It seemed the world had converged around the little town of Vaikunth as the air turned divine with the multifarious sights, sounds and smells so very emblematic of an Indian festival.
Savitri was buying some diyas from a shop adjacent to her house. That was when she saw him.
At first it was just a silhouette_ a fleeting image of a man melting into the crowds across the street.
Yet, there was something about the gait that seemed to bother her.
She quickly increased her pace and wormed her past the sweaty shoulders of eager beaver shoppers, at times near stumbling, yet finally managing to enter her own bylane.
All this while she hadn’t turned around. Not even once. She was afraid she might stop breathing! Such was the fear that had gripped her fragile mind.
And then, as she was just about to open her front gate, Savitri turned around.
And saw the man that had been her nemesis not so long ago.
There he was, a mere hundred feet away, and staring down at her ala a ravenous lion gearing up to pounce and shred to pieces a hapless goat.
THE NEXT MORNING
“You seem worried. What’s the matter, dear?”
Savitri turned around even as Aman’s took her in his arms.
She tried to say something. Not even a whisper escaped her quivering lips.
Instead, all she heard were the loving words of her husband.
“Darling, be careful. You have precious cargo inside you”.
As he said this, his hands gently caressed the bump in her abdomen.
And then he was gone.
She waited for a long time, her hands still half raised.
Then, long after the roar of his car engine had died out, she turned back, shut the door, and slumped into the sofa.
For a long time thereafter, she sat there, a comatose figure, her mind a cauldron of disturbing images.
WAIT TILL I COME OUT OF JAIL. I WILL FIND YOU…KILL YOU WITH OWN BARE HANDS
The words, each syllabic utterance went straight into her heart.
The 25 year old shuddered, her frail self shook uncontrollably as hot beads of sweat trickled down her temple.
On instinct she picked up the phone and stabbed Aman’s number.
He must know. Has to. It was wrong. Her parents were wrong. Such things should have been revealed to Aman before they fixed her marriage.
He should have been told about Vikram. That he was her neighbour, and crazily in love with her. So mad that he near assaulted her once when she had rebuffed his advances. That he…
The door bell rang.
Nonplussed, she opened it.
It was Aman.
Before she could react, he had taken her in his arms.
‘Aman, I wanted to tell you about…
“Vikram, right? I knew all along. I saw him outside. My men pickled him up. He won’t trouble you anymore.”
“I…I am sorry…I”
He pressed his fingers to his lips.
“No. Not a word, my baby”.
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