This story is my entry for FINISH THE STORY contest conducted by Cafe GingerChai where we sip thoughts!To get updated on future contests,register at Cafe GingerChai.
Part I (Original story)
[Link to the original post on Cafe Gingerchai]
It was a warm night, neither humid nor too hot – in fact just right for a stroll. But it was 11.30 pm , not late by metro standards. But in the suburbs where the company township was situated, it was way too late. The highway was about ½ km away and occasionally the hum of heavy vehicles passing by, could be heard but other than that , it was quiet with only the chirping of the cicadas in the background.
Ranjan hurried along the small lanes of the VIP quarters , isolated and further away, in the moonless night, frequently giving furtive glances around him. He seemed tense but strode ahead with purposeful steps, until he reached a particular bungalow. He stopped in front of it and stared at it for a few minutes. The senior level executives were issued spacious bungalows with lawns while the junior and the mid level executives were assigned one bedroom and two bedroom apartments, a fact that did not go well with them , after all the divide was quite unreasonable they thought. But this was not the issue at the moment. He was here for his own personal reasons…
It was quiet and dark on the other side of the wall. One notable thing was that the street lights were few and far between and most of them were not working. The spot, where he was standing was shrouded in darkness, which suited him just fine.. There was no sign of any activity inside the rooms of the freshly whitewashed bungalow of Mr. Gupta. Only a dim red light flickered through the curtains of a room, most probably the master bedroom. He scratched his head and tried to remember if Mr. Gupta had a dog and, No ! No dogs, no watchman., so nothing to be afraid of. Yes! Everything was going according to plan. Mr. Gupta was out with the executive board members in the Company Club house entertaining the overseas client trying to secure the coveted deal, which meant that he will not be back before 2 am. That left him with enough time to accomplish whatever he had come for.
He gave another glance towards his left and right and also the two bungalows flanking it , but all was silent. It would be a fool who would be out at that hour leaving the comfort of a bed and wife to roam about here and there…. He smiled at the private joke. He touched the gate gingerly. It was an iron gate. He tried to move it but it gave a low audible creak and he stopped.
“Damn!Asha , my sweet little fool. Why does she have to wish for near impossible things.” He could not afford to make any noise. He was dressed in track pants and a rubber soled shoes . He also shockingly realized that he did not have his cell phone nor any identity proof with him in case of an emergency.
He decided that the best and fastest approach inside would be to climb over the low brick wall.
“ Asha! How you bewitch me!” He sighed, “All for love!” The brick wall was not high but it still disrupted the normal functioning of his 37 year old body for a few seconds, after he climbed over and jumped onto the other side clumsily. But thankfully the grass was thick which carpeted both his fall and the noise. He panted. His heart was racing at 100 beats/min ( more out of anxiety) and coupled with that he experienced an alien sensations gurgling deep inside his stomach. After all this was the first time he trespassed someone else’s property.
He nearly gave up and retreated , but then he calmed himself , took some deep breaths and sat on the soft grass for a few moments.
“ No snakes, I hope” he thought peering in the darkness. He had to do it today. He was not going to get a better opportunity to come here.
His hate quotient multiplied, knowing his nemesis Gupta, deserved every bit of it. Mr.Gupta fitted the description of a monster boss to a Tee. Ranjan first came across him eight months back when Mr.Gupta was transferred from their Bareilly unit. The dislike was mutual and the Monster made his life miserable. Finally after requesting the administration and literally prostrating himself in front of them, he was transferred to another unit ,but the scars remained till date . It took all his patience not to physically assault his boss. He used to often wonder how could anyone tolerate Mr.Gupta. How did his wife and children cope with him? He knew that Gupta had two sons aged 9 and 6 years. What did they think of him? Was this monster a normal person? He did not seem to have any friends or associates either. The only admirable thing about him though was that he had not seen anyone else with a greener thumb than his. He kept an impeccable garden and was the subject of envy among the others.
He looked at his watch . He had sat there lost in thoughts for almost 15 minutes. He stood up, smiling , he turned towards the verandah!…
“Asha,! Its your birthday and I want you to be happy”.he chanted in his thoughts. He felt the air cooler comparatively, on his way back home. Was it so late? He again looked at his watch and then his eyes went to the ‘ package ‘ he was holding. Tenderly , he shifted the banana leaf holding ‘it’ slightly. He smiled , pleased with himself his face glowing with satisfaction. He did not feel the least bit exhausted after his nightly caper. His step was light and springy.
He smiled again when he reached his apartment block, but his smile disappeared when he saw the watchman napping in a chair near the lift. If he was seen , it would give him away instantly and there would be a big scandal. As it is, it was a small town and things get to spread fast over here – be it news, rumors, fire or illness.
“What do I do now?” he thought shifting restlessly. There was no other way out.
He had to take the stairs, but for that he had to walk through the well lit lobby and down the corridor. He looked up at the window of his apartment on the third floor.
“ All for love”! He sighed and he tip-toed towards the staircase… He gave a last timid glance at the watchman before disappearing up the stairs. “Thank God! He is asleep” and stifled a chuckle at the irony. He started climbing the stairs slowly . sprinting was not an option, lest he woke up the entire household!. Panting, he reached the door of his flat. He took out his key and silently opened the door. When his eyes adjusted in the darkness, he walked past the drawing room to the bedroom. He stared at his wife from the door. She was still sleeping . She looked so innocent and angelic in the dim light. He walked in , sat beside her and touched her cheeks tenderly. She stirred in her sleep . He was still holding the ‘package’ and he moved towards the bathroom, when, she woke up.
She was fully awake within seconds.
“Ranjan? Where had you been so long?”
He froze and then turned around slowly- smiling broadly.
Part II (My entry- completion of the story)
She caught his smile and beamed back.
‘Did you get it? Really? Oh, thank you darling!’, she hugged him clumsily, and grabbed the package to rip it apart.
The cold, dull yellow metal fell into her sweaty palms. ‘Oh beautiful! Divine..’ she cooed, trying the ruby necklace on herself, and glancing at the mirror. ‘Don’t I look gorgeous?’
Ranjan slumped into the sofa, and yawned.
It had been a long night. ‘Hey! I said, don’t I look fabulous?’ He gave an imperceptible nod, and closed his eyes.
Back in the bungalow, Mrs.Gupta sprawled carelessly on her king-sized bed, a dreamy smile adorning her beautiful, full lips. She was indifferent to the loud snores from the boys sleeping in the next room. At 9, they were already teenagers..lost in their world of sport, music and friends. They reminded her so much, of her own past life.
Her thoughts wandered back to college .. the air resounding with laughter, tingling with excitement .. arms interlaced with her lover’s ..as they enjoyed an evening stroll on the beach, or nibbled each other’s ears reading romantic classics in a corner of the desolate library.
They were clearly in love. But he wouldn’t admit it. After all these years, she still could not put her finger on why they could not be united in marriage. They had felt that electrifying current whenever they met.. when they touched. And yet, he had never confessed.. never proposed. At first she had been heart-broken, thinking she was at fault. Gradually, she realised, he had perhaps simply been afraid. Of commitment, of relationship failure.. or parental pressure!
They never spoke about it. Even when they met now, it was in complete silence. It was the pairs of eyes that did the talking.
‘How have you been?’
‘Not bad, and you?’
‘Good.. You know, I miss you’
‘And I dream of you..’
And to a few minutes back, when he had risked all, to be with her at the stroke of midnight. She had blown a tiny candle, stuck hurriedly into a pink cupcake on a banana leaf. They had held each other tightly, in silence. Tears had dried up a long time ago. It was mere acceptance now, of the fact that they tread very different paths. And this was all they could dream of. Hurried, clandestine meetings.
They bit into the cupcake together.. he crushed the leaf.
‘Don’t..we need it, remember?’ she whispered. And proceeded to wrap her old ruby necklace in it. One of the first few pieces of jewellery Mr.Gupta had wooed her parents with. She did not feel for it anymore.. neither loved nor hated it. It was a lifeless piece of metal, something she could not bring herself to care about. However, it had been the envy of Ranjan’s wife.
‘No, Asha.. this is yours’, Ranjan had protested.
‘Its not often that wealth can buy happiness, Ranjan. This is in return for these few moment with you… for these precious, priceless memories on my birthday!’