Borivali National Park
The nocturnal wind whistled, permeating his shivering skin despite the rugged hoodie. Undeterred, Karan knew his chosen path or lack of thereof.
Twin headlights cut through his mental cacophony even as the bright beams reflected the agitated cinders dancing away to glory, unmindful of his turmoil.
The target alighted, watching Karan with those piercing eyes. Karan watched the man stride towards him, his sixties, not impeding his panache even by an ounce…
“My error of judgment for the first time in thirty years of Eshana pharmaceuticals was inordinate….” The man bellowed; thick vibrato chilling Karan to the core. “…Hand it over and you shall live… else….”
Before Karan contemplated his move, the older man, in a reflexive motion, slashed through his arm. Pain radiated through his pectorals stupefying him just for a second.
But even as the crimson liquid seeped through his sleeve and dripped on the mud below, he retrieved his revolver and fired point-blank in quick succession.
Then there was silence—pin-drop silence. Or was that the numbing of his hearing given the plangent din?
Legs giving away, he dropped onto the hard ground, pebbles biting into his skin.
He had achieved the much-deserved comeuppance, but he was done for…
Four years later
“Eshana, will you dress up already?” Sheela, my lone friend screeched from my bedroom even as I choked on a piece of cake dipped in tea… one of my indulgences.
In the thirty-four summers of my life, I endured monumental upheavals leaving their imprints so deep, I barely ventured out. No, I wasn’t anti-social or a cynical misanthrope, I just feared people. Quite a bit.
Yes, that’s what growing up motherless with a Narcissistic father does to your psyche. My old man was murdered four years ago and I am indebted to the culprit. He got me the much-needed freedom from that hell-hole called ‘home’.
Mentally, though I was still an uncouth faux pass, and no matter how much Sheela tried, I was an unknown entity stuck in this 1BHK enormous flat in Mumbai. It didn’t matter that I was a best-selling romance writer, using a pen name.
My deceased father’s harsh words still popped up customarily, giving me the jitters as if he would emerge right out from the dark corner to continue his tyranny. So, while Sigmund Freud would have a field day psychoanalyzing me, my sleep was bounteous with nightmares.
“Eshaanaaa… I’ll miss my flight.” Sheela’s voice got me back to the present. I found myself gripping the Kanji hieroglyphic silver pendent, my mother’s only memory after she passed when I was eight.
I sighed, walking into my bedroom, and my jaw dropped to the floor seeing the sequined green sleeveless gown.
“Oh goodness, you expect me to wear that skimpy crap? And why have you opened that make-up kit?” I hated these sojourns, my plus-sized self-consciousness always getting the better of me.
“This is a special outing, dear. Just trust me on it. Everything is set…”
“Eshu…you need to pop that cherry someday….” Sheela announced blatantly, and I wanted to disappear. “…This guy is perfect for the job.”
“I am sacred, Sheela.” I clutched the pendant yet again.
“Eshu, relax. This guy is tried and tested, my gift to you ….” Sheela chuckled.
“You mean… a gigolo?” I was dumbstruck.
You are my little vehement love-struck sorceress…
“Eshu… you just need that one heavenly experience. There will be many people at the party. He will find you though. Name’s Josh,” Sheela winked.
Didn’t I just evanesce?
Two hours later, dolled up with warpaint and debuting with stilettoes, I made my way to the bright glittering luscious lawns of the MIG Club, Bandra. I stood spellbound, watching the high society womanhood sashaying around effortlessly.
My maladroit cowardly nebbish comic archetype…
The unsolicited words were my undoing, and right that moment, my ankle twisted as gravity threatened to incarcerate me. While I began my unceremonious descent, a pair of strong hands caught me.
Intense vanilla fragrance wafted, through up my olfactory faculties and I looked up to see the most beautiful pair of brown orbs adorning the square chiselled face-cut. Did Adonis come to life?
He held me as I swayed, more because of his proximity.
“Sometimes we fall, sometimes we fail
But opportunity to rise we must avail….”
His deep baritone set the rhythm for the blood flowing in my veins.
Speechless, I hobbled inside with his help, his warm hands driving away the December chill, his breath on my ear lobe causing the mystifying flutter in my heart.
We sat at the table, relishing our drinks, his Vodka against my humble fruit-punch.
“I am John…”
Wait. I had forgotten Sheela’s ‘arrangement.’ But hadn’t she mentioned a Josh? Or was it my testosterone-induced-delirious-head playing games?
“Hi… I …I … Eshana.” I stuttered softly, my heart still pacing. I didn’t know when he had come closer.
“Desire…” He said huskily, his eyes bored into mine, arresting me in their confines.
“Your name. The meaning.”
My hands were clasped, vacuumed sealed into each other.
Soon there was a display of fireworks commemorating some milestone for the club. Standing close to each other amidst the jostling gathering, he held me close.
Gosh, was there a stone slab in there? Maybe, the job needed him to be fit, and it was working for sure.
“Let’s get out of here…” he whispered, and my voluptuous form trembled like a leaf in the slightest breeze.
“Eshana…?” His soft voice stirred my stomach contents, as we waited for the Uber. “…I wanted to do this all evening. May I…?”
He palmed my face and bent down closer, his six-feet plus a massive contrast to my diminutive five-feet-three. I barely had time to gauge what was happening before I felt his lips on mine. Could a Herculean man have such soft petals for lips?
His calloused palms marked my skin as he pulled me closer, and I gasped. Using this opportunity, his tongue traversed the remaining distance, ingressing the interiors of my mouth.
As our tongues clashed, a wave of something new-fangled taking root in my abdomen.
The light caramelized aroma wafted through my sleepy sensibilities, gently rousing me up.
I felt the bed sink beside me as John got closer, his fingers driving away the wayward strands of hair off my face.
“Wake up my cherry blossom
Your beautiful face speaks a language,
Yours truly fails to fathom….”
He purred into my ear, his warm exhale seeping down my auricle towards the crook of my neck, sending shivers down my spine.
He kissed my forehead, making me clench my things, reminding me of what had transpired the night earlier.
We had been glued to each other in the hour-long cab drive home from the club. The shower of gentle kisses had caused my heart to sprint out of the thoracic confines.
I was a virgin, for crying out loud, and here I was acting like a slut as I tore open his shirt while we crossed the thresholds of my house. Mortified at my action I immediately covered my face.
Placidly prying my hands away, he had picked me, all 70 kilos of my ample curves, and taken me to my bedroom, dropping me on my bed. Within the next couple of minutes, the remnants of our clothing off on the floor, we couldn’t keep our hands away from each other.
Many such scenes embellished my novels, but I was living it for the first time, although he was just a guy paid to do the needful. I mentally thanked Sheela…
Making his grand entry into my prized apex, he had stared into my eyes with an intensity dancing on his contorted face, luring me to the pinnacles of passion.
As he rocked into my wetness, I writhed in ecstasy, stepping up the ladder of prurience barely lasting over a minute. Finally, I crash-landed on the waves of orgasm as they hit me, the shimmering galaxy blazing behind my closed lids.
Even this moment, as John walked towards the washroom in his birth clothes, watching his perfectly toned tush got my heated condensate pooling in. The hypnotic rhythm of the shower behind closed doors helped me calmed me down. As I sipped the hot concoction, my lips burned but it was incomparable to the one smouldering in my heart. Especially since he left soon after.
You are the proverbial whore in the true sense of the word… like the woman who sired you.
Later that evening, John returned taking me on an erotic tarriance as we christened every flat space available. I didn’t know I had a kitchen counter that big and cold. For once, I didn’t question my over-the-top indulgence on the bathroom tiles as he claimed me under the hot rivulets cascading over my charged-up bulk.
Your characterless libido is unsatiable…
My old man playing heavily on my mind, I picked at the delicious daal-khichdi, John had cooked up,
“You should eat well, gorgeous.” He purred reaching to remove a morsel from my lip.
My heart skipped a beat. I was putty in his hands.
We just lay in each other’s arms that remaining night, and he was gone by the time I woke from a deep undisturbed slumber. I wished to wake up next to him…
Wait… he was still a 28-year-old stranger.
So, you are now a cradle-snatching-cougar?
A month later
John met with me most evenings and I knew I was head-over-heels for him. I wanted to know more about him but his lips were sealed… not for pleasuring me though!!
My family was an imbroglio waiting to unfold. A dead father, a half-brother who took on his notorious legacy and a stepmother who didn’t care. Then there was Sheela, who was currently incognito in some Brazilian forest.
One evening John and I were returning from a fabulous date celebrating the submission of my latest manuscript. The plot involved a chance-meet and love at first sight.
As I regaled John with the details preceding our first meet in that club, his expressions changed. Watching him sombre up, my paranoia amplified.
Did I blow it up?
We approached my house and… he suddenly dragged me aside, hushing me to quieten. Stealthily, he moved and pushed open the door. The lock was broken…
My home lay ransacked, my three-seater sofa set, brought from my first hit-book sales, ripped apart. The cupboard contents were strewn all over. My laptop was open and hacked into. I didn’t own any other jewellery besides the pendent, having sold off my mother’s pieces to sustain my initial days in this house.
The kitchen was in shambles and my bedroom looked like it had just been bombed. My vision blurred and hot tears I had tried to keep in bay flew undeterred.
Within an hour, my home was swarmed by the police, and I saw one of them in a handlebar moustache speak animatedly with John.
“You aren’t staying here, Esh” John declared.
I was still shivering an hour later when we entered his barren studio. The walls were spartan, with neatly stacked chinaware in a corner on a carved wooden table. The sparse furniture had a thin layer of dust. What did John do when he wasn’t with me?
I didn’t realize how cold I was till he placed a blanket around me. Adrenaline fading away my anxiety brewed, wondering who on earth would cause havoc in my home? It felt like my old lousy life…
I eventually returned home petrified, but I wasn’t running away anymore.
John’s visits reduced.
In these three months I had recreated myself. I confidently walked out of my home and was a member of the local reader’s club. I volunteered at an NGO for street-kids as a teacher, unwavering in my skin.
Most of all, my father’s perseverations in my head barely made their presence felt. I was midway through my next novel, and my agent was jumping in joy.
John was still a great listener, and our combustion in bed could burn down the entire building, but the white elephant in the room remained.
One night after yet another round of coital bliss that had eluded us for a week, I snuggled into his warmth.
“I love you… very much,” I blurted.
He stiffened and sat up instantly. I hung by a fragile thread of hope that he reciprocated my affections.
“What’s wrong, John?”
He shook his head and gathered me into his strong arms, his vanilla essence stirring me up as it always did.
“Don’t ask anything, Esh… Just stay this way.”
The anxiety attack out on the prowl stared at me eagerly, waiting to grip me into its vicious tentacles.
“John, you can talk to me.” My heart began to splinter.
“Don’t… love me Esh… I don’t deserve it.”
“Why?” My eyes filled.
“Eshaana… I am not the man you think I am.”
You are weak, so throw yourself at him like you always did
I shut my ears submerging into a fitful sleep. By the time dawn spread its canopy I knew he was gone.
That was the last time I saw him.
John was gone for long, and I craved him at every level, mostly missing our camaraderie. My pendant too was missing since John was here last. Did he take it? As a souvenir? He also deleted our pictures from my phone increasing my sense of foreboding.
And then Sheela returned.
“Where on Earth were you Sheela?” I lashed out.
Sheela gaped at me, amusingly.
“What is this, Eshu? My little caterpillar has metamorphosized. I should go away more.” She jested.
I told her about John even as the emotions threatened to spill out of the enforced boundaries.
“Wait… how is this possible? The guy I had contacted was Josh, not John… and I got his text after I landed. Josh couldn’t make it that evening….” Sheela wailed.
“How much did this John steal from you?”
John stole nothing except my heart… I lay wallowing in self-pity while Sheela decided to play investigator.
However, nothing mattered anymore.
A year later
I led a mundane life—a teacher in the local municipal day-school, a best-selling author too and nights spent pining for John. He had proliferated deep into my heart and soul.
One Sunday, as I moped over the erotic dream with John that had me aroused and heartbroken when I woke up, Sheela called me.
“Eshu… I found your John” My heart raced further as she continued. “…But brace yourself. He is a fraud, as expected.”
“But, what did he want… from me?”
“Eshu, he was in prison for four years. But, nonetheless, you need to meet someone.”
The next day my sombre self, gripped Sheela’s hand as we walked into the office of Raghunath Rane, ACP, Crime Branch. But, as we waited in the lobby, I saw the handlebar moustache guy, and something irked me.
We were soon seated across the colossal mahogany table covered with neatly arranged folders, and at the helm was a stern, greyed charismatic man.
“What do you want to know about John, Ms. Eshaana?”
“Sir, just… if he is alright..”
He smiled shaking his head.
“Your… late father was the head of a human-trafficking cartel. The pharmaceutical company was just a front…”
I thought my jaw would touch the floor. But his tirade didn’t cease.
“…Your mother found out about it accidentally years ago, and he got her killed. Your stepmother cooked his books and your half-brother who took over the ‘job’, is now in custody. The cartel no longer exists, thanks to the diligence of a brave young man- Karan Vyas.
Karan was a national-level athlete with a promising career when his sister was lured into the cartel. She was brutally murdered while escaping, and his parents passed soon, struggling to get justice for their daughter. Heartbroken, Karan took upon the onus to investigate everything and joined the cartel. But they eventually found out and planned to get rid of him. However, he killed your father instead. Surrendering, he spent four years behind bars while we struggled to obtain the original documents pertaining to the establishment and funding sources for the cartel.
Karan had found that your mother had collated information and taken pictures too, but they were never found. It had to be with you. Karan had to bring the incriminating evidence from you somehow. In return, three remaining years of his imprisonment would be converted to parole. Hence Karan became John. He was following your half-brother who by the way, was at that party where you met John by chance.”
This was information overload, and it was yet to sink in.
“My… pendent,” I said as realization struck.
“Yes, Ms. Eshaana, it was a computer-chip carefully embedded by your brilliant mother at the time when our technology wasn’t good enough. No one could have guessed it.”
“Sir… where is he now?”
The five-hour ride to Divegar was back-breaking, but I wanted closure.
I watched wide-eyed at the group of children practicing drills under Karan’s watchful eyes. Though he looked haggard and had lost weight, I could see he loved what he was doing.
As if on cue, he turned towards me, his eyes gripping me in their bewitching aura. I staggered towards him, quickening my strides, and lost my balance. He rushed and caught me right before I landed.
“Sometimes we fall, sometimes we fail
The opportunity to rise we must avail….”
I pulled him towards me, and he slammed into my mouth, tightening his grip. A moment later, he held my face in his scabrous palms.
“I missed you, Esh… so much.” He swallowed heavily.
“I am not going anywhere… Karan.” I quipped and he chuckled.
Hand in hand, we walked towards his house knowing there were lots to catch-up on…
I was finally home.
Kanji hieroglyph: It is a symbol of ‘desire’ in Japanese
Khichdi: Khichdi or Khichri is a dish in South Asian cuisine made of rice and lentils, but other variations include bajra and mung dal khichri.
Divegar: Divegar is a village located in Shrivardhan Taluka, Raigad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, approximately 170 kilometers south of Mumbai.
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