BACK TO PAVILLION
“Welcome back hon...”
“Thanks sweetie... It feels great to be back...” I replied, as I hugged Akki.
“You had to wait for long na?” I asked him.
“Gosh... How much do you women pack for a week’s long stay?” he asked, as he heaved my heavy suitcase into the boot of his car.
“Kya baat hai, aaj chhoti gaadi nikaali?” I teased as I pointed out to his white Laura.
“Heheheh...Very funny” he said, sarcastically.
I giggled. “So where are we headed now?” I asked.
“Wait and watch...” he said.
He finally spoke when we pulled into a mall. “You up for a beer?” he asked.
“Do you even have to ask?” I started, as I got off the car.
“Shall we?” he said, offering his elbow. “Yes, we shall...” I said, taking up the offer.
After we had settled down into a cozy little table at one corner of the restaurent, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Errrr... I don’t know how to tell you this... You might not even believe me... I can’t believe it myself... I wonder if am overreacting!!! What’s wrong with me??? ”
“Hey hey hey... Slow down... What’s the matter Akki?” I asked. “Since when did you have ‘difficulties’ in talking to me... It’s me, your Ash... Akki, Chill maar aur bol... What’s up?”
“Ash...” he said, and paused to clear his throat.
“Akkiiiiiiiiiiii... Tell me already, will you?” I said, losing patience.
“I have a feeling that Sheeba is two-timing me...”
“WHAT?” I asked, my eyes wide with shock.
“Yes... I can’t believe it... How could this be?” he said, wiping his tears.
“We need to find out the truth...” I said. “Let’s go...” as we hurriedly paid the bill and left.
LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES...
Akki pulled the car into the building where Sheeba lived.
“You sure she’s going to be home right now?” I asked him, with uncertainity.
“When I called her, she told me she was at work. But then, I think I heard Snoopy bark in the background” Akki said, referring to Sheeba’s cocker-spaniel. “I think she’s at home... She’s avoiding me... And I know it...”
When we approached her door, we could hear music playing.
“I knew it... She is at home...” Akki said.
“Shhhhhhhhh...” I quietened him.
I rang the bell.
Suddenly, the music stopped. We waited for 2 minutes; but no one would answer the door. I rang the bell once more.
“I’m taking a bath. Who is it?” Sheeba screamed from the inside.
I didn’t reply. Simultaneously, I tried her on the cell phone.
“Hello... Hey girl... When are you coming back? We’re missing you a lot...” Sheeba said enthusiastically, as soon as she picked up.
“I’m good... You tell me, where are you?” I asked, covering up my anger.
“I’m at home...”she replied, thinking that I was still in Delhi.
“Good... Coz I’m outside your door... Open up...” I demanded.
I could swear I almost heard her say ‘Shit’ while she was hanging up.
“Hey...” she said cheerily; as she opened the door. She was fully clothed.
“So, I didn’t know you took a bath with your clothes on..” I said sarcastically; while I stayed put at the door.
“Oh that... I thought it was some pesky salesman...” she replied.
“And is that why you turned off the music as well?” I asked, tauntingly.
“Errr... That... Ash...” she stammered.
“What explanation do you have, Ms.Sheeba Chakravorty?” Akki said, as he stepped into her doorway. He was half in tears. She looked zapped.
“I... Akki... I...” She was at a loss for words.
I had, in the meanwhile, started skirting her apartment.
“There’s no one here...” I yelled out to Akki from the bathroom.
“See, I told you there’s no one here...” Sheeba said, trying to control her nervousness.
But something urged me to continue hunting... I finally opened her wardrobe... And there he was.
“Ayaan...” I gasped in disbelief.
ITS ALL IN THE FAMILY
“Sweetie... I heard about Ayaan and Sheeba... Ayaan just called me up... I... I... I don’t know what to say... I hate him for this... How’s Akki doing?” AK asked me over the phone.
“We need to talk” I said, my voice hardly escaping my lips. “Come over...”
Akki answered the door when the bell rang.
“I’m in here...” I yelled from the bedroom. AK hurried into the bedroom.
“Oh darling... I’m so sorry about all this... I should never have gotten that wretch introduced to all of you... I never thought my brother could be this cheap...” I clamped his mouth shut with my hand.
“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH... Atleast now tell me the truth...” I screamed, as I pushed AK off the bed.
“ASH... Don’t... He’s not worth it...” Zac said, as he walked into my bedroom.
“You... I will kill you, you bastard...” AK said, as he got up and headed towards Zac.
“Don’t you dare...” said Akki, as he stepped in the way.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE... GET OUT OF MY LIFE...” I yelled.
AK hung his head low; and walked out of the door.
I burst into tears; and Akki held me close... While Zac shut the door behind AK.
“And another chapter ends...” said Zac.
On the night that AK proposed to me, Zac was in the club. He had taken Akki to the corner to speak to him in private. Zac didn’t include me in the conversation coz he wasn’t sure about how I would react.
“Akki, you know how everyone keeps saying that I quit playing at the club. That’s not the truth... I didn’t quit... I was fired...” Zac confessed.
“But, why? Why did they fire you? You did your job well... The crowds loved you...” Akki said.
“I was fired coz one of the female bartenders filed a complaint of ‘sexual harassment’ against me... Since the owner also knows me well, he let me off with just the firing... He said his hands were tied...” he said.
“What???” Akki gasped in disbelief.
“Yeah... I am not the one to take it lying down... So I cornered her one day as she left from the club... I demanded to know who had paid her to falsely accuse me...” he said; “and I threatened her that if she didn’t comply with me, I would actually sexual abuse her, since I was anyways paying time for a crime not done...”
“So who was it?” Akki asked, curious to know the answer.
“I don’t know if you will believe me... I actually sneaked into the club to tell you this... I am not even allowed to set foot here anymore...” Zac said “It’s your girlfriend, Sheeba.”
“How dare you speak about her that way!!!” Akki growled, as he held Zac by his collar.
“Calm down Akki... Things are way darker than what you know...” Zac said, “Why would I want to lie about Sheeba... What motive could I have Akki?”
Akki calmed down. He realized Zac was right. The only people Zac had ever cared about in this club were Ashwini and him. He would never do anything to hurt them.
But then again, neither would Sheeba.
“What do you have to tell me?” Akki demanded to know.
“A couple of days before I got fired, I was at Zio’s, Bandra... A friend of mine is the resident DJ there... While I was standing at the DJ console, I noticed Sheeba on the dance floor... She was dancing with a guy I didn’t recognize... I thought perhaps you and Ash must also be around... So I tried calling Ash... She didn’t answer the call... Then I tried calling you... You answered and told me that you were at home... You remember that call I made to you, right?”
“Yeah!!” Akki replied.
“That’s when I realized that maybe Sheeba was alone with that guy... So I followed them once they left the club; and they drove right to Sheeba’s building.... And when Sheeba got off his bike, she gave him a long passionate kiss... That put things into perspective...” said Zac.
“After that, I got in touch with one of Sheeba’s colleagues, a Priya Chotani... You know of her, don’t you?” Zac asked...
Akki nodded his head in agreement. Zac continued.
“Priya told me about Sheeba’s boyfriend. She wasn’t sure about his name; she said Sheeba didn’t give out too many details... But to ascertain things I showed her a picture of you, Ash and me... I thought she would point out to you and say ‘This is Sheeba’s boyfriend...’ But to my surprise, she only recognized Ash and said that she had dropped in at the office a couple of times...”
“This is too much...” Akki said; as he turned about to leave.
“No, wait Akki... If not for your sake, atleast for Ash’s.” Zac said.
“What? What’s wrong with Ash?” Akki demanded to know.
“Nothing’s wrong with her... But everything may be wrong with her newly found boyfriend...”
“AK, you mean?” Akki exclaimed. “But, how can it be? I’m the one who introduced AK to Ash... And I randomly met him in the club’s bathroom” Akki confessed.
“Did he initiate conversation with you the 1st time you met?” Zac asked.
“Yes... He told me that my hair style suited me... That’s how it all began...” Akki said, now realizing his folly.
“Sheeba had instructed him to get talking to you... She knew you; and was certain that you would introduce him to Ash... This was her way of ensuring that AK could get an entry point into the little group that the 3 of you had... She wanted him close to her...”
“You mean AK is the man she is two-timing me with?” Akki asked in utter disbelief.
“Yeah!!” Zac replied.
“Then why me?” Akki asked, almost in tears now.
“Isn’t it obvious? She’s a bloody gold digger...” Zac replied.
“And what about Ash?? What’s her mistake? Why does she have to suffer in all this?” Akki asked; beginning to slightly believe Zac’s version of incidents.
“AK was just using her for her contacts... He knew she would help him set up his business in Mumbai... Given the fact that she knew so many people, he was using her as a ladder... I guess they have plans of using you guys and your money and contacts, until they can disappear into a life of their own...”
“I need to warn Ash...” Akki said.
“You do that... I need to leave before anyone sees me here...” Zac said; and he disappeared amongst the crowd.
As Akki pushed against the crowds and got back to where he had left Ash and AK, a really excited Ash flashed her new ‘engagement’ ring in his face. He couldn’t break the news to her at that time. He couldn’t afford to see that precious smile disappear off the face of the one woman who had always been there for him.
Akki wasn’t sure about whether Zac was right or wrong. His heart still wanted to give both, Sheeba and AK, a chance. But when he heard about AK asking me to invest in a flat, he smelled something fishy. That was the reason why he confirmed whether the flat would be in my name or not.
Me leaving for Delhi had been like ‘vacation time’ for Sheeba and AK. It was a classic case of ‘When the cat is out, the mice are at play.’ AK literally moved into Sheeba’s house for that one week.
How did we catch Ayaan at Sheeba’s place that day then?
Ayaan turned out to be the nice guy. He had gotten in on AK’s plan; but unlike his brother, Ayaan had a heart. He had gone to Sheeba’s place that day to have a word with her; and to try and dissuade her from moving on with their plans of cheating Akki and Ash. He knew talking to AK would be of no use. And that was when we had caught them. He had hidden in the cupboard, coz he didn’t want us to know of the connection between Sheeba and AK. When we caught him hiding in the cupboard, he had said ‘I couldn’t bear to see Ash’s heart broken...She’s a nice girl... Bhai shouldn’t cheat her like this...”
TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS
[2 YEARS LATER]
We sat at the window sill; and enjoyed the lovely breeze in our hair.
“Atleast something good came out of this entire scenario, eh?” said Akki; as we toasted to my brand new flat.
“He’s right, the view from the 22nd floor is magnificient...” Ayaan chimed in.
“Congratulations, girl. We’re proud of you.” Zac said, as he gave me a big bear hug.
“I would have never gotten through it without all of you.” I said, my eyes welling up with tears.
“Oh cmon now...” Zac said. “I don’t know about us. But you definitely couldn’t have done it without this man here...” he said, while he pointed out towards Akki.
Ayaan nodded his head in agreement. “I don’t get it... Why couldn’t you guys have thought of this earlier itself? It would have saved all of us a lot of trouble... Wouldn’t it??” Ayaan asked.
“I guess, there’s a time for everything” I replied. “After pulling AK’s ring off my finger, I was sure that I would never let any other man put a ring on that finger... I thought I would never get married...” I said.
“But when he asked, you couldn’t say no, could you?” Ayaan teased me.
“Like I have always said, I can never say ‘no’ to Akki” I said; as I winked at my husband of 2 months. Akki put his arm around my shoulders, and held onto me. I looked at my hand. The sunlight bounced off my wedding ring.
“Like they say, all’s well that ends well..” said Ayaan.
“Cheers to that” we all chimed in.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
BACK TO PAVILLION
Posted by Tabitha at Thursday, March 25, 2010