They walked into what Kajal felt was a different world. As they stepped out the cab, KB sprinted ahead, rushing through the sharply manicured lawn around his high-rise even as the security guards and the other housekeeping staff looked on. Kajal had to run to keep up with him and could barely observe her surroundings.
On the way to the foyer he was stopped by a man in black overalls and black cap standing next to a security guard.
“Hello KB sir I am from Zone-in investigative agency… we had spoken few months ago about…”
“…ok…Ok… fine. Can we talk later?” KB abruptly shut him.
“But sir, it’s very important that I…” The guy was persistent.
“…I said… I-will-talk-to-you-later…” KB firmly said staring down at the guy and he meekly bowed away.
“Please call me sir… you have the number…”
He walked away outside the compound and Kajal heard the roar of his exiting motor-bike. Why did KB need services of an investigating agency? Was there a serious problem?
The more the time passed she realized she knew practically nothing about the guy with whom she was tying the knot. She remembered some old Hollywood classic where the hugely respected doctor husband of the female protagonist was a serial killer.
She chuckled suddenly at the irony of her situation and KB gave her a look.
They got into the elevator and he pressed number 12. The last floor. Wow that meant she could have a great view, could she? She loved heights and to see the tiny world from there.
KB had withdrawn into his shell and had that mask of indifference back on his face. Her frustration was climbing higher up the ladder and she wanted nothing more than to jerk him back to his senses. He stood like a statue enroute and finally when the elevators opened, he gestured her towards his…. lone house… Gosh the entire floor for him? But of course, he was THE KB.
They stood outside his entrance; the door beautifully carved with tiny brass bells screamed of opulence. There was a security keypad which was covered by a plastic lid. KB slid it up and showed her the codes.
“Its better that you remember them since in less than a fortnight from now you will be here.” He spoke in a neutral tone as the lock clicked open with a musical tone… he turned the iron knob and the thick door finally opened. He stood aside letting her enter the house, before shutting the door.
She walked through the short corridor lined with a couple of his pics, otherwise the walls were blank and lonely…
The corridor opened into the huge drawing room. It had sparce furniture in its corners consisting of a three plus two-seater couch and a center table. There was a dining unit at the far corner of the room and the mother of pearl-colored walls. Here too there was only a single portrait of his on one of the walls while the rest were blank. There were a couple of potted indoor plants but their state of neglect was clear from the drooping leaves.
Kajal couldn’t see anyone or anything wither away. She immediately picked the water filled spray bottle next to the plants and sprayed water on them, using a thick twig to turn around the mud which had dried.
“What do you think you are doing?” KB asked from behind her. She didn’t know when he had come close.
“What do you think KB? This plant needed some tender love and care and that’s what I am providing it.” She answered not looking at him. Her annoyance was now increasing by the moment. She didn’t even know what she was doing here, in his house.
He held her arm and pulled her up. “That’s enough of gardening. These aren’t my plants. Ajji had forced them on me last month. I don’t have the time to nurture them and my housekeeper comes in once a week…”
She jerked her hand away. “Why did you get me here KB? And what was that on the road? I think I deserve to know what happened.” This time she looked at him into his eyes.
He stared at her as she saw the change of emotions in those beautiful eyes before he looked away rubbing his face.
“Let it go Kajal…” he said softly. He started to walk away.
This time she held his hand and turned him towards her. Folding her hands against her chest she waited for her anger to subside. The whooshing of the breeze from an open window was the only sound besides the ticking of the grandfather’s clock which ran through the silence.
“KB this is unfair. I know ours is a contracted union… I get it and I will always respect your privacy as discussed. But I need to know what happened there today. You had called me for lunch… all of a sudden. I thought… we had a moment after the engagement but I realized it was good for us to not mix up things here…I am not blaming you, but I demand to know… WHAT HAPPENED TODAY…”
“…I had a Goddamn panic attack, OK? I get one at times when I drive… I never drive at night. I had given my driver an off today so I took out the car. Happy now? Is there anything else you want to know and analyze?” She could see he was angry.
“Don’t be angry KB, I was worried so I asked you… I think you are fine now. So, I will get going then…I have my exam coming up in a couple of days and I don’t think there is anything else to discuss here.” She turned and walked briskly towards the corridor blinking tears of disappointment. Why on earth did she expect anything at all in this relationship, if any?
He followed her to the door and held her wrist, stopping her. “I am sorry Kajal… don’t go…please.”
She halted still her back towards him and he gently pulled her behind till her back touched his chest and he circled her body in his arms, digging his heard into her hair. She turned around in his arms and held his face in her palms.
“Are you ok now? Really, OK?” she asked him.
He only nodded and pulled her closer. She placed her head on his taut chest circling his torso and they stood like that for a while. A strange calmness descended on her bringing with it a strange sense of security. She always had to look out for herself and her brother but today she felt there was someone looking out for her. The breeze calmed her further. Suddenly she heard his stomach growl.
“Hey…” She chuckled. “…We forgot lunch…”
He drew a hand through his hair and smiled his million-dollar smile. “Yeah… lets order. What do you like?” he pulled out his phone.
“Wait… do you have anything in the fridge? I can pull up something quickly. I prefer home cooked food…” She pointed towards the giant double door fridge at the corner leading to what she felt was the kitchen.
He smiled and held her hand leading her towards the fridge. She opened it and was happy to see items which she was familiar with.
Picking up some of the veggies she said. “Wait for a little while, I will cook up something.”
She rushed to the kitchen while he went to his room to change. She was enamored by his elegant kitchen which was neatly arranges unlike her cluttered one back home. Maami was a great cook but she didn’t clean up well after her work in the kitchen.
Kajal soon cooked bhindi fry and rotis. She also quickly chopped salad and found curd in the fridge. His housekeeper must be amazing to stock the fridge so well. She knew he would probably under some diet given his profession and hoped he would be allowed to eat what she had spruced up for them.
KB had showered and changed and as she placed the food before him, he looked wide-eyed smiling like a child who got a new toy. He put a bite in his mouth and as she waited in anticipation, he looked at her and smiled.
“This is amazing Kajal… actually it reminded me of someone from a lifetime ago…” He relished each morsel and she was glad they didn’t order food.
After lunch he showed her around the house on the lower level. He showed her, her future bedroom which was right next to his. It had plain walls like the rest of the house, complete with a wardrobe and a pretty double bed… not to mention the attached bathroom and a … study table. She had longed for this privacy all her life.
He didn’t show her his bedroom nor did she ask. The lower level also had a bathroom and a home gym. There was a huge library and she knew she would spend the maximum time here in the library amidst the enviable collection of books. KB didn’t look like a reader to her!.
“So, this is it Kajal. I wanted to show you the house. You may come here before the wedding as well if you want to keep your stuff in the room. But come alone so no one knows about the arrangement. And stay away from the first level. Its off limits even to my housekeeper.”
Though she was curious she didn’t bother to ask him. It didn’t concern her she explained herself.
She checked the watch. It was evening already. “I will have to take your leave now KB, I have to study…”
He nodded. “Uh… I am going to Mahabaleshwar for a shoot for next the upcoming week and then after returning I have back-to-back shoot before the wedding. You have the credit card so buy the clothes you need. As you know we will be having the marriage in the local temple near your house, but feel free to dress the way you want to… just send me a pic so I can ask my designer to coordinate my outfit accordingly. We have to keep a good show for the press. I have arranged for the security so it shouldn’t be a problem to keep the crowd away.”
She nodded and turned to leave.
She turned around. “Yeah…?”
“All the best for the exams”
She smiled and nodded as she walked out of the door. He had called for a cab and as the vehicle moved away from her future house, she felt as if a piece of her heart was left behind.
KB would be gone for two weeks… not that he called her or texted her regularly but at least he was in the city. She shook her head. Why was she even thinking about him? She held a hand to her chest trying to calm her racing heart.
Her phone buzzed with an incoming call. It was Ganpat kaka. Why was he calling?
“Hello Kajal, there is something I have recently found out about your… er… aai…”
Her heart stilled. Did he find her mother?
“Kaka… is she safe? Where is she?” she asked frantically.
“Look Kajal I don’t know details. It was just incidental finding. Why don’t you see me after your exams?”
“NO kaka… I will see you right away…”
“No kajal it’s of no use. Because the person who can give the information will be back only after a fortnight…”
“But kaka… my wedding…?”
“don’t worry Kajal, go along with the ceremony. Your marriage is in the Chintamani temple near your home, right?”
“Yes, kaka and you don’t have to be told that you have to be there.”
“Of course, I will be. Not every day do we get to see a TV-star’s wedding. Ever since you texted me about getting married to KB, I have been a celebrity myself here”
“Kaka, do you think aai is OK?”
“I hope she is beta… at least for the sake of your closure.”
“Who knows about her, kaka?”
“There is an Assistant commissioner of police who is retiring from Nagpur and when I heard about him, he felt familiar. It was then I realized I had come across his name when I was trying to look for your mother. He was one of the investigators involved those days. He handled the case till the end. So, if anyone knows something its him…”
“Can’t I see him kaka or speak to him?”
“No child, he is a big man. We can’t antagonize him…and he is busy with the handovers and stuff. Don’t worry he is shifting base to Mumbai. And I have been entrusted to the security duty arrangements at his bungalow. I will arrange the meet. Also, he won’t refuse actor KB’s wife…” kaka chuckled.
Despite her emotional upheaval, Kajal smiled.
She disconnected the call and wiped away the tears she didn’t realize were flowing down her cheeks.
The fire that ignited her desire, the ice that froze her heart
Was that what they called ‘till death do us apart’?