The Peace Before the Storm

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From the balcony of his apartment, Shekhar could see the last traces of light seeping out of the setting sun. Smudged in orange hues, Western skies were letting the sun to smoothly slip into the arms of night.
His cell phone rang with a fury. It was Tara, his wife. “I’ll be late honey. Working on a story. It has to go into print tonight and remember no, you have an appointment with your publisher, tomorrow.”
“Yup, I remember. Just fine tuning the final manuscript”
Shekhar dropped his hand into right pocket of his track pants, pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a deep puff and let the smoke come out from the edge of his lips and nostrils. The smoke creating some ripples in the air vanished into the thick Mumbai air. He sighed; his lips hinting a smile complementing the big yellow smiley printed on his black T-shirt, as if he had exhaled his tension with the smoke. He had a big day tomorrow.
The residual rays of red sun illuminated his face. The traces of grey hair in French beard, hair deprived bald head, thin specs and dark circles on otherwise fair skin were bluffing about his actual age.
“It is some other life,” he murmured. His lips curved in a smile. The smile of a content and happy man.
“Janu, you have a very cute smile,” Tara used to tell him.
Life was sailing smooth after they had returned from their trip. Tara had returned to her formals and the job which consumed most of the hours. But there were no complaints. Roohi was the happiest one. She would no more see her parents shouting at each other for petite issues. Peace had restored, like the one after the storm. Or the one…before a storm.
“Mr. Bhalla, Shekhar would be at your office tomorrow, sharp 10:00. You remember your promise no?”
“Of course Tara. How could I forget. Jeremy means a lot to me,” a heavy elderly voice echoed in Tara’s mobile. Tara deleted the number immediately from the dialed list.
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“I had a troubled childhood, Jenny. My parents were divorced when I was five.”
It was a month, Cyrus had told anything about his family to Jennifer.
“Cyrus, have you informed your parents about your whereabouts.”
“They don’t care”
“Why”
“Jenny, Can I request you something? Please don’t bring my family into our conversation again. Please”
It’s been more than a month since Cyrus is staying with Jenny in Bangalore.
Cyrus got discharged a week after Shekhar’s discharge. He still couldn’t walk on his own. She’d signed on his discharge papers. Jenny had called for a taxi. He sat without asking a question. They didn’t talk much during travelling. Neither did he ask anything, nor did she tell as if it was a mere formality. As if they both knew where they were going. She helped him get out the taxi. She helped him to the bed which belonged to her. She kept fresh white roses by his bedside. She took care of him like a mother, like a nurse, like a wife. But she was nothing…neither mother…neither wife…neither a nurse. But she feigned nothing. She was there when it was the time to take medicine. She changed his dressings. She helped him take a bath. She cooked food for him. But still she was nothing. But she liked to do it. It provided a sense of pleasure to her.
“Cyrus, have you informed your parents about your whereabouts,” she’d asked one day. They were sitting in a garden. Fresh, fragrant flowers were smiling at them as if they liked their presence. Sun was about to bid adieu to the day. Sunlight was about to die in the hands of darkness.
“They don’t care” he’d replied incredulously.
“Why?”
“Jenny, may I remind you something? I’d requested you not to bring my family into our conversation again. ”
Then she never brought up the topic. They talked about anything but his personal life.
“Jenny, let’s go the mountains”
And she’d approved without any question, any doubt.
But today, he was ready to talk about himself when they were in the lap of the mountains. In a state of solace and self-satisfaction.

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