Preeti stood rooted to the floor. . Her tears flowed freely as the banging of his door vibrated throughout the house. What just happened? Why did he scream at her? She had always known him to be caring and polite irrespective of his mood at the time. She had never seen him yell or throw a fit… But what was this? She had just asked him a simple question…she had the right to know it all. Was this his real persona?
She had been sleeping after a tiring journey from Kota when some kind of a sound, as if someone had called her out…had woken her. But she was so used to having nightmares of the weirdest kinds she didn’t know if she could rely on her senses when awake…
She had gotten off the bed and opening the door had walked down the stairs. The faint sound was getting a bit clearer. Someone was calling her name…in distress. Was it Gautam? She had thought with fear. Was he in some kind of trouble? As she had walked into the drawing room the voices had stopped… Oh God was she hallucinating? She had held her head with her left hand and had hoped she didn’t need a psychiatrist someday… she had started to confuse dreams with reality. She was about to turn and return when Gautam had asked what she was doing there. She had been scared out of her wits. He had thought she couldn’t see him well but her eyes had adjusted to the darkness by then. He was sweating all over… he was only in his boxers and that open coat… she was silenced. But why the sweat… was he working out at this hour? He also seemed in some kind of pain. She didn’t need any light to read his stormy eyes. If only he would share what was troubling him… She had tried coaxing him and then he had yelled at her. Her chest clenched not because he said that, she realised. She was feeling his pain…his agony. How could she help him? She thought about that as she wiped her cheeks and climbed the stairs. She wanted to apologise so that it would calm him further instead of shutting him off. She walked towards his room and heard the gut wrenching sobs… Oh my God… Gautam… his anguish was palpable. She almost knocked at the door. But realised he needed his solitude.
But only till morning Gautam … she had thought. She felt determined. She would speak with him tomorrow… let him yell his lungs out…she would have her answers tomorrow. She would put her life on the line if needed but she would reduce his pain…
She didn’t know how long she had slept. She woke up with the sound of the front door being shut. As she stretched on the bed carefully to avoid hurting her injured hand, she heard a vehicle start and leave. Wait… did he leave the house? She scampered to the window. By the time she struggled to open the latch and peep outside she saw Gautam on the driver’s seat, speaking to Bhim Singh near the gate and pulling up the window. He then drove out. Did he run away…as usual? She was disappointed. All for her tall self-claims of talking to him…
She realised she was feeling much better than before physically. She was tired of lying in bed and also wanted to get off the day old clothes. She smiled as she untied the beautiful butterfly knots at her shoulder and released the hotel robe that he had customised for her. He was so resourceful, she thought. She had removed her sling and luckily today she was able to straighten her hand. The pain was there but bearable. She decided not to take her painkillers. They made her drowsy… She also had to try to write because whatever it was, she wanted to sign those documents …if that meant peace of mind for Gautam. She wanted him back… She had a quick bath taking care not to wet the bandage and changed into fresh pair of clothes. She walked down to the kitchen and saw a note tucked to the refrigerator. It was written by him she realised seeing the beautiful handwriting. At the same time she worried…remembering the last time he had written such a letter…the day he had probably left for Alwar from Mumbai. She took the letter…
I hope you are feeling better. I have some urgent work and will be gone all day. Will be getting late. Bhim Singh is taking care of the security. Your breakfast is on the counter. Heat it once or ask Bhim Singh to do it. Narmada will be dropping home to give you company and take you to the doctor. 11 AM appointment with Dr. Shekhawat. Don’t be late. Take care and don’t wait up for me.
Preeti teared up. Gautam was still the same. He cared about her she thought taking the letter close to her chest. She had forgotten all about it but he remembered her appointment. He took care of her more than she did herself. If only he would let her reciprocate… But Narmada? He called her all the way from Jaisalmer…the lady was pregnant for God’s sake and had just travelled for the wedding. Just then the doorbell buzzed and she opened the door to a beaming Narmada.
Narmada walked in and gave her a hug. “Good morning Bhabhisa… how are you today? How’s that hand?”
Preeti smiled. “I am good Narmada but you didn’t have to travel all the way in this condition. Gautam is going to hear it from me…”
Narmada laughed her hearty laughter. “Are..na na Bhabhisa… Gaurang and I are still in Alwar. Actually Gaurang is a lawyer and he handles bhai’s estates as well. Today they had an important meeting. So we had stayed back. Gaurang just dropped me here and he will now join bhai. By the way…we have to be at the doctor’s. Did you have breakfast?”
Preeti smiled and invited Narmada to join her. Gautam had prepared quite a lot and she wondered when he woke up to do all this? Especially after sleeping so late last night… Narmada and she enjoyed the breakfast and she felt light hearing her constant chatter. She was thankful to Gautam to have arranged for Narmada to be here.
She was still smiling when they later landed in Dr. Shekhawat’s clinic. He examined the wound and redressed it. He said she was healing well and didn’t need the sling anymore. He gave her light exercises to keep the hand moving and get the muscles working again. Later Bhim Singh, who had driven them to the doctor, dropped them at a local restaurant. Narmada and she had a fun time over lunch where they discussed everything from the climate to politics to food. She was amazed at how much Narmada knew. Must be brilliant like her brother she thought.
Narmada and she visited a local museum with Bhim Singh who was keeping a distance and watching over them. The museum was small but depicted the history of Alwar. She was in awe…thinking she had never been here till she was in Bhiwadi. Narmada was a huge fan of history and was engrossed in reading the plaques below. Preeti however was bored by now and rested on a nearby sofa. Suddenly her phone buzzed. She checked an incoming text. It was from a private number.
‘This time the bullet won’t graze…it would be a shot to kill… DO NOT SIGN THE PAPERS…’
She sat upright with a jolt. So, the bullet was for her… but who the hell was this?
She was thinking when the phone buzzed again. It was another text from the private number.
‘Don’t think of doing anything in the sly. My eyes are on you all the time. BTW… blue colour suits you…’
She almost dropped the phone and stood looking around. She didn’t find anything out of ordinary. She looked down at her blue outfit. She was shivering with fear when Narmada approached her. “What happened Bhabhisa?” concern marring her beautiful features.
Preeti didn’t want to involve Narmada. She shook her head and said… “I..um I was day dreaming… shall we go home?”
Narmada looked at her for a moment and then they left the museum. Even after they reached home later, Preeti couldn’t shake off the fear of having been watched. Who was this person?
Narmada prepared coffee for them while Preeti changed into comfortable clothes and they sat at the dining table.
“How are things between you and bhai..?”
Preeti looked up at her startled. Narmada’s eyes were filled with worry. She continued. “..Um..I am sorry bhabhisa I didn’t mean to intrude… But I worry for bhai.”
Preeti saw that Narmada was genuinely worried for Gautam and a little pang of jealousy hit her as she thought she knew nothing about her husband while his sister here knew him so well.
“Actually Bhabhisa… bhai has been through so much…” she looked away lost in thought. “…I never thought he would ever find happiness…” She turned back to Preeti and placed her palm on hers. “…But Bhabhisa…I am glad he found you.” Narmada’s eyes teared up and she blinked them away.
Preeti was surprised to see Narmada like this. “Narmada, your bhai never speaks out his heart isn’t it? I wish I could know what’s troubling him…”
“Bhabhisa…I don’t know if you know anything about our childhood… If you did then you would know why he is… like this.”
“Narmada…If you don’t mind… can you tell me? I want to know and understand this enigma who is my husband… who is so caring and who has bottled up so much inside him….and the man that I love more than life itself…” Narmada came up to Preeti and hugged her.
“Thank you Bhabhisa… I am so relieved… come lets go to the drawing room. There’s a lot I have to tell you…”
Preeti followed Narmada to the drawing room. She had a mixture of emotions. Happy that she would finally get to know something about Gautam but still unsure if she would actually be able to enter his heart…
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