Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 19
Continued from “Shadows to the Fore”
Nithya collapsed in her bed as if Vasu sapped her strength and unable to comprehend, her mind became numb. But realizing that inaction wouldn’t lead her anywhere, she forced herself to apply her mind to the problem on hand.
‘What a shameless guy really,’ she thought. ‘What a gall to eye me again? Why, hasn’t he hinted at blackmail? What a devil I courted! It’s sickening to even think of him, well, no decent man would ever want to tempt the woman he lost, more so when she's married. Isn't it a crime to upset her life, that too when one had lost her by his own fault? What does he think of me? He seems to have taken me for granted being sure of luring me back into his fold by exploiting my past feelings for him! Well, I’ll show him what really I am by paying him back in the same coin. Won't I teach him the lesson of his life?’
Her suffering and humiliation associated with him that she couldn't help recall, only strengthened her resolve for revenge. The thought that he was out to blackmail her to exploit her again made her abhor him even more. Soon, she was seized by an urge to avenge herself upon him.
‘Why not I torment him by leading him up the garden path and see his ruin in the end,’ she began contemplating the course of her revenge. ‘But then, won’t I run the risk of being misunderstood by Chandra? If he were he to stalk me, won't the risk remain the same, making no difference either way for me. Better I tell Chandra right away, and that way, I can cover my flanks as I take the devil head on.’
Having got carried away by her feeling of revenge thus, she began to map out the plan of action.
‘What shall be done to make him pay for his misdeeds as well as evil designs!’ she began racking her brains. ‘Won’t man feel insecure seeing his wife wooed by another male? What about settling scores with him by letting Chandra befriend Prema? But then, why should Chandra play ball? Given his sense of decency he’s bound to be averse to the idea! But then, won’t I be able to persuade him? And which man doesn’t enjoy the company of a pretty woman like Prema, that too if prompted by his wife? Whenever that happens, then Vasu would be forced to put up with that or pack up with his wife. What if Chandra and Prema develop some romantic designs of their own? How one can ever know! If they turn close, won’t that make the rogue die in humiliation? And should Prema ditch Vasu for Chandra, won’t it be a double jeopardy for that bastard? Won't then, he would lose his wife for her to become 'the other woman' that he wanted to make out of me. Ware wah! Won’t that leave the rouge staring at a leaf out of his dirty book?’
‘But, all that could hurt me as well?’ she thought on coming back to the reality of life from the euphoria of revenge. ‘Won’t I end up with a rival for Chandra’s affections? Who knows, Prema’s charms might even dampen his ardor for me. Well, why not I face the facts of life? Won’t all men end up having a fling on the sly, sooner or later? Moreover, when one plays with fire, how can one ever shy away from the heat of it?’
As her obsession to avenge herself on the man who had betrayed her made her rationalize the prospect of a rival to the affections of the man who stood by her, Nithya was impatient for Chandra arrival that evening. After dinner, having detailed Vasu’s trespass to him, she unfolded her plan to checkmate him, however, without raising any romantic appetite in her man. And as expected, Chandra wasn’t inclined go with her plan and instead wanted to bury the issue by sorting it out with Vasu.
“What if he won’t give up?” she said unprepared to shift her goal post. “That would only make you suspicious in the end.”
“Offence is the best form of defense, isn’t it?” she said unable to desist herself from her sense of revenge.
“Okay but,” said Chandra in vacillation, “it may all be messy.”
“Why leave me to the wolf,” she said playing her trump card, “and yourself court misunderstanding?”
“Won’t I go to lengths for you?” he said with all his heart. “But still.”
“If you keep quiet now,” she said seemingly worried, “we may have to sulk later, you in doubt and I in neglect.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said contemplatively, “but for all that, it could be risky for you.”
“What’s the risk like?” she asked feigning ignorance.
“Don’t you know man-woman friendships lurk about liaisons’ fences?” he said to alert her.
“For all I know, it may turn out to be a platonic feeling between you and her,” she said determinedly. “Won’t sex appeal vary from eye to eye? Besides, it’s not that every attraction burns in the groin, does it? After all, platonic love is all about physical attraction sans sexual urge. Still if you get involved, it’s but a small price for me to pay to save my marriage.”
“Why are you so obsessed with him?” asked Chandra appearing relenting.
“There is another angle to it as well,” she said with conviction. “Once he’s made to taste his own bitter medicine, he would think twice before making a pass at another woman. If left loose, he’s likely to spoil a woman or more on the way, wouldn’t he? That way, our mission serves a social purpose as well.”
“Let’s see what’s in store,” said Chandra as he began imagining the possibilities.
The next day Vasu at his bank received Nithya’s call.
“Thanks for the call,” he said as his tone betrayed anxiety, “sooner than I’ve expected.”
“Tell me, why are you after me?”
“I’ll explain,” he said sounding confident all again, “if only you give me an opportunity.”
“Well, the telephone cables might sap at my agony?” he said assuredly. “Let’s meet and I’ll explain.”
“You liar.” she said coquettishly, “why do you want to melt my heart with your pretence?”
“Glad you still feel for me,” he said seeing his chance. “Believe me, I’m dying for you.”
“Don’t get carried away,” she said teasingly. “I’m no silly fool any longer.”
“Give me a chance to resurrect our love,” he said enticingly.
“Before that I want to know my position in the altered equation,” she said invitingly. “Well, I don’t want to be taken for a ride again,”
“I can understand,” he said walking into her trap. “I'll pen down that for your loving grasp.”
She kept mum, though excited.
“I’ll deliver at your home.”
“Why risk prematurely,” she said coquettishly, “give me at the Princely Pearls.”
“Oh, my smarty, it suits me either way,” he said heartily, “but better I give it in duplicate.”
“Why is that so?” tickled by her sense of humor, she sounded amused even in her condition.
“What with your tears smudging the original,” he said pleased with himself, “won’t you need a copy to comprehend my misery?”
“You haven’t changed,” she said smugly.
“You give me hope.”
“I don’t know,” being pleased, she hung up the phone.
The next day in excitement, Nithya showed Vasu’s letter to Chandra.
You’ve every right to know why I crave for you more than ever before. And I owe you an explanation for wanting you in spite of your indifference.
My darling, you’re the triumph as well as the tragedy of my life. You know about the joys you have had bestowed upon me, but you’re not aware of the deprivations I have brought upon myself. I never wanted to lose you, but neither would I blame you for having left me. It was life itself that played the spoilsport. How it failed us both to misread our priorities!
I don’t know how happy you are. And I wish you are in real bliss. But know I’ve been living in misery ever since you walked out on me. You may think I’m feigning unhappiness, being in the seventh heaven with a superb wife. I don’t blame you if you feel so, for after all, that’s what I thought life would be for me with Prema. If not for that hope, I would’ve never lost you at all, my sense of insecurity notwithstanding.
To be fair to her, Prema is a faithful wife. Fidelity is fine for a pativrata, but man needs something more substantial than that for married bliss. And who can appreciate that better than you, being an amorous woman yourself? As luck would’ve it, Prema is languid in bed, and goes through the motions as if in obligation. Can’t you appreciate my predicament, what with my passion nursed in our tempestuous union? Pinning my thoughts on your sensuous memories, I’ve been pining for you ever since. I’d come back immediately after my marriage to beg for your forgiveness and to take you with me. But then, I had to leave in distress having learned that you were married by then.
Condemned by fate and burdened by life, I was just pulling on till we met so fortuitously all again. Now, I feel I’m better off, relatively, that is, for I’ve a goal to reach and hope to nourish. I know it’s unfair on my part to bother you now but don’t I owe something to me as well? Don’t I have a right to be happy?
What can I do when my happiness depends entirely upon your consideration? So, in spite of my resolve not to disturb you, I’ve approached you but sadly, though rightly, you’d reproached me. You may know either I can lift my soul in your loving lap or let my frame slide into the embrace of distress. But I also know you would be averse to give yourself to me. And that’s the paradox of my life! Oh, is it a crime to want to live? I beg for a chance to win you back with my passion and devotion. If not, at least admit me into your society so that life becomes a little easy for me. That way our association might mitigate the bitterness of your past as well. Let’s be friends and leave the rest to the feelings of our hearts. I hope you won’t dismiss this as an absurd proposal.
I love you with all my heart and soul, and if it makes any difference to you, I consider myself blessed still.
“It’s clear he wants to worm his way back into your bed,” said, Chandra, folding the letter.
“Now, we can squeeze his balls up,” said Nithya determinedly even at the expense of the language. “Let’s begin the game of one-upmanship right away. I was trusting then and so he could exploit me. But now isn't the boot on the other leg? It’s he who’s desperate, but thinks I’m vulnerable. He doesn’t know I’ve a supportive husband.”
As Chandra hugged her in admiration, she sank into his embrace in gratitude later to withdraw herself feeling fulfilled.
What with Nithya’s tentative responses, Vasu’s hopes began to soar to the skies. But, as all was silent on her front for a week, troubled by the deadlock, he phoned her up at her residence to break the ice. By then, having fine-tuned her strategy to entrap him, Nithya awaited his call.
“What happened to my application!” he enquired.
“It’s under consideration,” Nithya said coquettishly.
“I’m dying to hear, my dear.”
“Won’t you deserve that?” she said flirting deliberately. “After all, you’d brought it upon yourself. Listen, given my routine, it’s hard for me to slip out to see you and should I be found in your company how am I to explain our togetherness. That’s my problem.”
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said sounding happy. “Don’t you think it's more so with lovers?”
“Do you think I wouldn’t have thought about it,” she said feigning concern, “and that too after reading your letter? The only way out I see for us is through family friendship. Won’t that provide us the smoke screen to carry on?”
“It’s very clever of you,” he said elated. “Nothing but death can separate us now.”
“I hope now at least,” she said assuming an innocent tone, “you mean what you say.”
“Let bygones be bygones dear,” he said with a feeling of having sealed the deal, “let’s make a fresh beginning.”
“To be honest with you,” she said cementing his hope, “on seeing you again, first it was once bitten twice shy. But then, it was no shying away from you; you've a way with me I suppose.”
“Why deny our due?,” he said having been carried away. “Don’t we have a natural weakness for each other?”
“How I'll know that when we make it?” she said coyly. “But for now, bring Prema coming Sunday for dinner; meanwhile, I’ll manage my husband.”
“Seven is fine.”
“Bye,” she said as she hung up.
When Vasu broached the topic with Prema, she was skeptical about the whole affair.
“I’m sure,” she said, looking at him suspiciously, “you would’ve forced yourself upon her. How do explain this turnaround after all that disinterestedness!”
“As usual,” he laughed away her apprehension, “you read too much and suspiciously at that. You may know Princely Pearls is a major account and as things stand, she’s its princess. Which banker would let it go without a try?”
“How is it so?”
“Well,” he said, “it’s her in-laws’ establishment.”
“Interesting really!” she said. “So you’re back at your spying ways. Anyway, let me see where your new errand leads me to.”
“Don’t scare her hubby with your cynicism,” he said in jest.
“And thereby spoil your party with her!” she said. “That’s what you mean, don’t you?”
“Don’t imagine things,” he said appearing casual. “He could help in my business and you might click with her.”
“Wish it’s as simple as that!”
“No more and no less,” he said showing relief, “and that’s about it all.”
“Hope so,” she said seemingly skeptical, “even otherwise, what have I to lose?”
“Who knows, she might become your bosom friend,” he said trying to humor her. “And I may be the odd man out when you’re together.”
“Let’s see how it goes.”
“How I wish,” he said cajolingly, “to rub some of my optimism on you.”
That night as Vasu slept in excitement, for long Prema was awake in premonition.
Continued to “Tempting the Fate”