After loitering in the market aimlessly for some time, I reached home late and went straight to bed.
I woke up with a start at the door of my room being knocked hard. I was shocked to see it was almost 8.30 – very late. Karthik opened the door and I heard their mumbled conversation – why so late, what happened to breakfast, have I already left for work?
I was surprised when he told his mother that I was asleep and I needed it. There was a pause. “Appa needs breakfast on time, you know that,” his mother said accusingly. If I were not angry with Karthik, I would have made him move aside and rushed to the kitchen. But I had to cross him and when angry, I refrained from touching him even casually. So I held back.
“It’s okay, you can make upma, we will also have that. Or, better still, make some porridge for appa and you. I don’t think she is going to get up till lunchtime.”
I almost shrank with shame as I guessed he was being sarcastic. I waited for him to close the door, and then I was in the bathroom, quickly brushing and letting the water fill the bucket to finish my bath. He was back in bed, though, when I stepped out. He watched me from there. I avoided looking at him.
I picked up the phone near the bed and dialled my father’s number. “You there or do you have any plans to go somewhere?”
I was abrupt. But my father almost gasped hearing my voice. We hadn’t talked to each other in a while. “Where have you been! I have been getting worried. Of course I am here if you are coming. What about Karthik? Is he also coming?”
I took a deep breath and said, “No. I will be going to office and will drop in in the evening. I don’t think he is working today. I am late, bye.”
There was no reason for me to go to work. But I didn’t think I would be able to face my father without clearing my head first. Or spend an entire day in this house that no longer felt like home.
Karthik broke into my thoughts as if on cue, “I thought we could spend some time together.”
“I haven’t seen my dad in two months,” I replied almost reflexively.
“I haven’t seen you in ages too!” he exclaimed sitting up, his voice edgy.
I didn’t reply at first. Without meaning to be ironical, I finally said, “We have all the time in the world. I get to see my father only on some weekends.”
I turned my back to him pointedly and quickly packed a set of extra clothes and my brush while he brushed his teeth.
“Aren’t you coming home tonight?” he asked, seeing my bag.
“Home! I am going home…” my voice trembled. Instantly, I regretted yet another slip, another trigger. Tears welled up. “I am tired Karthik. I need a break,” I said in a broken voice.
He was silent and I was about to leave when he clasped me to him. I so wanted to put my head on his chest, but resisted the urge and tried to free myself. Without letting me go, he said, “If you are not in a hurry, I will drop you at work. Then, after lunch, I will pick you up and drop you off at your father’s house.”
“You may have better things to do? And, it is not like I haven’t done this.”
He kissed me, and I held back, refusing to give in.
“I am sorry for all that is happening…”
I shrugged. How did it matter? Nothing was going to change.
“Why didn’t you tell me about what Usha’s son asked you.”
Colour drained from my face.
He stroked my head and said softly, “Why do you take shit from my people, even if they are my people? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“There is no point in saying anything,” I said, breaking away from him finally. “If you are dropping me, then get ready quickly, or I am leaving.”
He nodded. “Yes, time for us to leave.”
I didn’t understand what he meant then.