ashwin is one of my oldest friends�" Her hate put false words in her mouth, propping Ashwin on a non-existent level in her mind and strengthening their mediocre friendship.
"I am your husband�Does that mean anything to you anymore?" he retorted, drowning her reflection in the depths of his chocolate brown eyes.
"Yes it means something to me and we both know why that is so." she countered ruthlessly, blurring her own reflection in his eyes as it watered. She knew he was pissed this was the same reaction that she received in the beginning of their frugal marriage. Tiny veins engorged reddening his eyes but the watery effect was a first even after the many fights that they had; his eyes scorched the veins in it's dryness never making any attempts to quench it. And here she thought she knew him inside out.
"Priya I've seen people like him� And you really should be more careful. If you don't believe me than trust your intuition. I know it agrees with me but don't foolishly neglect it because of that." The pores of his eyes soaked the wetness drinking it up until the only thing that was visibly displayed in the after effects, was sincerity. Leaning behind her he picked up her condition, glaring at Ashwin, knowing all to well his intentions, the greed was written all over his expression when he had hugged her. Grimacing at the thought he quivered silently trying to shake the disgust and fiery out of his system. "This is confidential Priya..." She took the document from him wondering how it ended up on the floor. In fact she was placing it in her purse when she had bumped in to Ashwin, literally. "Here is your phone�you dropped it in the car." he stated plainly without a shred of emotion to communicate the turbulence stirring in his broken heart. There was something about the way in which Priya fought with him today that rubbed him the wrong way. Earlier in the evening he had felt her love and longing that she was trying to conceal but right now he witnessed her sheer, uncensored and raw hate which was spewed with such intensity that it made him doubt whether she actually loved him or not.
Without objecting a word more he walked away slowly, she watched sadly. Ashwin's cowardice vanished from the moment Ram turned his back he opportunistically struck while the iron was hot. "I'm so sorry Priya. I didn't mean to hurt you with my questions. As one of your closest friends I wanted you to confide in me. It's the least I can do�Anyways, I was wondering if tomorrow you were free at 7pm? You, Shruti and I can go out for dinner just like old times. What say?"
Ram froze in his tracks, turned his head sideways and waited for Priya's response. Her answer clawed his already wounded heart, exactly as she had planned it to. "Sure I would love too." Hearing his confirmation that she indeed did not love him, he resumed his exit stomping each step attempting to crumble the ground beneath him punishingly.
The night passed at an excruciatingly unbearable pace. Both Ram and Priya skipped dinner full from each other's words more so than the dinner that they each played with. Their families waited anxiously for their arrival but they were neglected for the most part and only allowed in on the details that would affect them.
"Tomorrow morning the Kapoor's are coming over with the marriage proposal."
"Priya and I have decided to try marriage counseling to see if our marriage is worth salvation."
Questions were probed but refuted using the same excuse, "Ouch! My head is hurting and it's kind of late. Tomorrow, we have an early morning so I suggest we all go to sleep. Good night."
The trend of silence continued the next morning. Scarcity of words made everyone use their sentences wisely. No one formulated any questions that they knew they wouldn't receive an answer too. Sharma's worked tediously in preparation for the arrival of the Kapoor's whom they weren't the greatest fans of. Everyone was warned beforehand not to mention the bitter past with a special memo for Karthik and Shipra, who were both extremely agitated about Priya's sudden decision to give Ram a second chance when she was nearing the escape from her scam of a marriage.
Everything was done with much grandeur given the limited notice. The Kapoor's arrived punctually as usual� The proposal was perfect with one exception, a void that Priya felt more than the others. Ram never showed up and his mom claimed that he had to attend an important meeting that was suddenly arranged. But Priya's heart refused to accept that as the truth especially given the fact that his mom looked directly at her when she answered the question even though Priya was not the one who raised the issue. Compliments floated in the stiff, tension filled atmosphere mingling with the aroma of the food that Priya had prepared. Blessings were sought and exchanged. But Ram's absence was a void that asphyxiated the hollows of Priya's heart. She continued to glance periodically at the door anticipating and praying for his arrival, but this time even god sent her back empty handed. The engagement date was set for two days later and on that sweet note, the Kapoor's left for their mansion and Priya kept waiting but Ram never bothered to come.
Priya stood stubbornly by the open window submerged in the chilled wind that tortured her shivering spine. She sneezed for the fifth time, refusing to grab a shawl from her wardrobe. There was no way that she could feel sicker at this point, thinking about how rude she was with Ram the night before. It had an insomniac effect on her and now she tried to justify the reason behind her action to herself, the toughest judge who remained unsatisfied. Another gush of cold wind rushed in through the window making Priya's teeth clatter in compensation. She hugged herself wrapping her arms loosely across her chest. Rubbing her palms against her bumpy skin she created enough friction to heat up the upper portion of her arms.
"You are so damn stubborn." she heard a familiar voice behind her but before she could turn around to verify she was immersed in the strong embrace of her love. His arms wrapped snuggly around her waist as his broad shoulders curled inwards sheltering her upper body within him acting like a shawl but much warmer. Prickling the side of her face with his rough unshaven cheek he nuzzled his way down to the crook of her neck placing a gentle kiss precisely in that region before his chin rested on her shoulder gazing out the window with her.
"Mr. Kapoor?" She moved her head closer to his, feeling him nudge it slightly, meeting her halfway.
"I missed you so much today."
"Oh really?" he teased in a seductive tone, pulling her tighter into her embrace.
"Any doubts?" she teased back allowing him to mold her within his secure frame.
"Many doubts Priya�I thought you hated me?" he whispered making the guilt erupt inside of her again.
She tried to turn around but his hold was too tight and quite frankly she did not want to disturb the warmth and closeness of his body, missing her natural heat source greatly.
"The only thing I hate is how madly I love you�" Desperation was audible not only in her voice but also in the quickening pace of her heart�
"What's there to hate in that? Just let your heart loose it will be in safe hands." He suggested.
"Do you really love me?" She asked, her mind invading their romantic encounter.
"More than my life�if you want I can prove it� But if I succeed than I will never get to hear you say that you believe me." He whispered the fact and felt her squirm at the thought.
"Please don't say that�I never knew that love would be so strong�But today I know I can't live without you�so please don't you dare speak like that again." her plea turned into a demand, feeling his heart beating against her back, his presence reassuring.
"But Priya you CAN live without me and you ARE living without me. Turn around and see for yourself sweetheart� I live only in your fantasies because in reality you have shunned me, giving me the ultimate punishment for my mistakes, our separation and your hate." His hold instantly became extinct. The cold wind smacked against her face, attacking her while she stood vulnerable and disarmed.
Finally, she pivoted greeting the empty room in front of her anxiously, in hopes for better results. Alas reality sank its sharp, destructive teeth in to her beautiful and vivid daydream as her phone vibrated excitedly on her night table. She ran to it, still high on his rich, musky cologne that was a treat for her longing senses. "Enough is enough!" She thought influenced by the desire to see him. "I am going to apologize�I have to tell him that I love him that I can't live without him, that I see him in my dreams, day and night. I have to tell him�that I want him and need him more than he is probably even capable of giving me."
"Mr. Kapoor, I love you!" She stated in a hurry, given the rarity of this moment. The speaker of the phone firmly sealed the entrance of her ear as every nerve in her body froze in anticipation for his response�