After three months
Namrata typed away the invoice details and took a print out. She handed it over to the store manager Mr Patel. “Thanks Namrata, why don’t you go and have lunch?” the bespectacled balding manager Patel bhai told her. She nodded and pulled down the shutter of the general store half way through. Patel bhai slowly shuffled with help of his walker and went to his adjoining little office to nap like he did daily. It was 1PM. Namrata opened her tiffin box and started to eat. She didn’t have an appetite these days but … Everything around her reminded her of him. And then how he trampled on her heart….
Her eyes fell on the day’s newspaper. She picked it up and opened it.
Ranvijay Mehrotra Vindicated….
About three months after the largest coup took place…. Fraud amounting to crores of rupees… The late Premnath Chopra…. His daughter Smriti charged with money laundering….
….Past incident involving late Premnath Chopra…. Suvarna guddi jewellery group….fraud.
RM industries win both tenders in absence of PC Infotech which has been dissolved…
Tears streamed down her eyes as she read and re read the news article on the front page. She was finally relieved.
Immediately after the tender fiasco and the scene at Smriti’s office she had started looking for a job. James had helped her find this job. It didn’t pay much but it offered her other perks like daily lunch sent by Mrs. Patel and time for her to study. She wanted to complete her MBA. James had helped her with the fees and she had promised to repay him once she got a job. She had just started the distance learning program. Mr and Mrs. Patel owned a departmental store in the far end of the town. Since the distance was more, Namrata stayed back most days. The Patels were a childless couple and Mr. Patel was handicapped after an accident. She helped them with the invoices, accounting at the end of the day and inventories. She also helped Mrs. Patel in her kitchen whenever the flow of customers was lean. The Patels doted on her. Especially since last month when she skipped her period… Her abdominal cramping had been caused by the conception and stress.
Namrata touched her belly which was yet to show. Her mother knew but left the decision to her. She never had second thoughts about keeping it. She was sure the baby was conceived on the day Ranvijay had declared his love for her. Everything seemed so surreal now… He probably wanted nothing to do with her anymore… she wondered if she should tell him about the baby. But she decided to wait for a while. She wanted to clear her head which was still mush. She didn’t want anything from him but wanted to give him a chance to know his child someday and vice versa.
Nirmay got a scholarship on clearing an exam by armed forces. He would join college there next year after completing his tenth grade. She was so proud it hurt. He was working as an errand boy at Sanjana’s café after school. She didn’t want him to but he insisted. Her sobs increased as she thought of her brother and how matured he was for his age.
Her mother worked as a supervisor at the NGO driving home a small stipend but collectively they managed comfortably… Her mother managed household chores fairly well with a little help from NIrmay and occasionally from her. She often got provisions for home from the Patels. Overall it was going fine…
But she missed him… she craved his touch… the feel of his lips… She often cried herself to sleep at night…thinking about him.
Namrata sighed. She had been following the news coverage in the initial days but for the past month or so the media was not very interested and their attention was focussed elsewhere. But today the papers were filled with this latest news. She wondered how Ranvijay pulled this through. Her mother apparently had more confidence on him. They had never discussed him after that evening. She only wished she could tell him her side of the story. That she had been a fool of the greatest order. She was also upset with him for not giving her a benefit of doubt… for not trusting her enough…
As she finished the last invoice for the day, it was 8PM. The Patels had to attend a family wedding in Baroda. They had left about an hour ago. They had requested her to stay back for a couple of days to take care of the store and feed their cat. She was only too happy. She wanted to be alone….
That night she sat for studying. A ritual she had been pursuing for last couple of months. It was raining heavily outside. The July monsoons used to be her favourite but these days she didn’t like anything….
The doorbell rang. The Patels lived on the first floor above their store. She often stayed in the adjacent room to their flat. She wondered who it could be. The Patels never had visitors. Why would someone come when they weren’t there? She saw the time. It was 11pm. She was scared and protectively touched her belly as she often did these days.
The doorbell rang again. She looked around and found a wooden stick used for drying clothes. She held it and went to the door. She looked through the peephole but it was too dark to see anything. “Who…who is it?” she asked.
There was no answer but the doorbell rang again with a knock on the door. She took her phone and dialled 100 and opened the door. She almost dropped the phone… it was him.
Before the phone fell he caught it and cut the call. He walked in and closed the door gently behind him. He was dripping wet… how long was he in the rain? Her heart was thudding and she couldn’t say a word… her throat was clogged and she was trying to hold back tears…
He came close to her. He was in a white shirt which now was stuck to his toned body and black trousers which was dripping water on the floor. His hair was plastered to his head and he rubbed his hand over his face to clear the water… She missed him so much that she only kept looking at him, rooted to the floor. He came closer and lifted her chin with his finger. “My little sparrow…” he whispered and gave a peck on her lips. She pushed him away.
“WHY…. Why are you here?” she cried out. As he tried to get closer she held her hand up. She was breaking inside but she had to put a front. She looked at him with accusing eyes… she saw him clearly then. He was haggard as if he had not slept for days… he had become thinner as well. Was he not eating well? How did he manage to do what he did?
She had many questions at the tip of her tongue. But first… he had to get dried. She went to the cupboard, took out a towel and held it in front of him.
“…Here… take this. Get out of those clothes. You will… catch a cold….I… will get you something hot.” She gave him the towel and went to the adjoining little kitchen. She checked what was there. She had kept some milk which she heated. She added a pinch of turmeric and a little honey and got it for him. He had taken off his clothes and had tied the towel around his hips. Her heart skipped a beat. He may have worn rags and he would still be desirable to her. “Take this…” she gave him the glass. “…drink it up…” He took the glass and consumed the milk his eyes not leaving hers even for a second as if she might disappear. He kept the glass on the table and came towards her. He stood eyeing her with longing in his eyes…
Her heart was overflowing with strong emotions and she was being pulled towards him like a magnet. Amidst tears she said softly, “…it… it wasn’t me… It was Smriti and ….”
“…I know that sweetheart…” He interrupted. “…. And by now you too must know about Premnath and your…father…”
She nodded… “I was hurt… alright? When… you accused me…” her voice cracked
“…I am sorry sweetheart… the circumstances surrounding what had happened… I was a mess and when i found out the leak was from you… I lost it… just lost it… I have always been betrayed in my life… so I was always extra careful … till I met you. With you around I let caution to the wind. I trusted you blindly….” He rubbed a hand over his face. “… When my technical team did a close check of everything around my house they found traces of transmission during the time you were there… it was unbelievable but the… the proof was undeniable….”
She was silent as she took in what he said. Then she said, “… It was Premnath who had planned everything… that mic was designed by him…”
“Yes…I… got to know that later… He was a disillusioned old man”
“Hmm…” She nodded and turned around hugging herself… She was a nervous wreck.
He came closer and hugged her from behind. He hid his face in her hair as he took a deep breath. She tilted her head to her side and he kissed her neck exactly the way she had wanted… had craved. He turned her around and held her by her shoulders. “My little sparrow…these months spent without you… has been a living hell. Please… please forgive me darling… There was not a day when I didn’t want to rush back to you…But it was not just getting back my company but also I had to clear your name… and fulfil a small dream of your father’s.”
“What…what dream?” She was confused…
“That’s a surprise for later darling… for now I can’t… stay away a minute longer…” saying he pulled her to him and claimed her lips.
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