“Relax!” Rajani pulled the curtain. They both sneezed. “You can’t be pregnant.”
“How do you know?” Shikha held on grimly to her tragedy.
“Because it is biologically impossible.” Rajani smirked.
“But God is above biology. He could be punishing me for being so wicked and… ” Shikha wrung her hands.
While Rajani was hunting for her bio book, Shikha had not been idle. She had painstakingly (and creatively) worked out (and embellished) possible post pregnancy scenarios – each worse than the other.
And all of them ended with Amu flying off to the States alone. She shuddered.
“Oh please Shikhs! Don’t talk like a illiterate uneducated…”
“Oh please what do you know of biology? Why should I believe you? Are you a doctor?”
Rajani swallowed the instant anguish that rose and choked her. “You can read it and see.” She steadied her voice. “It’s very clear. See…”
“I don’t want to read bio!” Shikha screamed. “And you can take your holier than thou,” she put a hand to her mouth her eyes widened in horror. She retched a couple of times before dashing to the washroom.
“What happened?” Kirti entered.
“N…nothing,” Rajani stammered. Was biology wrong? Was Shikha indeed pregnant? Was God actually punishing her? Was she guilty of a holier than thou attitude?
“Shikha! Shikha?” Kirti banged on the washroom door.
“What happened?” The commotion drew Biji in too.
“Nothing Biji,” Rajani said, “Shikha went to the washroom.”
“But why this hullabaloo?”
“Nothing. We were just talking.” Rajani said lamely.
“What’s this?” Kirti looked at the book on the bed. She walked towards it.
Rajani froze. The book was open on a very telling chapter and the picture was very graphic. She ran to the bed and flipped it shut. “Nothing Aunty,” she laughed. “We had an argument over something in bio so I got the book to sort it out. And Shikha got mad because I won.” She added feeling very clever and smart.
“She’s been jumpy and jittery since last night. I wonder…” Kirti mused.
“N…nothing Aunty, she must have had a bad dream or something,” Rajani added another angle.
Kirti looked at Rajani with a frown.
“Shikha!” She turned to call through the door. “Open up. Are you okay?”
The door opened a crack and Shikha peered out. “I am okay. I am having a bath.”
“Bath? But you had a bath this morning didn’t you? And it’s so cold…”
Shikha shut the door.
They stared at each other.
Biji stalked off swaying alarmingly and muttering darkly about crazy girls, doomed marriages, unfortunate state of affairs etc etc.
Shikha opened the door another crack. “Rajji you go home. I am fine.”
Kirti was still standing there so Rajani had little choice but to accept that. “Call me.” She said in a voice loaded with meaning. But Shikha had shut the door.
Rajani spent the morning in an agony of suspense. Nisha dragged her off to yet another shopping expedition and Shikha didn’t take any of her calls. Back home she just waited enough to unload the bags and boxes before dashing off to Shikha’s.
“Where are you going?” Nisha called. “Weren’t you to exhausted to shop?”
She was – but she had to get this sorted before she could draw an easy breath.
“Aunty, Shikha…” she asked breathless.
“She’s okay.” Kirti smiled. “She’s sleeping…”
Rajani barged into her room. Sleeping was she? How could she?!
“Let her be Rajani,” Kirti pulled her out. “Poor thing isn’t well.”
Foreboding filled her. Dare she ask Aunty?
“Wh…what happened Aunty?”
“Stomach cramps. I gave her a hot water bottle and a tablet. She is easier now.”
Stomach cramps. Did that mean she was having her periods? Was that why she wanted a bath?
Rajani wished she could ask Kirti but felt too embarrassed and inhibited.
Mumbling, she went back home. Couldn’t Shikha have messaged her? Didn’t she know she would be dying of stress? And look at her – sleeping away. With a hot water bottle. Probably dreaming up another of her romantic trysts. She fumed. How inconsiderate could she be? She swore she would murder her if she were having her periods. How could she not tell her?
Wedding frenzy at the Ahuja household peaked and tempers ran high and Rajani was right on track for a nervous wreck. And there was no sign of Shikha.
Even Nisha asked. “What happened Rani? Did you and Shikha have a fight?”
“No Mamma. But you did invite her for the mehendi and the other functions?”
“Yes of course.”
“And her in-laws?”
“Yes! Go and invite her personally if you think she is sulking over that.”
That was a sound idea! She wasn’t going to talk to Shikha she was just going to invite her. It was her duty to do so. She wasn’t keen on meeting Shikha – if she could be ignore her and ride her high horse, well so could she. Hummph.
“Biji, Aunty, please come for the mehendi and ladies sangeet function.” She said formally.
“But of course!” Kirti laughed. “Try and keep us away. Why this formality? Did you and Shikha have a tiff? She’s been stuck inside the house for two days now.”
“I hope she is okay?”
“Okay bye Aunty.”
“Wait why don’t you meet her? Shikha!”
“Yes Mummy?” Shikha came out. She stopped short.
“Hi.” She didn’t look at Rajani.
“There she is. Go on now. You can invite her yourself. Go inside.” She pushed them both. Unbelievable that they were getting married. Neither of them looked more than 12 years old. Heaven help them and their spouses. Kirti sent up a heartfelt prayer.
Shikha plonked herself on the bed and fiddled with her phone.
Rajani who was determined to be on her high horse and aloof best jumped right in. “What on earth is the matter with you?”
“Nothing.” Shikha mumbled.
“Tell me,” she ordered, “did you have a fight with Amu? Did you tell him? Are you pregnant or did you have your…”
“Shush!” Shikha shut the door. “I had my periods. Okay?”
“Okay so that’s good isn’t it?” Rajani was confused.
“Then what’s wrong? Why are you acting so weird?”
“Because I am so embarrassed! I shouldn’t have said anything to you.” She wailed. “If I had just waited a few hours, it would all have been sorted by itself.”
“Come on Shikhs don’t make such a big thing out of it.”
“I don’t know what you must be thinking of me…”
“Please Shikhs! Why would I judge you? I am just relieved that it was a false alarm.” She scuffed her shoe. “And it set me thinking too.”
“What if I get pregnant? I don’t want a baby? What about my studies?”
Shikha nodded. “I talked to Mummy. No I didn’t say anything about my scare and…all that, but just that I didn’t want to have a baby just now and what should I do.”
“So what did she say?”
“She said she would take me to the doctor and get some pills for me. Why don’t you come along?”
“No! So embarrassing! You go and give me the prescription too. I will take that.” She paused playing with the tassels of the bedspread. “But Shikhs I don’t want to…to…to…you know what I mean right?”
“But that’s the whole point of getting married silly!”
“Which I am still not interested in!”
“That’s because you don’t know…” Shikha blushed but her eyes lit up.
“Shut up Shikhs! It’s different for you. I mean you both love each other and you are comfortable with him. Harsha and I hardly know each other. And I will be going back to college. I really don’t want to…” she trailed off. She looked at Shikha with a pleading expression. “And what if I start giggling?”
Click here for the next chapter: Panic Stricken