This is the seventh part of a long story.
First part of the story: Long Story 1
Second part of the story: Long Story 2
Third part of the story: Long Story 3
Fourth part of the story: Long Story 4
Fifth part of the story: Long Story 5
Sixth part of the story: Long Story 6
Seventh part of the story: Long Story 7
Vishva, Mitch, Max, and Alejo had ordered the spicy curry sandwich. It was weird. Vishva and Mitch always ordered the spicy curry sandwich. Alejo probably was used to spices and heat. But Maxine? Mitch was looking at Max like she was going to explode anytime now. Alejo had ordered a chilled bottle of water and was holding the bottle with his left hand, while he ate the sandwich with his right. Vishwa had got a plain yogurt; it was opened and a ready with a spoon beside it.
Max started to eat the sandwich and looked at the three men who were looking at her like how she used to look at her baby when she fed it something new. Max took a look at the sandwich, a little bit worried now. “GUYS!” she said banging on the table. “CUT IT OUT.”
Alejo immediately put the bottle on the table and held the sandwich with both hands. Mitch started to eat the sandwich like there was no other sandwich for him in this world. Vishwas silently pushed the yogurt near Maxine.
“What?” she asked looking at Vishva.
“Yogurt!” Vishva said in a matter of factly.
“I know! Why?” Max asked.
“For the heat!” he replied.
Max had already finished half the sandwich. She looked at the 3 sets of worried eyes. “Men! I can handle my Curry. Cut it out. God!”
Mitch visibly relaxed and smiled. He had already finished his sandwich, so he went for the yogurt. Alejo grunted and started to eat again. “Good for you!” Vishva said and sincerely started to eat his sandwich.
Max rolled her eyes and said “So! The presentation went well… congrats Mitch and Vishva.” “Good work guys” said Alejo.
“Thanks…” said Vishva and Mitch.
“Which of you guys will be giving the KT to the Project Manager and the TL?” Alejo asked between bites.
“Both of us” Mitch said. “We’re planning to share the modules equally. It will also enable good interaction”
“Good! Make sure that they get initiated well. We cannot afford distance-related miscommunications and misinterpretations,” said Alejo.
“They’ll be fine Alejo.” Max said, “All businesses have global workforce now. We’ll take care.”
Vishva wiped his mouth and said urgently “It won’t be a problem Alejo. I promise. I’ll make sure nothing affects the working efficiency.”
Narrator: Nothing you say!!! Not even Prabha? Huhahahahahaha (evil laugh)
It was 10:30. Her mom-in-law was going to come anytime now. She did not want to face her today. She was just very tired. ‘Why the hell did Arun tell me now?’ Prabha sat on the bathroom stool and was thinking away. ‘Maybe if I jump off the window and land in the 11th floor balcony. I can then walk on the beam and go to the common area in B block. I can then jump on the balcony and.. What if the balcony is closed?’
‘Or! I can jump on the 11th floor balcony, let go of the dignity and scream and scream. Sigh! God save me from my mom-in-law.’
Prabha came out of the bathroom at 10:45. Arun was weighing the luggage and moving them to the hall. Prabha went and sat on the sofa. She stared at Arun who was now cleaning the dining table. “I do not want to face your mom now.” Prabha said.
Arun stopped and looked at Prabha. “What shall we do?”
“You say!” she said.
“Hmmmm… shall I ask her not to come now?”
“She will suspect something.”
“Well! There is something to suspect.”
“She will think I made you Gay.” Prabha said.
Arun smiled and sat on the dining table chair “She might. We’ll explain to her.”
“She will tell me that I am cursed. Like the time she thought I am unfavorable to go to a baby shower because I could not conceive a second time.”
“Hmmm… yeah remember that. She has changed a lot now. You’ve changed her Prabha.”
“What will you tell her Arun? Shall we tell her after I come back from the US?”
“I was thinking the same thing.” Arun said
“Why did you tell me Arun?” Prabha asked and Arun looked at her with guilt-ridden eyes.
“Because my lover is going to Canada in 2 days. And he wanted an answer before that.”
Prabha alerted herself. “What did he want to know? Wait! You have a lover?”
“If I will be coming with him, eventually. And yes, I do.”
Prabha looked at Arun with demanding, worried and sorrowful eyes.
“What about me? What will I do?”
“Prabha––––“ Prabha stopped him.
“I am not asking you to help me. I can take care of myself. I just mean. I’ll be in India. How am I going to face people? “
“Prabha! You have to remarry. I’ve told Radha that I will not come to Canada till I know you have a happy life.”
“Radha?” asked Prabha.
“Radhakrishnan. He’s the guy. My lover.” Arun said.
“Oh!” Prabha said.
“I know Prabha! I have the fear of losing what I have too.” Said Arun.
“More than the fear of losing the stable life, I fear people.” Prabha said and looked at the clock. It was 11:10.
“I’ll go pick Charan!” Prabha said got up from the sofa.
“No! I will. You relax.” Arun said.
“NO!” Prabha said, “You stay here. Your Mom will be here any moment.”
Arun nodded his head in response.
Prabha took her handbag and opened the main door to leave, she stopped and said “Arun! I am not angry. I am just… I do not know. I just wish I did not waste my life trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. I am angry at myself for not believing in the glaring hints I was seeing.”
“I know! I know I am to blame. I know you are strong. I am weak. I’ve been rendered weak by the same expectations you’re talking about Prabha. I was expected to be straight. I was expected to talk dirty, not have a dress sense, be manly, be boyish. I hid my facial expressions, because they were too expressive. I married a woman to seem straight. I hope you can forgive me. I hope I can be strong.” said Arun and sat down dejected.
“Hey!” Prabha called him. Arun looked at her with worried eyes. “I am happy you met a Loooovveerrr” she said in a sexy, teasing voice. Arun throw a throw pillow towards her as he laughed.
Prabha laughed too and closed the door behind her. She smiled to herself as the lift opened. It is OK. She has not lost a good friend. She never really had a husband. She just lived with her best friend. So, there is nothing to lose.
As the lift closed, Prabha smiled more. The other lift opened in the floor where they reside and Arun’s mother walked out.
Arun was vigorously wiping the dust off the center table when the bell rang. He first thought was ‘Prabha must have forgot something’. He scanned the hall room for her bike keys, scarf and handbag, as he walked to the door. It was his mom. He was both happy and sad to see her.
He braced himself and opened the door. She beamed at him. Vatsala Nagarajan was a Retd. Bank Manager. She was a Gemini by birth, therefore she fought with herself and others. She was traditional, yet modern. She was tech savvy, yet ancient. She believed in God yet did not follow all religious rules. She was a, is a single mother. Arun Nagarajan was the apple of her eye.
Vatsala kept her bags down and hugged Arun tightly. Arun hugged her back just as tightly. “How have you been my boy?” She asked with sparkling eyes.
Arun smiled down at his mom with love, “Fine Amma! Go in, I’ll bring the bags.” Saying this he walked near the lift to bring the 3 big bags. The cab driver who was holding those bags was relieved to let them go.
“Amma! You should have called me. I’d have come down to get you,” said Arun as he maneuvered the big bags to the guest bedroom. “It’s OK Chellam. She said pinching his cheeks.” She was obviously excited to spend time with her son and her grandson.
“Where is Prabha?” She asked as she went into the kitchen and inspected the space with her eagle eyes. She opened all the vessels and checked the ingredients. “Is the cook coming regularly?” She asked.
“Yes ma..” Arun replied with strain in his voice as he was trying to lift one of the bag up on the bed.
“Does Prabha cook? At least occasionally?” Vatsala asked walking into the bedroom.
“Maaa… don’t start” Arun said.
“Start what? I am just asking. Look! I know the constraints a working woman has. I just asked does she cook at least occasionally.”
“Yes! in fact, I love her Matter Kachoris, Her Paniyarams, Besan laddo, Rawa kesari ––––”
“Fine! Fine!” Vatsala interrupted. “Open that bag.” She said, pointing to the blue bag on the ground. Arun looked at the red bag that he had heculiously lifted on to the bed. He closed the red bag and kept it down. He then lifted the blue bag on to the bed.
“Be careful my boy!” Vatsala said and moved to stand near Arun and opened the blue bag. “Mrs. Thanigachalam had gone to Sri Lanka. She got a Leghayam (herbal medicine) from there. It seems it is good for men. Nice lady she is. She got one for you too. I am sure, you and Prabha do not have any problems, but fortification is good right? Here!!!” She gave a small box with a decorative paper on top. Arun took that box and put it in his track pants’ pockets.
‘God save my mother’ he prayed silently.