Planned Vengeance- contd..
by Khurshid Khoree
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
Continued from previous page
What’s she like? She must be big hipped and busty no doubt, with long hair and full sensuous lips. I remember how annoyed Kunal got when I went on a crash diet until I was down to size zero. He was equally upset when I got my long hair cut to a layered bob sported by a lot of trendy women. He didn’t seem to realize that the plump, windblown old me, simply didn’t fit in with our slick and sophisticated group of new friends.
My eyes travelled over the room and noticed that five men sitting across my table where curiously eyeing me and talking amongst themselves, laughing out loud at some joke made at my expense.
Just then the door opened and a chorus of voices called out, “Hey, Ronit!” – And there he was. Tall and lanky, with ruffled hair and a shy smile, he was so different from what I had pictured.
I sat contemplating for a few minutes, wondering just how to approach him when he unfolded his long legs from the counter stool and went over to the jukebox. He stood there looking at the selection of songs with hands in his pockets while the coloured lights from the machine played across his lean, weary face.
When one of the sexy waitresses swayed past him with a tray of short eats and beer, he didn’t leer at her the way the other men did. Faithful and dependable as hell, was he? He must have met lots of women on his long trips, and they must have been drawn to that lonely boyish look. He was the kind of guy who made you want to fix him a hearty meal and smooth back that unruly lock of hair hanging over his brow.
Suddenly, the craziest thing happened to me. I started getting mad at Nandita Saluja, because there was a button missing on Ronit’s shirt, she didn’t have time to sew it on, because she has been sleeping with my husband!
Ronit Saluja was neglected, let’s face it. His frayed shirt collar, the big brown stain on his shirt sleeve testified to that. So did the lonely look in his eyes. Maybe he suspected that his wife is playing around and was all cut up inside.
He had a weary smile for the people that came and went, most of them pausing a second to speak to him or pat him on the shoulder. It was obvious, though, that he preferred to be left alone. And when he kept feeding the jukebox to play a sad song over and over again, I thought, he already knows he has lost her, and it’s killing him.
My eyes filled up. Oh, Kunal, why? What made you take up with another man’s wife when you have me, and I love you more than my life?
Ronit Saluja sat alone at a table, lost and brooding. I kept looking at his frayed shirt. Once I had kept Kunal’s clothes in tip-top condition. When he was tense and tired I
would gently press his forehead to ease his troubled mind, and ask the kids to keep it low and take the phone off the hook.
When he looked thin and tired from over work on his return from a long tiring trip, I fixed a hearty meal for him and nag him to take his vitamin pills. Why, I’d been the best wife……………
Been? My mind whirled and stopped, jumbled with thoughts. It simply hadn’t occurred to me lately. Had been a good wife once? When had all this slipped through my fingers? How could I have let this happen? I had closed the door on the most important part of my life, my marriage, the love and closeness and understanding between us.
I still had the damning letters in my purse, but I had no use for it now. I wanted my Kunal back, and I wanted Ronit Saluja to be happy again, like a decent man deserved to be.
I asked for my bill, paid, and stood up. There was no way to get to the door except by passing Ronit Saluja’s table. An irresistible urge inside me wanted to say to him, don’t worry. It’s going to be all right.
Then, just as I started to walk out, a man left the counter to walk over to Ronit. He flung an arm around those stooped shoulders. Just as I was abreast of them, I heard the man say, -- “Real sorry pal, when I heard about Nandita. My sister died of brain tumor, so I know what you have been through.”
“Yeah, it was tough, but this past year we were closer than we have ever been.”
Ronit Saluja’s voice wasn’t sad and neither was his smile when he added, “it’s those pleasant memories that have kept me going…….”
Dead! Oh my God, she was dead! My legs shook from the emotional shock. In the car, I pulled out the crumpled letter. It was an old letter I had found in an old coat Kunal hadn’t worn for how long? – Almost three and half years. How could I have been so blind?
Ronit Saluja’s words came back to me: it was rough, but this past year, we were closer than we’ve ever been – That meant that Nandita and Kunal had split up three years ago!
A dry sob caught in my throat as I thought of Ronit. Good God, what if I had shown him the letters? What if I had let my cruel anger and thirst for vengeance smashed those few memories that were all he had been left with.
I tore the letters to shreds and switched on the headlights. I caught a glimpse of Ronit walking towards his car. When I backed out and on to the main road, I opened the window and threw the torn pieces to the wind.
I couldn’t change what had happened, but it wasn’t too late to set aside my bitterness and try again. I prayed that somehow, very soon, Ronit Saluja could find someone else to love and cherish. ***