Months had elapsed, Shristi enjoying her newfound happiness. The friendship and bond between husband and wife growing stronger day by day, but still the emptiness in her was gnawing at her. She had never felt anything of this kind until Joshua had made entry in her life disturbing her senses. She was missing his presence, the feelings he could awaken in her. She often went back to her studio and stood staring at the sketch she had finished by now, the dark intense eyes staring back at her piercing through her very soul.
She was brought back to the real world by the sound of front door being opened. Sid was back home. She closed the studio door behind her shuttering away the disturbing image of Joshua, which came back more often than she liked these days.
Sid had changed somewhat lately, Shristi couldn’t pinpoint what it was but he had started retreating back into his shell lately. The one peg rule after dinner was now growing in proportion. It was during one of these drunk nights that he started laughing uproariously. He put a hand over her shoulder, “My mother was right you know.”
“What was aunt right about?” Shristi asked smiling, mention of aunt always brought smile on her face.
“That you would never leave me, come what may.”
“I didn’t get you.” Shristi asked sitting upright, her senses more alert now.
“What is there to understand in this, you looked after mum because it was your duty and now you are with me doing your duty again.”
“Aunty thought I was looking after her because I thought it was my duty?”
“Of course isn’t it, after what she has done for you.”
Shristi didn’t make a reply to that because she didn’t know what to say.
“You mean to say she knew about your accident and your condition?” Even when she asked the question she felt she knew the answer to it, her heart sinking further from the weight which pushed her down.
“She was my mother Shristi, of course she knew. Even your mother would have done what was right for you.”
“I don’t know about that, the only mother I knew was aunty.”
“Well she did the right thing for your right, she ensured that your future is secure right?”
Shristi didn’t reply to that, she felt as if she had received a blow to her head, the surrounding becoming a blur to her. Minutes passed and she stood herself up and walked to her studio locking the door behind her. She sat down on her chair looking at the vacant space in the wall where ones the portrait of her as a child with aunt was. The painting had been dear to her, she had gifted it to Joshua but to think of it, was it all a total lie? The woman whom she considered her mother had pushed her knowingly into this dungeon.
The next morning Shristi had prepared breakfast as usual but cheerfulness with which she always served them to Siddharth was missing.
“What happened to you this morning? PMS?” He asked.
“Nope, and all the more my periods shouldn’t bother you.” Shristi said, but she didn’t elaborate on it any further. If he didn’t remember what he had said yesterday then that is well and good, she was not going to enlighten him either.
There was a pause after that, Shristi picking at her breakfast half heartedly and Siddharth trying to rake his brain as to what might have gone wrong, but in the end he gave up.
“Did I say something yesterday that I shouldn’t have?” He asked.
“Yes, you should never have said it, it would have been better for both you and me.”
“But what did I say?” He asked frustrated and running his hand through his hair.
“Leave it Siddharth, let’s not talk about it again.” She said and got up and left to the kitchen.
Siddharth sat there trying to figure out what had he said to piss her off like this. She had never been like this since he had known her. But his mind refused to come up with the answer. He had been too drunk to remember what he had said. May be it would come to him later, for now he didn’t have anything else to do but to leave for his office.
“Shristi, I am leaving?” He called out to her.
“All right, bye.” She replied from the kitchen not coming out to see him off like she always did.
As soon as Siddharth had closed the door behind him, Shristi went into her studio closeting her inside, she needed to sort things out. She stood looking at Joshua’s portrait, all her life people had taken advantage of her, the last and the least expected person being Siddharth’s mother. She had thought that aunt had always liked her, in fact loved her as one of her own but now her betrayal had hit the sore sport. She had lived her life for others, to keep others happy and what had she gained out of it, other than betrayal and a broken heart.
The eyes that stared back at her from the portrait was dark and intense, there was understanding in them, as if he could read her most inner thoughts that she kept hidden in the depths of her heart.
Shristi picked up her phone with trembling fingers and dialled Joshua’s number, the rational side of her brain praying that he wouldn’t answer her call and the irrational side desperate to hear his voice. Joshua didn’t answer the call, the rational side of Shristi knew he wouldn’t after the way she had treated him the last time he had come to her but then the emotional side of her that was already battered and bruised had started bleeding again. She had closed her eyes and tears were flowing incessantly when her phone started ringing. She opened her eyes to see who it was hoping that it would be Joshua. Joshua’s name flashed on the screen, Shristi picked up the call.“Joshua…………..”
“yeah, it is me.”
“I thought……………” Her voice was breaking off. “I thought you would never call.”
“What happened Shristi?” He asked. There was concern in his voice.
“Can I meet you?”
“I will be free by 11:00, will come to your apartment.”
“No, not here, we will go out somewhere.”
“Okay then, I will come and pick you up.”
“Thanks and lot, bye.”
“yeah bye and……….take care.”
The last two words meant a world to her. She never could remember anybody saying that to her. It was always the other way round, she took care of everybody around her. She felt her lips curving with a smile in spite of the tears flowing down her cheeks.
Joshua arrived at Shristi’s apartment as promised, the moment she opened the door he knew something was terribly wrong. She looked teary-eyed as if she had been crying all night. No words were exchanged between them but there, he had given her his arm and she had taken it. He wanted to take her away from whatever it was bothering her.
“Lets go out somewhere, shall we?” He asked.
Shristi didn’t say a word but followed him to his car. He drove them to his apartment. Once inside he sat Shristi down on the couch and kneeled in front of her cupping her face in his hands.
“When was the last time you had a proper meal?” He asked.
“I am not hungry.” She said.
“No you are not, but did you perchance have anything to eat today?”
“Thought so, I have ordered something for us, we will eat something first and then we can talk.”
“I don’t think I will be able to eat anything.”
“No Shristi that won’t do, I won’t have you fainting on me.”
There was a slight smile hovering on her lips this time, “I don’t faint.”
“Yeah I know you don’t faint, you only trip.” Joshua was smiling; he had a way of putting her at ease.
“Now tell me what happened?” Joshua asked once they had finished their lunch.
Shristi told him her entire history, how she came into the Upadhyay household up until what she had learned just a few hours back. In a way she was unburdening herself, letting it all out. She had never been this open to anyone and it felt good. It indeed felt good that she could share her innermost feelings with someone.
“So you feel they have taken advantage of you?” Joshua asked.
“I don’t know, I mean they have given me everything, the comfort of a home, good education, in fact I thought aunt loved me as her own daughter until now.”
“And that has made you more upset?”
“I don’t know, may be yes, when I came to know aunty knew very well what she was doing I couldn’t bear it.”
“You had been a good companion to her all her life from what I can understand and may be that is what she expected out of your relationship with Sid, a good companion to him.”
“May be you are right. It is my silly mind which expected I was more to her than a companion.”
“Why don’t we leave all that alone and come back to the present. What makes you call me now after all the time that has passed without any communication?”
“I don’t know, I just felt like calling you.”
“You are not doing this to spite your husband are you?” That was the first time he had addressed Siddharth as her husband and Shristi knew exactly what he meant.
“No, for once I have decided to do something for myself.”
“There is no going back from here Shristi………”
Shristi looked into Joshua’s eyes to see the smouldering embers of desire in them and she felt herself reciprocating the same need. She would be a fool to live on like this without knowing what it is that was pulling her towards Joshua. She knew this was moment that would be the turning point in her life and there was no going back, but she felt neither fear nor apprehension.
Joshua had been waiting for this ever since he had set eyes on her. Joshua put his hands on her caressing her soft fingers, he kissed her hand and Shristi felt warmth spreading over her whole body, her eyelids felt heavy and she closed them. She felt the softness of his lips on her, a light brush at first but then she started returning the soft caress the kiss deepened, Joshua savouring the taste of her mouth. Shristi felt herself falling deeply into an abyss, the world spinning around her and she held on to him for dear life.
Joshua lifted her in his arms carrying her into his bedroom. The sensations he could evoke in her were something beyond her wildest dreams, it was as if Shristi was reborn in Joshua’s arms, she was being transported into a new world, a world where everything and everybody ceased to exist except them.
“You are okay?” Joshua asked at last when he was able to catch his breath. He wanted to ensure that she was alright.
“Thank you.” Shristi said the pleasure of their lovemaking still tingling her senses.