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“What future?” Sunaina replied in a matter of fact manner placing the coffee mug on the tiny table on the side, “What future does physical attraction have? Some more steamy nights… as and when possible!”
MashiMa had her fist hanging in the air, just when Atul opened the door. Her jaw dropped and eyes widened as if she had spotted a ghost. Her eyes then shifted to Sunaina in the rear, who had already realised that someone was at the door and was pulling up her robe, tying it around her waist in haste. But the damage had already been done. Not that Sunaina was bothered much by it. Just that she was concerned for the 50 year old maid of her neighbour and 3 am friend Mithali, who looked like she might break into spasms. Her eyes shifted to a scowling Atul who turned back and smirked with an eyebrow raised at the indiscreet display of shock by the old lady. In return he received a seething look followed by a quick wink asking him to push off.
“Our curd went too sour. Mithali memsaab asked me to get some from you so that we could make some more in our kitchen. Aarav baba will not have lunch without curd.” She extended her hand holding a tiny bowl signifying that she needed just that much.
Having recovered from the initial shock of this unexpected early morning visitor, Sunaina bit her cheek and restrained herself from smiling too blatantly in the face the visibly flustered grey haired lady. She knew whatever had transpired just now, would have repercussions. She would have a lot of answering to do very soon.
That time for a face-off arrived the same evening when Sunaina answered the door bell to her saree clad neighbour Mithali. She was amazed at how her home maker friend managed to keep her high bun and the kohl in her eyes intact the entire day. And the latter’s tight lipped smile and scrutinizing gaze made it evident to Sunaina that she was in for a long haul discussion. She tried to flash a warm smile at her visitor and gestured at her to come in.
“Just returned from office.” Sunaina squeezed her shoulders and massaged her neck with her palms.
“Oh!” Mithali was immediately concerned, “in that case you need a nice cup of coffee.”
The host nodded with a smile. Her heart expanded with the warmth that Mithali brought with her. “What would I do without you sweetheart?” she engulfed her in a bear hug.
Mithali went stiff in her arms, “Hmm! Let me go now.” Sunaina moved, and saw her guest shooting into the kitchen. She stood at the entrance of the kitchen leaning against the door, and observed Mithali go about preparing coffee in her kitchen with a dexterity that made her look like music in motion. But she was unusually quiet as she beat the coffee with the whip. Sunaina was actually counting in her mind, anticipating if Mithali could break her previous record of maintaining this silence for longer than 150 seconds.
“Do you think you owe me an explanation?” Mithali’s words came out as a sharp screech.
“Woah! That was cool. You could contain it within you for over 3 minutes.” Sunaina grinned, “It’s a new record you know… Mamma!”
“Don’t Mamma me. I am not your mother.” Mithali snapped back, “Or it would have been better if your mother was here. She would be the right person to pull your ears.”
“Oh No! Please don’t even mention that.” Sunaina put out her palms on her ears, “You are good enough for that.” The mischievous smile returned.
Mithali shoved a cuppa of hot coffee in her hands and made way to the garden chairs in the balcony. Sunaina followed quietly.
When she turned her chair to face Mithali, she still had daggers being thrown at her by the maker of the amazing coffee that she could never get bored of. But Sunaina realised that it was time to take the bull by its horn.
“Ok! I am sorry.” She tilted her head sideways and tried to look as sincere as a child trying to please her mother.
“You never mentioned it to me!” Mithali sounded genuinely hurt.
“Everything happened so fast, that I didn’t have the time to tell you anything.” The guilty was now getting defensive.
“You’ve fallen in love, and you say that you didn’t have the time to tell me anything. I would never have come to know, had not MashiMa caught you red handed today morning.” Mithali’s eyes were blood shot with hurt and anger.
“I wanted to tell you but…” Sunaina stopped abruptly, “…but…” her mouth open, her hands reached out to cover it, “..but whose said I was in love?”
“Why, MashiMa saw a man leaving your flat today morning,” Mithali was now fiddling with the free end of her saree, her eyes set on her friend, “And she said that the picture you presented standing behind him, it was obvious that…”
“Obvious what?” Sunaina was appalled, realizing only in that moment what was to follow.
“That you two had” Mithali was measuring her words, “ ..had a night together.”
Sunaina slapped her forehead, but hurled curses to herself. She had known since morning that this conversation was impending. But she was nauseated at Mithali’s interpretation of the entire thing.
“You are laughing!” Mithali was offended, “Now… out with the details. When did this happen? Everything… I want to know everything…”
Sunaina exhaled, and lifted her legs to sit crossed legged on the chair.
“I met Atul last month during my company’s offsite meeting in Lonavala. He is my counterpart in Delhi office. We had interacted many times before, but met personally for the first time.” Sunaina wanted to crack with laughter at the wide-eyed, almost drooling expression of her excited friend. But she knew that she was in for a disappointment.
“We were really attracted to each other and sparks fired up while we spent some quality time together during the informal evening and dinner sessions. He came to Mumbai for an office conclave day before and the attraction rekindled. I figured that he was single and looking for company and I too was damn attracted to him. We couldn’t contain the electrifying air between us and landed up here last night.”
Mithali warmed up to the dreamy eyed sight of her friend, who had been a devastated soul a few years back. It felt like a lifetime ago. 5 years ago Sunil’s demise had really hit her hard, and she had found herself in the dungeons of depression for a long-long time. So much that her flat had lay uncleaned and unattended for weeks. She had sent her then 10 year old son, Nihaal, to his grand-parents place to have some time to herself and cope with the loss. It had taken all of Mithali’s and her husband’s efforts to pull her out of her agony and help her gather the bits and pieces of her life and start afresh. It was a good thing that Sunaina had loved her job at the bank and once she joined back office, her recovery had been fast. And now if Sunaina had found an emotional anchor, and wanted to give life another shot, Mithali was more than happy for her friend.
“Do you think it has a future?” Sunaina froze at the question thrown at her. Oh… no no …no no no Mithali was taking it all wrong.
“What future?” Sunaina replied in a matter of fact manner placing the coffee mug on the tiny table on the side, “What future does physical attraction have? Some more steamy nights… as and when possible!” she drawled drawing circles on her thigh, not meeting Mithali’s eyes.
“Yeah!” Mithali was again at a loss of words, “But it could definitely culminate into something.”
“No! I am very clear that it will not culminate into anything other than what it is right now.” Sunaina insisted.
Mithali was dumbstruck, “You are saying this may be because it’s too early on to… you know.. envision your future with another man.” Sunaina rolled her eyes.
“No Sweetie! I am saying this because I have lived with a man before and I just can’t fathom the thought of living with or sharing my life with another man.”
Mithali was silent, but her eyes were throwing a hundred questions at Sunaina. The latter rubbed her face with both her palms and sighed heavily,
“You may think that I am in denial right now, but the fact is that Sunil has been gone for five years now. And it’s not that I never had any prospective proposals during this time. I happened to even consider one or two very seriously. But then I realised that I was too invested in Sunil and always will be. I just can’t share my living space with any other man, anymore.”
“Then what was last night about.”
“I just felt like I wanted to be held and cherished by a man who found me attractive.” Sunaina’s eyes shimmered as a watery glaze formed in them, “and Atul felt like safe bait for some no-strings attached pleasure.”
Mithali was now aghast, “You mean you want to be in a relationship only for sex?” Sunaina shrugged with a slight nod. She had no idea how she was going to explain this to her otherwise understanding and receptive friend.
“And what about Nihaal? Have you ever thought how he would feel about it? He is now big enough to understand your situation. During the previous vacations when he came for vacations from his boarding, I had a chat with him. He seemed quite open to the idea of you marrying again.” Sunaina smiled at the revelation that her son was growing up to be such a fine guy.
“But this! Don’t you think it isn’t fair to him? You might just feel ashamed of youself for acting on such impulse when he comes to know about all this. Or for that matter when anybody from your family comes to know about this… this nonchalant self centric fantasy of yours.”
Sunaina who had been listening with a straight face all this while, suddenly put out her hand to stop Mithali.
“Mithali! Stop! One, what I do with my life is only my prerogative. My family have been pestering me to consider remarriage for long now. But as I told you it just doesn’t sink in with me to re-invent the cycle of settling down with another person.” Sunaina reached out to Mithali to hold her hand and pressed it between both of hers.
“But at the same time I realised that there are certain needs, I was incapable of handling any more. Meeting Atul and the subsequent sparks that emerged just made it unbearable for me to contain myself. It was so good to have been held like I was last night. In the throes of passion, it felt like years of frustration and anger of my lonely suffering got cleansed.” Mithali’s hard face softened at these words. A drop of tear trickled down her eye and she rubbed her lonely but brave friends arm.
“As for Nihaal, if he would understand me settling with a man other than his father, he would defineitly understand why I don’t wish to do so too. He should rather be proud that I loved his father so much that I can’t even think about being with another man permanently.”
“Now you understand, just why my head’s not bowed!” Sunaina said with mirth, winking.
Mithali stood up and embraced Sunaina in a tight hug and raised her eyes praying for all the happiness for her friend…on her terms, in whatever way she wanted.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the Muse of the Month January 2019, but not one of the winners.
Image source: pexels
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