He woke in the morning to the feel of her lips on his but as he noticed the space she had made between them; he knew that he must have dreamt it.
She smiled, obviously a little uncomfortable, then said simply “Maan, thank you”
With the situation between them still so tentative, he wasn’t sure exactly what to say- should he reassure her that she had every right to expect his support, or should he stake his claim and say that it was his right to be there for her whenever she needed him. He could hardly tell her that he had enjoyed the feeling of being needed- he didn’t want her to have the impression that he preferred her weak and helpless when the truth was he had fallen for her sherni avatar.
Deciding that silence was the best option, he smiled briefly, then got up. Picking up his phone, he pretended to check his messages whilst surreptitiously casting glances at his wife, trying to gauge whether she was feeling better. After deciding that she did indeed look better, with gentle colour in her cheeks, he said, “Geet, aap aaj office aasakengi?” “Geet, will you be able to come to the office?”
She started to speak, then stopped; after a moment she said “Ji bilkul- bas aap tayyar hojayein then I’ll get ready too.” “Of course, once you’re ready then I’ll get ready too.” She had so clearly been about to say something else that he almost asked her what it was that she had decided against saying; a quick look at her expression made him decide against it.
The day at the office passed remarkably peacefully. It was as if the new beginning in their personal life somehow made it easier for them to work together. He could feel the gradual relaxation in their staff as it became clear that the Khurana’s were more in tune with each other.
At around two o’clock, he noted that she was flagging; shadows had appeared under her eyes and she was looking slightly wilted. He laughed inwardly at himself- even a month ago, he would have been irritated by her weakness or perhaps thought that she was looking for sympathy. Today, all he wanted to do was scoop her up and take her somewhere to rest and recover; his self-mockery intensified when he imagined her reaction to that- his Geet would more than likely jump out of his arms and tell him that she didn’t need to be cossetted.
As she sat at the other side of his desk, working away, he picked up the phone and called Adi.
“Adi, mujhe bhook lagi hai; can you arrange some lunch for Mrs Khurana and me?”
“Adi, I’m hungry; can you arrange some lunch for Mrs Khurana and me?”
He could hear the shock in Adi’s voice “Lunch, sir? Aap lunch karrenge?” “Lunch, sir? You’re going to have lunch?”
“Haan Adi, lunch. Main intezaar karraha hoon”
“Haan Adi, lunch. I’m waiting”
He put the phone down and saw that she was looking at him with surprise.
“Maan, aap lunch karrenge?”
“Maan, you’re going to have lunch?”
“Haan, main karroonga. Pata nahin tum sab ko mere bhooke hone se itni problem kyun hai- kya main insaan nahin hoon, kya mujhe bhook nahin lag sakti?”
“Yes, I am. I don’t know why you all have such a problem with me being hungry, don’t I eat, am I not a human being?”
She looked down, chastened, leaving him feeling guilty for having jumped down her throat.
“Geet, bas aaj thodi bhook lagi hai, socha hum donon kuch saath khaalenge. Aisi koi badi baat nahin hai.”
“Geet, look I’m just a bit hungry today, I thought we could eat together. It’s not such a big deal.”
As she looked up, their eyes met; he saw the moment the realisation of what had triggered his actions dawned.
“Maan, main bilkul theek hoon”
“Maan, I’m fine”
“Tum to theek ho, bhook to mujhe lagi hai. Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill, shall we?”
“I know you’re fine, I’m the one who is hungry. Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill, shall we?”
At that moment, there was a knock at the door; he quickly suppressed the relief he felt at not having to face any more probing into his motivations.
Adi was a magician; it had taken him only moments to conjure a light lunch served by a very professional waiter out of thin air.
Geet took her seat opposite him and within a few moments began to look better. They chatted about inconsequentials as they ate; as he thought about it later he realised it was the first time they had talked to each other without stress and emotion colouring every word, prompting him to decide that a lunch break with his wife would definitely become a permanent part of his daily routine.
Once they’d eaten and the dishes had been cleared away, they returned to work, Geet clearly having benefitted from the brief break. They worked till it was dark outside, then kept working until the office had emptied of all the Khurana Construction staff except Adi. Neither of them noticed the time passing; they worked together as a perfect team, the ideas and plans flowing and sparking between them in a way he had rarely experienced with anyone else. He was constantly surprised by how much Geet knew, despite a lack of anything resembling formal training.
It was late in the evening when Geet looked up to find her husband looking at her.
“Kya hua, aap aise kya dekhrahe hain?”
“What’s wrong, why are you looking at me like that?”
He kept staring, the look in his eyes eventually making her blush.
“Kya hua, aapko kuch plans mein badalna hai?” “Is something wrong, do you need to change something in the plans?” she asked, clearly trying to ignore the burgeoning sexual tension in the room.
Shaking his head, he shrugged as if to throw off the unspoken desire, then said “Geet, tum bina training itna jaan gayi ho; main soch raha tha ke main tum se poochoon- kya tum padhna chahti ho? I don’t remember whether it’s something we ever discussed before, but I want you to think about it. Agar tum chaho, tum kuch bhi karsakti ho.”
“Geet, you’ve learnt so much without the benefit of any training; I wanted to ask you if you wanted to pursue something a bit more formal? I don’t remember whether it’s something we ever discussed before, but I want you to think about it. If you wanted, you could do anything you liked.”
A moment later, he was blind-sided by the wave of pleasure that flooded through him at the sight of her smile; her eyes filled with deep joy and her cheeks pink with happiness. He felt her smile deep in his gut and felt his hands clench into fists to stop himself from reaching out to pull her close to see what her happiness tasted like.
“Hum ne kabhi baat nahin ki thi iss baare mein; I hadn’t thought about anything except the baby, and after that..............”
“It’s not something we had talked about; I hadn’t thought about anything except the baby, and after that..............”
Her happiness was momentarily dimmed by the memory of her loss. A moment later, a lingering sadness still deep in her eyes, she smiled again and said “Magar lagta hai aap theek kehrahe hain. I’m good at this, aren’t I?” “But I think you’re right. I’m good at this, aren’t I?”
He smiled, indulgent affection in his eyes, then nodded.
“Yes, for someone untrained, you have good instincts about construction and building design. It would depend what type of training you wanted to pursue, but I think that you’ll do well in anything related to design.”
Geet’s smile glowed brightly again and she made a move as if to stand; a moment later she controlled it, leaving him to regret her ability to control herself.
His control was shot to pieces by her smiles; without giving himself too much time to think he stood and walked to her chair. Crouching next to her, he lay his hand over her fingers as they lay in her lap, allowing himself only the briefest moment to caress the softness of her skin before threading his fingers through hers and squeezing gently.
“Geet, tumhare haath mein hai; jaise tum chaho, woh karo. Tumhari khushi mein meri khushi hai.”
“Geet, it’s in your hands. You can do whatever you want. You’re happiness is all I want.”
He stood, pulling her up with him till they were standing face to face. Unable to resist the glow of happiness in her eyes, he cupped her face in his hands, saying “Tumhari khushi mein meri khushi” “You’re happiness is all I want” before leaning forward to kiss her with infinite gentleness.
Pulling back, he was struck by the sudden realisation that the glow of happiness had gone, replaced with a look that seemed to combine hope and suspicion. He realised he was pushing too hard, so he turned away, giving himself a moment to breathe then said “Tum thodi si research karlo, decide karlo ke tum kya karna chahti ho, phir hum organise karlenge.” “Why don’t you do some research, decide what you want, they we can organise everything.”
After a moment, he heard her voice behind him.
“Theek hai, main dekhloongi” “That’s fine, I’ll take a look” was all she said, the complete lack of any emotion in her voice making him wince.
The uncomfortable silence stretched for a moment as he struggled to think of the words that would reassure her, when Adi proved his worth by knocking and walking in. Adi laughed nervously as he felt the tension thrumming in the air, then said “Maan sir, Prashant Kelkar ka phone aaya tha, Geet ke liye. Apparently there’s a problem at the site and he wants to set up a meeting for tomorrow. What response should I give?”
“Maan sir, Prashant Kelkar was on the phone, he was asking for Geet. Apparently there’s a problem at the site and he wants to set up a meeting for tomorrow. What response should I give?”
Prashant Kelkar. Again. Dammit, why did that man not take the hint and just leave Geet alone.
Trying now to let any sign of his irritation into his voice he said “Adi, kehdo ke Mr and Mrs Khurana dono site pe aajayenge kal, do baje” then looked across to Geet to see whether she agreed. At her nod, he said “jab unka jawab aajaye, to mujhe sms bhej dena. Phir tum bhi ghar jaao, main Geet ko leke abhi nikalne hi wala hoon, bahut der hogayi hai”.
Trying now to let any sign of his irritation into his voice he said “Adi, tell him we’ll both be there at two o’clock tomorrow” then looked across to Geet to see whether she agreed. At her nod, he said “once he’s confirmed, send me an SMS, then go home; I was just about to take Geet home myself, it’s late”.
Adi murmured his understanding and left, leaving him alone with Geet. He wanted to say something profound, something that would help her understand that he had changed, that he wasn’t the same man who had hurt her so much anymore. He wanted to tell her that he loved her as much as the man she remembered, even if he didn’t have all of that man’s memories.
But he knew words would never be enough, so he kept his silence; as they drove home together, his dreams of making Geet believe he loved her, making her love him again- those dreams seemed as out of reach as ever.