“May I offer you some tea while you wait?” The butler asked Shanti, ushering her into the study. Shanti shook her head, “Nothing, thank you “. The butler nodded before withdrawing, leaving Shanti alone. Too nervous to sit, Shanti looked around the room. It was stripped of all personal belongings, no photographs adorned its walls. The only thing that stood out was the overflowing bookcase. Idly, she picked up a book skimming through it when a deep voice spoke, “Books are still a magnet for you.”
Shanti looked up from the book to see Sujoy standing in the doorway. Looking at his lean face, Shanti felt her heart skip a beat. With a guarded smile, she replied, “You know me!”
Sujoy looked at her for a moment, taking in her simple cotton saree and the lack of any adornments on her body. Her simplicity couldn’t hide her beauty or her inner radiance.
“God, how much I love her!” His heart whispered. “So, what brings you here after five years?” He asked brusquely, trying to stop his thoughts from igniting emotions he thought he had suppressed. Of love, mingled with hurt and betrayal. To his surprise, the usually confident Shanti seemed a little nervous. “I need a favour. May I stay here, at your home, for a few days?” Sujoy’s eyebrows rose at the request.
“I have to attend a workshop in the city. The NGO I work with has paid the fees, but I still need a place to stay.”
“Why can’t those friends, who helped you five years ago, help you again?” Sujoy asked.
“They were all friends of Aman. I divorced him a couple of years ago.” Shanti replied, not willing to meet Sujoy’s eyes.
Sujoy was surprised. He had not known Shanti had divorced that good for nothing bounder who had married Shanti only because she was an heiress. A marriage, Sujoy had warned Shanti against. “And what if I had known?” Sujoy thought. “Would it have changed anything? She was the one who had walked away from me and broken my heart five years ago.”
“You can stay, “ Sujoy said gruffly, trying to hide the happiness in his heart. He would finally have her in his life again, even if it was only for a few days. “There is one more thing”, Shanti said, “I have a daughter Riya. She is turning three today. I would like you to meet her. “
Sujoy was flabbergasted. Shanti, a mother! She still looked like the idealistic twenty-two-year fool, ready to change the world. Not trusting his voice anymore, Sujoy nodded. Shanti walked out of the room, returning a few minutes later with Riya, a spitting image of Shanti. Sujoy’s eyes blurred with tears. He couldn’t control himself any longer. Rushing forward, he enveloped them in a hug.
His tears washed away five years of pain and separation as he bellowed to the butler,“ Order a chocolate cake! It is my granddaughter’s birthday today!”
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