Victims of Circumstance

Clutching her oversized bag, she let the afternoon crowd push her into the First Class Ladies compartment, gratefully accepting a seat as a kindly lady made some space for her.

The lady smiled at her, “It’s going to be an easy 30 minutes before we reach Churchgate. Care for some chikkis?” Fiona took one from the packet, the simple yet earthy sweet brought a sudden rush of emotions, and she struggled to control the tears that welled up.

Quickly brushing them away, she focused on the daily crossword that the lady next to her was solving from the tabloid. “Hmmm. What do you think Across 8 should be?” Fiona took the pencil and wrote it down for her.

At Churchgate, they both alighted, and Fiona hurriedly got into a taxi for Nariman Point.

It had been six months.

Fiona had landed the job at the swanky French boutique hotel. She felt a little suffocated put up at her married college friend’s place, and decided it was time she found one of her own. She pored over the Classifieds section finally zeroing in on a simple two liner that said ‘Working Girls Only, Paying Guests Wanted in Colaba.’  A quick phone call, and the maid who answered set up her appointment with ‘Madam’.

Post a hectic Monday at work, she landed up at the address. The door was opened by a prim looking maid. ‘Please wait, Madam will be here’.

An elegantly dressed lady, in her mid-fifties walked into the drawing room. They stared at each other, recollecting that short train journey to Churchgate. “Oh! It’s you!” she said, holding out her hand, “I’m Julia Nazareth.” Fiona shook her hand, and mentally crossed her fingers as she sat down for the usual ‘ínterview’.

She decided to tell the truth. And spoke slowly. “My name is Fiona Lewis. I am a widow. I am an American citizen, but decided to move back to India about a year ago. I lost my husband, and my only son in a car crash last year. My parents and in-laws, who were holidaying with us also died in the crash.” She paused, took a deep breath, and continued, her voice shaking slightly. “I was driving.”

The silence stretched between them.

Julia whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks, “Are you Stephanie and Kenneth’s daughter Fiona?”

Fiona looked up, startled. “Yes….do you …did you know my parents?”

It was Julia’s turn to be honest.  “Fiona, I don’t know if your parents spoke to you. But Kenneth and Stephanie were contemplating a divorce. They meant to tell you in person when they visited you … it was because I … well, Kenneth and me ….”

Fiona said in a slow harsh whisper, “So it’s you then. The other woman who destroyed my parents’ happy marriage.” She got up and said coldly, “I guess we have nothing left to say to each other. Good Bye.”

Julia spoke in an even voice. “Please sit down, Fiona. I do not blame you for judging me. But please don’t leave without listening to what I have to say. I agree that what Kenneth and I did to Stephanie is wrong. God knows I still carry the burden of that guilt on my shoulders. Especially now since they are … Fiona, my child, look at the two of us. You and me. We are the ones left behind. To deal with loss, guilt, trying to bring some semblance of normalcy into this twisted toxic existence of our reality.

If this isn’t destiny, I don’t know what is. Maybe it’s the one chance God is giving me to make up for all the hurt and pain I have caused your family? Please don’t take it away from me, my child. Let me take care of you, I am old, I don’t have much time left. Please … ” she wept uncontrollably, her face in her hands.

Fiona sat back on the sofa, her mind in a turmoil. Should she forgive and stay? Should she walk away?

She thought of the past year, and couldn’t help wondering why the two women had been thrown together under such circumstances.

Maybe missed connections, and Fate’s attempt to reconnect them?

She knelt before Julia and put her arm gently around her shoulders. Both rocked silently, connected to each other by their own private hell of deep grief.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Circumstantial Evidence

Pinky removed her makeup with steady hands. Calm strokes of the hairbrush adding to her overall sense of serenity. The one thing she craved for.

Rohan walked into their bedroom. “The car will be here at 10 in the morning to drop you to the airport. Good Night,” he said in a neutral voice, not looking at her. She nodded, to the back of his head as he walked away.

The farce would end in 12 hours. They had just returned home from their last public appearance as a married couple. Both were extremely successful entrepreneurs and had recently been featured on the front cover of a leading business magazine.

She curled up on her large bed, alone. Fighting tears that threatened to pour any moment. No, she couldn’t allow herself that luxury now. She needed to get away first. From Rohan, from this apartment she once called ‘home’, to escape from hurt. Her mind fought her every resistance and travelled five years back in time.

They’d met in Bangalore during their MBA program at one of India’s best B-Schools. He had been her senior. She had been smitten by his love for the written word, his simplicity and how he made her feel cherished.  She was a small-town girl from Dharwar, with a fierce hunger to succeed. They got married within a year of completing her MBA. Their combined efforts had resulted in a young dynamic renewable-energy startup that had generated considerable interest from venture capitalists.

Then, Vera happened.

The young Research intern that Pinky hired for the windmill project. Bright, pretty, energetic.  Who got things done. Pinky saw Vera as her protégé and mentored her. As their business grew, Pinky’s overseas travel increased. Building relationships was her forte, while Rohan focused on the technical and financial aspects of their company.

It had been a random Thursday evening. Her flight had arrived early, she decided to surprise Rohan by showing up at their office. She walked in. And saw Vera. Disheveled, in Rohan’s arms. They saw her and Rohan gently released Vera. Vera stammered awkwardly, “Er.. Hi Pinky. Rohan, Mom’s waiting for me, I have to go.” She quickly walked out without a backward glance.

Pinky stood still as a statue. Trying to breathe, to stay calm. Rohan walked up to her, hands in his pockets. “No Pinky. This isn’t what it looks like. Let me explain.”

“Don’t you dare touch me, you … pig,” she whispered. He simply looked at her, not saying a word.

She took a taxi to a hotel. She needed time to think. She spent the entire night pacing in her room. And took a decision.

“Rohan, I want a divorce,” she said to him next morning.

“But Pinky, you didn’t give me a chance to explain. I love you Pinky. At least hear me out,” he said helplessly. She was adamant.

“Let’s pretend we’re still married until the Sweden deal comes through. After that, we’ll be colleagues. I’ll relocate to the Bangalore office,” she told him coldly.

The divorce papers were drawn up.  Vera had resigned months ago, citing personal reasons for her exit.

Next morning, she was getting ready to leave for the airport when the doorbell rang. “Surprise!” said Harish, her brother-in-law and her best friend, a wide grin on his face. She hugged him tightly, trying not to cry.

“Hey … what’s up? All well? Where’s Rohan?” he looked concerned, an arm around her shoulders as he led her inside.

Rohan walked into the drawing room, clearing his throat. And looked at his ex-wife sadly. “No Pinky. I won’t ask you to explain. Why my brother has his arms around your shoulders.”

Harish looked confused and angry, “Hey Rohan.. what’s this nonsense talk man? She’s hurting dude .. and …”

Rohan interrupted him. “Harish, I know. There’s something Pinky and I need to talk about in private. Do you mind?” Harish looked at both of them. “I’ll be back. For lunch. Be here.”

Pinky sat down on the sofa, tiredly rubbing her temples. Rohan handed her a glass of water, and sat opposite her. He looked at the only woman he truly loved.

“What happened to us Rohan?” she whispered, no longer able to hold back her tears. To her surprise, she saw tears in Rohan’s eyes.

“Nothing happened Pinky. That’s the truth. It’s how we perceive situations and allow them to control our mind, our lives.”

She listened quietly as he continued. “Vera’s Mom is diagnosed with leukemia. As you already know, her Dad passed away years ago. The day you arrived, they’d just broken the news to Vera. She meant to talk to you once you return, asking if she could go on a leave of absence. I was simply holding her to comfort her. Isn’t that the primal instinct of a human being? To hold and comfort another who is in pain? Just like Harish held you today when he sensed your pain. That’s all there is to it Pinky.”

Pinky wept. “Poor Vera. What a fool I’ve been Rohan. Two similar sets of circumstances in our lives, yet we reacted to them so differently.”

“Pinky, circumstances tried to fool us twice. Remember, they didn’t succeed. I trust you, and have complete faith in us. Do you?” his voice shook slightly.

“Oh Rohan I do. You have no idea how much I want our marriage to work. I won’t allow my mind to play games with my life. Not anymore. I think I grew up in the last few months. Maybe I was a little jealous. And possessive about you. I over-analyzed a situation, choosing to interpret it my way. I almost believed I could be replaced. I was insecure.” She hugged him fiercely.

“Pinky, you are my wife, the woman I chose to spend the rest of my life with. No one can ever ‘replace’ you. Vera is a good friend. Yes, we do get along very well.  Just like you and Harish,” he said, holding her close.

Harish joined them about an hour later, brooding and angry. Pinky and Rohan, both explained quietly. In minutes the wide grin was back. “Phew… such complete fools you are. Why didn’t you simply talk it over? What a waste of precious time! Allowing silly circumstances to interfere with a solid relationship.”


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 (Prompt: Fool Me Twice)

Selected as ‘WOW’ Post