|photo credits http://www.asher-uk.com/|
This is the second part of a three-part story. For the first part, see here .
* * *
The next few days, Ria's life had an unsettled feel – like the waves formed in a still lake when a pebble is thrown in. Waves that began with the earrings, and ebbed higher with the phone call from the girls …... ‘Mom, so how are you planning the date?’ they giggled into the phone, causing Ria to laugh nervously.
‘Will you wear the peach dress I gave you?’
She could still make out which of the twins was talking to her, even though they had tried to trick her many times. Shruti had gifted the peach satin dress for her birthday a few years ago. Ria had never worn the peach dress before – ‘Was it three years ago, or four?’ Ria thought, surprised at the length of time she had waited for an occasion to wear something she loved.
After the phone call, she took out her earrings, pausing to admire them again. Funny how she didn’t tell the girls about her shopping binge, even though she remembered……. She remembered that she hadn’t told Roshan either.
Earrings were the only jewelry she wore, because they were the only things Roshan noticed. Or was it the other way round? It was so long ago, she did not remember which came first – her love of earrings, or Roshan’s appreciation for them. ‘I have to ask him that…’
* * *
Roshan thought Ria looked different these days… She had started to wear kohl and lip gloss at home. He knew make-up was something she grudgingly applied when they had to go out, or if they had guests at home. She had always been pretty; in an unpretentious sort of way, but something had changed……
She hadn’t gifted him the expensive watch yet. For an uneasy moment, he was unsure if it was a watch, and if it was for him. Something was happening in her life that he wasn’t part of, and Roshan was not comfortable with that.
He had almost told Anita about his fears too; when she had taken him out on a frantic hunt for a pocket-square to match his tie. Anita had, in her usual child-like stubbornness, insisted that they complete his attire for the much awaited reunion. And after a successful bout of shopping, they were in a sandwich and coffee place, when she came clean about her feelings.
Anita put her hand on Roshan’s arm, and said, “Chief, I think you already know that I like you – I think I may have a crush on you, ok? And I know you have a family and all that. And I have no business saying this, but you can always talk to me….” She lowered her voice as she leaned closer “As a friend, you know – I have no intention to start an affair with my boss!” Her smile making the conversation light, but her eyes letting him know her intentions.
Roshan, for the first time in his life, resented being married, being fifty soon and being kept out of a secret by his wife. His resentment soon gave way to guilt, and he patted Anita’s hand, smiling tiredly as he stood up from his chair. “Thanks Anita. What would I have done without you … Or have I already asked that?” And they both laughed as the tension of the moment eased out. But he had decided that he had to talk to SOMEONE about this…..
* * *
“Maybe you should just ASK her, Roshan,” It was not what Andy said that irritated Roshan; it was the slurping of his drink that did. Andy was his school time buddy – and Roshan had just told him about the strange way that Ria had been acting these days.
“Will you stop that sound? No, I don’t want to ask her. I don’t want her to think I am a snoopy, jealous husband….” Roshan was interrupted by the slurping again.
“But you are one, aren’t you?” Andy was amused.
“I just want to know what’s going on…” Roshan trailed off, lost in thoughts of the credit card bill, the new attention Ria paid to the way she looked, at her sudden interest in going out shopping more often…..
“Don’t tell me you think she’s having an affair!” Andy was now looking intently at Roshan’s face, causing him to look away; but atleast the slurping had stopped…. And then, abruptly, Andy just started laughing cruelly.
“Not funny, Andy,” Roshan was almost sulking now. “She was so upset when the kids left for college, and all of a sudden she seems to look so happy! I can’t think of anything exceptionally nice I have said or done to make her feel good; so obviously, it’s not me!!”
“And you’re feeling bad that she’s feeling good?” the amazement in Andy’s voice bordering on sarcasm. The slurping was back with a vengeance, this time because Andy was thinking.
“Well… the affair thing is a possibility. If I were you, I’d start getting a little more romantic. You guys have been so busy being parents; you’ve forgotten how to be a couple. Now with the kids away and all, one really never knows with women, you know….. Especially someone who looks as good as she does!”
* * *
On the day of the reunion, she was ready much before the time Roshan said he would pick her up. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her face paled in front of the shining diamond earrings… she knew what was missing. She used a bronze shade of eye shadow, which instantly brightened up her face. She looked better than she had imagined, and decided to do her hair again, a little more dramatic; the effect looked good….
Roshan blared the horn a few times; till Ria appeared at the front door. She was wearing a new dress which showed off her petit figure and high heels… he smiled when he saw the little clutch she was holding - she had always carried large oversized purses filled with quick fixes for every emergency the family might have. The clutch somehow made her look much younger, prettier. “Could it really be another man?” he thought, his conversation with Andy coming back to him.
He suddenly remembered what Andy had told him about being romantic. In comic frenzy, he opened the car door, and ran out to take the huge key from Ria. He noticed for the first time, how the large key looked inept and garish in her delicate hands, even though she had always been the one to lock the doors when they went out. Funny how he never looked at her hands any more……“You look nice. Is that a new dress? Wow.”
He was surprised at how easily she blushed. “No… it’s not new. Don’t you remember? Shruti gave it to me almost four years ago…. For my birthday…” With each pause in her statement, she seemed to be justifying her altered appearance. Did she sense his suspicions?
TO BE CONTINUED