Anika was born and raised in Mumbai, also known as ‘city of dreams’. A vibrant, bustling city that fulfils the dreams of myriad souls. Like many, she also believed that her desire to become a stage artist would be fulfilled soon, especially acting in rom-com plays. She was putting in effort, too.
But Anika’s parents wanted her to tie the knot as she would be twenty-eight this year. They had been nagging her to find a partner or to let them do the needful. However, she was not interested in dating or getting married.
Despite being a native of Mumbai, Anika never enjoyed nightlife or going around shopping. Her friends, on the other hand, were poles apart in many ways. While they lived their lives to the fullest, she preferred to stay by herself and loved reading books. At the most, she enjoyed watching stage plays. Some of her friends were married and settled. Even though she loved books on romance, in life, she wasn’t in favour of courtship.
One evening, they dragged her to a Club, promising her a night of laughter.
“Hey Anika, hope you are enjoying.” One of her friends asked.
“Yes, of course. Thank you, dearies, for bringing me here. You guys lifted my mood. I had been feeling down for the past few weeks because of the ongoing disagreements between my parents and me regarding my marriage,” Anika responded.
“The next performer is a well-known figure in social media with close to one lakh followers. Isn’t that incredible?” Guys welcome Mr Dev with a round of applause, the host announced.
The audience busted with laughter throughout his performance. Anika couldn’t stop laughing and clapping all the time. As soon as he got down from the stage, she sprinted to appreciate his work and congratulate him.
Anika’s friends were surprised to see Anika talking to a stranger and appreciating him as she hardly interacted with boys.
“Hey, I am Anika. I loved your performance. This was an awesome experience. Is this your profession?” Anika Asked.
“Hi. Thank you, Ms. Anika. No. This is my hobby. I am a wildlife photographer by profession. What about you? What do you do?” Dev asked.
“Oh, ok. Cool. I am a theatre artist. Not made my place, though.” Anika Replied and bid goodbye.
Anika was a no-nonsense type of person. She never believed in love at first sight or serendipitous encounters. However, even after saying goodbye that day, Anika couldn’t help but turn her head until Dev was no longer in view. She quickly shushed her mind and returned home.
“Anika, I need to talk to you.” Anika’s mom knocked on the door of her room and asked her to come out.
“Mom, I am in a good mood today. Please don’t tell me you have found a boy. I don’t want to hear.” Anika yelled.
“Don’t yell Anika. Stop talking to me in that tone, and come out first.” Anika’s mom warned.
“Yes, Mom, tell me.” Anika came out in the hall, sat on the sofa and said.
“My friend Sheetal’s daughter is getting engaged. I want you to join me. Moreover, she wants to see you too. So keep yourself free on Wednesday afternoon.” Anika’s mom uttered.
“Ok. Will see.” Anika replied and went to her room, shutting her room door behind her.
On Wednesday afternoon, Anika and her mom reached the venue. The engagement ceremony had not begun. Anika looked gorgeous in her white top and a navy blue silk skirt that flowed like a cascade. She chose to wear natural red lipstick and left her waist-length silky tresses open with a few strands falling on her face. On the other hand, her mother wore a checkered green kanjivaram saree and tied her hair neatly into structured pleats adorned with Jasmine flowers.
Anika’s mom introduced Anika to Sheetal and other friends.
“You look so pretty, girl.” One of the ladies complimented and asked her about her marriage plans.
Anika smiled briefly and excused herself to avoid the topic of marriage. Her eyes fell on Dev, and she rushed to talk to him.
“Hey, Dev! How come you are here?” Anika asked in surprise.
“Hi, Anika. So good to see you. My mom got me here. Do you remember I told you I am a wildlife photographer?” Dev asked.
“Yes, of course. So what? I didn’t get you?” Anika answered.
“My mum is a wedding planner. Due to some emergency, her regular photographer couldn’t make it to today’s function, and it was impossible to get another photographer last minute. Hence, she requested me to take over.” Dev cleared Anika’s confusion.
“Oh God! This is not acceptable. I had strictly mentioned that I needed pink and purple flowers at the entrance. Why is the decoration done in yellow, then?” The would-be bride screamed.
Anika and Dev’s heads turned. The bride’s mother rushed out. “Calm down, darling. Let me check, she said and walked towards Dev.”
“Beta, Dev, where is your mom?” The bride’s mother asked.
“Aunty, it is my mistake. I didn’t find enough of pinks. Hence, I chose yellow. I am so sorry.” Dev apologized.
“Never mind, son. This is also beautiful. I will convince my daughter.” The bride’s mother said and disappeared.
“Why are girls so particular about themes and colours? People often come for such events mostly to relish food and don’t bother much about the décor except for a few of them.” Dev muttered.
“True. Even I’m not fussy about these things. It’s a waste of money. Even a simple one looks beautiful.” Anika seconded.
“Come, let’s have some good coffee. There is a coffee stop just outside this venue.” Dev said, and both went out.
Dev placed an order for two coffees. The steward served it in five minutes.
“Good coffee, but I love coffee with froth,” Anika said with a smile.
“Sure. I will remember this next time.” Dev replied.
Ok. So we are going to meet again, Anika thought and smirked.
Days went by. Anika and Dev spoke over the phone sometimes. One day, Dev invited her to a movie, and she immediately agreed. After the movie, they went to their favourite coffee joint.
“Get us two coffees, please,” Dev ordered.
“Hey, remember?” Anika checked.
“Yes, of course,” Dev said and placed a rectangle carton box, gift-wrapped on the table.
“What’s this? Anika asked, quickly unwrapping the box. Frock? Cool, but what’s the occasion?”
“You had asked me to get one when we go for coffee again,” Dev stated.
“Are you out of your senses? What has my drink to do with a frock? I said coffee with froth.” You dumb.
I was kidding. I know you said coffee with froth. That’s coming. I loved this frock, and so picked it up for you. Dev said, and both let out a laugh.
Little did they know that their worlds were about to collide in a romantic adventure laced with love and laughter.
They were two different personalities, yet they found themselves strangely drawn to each other. This friendship grew into deep love, and soon, they tied the knot.
Anika gradually changed from introvert to extrovert and started socializing with people. Her current neighbour, Kavya, was Dev’s childhood friend and frequently hung up with Anika and Dev. But for some reason, Anika did not like Kavya’s interaction with Dev and often felt insecure.
One day Anika saw Dev desperately trying to call someone. His creased forehead revealed his tension.
Anika came close, ran her fingers through his hair and asked, “Why are you so stressed, dear?”
“Kavya told me she would message me once she reached her hometown, but it has been almost four days. Neither did she message nor call. Did you get any message from her?” Dev asked.
“No. Chill, dear hubby. She’ll give you a call. Perhaps she’s coming back earlier and wants to surprise us.” Anika remarked, trying to contain her rage.
“Oh God, why am I feeling unsafe? They are childhood friends. Isn’t it? But then those cryptic messages that Kavya had sent a few months ago talking about her love life has made me insecure and has taken away my peace, though she did not reveal anyone’s name.” Anika’s thoughts raced while her heart consoled her and asked her to dispel such thoughts.
Anika soon cleared all the negative thoughts and moved forward in life. But maintained distance from Kavya. A year later, she gave birth to a baby girl.
One year later:
Kavya and Dev were on their way home after attending a friend’s birthday bash.
“Dev, I want to confess something,” Kavya said.
“Yes, my friend, what’s the matter?” Dev asked.
Clearing her throat, Kavya said, “Dev, I love you and want to spend my life with you.
Dev was startled by this sudden revelation. He quickly slammed on the brakes, causing his car to screech to an abrupt halt.
“Are you out of your mind, Kavya?” Dev shouted.
I initially believed that you and I were only great friends and Ajay my love life. But alas, I was wrong. When Ajay started getting close to me after I got engaged to him, I felt uncomfortable. One day, when Ajay kissed my forehead, I shoved him and told him I wanted to end the relationship with him because I realized I love you, Dev. He blamed me for ruining his life. Remember that cryptic message I sent a few days ago? I was actually talking about our love, but I am unsure if you understood it or chose to ignore it,” Kavya explained, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Kavya put this straight into your head. I’ve always thought of you as a friend and have never had any feelings for you. I love my wife and kid. So please stay away from me and my family. Patch up with Ajay and get settled.” Dev warned.
But Kavya refused to understand anything and kept pestering Dev to leave his wife, Anika and marry her.
Things did not go well between them. Dev warned her of the consequences and cut off all conversations with her. But Kavya did not stop. She threatened to harm his child and tell Anika about their love. Dev remained upset for months.
Who should I confide in about my situation? Deepesh? No, he has a big mouth. Daisy? No, she doesn’t know Kavya well. Hmm, who else? Ah, yes, Seema. I can’t believe I almost forgot about her. She’s close to Kavya, so maybe I should talk to her. She might have a solution.
“Hey, Seema, can we meet this evening after work? I have something crucial to discuss.” Dev texted Seema, who was Dev and Kavya’s friend.
“Hi, Dev. Sure. I hope all is well. I will meet you at 6 p.m. at the regular café.” Seema replied.
“Ok, Great. Thanks, Seema.” Dev responded.
Dev reached on time. Seema joined him ten minutes later.
“Hi, Dev. Sorry to keep you waiting. You know how the traffic is. I got down halfway and walked till here.” Seema muttered while gasping for breath.
Before proceeding, she took a sip from the water bottle on the table.
“Nice to see you. But you don’t seem to be happy. You look stressed and worried. Is everything okay between you and Anika?” Seema poured questions.
“Yes. We both are doing very well. The problem is something else. Are you in touch with Kavya?”
“Yes. What about her? Okay, wait. Is she pushing you to marry her?” Seema Asked.
“Yes, she is. How do you know about this? She is threatening me that she would commit suicide and put the blame on me for her actions or harm our child. Can you believe this?” Dev replied, his tone changed.
“Oh, is she insane? I know she is behaving weirdly and throwing tantrums. I, too, have an account to settle with her.” Seema commented.
“Account? What account?” Dev asked.
“One evening, she called me and shared she wants to marry you. That’s how I came to know about her love for you. I was shocked. When I tried to make her understand, she threatened me, too. She said she would disclose my college affairs to my husband.” Seema answered.
“What has that to do now? Most of us indulge in such stupid affairs during our college days.” Dev retaliated.
“Exactly. You understand this, but what if my husband misunderstands me? All these years that we spent together will get ruined. Anyways, don’t worry, Dev. I will take care and make Kavya realize her mistake. Tomorrow is her birthday, Right? I will meet her and handle the situation. I’ll ensure she doesn’t act the same way again and moves on in life.”
“Hope so,” Dev expressed, and both left the cafeteria.
The following morning, Anika plucked a few flowers from her garden and called out to Dev and said, “I am going to Kavya’s place to wish her. Would you like to join me?”
“No, I don’t want to talk to her, and I advise you also not to go. Just let her be.” Dev stormed out of his room and yelled.
Anika did not ask any questions and went back to the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, Dev, too, left for work.
At 2 p.m. same day:
“Hey, Kavya. Wish you a happy birthday.” Seema wished and asked if she could meet in the evening by 7 p.m.
“Is Dev also joining you? He hasn’t called me yet.” Kavya said.
“Yes, I know Kavya, and he will not call you anymore. Stop threatening people. Grow up and move on in life. You will not gain anything by doing such things. You will ruin your and other’s life, too.” Seema said in a stern voice.
“What if I say I won’t?” Kavya provoked Seema.
“Let us talk in the evening. Are we meeting?” Seema checked again.
Kavya agreed to meet.
The main door of Kavya’s house remained closed for several days. Neither Anika nor Dev bothered to know about her whereabouts.
A week later….
“Dev, come home soon.” Anika’s lips quivered as she spoke over the phone.
“What happened? Why are you sounding nervous?” Dev asked, worried.
“Kavya is no more. The police found her body in some deserted place. Her Aadhar card that they found in her wallet revealed the address. The cops are in our vicinity talking to all the neighbours.” Anika informed.
What? I am coming home. He said and hung up the phone. Dev reached home soon.
The bell rang. Dev ran to open the door. “Yes, inspector,” he said.
“Mr Dev, by now, you must have known that your neighbor, Kavya is no more. It is a murder, and according to the postmortem report, it appears that she was given an overdose of some drug. Do you suspect anyone? How was your relationship with her?” The inspector questioned.
“Kavya was my childhood friend. I don’t suspect anyone. We belong to middle-class families. Who can be behind this murder?” With a lump in his throat, Dev responded.
“Inspector, let me know if you need help or find any clues.” Dev added.
“Ok. If required, I will call you.” The inspector replied.
The inspector and his team arrived at Dev’s residence once again after a few days. Do you know anyone from Sai Dham Society?” Inspector asked.
“Yes, inspector. But, Sai Dham Society? Why? Dev asked in surprise.
“We have got some leads. There are some residential areas near the location where we found Kavya’s body. Hence, my team started inquiring in and around the vicinity. During this process, a taxi driver approached us.
After closely examining Kavya’s photo, he verified that he had picked up Kavya and another woman from the main highway and had driven them to an isolated area, as per their instructions.
But while returning, he left only one woman at the entrance of Sai Dham Society. He only saw her eyes. She was wearing a veil.
Dev stood in shock for a while. His eyes widened.
“Mr Dev, we are waiting for your answer. Do you know anyone from that society?” The inspector repeated.
“Yes, sir. She is another friend of mine, Seema, staying in the C wing. Can I also join you? Dev inquired.
“Yes, sure.” The inspector said.
The bell rang, and Seema came out.
“Yes, inspector, whom do you want?” Seema asked.
Dev, who was standing behind the cops, showed up his face.
“Hey, Dev! What happened?” Seema uttered.
“Seema, I did not expect this from you. You killed Kavya? Is this what you meant by taking care of the situation?” Dev said.
“Are you insane, Dev? In fact, I did not even meet her that day. I was stuck in the office and reached home only at 9 p.m..” Seema retaliated.
“That’s what we are saying, precisely. The cab driver dropped you here at 9 p.m.” The cop said.
“Yes, but that doesn’t prove I was with Kavya,” Seema replied.
“Listen, lady, that we will find out. But for now, you have to come with us.” The lady cop said and pulled her by her wrist and took her to the police station.
The following morning, Dev visited the police station to find out what provoked Seema to take such an extreme step. She was housed in a special cell.
“Dev, please believe me. I haven’t done anything. True. We had plans to meet, but our meeting got cancelled at the last minute as Kavya had some urgent work. Please get me out of here. My hubby is also not in town.” Seema begged with teary eyes.
“If you are telling the truth, I promise I will get you out of this situation.” Dev said and rushed out.
As Dev was driving home, his phone suddenly beeped, signalling a new message from Ajay inquiring about Kavya’s death. That’s when Dev thought of Ajay. Ajay had the motive to kill Kavya as she had ruined his life. However, Dev also couldn’t ignore that Seema had her motives to harm Kavya. Is she lying? Thoughts raced through Dev’s mind as he grappled with the mystery surrounding Kavya’s death.
Dev’s head throbbed with pain. He went to his room and shut the door.
When he opened the drawer to place his belongings, he found a bill in it. It was from the same cafeteria where he and Seema met a few days back. He had ordered two juices and a sandwich. But the bill showed one ristretto coffee that Anika often had.
This coffee had a peculiar taste and was not liked by all. He stormed to the kitchen and asked, “Anika, did you go to any restaurant recently to have coffee? I found this bill in the drawer?”
Anika glanced at it and said, “No, honey. I haven’t gone to any restaurant for months now. It must be some old bill. Our toddler and household chores are keeping me extremely busy.”
Am I gone mad? Why am I asking such stupid questions? Dev thought and crumbled the piece of paper and tossed it in the bin.
Should I inform the cops about Ajay? His mind again raced with thoughts.
Dev made up his mind and informed the cops about Ajay. The cops asked Ajay to visit the police station. When they interrogated him intensely, he opened up.
“Sir, I won’t deny. I had a motive, but I am not a fool to commit a heinous crime like this and jeopardize my future. I have moved in life and am going to get married soon. I contacted Dev purely on humanitarian grounds. Did you interrogate Dev? Dev and Kavya were more than friends.” Ajay said.
Dev was called for interrogation. However, the inspector failed to find any concrete evidence or information that could link Ajay and Dev to Kavya’s death.
After verifying Seema’s testimonials, the police had to release her, too. The case remained unsolved for days.
One evening, Dev took Anika to her favourite cafeteria as they had not been out for months. Dev also needed a break from his work and stress. He ordered two coffees. The steward immediately asked, “Mam, you will have the ristretto coffee that you had a couple of days back?”
“Yes,” Dev replied on her behalf.
“But we haven’t been here recently,” he added and smiled.
Suddenly, a seed of doubt crept into Dev’s mind. He recalled finding a bill in his bedroom drawer a few days ago. If Anika had been to this place, he wondered why she had lied about it. But he kept quiet. After paying the bill, they came out.
On the pretext of going to the washroom, Dev asked Anika to wait outside, and he went inside again. He called the steward to check if he was sure he saw Anika.
The steward confirmed. Dev knew if he waited for some more time, Anika would barge in. So he paid the steward, asked him to get the CCTV recording and left.
The following day, the truth was unveiled through the CCTV footage. Disturbed by what he had seen, Dev returned home and confronted Anika about it. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why you lied to me. Furthermore, why didn’t you join Seema and me? We were sitting right behind you.” Dev questioned.
Anika’s smile disappeared, and sweat started to stream off her brows. She quickly mopped the sweat with her sleeve and looked at Dev with teary eyes.
What’s the matter, Anika? Your facial expression altered that day when the inspector came to our house, and I can see the same anxiety now. Tell me, what is it? Maybe I can help you.
Anika burst into tears and narrated the entire story.
“Kavya’s body language revealed she liked you. This made me feel insecure. But I ignored it. One day, I overheard your conversation with Seema. I decided to teach Kavya a lesson and put the blame on Seema because I did not like her either.
When you guys stepped into the cafeteria, I, too, entered and sat on the chair behind your table with a scarf on my head. A little later, when Seema went to the washroom, I followed her.
Seema had the habit of taking off her finger-ring while washing her hands. To my luck, she placed her ring on the wash basin, washed her hands and rushed out. I picked it up and slipped it in my purse.
On Kavya’s birthday, I modulated my voice to sound like hers and spoke to Seema, informing her that I wouldn’t be able to make it. Afterwards, I went to the restaurant where Seema and Kavya had planned to meet. I sat at a separate table, away from Kavya. Later, I approached Kavya, feigning surprise, and we waited for Seema. When Seema didn’t turn up, (which was expected) Kavya tried calling her but couldn’t reach her.
After waiting for thirty minutes, I told Kavya that I would ask Dev to join and all three of us could go for an outing. She happily agreed.
I drove her to a remote location and, under the pretence of surprising her, blindfolded her. I then quickly fished out the already-loaded syringe from my pocket and pierced it in her arm before she could resist.
That bitch wanted to take you away from me. How will I allow that to happen? Within minutes, she collapsed and died. I placed Seema’s ring at the murder site.
I then instructed the driver to drop me at Sai Dham Society.
The cab driver started inquiring about Kavya, and when I told him she went back with her husband, he was not convinced and asked, “Madam, aise sumsaan jagah par?” I shushed him, saying it was none of his business, and asked him to hand over a water bottle.
The driver pulled the water bottle from the car door and handed it to me.
I splashed water on my face and put on my veil. I got off at Sai Dham Society, took a rickshaw, and arrived home before you did.
When the cops came to our house, I intentionally showed them the pictures of last week’s party where Seema had worn the same ring and told them she is Kavya’s best friend.” Anika narrated.
“Don’t you have faith in my love? You could have talked to me. Besides, you said you heard our conversation in the cafeteria. Right?
Did you feel even once that I was cheating on you? What made you feel insecure, then? It’s so unfortunate Seema had to spend several nights in jail. My conscience will not allow me to remain silent.” Dev uttered, filled with frustration and anger.
Anika fell on Dev’s feet and pleaded, “Don’t call the cops. Forgive me, Dev. I felt unsafe, and my heart refused to trust anyone. I love you very much and didn’t want to let anyone else have you. Think about our child. What will happen to her if I go to jail?”
You should have thought of it before taking this drastic step. You know I, too, love you, but your insecurities ruined everything.
As Dev left, Anika remained crouched down on her knees. She realized what blunder she had done and regretted it.
After leaving a confession note on the table, Anika sprinted to the kitchen and slashed her wrist with a kitchen knife. Blood started to ooze out, and in no time, she fell unconscious.
When Dev arrived with the police, he found her dead in a pool of blood.
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