“Why did you send me that text?” she asked tersely.

He just stood there, watching her move around the house,
picking things strewn on the ground, clearing the clutter on the table and of
course completely ignore his piercing gaze.

“How was he? Handsome? Charasmatic? Charming? Did you fall
in love with him, like you did with me three years ago in that coffee shop? Why
are you not looking at me? Scared to admit that you have already moved on? Tell
me what was he like. The perfect man, wasn’t he? Has he replaced me already?
Has he, Ananya? Ananya look at me, God damn it. Look at me,” he shoved her
around to face him.

“Ohhh I must be hurting you now, right? Of course my mere touch
must be repelling you. I am sorry, I truly am. No No, please sit down. You are
a guest now, can I get you a glass of water, Mam? Something to eat? Speak
Ananya, speak anything,” he pushed her on to the chair next to the table.

She just watched him do all of that, mute and blank.

He began walking aimlessly in the room, randomly picking
things and throwing them to the ground. He suddenly turned and ran to her,
pulled her hands out to his lips.

“The ring? Has he put on the ring already? Made you his forever
and ever kind, right? Does he know you are here? Doesn’t he object to that? If
you were getting married to me and I knew you had gone to another man’s house
alone. I would have killed you with my bare hands, yes killed you. And after
that I would have shot myself at point range. A head shot. Yes you know it, I
meant every single word of that text. I will kill myself if you are not mine. I
will,” he dropped the hands on her lap and just stood there, desolate and
dejected.

Watching your man disintegrate due to his abundant love for
you, is many a woman’s dream. But not for Ananya. She never liked her men
distorted or weak, she always preferred them stoic, tough even cruel if
sometimes need be.

Where many would have rushed to wrap him in arms or probably
shed a few tears in solidarity, she simply stood there, watching him suffer,
without as much as batting an eyelid.

“When was the last time you cleaned your room? “she asked,
completely ignoring the outburst that was witnessed a few minutes back.

“My room? Is that all you can muster, concern for the state
of my room? What are you Ananya? What are you made up of? Is this all a game
for you? Engaging two men in your spider web of love. Answer me, what happened
today?” he asked, almost falling to the ground in his need for love and
attention.

“The fact that within fifteen minutes of your text I am at
your house, does that not answer all your questions?” she answered stoically.
                
                       *                             *                             *                             *                                                          

“Who called?” she asked, looking completely dazed.

“Dhruv! You better call him back now,” Astha replied
excitedly.

It took her sometime before she finally extracted the phone
from her pocket, feeling a little numb with nervousness.

“He gave this number to dad,” Astha pushed forward a scrap
of paper with roughly scribbled ten digits.

“Do you mind?” Ananya said, pointing towards the door, as a
request for privacy.

“Okay fine, I will leave. But this time you promise that you
would tell me all the details. You still have to fill me up on the meeting as
well, it has been two days,” with these words she walked out of the room.

Ananya rose to bolt the door from inside and then walked to
the extreme end of the attached balcony. She couldn’t risk anyone listening in
the conversation.

“Hello,” came the joyful voice from the other side.

“Dhruv, Ananya here. You had called on Dad’s phone,” she
said very quietly.

A very discomforting blanket of silence suddenly engulfed
them. Neither knew what had to be done or said, barring of course the banal
niceties.

“How are you,” he asked, voice distinctly sober and blander
now.

“I am good and you?” she spoke in the same polite manner.

She could listen to the women in the background chattering
away to glory. Of course, she thought, financial consultancy is one field where
women representation has been on a definite rise.  What if one of them was more than a simple
friend? She couldn’t help but wonder about this.

Could be, she spoke in her mind, he may not have the Greek
god looks, but then the suave personality quite made up for them.

“This must have struck to you as odd, a call from my side,”
he suddenly began speaking, “especially after what we discussed last time.”

She didn’t venture a word, waited patiently for the mystery
to get revealed.

“It’s a little complicated. Mum has set her heart on you. In
any other case this would have been a huge compliment,” a soft chuckle followed
these words.

“But sadly, this is making things quite tricky at my end,”
he continued in all seriousness.

                           *                             *                             *                             *  
                                                        
“730”, he spoke all of a sudden, “are you listening to me,
730 is needed. Its huge. Mock tests have been good, but it’s not just about the
score is it? The interview, GDs they are all so tough,” he looked at her
expectantly.

“Don’t worry, you will make it. You have a strong profile
and mock tests have come back great. I know you are going to make it, I have my
complete faith in you,” she replied soothingly.

He pulled her face close and lightly kissed her lips.

“I love you so much. Only three years Ananya. Just three
years. A year in MBA and another two to get settled. After that you quit your
job and work only as my wife. It will be perfect. Life in Americas, a palatial
house, a dog and when the time comes two children to keep you more busy. But
promise me you would love me just as much even then,” he gazed into her eyes
with overflowing love.

She smiled and nodded, a deep red blush working up on her
cheeks.

“Three years Ananya, three years. You would see what
difference this wait would bring to our lives. Then even your father would see
sense in my decision,” he spoke firmly.

“Subhash, just that if only you agreed for a token
engagement. It would settle things down a bit back at home,” she spoke gently.

“What token engagement? Do you not trust me?” he suddenly
rose from the chair with a jerk.
“It’s not that,” she replied, vigorously shaking her head.

“Then what is it? Do you want to marry a senior software
engineer who earns only forty thousand rupees a month? They will say you got
engaged to a beggar,” he began speaking even more aggressively.

“I don’t care what they say or how much you earn. I only
want to be with you,” she spoke, her voice distinctly shaking under pressure.

“But for me it’s not enough. Its not just love, I need your
respect and pride as well. As my wife, I want to provide you with every
comfort, luxury this world can pretend to attain with money and power,” he
stood next to her in towering presence, while finishing the last set of words. 

                                  *                               *                           *                              *

to be contd…
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