|“Are you sure about it?” Rishi didn't miss the tremor in Ruby’s voice. Four years is a long time to miss anything about a mistress. After spending six years with a shrewd wife, she was just the kind of woman he wanted to be with. Calm, never too clingy and a tigress in bed. But fun always comes with an expiration date. Now it was time to let go and embrace responsibility. Now, that his wife was expecting their second child. The shock of him sleeping with his wife again had barely registered when he had dropped the second bomb. An earlier version of Rishi would have jumped at the quiver at that normally husky voice and kissed and made up. Told her it was all a joke. But the pregnancy changed everything.
His “the decision is final” were spoken in a cold and rational voice broke the remaining resolve not to cry and Ruby was crying silently. Rishi pondered whether it was the right time to leave. The day before he had stood in front of the mirror and tutored his tortured conscience. “It was an in-exclusive arrangement. She knew he would never leave his wife. And it is the right thing to do. Bani needed his undivided attention at this delicate moment”.
Moments passed. Ruby rose and went to the bathe her face. When she came out she was again the woman he had lo…was attracted to…in control and strong. Only those shimmery lights in her eyes belied her demeanor. “If you walk out of this door, you will never talk, call or even text me. You won’t even stay to pack your things. I will arrange them to be delivered within a month. I will sell this house by then and deposit half the amount to your account. And NO, I am not a destitute to take any more than half the amount and that’s only because I am the part owner of this place. I would request you to take every piece of jewelry and electronic items starting with this phone. I don’t care what you do with them. The cards and letters would remain with me.” Rishi stood spellbound for a moment and then his jaw hardened. With a curt” very well” he walked out into the cold night.
How he managed to avoid an accident on the way was a mystery to him. His anger confused his rational mind. The knowledge that she was passionate was not unknown to him. But he was aware of this passion only in bed. Today she had displayed a side of her, certain strength of character, which bothered him. It made him restless. With her he was never in control. He had expected tears, accusations even begging…but this? Oh God! His male ego was severely bruised and he was craving for some female adoration. Well home! Here I come…his chuckle sounded more desperate than he intended to.
Locking his car in the garage, he walked towards the mini elevator. It was chilling end of December. He rubbed his hands together and then looked back towards the darker parts of the garage. Instinctively he braced to meet some unknown eyes. But it was empty. “Jumpy are we?” the mocking voice inside his head made him to talk longer strides but he mollified it with a whistle.
By the time he reached the main door of his elegant four bedroom flat, his courage returned. Using his own keys he opened the door. Strange, Bani never kept the hall dark. And yet not even the dimmer lights were switched on. He ignored the alarm inside his head and went straight to the washroom. It was a practice he religiously followed. Wash off Ruby’s essence before entering his wife’s bedroom. As if even the whiff of her smell would inflame his domestic bliss. After the ablutions, he went to check his daughter sleeping peacefully in her cozy Disney bed with her stuffed teddy. He kissed the top of her mop of curls and whispered “I am home” as if he was announcing that more to himself. And his daughter acknowledged his admission with a soft snore. Rishi smiled.
What first hit him in the master bed was that though the door was ajar, it was dark inside. Again, something unusual for his wife to do after 8 pm. She preferred reassuring warmth over fresh air. Today the entire room was forebodingly chilly. And then there was that sweet almost sickly smell. His mind drifted to that particular day when in a moment of passion he had forced himself on a menstruating Ruby. The smell…..was irony and sickly sweet. Cold set in his blood. Mechanically he switched on the lights.
His numb mind processed what was in front of his eyes.
Soft pastel sheets were splattered with garnet colored fluid. The sheet was almost on the ground…the pillows were scattered in an array of turbulence. And a midst the tornado lay a body, naked almost blue only the bump on her belly confirmed that the obscenely bloated face belonged to his wife…his mind was shouting at his body to jump to action. To revive her, call 911, call anybody. But his body was paralyzed. All he wanted to do was cover her naked body. His head was feeling light. How about he lied down a bit!
“I am sorry” the grave baritone voice sounded right behind him. Slowly he turned around and faced a more aged version of himself. How often had people exclaimed that he and his father looked identical? Yet their natures were completely opposite. A calm and composed man whose face was weathered with decades of strong resolve and hardships. Throughout his entire childhood, none has ever heard him speak loudly let alone resolve to violent means. And yet right at this moment he was standing there holding in his steady hand a bloody knife and on the bed lay his daughter-in-law viciously mutilated. His impeccable clothes were also drenched in red.
As if in a trance Rishi perched precariously on a love-seat nearby. Ved's face was unreadable. Covered half in shadows it seemed as if he was scrutinizing his son. Then suddenly he turned around, his face covered by his large hands. And moments later his broad shoulders shook as tremors passed through his larger than life frame. “I am sorry, you had to see this. I was planning to leave an hour back. But you have been kept in dark for too long and then to see THIS without any answers would have scarred you for life. You deserve to learn the truth. Know what I have put you through. What WE have put you through.” Eyes burning with cold rage looked at the woman’s body on bed. “I have never begged any man or woman so much as I have begged this vile nefarious creature to go away from your life. Not to ruin you as she has ruined me and your mother. That angel died of heartbreak. And I was responsible for that…and so was SHE”
Rishi’s head was swooning. Nothing made sense.”What…in God’s name …are you telling me Dad? Are you telling me that…you…Bani?” The smile he gave was tired and filled with sadness. “You thought you were the only one cheating? She was cheating too…with your own father…though things started way too long”
Rishi remain silent.
“Passion is a very unusual phenomenon for me. Your mother was a wonderful woman. She got pregnant with you when she was barely 19.Somehow being a mother diminished her feminine side. I, on the other hand… Well the summer of 1999, two days after your 15th birthday, I was on a conference tour in Nainital. I was staying with a family friend a fellow business partner. The conference was a tremendous success in terms of getting prospects. I met you’re your wife in the party. She was with her parents. And she was trouble. An underage trouble who eyed me first with bored amusement and then subtly flirted. I was already drunk with success and the effects of being seduced by a young virgin can be quite heady. But since she was 15 I had my own dilemma and I was trying hard to get away from that web for at least 5 good reasons. The top most of which was the thought of betraying your mother. But one moment I was trying to get away from her and the next I was I bed with her. The next morning I woke up to a whimpering violet that would not even look at me. She left in an hour. And I was left back with my conscience piled with guilt.
The call came within a week just days before me leaving. Apology and then a desire to meet. The girl who arrived was totally different. Matured and practiced. Who told me in a very matter-of- fact voice that she didn't want to get me in trouble but was too much in to me. So how about getting into an arrangement? I was shell-shocked. Imagine my situation. I had a wife and a kid at home. A flourishing business. I was a ruthless man of the world who could brow beat my competitors into a putty. And this..this chit of a girl was very subtly blackmailing me into submission. Pride kicked in and ruthlessness made me take her to a nearby hotel, strip her naked and then confront her into calling her parents. I left her after reducing her into a gooey mass of sobbing flesh. Little did I know that what I was leaving behind were less than subdued ashes which would burn my family in no less than 8 yrs.
When you called us up to inform that you had married someone at Nainital, little did I imagine who or what were you dragging in our lives. My heart sank when I saw that face smiling at me beside you. After you came back from your honeymoon, your mother and I received two envelopes. From your wife. Mine simply said,”revenge served cold!” What was inside your mother’s envelopes she didn't tell me. She simply burned it into ashes. From the next day she started sleeping separately. But the repercussions of that incident came after a year. My 42 yrs old wife died of a broken heart. There were no last words from her. Simply tears.
One year back I received a call from your wife asking me to meet her. We met in a public place. After sometime she asked me if I knew you were having an affair and squandering. I didn’t. And so I told her I would look into it. She scrutinized my face. And then very calmly told me she knew that to be true. And she wanted payback. The word crumbled my world again. I asked what she planned to do. You can assume what she planned. And today she called me here to gloat. How she won again. How she again took her revenge after so long. Her triumph over everyone responsible for her disgrace. My family. My wife and you, my son. I had to end this plague. And now I wait for my salvation.
With that he plunged the knife into his belly.