Sweet Punishment

Sweet Punishment

Reva had been stalking the couple for a week. She knew their timetable thoroughly. Now she only needed to engineer a coincidence so that she could win their confidence and enter their home. 

She knew what she was going to do was slightly cruel but she did not feel any remorse. 

The very next day, she got the chance she had been waiting for. The couple was at the supermarket. Raju was pushing the trolley and Meenakshi was limping along, taking things from the racks and placing them into it. 

Reva chose a lonely part of the supermarket and hastily put a few items into a trolley. As they rounded the corner,  she ‘accidentally’ rammed into their trolley taking care not to hurt them. Packets of groceries, vegetables, and fruits spilled out of both the shopping carts.

She put on an alarmed expression and rushed towards them, asking if they were ok and fussed around them.

Raju assured her that they were fine and Lakshmi asked her not to trouble herself putting the items back in. But she helped them and wheeled the cart into the billing area. 

As they were leaving the supermarket, Reva hesitatingly asked them “Are you Chandru’s parents?”

There was a shocked silence. Lakshmi’s lips trembled and Raju looked unemotional as they affirmed.

Pretending not to notice their discomfort, Reva continued, “I used to be Chandru’s classmate. I had married and gone abroad. I came back only last week for a vacation.”

Raju replied in an impassive voice “I guess you are not aware, but Chandru passed away a few months back in a car accident.”

Reva managed to look shocked and devastated. She accompanied them home and promised to visit daily. The next time she was home, Raju told her about Lakshmi’s impending surgery. Reva insisted that she would be with them, talked about her parents who had passed away, and her guilt at not being around for them. She took care of all their requirements. She took turns with Raju to stay at the hospital with Lakshmi, cooked simple meals for them, bought the needed medicines, helped with the formalities of discharge, sorted issues related to insurance claims. 

Once back home, Reva stayed with them, tending to Lakshmi’s needs, helping her navigate the bathroom, bathing her. Evenings she would sit with Raju, discussing politics and cricket with him.

A month had passed after the coincidental meet at the supermarket.

Lakshmi and Raju had finished breakfast. Lakshmi had cooked that day after a long time. Lakshmi held Reva’s hands in hers and said “I don’t know how to thank you. You had been a godsend. Even if Chandru was alive, I don’t know if he could have taken care of us as well as you did.” She dabbed at her eyes.

Raju spoke with a catch in his throat, “It was a lucky and happy coincidence that we bumped into you, the other day at the supermarket.”

Reva sadly thought to herself, If only you knew that it was me who was with Chandru, that fateful day in his car. That we had met for coffee and decided to go on a long drive. That it was I who had goaded him to drive fast but was left unscathed in the accident. My guilt was killing me and I remembered Chandru telling me about his mom’s bad health and the surgery. This whole thing was an act of redemption. The meeting at the supermarket? Some serendipities are man-made. 
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