This is the fourth 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
Mr. Angel lifted Prabha effortlessly upright. That’s when Prabha realized they had an audience.
Prabha promptly went inside the lift and said, “See you around”, as she looked at Mr. Angel aka Mr. Brown eyes aka Mr. Ranjit. Sushmita and Mr. Angel had an amused expression on their face as the lift door closed.
The lift went to the 6th floor, Prabha got off the lift, went into the washroom, locked herself in a cubicle and danced, danced and danced, playing the song “I am feeling so cool” (Jonas Brothers) in her head.
It was almost lunchtime and Prabha pinged her friend Rekha. “Cmng” came Rekha’s reply. Soon the two women went in the terrace to have their lunch. “So! What have you decided?” Rekha asked.
“What?” Prabha played dumb. “You know what!!”, Rekha said and continued “Are you going to divorce your husband?”
Prabha was fed up of this conversation. “Why do I have to decide? Its not that bad. Some people have it much worse you know!”
Rekha kept her spoon down, crossed her hand and stared at her friend of 10 years. “Woman! You do everything. They guy just stays in the house. He literally does nothing. You cook, you manage the house, your child, you call his parents, you do the home budget”…. “Well! He pays the bills. Its his money” Prabha intervened in support of her marriage.
Rekha tilted her face and looked at her friend. The sun was shining on her black hair, her flawless brown skin was giving a dewy shine, and her big eyes were filled with doubt. Rekha had known Prabha for 10 years. They joined in a company as trainees and later shifted to XMR together. Rekha was like Prabha’s google backup. She was not someone Prabha could fool.
“You’re too good for him Prabha! My husband, runs errands, drops my daughter to the school and goes to the gym on top of all these work” Rekha said, “Husbands should shoulder responsibilities and help out. Arun has never done that.”
It was Prabha’s turn to keep the spoon down and stare at her friend. “He helps out!” Rekha threw her hand in the air, sighed heavily, and started to eat furiously. Prabha continued, “The other day, Charan and he went to play cricket in the park”.
“When was that?” Rekha asked without looking up from her plate. “August 10th…” Prabha said in a muffled voice. Rekha banged her hand on the table, attracting attention. “If you remember the date of ‘a helping out’, it’s not helping out you moron! You are already 35. When are you going to realize that the guy is sucking you dry?”
The thing was Prabha had realized it years ago. Her parents had spent 15 lakhs on her wedding. Her mom adored Arun. He can be very boyish and charming when required. Apart form her best friend, no one realized that she was suffering. In the outside, hers was a perfect marriage. Arun was a wonderful husband. He earned, did not stray, was a family man, and she had a beautiful child. Perfect!! Just perfect!!!
Parvy, Vishva and Rohit rode in silence. Rohit could feel something was amiss, but decided he was better off asking his mom about it. These two were useless. “Where is mom?” he asked with kiddish impatience.
“Home!” Vishva replied fast. “Is she feeling OK?” Rohit asked. “Yes! sweetie. Don’t worry” said Vishva.
Rohit raised an eyebrow and studied his dad. ‘Sweetie?’ was something is dad never called him. Why is he calling me sweetie? Did I do something wrong? Rohit quickly recapped his past weeks doings. He did not break anything. He did not play on the tab for more than 1.5 hours. Is that what this is about? He just played half-hour more. Its not a ‘sweetie’-worthy thing. Rohit audibly sighed and prepared himself for the worst.
Poor kid!! Nothing can prepare him for this. What? I am the narrator. I can’t voice my feelings? Right? Right? fine!!! continue…..
The three men reached Vishva’s house and Rohit ran inside to find his mom. “Mooooom…..Mooom where are you?” he kept shouting.
“In here! Jaya replied from the kitchen. Rohit dropped his bag near the dining table and went straight to her. Jaya placed a chocolate drink in front of him. “What happened?” Rohit asked, between sips.
“Nothing! Why?” Jaya asked, not looking at her son. “Why didn’t you come to school? You seem alright” asked Rohit.
“Your father and uncle wanted to come” Jaya lied easily. Rohit was not convinced but decided to let it go. “Mom! Sean asked me if he can come over Saturday afternoon. We want to play dragonslayer. Can he?”
“Sure!” said Jaya, smiling at her son. Rohit raised an eyebrow and looked at Jaya as he sipped his drink. Dad is calling me sweetie! Mom is OK with me playing dragonslayer with Sean. Did they change bodies like in movies? Had mom become dad and dad become mom? Rohit placed the drink down on the table and called “Dad…” slowly to see if his mom turns to look at him. Nothing! She was furiously wiping the kitchen counter. On second thought! That’s definitely mom, body and soul. Rohit finished his drink, took his snack and went to his room. Jaya placed her hand on the kitchen counter and deflated. What is she going to tell her son? How will he react? Will I be the bad guy? She closed her eyes and forced her brain to think positive. Tears started to flow. Is her marriage over?
Parvy and Vishva were sitting near the pool in Vishva’s house. “What are you going to do?” Parvy asked Vishva.
“What do you think?” Vishva asked, looking afar. “Before you make any rash decisions, think about Rohit” Parvy advised. Vishwa turned to Parvy, throwing fury from his eyes.
“Rash? YOU!! Are talking about RASH? What you’ve done is beyond rash. Are you kidding me?”
“I know! Hit me….”Parvy started to talk
“I tried to man! You blocked.” Said Vishva
“I won’t block now! Hit me! Vent your anger at me. I deserve it. Jaya did nothing wrong. Think about your marriage.”
Vishva was flabbergasted. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! I don’t want you in my house. Get out! And don’t come back”
“Vishu!” Jaya called as she walked into the backyard. “Leave!” Vishva screamed, looking afar. Parvy got up, “I am sorry man” he said, looked at Jaya, who was trying to avoid his gaze and walked away.
Vishva started to go inside the house, when Jaya said, “We need to talk!”. Vishva looked at her once, went outside and started his car.
He wanted to be alone. Talk? He thought. What is there to talk. Parvy obviously loves Jaya. How could Jaya do this? His marriage is over! His friendship is over! He had no clue what he was going to tell his son! Worst! He had no clue what he was going to tell his mom and his sister! What the hell is emotional availability? Great! Now he has to sulk. He can’t take Rohit to the park. The kid seriously needs physical exercise. Nothing rises your spirit like walking or running among green trees. Just then, his brain stopped and he was blank. ‘Nothing rises your spirit like walking among green trees’…..Someone he knew a long time ago used to say that. He was thinking about her again. He parked the vehicle to the side of the road and closed his eyes. He could hear her say it. They were walking down a green lane in Ooty. Prabha sighed. “You know! Nothing rises your spirit like walking among green trees.”
Vishva started the car and went straight to the pub. He parked his car and sat there to collect his thoughts. Should I call Prabha? She’d told him call only when it’s a life altering emergency. What is more life altering than this? Maybe he should take a walk among trees. He should go to Yosemite or better, Kerala. He suddenly remembered a flash of Prabha’s smiling face. She was wearing the red t-shirt that said, ‘I win’. Vishva rested his head on the headrest of his car and sighed. What will happen to Rohit? How will my son take this? Vishva got out and went into the pub. I won’t drink a lot sweetie! He promised the Prabha in his mind, as he always did.
Back in India, Prabha had goosebumps. She stopped cutting the veggies and stood still. God! The morning air is very chilly, she thought and closed the kitchen balcony door.
Vishva was downing his second set of shots. He’s been there for an hour. He tried not to drink more than a few bears usually. But then, nothing was usual today. I should call an Uber, Vishva thought. “Hey! Can I leave my car here?” he asked the bartender. “Yup! No problem”, replied the bartender. Vishva took his phone, went to the dialer app and promptly dialed a landline phone number that was etched in his memory like a tattoo. Half way though the ringing, just when he realized he’d dialed a number using his keypad, someone picked the call up.
“Hello! Yes!”, Vishva was shocked and in awe at the same time; his mind went blank. “Hello! Who is there?”. “Hello!” replied Vishva, frantically, “Hi Aunty!”. “Hi Vishva!! How are you dear?” asked the voice on the other end. Vishva stood up from the bar chair as he combed through his hair in panic, “I am fine! How are you? How is uncle?”, he asked in a shrill voice. “All are well! How are you? God! Its been so long? Are you in Chennai now?”
Vishva thought for a second, squeezed hi eyes and his brain and said, “YES! Yes! Just wanted to know if Prabha was in town! So Just called to check. Aaaa… wanted to meet! Ah… is she?”
“Oh! No dear she is not! She’s in Mumbai.” Replied Prabha’s mom.
“Ok! Bye aunty!”
“Who was that?” asked Prabha’s father, looking up from the Hindu paper and filter coffee.
“Vishvanath! Prabha’s friend.” Prabha’s mom replied. “He was lying that he was in town and wanted to check if Prabha was there”, She chuckled and continued, “Silly boy! I guess he forgot there are number identifiers in all phones now.”Prabha’s mom kept the phone down and went back to the kitchen.
“Why was he lying though?” Prabha’s father asked mostly to himself and continued to read about elections in India.
Back in USA, Vishva stared at his phone, petrified. What the hell did he just do? God damn his muscle memory!!! He’d called Prabha’s home land-line number in Chennai. Vishva sat back down on the chair, rested his head in his hands, and tried to calm down. He’d contacted Prabha! “Should I call for an Uber?” asked the bartender. “Yes! please!” Vishva said. He wanted to kick his drunken brain’s ass now.
Fifth part of the story: Long Story 5