Just last month she turned twenty nine. Three years into her marriage, how could it be? Manav loved her. They married for love. No, it couldn’t be true. But the mirror on the wall said it all. Dark circles under her eyes made her look sick.
Disheveled hair erased all traces of an independent established image consultant, from her look. Violently, she splashed water on her face. It sprinkled the mirror blurring her reflection in it. With limp hands she wiped her face dry, and tottered to the main teakwood door.
‘Manav is not at home.’ Seeing Avinash she said and turned. The least did she expect Avinash on this hot afternoon. Even in Dehradun the month of June didn’t offer any respite from rising temperatures, more so to Manya whose emotional temperature refused to remain normal.
‘I know.’ Raising his eyebrows Avinash said and sauntered into the living room walking past her.
‘Means…’ Manya’s blood ran faster in her veins at the prospect of some concluding information about her husband’s derelictions.
‘Means, I saw him with Urvashi again.’ Avinash flopped on the sofa and picked up newspaper from the table.
‘What? Where did you see them?’ Manya came near and snatched the newspaper away from him.
‘At Barista’s, Rajpur Road,’ he looked into her eyes and seized the newspaper back from her.
‘What the hell?’ Manya’s patience was at its lowest. As if the earth was slipping from under her feet. ‘Did he tell you something about it? Is he serious or just flirting? I am sure that woman must be compelling him.'
'He is your childhood friend. Please tell me everything. What did he tell you?’ She said bending on her knees as if Avinash could save her from the catastrophe befallen on her.
‘Of course, he would tell me everything. I am his friend. But…’ Avinash glanced around uncertainly, ‘he didn’t.’ Lowering his head he said.
‘Now he doesn’t tell anything to you even. Oh God! What the mess I am in?’ Plunged deeper in sofa, her face covered with her hands she looked a bundle of miseries as she sobbed.
‘Manya, don’t cry, please.’ Removing her hands from her face he said. ‘Come on, you are a brave girl.’ He went to the kitchen and returned with a water bottle and a glass.
‘Relax, dear. I’ll find the truth out.’ He poured water in the glass and extended it to her. Manya took the glass from him and forced her lips to take a sip. Immersed in her anguish, she missed the naughty glint in the eyes of her husband’s friend.
Friend! Bah… he wished to declare that every bit of what she heard was right. Yes, Manav slept with that bitch. No, he would hold. The game had just begun. He would play it cautiously. That fateful night, he remembered, had Manav, his childhood friend, given him only eighteen lakh rupees, his dream project the Digital solutions Private Ltd. would have survived and so his marriage. Manav had destroyed him. Now it was his turn to destroy Manav.
‘Will you tell me everything Avinash?’ In a flurry of anxiety Manya banged the glass on the table misjudging the distance between the two. ‘Keep an eye on them.’ She said shaking his arm. The half filled plastic water bottle fell from Avinash’s hand on the floor with a thud.
‘Why… why not Manya, I am more concerned than you. He is my friend.’ Caught off guard, he blabbered. ‘You don’t worry. I’ll set everything right.’ He held her hands and got up. Manya saw him off and struggled with her steps back to the bedroom. Sprawling on bed and howling was what she could simply do at the moment, which she did.
The next two days, sure of losing her husband to the bitch, Manya felt crippled and powerless. How much she longed to believe that what she had heard was baseless. Her fears were imaginary. But the facts didn’t support her belief.
‘Galaxy Hotel… room no 205… Mr. Manav Mishra booked it for June 25, 2015.’ Avinash said settling on the sofa and stretching his legs on to the table. This time he had done his homework well by gathering authentic information.
‘Are you sure?’ Manya’s breath turned hard as she sat near him.
‘Yes, hundred percent, I myself saw them entering the hotel.’ Avinash stressed each word.
‘It can’t be true.’ Manya’s lips stiffened. Her fingers turned into fists and eyes welled.
‘It is Manya.’ Avinash took her hands in his and peered into her eyes. ‘Come on. Just relax. Everything will be fine.’ Hugging her he said.
‘No Avinash, nothing would be fine.’ she let herself cry on his chest.
‘Yes it will be.’ Avinash said stroking her hair. He waited for a while before he started. ‘Why should you depend on him for your happiness? You are smart, independent and successful. Come out of your shell and show him what you are.’ He held her a little away from him before he brought his face near hers. His lips on hers rippled her inside like water when a stone is thrown into it. Soothing her burning soul, it seemed to shield her from the tormenting thoughts of her husband with another woman.
‘Come on Manya. I can’t see you in this state.’ With his handkerchief he tenderly wiped tears from her cheeks and removed the little strands of hair that fell on her face waywardly. His plan was taking shape. With Manya in his spell, he will show that bastard of Manav what he was capable of.
Darkness engulfed the Manya Villa, the new house Manav purchased last year and titled it on his loving wife’s name. Usually Manya switched all lights on in the evening. ‘Positive energy flows if you switch all lights on, once in the evening.’ She would say.
‘Manya…Manya.’ Manav called out, switching the lights on as he entered the house. Nowhere, he could see her untill he reached the bedroom. There she lay sprawled on bed, unusual at this hour of the day.
‘Manya…what happened, Darling? All well?’ He stirred her but met merely her resistance. She sweated profusely. Extending one of his arms he pressed the AC switch on the wall near the bed. ‘Something serious, tell me, dear. What upset you?’
‘Sure?’ he bent and put his lips on hers. She turned her face away. ‘What’s the matter, Manya? What’s troubling you?’ He asked.
‘Are you seeing…Urvashi?’ uncertainly she could bring herself to say.
‘Oh, come on Manya, how many times will I tell you, no…I never did.’ Manav snapped.
‘There is difference in what you say and do.’ Manya said.
‘What the hell, how can you say this?’ Irritation marked his tone.
‘Through reliable sources,’ Manya turned towards him.
‘Oh, hired some spying agency or what…’ Manav mocked. ‘Come on Manya, I love you my dear.’ He lifted her a little and hugged her. She felt his moist lips on her eyes, nose, neck, lips… and further down….She let herself flow in the moment. But visions of Manav with the so called bitch zoomed in and out of her mind. The thought that he might be doing the same to that woman made her nauseate. She freed herself from his hold and turned her back towards him. Manav tried to turn her, on his side.
‘What about Galaxy hotel June 25, 2015?’ Her voice choked.
How did she know? Manav’s hands stopped for a while. Then he forced her to his side.
‘We had a meeting there with a delegation from Japan about out next collaborative project.’
‘Room no 205…’
‘Was booked for one of the delegates, Okay,’ Manav completed her sentence, his patience ebbing. He got up and went to the bathroom. Talking to his wife was no sense. Urvashi was his boss. He could not even remotely think of what Manya blamed him for.
‘This is it. He doesn’t want to listen. Avinash is right.’ Manya thought. Tears rolled down her eyes silently while the shower’s noise from the bathroom intensified. ‘No, I will not give in. Let him decide on one, that bitch or me.’ She wiped her tears in the pillow.