“How was the wedding?” Pakhi asked.
“Good.” Rajani was listless.
“What happened? All well?” Concerned, Pakhi searched her face. “Anisha okay?”
Rajani nodded. “Better than before but she’s lost a lot of weight.”
“So have you. Didn’t they feed you at the wedding either?”
“It’s not that. Just that so much was happening, I didn’t much feel like eating.”
“What was happening?” Pakhi probed.
Rajani just shook her head and bent down on her work. Pakhi sighed and left her.
“Are you still mad at me?” Riteish asked in an undertone.
Rajani’s eyes flashed fire as she looked at him. “Shouldn’t I be? You tell me.” Anger laced her voice.
“But why?” Riteish was bewildered.
Rajani played with her pencil. “You really don’t know?” She was skeptical.
Riteish shook his head. “Tell me.”
“Shweta, your wife,” she stressed, “called me to offer sympathies for my marital issues.”
Riteish’ eyes skittered away from her as he randomly clicked on the images on his screen.
“She was very supportive and promised any help that I may need from her or from her husband.” Rajani continued.
There was silence.
“Well?” Her voice was low and dangerous.
“Well what?” He coughed.
“How did she get my number?”
“How do I know? Maybe when I called the other day from your phone when my battery had conked off.”
“And how did she get to know about my marital issues?”
“You only told me to sort it out.”
“This is your way of sorting out your slip of tongue? By gossiping about my marital issues?” Rajani was incensed.
“She was refusing to listen to reason. Seeing no other way, I told her part of the truth.”
“That I was worried about you.” He looked at her with his heart and sincerity in his eyes. “Believe me I didn’t mean to gossip about you. It’s just that when I went to talk to her, she badgered me and nagged me so much that I had to say something. So I settled for the truth. And then of course she wanted to know why I was worried about you and I had little choice but to tell her about how they are mean to you and he hit you. That convinced her. Maybe that’s why she called you to sort of check up on what I said.”
“Are we okay now?” Riteish asked hesitantly a couple of hours later. “Can we talk?”
“Talk about what Riteish?”
“Us!” Rajani gave a mirthless laugh. “I don’t think there’s anything like that possible.”
“Why not?” argued Riteish. “We just need to talk things over, chalk out a strategy…”
“What strategy?” Rajani was deceptively calm.
“About meeting a lawyer,” his voice was low but clear, “filing and finalizing divorce.” He saw her expression change. “Both of ours,” he added hastily.
“What else is there?”
“Not what, who.” Rajani met his eyes full on. “Anisha.”
“I have no problems with her. You can bring her if you like. My parents are very adjusting and compromising kinds. They will do anything for my happiness. But you also need to be mature and understanding.”
“Meaning?” Puzzled Rajani frowned.
“Meaning if we have children later, they may,” he coughed, “I mean there may be a possibility that my parents may favor or appear to be favoring my child over yours. You’ll have to accept that.”
Rajani could only stare at him.
Riteish sighed. “Look I don’t want to begin our relationship on any misconceptions and misunderstandings. That’s why I thought it best to bring it out in the open and talk it out. It’s not like this will happen. It’s just a hypothetical situation…”
“I understand.” Rajani said woodenly. “Anything else that you would like to clarify?”
Riteish drummed his fingers on the table. “I believe in being upfront and frank. I think your parents are right. It would be best if leave Anisha at your in-laws place and move away. Let them bring her up. She is their responsibility too.”
“Meet me on the terrace in five minutes.” She pushed back her chair and stood up. “Ma’am I’m going to the bank,” she informed before striding off.
“Rajani,” his voice was low and tender. He moved to enfold her in his embrace but Rajani pushed him away eyes flashing fire.
“I came here to put an end to this nonsense.”
Riteish’ mouth fell open in shock. “Nonsense?”
“Exactly. Nonsense.” Rajani was all but frothing in the mouth. “You covered all your bases, keep all your options open but expect me to burn my bridges break off…”
“What rubbish!” Riteish was furious. “When did I do that? I was just clarifying a few things, uncomfortable but practical truths…”
“And now I want to clarify my situation.” Rajani was shaking with anger. “First and foremost. Anisha is not my responsibility. She is the reason I am alive and wish to live. Be very clear about it. She comes first. Any step I take or don’t take is because of her, keeping her future in mind. If I dump her and walk away, what would be the difference between my parents and me? Isn’t that what they have done? Dumped me at my in-laws? And I am an adult while she’s just an innocent baby.”
“It’s okay Rajani, it really is.” Riteish said in placatory tones. “I didn’t mean anything. I was just discussing and trying to explain the possibilities and understand how we can work it out…”
“There is nothing to work out.” Rajani interrupted flatly. “If you were serious about us, you would have told Shweta the truth not tried to sugarcoat your ‘slip of tongue’. You should have taken the bull by its horns and said you wanted a divorce…”
“How could I say that?” protested Riteish, “when we haven’t yet agreed or sorted out the modalities…”
“That’s the whole point Riteish! I want a divorce from Harsha whether you are there or not. But you want a divorce from Shweta only if you have an alternative.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’re love is conditional,” Rajani’s pitch rose, “conditional to whether or not I ‘adjust’ to your parents, whether I accept their strictures upon my daughter or me, whether…”
“Isn’t it the same with you?” Riteish retaliated, “Didn’t you say your daughter comes first?”
“Agreed.” Rajani calmed down. “So we are better off our separate ways. Our priorities are different – you want a pliant and malleable wife who will kowtow to you and your parents wishes…”
“I do not! I…I love you. But you are just looking for a safe house for yourself and your daughter.” Riteish lashed out.
“Perhaps you are right.” Rajani admitted. “I’ve made many mistakes. I shouldn’t have married Harsha. I shouldn’t have had a baby. But I’m not going to make another mistake by marrying you,” she glared at him, “or have an affair with you.”
“So what will you do?” He sneered. “Continue to take this abuse?”
Rajani knotted her fingers. “I don’t know what I am going to do. I only know what I am not going to do.”
“You think I am a worse option than your husband? You prefer to stay with them and be abused?”
“It’s not like that Riteish.” Rajani regretted lashing out at him. She softened her tone. “Please try and understand. I am not alone. I have Anisha to think about. She is my priority. All my actions and decisions will impact her…”
“You can’t take care of yourself, how will you take care of her? Who knows she may be better off without you?”
“Who knows?” Rajani flinched as he threw her worst fear into her face. “But having brought her into this world I can’t desert her. I just can’t!”
Cornered, Rajani sought refuge in the age-old argument. “You will never understand because you aren’t a parent yet and you will never be a mother.”
“All that is bullshit Rajani. Be practical and rational.” Riteish refused to back off. “You must be crazy to think that you can live your life as a self-sacrificing martyr based on outdated notions…”
“I only know one thing Riteish.” she was pale but firm. “I won’t let Anisha become another Rajani, secondary and expendable, no matter what cost I may have to pay.”
“What about me?” It was a plaintive cry.
“What can I say?” Rajani gave a helpless shrug. “Perhaps you should try afresh with Shweta. Perhaps she didn’t have an affair. And even if she did, you…we also almost did. Do what I do – forgive, forget and move on.” She turned away and retraced her steps back to the office.
A/N Just a little heads up, last week I was out on a week’s training and things are busy at home as well (my Guddu coming home!) and guests expected next weekend. I finished up all my chapter bank so if I dont manage to post next week don’t give up on me! I will be back as soon as possible 🙂
Click here for the next chapter: A Ray of Hope