In the middle of the flight, Kiara woke up to go to the washroom. When she returned, she was too lazy to push her way into the middle seat. And with Rishaan readily offering to shift seats, the seating arrangement changed. With 20 minutes still remaining for the flight to land, a sleep-starved Kiara took another power nap, this time holding Rishaan’s right hand more firmly. Rishaan’s other hand, though, nervously moved to touch Diya’s. Her heart skipped a beat. Diya pulled her hand away. But a defiant Rishaan held her wrist again, this time firmly and more reassuringly. The changing behavioral dynamics between the three perhaps gave out a foreboding of what to come in Goa.
When the flight landed at the Dabolim Airport, Rishaan felt uncanny. His excitement seemed replaced by an unknown fear that he found very difficult to decipher. And that made him fall behind the pair as they made it to the baggage section. But during the inordinate wait for their belongings, Diya’s tentative glances furthered his longing for her. When it was time to get into a cab, as Diya was at contriving to reserve the seat behind the driver for her, he made bold to brush her bottom to raise the tempo. What with her acquiescing glance propelling out his anxieties, he got into the front seat. Sitting besides the driver, as he turned his head towards her for an all-clear, her eyes emitted green light for him. And as the cabbie began conveying them to her place in Panaji, his train of thoughts led him to Delhi, where it all began.
Rishaan first met Kiara when he crossed thirty and she was nearing twenty-five. That was at the Delhi High Court, where he was an upcoming counsel, and she, a promising junior lawyer. What with his starry-eyed demeanor setting up their stray encounters on an enamoured course and her reciprocal glances catapulting them onto the romantic stage, they tied the knot before the corridor gossip could acquire a scandalous tenor. Even as they were twice over the seven-year itch twice the year before, as her man leaned towards another woman, the thirty-year old Diya got under Kiara’s legal wings. When he was introduced to Diya, a decent-looking project head in Oa-Sys, she did not sweep him off his feet and he too could not stir her heart. However, with the formation of their friendship triangle, he began to nuance Diya’s nubile charms based on her marvelous seat, and yet, his loin was never on fire for Diya’s possession. Maybe weighed down by grief, as her heart too didn’t stir to a romantic beat, in spite of their close proximity, they remained sexually languid.
‘But how pleasurable is this nascent longing!’ he thought turning his head towards Diya as if to gauge it in her demeanour, and finding her eyes in wait to espy his full visage, elated, he resumed his reminiscences.
When the court decreed her divorce, Diya wanted to begin her life afresh in her ancestral home in Panaji, and wished Kiara and he should be the midwives, as she put it. Like the infusion of oil imparts a fresh glow to a diya, as her new-found love for life had injected sensuality into her persona, he was readily besotted with the new woman in her. Ever since they boarded the flight at Palam that noon, he was possessed with an irresistible urge for her touch, and as Kiara’s innocuous move paved the way, he closed in on Diya to checkmate her.
‘What a touch!’ he began marveling at it. ‘Wonder how it still lingers! Why Kiara has been no less a woman. Surely there is something in Diya’s flesh and blood specially meant for my bodily needs. Going by her reaction, there could be an element in my body chemistry that catalyzes her arousal.”
As he turned his head towards her, as if for confirmation, her demeanour suggested that she too was thinking on similar lines.
“Rishaan isn’t the scenery uniquely different?” said Kiara ecstatically
“Yes, yes,” he said fumbling.
“But the soul of Goa is in its beaches,” said Diya.
“So, I’m a lost soul’ said Kiara in jest.
“Why so?” said Diya.
“I have water phobia.” said Kiara.
“What about our Kiara-half?” said Diya drawling on our.
“Wait until we reach the beach,’ he said turning his head, “and what about you?”
“You know I’m a Goan-girl, I mean woman,” she said drawling on woman.
When they reached Diya’s place to her parents’ elaborate welcome, Diya motioned the guests upstairs, saying smilingly, ‘you are welcome to carry your bag and baggage’. After ushering them into the sprawling guestroom, she showed them her modest bedroom. When they went downstairs freshened up, they were feasted with fresh seafood to satiate their palates. Resting for a while, the trio rushed to Candolim Beach, reaching which, they began walking on the sands, Kiara keeping her feet dry as Rishaan and Diya wetted theirs.
However, as the sun began to set, they joined Kiara to savour the tinned beer they brought along with them in the twilight. And as it became dark, they began their walk back to where it started and in the manner it began, Kiara on the dry beach and the longing on the wet bed. Under the cover of darkness and away from Kiara’s forward gaze, when Rishaan tentatively brushed his shoulder with Diya’s, she firmly leaned on his. As he grasped her hand, they walked hand in hand, letting their fingers convey their urge without their uttering a word of endearment
After a refreshing bath and a couple of Fenis, they all had a sumptuous dinner followed by a long chit-chat with the old couple. It was near midnight when Diya wished her guests good night and retired into her bedroom. While a tipsy Kiara hit the pillow straight away, as sleep deserted the lovesick Rishaan, he went into the corridor accompanied by expectancy. As the light was off in Diya’s room, he went up to the door to see if it was ajar, and finding it locked, he returned to in his bed to grapple with a sleepless night.
With a surging urge to touch Diya, in spite of a disturbed sleep, Rishaan got up early, and after breakfast, the trio proceeded to old Goa to see its heritage churches. When they reached Basilica of Bom Jesus, while Kiara was struck by its architectural splendor, Rishaan, in spite of it, could not take his eyes off Diya. After loitering in and around it for a while, as Diya led them into the sprawling compound of Sé Catedral of Goa that lay across the road, Kiara preferred to stay put to watch the Basilica from afar. As that gave the lovebirds a free reign in the Catedral, they entered into it hand in hand and roamed all over with waists in hand, without uttering a word at that. On their stroll back to Kiara, when Diya tumbled to the ground on purpose, as Rishaan began caressing her legs to her delight, she dropped her pallu to feast his eyes.
Back home, they had bellyful, and after siesta the three reached Baga Beach. Even as Rishaan bared his chest and kicked off his pants, Diya stumped him by shedding her long dress to appear in a light brown swimsuit. What with the sight of her bare thighs surging his libido, he looked at Kiara in embarrassment, but finding her looking at the objects of his attraction, he augmented their attention. While Kiara rested on the beachside bed, the eager duo ventured into the waters to begin their offshore adventure. Resurfacing far off from Kiara much later, hand in hand, they lay side by side with sideways-eyes, till darkness drew a curtain between them. Finally, as if signaling a desire to exit and showing direction for entry, in the same vein, Diya raised her long and shapely legs into the air.
After drinks and dinner, as they were about to call it a day, sensing Kiara might turn amorous, winking at Diya, Rishaan feigned sleepy.
Past midnight, when Kiara was fast asleep, as he tiptoed into the corridor, he was greeted by a light beam flashing through Diya’s bedroom door that was ajar. When he tentatively peeped into the room, waiting by the door side, as she firmly pulled him into her embrace, he knew it would be an enduring thing. As he was about to compliment her for her ingenious welcome, she sealed his lips with hers as if to suggest that in their amour, pulsations of passion would override the words of adoration. After a deep kiss that nearly choked him, she closed the door to open her body and soul to him, and began to undress herself. Not wanting to suffer the presence of even a shred of clothing in their naked togetherness, he too entered the race to the state of nudity. As they fondled each other in their full-length embrace, they came to exclaim in unison, ‘what a touching thing!’ With the one-upmanship they showed in indulging with passion thereafter, a gratified Cupid felt obliged to grant them multiple orgasms.
“I love you Rishaan, body and soul,” said Diya, resting on his hairy chest.
“Doubt if touch was ever the touchstone of love.” he said fondling her shapely back.
“How true, had you not held my hand in the flight, I wouldn’t have been lying here fulfilled in love.”
“So, touch is the mother of our desire and fulfillment the father of our love,”
“What if Kiara comes to know?” she said suddenly waking up to the reality of life.
“She won’t take it kindly, that’s for sure.”
“Where that would leave me?”
“In case of vacancy, you will be my wife.”
“If not, though I wish not.”
“That depends on you?”
“I don’t mind being the other woman.” she said falling into his arms crying. “I can’t live without you, hope you don’t leave me.”
“I feel our unique touch has sealed our fate once and for all.”
“An assuring thing in a touchy affair.” she said feeling reassured.
“You’ve put it so well really?”
“No one-upmanship for once,” she said initiating an encore.
When Rishaan slipped into the room, finding Kiara in deep sleep, he heaved a sigh of relief only to find himself in soup the next morning.
“Why these?” said Kiara feeling the bruises on his body.
“Don’t you see they are love bites?”
“Have we made love these days?”
“You can count twice as many on Diya’s.”
“Oh, you goddamn cheat.”
“Sorry for the hurt Kiara,” he said trying to take her into his arms.
“Do I deserve this Rishaan?” she said pushing him away.
“We couldn’t avoid it.”
“Okay, let bygones be bygones,” she said gravely.
“We’ve just begun,” he said dreamily.
“So be it, put an end to it, now and here,” she said sounding firm.
“You know there can’t be ready solutions for these,” he said pleadingly.
“Good bye then.”
“Don’t go by knee-jerk reaction,” he said persuasively, “let’s sort it out, by and by.”
“Go to hell.” she screamed, “With her I mean.”
When that Air India’s Boeing took off from Dabolim Airport, while Rishaan sat beside Diya, who occupied the window seat, two rows behind, a brooding Kiara was in an aisle seat.
‘Now there is no point in forcing him to choose between Diya and me as I’m bound to be the loser?’ she thought in resolution. “Why not I let his passion for Diya satiate itself? Don’t they say man always goes back to his wife in the end? Meanwhile, why not I make the best of a bad bargain? It’s sensible really.”
With 20 minutes still remaining for the flight to land, Kiara walked up the aisle to request the man sitting beside Rishaan for a swap of their seats. As he readily obliged, even as Diya clung on to Rishaan’s right hand, Kiara sat beside him holding his left hand.
Acknowledgement: Short story based on Tuhin A. Sinha’s prompt for December 2015 ‘Write India’ short story initiative of Times of India