Revelations in progress…
Avanti stared wide eyed at an equally shocked Keshav… their own house landline number was used to make the calls. They rushed to all the rooms and checked for valuables. Nothing was out of place or stolen. Even the deity worshipped daily by Avanti was made of pure gold and it was left untouched. It was well past midnight and neither of them could sleep in spite of having a very tiring day. The revelations were sapping up their energies…it looked like. What on earth was happening…? Avanti realized if she had to understand the reason for the perpetrator to go to this extend then she had to know the entire story.
They lay in bed next to each other each lost in his own line of thoughts.
“…How did my mother come to know about me being in the hospital…?”
“…Uh…Actually Avanti that night I was going insane since we hadn’t got any news about your whereabouts …so I… uh…I called your mother to check if you had gone to her place or called…or anything…that’s how then…I had to tell her everything…” Avanti could feel him rub his face in the darkness of the room.
“So…Keshav… we now know that baba’s accident was actually a sabotage… now what do we do next…?”
Keshav moved closer and she turned and moved into his arms…where she longed to be. “…Oh God Avanti…the very thought of that place gives me the chills after what happened there… just promise me…you will never play detective ever again…” He tightened the hold as she contemplated her answer. “…Promise me Avanti…please darling…” He whispered the last words and that did it for her.
She looked up into the silhouette of his face in the moon light coming in through the cracks in the blinds adorning the window above the bed. “…I promise you Keshav… I will never do it again… honestly even the vision of that burning house gives me the shudder now that I also know it’s the same person… who has gone to such lengths to cover up his misdeeds…”
They lay quiet for a few minutes the chiming of the clock the only sound in the quiet night. Suddenly she felt Keshav chuckle. “what…what is it hubby dearest…? What’s so funny…?”
“…Avanti… I don’t believe you lied to your mother… you can’t lie to save your life… how did you achieve this feat…?”
She had told him a little earlier about how she had conspired with her school friend and Rahul to come to see him and stay back if needed. She interlocked her fingers with his on his chest. “Keshav… when it comes down to choices, I choose you…always…and when it’s a matter of your well-being, I will go to any extent…lie even…” before she could complete her sentence, he turned her on her back and moved on top of her kissing her hard. Her heart stopped beating even as he raised her hands above her head and held them there, their fingers interlocking, his legs on either side of her body sunk into the soft mattress. He sucked and pulled her lips even as she gasped with pleasure. He suddenly moved up and looked at her in the dark…starring at her as if she was the only star in the dark and again brought down his panting lips on hers as if she was the air that filled his lungs. She floated mid-air and didn’t want to land back on earth… Within seconds their clothes were on the floor and he balanced his arms on either of her sides boring into her eyes as if asking her permission to be a part of her…She pulled him closed and circled her legs around his him as she kissed him and the very next moment, he filled her insides to the brim… She peaked almost instantly, the subdued embers of passion suddenly amplifying in their intensity. He began his moves in and out of her softness even as she tried to match him stroke to stroke raising her hips… she barely lasted for a few seconds before she got thrown down the precipice, her arousal breaking all barriers and she saw stars before her eyes… her screams muffled into his mouth and in the next couple of strokes he followed right behind freeing her mouth and screaming out her name as his warm release gushed inside her womb. He fell all exhausted next to her dragging her close to him.
Moments later Avanti stared at the sheen of sweat on his chest sparkling in the moonlight hues and smiled even as the last remnants of her arousal coursed through her body… She finally felt complete and satiated today after being away from Keshav and though it were just five days they were apart…it seemed like eons ago. Sleep was miles away and as he played with her hair, she decided to address the elephant in the room…in their lives. “…Keshav…?”
“…Yeah…” He sighed.
“…I …um… I have been reading about Huntington’s disease…”
He stiffened and started to move away his grip on her shoulder loosening. But she turned completely towards him and held his torso placing her head on his chest. She could hear his heart racing…but she couldn’t let the moment go. “…Please Keshav let me in darling… I won’t judge you…I promise…I just want to be with you in this journey…let me in…Keshav…let me in please…”
“…Av… Avanti… this journey that you’re talking about is one without a destination in sight…. it’s just… just a black-hole…waiting to swallow me… and trust me Avanti…I…I love you so much it hurts…and…and… if not for your father’s… last wish… I would never have dragged you into this marriage…
She jerked up on her elbows. “…what did you say…?” looked like it was a never-ending night with a lot many skeletons yet to get out of the cupboard.
Keshav rubbed his face. “…Avanti…your father was an intuitive man… he had an amazing foresight and I always trusted his decisions blindly. Although he had proposed Arpita’s hand in marriage to me… he probably had known that…I I was interested in you…I …I had held back always… because of my condition… not wanting to punish you…”
“…Keshav…?” Avanti whispered not able believe what she was just hearing.
Keshav sighed. “… yes Avanti… Your father was the closest I had for a father… he was always there for me in the worst upheavals of my life… he knew me so well…understood my mental state even before me having to tell him…I didn’t want to let him down either. A few days before the wedding I got his letter…I don’t know why but it was arranged to be delivered at that period… it was… it was the same day I found you in the study looking for that black bound book and collapsed…”
Avanti remembered the day like yesterday. “…what…what did the letter say…?”
“…He…your father said…he knew I liked you and not Arpita and that I shouldn’t marry her… he also said…you were a better match for me in all regards and that I had his blessings…”
“…Really…? Baba said that…?”
“…Yes…that’s why I saw to it that Arpita was too scared to go ahead with the marriage… I couldn’t come up with any other way to call off the marriage with her and… propose to you… without causing a storm…You would have refused outrightly…not because you didn’t feel for me but because you…wouldn’t betray your sister… But in the end, it would have been disastrous for the companies and the investors…”
Avanti’s head was reeling. “…Oh…” her voice broke. “…Keshav… you could have just told me…”
“…Avanti… I was… I was scared and selfish…” He looked at her in the dark and she realised he was choking up as well. “…I wanted to be with you and at the same time… I wondered what if you…reject me…and …”
“…I would never have … Keshav… I always loved you… and I think baba knew it too…”
“…Avanti trust me I never wanted to pull you down with me…”
She saw him rub his face, the moisture twinkling in his eyes. “… Keshav… do you think I would have agreed to go ahead with this marriage if I didn’t love you…? I trust you sweetheart… and the decision to get on this bandwagon of whatever the disease is, alongside you…is mine and mine alone… so… let’s do it together… now that I know I have baba’s blessings I am more confident than ever that we can beat this…” She looked at him eagerly, hoping that though he couldn’t see her face in the dark he could gauge her feelings by her tone. She thought he nodded and moved upwards holding his face in her palms. She wiped away the tears with her thumbs and continued. “… why don’t we start then…? Why don’t you tell me about…when did you first get to know about this disease…?”
After a poignant pause, Keshav sighed again and held her close turning towards her as they faced each other in the dark, their bodies touching each other skin to skin…but this time instead of arousing her it gave her the needed warmth to listen to what was coming up. She knew this was a long night from what was left of it and none of them could sleep.
“Avanti… as you must be aware Huntington’s disease is an Autosomal dominant disease…each of us children had fifty percent chance of inheriting the mutated gene to develop the condition… my grandfather died very young at thirty five… and my father an only child, apparently got it from his father…Those days genetic reports were not something one would think of… but my grandmother had mentioned the symptoms in passing to my father and our family physician Dr. Shetty who was my father’s friend and also a geneticist by passion… Dr. Shetty took upon himself to find out facts about after my father started showing symptoms himself… he was just… thirty three…” Keshav halted and Avanti touched his cheek encouraging him to continue. “… my father… was a chronic alcoholic so it was increasingly difficult to differentiate the symptoms, but Dr. Shetty tested him thoroughly and he was found to have the gene and alcohol only sped up the symptoms…” Keshav sighed and she felt his warm breath on her face.
“…Keshav…if you are not OK talking about it, we can do it tomorrow…”
“…No…no Avanti… I don’t think I can carry this burden alone anymore…i…”
“…Keshav I am right here… go on…”. She ran a hand through his hair and he turned his face to kiss her wrist, holding it in his palm as he interlocked their fingers.
“…my…my father deteriorated rapidly in his early 40s especially his cognitive abilities… you see…Avanti…in spite of everything, all his vices, my father was a shrewd businessman but in his last years he was a far from it. I still remember… the only outing we had with him…he once took Kamya and me to the National park on a picnic… Kamya was so thrilled to be with him while I was happy because she was happy… and she was around 7 years old… But he suddenly forgot where we were and we kept wandering going further deep inside… Those days there were no mobile phones and we continued walking aimlessly…. Finally, a security guard found us…but Avanti…it was a nightmarish to see Kamya crying in the dark and my father totally disoriented… for a few hours he couldn’t even remember who we were or why we were there…I… I even remember him some days walking out in his pyjamas and getting into the car at midnight or at dawn, to go to office…his gait faltering…but then he drank a lot too…” Keshav stopped again and this time she felt him shudder.
She put her hand around his mid and held him tightly close to her. She felt him cry silently and moved backward opening her other arm and pulling him closer. He willingly came to her digging his head in her neck as tears flew unabashedly. She was glad it was dark otherwise Keshav would have hesitated… finally he could let go. She wondered how many times he would have cried as a kid with no one to hold him… he had been all alone throughout his life trying to look out for his family. It was indeed a wonder that he had turned out into the wonderful human being that he was… He was that piece of charcoal who had handled everything life had thrown his way and now shone like a diamond… her precious diamond. But still she didn’t want to tax him more. “…Keshav my love… if it’s too painful… we can do it some other day…”
“…No Avanti…” he spoke into her neck and then turned his head towards the ceiling, gripping her hand tightly as he continued. “…I have never spoken it out before and I have to face the demon tormenting me for years now…
She nodded and nudged him to continue.
“…Dr. Shetty suspected either Kamya or me… so we all got tested and Kamya tested negative…I… I tested positive but the mutation in my case was different form that in my father. In fact, Kamya’s interest in neurology had stemmed from this condition…However, Dr. Shetty wasn’t sure if my kind of mutation was good or bad news…. So, for last several years I have been regularly doing my annual scans and following a healthy fitness and dietary regime and of course preventive medications which are just proteins to be honest…” He chuckled and she rubbed his wrist with her thumb as he tightened the grip and she knew something was coming up. It was just the lull before the storm. “…Avanti…uh… about a couple of years ago I started to forget things…initially it didn’t register but after a couple of months I realised it was getting frequent…my PET scan revealed miniscule changes in the brain… It isn’t alarming though and I have never had those episodes again… maybe I was extremely stressed at work those days… Dr. Shetty and the other neurologists in the team still don’t find any gross abnormalities in the brain…its till the same as it was 2 years ago. But then…” He turned towards her again and held her palms close to his bare chest. “…Avanti…in these two years I have become extremely temperamental with lots of mood swings… I forget things very often…even that morning after in Hyderabad I was totally disoriented for a while wondering where I was…it was only when I saw you next to me I was aware… I suddenly can’t remember what I had for breakfast…or lunch… I forget to eat at times in spite of hunger pangs and my glucose levels drop down alarmingly… as you have seen…”
“…Keshav… did baba know about all this…?” She remembered her mother’s accusations in the hospital.
“…yes Avanti… he found out accidentally… he found me in a lousy mood in one of our meeting two years ago…that was the day I had got my PET scan results… he coaxed me till I had to tell him the truth… your father was extremely persuasive…” She saw Keshav grin and she smiled too. Her baba was always like that…. Never letting go. Keshav kissed her hands and continued. “…he took it upon himself to develop the compound which would slower the progression of the disease and reduce the symptom severity in those whom it had already progressed…Avanti… this was the last project he as working on…”
“…um…Was that why he got those threats…?”
Keshav stared at her surprised. “…how did you know about those…?”
“…Rahul found out actually… recently and he blamed you for a while as well…”
“…Oh…that’s why he was so worked up on the day we were married…”
Avanti nodded. “…but why the threats…it was just a compound…”
“…it wasn’t any ordinary compound Avanti… it’s a special formula based on the existing medications along with some added compounds both chemical as well as natural. It stops the mutation by interfering in the protein complex, specifically for my kind of problem and delays the faulty interaction between them…This compound can also help those with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s in very early stages and halt their progression. And if these cleared clinical trials and if your baba’s theory is to be believed, then it’s possible to even prevent the next generation from getting the faulty gene… That’s the most important finding Avanti… your father was a genius…” He hugged her and kissed her head. “…unfortunately, there was only the black bound little book where he had made a note of the final derivations for the formula and Novo Supremo had invested in the study and more and acquired the sole rights to make the medicine for the first round of clinical trials…I am registered as a participant as well…”
“…the threats still don’t make sense Keshav…”
“…Avanti…if this fell in wrong hands… it can result in biological warfare… the market price for this compound even when the buzz was created then, was in millions of dollars… Similarly, there are some rogue pharmaceutical companies who want to induce malfunctioning in the grey cells and then treat the same patients with their patented drugs derived from this formula. Your father wanted to hand over the patent to the government of India… he was a great man Avanti…”
“So…Keshav…who do you think is Sirji…”
“…Avanti…I have no clue here…it may be someone I know or may be not… there are many suspects at the same time… and without evidence there is no one… Lets talk to Akshat tomorrow and take it from there…” She found his voice fading and realised that the adrenaline rush had passed and he was probably sleeping already…
She decided to let him, he need it to be alert… She was lost in thought wondering who would have hated her father so much to kill him for a mere formula… Well she had heard money turned man into monsters… However, she smiled. Irrespective of everything, she was back home… back to her real life… where everything had happened by chance, giving her the love of her life… her Accidental Husband!