A couple is drifting apart due to mutual distrust and ego.
Anirudh watched his wife Christy prepare herself for her lover. She always dressed with great care for these occasions. Today she had put on an elegant knee length suit and very little make-up. Her long blonde hair was tied in a bun and she was wearing the usual perfume she preferred for these meetings. Perhaps, it was her lover’s favorite. He could not help feeling jealous when she waved him goodbye and left for her tryst with him.
“She was looking beautiful, “Anirudh thought. “Her lover is lucky.” His mind wondered, taking in the pleasant sight of the lake from the side window of his office, located on the second storey of his house. He sighed and returned to his laptop. He had a project deadline to meet, and he intended to use his time well before he picked up their daughter, Jodie from school.
Christy returned only late in the evening. Anirudh had brought Jodie from school, fed her, helped her with her homework and was watching her favorite cartoon show with her, when she walked in.
She greeted both father and daughter. Anirudh could sense that something was amiss.
“I have a headache," she said in response to Anirudh’s quizzical expression. “ I will rest awhile. You guys carry on," she said before climbing upstairs to their room.
She did not come down for dinner. Anirudh went up to ask her. “I don’t feel good,” she answered.
Anirudh touched her forehead to check if she had any fever. “I am okay, it’s only a headache,” she explained.
Anirudh could see from her eyes that she had been crying. He knew she wanted to be left alone. He served dinner to Jodie and put her to bed, before returning to his wife.
The room was dark. He switched on the lights and sat down on the bed next to her. “Christy, dear, you sure everything is okay?”
She turned her reclined body to face him, and raising her head, rested it on her hand as she faced him. He noticed the dried tears on her cheeks.
“Want to talk about it? It might make you feel better,” Anirudh enquired in a gentle voice. He really loved his wife, and though there was someone else in her life, wanted to comfort her.
She was silent.
“It’s him, isn’t it?” he tried.
“Today was his birthday,” she replied, her voice choked with emotion.
“Tell me about him.” He was curious to know the man who had his wife’s heart.
“What is the point in digging up the past?” she responded.
“You never know. It might make you feel better,” he offered.
She got up and sat on the bed. “You sure you want this,” she asked. He nodded in assent.
“I first met Captain Douglas Tyler in a train. I was travelling with my father. He was sitting on the opposite seat. He was quite a dish, if I can use that term.” For the first time that day, Anirudh observed happiness in his wife’s eyes as she recollected their first meeting.
“Describe him,” Anirudh asked
Her eyes lit up again. “Tall, athletic build, blue eyes and blonde hair,” she was smiling. Anirudh understood how Jodie got her blue eyes and golden curls. Internally he cringed when he compared him with his own 5’6”, modest and unassuming bespectacled face, and thinning, black hair.
“Suddenly dad complained of chest pain and his face was looking horrible. Doug was reading a book, and he saw what was happening. He offered to help. He helped us get down at the next station, arranged an ambulance and accompanied me to the hospital,” she continued.
“What next?” Anirudh was curious now
“Fortunately, it was nothing serious. Dad stayed in the hospital for a couple of days. Doug visited every day.” Her eyes were sparkling now.
“The day dad was discharged, I left a note at the reception with my number. When he called, I was the happiest girl on earth. We started seeing each other more often. He was funny, passionate and romantic. He was proud of his job with the army.” She sounded happy and exuberant.
“When did you guys first make love?” he asked, his heart burning with envy.
She paused for a moment before answering, “It was on our first date after dad came out of the hospital. He was gentle and passionate at the same time. He made me feel like a princess.”
She paused again, hoping Anirudh would say something, but he didn’t. She continued.”His happiness knew no bounds when I informed him that I was pregnant. I moved in with him. Jodie was born 8 months later, and our life was like a fairytale.”
She paused now for a long time before resuming, but was interrupted by the ringing of Anirudh’s cell phone. Anirudh looked at the number and grimaced at his wife. “I have to take this one dear. It’s Ram. I am sorry.”
Ram was Anirudh’s partner in India. Christy had got used to these rude obtrusions in their private life. Initially she used to hate them, but Anirudh had got her around to appreciate the time difference and its problems. She watched her husband answer the phone. He listened and looked at Christy, “This will take time honey. I have to go to my office. You take rest. I am really sorry.” He kissed her and rushed out.
When Anirudh returned Christy was fast asleep. He heard her soft breathing. He switched on the lights, and watched her. Her beauty never failed to touch him. She was covered by the blanket till her waist. She had changed into a sheer negligee and he saw her smooth, white skin and her generous cleavage. Strands of her waist length blonde hair lay carelessly across her angelic face, heightening her sensuousness. The whole vision filled him with love and also aroused him. He desired to hold her and touch her and explore her beautiful body. He switched off the lights, and went to the toilet. He started sobbing uncontrollably.
They had been married just for a year, but Anirudh could already feel an invisible wall between them. He knew his wife did not love him as much as she did her other lover. His heart was being torn apart by strife and melancholy. He loved her deeply. But he also wished that she would love him at least a little bit, if not as much as the she loved the other man in her life. Their love making which had been intense and frequent in the beginning was now seldom. He felt she did not enjoy it as much and he didn’t want to force himself onto her.
Christy could hear her husband sobbing in the bathroom, and tears started flowing down her cheeks. She had been awake when her husband had switched on the lights and gazed at her, and she yearned for him to take her in his arms and love her. But her husband’s behavior over the last few days had puzzled her. She worried that something was tearing him apart internally, and she knew what it was.
It was her other love, Captain Douglas Tyler whom she had visited earlier today. Yes, she still loved him and did visit him every week. Initially Anirudh was cool about these trysts, but of late he didn’t seem to take it well.
Today she had not missed the deep hurt in Anirudh’s eyes when she had left. It had pained her terribly. She had spent the day by herself, wandering aimlessly in public parks and drowning endless cups of bitter coffee. “How can I prove to my husband that I love him, perhaps even more than Doug,” she had thought the whole day. At last she had taken a terrible oath. She had met her lover one final time.
“Doug, my love,” she had said as she had knelt beside his grave. “I know you love me and I love you. But Anirudh does not like my coming and meeting you. I love him too and cannot hurt him. This will be our last meeting,” she had said. A tear slid down her cheek as she uttered a silent prayer for the soul of Captain Douglas Tyler. If Ram’s call from India had not interrupted, Anirudh would have heard that the valiant Captain had been commissioned to Iraq, only to return in a coffin.
Anirudh was aware of the circumstances of Doug’s death. He also knew that it was the captain’s grave that his wife had visited that day. But the worm of jealousy had carved its way into his heart and had eaten up his soul. Since time immemorial the Angels and the Devils have been fighting a silent battle in every soul to claim sovereignty over it. In Anirudh’s case the Devil had won convincingly, ably supported by the green eyed monster. He knew for sure that Christy would never love him.
Christy could fee her husband getting under the blanket next to her. Their bodies touched momentarily and both felt desire and affection for each other. The two miserable souls pretended to sleep, each longing that the other would make the first move. Neither of them did.
The next morning Anirudh woke early. He had to travel to Chicago. He got ready as noiselessly as he could, not wishing to wake up his wife.”The poor woman has had a bad day yesterday, and she needs to rest,” he thought. He used the guest bathroom.
Before leaving, he visited Jodie’s room. He opened the door slightly and saw her golden curls on the pillow. He bid a silent goodbye and walked downstairs to the hall. He was surprised to find Christy waiting for him. She was all dressed. “I thought I will drop you off at the airport,” she said cheerfully. He could notice that she was making a brave attempt to hide her sorrow of the previous day. But nonetheless he was pleased and touched and it showed in his face.
Christy watched with pleasure her husband’s eyes glowing, albeit for a moment only. It had been a long time since she had seen that. She pressed further,” I think we have some time. Why don’t we get some coffee?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” he replied, pleased at his wife’s attentions.
They both drank their coffees sitting next to each other. Neither spoke, but their bodies communicated. They both felt good.
Christy drove him to the JFK airport.
“I hope you will not be late returning home from the airport. Jodie will get late for school,” he said with concern.
“Don’t worry. I will manage,” she assured him.
“Will she not miss you when she wakes up?” he asked.
“I left a note for her. But she will miss you,” she replied.
“Yes, I know. But I did tell her yesterday. She is a brave girl. She knows papa has to work,” he explained.
After reaching the airport, Anirudh didn’t hurry to get down from the car. He looked at his wife. “I really love her. If only she would give me a hug,” he wished. At the same time his wife desired, “If he would hold me at least for a moment.” Neither of them did anything at all.
“I will be away a week,” he said before getting down from the car. He waved goodbye and disappeared into the crowd.
Anirudh was feeling much better. “Maybe she still has some feelings for me,” he hoped.
He lay back on his seat in the plane and closed his eyes. He tried to catch some sleep but couldn’t. He was turning into an insomniac ever since he had started drifting away from his wife. Reflexively, his mind drifted to their first meeting.
He had been earning well and had decided to hire a household help. He had approached an agency and they fixed up an interview with a prospective housemaid. He was working in his office when the door bell had rung.
He had opened the door, expecting to see a middle aged, fat, experienced and matronly woman. But the beauty of the woman at the door had taken his breath away. “Hello, Mr. Anirudh Mukherjee” she had said, pronouncing his name perfectly and smiling brightly. “I am Christy Tyler,” she had said before offering her hand.
“Would you like some tea or coffee, sir,” the air hostess interrupted his thoughts.
He opted for coffee. He sat back in his seat, sipping his coffee and continued thinking about that first meeting with his wife. He remembered exactly how she was dressed.
She had worn a white silk blouse, a knee length denim skirt and black sling back stiletto heel shoes. She had put on matching earrings of blue colored gems and a gold chain with a pendent. The pendent had drawn his attention because it had sat right on her delicious and generous cleavage.
She had seemed to be 3 or 4 inches taller than him from which he had assumed that her actual height would be same as his 5’6” as she was wearing heels. He led her up the stairs and had sat her across his table. It was a mere formality as there was no way he would have rejected that gorgeous creature even if she would not have had the faintest idea about keeping a house.
The air hostess announced that the plane would be landing shortly in Chicago. Anirudh got up to visit the toilet. It felt good to stretch his legs. He returned to his seat and fastened his seat belt. He enjoyed a magnificent view of the city as the flight landed.
He hired a cab to take him to the office. He looked outside taking in the sights of the city as his mind wondered back to the initial days with Christy. She had been punctual, efficient and friendly on her job. Anirudh had already fallen for her, but his shy nature had prevented him from opening up. Eventually he mustered the courage to ask her out. He was delighted when she had accepted. They had become closer, and he had proposed to her after a brief romance. She had acquiesced and they had got married.
“Here we are!” the cab driver announced. Anirudh paid his fare and got out.
The day went well. He made a short presentation to the management team of his client and proceeded with the installation of the software. It went through without a glitch. Next day, he would begin training the users.
He returned to his hotel. He showered and freshened and went out for a walk. The cool breeze felt good on his face. The pavement was crowded with pedestrians. The crowds made him feel lonely. Everyone seemed to have someone to talk to, except him. He sat on a bench on the pavement and called up his best friend.
“Hello, Christy!” he said as his wife answered the phone. Her voice still did something to him. “Why did she have to be so perfect?” he sighed internally.
“Hi, Ani! How are you doing?” she replied.
“I am fine. The day went really well. I was wondering if I could talk with Jodie. Is she around?”
“Sure she is,” she offered. “He doesn’t even want to speak with me,” she thought.
“Hi, papa. I missed you.” Jodie came on the phone. “She has nothing to tell me. She has handed over the phone straight to Jodie,” he anguished.
“Hello sweetheart. Papa misses you too. Did you do your homework?” he asked his best friend.
“Yes, papa. And today Ms. Stewart praised my handwriting in front of the whole class,” the little girl informed with pride.
“Well done, baby,” her father replied.
They went on for a long time. Jodie was Anirudh’s pillar of strength. The five year old shared a close bond with her new father and he enjoyed her company. Especially, after he had drifted apart from his wife, Jodie was his succor and friend. He kissed her on the phone and hung up.
Christy was sitting next to her daughter. She was happy that Jodie had taken so well to Anirudh. But today she couldn’t help feeling jealous of her daughter. All through the conversation she kept hoping that now, at least now, Jodie would hand over the phone to her saying that papa wanted to speak. Meanwhile, all the time Anirudh was talking with Jodie, he was faintly hoping that her mother would take the phone from her and want to talk with him.
Both Anirudh and Christy were disappointed by the other person’s behavior.
Anirudh felt good after talking with his best friend. He was hurt by his wife’s behavior. He wanted to get over it, and walked into a bar.
He asked for a double Scotch on the rocks and gulped it down. He asked for a refill.
“That was fast,” a sexy voice cooed next to him.
Anirudh turned his head to see a gorgeous blonde. She was wearing a tiny, provocative red colored dress that started at her breasts and barely made it down to mid-thigh. The dress displayed her ample cleavage and left very little to imagination. There were stilettos on her feet.
It had been a long time since Anirudh had enjoyed any intimacy with his wife. The sight of this woman and the whisky in his blood stirred him.
“Hi, could I buy you a drink?” he offered, his eyes feasting on her bosom
“Sure, honey,” she winked.
She slid onto a tool next to him, exposing her thighs still further and kissed his cheeks. She smelt good. She ordered tequila and turned towards Anirudh, offering him her best smile.
Anirudh had already gulped down his second double whisky and this girl was exciting him. He had little control over his senses now and his mind started hallucinating. This girl reminded him of Christy. He was convinced his wife had come to drive away his loneliness.
“Christy, what took you so long?” he asked the girl.
‘Christy, who’s Christy? I am Sandra,” she replied. She had seen enough drunkards in her life and this one was no different.
“Christy, can we go home? I need you real bad,” he implored her.
“Sure baby,” she agreed.
Anirudh managed to pay the barman and walked out of the bar on Sandra’s shoulders.
“Where’s home honey?” Sandra asked.
Anirudh showed her his hotel card. She called a taxi and they reached the hotel.
They were stopped at the reception.
“I am sorry, sir,” the manager stopped him
Anirudh arched his eyebrows.
“The lady has to be registered here,” the manager explained.
“What do you mean? I have to register my wife?” Anirudh argued.
“Wife?” the manager shrugged.
Anirudh pulled out his wallet and showed him his family’s photo. The manager compared Christy’s photo with Sandra. He looked at him with disgust.”Sorry, Sir, but you need to register,” he announced with finality.
Sandra produced her id and the manager filled up a form. Anirudh signed it, and they were allowed to go to their room.
There was an urgency in his body now. He had never seen his wife dressed like this before, and he needed to have her. He held Sandra’s face and locked his lips on hers.
And then he recoiled in horror. His intoxication vanished. This woman’s mouth tasted very different from his wife’s. She was an impostor!
“Who are you,” he shrieked with distress.
“I am Sandra,” she replied in a scared voice. This drunkard could be dangerous. She looked for a vase or something to defend herself.
“Sandra, oh my God…what Sandra…what have I done,” he wailed.
“Hey man…you gotta pay my 100 bucks, “she replied in a defiant voice.
Anirudh took out 200 bucks from his pocket and gave it to her. “I am sorry, “he said.
Sandra just shrugged. This drunkard was not so bad after all. “You sure?” she asked in a friendly voice.
Anirudh had collapsed in a heap on the floor. He could only nod in assent.
Anirudh managed to pick himself up and take a shower. He was feeling much better now. He went over the events of the night. He thanked his stars for preserving his fierce fidelity. Otherwise, how would he have ever been able to show his face to his beloved?
“Beloved?” he wondered. “Do I really mean anything to her? No I don’t,” he convinced himself and felt miserable again. But he would continue to be faithful, even if she were not, he promised.
Christy was lying in her bed. Her heart was heavy. She feared that her marriage was on the rocks, and she wanted to do whatever possible to save it. “If only he would call,” she wondered.
The fixed phone of her house rang. She could not see who the caller was. She answered. There was no reply from the other side. She knew who it was.
Anirudh listened to his wife say hello on the other side. He had called on the fixed line so that she would not guess who had called. He just wanted to hear her voice one more time before he slept. Her voice soothed his mind. He clutched the phone to his heart and imagined it was she and disconnected the line.
On his last evening in Chicago, Anirudh again visited the same bar. He had been feeling bad for Sandra and wanted to apologize. Sure enough, she was waiting in the bar for some prospective catch. Anirudh walked straight to her. “Mind if I buy you a drink?” he asked.
She was dressed in a black halter top that reached her thighs. Her back and arms were all bare.
She saw him and raised her eyebrows.
“I am sorry for that day. I was really stupid,” he explained.
“You really love her, don’t you?” she enquired.
Anirudh didn’t want to answer. He ordered a double whiskey for himself and tequila for her.
“You didn’t answer. Is everything alright with you guys?” she cajoled.
He raised his glass to toast.
“I leave tomorrow morning,” he informed her.
“Did you buy gifts for them, “she queried.
He looked at her with a bewildered expression. He paid the barman, got up and clutched her hand.
“Come with me, “he ordered.
“Where to?” she asked.
“Take me to a nice place where I can buy something for my wife and daughter,” he replied.
They got into a taxi and she gave directions to the cabbie.
“What does she look like?” she asked once they had reached the store.
He showed her their photo in his wallet. She started giggling.
“What is so funny?” He was intrigued.
“I thought your wife was Indian. Now I know who Christy is and why you were drooling over me. She is also a blonde,” she chuckled.
She selected a knee length blue dress for her. Anirudh ordered two of those.
She was careful to select a nice greeting card to give with the dress.
“What do I write on it?” he wondered aloud.
“Write what your heart asks you to,” she helped.
Next they looked for something for Jodie.
“Chocolates?” she asked.
“Her mother would kill me,” he shook his head.
“Books, games,” she suggested.
“Good idea,” he agreed and they selected some books and games for the child.
Anirudh paid at the counter and gifted one of the dresses to Sandra. She was delighted and thanked him with a hug. They had dinner together, before bidding good night.
Anirudh was waiting for a taxi at JFK airport to take him home.
“Papa,Papa,” a voice yelled.
He turned around in the direction of the familiar voice and was pleased to find Jodie running towards him. He lifted her up in his arms, deriving immense comfort and happiness from her weight.
“You didn’t go to school today?” he chided, though internally pleased that she hadn’t.
“Her school won the soccer trophy and they declared a holiday,” a sweet voice answered from the side.
Abhishek turned in the direction of that voice to find his wife. She looked gentle and pretty.
“Hi, how have you been?” he asked her.
“I have been fine,” she replied. They walked towards the parking. Husband and wife, both felt like strangers.
After reaching home, Anirudh gave away the gifts. Jodie was thrilled. Christy was cooking in the kitchen. He went to her and said “I have something for you”. His voice was meek.
She thanked him and opened her gift.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. She read the card. “I love you and missed you.” She looked up at him, her eyes moist. She came to him and hugged him. “I love you too, darling and it is a beautiful gift,” she cooed into his ears.
Anirudh was feeling good, but the worm of jealousy again crept into his mind. “Does she really mean it?” he wondered.
That night Anirudh could hold himself back no longer. His desire got the better of his ego. He pulled Christy into his arms who purred with delight. Momentarily, they both forgot their differences as their bodies gave each other much needed relief.
Her arousal gave Anirudh some confidence that his wife did still love him. But he was not yet sure.
Christy lay in her husband’s arms feeling contented. Her husband’s gift, card and their love making gave her some hope that this marriage could yet be saved.
The days passed on. The couple seemed to be rediscovering some of their magic back. Anirudh also observed with pleasure that his wife had not visited her lover for some time. But the worm of jealousy had not been wiped out completely.
He was working in his office one day. Christy was out shopping and Jodie was at school. He needed a reference book to understand a problem which he was solving for a client. He looked everywhere, but couldn’t find where the book was.
Finally he started rummaging in his cupboard and then looked in his wife’s cupboard. Maybe it had landed there by mistake. It was then that he saw Christy’s diary. Normally, he would never read his wife’s private diary, but today he could not hold himself back.
He opened the first page. It was a fairly detailed documenting of her college days. He realized that he knew most of that. The pages turned to her meetings and dates with Doug. He read those pages with avid interest and was happy to find that there were no surprises. He was feeling content that his wife hid nothing from him.
He continued turning the pages, till he came to a part about which he seemed to know little.
Some entries were as follows
“Today I met a nice gentleman Mr. Anirudh Mukherjee. He offered me a job in his house. I accepted.”
“Anirudh is a kind man. He cares for me. I think he wants to tell me something, but he can’t.”
“Finally he asked me out for a date today. I agreed.”
“I had a nice time with him. The best thing is that he was so attentive and did not try to get me into his bed, like other men.”
“Anirudh met my daughter. He behaved so well with her.”
“Today he proposed to me. I accepted. He offered me a rose. It is a precious gift. I will forever cherish it, because I love him and I think Jodie also has grown very fond of him. I know that he will take good care of us. He put on my fingers a beautiful diamond ring. I will take that ring to the grave with me.” A dried red rose flower was pasted on that page.Anirudh remembered that he had proposed her with a rose.
“We got married today. I feel happy, loved and secure. I wish to give Ani all the love and happiness which a wife can give.”
He read on and on. It was ironic that the part of his wife he knew the least about was after she had met him. He couldn’t control his emotions and his heart was overcome with sadness for the way he had behaved with her.
He came to the final entry on the diary.
“Today I told Doug that I will never visit him again as Ani does not like it.”
He felt embittered and sad about his comportment and the hurt he had caused his beloved.
When Christy returned, he was still sitting on the bed with her diary.
He didn’t try to hide.
“Christy, will you ever forgive me?” he pleaded.
She looked at the diary and understood what had happened. She looked at his red, moist eyes. She came and sat next to him, holding his hand.
“It was my fault also,” she sympathized.
“I should have told you more how much I love you and how much I appreciate what you have done for Jodie and me,” she continued.
He pulled her into his arms. He could not hold back his emotions any longer and they exploded in the form of a torrent of tears.
“Christy, I love you.”
“I love you too my darling.”
At last the two lovers were finally united.
Anirudh made it a point to take his wife to Doug’s grave every week. He felt much closer to Doug now and the jealousy had given way to respect. He felt that he shared some communion with the captain’s soul because they both loved deeply the same woman and child.
Word Count : 4922