Twists and Turns
My eyes blur as I watch Karthik walk away. My emotional state made a couple of heads turn. So I quickly wipe my eyes and look for Vijay. There he is, chatting with Madhuri and Uma right across the party hall, all three enjoying a joke.
My loneliness depresses me. I can leave instead of feeling miserable here. Someone calls out to Madhuri, and she excuses herself. Vijay and Uma continue chatting like friends. I feel a pang. My eyes seek out Karthik, who is standing by himself, looking just as lost. But in a moment, Madhuri joins him and he smiles.
Jealousy, the green-eyed monster, rears its head. Propelled by some primitive anger, I move towards them. She is almost clinging to Karthik and I look at the linked arms. Karthik extricates himself seeing me approach.
“Wish you many more happy returns of the day once again, Madhuri. I’ll take leave now.”
“Anytime, Kalpana. And do let me know if you need help with Vijay’s house.”
I incline my head without comment. Vijay and Uma come up to me and he asks, “Hey, Kalpana! Did you have dinner?”
I smile and lie, “I did. You were busy talking to Uma, so I didn’t want to disturb you. Did the two of you have dinner?”
“Not yet. Are you leaving? I’ll drop you home, just give me 10 minutes.”
I shake my head. “I will find my way back, Vijay. Please stay back and have a good time. The evening is young.”
“Stay on, Vijay, what’s your hurry?” Madhuri asks. “I am sure Kalpana can take care of herself,” she adds edgily, making me feel very unwanted.
A second’s pause before Vijay responds, “I am sure... But I brought her here…so…”
Madhuri tosses her head and says, pouting, “Your knight’s honour!”
Vijay glances at Karthik and her and says softly, “I will see you over the weekend.”
Madhuri makes a face and turns to Karthik. I have not had the guts to look that way and whisper, “Vijay, it is fine, let me go now.”
His face hardens and he says, “If you are in a tearing hurry, then I will skip dinner.”
He is angry and wanting to avoid a scene, I saying softly, “No, no, please have dinner. I will wait.” The day is turning out to be quite bad.
Uma joins me. “Is that woman acid!” she exclaims.
I shrug. “She hates me, I don’t know why.”
“Because Vijay likes you?” she asks archly. Then she smiles artlessly and says, “I loved the way he stood up for you! He must like you…” she says, her tone turning into a question.
I laugh at her simplicity. “He is a bit like you…very loyal to his friends. And for some reason, he treats me as one. Isn’t he a nice guy?” I ask her, my eyes twinkling, my intention clear. I can’t stand in her way twice, and I feel she is besotted by him.
“Now! Don’t turn this around,” she says, quickly grasping my meaning. But the way she blushes, I know I am right. Who knows how this story will turn out!
Vijay brings his dinner to where we are standing and asks Uma about hers. She looks at Karthik, who has Madhuri hanging on his arm and wearing her interest in him on her sleeve, and says, “Yes, we should be on our way back. Aditya has school tomorrow,” she explains to me.
“Go, get dinner then,” I prompt her.
Uma moves away. Vijay asks, “Aditya?”
“Oh! She has a son!” His eyes follow her. “How do you know her?”
I look at her at the buffet queue with her brother. Something twists inside me. Am I jealous of Madhuri as well as Uma? I force my eyes away from Karthik. “Yes, she has a son. She is divorced now. The guy was cheating on her.”
Vijay looks at me shocked and then turns to see her.
I slap my forehead. “Don’t let her know that I told you…please?” I plead quickly, wondering how I could have been so indiscreet.
Vijay nods, finishes dinner and goes over to where Madhuri is. She turns away coldly, but he hugs her. She pouts and he says something that makes her smile. He waves a bye to some of his friends, but as he comes towards me, I can see his eyes seeking. I walk up to Uma and Vijay follows me. They say a bye to each other, Vijay saying, “Do let me know if you are interested.”
My eyes widen involuntarily and Uma blushes. “Yes, of course…”
I mail Kavitha much later that night, first pouring out everything in detail, in a fury, in desperation. But as I read through, I slowly edit and then send her four lines - I give her my contact number and telling her how I would love to hear from her. She calls me a week later, and all the need to talk about that evening is gone.
I tell her about my father passing away and my separation. But before she can probe too deeply, I as her about her family, and she tells me about her two lovely children, her parents who are now staying with her and her husband, who is with a finance firm. She herself is at home to take care of her children, but intends to start work soon.
She sends me an invitation to join her friends group online and we chat often these days on everything under the sun – except myself. If she notices it, she does not comment.