Two Years

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Chapter 45

When It Rains

Saturday dawns bright. Breakfast passes to lunchtime, and he is neither here, nor have I heard from him. Excitement sours to disappointment and anger. I sulk. If something has come up, he could have called. I wonder if he is with Madhuri, and that further incenses me.

God knows how long I sat with a paper and pencil in hand, trying to sketch a room. When the bell rings, the evening shadows are already falling across the room, and the book in my hand only has an outline of a room.

I open the door eagerly and ready for disappointment at the same time. Karthik steps in, not waiting for my invitation. I close the door and turn away. “I was waiting the whole day…”

He ignores me and stretches on the sofa. He has brought some files. I can see they are from some hospital, and my heart sinks. “You had to go for some check up?” I ask, feeling sorry already for having been harsh to him. Maybe he was not feeling well.

He sighs and asks for coffee. I go into the kitchen and he follows, leaning agains the door.

“I am sorry about coming late,” he says.

I don’t respond.

I pour us coffee and we both move back to the drawing room. Though we make small talk, it is just empty words. It is the pauses in between that speak of my need to be done with all this and get to the point.

I put the cups away when we finish. I come back in to the hall and find him stretched out, his head thrown back on the backrest of the sofa. The urge to go and stroke his head is so strong that I force myself not to look at him.

“You are not well, Karthik? Why don’t you go home and rest?” I say without making eye contact, without meaning it.

“Hmm…no, I am fine,” he replies, to my immense relief.

“Will you have dinner here?” I ask, almost scared of a refusal.

He shrugs. “Whatever…” he says, indifferently.

He straightens up but immediately hunches over.

I feel a churning in the pit of my stomach and keep quiet. I say after a pause, “If you would rather go home…”

He doesn’t respond. I wait for him to start whenever he is comfortable.

I go to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

Unexpectedly I find him behind me as he envelopes me in his arms and pulls me to him.

I turn and hold him tight, overwhelmed by the long-suppressed longing for this embrace. He tightens his hold just a bit. “You don’t know what this means to me…your not running away from me…” he says softly after a while.

I keep my eyes lowered as I say, “You don’t know what it means, not knowing why I did that!”

“That again!” he exclaims.

“That again,” I say. “That is what I have been waiting for the last two days.”

He grabs my hand and takes me to the hall. He hands me the files. “Read them, and you will know.” He turns away.

I see that I am the patient. I put it back on the table and say, “Leave them here. I will read them at night.” The cooker demands my attention. I get up. He stops me saying, “No, I am not leaving you alone with these.”

The sinking feeling strengthens. I lick my lips that have gone dry. “You have let me be alone these two years. How does this matter?”

He shakes his head. “This matters because you don’t remember things. And discovering now is going to be like going through it afresh,” he says in a rush.

I sway uncertainly as I look at the intensity on his face, unsure of why I am doing this to myself. Why not just let go, trust him and let go.

He sees that indecision and comes closer. “It is not worth the agony, Kalpana. Believe me. Let us start afresh. Forget everything that happened.”

I laugh at the irony and sit back. “That’s what has already happened, Karthik. I have forgotten everything and started a new life. I either go ahead with this new life, or come back knowing what I left behind.”

“Nothing important happened,” he says, after a pause. “Nothing that can affect us…”

I look at him sadly. “No, Karthik, nothing that can affect us? And yet it did… Tell me, can you forget Sukumar?” I get up and head for the kitchen, unable to see the pain on his face.

He follows me in after a moment. “Yes, I can. I know it was momentary madness…something that was unintended. I can forget it. You have lived here for two years with no contact with him though both of you had the opportunity. How can I keep holding on to that memory then?”

I turn to look at him. “How do you know? Or, if not Sukumar, how do you know there was no one else?” I demand quietly.

He stops for a second, his eyes going still. “Was there…anyone else?”

I turn away, feeling very upset with myself.

“Vijay?” he asks, his voice hoarse.

I whirl around in shock. I was talking in generalities. Having a name put to a shadowy lover brings me down with a thud. “N-no! I didn’t mean I have… I am just saying…how do you know?” I stammer incoherently.

He turns away now, overwhelmed. I touch his back. “And then, there is Madhhuri.”

He turns back slowly and puts his arms around me. “I have not been able to think of anyone… Not knowing what made you go away…what came between us… Believe me, all these files will give you no answers if you yourself cannot. Something happened to you, and only you know what changed things between us.” He pulls my head back gently, to look at me. Stroking my hair, he says, “If you have forgotten the reason, then it can’t matter anymore, can it?”

We stand in silence.

I finally say with a sigh. “I can at least try. Maybe something will trigger some memory…”

“I don’t want anything triggering any memories. Let us just move on…but if you insist, then we will go through this – but together, not alone…”

“Is it so bad?” I ask, fear making my voice tremble.

He kisses my forehead. “No, not to me. Not anymore. But you…it will hurt. It hurt then, it will hurt again. Are you ready for that?”

No, I am not. But I nod. I have to face it someday.

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