FRAGILE – HANDLE WITH CARE – XIII

Sanika put on her earplugs and wiped her eyes. She wanted to look normal to Atul; she tried to bring back the same stability to his heart that they always had between them. The call was through, and Atul’s face filled her phone screen as she tucked a loose hair lock behind her ear.

She waved one finger at him, “Hello Stranger!” She said with a faint smile.

“Hey”, he replied and Sanika couldn’t help but notice his tired eyes. His hair was unkempt, and stress was written all over his face. Her heart ached to see him like this.

“Honey! Why you look so fatigued?”, she couldn’t help but ask.

Atul combed his fingers through his hair and massaged the back of his neck, sighing. “Why do you think?”, he asked almost condescendingly. Sanika was a bit taken aback by the brazenness and gulped.

“Atul, there is nothing fishy happening on this side. Don’t you trust me? Just because there are a few hundred miles between us that doesn’t make us someone else for each other. I am still the same woman you have married and loved, and I will remain the same. Seeing a part of my past did catch me, and I was unnerved for a while, but now I am okay”, Sanika said in one breath, a desperate attempt to calm down Atul’s fears.

“Yeahhh!!???” Atul asked with acidity, “Then you are done with him. What then is the need to meet him again?” His tone was accusatory.

Sanika took a deep breath and tilted her head to the side, “Baby…. have faith. I have retrospected a lot these days, and I have concluded that even though I moved on, there was a gaping hole in my heart where my past was still waiting to pounce on me. It all happened because I never got the chance to close that wound. I never got closure. I want that. It’s my unfinished business.” Sanika said seeking approval subconsciously.

Atul crossed his fingers under his chin and nodded. “I understand. I have faith Baby, but when it’s you, I have that fear of losing you too. It’s driving me crazy.” He told, and Sanika gave a rueful smile.

“You…Are….IRREPLACEABLE!!!” She said punctuating each word with a tear. He nodded, and Sanika could tell he was struggling not to cry too.

Atul was about to say something when Sanika interrupted and said, “Now, no more talks… You are looking very tired and you need to sleep as it is very late there in India. Wish me, so that I can end the matter forever tomorrow. Good Night!” Atul nodded and they hung up.

The very next morning Sanika woke up really early with a purpose. After she finished her morning routine she was about to call Pranay to fix an appointment with him when she hear a knock on her door.

Sanika went to open the door, and she could hardly contain a groan when she saw Pranay standing there, not alone but with a bouquet of the most beautiful White Calla Lilies in his hand. He remembers! She raised her eyes in question, and he cleared his throat.

“Good Morning Sanika! May I come in?” Pranay asked politely, and Sanika nodded stepping aside.

Pranay stepped in, and Sanika showed him to the seating area. They both took opposite chairs, and Pranay placed the flowers on the round table between them.

“They are your favourite I know, saw them on the corner shop and couldn’t help but buy,” Pranay said pushing the flowers towards Sanika.

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Sanika picked up the bouquet and ran her fingers delicately on the flowers. “Why do you still remember? What was the need to bring me flowers?” Sanika was in a confrontation mood.

Pranay gave an impish smile, and Sanika noticed he was wearing the watch she had presented him during their courtship on his birthday. She rolled her eyes and sat back with baited breath, ready to hear what he had to say.

“Not just the flowers, I remember it all. You might have moved on and wanted to believe that I too forgot everything very conveniently, but I remember it all just like it was yesterday.” He told boldly, looking straight into her eyes as he went on, “As for the need to bring them to you was pressing. I have come to tell you something that I never had a chance to say before.” Sanika was stunned at his audacity, but she wanted to hear it all.

She cradled his bouquet in her lap like a baby and looked at him; he took it as a gesture to go on. “I know what you think. You think it was effortless for me to choose Tanu over you and dump you like that.” He loosened his shirt collar, “But you need to know that I had to do it. I had no other option.” He looked at Sanika for a reaction, but she gave none.

“My dad’s business was falling apart, and we were in dire need of investors, no one else was interested except Tanu’s father, and that too was an offer if I agreed to marry Tanu,” Pranay told pinching the bridge of his nose.

“You don’t know Sanika, but I have suffered a lot. Tanu was my compromise with life, and as fate would have it, we never had any children. Our marriage was neither cemented by love, nor reinforced by kids. It was bound to fail, and that’s what it ended in – a bitter court brawl, a tug of war”, Pranay said with desperation. Sanika could tell he had been bursting to tell her all this.

She maintained an impassive look as Pranay went on, “Sanika, I could never forget you. If I had chosen you over Tanu, I would have been in place of Atul, having a lovely wife and two beautiful kids. We both would have taken care of the money but…..” His voice trailed away as his forehead covered in sweat beads.

Sanika looked for remorse and guilt in his face but what she saw were hope and purpose. Sanika was startled as Pranay suddenly went on one knee and held her hand in his. “Sani, My Love, I have missed you so much. I didn’t even realise how incomplete I was until I saw you again in the conference. One look at you made it clear what I had been lacking. It’s You, Sani!!!” Sanika shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

“Come back Sani, Come back to me. It’s not too late. We can start from where we left. I love you so much, more than Atul ever can. I will even try to be a good father to your kids. I know you want me too, I have seen it in your eyes. It was not in vain that you were wasted in the club that night. You were fighting the urge to be with me.” Pranay got closer, and Sanika scooted back.

“I know your right place is with me. Atul is just your compromise like Tanu was mine. You still love me very much. You miss me. You think of me. This is our time Sani, come, take my hand and come with me. Let’s start afresh.” Pranay had said it all; he had told the unthinkable, the unspeakable.

There was a heavy silence that hung in the room between Sanika and Pranay as he looked at her hopefully with a reassuring smile.

 

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