“Good morning Aditi! Hope your intoxication has worn off. You were pretty high yesterday!” laughed Shalu easing herself into a chair.
Aditi sobbed softly standing by the window gazing into the oblivion.
“Hey, what’s the matter?” Shalu looked concerned. She had been Aditi’s best friend since college and people didn’t call her mother hen for nothing. She had always been overly protective about Aditi.
Aditi broke down crying bitterly, “Anup will never forgive me. How am I going to face him? What will I tell him?”
“Aditi, sit down,” she said helping her to a chair and giving her a glass of water, “tell me what happened.”
“Rohit and I, we- we were together last- last night,” she replied, her face buried in her palms, unable to look at Shalu in the eye. “It was a bad moment….I didn’t mean to….I am so ashamed of myself…” she was still crying.
“Wh-What? You did what? Are you crazy? Rohit and you? Oh my god! How could you guys do that? I told you to get back to the room, didn’t I? You were so damned drunk. Shit! I should never have left you alone there.”
“I need to tell Anup everything,” said Aditi, reaching for her mobile, wiping the tears off her eyes with the back of her hand. “This is one secret I don’t want to keep.” Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.
“No, no, no, no, no….you will do nothing like that. Get it? Don’t make such hasty decisions. One wrong decision and your life will be ruined.”
“That wrong decision has already been made, and my life is already ruined, isn’t it?”
“Come with me; let’s go to Rohit’s room.” She snatched the mobile from Aditi’s hand, pulling her to her feet. “Let me give that idiot an earful. Who does he think he is?”
“He did not do it, do you get that Shalu?” she said pulling her hand away and taking the mobile back from Shalu’s hand. “‘We’ did it. We, as in me and him.”
“Why won’t you ever listen to me? You didn’t last night and you aren’t now” said Shalu fed up with Aditi’s attitude.
“Leave me alone Shalu. Just go.”
“Look, I know how you feel right now. But no one knows about it. It’s just the three of us, and I swear to god, no one will ever know.”
“My heart knows, doesn’t it? Anup deserves to know. My heart says so.”
“Didn’t your heart tell you anything when you were lost in Rohit’s world last night?” Shalu could be wicked and hard hitting at times.
“Shut up Shalu,” said Aditi turning her back to her friend, tears again beginning to roll down her cheeks. “That was mean, you are hurting me. Why don’t you just leave?”
“I am not going anywhere. Can’t you understand something as simple as this, you fool? You have Abhi to take care of. What if Anup does not forgive you? What if he decides to leave you? Can you think of living without Anup, without Abhi? Can Abhi live without his mother? Don’t do this Aditi, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life, trust me. And what about the shame it will bring you? Did you think about how your families will react?”
The truth, they say, is bitter. But to Aditi, it felt like poison, threatening to suck the very life out of her. She sat down looking out of the window of the hotel room, far into the horizon, and at the sun, as if by some magic, the whole time between now and last night would automatically rewind, the last night’s moon would come back and she would never repeat this horrible mistake again. Ever again.
There was a knock at the door and Shalu opened the door, to find Rohit standing there.
“Look who’s here! Weren’t we missing you, Mr. Casanova? I am so angry that I could just slap you right across your face.” Shalu was seething with anger.
“Can I come in and speak to Aditi for a minute?”
“No, you may not” she replied, trying to shut the door on his face.
“Shalu, look, I need to talk to her, please let me” he pleaded, pushing the door back and finally succeeding as Shalu gave in.
He walked into the room, and saw Aditi staring into space, “Aditi, I- I am sorry, very sorry.” He stammered as he reached out to her hand.
“Don’t” she said withdrawing her hand, rising and walking into the washroom, shutting the door behind her with a bang.
She filled the tub and immersed herself in it lying in it for a very long time, as if the water would wash away her guilt. The hot water felt like tonic on her skin. She cried herself to sleep in the water, and Shalu had to repeatedly bang the door to wake her up and find out if she was ok.
“We have to pack and leave now, ok? Everything will be fine, I promise. Just remember, not a word to anybody,” she said putting a finger to her lip, “bury this secret right here, in Delhi, get me?”
As Shalu closed the door behind her, Aditi took out her mobile and dialed Anup’s number.
“Anup…” she began.
“What a surprise! How was the award function? Hope you guys enjoyed your trip?”
Felt like sarcasm. Maybe she was imagining it.
“You are reaching today isn’t it?”
“Ok, I’ll pick you up from the airport.”
“Anup…” she paused wondering how to say it, and then she took a deep breath, mustered all her courage and confessed, “Forgive me Anup,” she said starting to sob softly, “I-I was drunk and had been dancing with Rohit, then he came to my room and..” she was crying bitterly now, “….that was one bad moment, Anup, I didn’t mean to hurt you like this, trust me. Last night didn’t mean anything to me Anup, it never will. Because I love you and I always will. I couldn’t carry the burden of hiding this from you. Please forgive me Anup….”she begged.
There was a long silence at the other end, Anup trying to comprehend what she was saying. She wondered if Anup was listening, “Anup… are you there? Won’t you say something?Anything? Your silence is killing me.” And then she heard a distinct beep of the phone being disconnected at the other end.
“Didn’t Anup come to pick you? You told him you were coming tonight, right?” Shalu was surprised not to see Anup at the airport. He wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Aditi looked around to see if she could spot him. She waited for another half an hour but there was no sign of her husband anywhere.
“You told him about that, didn’t you?” asked Shalu, shaking her head, eyes wide in disbelief.
Aditi’s eyes welled up again and she lugged her suitcase walking briskly to the exit, Shalu hurrying to catch up with her.
“Let me drop you home, Aditi. It’s on the way.”
“No, you carry on, Shalu, I’ll go by myself.”
“Why are you so stubborn? Do what you want.” She could not understand why someone would be so foolish. But she also worried that Aditi may not go home, or try to hurt herself. “Please go home, ok, and be safe” she said before she went out and got into a cab still worried for her friend.
Aditi sat for another hour in the lounge thinking about what Anup would say to her. Would he really leave her and go away? Will she lose Abhi and Anup forever?
She finally got up, hailed a cab and reached home. Anup opened the door and for a moment, she thought he would give her a warm hug, and tell her how happy he was to see her.
Not even a smile.
But the pain in his eyes was evident. He stood for some time, looking at her; perhaps waiting for an explanation and she stood speechless, even unable to look him in the eye. Before she could gather herself and say something, he turned back and walked away.
“Anup…” she called out, trying to reach out to him. She ran behind him, but he walked straight to the guest room and shut the door on her face. Teary eyed, Aditi walked back to her own room and stared at a picture of them taken on their wedding day.
“I am sorry Anup,” she said gently caressing his picture, “will you ever be able to forgive me?”
Anup left to work before she got up. She called him repeatedly on his mobile, but he was either too busy with work or had not bothered to take her call. She waited for him to call back.
She went to her parents place to pick up her son and spent time with him at home still waiting for Anup’s call.
No call still.
She sent him a message.
Anup, I am sorry. Talk to me, scream at me, fight with me, but don’t be quiet, it’s killing me.
He came back long after she had slept.
He had been avoiding her for almost a month now.
She had messed up the game. Fancy putting a cross in the wrong place! She should have known better.