Neil walked into the flat late in the night. The office party was a disaster. His thoughts kept going back to Shruti. Shruti needs help, he thought. He himself would like some support. He thought of the one person who can set Shruti right.
He had dialed Niti’s number. She had picked up immediately as if she was waiting for his call.
‘I was about to call you,’ she said.
She went on to narrate about the happenings of the day and Shruti’s concerns. He had left the party and walked over to the nearby beach.
Did she really think he will divorce her? He wanted to shake Shruti out of her web of accusations. He wanted to shout at her and tell her that he loved her. But he couldn’t understand why she did not ask him outright. That would be typically Shruti to grab the bull by its horns. Why keep quite? Did he close himself to her when she needed him the most?
He walked to the edge of the water and he did something which he had probably not done since he was 12 and hit by a cricket ball. He cried.
At home, he changed into his night clothes. Shruti was in bed as usual.
‘Hey Shruti,’ Neil called out. ‘Hi,’ she responded.
‘It was a great party. I had lot of fun. Nisha, Jenny and all were there. We even danced.’
‘Great,’ she responded.
‘Nisha is getting married in two months. Her fiancé works in our office too. So, it was a double celebration.’
‘So, Nisha is gone. Who next?’ Shruti thought.
‘Nisha is a lovely girl. Last week, some food had fallen on my pink shirt. Nisha had immediately wiped it with her handkerchief. She puts perfume on her handkerchief. Crazy girl.’
Shruti realized now where this was going.
‘In the shared cab, she was sitting beside me. A particularly rough bumper made her bump against me. It left a pair of lips on my shirt. It wouldn’t go even with the handkerchief.’
‘All these stories sound so innocent. It cannot be,’ thought Shruti.
‘Shruti, look at me,’ Neil commanded.
Shruti turned a tear stained face to look at Neil.
‘I am not the monster. The monster is inside your head. Let him go,’ he said as he wiped her tears and caressed her face.
‘How can I love someone else when you left the whole world to be with me?’ he continued.
‘B..but the baby. We lost it. Do you not hate me?’ she asked.
‘Why? We lost ‘our’ baby. It is terribly sad. I know you are hurt. But, I am hurt too.’
At this Shruti hugged Neil and cried. She cried till there were no more tears left to be shed.
…To be continued