Five Times

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Chapter 22

After finishing the group discussion in Adhi’s room, everyone departed to their separate room to rest. Though everyone’s heart was filled with fear, their tired mind and body wanted to rest sometime.

Ahana, Abi, and Diya shared a separate room and soon all fell asleep unknowingly. The clock ticked and the time went on. Ahana was the first one to get up from the bed followed by Abi.

Ahana sat in front of the mirror to set her hair after the short nap. Abi came after refreshing herself and sat in the bed in which Abi’s reflection is on the mirror behind Ahana.

The first thing Abi did was, check her mobile for the updates from Adhi about James and Lara. But there was nothing and felt a little disappointed.

A sudden thought rushed into Ahana’s mind while watching Abi through the mirror. Ahana’s hands stood midway in her hair observing Abi thoughtfully.

A few seconds passed. After that Ahana swung into action like there is no tomorrow. She set aside the comb and tied her hair in a messy bun. She closed the drawer under the mirror and moved quickly towards Abi.

Ahana sat exactly opposite to Abi in the bed and stared straight at her. Abi seemed to have sensed Ahana’s piercing look and as a result of it, Abi doubtfully raised her eyelashes to meet Ahana’s eyes.

Some streaks of lines appeared on both of their foreheads but for various reasons. Both were fighting a silent war with their mind.

Shall I ask her about that or not, thought Ahana.

Why Ahana is looking at me like this, thought Abi.

Abi was the first one to escape the battle and she spoke after relaxing herself.

“Ahana, is there anything weird in my face?” Abi’s voice came confused.

A smile lighted instantly on Ahana’s face on hearing her sister’s naughtiness. She smirked and said, “No Abi. There is nothing weird. But there is something new,”

The eyebrows promptly gathered to the center indicating the uncertainty of Ahana’s words.

“May I know what’s new?” asked Abi.

The answer to Abi’s question couldn’t be given directly by Ahana. So she hesitated a little and asked, “Shall I ask you one thing?”

Abi was not only surprised but was also hurt by Ahana’s words. Till that day Abi gave Ahana her full rights to question her. But today Ahana’s hesitation sounded too strange to her.

Abi’s sadness was evident in her voice. “Ahana, you can ask me anything. There is no need to hesitate like this,”

Even though Ahana was satisfied by Abi’s words, the thought of what she was going to talk about made Ahana weak. She was not sure about the reaction Abi would provide in response.

Anyways, after a while, Ahana said, “Okay Abi, but don’t take me wrong. I …”

“Just tell me what you think,” Abi’s words came sharp.

Ahana took a deep breath and started. “You and Adhi…,” Ahana said and paused to check with Abi’s reaction. Abi was stern showing no reaction in her face and Ahana continued boldly.

“You and Adhi went to Lara’s place hiding the truth from us right? Why...” Ahana was stopped by Abi even before completing what she had started.

“Ahana, this is what is bothering you? I accept that we lied to you. But we didn’t mean to cheat you,” said Abi.

“No Abi…I…” Ahana was again denied the chance.

“See, I admit that it was wrong. We should have at least told you the truth. But I and Adhi feared that you can’t handle it. So we thought of hiding the truth. I am really sorry for that,”

“Abi, listen…I didn’t…”

“I didn’t think that this will hurt you this much. I am sorry,” Abi said and pleaded to Ahana pathetically. Ahana’s patience went beyond the limit and she couldn’t handle anymore.

“Abi, Stop it!” Ahana snapped at once and there emerged an instant silence.

Abi didn’t understand the reason behind Ahana’s anger. So, Abi waited for Ahana to speak up.

“You are not even letting me talk,” Ahana’s voice came as a complaint.

Abi’s gaze averted down to the bed and she muttered under her breath, “Sorry,”

“I don’t need your sorry and I am not clearly hurt for hiding the truth from me,” Ahana shouted a bit louder.

Abi didn’t care about the raised voice of Ahana. All she wondered about was Ahana’s last words.

“Then why didn’t you tell me at first?” asked Abi.

“Did I get a chance?” complained Ahana.

A brief silence filled the room for a while and Ahana continued. “My question is entirely different from your answer,”

Abi remained silent giving Ahana her full chance now.

“You both went to Lara’s place today, right? Ahana asked.

Abi nodded.

“My only question is did Adhi ask you to accompany him to Lara’s place?” Ahana put up her question that stunned Abi.

Abi understood the direction the conversation is taking place. Abi managed herself and shook her head sideways indicating no.

“Hmm… So, he didn’t call you. Then why did you go with him?” Ahana stared at Abi.

While Abi was searching for some answers, Ahana talked again. “No no! My question was wrong,”

Abi suddenly felt relieved but Ahana’s next question shocked her again.

“Not why but, how did you go with him? Because…. Adhi is a man, right?” Ahana asked.

Abi gave Ahana a firing look for an instant and shifted her gaze from Ahana. She shifted in the bed feeling uncomfortable as she didn’t expect such a question from Ahana. Time passed. Abi had no other way to escape. She finally decided to answer Ahana boldly.

“Yes, Ahana. No doubt Adhi is a man and he didn’t call me to Lara’s place. That was clearly my decision to go with him,”

“That’s my girl. No doubt, you are a new Abi,” said Ahana and pinched Abi’s cheeks.

“No! You are taking things wrong, Ahana. I am the same old Abi. I went with Adhi not because I have changed, but because I was curious about this issue and wanted this to end soon. So, I thought of helping him. That’s it,” Abi’s words came like a sharp arrow hitting anything that comes in front of it.

Ahana felt slightly cheated by Abi words, but soon she managed to fight back Abi.

“No Abi! You are lying,” Ahana fired back.

“How do you say that? So, what do you think?” Abi asked little irritated.

“This issue may be one of the reasons, but that is not the only one. I know you well. You are not the kind of person to accompany a man whom you know for hardly two days. There is something deep inside your heart that you yourself couldn’t figure out,” Ahana answered patiently.

But Ahana’s words infuriated Abi and she shouted at Ahana gathering her strength.

“What are you trying to say, Ahana? Do you think I have any feelings for Adhi?” Abi words came like a hot volcano.

But Ahana held her composure and said with a smirk, “How do I know that?”

“Ahana, there is nothing. I went with him to just solve the problem. But you may think about how a girl like me can go willingly with Adhi. I went with him because…” Abi said and stopped at this point hesitatingly.

“Because…?” Ahana was curious to know.

“Because….” Abi squeezed her eyes once and opened it next second and answered, “I… I… I trust him…”

Ahana’s face lit up brightly like thousands of candles illuminating in the room. She couldn’t control her happiness. Out of control, she hugged Abi hardly, silently thanking God for making her believe in Adhi.

The moment James attended the call; Adhi introduced himself and started narrating everything he had figured out.

At first, James was truly shocked at Adhi’s explanation about the ring. But soon James recovered himself as he had already expected something about the ring.

Yet, the details about the underwater world, Diya’s meet with the queen of the ocean, the whales that were attacking humans, everything seemed stupid for James’ knowledge.

But James couldn’t just avoid it because he himself saw the whales trying to attack them. So James had more chances to believe Adhi than otherwise.

The mysterious thing about the ring was finally out, thought James while continuing to hear Adhi. After a while, the one-way conversation came to an end and Adhi silently waited for James to respond.

“The matter is getting serious. What do you think, James?” Adhi finally put out his question and waited patiently.

After nearly half an hour, James got the chance to talk. Clearing his throat James started his part.

“Hmm… I understand everything now, Adhi. I also understand the mystery that saved us yesterday,”

“Yesterday…?” Adhi’s voice came shocked and confused.

“Yes! Another tragedy happened yesterday…,” James said and staggered a bit.

“What happened? Are you okay?” Adhi’s concerned voice came vibrated through the phone.

“Yes! We are fine,” James assured Adhi and gave him the details of the whale attack after kayaking.

Once after James finished describing the things, silence filled the line. Adhi needed some time to process the incidents that had happened to James and Lara.

“Oh my God!” Adhi said after a small pause. His voice confirmed James that Adhi was upset and traumatized.

“That’s okay. We escaped. I was actually confused thinking of what made whales not to attack us. Now, I got the answer that it was the ring,”

“Yes, James. So, what is the next step?” Adhi asked.

“Hmm….” James couldn’t think of anything right then. He remained silent.

“James? What happened?” Adhi questioned after sensing the entire silence. James was bought back to the present by Adhi’s words.

“Adhi… Sorry… nothing. Just thinking…hmm…” James said and wobbled.

“James, even I am confused at first when I came to know about everything. But now I am clear. There is only one way out,” Adhi said.

“Hmm… The only way is to throw the ring in the sea,” said James and slightly turned his head to look at Lara.

But to his shock, Lara was not there. Where did she go? When did she go out of this room? Thought James and breathed heavily.

James’ body trembled after noticing that Lara is missing. He cursed himself for being indulged fully in the conversation and being not even aware of the door that was opened.

James suddenly wanted to end the call to run out and shout for Lara.

“Okay, Adhi. I will talk to you later,” James said and cut the call. The next moment, he checked the full room and the balcony thoroughly. James’ eyes went wet after assuring that Lara was not in the room.

He ran to the reception to check for his wife. “Did you see my wife here?” James’ question jolted the receptionist all of a sudden.

Then she composed herself and said, “Yes, she went this way,” she said and showed the direction.

James didn’t expect this answer. He at least thought that Lara would be in the cafeteria of the cottage. But she went out not even letting him know.

“What? Do you saw her going out? Did she tell you where is she going?” James asked with tears welling up in his eyes.

The receptionist shook her head sideways. James felt broken.

Lara!!! Where did you go? James screamed in his mind and ran out searching for her.

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