This is Part V. To read previous parts in the series, click here.
Anaisha stared at him, confused. She had just asked her guests whether they preferred tea, coffee, juice or soft drinks. And, he had answered Whiskey?!
Whiskey! Had he really asked for Whiskey? But he never consumed liquor! Or did he? Anaisha wondered what else had changed in these past 5 years.
There was something strange about the way he was looking at her. Wait, he wasn’t asking for Whiskey, because he preferred it. He was asking for it, because he needed to get drunk. There was something about his expression that she couldn’t figure out. Not only had he obviously recognized her, but he had a lot he wanted to say and was keeping it bottled in. But, why? Suddenly, conscious of the presence of others, she realized his reasons for not saying anything aloud.
She was desperately trying to mask her emotions too.
Without saying anything, Anaisha started to step back. The others were looking at the two of them, probably sensing the undercurrents and wondering about the goings-on.
“Damn it, Anaisha!” Ravi couldn’t keep his cool any longer.
“But Ravi, you don’t drink…”Rati started to say, but Jayesh waved her to stop.
So she was right! The whiskey was to help cope up with the shock of meeting her like this.
On the verge of tears, Anaisha walked away to the kitchen and started to make their drinks. She’d just fix him an Iced Tea, she decided.
Meeta followed her into the kitchen. “Anaisha, what just happened?”
“Why is he here? How do you know him?” Anaisha counter-questioned, wiping away the errant tear that had refused to stay within the confines of her eyes.
“Who? Ravi? He is the consultant architect from Delhi, we asked you if….” Meeta’s words trailed off and she gasped as realization hit her.
“Yeah…” Anaisha sighed.
“What had really happened, Anaisha? Did you leave without even telling him? Without explaining even? Why would you do that?”
Anaisha ignored Meeta’s questions. She had the answers and was ready to explain her actions; but not to the person asking her the questions just then. The person who deserved to know, hadn’t asked any questions yet.
Just then, Ravi came up to them in the kitchen and apologized, asking for their leave. He turned to look at Jayesh, who had also walked up behind Ravi.
“I’ll call you tomorrow. I am sorry to have to leave like this. I know you meant well,” he said to Jayesh, apologetically.
“No, we should leave. You both need to talk,” said Meeta, and looked at Jayesh pointedly.
“Of course…. Umm… yeah… we should… we should.” Jayesh walked back to the living room to inform the others.
“I made dinner… this isn’t happening… not like this,” Anaisha pleaded.
“No. No, you all stay… Please. There is no way you guys should leave,” Ravi insisted.
“I shouldn’t have … I shouldn’t have come,” he continued and turned towards the door. Just before walking away, he looked at Anaisha and started to say something.
Anaisha looked at the floor, tears streaming down her face and whispered, “Don’t go… Please.”
Ravi froze, stared at her for a few seconds before walking back into the living room.
Meeta stayed in the kitchen to help Anaisha with the beverages, which then they served together.
The air was thick with tension. There was a pointed silence in the room, and everyone averted their gaze and stared at the drinks in their hands.
Anaisha handed the glass of iced tea to Ravi. He accepted the drink without looking at her and commented wryly, “You remember.”
Anaisha ignored the loaded remark and proceeded to serve snacks.
The others looked on uncomfortably. Jayesh started to get up again but Ravi gestured for him to sit, indicating that he was going to remain quiet further on. Meeta also shot him a warning look, which he took note of, and raised both his hands in surrender.
While getting out the snack bowls, Anaisha said in a quavering voice, “Look… I am sorry… I can explain…” but Ravi cut her off.
“Explain? You know when you should have explained? Five years ago… before you upped and left,” he shouted, unable to keep his cool any longer. He was furious at her betrayal and unwilling to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“What?” He had noticed her shocked expression but continued relentlessly, “I didn’t even deserve an explanation? In fact, I didn’t matter at all. Good to know… took me 5 torturous years… to realize that… but now I know, I was too insignificant … must have been, for you to toss me aside like that.”
Anaisha couldn’t keep her composure any longer. Tears flowed freely. She looked at Ravi pleadingly, to allow her to speak but he wouldn’t have any of it. He looked away from her.
Fully aware that his allegations, though not true, were completely justified; she broke down completely, hurt by his indifference and unwillingness to hear her out. It took a while for Rati and Meeta to calm her; enough for them to lead her away from the chaos to the quiet bedroom. They insisted that she get some rest.
Tired from all the cooking and the emotional upheaval, Anaisha drifted in and out of a sleepy state of mind. When she was next aware of her surroundings, it was way past dinner time and there was a deathly silence in the house. No chatter of her guests from the living room, not even the sound of cutlery scrapping across the plates, she noted.
Anaisha sat up with a start, she anxiously adjusted her appearance before rushing out to the living room. She found her guests by the doorway ready to call it a night.
She was aghast at how much time as passed. She had meant to close her eyes for just a few minutes.
“Why didn’t you wake me? Why are you leaving? What about Dinner?” she exclaimed.
They all smiled at her without saying anything. Anaisha was confused and looked at Ravi, who was smiling too.
She had slept through her own dinner party, she thought dejectedly. Had anyone ever been such a terrible host?
Anaisha looked at them glumly and remarked, “You should have woken me up. This has been the worst night… the worst Diwali dinner for you.”
“Relax, we can come again tomorrow,” said Rati. Nayan chided her for teasing Anaisha while the others laughed.
Meeta walked back in and hugged her. “The food was lovely. Thank you,” she smiled.
The others murmured in agreement.
“Besides, we didn’t know Ravi was such a good host,” added Dipin.
They all laughed again, this time at her confused state and her earnest attempt to please her guests. “You must eat!” said Jayesh, and they all bid farewell.
She saw that Ravi was staying back, and was now even more confused than ever.
He closed the door and leaned in towards her.
“So, not married…eh?” he questioned with a grin that expressed his relief.
Anaisha looked down and shook her head in denial.
“Have they told you everything?” she asked incredulously.
“Pretty much,” lied Ravi, his face clouding over again.
He chose not to mention that he hadn’t even been interested in hearing it from them. He only wanted to hear what Anaisha had to say. But he had been told the one thing he had so desperately wanted to hear, and that had been enough for him then.
Anaisha was anxious at what exactly had he been told. How would Ravi have taken it, and whether it would cloud his perception of her. At least he is still here, couldn’t have been that bad, she reasoned.
He straightened up and walked towards the kitchen, saying, “I’ll reheat the food for you.”
“Have you eaten?” Anaisha asked softly. Ravi turned around and looked at her but remained silent.
“You need to eat too. I’ll set out a place for you,” she said, correctly reading his expression as a negative.
“We need to talk,” he retorted hotly.
“…and, we will”, she assured him and walked half-way across to the dining table, to set the plates for two.
“Yeah… nice, just ignore me and walk away. Just like before…” Ravi felt a frisson of irritation mixed with anger.
Anaisha sighed and braced herself for the long, difficult night that loomed ahead.
Thank you, once again, my Superwomen – Rashmi and Dr. Sorick.