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Tentative Moves
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Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 17

Continued from “Tidings of Love”

By the time Roopa came out of the Railway Station with Raja Rao and Sandhya, the auto-stand wore a deserted look. Moving away from them to locate an auto, Roopa hailed at a passing one. The auto driver as though to show her, her place in the love triangle, drove in to form a wedge between her and the wedded couple. As Roopa got in from the right, Raja Rao stepped in from the left to place the luggage in the space behind. As he was about to step out to let Sandhya get in, he found himself pushed in by her, unmindful of the protocol. As Sandhya nudged him for more space for herself, he was pushed closer to Roopa that filled her heart and thrilled his senses.

Pressed between his wife and the woman he enamored, Raja Rao realized that his sex life would be dull without bedding the latter as well. The jerks of the journey thereon that jostled their man closer to them sharpened Sandhya’s sensuality and deepened Roopa’s desire.

‘If a mere thirty minute ride with him could be so exciting, how exhilarating a lifelong journey would be then?’ Roopa thought, reluctantly getting down when the auto reached her place.

Once they got in, Raja Rao went into the bathroom to shower himself, while the friends were engaged with the marriage albums.

‘One might think,’ said Roopa finding herself in every other picture, ‘I’m photo-crazy.’

‘On the other hand,’ said Sandhya affectionately, ‘we thought you’re a value addition.’

‘Who else?’ said Roopa.

‘Can’t you guess?’ said Sandhya pointing to her husband with her eyes as he came.

‘Madam, I feel you’ve kept watch to catch me at mischief,’ he said, making Roopa blush to the roots.

‘I was only trying to measure,’ said Roopa, composing herself readily, ‘my friend’s fortune in the making.’

‘What a compliment!’ he said, thrilled at that. ‘Though it’s said that beauty and brains won’t coexist in feminine frames, both of you seem to have appropriated most of both.’

‘Thank you,’ said Sandhya thrilled by the romance of the moment. ‘But you better stop this madam business. Don’t you know she has a beautiful name?’

‘Won’t she feel,’ he said, looking at Roopa, ‘that it strikes a familiar note?’

‘Roopa,’ said Roopa, matching his gaze.

‘Roopa,’ he repeated, thrilling her senses.

‘I’ll go for a bath,’ said Sandhya, and left.

‘Roopa,’ he addressed her as she buried herself in an album. As the ardency in his tone signaled a note of urgency, she shifted her loving gaze from the groom in the pictures onto him in her presence.

‘Roopa,’ he repeated


‘We’ll be leaving tomorrow,’ he said with a feeling of disappointment, which she noticed in the tenor of his tone.

‘I know,’ she said, as her hapless mind filtered the true feelings of her heart that read, ‘I know, but how I wish you would take me too.’

He kept quiet, staring at her in disappointment.

‘You could have stayed for a day or more,’ he felt she could have said without compromising herself. ‘Then I would have seized the chance to open my heart to her. And couldn’t she have poured out her heart in reciprocity? It’s apparent that she’s attracted to me, there is no mistaking that. Doesn’t her heavy manner belie the burden of her love even?’ The thought that she loved him pleased him even more for her presence.

Finding him truant, she realized that she goofed up her chance, and thought, ‘Any commonplace comment could have kept the dialogue alive, and who knows, what it would have unraveled. Why can’t he realize that it’s but a mere slip of the tongue, symbolizing the gulf between my feelings and expression?’

As though blaming him didn’t appeal to her, Roopa tried to rationalize the lack of forthrightness on his part, ‘After all, in his position, he can’t but be tentative, for the fear of offending my sensitivity.’ However, even as their lips were sealed in apprehension, their eyes continued their conversation without any inhibition.

Meanwhile Sandhya felt refreshed while freshening herself in her bath. ‘Roopa likes my man,’ she thought excitedly. ‘But then, won’t women find him fascinating if they happen to get acquainted with him? That way, he too turned fond of her. Why, can any man ever ignore her either? Won’t it be nice if only we three could form a friendly triangle? Oh, how lucky I am to have a friend like her and a man like him!’

However, as Sandhya came out in excitement, she found them both immersed in their own thoughts.

‘Being sworn friends,’ Sandhya said in jest, ‘why are you sitting like strangers?’

‘Being a gentleman,’ said Roopa smiling, as she left for her bath, ‘your hubby seems to believe in ladies being first.’

While Sandhya laughed at the remark, Raja Rao was pleased with her innuendo.

As she entered the bathroom, the very thought that he had his bath there earlier thrilled Roopa’s sensuality. As she undressed herself, she recalled his searching looks, which made her imagine herself in his presence, and his thought in her nudity induced pulsations in her frame, increasing her craving for his possession. Even as she showered herself leisurely, she sighed for him longingly, and while reaching for her soap, seeing theirs, she was drawn to it impulsively. Well, in her bath of fantasy that she had had, their soap became a fetish that freshened as well as excited her in equal measure.

As they gossiped after breakfast, the topic of children cropped up in time. ‘What’s your prediction about her children?’ said Sandhya thrusting Roopa’s hand at him.

‘It would be a pleasure,’ he said, grabbing what was on offer, ‘speculating the prospect.’

‘But don’t turn it into a farce,’ cautioned Sandhya, as he began fondly feeling Roopa’s outstretched hand.

‘What a lovely hand!’ he thought, enjoying the feeling of her touch. ‘Why, it’s a classic psychic hand with those shapely fingers in their full length. How I failed to notice the beauty of her hands all this while!’ While, he found himself fondling her hand, more to communicate his love than to envision her future, seemingly in a trance he thought, ‘Obviously enamored of the character of her main attributes, I became oblivious to the charms of her remaining features.’

Then divined by desire to espy her features, he mapped her feet with his caressing looks. ‘Oh, what an attractive woman she is! Won’t she have a curvy frame from head to foot to make her deadly in bed? Oh, what a dame she is! Is there a better lass to possess?’ as he thought, so he gripped her hand ardently goading her passion.

‘What are the indications?’ Sandhya was impatient.

‘It’s not very clear as yet,’ he said gravely, however, not leaving the hand. ‘As I told you, the lines are liable to change.’

‘But,’ said Sandhya pointing at a sideline below Roopa’s little finger, ‘I’ve heard that this line indicates children.’

‘The lines there indicate the affections for the opposite sex,’ he predicted with hope. ‘As Roopa has a single line, she is likely to have a deep affection in her life.’

‘What about her?’ Roopa asked, reluctantly withdrawing her hand.

‘You mean,’ he said naughtily, ‘affections or children.’

‘I know from her nature as well as her hand that she would have only one such affection in her life,’ said Roopa indulgently. ‘I want to know about her children.’

‘She could have two children,’ he said.

‘You mean,’ Roopa suggested correction, ‘you would have two children.’

‘Factually speaking,’ he said smilingly, ‘you see, her hand indicates the prospects of her maternity and not the source of its paternity.’

‘Now I know,’ said Roopa coyly, ‘how devilishly mischievous you could be.’

‘Well,’ Sandhya joined in the mirth, ‘you can figure out my lot with him.’

After lunch, when Sandhya proposed caroms, Roopa wondered how to go about it with only three of them around. At that, as Raja Rao said that he would watch the friends at play, Tara came around.

‘Oh here’s the godsend,’ said Roopa enthusiastically. ‘Tara, join us for the caroms.’

‘It’s my pleasure,’ said Tara, greeting all, ‘though I don’t know who is going to suffer at my hands.’

‘Who shall partner whom?’ Sandhya thought aloud.

‘Let it be the couple,’ suggested Tara, ‘versus the neighbors.’

‘Madam, you seem to be a sound strategist. Knowing that a man and his wife won’t see eye to eye, you want to pair us for your easy pickings,’ said Raja Rao, sending the females into peals of laughter.

‘Roopa, you had better partner him,’ said Sandhya amusedly. ‘If I say that we might pair, his tongue would wag yet another way.’

As Roopa turned out to be a novice and Tara being quite adept at the game, not to speak of Sandhya, Raja Rao sensed that there was a drubbing in the offing. As feared, Raja Rao and Roopa got the stick in the first board.

‘Oh, we’ve lost,’ said Roopa, apologetically, ‘because of me.’

‘Don’t worry,’ he seemed to assure her in more ways than one. ‘We shall make it in the end.’

‘I suppose,’ Sandhya teased him, ‘playing caroms is not as easy as wagging the tongue.’

‘In no way are we going to give up,’ he said to Sandhya, and added, ‘Are we Roopa?’ Roopa for once got scared.

‘How I wish I had a better hand to lend you,’ said Roopa, having recovered her wits in the meantime. ‘But I know that you’ll make them run for their money all on your own.’

While the game progressed, as he began to regain his touch, he was seized by a desire to let Roopa savor the thrill of winning. In the euphoria of Roopa’s praises then, he played like a man possessed, and that proved to be detrimental to their opponents in the end.

‘I haven’t seen you play,’ said Sandhya, watching him in wonderment as he went on a pocketing spree, ‘half as well at Kothalanka.’

‘After all, I can’t let down my partner, can I?’ he said, thrilling Roopa no end.

Wrapping up the game in time, he involuntarily extended his hand to Roopa that she shook in excitation. Though sorry for Tara, Sandhya shook his hand in admiration. While Tara shook hands with him in congratulation, Roopa watched his demeanor in contemplation. ‘Is he enjoying her touch?’ she looked for signs of his crush on Tara, and seeing none she felt relieved, but thought nevertheless, ‘Why this possessiveness for a man who’s not mine even! But how could it ever be love unless one is besieged by jealousy?’

When Sandhya proposed a challenge round, Roopa was not a game for it as she preferred to preserve the memory of their triumph lest they should lose the challenger. But at Roopa’s behest as they took to rummy instead, Tara talked about the stakes.

‘You spell it,’ said Raja Rao.

‘Ten a count,’ Tara proposed.

‘I feel it’s high,’ said Sandhya.

‘Not for an architect’s wife,’ Tara brushed aside the objection.

As dame luck teamed up with the members of her gender, as if to show where her sympathies lie, Tara said to Raja Rao, ‘It looks like you have no way with dame luck today.’ Picking up his cards deliberately, he looked stealthily at Roopa and said, ‘But I’m hopeful that she might favor me in time.’ However, as he found Roopa gazing at him as though expecting some such comment, he knew she was playing the ball with him.

Roopa though admired his audacity, nevertheless, was troubled lest Sandhya should take note of their flirtations. ‘Sandhya seems to be in love with him to a fault, though she can’t be faulted for that,’ thought Roopa as she scooted that deal. ‘It’s as though some magnetic force would draw women to him! Isn’t Tara, the veteran of many a fill, coy to him as if she were a virgin? It looks like he appreciates Tara’s undeniable charms but he doesn’t seem to be enamored of her. Without a roving eye, won’t he make a steady lover? Oh, had I not stopped him in his tracks then, daredevil that he is, he could have declared his love for me then and there. What a lover to have, if ever I have him. Well, I shouldn’t miss the next chance as and when it presents itself.’

‘Sorry,’ said Tara, taking leave at length, ‘for robbing the hosts.’

‘We’ll make it even next time,’ said Roopa smiling.

‘I always wish that you’re better even,’ said Tara in undertone to Roopa. ‘It’s still open.’

Fearing a possible misunderstanding by Raja Rao and Sandhya, Roopa clarified as Tara had left, ‘She wants me to take up a job and promises to find me one.’

‘Why,’ said Sandhya, ‘it’s not a bad idea.’

‘What’s the hesitation?’ he asked, finding Roopa unresponsive.

‘You may not know,’ said Roopa to Raja Rao, ‘that I’m not even a graduate. I wonder who would employ me, and for what.’

‘As I told you,’ said Sandhya to Raja Rao, ‘Roopa was the topper of our class before she gave up studies.’

‘How does that help now,’ said Roopa. ‘Now it’s all bygones.’

‘Roopa, nothing is really over till the very end,’ he said persuasively. ‘Even after death, there would still be one last journey to make to the crematorium. You could have wanted to be a doctor to serve the sick. Well, there are other ways for you to do that. Apart from the doctors and the ayahs, health-care needs administrators as well. If you work for it, who knows, you might run your own clinic one day.’

‘Honestly, I haven’t thought on those lines,’ said Roopa visibly impressed. ‘Thanks for opening up my mind.’

‘Who knows,’ said Sandhya joyously, ‘one day you might as well design her clinic.’

‘Won’t I put all my heart into it,’ said Raja Rao heartily, ‘making it all soulful for her.’

‘Oh,’ said Roopa extending her hand to him, ‘it’s like you’re rekindling my ambition.’

‘Meanwhile,’ he said holding on to her hand, ‘improve your academics through correspondence course, and enlarge your vision by observation. When the opportunity comes, thus you would have been equipped to acquit yourself well.’

‘Well,’ Roopa said as though in a trance.

‘I know you could,’ he said animatedly, and she pressed his hand warmly.

‘You can count on us,’ said Sandhya, embracing a moved Roopa.

Infected more by their euphoric love than his carnal desire, Raja Rao couldn’t help taking them both in his arms for a fleeting moment that seemed eternity to Roopa.

Continued to “Fetishes of Fantasy”

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