The drive back to the Khurana Mansion was almost silent, broken only by the occasional sounds of her sniffs as she struggled to hold back tears. He was surprised by her fortitude; many other women who had been manhandled the way she had would have been in floods of tears, but Geet seemingly refused to give in to her distress. Only an occasional tear was allowed to escape her eyes, though she did remain plastered to his side.
When the car finally drew up at the entrance, he got out, intent on opening the door for her; before he reached her side of the car, she had emerged and started making her way towards their bedroom. He followed her slowly, unsure exactly how to handle the situation. It was only when she stumbled that he stepped forward and grabbed her by the elbow, stabilising her before she fell.
As he let go of her arm, she whispered “Thank you”. Stepping back, she stepped out of her shoes then continued on her way. He looked down at the five-inch heels of the shoes she had discarded, then smiled grimly at the thought of the needle-point heel piercing Bobby Saxena’s foot; he scooped them up as he followed after her.
Arriving at their room, he knocked gently then entered, not wanting to barge in on her unannounced while she was undressing. He found her standing in the middle of the bedroom, her arms wrapped around her body as if to struggling to stay warm.
She jumped as if she had been unaware that he had entered.
“Geet, aap agar chaahein to nahaalein; main Nakul se kehke thode khaane ka bandobast karta hoon”
Anticipating her refusal, he said “Geet, mujhe bahut bhook lagi hai, aap agar thoda mere saath khaalengi to accha hoga”.
After a moment, she nodded and turned towards the bathroom; a moment later she halted.
Without turning back to face him, she said “Aap jaante hain na, uss aadmi ne jo kaha woh jhoot tha. Maine uss ko……..”
He didn’t think, just reacted. “Geet, maine ek pal, ek lamhe ke liye bhi uss ki kisi baat ko sach nahin samjha. Ek lamhe ke liye bhi nahin”.
Her shoulders slumped, as if relieved of a burden and she nodded just once, then continued into the bathroom. He sighed, controlling his need to go and find Bobby Saxena and cut off those parts of him that had dared to touch Geet, then spent the next twenty minutes ordering the food and changing into a t-shirt and track-pants.
When he heard the bathroom door open, he turned then stood stock-still as he registered what she was wearing. It was perhaps the most inopportune moment for him to admit to himself that he cared more deeply than he wanted to, but the sight of her in one of his white cotton kurtas triggered a wave of tenderness that was completely unfamiliar. Her red-rimmed eyes and the tense set of her shoulders awoke a need to comfort her, to somehow reassure her that he would never let anyone hurt her again but he didn’t know how best to approach her- after the way he had insisted that there would never be anything more than convenience between them, he didn’t know how to offer any consolation.
There was a long moment in which neither of them moved, before a knock at the door shattered the moment of calm.
As Nakul wheeled in a trolley with some carefully chosen delicacies and bustled about setting the table, Geet watched as her husband approached.
“Geet, aaiyye, kuch khalijiye, aapko bhook lagi hogi.”
Nakul left, leaving them to sit and eat quietly. It wasn’t long before she yawned, widely enough to make him grin despite the underlying tension.
“Mere khayal se aapko so jana chahiye, jaiiye. Main Nakul ko bulata hoon, aap jaiiye”.
He watched unobtrusively as she completed her night time rituals then moved to the bed, noting the fact that she lay so that she was able to look at ‘his side’ of the bed. After the dishes had been cleared away, he went over and sat in the bed, leaning against the backrest with his laptop in his lap. As she noted his actions with a look of enquiry, he tried to reassure her saying “Aap soiyye Geet, main bas thoda sa kaam karloon phir mein bhi sota hoon”.
Though she fought sleep for a few moments, eventually she had to give in; as soon as she fell asleep, he put his laptop down and looked at her, just looked. He searched her face for some hint of what it was that drew him to her, what it was that had somehow broken through the thick walls he had built around his heart.
It was no more than half an hour later, just as he was on the verge of falling asleep, that she began mumbling in her sleep, the sounds rapidly progressing from mumbles to whimpers till finally she screamed
Jolted into wakefulness by the terror in her voice, he leaned over and drew her into his arms; the moment she felt his touch she turned to cling to him like a limpet.
“Maan, please mujhe chod ke mat jaiyye, please. Main aap ke bina nahin jee sakti. Maan please jaag jaiyye, please, aap kab tak aise sote rahenge. Maan please”
She was babbling, running her hands over his chest as if trying to feel his heartbeat and reassure herself that he was alive and well.
He held her close, murmuring to her, trying to calm her. Moments passed before he realised that she was still asleep, that he was watching as she relived a nightmare- the obvious truth of the pain in her voice resonated through him as he finally understood what she had meant when she had asked him whether the private investigator could have discovered everything that lay between them.
He tried to think about what he could do, but before any thoughts could take shape in his mind, she began weeping again, deep sobs of grief and hurt.
Over and over she repeated the same thing “Maan, aap ne mujhe chod diya. Aap ne wada kiya tha aap mujhe nahin chodenge, magar aapke hote hue bhi aap ne mujhe widhwa bana diya. Kya main aap ke liye sirf ek bojh ban gayi hoon?”
Long moments passed before she calmed again, leaving him mired in guilt. Was this what she had been hiding under a calm facade when the extent of his amnesia became clear, this roiling mess of love, grief and betrayal?
He drew her as close as he could, wrapping himself around her and holding her tight, wishing he could shield her from the hurt he had already inflicted. She lay in his arms, her acceptance of his proximity making it clear she was used to that sleeping arrangement; he couldn’t sleep for a moment, all the joy that he might have felt at realising he was in love subsumed under a thick layer of guilt and pain.
The sky turned pale with the hint of sunrise when she spoke again. Her voice was cool and controlled, giving no hint of what she really felt as she said “Theek hai Maan. Aaj ke baad, main aisi hi patni bann jaoongi jaisi aap chahte hain. Main koshish karoongi ke main bhi sab beete hue pal bhool jaaoon. Aap se kabhi pyaar ki ummeed nahin karoongi”
The tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke, bearing silent witness to how much heartache her decision had caused her; his inner loathing increased as he realised what he had thrown away in his need to protect his heart from hurt.
As she finally quietened, he accepted what he had been hiding from- the woman in his arms had loved him, or at least loved the man he had been before he lost his memory. That love had been true and deep and unselfish; the same sort of love as he had seen between his grandparents, the same sort of love that he had lost faith in because of his parents.
That realisation thundered through him together with acceptance of another fact- he loved her. Without knowing what had gone before, without any idea of how they had come together the first time, he loved her now. In the past two months, she had become as necessary to him as air or water.
As dawn broke and she finally slept peacefully, he sat in the same position holding her close to his heart. The same thoughts ran through his mind over and over- how could he convince her he loved her, how could he ever hope to persuade her to let him into her heart again. For a man who always knew what he wanted and how to get it, he had no idea of matters of the heart, no idea how he would persuade her of the sincerity of his love when he had only just accepted it himself.
Sleep finally overcame him, and as he slept, he held his wife close, protecting her from everything- even himself.