Even in sleep she could felt the bed dip on her left, soon she felt a pair of hands wrap itself all around her. The feel of it was vaguely familiar, so was the smell. Then she felt a face nuzzling her neck and even in her sleep she snuggled in, falling asleep instantly. She woke up to find a pair of naughty eyes peering down at her with eyes full of unmasked love and she visibly recoiled! Neel had woken up and he was right there on the bed, hugging her while she slept! She was mortified! She had snuggled up to him and slept!! She didn’t know where to look, she just wanted to lie there and wished death would come to her. She considered jumping out of bed but then again she fretted that her hair was in a mess and she was wearing a very old strappy nightgown that wasn’t flattering and she wouldn’t be caught dead in front of him in that! She was confused about her next course of action! Instead she pulled the covers up till her eyes as she heard him laugh out aloud.
“I have seen you wear much less than what you have on Noyona… grow up! It’s okay… it’s just me…” He just pulled her to him and hugged her tight until she gave up her fight and hugged him back.
“I missed you all these years.. There has not been a day I have not wondered where you are, how you have been. I have hurt so bad that I am no longer scared of being hurt.”
“I have missed you too…” she whispered barely audible
“Then why leave like that? Then why didn’t you keep in touch. Not once in these last three years. Have you ever wondered what I have been through? Did you care even once to know how I am? Did I not mean anything to you?”
“You still mean a lot to me Neel, it’s just that we were never meant to be for each other. I knew we couldn’t live in denial. I had to build life from scratch. It hasn’t been hunky dory for me… with the kids and all... but I managed. I had to… I had to keep my end of the bargain after what I had done. My love for you had never ceased in all these years…”
“And him?? What about him?”
She looked away, scared that she may have to tell him. He held her and pulled her close.
“Did you love him as much as you loved me? Tell me... I need to know…. Did you love him?” He shook her hard.
“No…never… I have always loved you. I do even today!”
Her last few words were drowned as she felt his lips come crashing on hers, first violently, then becoming gentle. She felt herself falling into a bottomless pit. She felt his hands caressing her arms and she linked hers around him as they were swept away by passion, longing and pent up emotions of the last few years getting the better of them. They clung to each other as the sun came up.
The next time he woke up she wasn’t there with him. He quickly got dressed pulling over one of her over sized tees that was lying around, just like old times… and went off to look for her…
“Coffee?” she asked smiling shyly as she went about making coffee and breakfast.
They were drinking their second cup, when the door to the kids room opened and Ayon came out rubbing his eyes. He looked at him for the first time and smiled for the first time, as if finding a man in their household was a natural phenomenon. He went and hugged his mother and then did the unthinkable, he went and asked Neel to pick him up. Doing as he was told, he put Ayon on his lap and he looked across to her.
“Funny Ayon reacted like that! He never trusts people so completely. He must really like you to go and sit on your lap!”
Neel beamed, to think he struck a chord with her kids made him feel happy, especially because now he felt like he was a part of this happy picture! Despite having made peace with Noyona, his heart ached and he didn’t know why, he kept feeling that something was amiss but he just couldn’t place just what and it eat at his heart!
“So how old are you Ayon?”
“He will turn two next month.” She blurted before she could think things through and for a moment he looked dazed and a strange look passed but since he went on to speak on other things she silently said a prayer and heaved a sigh of relief!
Meanwhile Aankhi had woken up and decided to be in a cranky mood, since Neel seemed to be quite a hit with her, she left her with him and went to make breakfast.
“Fried eggs just the way you like it!” she said as she put his plate of eggs in front of him.
“So who are the other fried eggs for…. You like your eggs in a French omlette if I remember correctly!”
“ Yes I still do… its just that kids seem to like the eggs the way you do!” the moment the words were out of her mouth she regretted it for his face clouded and he looked up giving her a quizzing look.
“What I simply meant was… they donot like eggs in any other form, that’s a fine coincidence you share with them.”
Later he joined her when she was doing the dishes and hugged her. The kids had gone down to the park with the maid so that gave them some time alone.
“So… don’t you have to go home… what are you going here loitering? I don’t want the police at my doorstep looking for you okay… I have kids to bring up!” she said jokingly but he seemed not in a mood to joke.
“Don’t worry about that. I am not expected back until tomorrow so leave that to me. Why do I get the feeling that you are not telling me something Noyona? There is something that is taking place and I can’t seem to put my finger onto what.”
“What do you mean?” She said quivering trying her best to remain normal.
“Tell me about him…. You never really spoke about him. Where did you two meet? When did you get married? What happened? Why did he walk out? Was he there when the kids were born?”
“It’s been a long time Neel… I don’t really want to talk about it… its rather painful.” She said turning away from him but he had already seen the fear in her eyes.
“Or is there nothing about him to tell me Noyona? Does he even exist?” His voice becoming threatening by the minute.
“He does. We met, decided to get married, things didn’t work out… and he left. Later I found out I was pregnant with the kids. That’s all there is to this. And can we talk on something else now Neel?”
“So how come there are no pictures anywhere of him and you? And when did all this happen? Soon after you left me? How could you? And you say you have always loved me??”
“Neel we had our separate lives, I never judged yours and I thought you wouldn’t judge mine. And tell me is this why you came back for? To ask what made me fall in love again? To torture me about my choices in life?”
“That has never been my intension and even you know that… but tell me Noyona. When is it that you met him? Or is it because of him that you left me? Because this equation of time never really matches up! You getting married and divorced, pregnant with kids, who turn two next month all in a span of three years… isn’t that too quick?”
She paled and bit her lips, her knuckles had become white from clutching at the kitchen counter. This did not miss his eyes. He came close and grabbed hold of her in a vice like grip and stared straight into her eyes.
“They are mine aren’t they?”
“Who?? What are you talking about? Leave me alone… its hurting me….”
“Don’t lie anymore… Aankhi and Ayon… they are my kids aren’t they?? Tell me…. Don’t lie… just tell me… I want to know if I am the father… tell me Noyona…I deserve to know and you know that!” he shook her.
“Yes… yes.. Aankhi and Ayon are your kids…” She barely whispered, scared at his reaction, the weight of the last three years got to her as she broke down in inconsolable sobs! He just stood there shell shocked as if life was sucked out of him!
“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you out. You didn’t have to do this alone, and I had told you we would tackle this together if this situation ever happened. Then why didn’t you tell me anything about it?!”
“Neel I knew it even then what I was doing?”
“You mean to tell me, you had planned this all along? That you purposely cut me out of your life, had my kids and blocked me out of the lives of my own flesh and blood. Don’t you think I deserved to know and then decide if I wanted to be a part of it or not?”
“Why are you overreacting Neel? What could you have done anyway if you had known?”
“Then this situation wouldn’t have happened! You wouldn’t have been in this mess!”
“But don’t you see? This was never a mess for me. I wanted to have Aankhi and Ayon. It was my choice. Yes it was my way of getting back at fate which would never let me have you… don’t you see?”
“No I don’t… I don’t know what to feel angry about. You cutting me off your life, denying me of you, of having my kids or keeping me away from their life too.. What a sadist you are Noyona… how selfish can you be? Did you for once think of me and how I would feel about this?? Did it occur to you that I would want to be a part of your life and theirs too? Are you not denying them of a normal life?”
“I knew the scores from the beginning Neel and I gave you your old life back sans the complications. And as for the kids, what they have never known they won’t miss. For them I am enough. And for me being selfish, for once I lived for myself and I donot regret it!”
He looked livid, ready to kill. Then the look was just gone, he quietly went into her room only to return a few minutes later dressed in his clothes, he picked up his cell phone and left without a word. She dissolved into tears, sobs racking her body as she heard the door bang and close in on her. Her carefully planned life was falling apart yet again!