Leave Me Alone, Please!
My mood plummets. Seeing Karthik with Madhuri had been bad enough. I have to accept the inevitable. He had to find someone eventually.
But seeing the anger in his eyes hurt more.
Is this the time to file for divorce? To snap the thin bond that I hope still holds us together?
The fear of letting go irritates me further - he can initiate it if he is that desperate.
I am not able to focus on work, so preoccupied with conflicting emotions. My friend Kavitha openly tells me I have become moody and she finds it hard to communicate with me. As for Uma! She has not called since lunch that day, and has not returned my calls.
The only people still talking to me are my clients, Vijay included! But all he needs are changes and status updates. I read the latest mail from him which retracts from all that we have discussed. He is exasperating!
I land up at the site. Vijay is sulking and I am in no great mood myself.
“What?” he demands as I silently plough through the debris.
I ignore him and walk to the room where he has asked for a change. “Now isn’t this something we have discussed before too? Why do you keep coming back? Either don’t agree, or if you do, then don’t go back!” I snap.
“When did we discuss this?” he asks.
I make a face and tell him the time, date and what else we discussed that day. He looks at me incredulously. “This is a new idea!” he tries to justify, but I wave it aside and move on to other points. “This point is closed for discussion,” I inform him. “Anybody would think this is your house!” he exclaims.
I look at him imperially and remind him it is. “You may own the place, but the design is mine. And I know what will work.”
“My god! Look how she talks! Customer is king.”
I smile sweetly. “And kings do well by keeping off areas they don’t understand, okay?”
“What’s chewing you!” he asks, having never seen me this irritable.
“You haven’t told me about the studio room,” I say, sticking to business.
“I need a room for Uma.”
I frown, a bit startled at the implication. He explains hastily, “When she works here, I need to give her some space. I may add one or more people.”
My relief is palpable. “Your upstairs will look like office then…do you want it that way! Instead, get additional space for office. Or the backyard… Reduce the greenery there and put up a small office space.” I work out quickly the costs and tell him how much that will work out to.
“You are good at this stuff…finance, I mean. You have numbers at fingertips…” he asks, his eyebrows knit together. “You are a dark horse!” he says, after a pause.
“Why?” I ask, frowning.
“You didn’t tell me you were married.”
I freeze. “No more, as you can see. Does that matter?”
“On what you want with life…with me.”
I stand still. “What do you mean?”
Vijay scratches his head and says, “Kalpana…you confuse me.”
I know well what he means, but I am confused myself. “You are the one who wants changes…”
He shakes his head. “No…I don’t mean the house.”
I fumble, “Sorry…I don’t intend to confuse you…what do you mean?”
He looks at my face steadily. “You never let on that you were married…why?”
Why does he phrase it that way? “Sorry,” I whisper. “I… I…” I start crying. He waits by my side awkwardly. “I am overwrought…I am sorry,” I say, stepping away and taking control of myself.
“It doesn’t matter…I was just teasing you,” he says gently.
I shake my head. “No, Vijay… It does matter. I discovered that it matters too much. I don’t know what you mean by confuse you…but… Oh Vijay, I hope I haven’t hurt you in any way.” I bury my face in my hands.
He is silent. I look up finally and say, “I am sorry. I…”
I turn to go, but he grabs my hand. I turn sharply, trying to break free. He asks softly, “But something is bothering you, isn’t it?”
I stop struggling. He loosens the grip.
I am crying again now and in his arms. As that thought enters my mind, I feel self-conscious. I quickly wipe my tears and step back.
“Sorry, I am just very upset,” I finally manage. “Did Uma tell you that I was married?” He nods. “What else?
“That her brother and you split because of her husband.”
I shake my head. “She has got it wrong…it goes deeper.” I touch Vijay on his arm. “At the party, Karthik probably misunderstood us and…” How can I say it! I look down. “I think he told Uma something…”
He asks softly, “He misunderstood?”
“Yes, Vijay. I hope I have never given you reason to believe otherwise. I will see you later.” I rush to the door. “I think Uma is the one for you,” I add before stepping out.
I run to my bike, and wonder if running away from all this will help matters. Who will miss me?
I pause by the bike, wiping my eyes. Vijay is standing by my side suddenly. He hugs me. “Hey, I know she is the one for me… I was worried about you.”
I nod. “Thanks, but don’t be… I am fine.” I whisper. Oh this Karthik!
That night, I have a strange dream. Or is it a memory, wriggling out when I am half-asleep? Karthik holds me but I am crying and trying to free myself. He moves away, surprised, and asks me what’s wrong. I don’t say anything. His mother is in the other room, and that is enough to seal my lips.
And then, she is not there. He and I are in the hall of our house, having a conversation – a normal one, almost, when he comes close and holds me. I wriggle out and run, crying, to the other room.
I open my eyes, puzzled and sweating.