Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 18
Continued from “Turn for the Worse”
That day, as it happened, Yadagiri stayed back at home indisposed and Chandra went out with a diamond trader leaving Nithya to fend for herself the whole business-day. By then, however, leaving her toddler at the Pearl House, she started becoming a part timer at the Princely Pearls.
When in the evening she came out from the confines of her cabin, she was shocked to find Vasu in the hall. Before she could beat a hasty retreat, he chanced to notice her and that left her in a quandary. Adding to her predicament, the salesman beckoned her for some consultation on their account. Hiding her consternation, as she came face to face with Vasu and his wife, gathering his wits in the meantime, he grabbed the initiative for the introductions.
“This is Prema, my wife,” he introduced to Nithya and said in turn, “This is Nithya. I was their tenant during my probation period.”
Unable as they were to close their eyes, yet the women raised their hands in greeting.
“How do you do?” said Prema extending her hand to Nithya.
“Fine, thank you,” said Nithya taking Prema’s hand.
“Are you working here?’ Vasu addressed Nithya.
“Of course,” Nithya said dryly.
“I’m at the Koti Branch,” he said giving Nithya his business card, “you may know I bank on your account and you too can count on my services.”
After settling the issue and entrusting the Vasus to that salesman’s care, Nithya excused herself.
Back in her cabin she went into jitters.
‘Oh, God, what will happen now if he pursues his agenda?’ she deliberated upon the unexpected development. ‘Didn’t he say that we won’t be able to resist each other, if we were to meet again? What to do if he starts stalking me from now on? Will he ruin me all again? No way. I’ll be curt with him to start with and nip his design in the bud itself. Whatever, I should be on guard. What he said is true of her. What with her figure and poise, isn’t Prema a stunner to the toe? With such a ravishing wife, maybe he won’t bother about me anymore. But then, it’s not the way men with a roving eye behave, why, he had the cheek to indulge in that suggestive talk--about my opening the account and he providing the service. But for all that, would he ever dare to pursue me again? Hope in the end better sense prevails in his evil head. What about alerting Chandra straightaway? But then, won't it be like putting the cart before the horse? Let me wait and see.’
After a while, having finalized the order for a designer necklace for her, as Vasu led Prema out of the Princely Pearls, finding him perturbed all along, she offered to drive the car.
“Why risk an accident?” she said pulling the key chain from his hands.
“What do you mean?”
“Don't you look out of sorts?”
“Oh, don’t joke,” he laughed half-heartedly.
“I’m sure it was not in jest,” she said getting into the Fiat, “that you offered her your services.”
“Why, are you jealous already?” he said getting in.
“Wonder why she was uncomfortable with you!”
“How am I to know?” he said closing the door. “That is assuming she’s uncomfortable.”
“Being a woman myself,” she said raising the accelerator, “I know what I know.”
“I’m sure you either misbehaved with her or even jilted her.”
“Oh, God, don’t imagine things!” he said in mock exasperation. “And be practical about relationships.”
“I know by now,” she said looking into the rear mirror, “you can tell blindfold which side of your bread is buttered.”
“Coming from wife, that’s hardly a compliment,” he said seemingly offended. “Are you regretting marrying me?”
“Have you any clue of that?”
“I wish you gave one,” he said laughing, “so that I too could’ve a dig at you.”
“How do you know it would remain the same?” she said mysteriously. “The charm of life lies in living to be surprised.”
“The charm of life lies in living to be surprised,” he said repeating after her. “What a beautiful way to approach life, really!”
“But for you life is all about grabbing, isn’t it?”
“Having grabbed you,” he said trying to placate her, “do I need to grab anymore?”
“Isn’t she ravishing?” she said probingly, “your Nithya.”
“No more than you,” he said, fondling her at her nape, deliberately not taking objection to her allusion, “at least to my eyes.”
“I’ll take it as a compliment,” she said, noticing the aberration, “but with a pinch of salt.”
“Well, that’s a practical approach too.”
“Don’t I know you’re a guru at that?”
“I’ll offer you free lessons,” he said as the Fiat entered their portico.
That night, while Prema slept nonchalantly, however hard he tried, Vasu couldn’t manage a wink of a sleep.
‘Oh, God, it was all dreamlike and ended likewise,’ he began contemplating. ‘She’s as simple as ever and more ravishing than before. Is this the woman I’ve lost, that too after having her all for myself! How adamant she was in spite of my persuasion! Now, let me see how she can resist me. How lucky I've met her before she lost her figure! Well, she could be some supervisor there and who knows, she may be a manager even. That’s the advantage of being a beautiful woman when it comes to scaling the ladder, abilities apart, that is. Which man would fail to fancy his chances with her if she were to come under his wings?’
‘Going by her mangalasutrams,’ he began to delve into the seductive ground rolling in his bed, ‘it's clear she's married. What her husband could be? Whoever it is, it’s better that she is married. Wouldn’t the roughness of marriage have softened her bitterness towards me? What is more to the point, marriage might've diverted some of her bitterness towards her husband as well. Won’t it portend a free reign over her body without the bother of her upkeep? Well, but for a gift now and then, Nithya the married would come lightly on my purse, and it suits. Whatever, how lively life used to be with her, didn’t every moment of it spelt passion? If only I play my cards well, I may be able to worm my way back into her life as the other man. Why do they say 'the other woman' and never 'the other man'? Only Nithya 'the other woman' can make it lively for Prema's man, isn’t it? Prema, oh, how she lies in suspended animation even in her nuptial bed! What if Nithya's man is a he-man, after all, she knows what Vasu 'the other man' means to her sex life?’
‘But why should she give in, after all that happened between us?’ he began to think about the ways and means of winning Nithya. ‘Can I ever break the ice to win her back? Why not, won’t women with a past tend to be vulnerable to the advances of their ex-lovers? If only I can touch the right chords of her heart to play upon this feminine susceptibility. But, the real hurdle could be her mental apathy born out of her hard feelings for me but given her weakness of physical attraction for me, maybe that shouldn’t be much difficult. But still it would be some work to bring her around?’
Sensing his chances at winning back her favors, he slept in dreamy anticipation till it was well past ten.
‘Then is she not a spirited dame?’ he thought next day as he woke up to the reality of her personality. ‘What would come of it, if she were to try to get even with me? In that case, won’t that be a battle of wits in a long drawn-out affair? Why not I give up and get on with my life for whatever it’s worth?’
‘But what a life it is with a politically correct wife?’ he felt on second thoughts. ‘Would cohabitation without feeling and sex sans passion add up to anything? But, how fulsome was life with Nithya with that oneness of union and the ecstasy in sex! Why, it was the work of the devil that spoiled my designs on her, a perfect plan that went awry, wasn't it? I’ve to tempt fate itself to have her and I shall find her alone for that.’
Shortly thereafter, he called her at her home.
“How dare... ?” Nithya lost her track on opening the door.
“I’ve come in spite of myself,” he said trying to cross the threshold. “Don't you know you’ve a magnetic hold on me?”
“Don’t you know I’ve turned deaf to your lies?” she said contemptuously blocking the way. “Know you’re up against a wall.”
“Won't I jump over it even if it means my end?” he said pressing his suit. “Anyway I’m half dead with a broken heart.”
“I give a damn,” she said, “be off now.”
“So be it,” he said nonchalantly, “but why damn yourself with a scene at your door? Why not we go in?”
As she moved in vexation, he followed her in excitation.
“You look great my charmy!” he said, taking his seat, “better than ever that is.”
“You know you’re not welcome.”
“That’s my tragedy.”
“Have the grace to leave now,” she said unrelentingly, “with the good sense never to return.”
“How can you say that to a lover?” he said upping the ante, “yourself looking more desirable than ever before?”
“Leave me alone!” she said in vexation.
“You would agree,” he said assuming a pleading tone, “I deserve to be heard for old times’ sake. Oh, how you used to cling on to me.”
“Stop it now,” she said raising her tone.
“I’m only living by your memory,” he said affecting distress, “and suffering on that account.”
“Don’t talk rubbish,” she said sneeringly.
“Believe me,” he got up and went near her, “I’m miserable without you in spite of Prema. I’m dying for you.”
“I hate you,” she said drawing herself away, “no, not even that, I don’t give a damn for you anymore.”
“I can understand your hurt but I’m repentant and…”
“I think it’s time you’ve left.”
“Why not lend me your ear before you show me the door?”
“What if I don’t?”
“I’ll knock again,” he said affecting passion, “and yet again.”
“Is it fair?” she said in exasperation.
“All is fair in love,” he said, “haven’t you heard it said?”
“Give me time,” she said turning impatient, “and better leave now.”
“Keep it in case you’ve mislaid it,” he said cockily placing his visiting card on the centre table.
“I tore it up,” she said contemptuously.
“Don’t make that mistake now.”
“What if I tear it up again?”
“You won’t have my phone number,” he said menacingly, “and if I don’t hear from you soon, I’ll come back on my own. Who knows, God forbid, I might run right into your hubby and I know you wouldn’t want it that way. It's wise to carry on the sly, why, have you forgotten those days?”
She moved towards the door to show him the door.
“One more thing,” he said, as he bowed his exit, “you know you made me get used to your loving glances. Next time, I expect a better welcome than this. Do remember that.”
Banging the door after him, Nithya was livid with herself.
Continued to “Spurring on to Err”