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Where Peacocks Fly-22

by Prema Sastri

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Chapter 22

Meera did not hear from Rakesh for a few days. She called his home. Nobody picked up the receiver. She wondered what had happened.

Thoughts of him made her restless. Images came to her like colours in a Kaleidoscope. His deep voice. His tall frame. His well trimmed moustache. Light brown eyes crinkling with laughter. Bushy eyebrows. Thick curly hair parted on the left. The spring in his step.

She had not seen him in uniform. The photographs in the drawing room showed a variety of attire. In one he wore a sports outfit. In another he was in olive green – O.G as he called it. His shirt was tucked in. A Sam Brown belt was around his waist. Brass stars, shone on his lapel. His shoes, belt and badges of rank shone with polish. There was a picture of him at a mess function. He was wearing his Blue Patrols and looked like a figure out of history. He came through as vital and charismatic.

She wondered how he had come to marry Asha. She was beautiful, and fitted the appearance of an army officer’s wife. Yet, she was barely alive and could not perform the simplest tasks. In company she looked around with a bovine, expression. Rakesh was constantly near her.

Meera knew little of Rakesh except for what he had told her. He grew up in Mirzapur where his grandfather owned a carpet shop. At a young age he was sent to the Sainik School, Karnal. After that he went to the National Defence Academy Khadakvasala, where he passed out as a Sword of Honour Cadet. He had not told her so. She saw the ceremony in one of the pictures. His life was a training for the army. He had been taught to be a gentleman and a soldier.

He was one of four sons. Two brothers joined the carpet business. A younger brother was mentally challenged. The rest of the family took care of him. Rakesh felt guilty he could not share more of the load. He had burden enough for himself, thought Meera. As well as she knew Rakesh much of him was beyond her knowledge. Beneath his banter there was a core of steel she could not pierce.

She worried about Asha. One morning she went to their flat. To her surprise Rakesh opened the door. “Come in and welcome.”

Meera sat on the upholstered sofa.

“How’s Asha?
“She’s gone home to her parents.”
“I hope she is well.”

Rakesh hesitated.

“Perfectly well. She needed rest and care which I cannot give her.”
“I’m sure she will recover very soon” Meera rose to leave.
“Don’t go. Sadhvi will make us tea.
“Just a minute.” Rakesh called Sadhvi. A few minutes later she brought in tea and biscuits. She was pleased to see Meera. Maiji, Chotu is so happy with you, she rarely comes to see me.”
“I am fond of her.”
“I can see that. The girl has never been so spoiled.”
“Help yourself. Sadhvi is in a hurry to leave for her afternoon break.”

Meera drank tea and nibbled at a biscuit. Sadhvi cleared the tray and left.
“I must go now.”
“No. Stay and keep me company. Rakesh sat beside her.
“You don’t need company. You’re self sufficient.”
“That’s the side of me I show the world. At times I feel alone.”
“I’m sorry. Meera put her hand on his.
“ We take our soldiers for granted. We expect them to be super heroes. We forget they are human like us.”
“Only too human.” Rakesh’s hand gripped hers. “Meera, you know how I feel about you.”

Meera did not reply. She did not withdraw her hand.
“Can I hope you feel the same way?”

Meera remained silent. Her face gave the answer.

Rakesh put his arms around her. She could feel his heart pounding. Her hands encircled his waist. She lifted her face. He covered it with kisses. He held her hand and led her to the bedroom.

“This is our guest bedroom,” he whispered. He unwrapped her sari, undid the hooks on her blouse and removed her inner garments. She lay on the bed. Rakesh divested himself of his clothes. He had a firm body.

He sat on the bed looking at Meera. His face was flushed, body rigid. His eyes took in every pore. He stroked her. Her hands rubbed his back. He bent over her. She went into a trance. When she opened her eyes he was not there. She got up freshened herself, made the bed, as if to cover up all signs of activity, and went back to the drawing room.

Rakesh came in from the kitchen. He looked satisfied and relaxed.

He brought in two tall tall glasses of lime juice.” A drink to cool you down.”
“Do I look hot?”
“You do. You are hot.”

Meera was quiet. She drank the juice in slow sips as Rakesh gulped his.

“Time to be going.”
“I don’t want you to go, but Sadhvi will be back soon.”

As Meera left Rakesh stood beside her. His hand caressed her cheek. “Good bye my love.”

Meera went home. Chotu was not around. Ramaswamy and the children would not return for hours. She sat in the verandah and stretched her legs. The warmth of the day was over. There was a chill in the air. Shadows chased themselves across the lawn. It would soon be dark and cold. be continued here......

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