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Saturday, 4 April 2020

In the dark

Read the previous part here
Vinay charged towards the stairs, his heart pounding with excitement. Finally, he was going to meet the mystery woman. But what if she disappeared like she did the other day? Even if she disappeared this time he had clicked her picture. He tightly clutched  his camera while he jumped on the stairs, skipping two steps at a time. He was about to reach the terrace, when his camera slipped from his hands and broke.

'No cheating.' He heard a voice say. He lumbered towards the terrace. His eyes were preening for her. Panting and sweating, he squinted his eyes and desperately searched for her. Behind the pillar at the far end of the terrace, besides the water tank and all possible places he could think of. But he couldn't find her. But she was there somewhere. He had clearly heard her say 'No cheating.'

That is when he heard a familiar voice, 'I said no cheating.' He looked down. Sulabha was standing near the porch. 'Hadn't I warned you?' She roared. Every bone in Vinay's body rattled with fear for a second. He was afraid that Sulabha had a sniff about the attraction which he felt towards the mystery woman.

'Come down! What are you hiding? Have you housed another woman on the terrace? You sneaked out of the bed while I was asleep with the same excitement of the teenager who goes to clandestinely meet his lover. What Nisha said was true. Men behave weird in their forties.' Vinay didn't know how to react. Sulabha rarely got enraged and when she did she always had a valid reason.

Sulabha continued 'I had told you, no more morning walks. There is no doctor nearby. The air is still cold. Couldn't you skip your morning walk for some days? No you wouldn't. Vinay, we are only two people in the house. If we don't care for each other who would? If something happens to you, who will look after me. How can you be so careless and behave like a reckless teenager.'

Vinay took a sigh of relief and stormed out of the terrace. He held Sulabha in a tight embrace and assured her that he would take care of his health. He prepared his special ginger tea which was always helpful in lifting Sulabha's mood and stayed indoors for the next few days.
That night both of them sat cuddled in the drawing room. Their bodies wrapped in the duvlet which they shared. Sulabha gently ran her fingers across his hairy chest, while Vinay aimlessly drew imaginary lines on her soft pink skin. The nip in the air, the warm touch of the skin arose desire in their bodies. Their lips met and they kissed passionately. Sulabha let out a moan, arched her back and laid on the Persian carpet. Vinay clambered upon her with their lips showing no signs of parting. Vinay  was about to enter her when there was a power cut, followed by clanging of utensils from the kitchen.

'Did I leave the window of the kitchen open? Let me check,' Sulabha said and  released herself from his tight embrace. She inched towards the kitchen. A monstrous wind blew and the windows clattered. A lightening struck the sky and it was not only  the ear-piercing sound of the thunder that made Vinay's heart skip a beat.  He could clearly see her standing by the window.  She was not wearing the benign smile which Vinay was drawn to. The frown on her face was apparent and that was scary. Vinay thought he even heard her whimper. A shiver ran down Vinay's spine. He stood up, stark naked. 'What harm have I done to you?' He wanted to ask. But as usual his mouth went dry and words did not make it to his mouth.

'Vinay,' Sulabha said with the candle in her hand. A startled Vinay twirled around. His face had turned white with fear.
'Vinay, are you alright.' She said. Then mounting the candle in to the stand, she came near him.

Both of them covered themselves with clothes and sat on the sofa. Pressing his hand with hers Sulabha said, 'I have been observing you for the past few days. You are worried. Something is pinching you. Sharing things lightens the burden. After all I am your wife. I have taken the vow to be with you in thick and thin.'

'Sulabha...' He said. The lightening struck again and snapped his word. She was still there at the window. Her countenance had changed. A benign smile was floating on her face. 

'Who is there at the window? What are you staring at?' Sulabha asked. Before he could answer, the windows rattled again. 'I had bolted this window. Who opened it?' Sulabha asked and ambled towards the window. She closed the window. She didn't notice anything unusual. Vinay thought perhaps only he could see her. If that was the case, how had Sulabha painted her portrait? Vinay was baffled. Sulabha could sense his discomfort.

'Wait I will make some warm soup for us. Will feel better' Sulabha said and went to the kitchen.  Soon she was back with two soup bowls
'Have it. I don't know how it has come out. I have made it after ages.' She said
Vinay slurped and said, 'It is too good.' He turned his head towards her. Gosh! She was seated between the two. She stared point blank at him, then winked and had a spoonful of soup from his bowl. The bowl fell from his hands. His legs scalded. That's when the power came back.

'Thank God! The soup was over. If it had spilled on your legs, I simply can't imagine...' Sulabha said as she lifted the bowl.
Vinay observed his legs. They were normal, as if nothing had happened.
'You didn't tell me that you broke your camera.' Sulabha said as she was changing the bedsheets the following morning.
'Yes, it accidentally slipped from my hands.'
'Don't feel bad. We will get it repaired or even better – buy a new one.'
'Did I tell you that Nishu called up late evening?'
'How could I? After the incident that happened last night.'

Vinay recounted his scary encounter with the ghost the last night. Yes, his mind had made up, she was no longer a mystery woman. She was the ghost Vinay was scared of. Had Sulabha seen her too. Why was she referring to it as incident?

'Incident?' Vinay quipped.
'Yes, you were so scared. For a moment I too thought...'
'Thought what?'
'Thought that the pipping hot soup fell on your legs.'
So Sulabha is not knowing anything. Should I tell her? Vinay thought.

 Read the next part here
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant build up. Who is this mystery woman? The plot gets thicker.