Vaishali Chandorkar posted under PoeStory Short Stories on 2023-04-05

                             "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth.” Robert Frost Ritu opened her laptop and stared at the screen.  Time had come to communicate. She could not keep it to herself any more, she would burst otherwise. Or worse, get more depressed.  She couldn’t tell her parents, they were old and would worry and fret about her. Being an only child had its disadvantages. No sibling to confide in, for one; and over protective parents, for other. So that left only Priti, her best friend from school After they had finished their schooling in Delhi from a well-established school, Ritu had shifted to Mumbai post marriage, years back.  She didn’t want to talk to her on the phone, as that would somehow hurt more, verbalising the issue made it more painful.  She knew she was taking the coward’s way out and Priti would be shocked on reading the mail, but this was the best option. But this email was not an ordinary one. She was writing this on Sunday, which in itself was a rarity and the subject was FYEO (for your eyes only); their code for urgent.  22nd June, 2022, 9.15 pm To:  From: Subject- FYEO Hi. How are you? You must be surprised to see my mail, given it’s a Sunday. You must be wondering, why mail? But, what I am going to tell you now, I had to write. Needed that perspective and distance. Have to see it in written word, so…. And the fact that I am still coming to terms with it. I am leaving Avinash. I know this will come as a complete surprise?! It’s taken me months to accept the inevitable…still have to figure out the howabouts…but I am sure that I cannot see my future with him anymore. Last few months have been bad as you can imagine; I have given it a lot of thought….so yes, this step is inevitable.  You will have many questions, I know. Will tell you all in my time. PS- Don’t call me up. I will talk about it when I am in a better space. PPS-But you may write. Ritu.  She pressed – ‘send’. And it was gone. The deed was done. Finally. Now it was in black and white, staring back at her from the screen.  *** Six months back Ritu was laying the table for their dinner. After a long time, she was feeling better. She had actually not thought of her miscarriage for one full day. Joining office back, of course had helped. Slowly but surely, she was healing. Physically she had recovered within a month but the mental agony had been difficult to deal with.  After the initial surprise-they had not been planning a baby so soon- they both had warmed to the idea and were looking forward to being parents. They had married young, right after their management. They had been college sweethearts; she had liked him on sight, he was handsome, dashing, and a sportsman. He represented their college in Basketball and was a university player. She had badgered her common friends for an introduction and had never left his side since. By the time they had graduated, they had been inseparable.   They both had applied and got into the same college for MBA and had got their first jobs in Mumbai, in different companies. By this time, both the families had been on board and wanted them to marry before the shift. They had good naturedly given in as eventually it had been on the cards and it made their parents happy. Life had been good the next three years. Both worked hard, partied harder and loved the vibe of Mumbai. The pregnancy news had put a spoke in their plans but they had soon re-aligned their future plans. So, she will take a break in her career, maybe work from home, their parents would help put when necessary…. these were minor bumps compared to the sweet arrival that was to come.  Coming back to the present, she was happy that Avinash had been back home in time today. Lately, he had been working late on odd days, once or twice a week, which was understandable, given his work, but Friday evenings alone were hard to bear. Some Saturdays also she had spent alone, even during the pregnancy and after.  ‘Ritu, leave this for a moment. I want to talk to you about something. Come, let’s sit here’, so saying, he led her to the drawing room.  ‘I don’t know how to tell you this….’, he started hesitatingly…., ‘but the time has come to tell you…or rather ask you…’ ‘What is it, Avinash? You are scaring me ……come on, tell me…dinner’s ready! We can talk while eating? she asked impatiently. She was hungry after a long tiring day. He slid closer, held her hands in his and started again, No, no…this is important…remember, my late nights? And now even going out on Saturdays? You would get so angry being alone at home?  Well …I don’t know what you will think of it…. but I feel maybe you will like it too and also join in …at least, I want you to…it’s great fun… exciting…. adventurous…, it is liberating…’, he petered off seeing her irritated look. ‘What is it Avinash? What is exciting? What have you been doing? ‘she asked, shifting uneasily in her place.  Taking a deep breath, he continued, ‘Ritu, I have joined a couples’ group. We meet occasionally, sometimes on weekends, - I still haven’t gone regularly on weekends- where we, you know …we like-minded couples…um…. exchange partners, have sex, enjoy without any inhibitions…. oh! you know what I mean! I don’t need to explain it to you in graphic detail……’ She stared at him, stupefied. ‘Whatttt? All these days, you have been doing whatttt? When I thought you were busy in the office, when you were working late, you were going to people’s places? Indulging in …. what …. group sex, exchanging partners???’ Almost as if on cue, another thought struck…’Are you trying to tell me the day we lost our baby, the day I suffered the miscarriage you were there? Not in the office….? she shrieked. ‘Ritu, Ritu…calm down!  What are you so upset about? Believe me, you too will like it …it’s different and a big high! We both enjoy sex, are rather good at it, if I may so and love doing it, in fact we are at it like rabbits…here we can do it with multiple partners…believe me, you too will take to it like fish to water, like I have …the variety is exciting…don’t brush it away before you give it a try!’ Ritu was aghast. Did not see what he had done? Did he really think it was only about his partying? Did he even realise that he was not just partying, he was orgyinggg? (Was it even a word? a fleeting thought passed her) Did he really think that this was such a small matter? Did he not understand that when she waited for him all alone at home, nursing her unknown fears about the pregnancy, this new life taking root within her, all the changes her body was going through…. when she wanted him desperately to be with her…he was partying with some ‘like-minded’ couples? The niggling doubts had started during her first trimester itself. But she had quashed them down, she was the type who would always give the next person, a benefit of doubt. With her not being in a good physical condition, what with her morning sickness and general feeling of fatigue, she had taken to work from home mostly, and went to office only when absolutely necessary. Yes, Avinash was coming home late, which had rarely happened before; but maybe, his work load had increased. Avinash, on the other hand, was now extra busy. Evenings were the worst. She used to be totally drained by dinner time, many a time she had even skipped dinner…. but now more of a norm than exception, Avinash came home late at nights. Those days were most difficult. She would be alone at home, struggling with the life changing condition- physical which was woefully apparent, but also the not-so-apparent mental; battling her fears…. would she make a good mother? Would they make good parents? Would the baby be born healthy? And so many more, which crowd a mother-to-be’s mind.  She had no one to talk to. She didn’t want to worry her parents and Avinash was never there. Then things got worse. Her visits to the doctor were always a source of tension. Her gynaec always had a frown on her face whenever she examined Ritu, …...some talk about the fetus not growing as expected…... some more blood tests…. weekly check-ups…. the uncertainty, the fear, the anxiety….and no one to share with.  Sure enough one day, the thing she dreaded most happened. She had been watching TV listlessly after dinner, when she felt a sudden shooting pain in her abdomen. She convulsed over, clutching her stomach, almost as if willing for the sharp pain to go. But a few gut-wrenching stabs later, she felt something warm between her legs and was horrified to see blood seeping through her clothes…...She staggered to the bathroom, heaving and crying, clutching her stomach and collapsed on the floor. She still doesn’t have a clear recollection of what happened thereafter, but the next thing she knew, she was being carried on a stretcher in the hospital corridor by the attendants with a harried Avinash walking with them. For unknown reasons, she had miscarried. They had been were devastated, Avinash full of regret that he was not with her when it happened. He had come home to find her on the bathroom floor and had rushed her to the hospital. It had taken them months to come out of this trauma. Ritu had felt intense anger …...where was Avinash when she had needed him? Why did he always work late? Why didn’t he pick up her phone? She had called so many times on that day… Illogical, it might be, but she could not help thinking maybe things would have been different if he had been around…. Oh God! No…. She looked at Avinash…He was still talking, but she had stopped listening……she was trying to make some sense of what she had just heard; still trying to take in the enormity of what he was saying… his late nights, this aspect of Avinashi’s which she had no clue about…… ‘How could you Avinash? How could you ….?’ She howled. ‘When I needed you the most, when I was hurting, you were at…. she fumbled for words.…. you were …. you were there….! At some wild parties…at some orgies?!! “Stop it Ritu, don’t be so melodramatic! It was just like any other pa….’ ‘Melodramatic? She shouted. You think I am being melodramatic? You think I am over reacting? …you think it’s some innocent fun?’ she cried out, collapsing back in her place. ‘Oh, come on, Ritu …of course you are over reacting! Why this brouhaha about something you know nothing about? It’s just some fun…yes initially I too was hesitant, but my colleagues assured me that I would enjoy it and man did I!!, give it a chance! I am sure you too will love it! She looked at him…. seeing the real him for the first time. That handsome face, those twinkling eyes, that free throated laugh…a sure shot combination for attracting females, she amongst them……. Which was the real Avinash? The one whom she thought was her mirror? her soul-mate who shared the same value system? … or the one sitting in front of her extolling the virtues of living without boundaries and cajoling her to join in the fun? FUN? How could he even think of promiscuity as fun? Wasn’t it…like committing adultery? Wasn’t it being unfaithful to your married partner?  Having sex with someone in front of someone, how could he find it liberating? She found it abhorrent, absolutely distasteful. Why did he even think that she too will join in? Did he not know her? She was no prude. She was no one to judge. To each their own. But she was not into wild party scene ever, this kind of sexual binging was not her and she had thought Avinash was the same. Was sex with her boring? She felt humiliated at the thought. He was still talking; how his colleagues had approached him, how he had got pulled into their group, how, after initial doubts, he had started enjoying it, how boring it had been coming home to a sick wife …. …how he was waiting for the right time to tell her…. She had to try one more time.  ‘Avinash, while you were out partying, having great time, did you spare even one thought for me? Did you not care that I was going through a difficult time, having a tough pregnancy…that I was all alone at home, waiting for you? The day I miscarried, I tried calling you so many times, you never picked up the phone…my stomach had been hurting the whole evening…silly me, I kept thinking that you must be busy in some meeting or something, but you were doing something entirely different ….’ ‘Ritu, yes, I am sorry about that, of course, I too am hurting that we lost our child.... that day my phone was on silent…saw your missed calls on the way home. Had called you back but you didn’t answer so I thought you had gone to sleep…it’s only when I reached home, I saw you unconscious and bleeding on the bathroom floor …’ He continued in a rush, ‘Don’t worry Ritu…we are young and healthy…. we can try again…. I am sure you will conceive again …we have our whole life ahead…In fact, we can live a little more now and then try after two or three years……let’s enjoy with these new friends for some time…who knows, we it may bring us even closer, we may love each other even more….’ She let him talk. She was completely devastated. This was not the Avinash she loved. This man sitting opposite her, was someone else; a man who didn’t think twice before starting liaisons of different kind,  man who thought they were on the same page where their choices and likes were concerned, a man who knew her so little,  a man who saw nothing wrong in having a good time when his partner whom he claimed to love needed him the most, a man whose morals and values were not like hers…, this was not her Avinash! She stood up abruptly and walked away, dinner forgotten. Locking herself in their bedroom, she had shut Avinash out. She had ignored his calls on her mobile, his pleas to open the door. This was a double whammy; her losing their child and the discovery of an Avinash that she had never known about.  A restless night later, she knew what she had to do. *** 22nd June,2022, 10.30 pm To: From: Subject-Atta girl! Ok, so you are right …it is a surprise, rather a shock! He was the love of your life. You fell for him from the moment you saw him in the canteen, in our first year at college. Your love story is still talked about in the corridors of Hindu. You always did like flamboyant, dashing guys, even in school. Avinash so fitted the bill. You were blissfully happy with him, when I last met you. But then, life’s a bitch. It has a way of knocking you a punch, when you least expect it! I don’t know what has happened, plenty of time for that …you will fill me in with gory details when we meet.  Whatever the issue, I am sure it’s that knucklehead’s fault more than yours. You would not have taken such a step otherwise. You never give in easily. You must have given him a long rope and tried your best to make your marriage work. If you are doing this, then there is good valid reason for it …  Once you make up your mind, nothing deters you…. remember, how you in spite of getting in LSE (London School of Economics) with me, wanted to do MBA just because Avinash was doing it? A merit student like you, letting go of that golden opportunity because you were soooo much in love with that blockhead? You will get over this, of that I have no doubt, coz you my girl, are made of a much sterner stuff…I always knew he was a jackass, God knows what you saw in him…anyway, that’s for some other time! Well, with that same determination, you can now start afresh and who knows? Maybe you will finally see sense and join me here in London?  Like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pieces of pottery with gold, you too will be whole again, stronger and more beautiful than before; a new you… the scars glinting proudly! A person who has gone through her travails and emerged a winner. Let’s meet soonest. My trip home is long due, anyways. Will come to Mumbai first, we will catch up for a couple of days, just the two of us and then we can go home to Delhi. Works for you? Let’s make it happen! Cheers and chin up! Priti.   Ritu closed the laptop and smiled. Trust Priti to see the sunny side up. Feeling years lighter, as if a load had finally been taken off her shoulders, she went to the kitchen humming to herself, to make herself a cup of tea. Priti was right. Time had come recalibrate her life.  Recollecting the lines from a poem of her favourite poet, Robert frost, she sighed. How true they were- ‘I shall be telling this with a sigh  Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.’ Yes, time had come to take that turn which she had left behind, to walk the road not taken.       Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!