|photo credits http://www.kblailryart.com/|
Back home, she grinned as she opened the purple drawstring pouch to reveal a pair of the most exquisite, delicate earrings she had ever seen - little iridescent diamond drops encased in platinum that threw beads of light against her cheeks when she held it to her ears. Ria’s smile now spread to her eyes, and she could feel warmth diffusing to her toes.
‘Maybe this is what they mean by retail therapy’ she thought, wondering what her twin daughters would say if they found out her latest hypothesis for happiness…….. ‘Hmmmph!’ she grunted. ‘They would call up Roshan to tell him the big news!’ She spoke to herself, suddenly realizing that she had started having conversations with herself since the twins moved out of the three bedroom apartment a few months ago. She smiled affectionately at the framed photos lining the corridor - the twins had struck perfect poses for perfect pictures, at various stages in their lives…..
Her daughters Shreya and Shruti had seized her attention since their first kick in her womb during pregnancy. They went on to become the focal point of her life – and her husband Roshan’s life too. Every motivation, every decision and every discussion revolved around their lives, their birthday parties, their studies, and their careers.
And then, suddenly, as though life had been fast forwarded in a movie, they had been ready to fly, ready to live on their own. Through the process of identifying colleges, cities, and local guardians in all probable cities, she’d had a little ache in her heart reminding her that the girls had ceased to be her little girls. And without any forewarning, she had been overwhelmed with loneliness.
It was not as though Roshan did not understand; he had asked her on many accounts, to start pursuing her career again, which she suspected was more out of guilt than anything else. Gradually, she had discovered that Roshan and she had moved on to being good friends than being in love. She would sometimes conjure up images of what she would do if he had feelings of love for someone else – he was quite handsome even with the little thickness around his waist.
Ria now shook herself out of her sanctuary of memories, looked at the mirror, and smiled at her reflection. Her hair was still a dark, lustrous brown. Her genes had intervened to soften the passage of time, for which she was thankful; she knew she could never bring herself to color her hair. Her skin had some of the glow it had in its youth, but her eyes seemed to give away her age.….
She would wear the earrings to the ‘Silver’ reunion of Roshan’s Alma mater next week. Roshan had been excited for a month now, at the prospect of meeting his old friends from college, after nearly 25 years. The twins had made a big deal of it too. ‘Like a date’ they had squealed, their eyes twinkling.
* * *
Roshan was fidgeting with his cuff links again. His secretary Anita knew this to be an indication that he was deliberating over an issue, and did not want interruptions. Anita did not mind; she just wanted to make sure everything was fine – Roshan had looked lost all through the meeting a few minutes ago. Anita was just wondering whether to call the pantry and order a cup of his favorite masala chai, when the phone rang.
Roshan’s office was tasteful but minimalistic, and the only personal effect in the room was a collage made by the twins….candid photographs with captions elucidating what a wonderful dad he was. Today, that card reminded him how much he had been missing them. He was interrupted in his reveries by the movement in front of his glass door. He caught Anita’s quizzical look, but he did not want to talk to her now.
Roshan looked at his watch, and realized it was well past office working hours. His secretary was still at her desk, as he had not given any instructions yet. That was what he liked about Anita. She was young, but mature; intuitive, but followed orders. He had often wondered (aloud for her benefit, and in private to himself) what he would do without her. And the fact that she was quite a dazzling young woman made it even easier to have her around. He also knew she was only a few words shy of expressing her infatuation with him. This had made him smile when alone; glad he could still have that effect on women. He was, after all, closer to fifty than he could care to be.
He dialed her extension, and she picked up the phone before the second ring. “Sorry Anita, please leave for the day. I should have told you earlier. Good night.”
An hour before, he had called the credit card company to verify the sms – Ria had spent an unusually high amount without calling him up first! That was so unlike her, he thought. It was a jewelry store….. So maybe she finally bought something for herself!
He smiled at his wife’s habit of skimming through price tags before looking at any other attribute of a prospective purchase, while gasping for effect when she felt the price was moderately higher than her budget buys. But why didn’t she tell him this time? She always called when she needed convincing to buy anything of value, whether it was for her, or the home, or the twins.
‘Unless……’ he thought with a smile, ‘it’s a gift for me!’ He got up from his chair, happy that the mystery was solved. ‘But what could she buy for me from a jeweler? Cuff links couldn’t possibly cost so much, and I don’t wear any jewelry…. maybe a watch?’
His stomach grumbled in protest, reminding him dinner was long due….Dinners used to be fun with the girls rattling out the days’ events. But there had been very little engaging conversation at the dinner table for a couple of months now – since the girls moved away. There were niceties, of course, and there were the mandatory discussions - “The electricity bill was very high last month”, or “the girls need to deposit their college fees this week” ….. “The neighbors are having their anniversary party… what will you wear?” …… “The car’s been making some weird noises…”
Its not like there never was romance in their lives - there had been romantic interludes before mundane urgency made their way in …… she liked long drives and dinners, movies and ice cream. She also had a mean bargaining streak down her back; atleast she still had THAT trait intact, and had trained the girls too. He laughed at the image of the three women in his life tackling a terrified salesman together.
Driving back, Roshan was listening to their favorite romantic number, from the first movie they saw together…. HIS favorite number - he realized he didn’t actually remember if it was Ria’s favorite too. ‘I must ask her one of these days….’
(TO BE CONTD.)
Read Part 2 and Part 3