What Geet wanted was not clear to him; she never made any demands on him, never asked for his time, his presence, his acceptance. She also never offered him anything; if he had been tortured he may have admitted to thirsting for one of the smiles she bestowed on Dadi or Pinky. In fact, she was behaving exactly in the way he had always wanted from a wife- no messy scenes, no over-wrought demands, someone who fit into his life without a ripple. They still hadn’t slept together, but that was his choice; he knew that if he indicated his willingness, she would fulfil that part of a wife’s duties as well- she may even have been able to make him feel like she wanted him as much as he wanted her, but he hadn’t been willing to test her acting abilities. He wasn’t clear what was stopping him, why he didn’t just take her to bed. He was a generous lover, he knew he could make it pleasurable for her, but somehow he couldn’t quite take that final step to cement the current relationship between them.
They continued to live in limbo, neither of them certain how to break the status quo. Still, the tension between them continued to build and both of them knew that something was going to give.
It finally did.
Two months after he woke from his coma, he and his wife were invited to a Gala dinner for the Delhi Constructors Association. It was an event he remembered dreading in years past, an event where he had previously spent most of his time fending off the bored wives of his competitors. From the invitation brochure, which contained photographs of last year’s event, he knew that it was the first time he was attending as a married man; he was looking forward to using his wife as a shield against the overdressed harpies who normally surrounded him.
By now, he was used to her presence in his room, used to sharing a mirror as they both dressed for the office, used to her toiletries in the bathroom and the scent of her perfume in the air. So that night, when he walked into the bedroom wearing his dinner suit, he thought he was prepared for the sight of her as she prepared for an evening out. He was wrong.
As he walked into the room, he was stunned by the sight of her bare back, framed by a black and gold saree, as she sat in front of the dressing table placing heavy gold and emerald earrings in each ear. She looked up and saw him in the mirror; after a moment she spoke.
“Aap ki madad ki zaroorat hai; ye doriyaan mujhse nahin band horahi hain. Aap please kardenge.”
He realised that she was wearing a blouse that was tied at both the top and bottom with doris; that was why her back was bare. Struggling with conflicting emotions (on one hand wondering whether she was trying to tempt him by asking him to touch her, on the other hand wanting to ban her from wearing something so revealing in front of other men), he stepped forward and did as she asked. He felt he back arch slightly in response to her touch, but resisted the urge to stroke his fingers along the smooth skin of her back, instead leaning forward to pick up the heavy gold chain that was lying on the dressing table.
Taking the emerald pendant in his hand, he looked at it for a moment then said “Bahut khoobsoorat hai”. As their eyes met in the mirror again, he placed it round her neck and locked the clasp securely; a moment later he placed his hands on her shoulders and said “Aap bahut khoobsoorat hain”. The weight of her hair lay on one shoulder; with a shrug, he lifted it up and let it hang down her back, hiding her skin. He met her eyes in the mirror and shrugged again, then breathed a sigh of relief as she gave a half-smile, seeming to acknowledge his right to be the only one to see so much of her.
He held out a hand and helped her stand then drew her hand into the crook of his elbow.
“Shall we go, Mrs Khurana”
Arriving at the Gala, they were soon surrounded by people who had heard about his wedding, his mysterious wife and then the traumatic events following his step-mother’s return. His amnesia had of course been kept ultra-secret, but there had been no way to hide the fact that he had been in hospital.
It took a while before all the vultures had taken their fill of flesh, but eventually he was able to guide Geet to their table. It was with some dismay that he realised that the Saxenas, a couple who he normally avoided at any cost were also seated at their table.
He managed to get through most of the evening without having to pay too much attention to Kitty Saxena, the conversation being dominated by the elderly couples who were also at their table. Those two couples started out with reminiscences then moved on to giving advice to the two younger couples seated with them; whilst Kitty rolled her eyes and ignored them, Geet clearly enjoyed talking to them and hearing their stories.
Eventually, Kitty made her move.
“Mr Khurana, you can’t just sit here all evening. I insist you dance with me; oh don’t look at your wife, I’m sure Bobby will keep her entertained”
The thought of Bobby Saxena laying a hand on his wife made his temper rise but he controlled it when one of the fatherly men, Raj, said “Oh Bobby will have to wait in turn, Geet and I have a prior engagement on the dance floor”
Raj stood and offered a hand to Geet which she laughingly took; as he watched his wife being led to the dance floor, he realised he had no excuses left and turned to escort Kitty onto the dance floor too.
Avoiding her talons and her not-so-subtle invitations took a lot of his attention; after a while he lost track of his wife on the dance floor. Having eventually made his lack of interest clear to Kitty, he eventually guided them back to their table, only to stop short as he found Raj sitting there talking to the other old fogies.
His question must have been written clearly across his face, because as soon as Raj saw him he said “Aaah Mr Khurana, aap apni begum ko dekh rahe hain. Woh Bobby ke saath dance karrahi hongi; we were having a lovely time when that young bounder came along and cut me out”
Smiling briefly, he murmured his thanks then left to find where Bobby had taken his wife; Bobby Saxena was a unprincipled villain and he couldn’t bear the thought of Geet alone with him.
A few minutes of determined searching led him to a small ante-room off the ballroom; as he walked past the open window, he heard Geet’s voice saying “Let me go, don’t you dare touch me” followed by the sound of two hard slaps. The sounds of a struggle followed, Geet’s increasing distress clear in her muffled shrieks
As anger propelled him into the room at high speed, he found his wife struggling in Bobby Saxena’s arms, but before he could do anything, she raked her nails down his face then stepped on his foot with the point of her stiletto heel.
“How dare you touch me, how dare you?” she said, shaking like a leaf. She turned to leave the room then stopped as she saw him standing there.
Bobby saw him too and took a chance to get his revenge.
“Mr Khurana, you really need to keep your wife better satisfied. She dragged me in here, begged me to kiss her, she was all over me. She’s from a small town, I’ve heard- well she certainly proves everything they say about small to……….”
His hate-filled words stopped abruptly as his face was introduced to Maan Singh Khurana’s fist several times, then his eyes almost popped out of his head as his throat was taken in a hold that squeezed the air out of him.
“My wife wouldn’t waste a single breath on you. If you come near her again, I’ll rip your heart out and eat it raw. Remember that”
Letting go of the now-snivelling man, he turned back to face Geet. She was standing there trying to look as if nothing had affected her, but she was shaking like a leaf. He shrugged out of his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders, then as the first tears rolled from her eyes he lifted her into his arms and carried her away.