Chapter 3

I got involved…

I then got stabbed in the lungs

I was then asked, ‘why was I breathing?’

I was dressed in my finest clothes. It was a printed crisp cotton salwar kameez with a beautiful yoke that had caught my eye when I saw it at the boutique. Somehow this guy always loved my clothes from this boutique, and I realized I had splurged quite a bit in the last few days.

Was I trying to please him? When did I get so pathetic?

I couldn’t focus the entire day at work and realized I was walking on air. My colleagues also found me acting strangely, but they didn’t speak a word. I was known to snap if things didn’t go my way or if someone tried to put me down. When I was new in this city years ago, I had an accent whenever I spoke in English and I wondered if I still had the insecurity complex.

Even Anshuman, at times, made fun of me for some of the words I pronounced. But to give the guy credit, he helped me learn the pronunciations well. So I would be forever indebted to him.

Mind-winner was the first guy who didn’t comment on my accent. In fact, he only heaped praises on me. Was that a red flag? Well, at that time, it didn’t seem so. I was thoroughly blinded.

So that evening he texted me to wait at a particular restaurant. It was quite a distance from my workplace but he had some shooting where he would be held up and he wished to be there on time. I appreciated his ‘concern.’

SO that evening at 8 PM I waited in that strange lounge. It was dimly lit and was the first time I visited a place like this. There was a dark corner where I could only see silhouettes and tiny red dots representing the cigarettes as the smoke drew myriad patterns above. 

Suddenly I had that sensation of being watched coming from that dark corner. I was uneasy and tried to ignore it but it just wouldn’t go away. I realized it was half an hour and my date was running late. There was no message, and I was about to leave when someone held my hand. I almost screamed but as I reflexly turned around, my eyes fell on the most gorgeous green eyes, and I was held captive into their depths.

My rational thinking all went into the dumps, and I stood gawking at him wide-eyed. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Hey beautiful… apologies for running late…” He drawled in that husky voice and I was a goner. Handsome was an understatement for this guy. The perfectly angled chiseled jaw was as if he was sculpted with the utmost care by the Almighty. The bright yellow tee brought out his wheatish complexion and his picture on Social media didn’t do him justice. No wonder he was a model, a tall toned model. He probably worked hard to keep his place in the industry.

He waved his hand before my face to get my attention and chuckled as I startled.

“Um… Hi…” was all I could utter.

We sat back on our table and he got talking. Describing his job and how his eyes lit up I knew he loved his work. His clothes looked rich and I guessed he made good money. Our waiter came along and he insisted on ordering. I didn’t care sionce I didn’t know the best dish there. He seemed familiar with the place and I also saw him nod to a couple of waiters. Did he frequent here and come along with anyone else before me?

Now… was ai jealous? It was the first date, after all. I barely knew him… but I couldn’t help the fierce attraction I felt for him… Was that love?

It was as if Anshuman was breathing warning into my ears, I suddenly felt I knew this guy from somewhere. Not our chats but someplace elsewhere.

“So tell me your name.” I blurted out, and he stopped eating.

He stared at me till what I felt was an eternity. Did I offend him by asking his name?

“Anand… I am meant to spread happiness…” He smiled, his dimple deepening, and I thought I would sink into their depths.

That was a lovely name. As the evening progressed, I was mesmerized by his words. He chose them beautifully as if he was meant to be a poet and not a model. Before I realized it was 11PM, we walked hand in hand outside. The breeze blew across my face ruffling my hair, putting to rest all my apprehensions.

He dropped me home hailing an Uber and throughout the journey I placed my tired head on his hard chest. He played with my hair and hugged me close.

As I went to bed that night I felt cherished and loved like never before.

I had never shared my address with him before and he knew where I lived. Shouldn’t that have been another red flag? But I was in love, and that emotion was the thickest blinder.

Thus began our relationship. We met once in two days and it wasn’t long before we decided to take it to the next level.

We sat on the Marine Drive seafront watching the high waves hit the boulders and sprinkle salty hues on us. It was a beautiful evening and I was carefree. It was then he tilted my head and kissed me. That was my first deep kiss and it was as if he had poured all he had into it.

I was transported to a world away from all my personal and professional troubles.

Something about him that day seemed familiar yet again. Was it his lopsided smile? Or his voice that suddenly increased in pitch at the end of his sentences or was it the way he smelled? His fragrance seemed familiar. I had a strong memory for smells and I was sure I had smelt it somewhere else. No… it wasn’t in the office… Somehow my memory at that moment was clouded by the passion unleashed in my mouth.

We couldn’t go back to my humble flat because I was a single woman and constantly under scrutiny. I could imagine the tongues wagging if a man were to leave my home the next day. Anand knew that too, and he crushed me to his hard body right there as the waves unleashing their fury witnessed.

“I don’t want you to get your name tainted because of me, beautiful….” Anand whispered into my ear, sending a strange wave of thrill, and my goosebumps stood ready to pluck themselves out of my limbs. “…I don’t want to have my image plastered on all six CCTV cameras in your society… so let’s go to a hotel. What say?”

I was so overwhelmed by the emotional and libido-induced onslaught I failed to realize yet another red flag. How on earth did he know about the number of CCTV cameras in my society? And why wasn’t he taking me to his house?

Fortunately, I had the good sense to ask him that.

“Oh beautiful, you ask too much. I live with a friend, so it won’t look good if we infringe upon his privacy.” He explained, and the guilty look on his face melted my doubts away.

The hotel he took me to was a simple two-star one but clean. He pounced on me the moment we shut the door of our room. I was scared initially, and why not? I was a virgin, for crying out loud. But he was rough… he tore away my clothes, and his greenish eyes had a strange tinge of something I couldn’t fathom.

I was shit scared but realized that was probably what it meant to be making love, and before I knew it, the deed was done. In the ten minutes, Anand didn’t utter a word, and the room filled with the cacophony of his grunts as he hammered his manhood inside my softness along with the rickety AC hum and the traffic outside, was now replaced by his heavy snores.

I gathered myself up and realized I was physically and mentally bruised. Somehow it didn’t seem like lovemaking. I stood up on wobbly legs and stared at my reflection in the spotty mirror. My bruises added to the spots staring back at me. I somehow made it back home that night, hoping no one noticed my upheaval.

I cried myself to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. This wasn’t what I had expected. It was meant to be lovemaking, but why did it feel like rape?

The continuous pinging of incoming messages woke me. It was Anand.

Sorry darling… but were you upset?’

‘I was fast, wasn’t I? But you looked so gorgeous I couldn’t help myself…’

‘Can you forgive me this once? I promise to make it up to you.’

We met that evening, and he hugged me, uttering sweet nothings in my ears. He gifted me a new dress that day, his first gift to me.

aWait… I had seen an identical one at that boutique, but it was way too expensive.

“Anand, this is too much… I can’t….” I stuttered, still wondering how he knew that place. But I had tagged the store in my posts on social media, so he had to know.

“Hey, beautiful, I make good money. And you are the only one for me… So, cant I give this to the woman I love?”

Love? Did he say, love? I hugged him back and that night we shared a night of passion. He was relatively gentle this time and I rested assured.

This went on for the next six months. We met regularly after work, and after passion-filled nights, I returned half-heartedly to work the next day. Weekends were busy for me with my classes but still he would be there to pick me up to the envy of most of the females around. I was on the seventh heaven.

This was what I always wanted, didn’t I?

I had to keep our rendezvous a secret from my colleagues. I soon realized I had alienated myself from all my friends, especially Anshuman, who returned next month. I barely spoke at home. No one these days knew about my whereabouts.

Yet another red flag but my blinders were firmly in place.

One day about five months into our clandestine meets, there was a massive fire in my office building. Our office was closer to the exit and we all escaped but the higher floors were affected. Fortunately, though there were no fatalities, the offices were gutted totally and a few employees suffered burn injuries.

Many of us thronged to see the list of the injured to check if they needed help. I was glad none of my acquaintances were hurt. But what caught my eye was a couple of the class four employees were injured and one of them was Manjeet. Manjeet had been very kind to me every time he served tea or ran an errand and I felt bad for the guy. One of our colleagues returned from the hospital where everyone was admitted and reported that all were out of danger.

“By the way our Manjeet is burnt quite a bit. His back is scalded. The poor guy must be in pain…” My collegue retorted.

We all pooled in money to give it to the guy for treatment.

The accident took a toll on me emotionally and I longed to meet Anand. But I was in for a rude shock… Anand texted me, he was roped in for an outdoor shoot for a few days and we wouldn’t be meeting for a while.

Fortunately, Anshuman was back and the most reliable friend I had spared no efforts to cheer me up. I was blessed to have such people in my life. I gradually told him about Anand and as expected Anshuman wasn’t happy.

“Vandu, you know nothing about this guy… somehow he seems very controlling, and… I don’t know but I don’t get good vibes from him.” Anshuman said softly as we sat across each other in our favorite café.

“Don’t worry Ansh, I know him enough to love him… the rest will follow. It’s not like we are getting married or something…” It suddenly struck me I hadn’t discussed future plans with Anand and made it a point to ask him in outcall tonight.

“Just… be careful Vandu, alright?”

I only nodded.

A few days later, I was yet to see Anand in person but Anshuman urgently called me out to the café. He showed me his phone with some details.

“As you see Anand is nowhere registered among modeling agencies in Mumbai. No one in the field knows him either or has seen someone like him. You Vandu have no clue about his projects either… something isn’t right…” Anshuman said in a single breath.

“…Wait…” I interrupted him annoyed. “…you have been investigating Anand?”

“Of course I did and I was right Vandu. He is no good. I think he is just taking you for a ride. Else why would he hide anything about himself? Wake up Vandu…”

“…Enough Ansh… enough please….”

But nothing brought down my anxiety till I spoke to Anand that night. I subtly conveyed what I found out. But instead of clarifying he was angry.

“I don’t believe this Vandana….” He said out my name that meant he was upset with me. He often did that. “…Despite all that’s happened between us you think this is all a joke? I thought we loved each other and trusted each other… is this because you like that guy friend of yours? Do you want to break up then…?”

Where did that come from?

“Relax Anand… Anshuman is my friend for the last so many years and there is nothing on between us.”

“Maybe for you Vandu but I think he likes you and can’t tolerate the idea of you being with anyone else…”

Anand abruptly disconnected and we didn’t speak for the next two days. I missed him like hell and was annoyed at Anshuman for creating a rift between us.

Anand finally met me after a month and he seemed very sick and had lost weight. He just spoke about burnout after a hectic schedule and gifted me another beautiful dress from the same boutique… I put all my apprehensions about his career to rest. How could he afford a dress worth 15K if he didn’t make good money? He treated me to an elaborate meal at the Taj and I decided I would give anything to be with this guy…

That was the last night I rested assured. The next evening I got a message that Anshuman was badly injured in a hit and run accident outside his office.


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