The next day for Preeti, there was a tearful re union of sorts with her family. Her mother, Tayiji and Rewa hugged her. Her father had tears as he stood silently. Her Tayaji was emotionless. He still had to come to terms with Yash’s sexuality…that mattered more for his Rajputana pride… It was yet to sink in for all of them…that Yash could do something like that…. Even remotely. Preeti told them…she intended to give up the fort so that no one had to suffer from any kind of deluded idiosyncrasies anymore. The transfer of deeds would stop with her. She had thought they would oppose but to her surprise they unanimously agreed. They decided to renounce the ownership of the fort even if on paper. Gaurang left, promising to initiate the proceedings with the concerned departments.
Later after completing the hospital formalities, Gautam took her home. Narmada was waiting to welcome her with a lovely lunch spread. Though Preeti’s stomach wasn’t cooperating as yet, she managed to keep down the food. Narmada was not just as intelligent as her …half-brother but also excelled in culinary skills. Gautam then helped her change and rest in their bedroom. She hoped he would rest as well… He sat beside her holding her hand till she fell asleep.
Preeti woke up when the doorbell buzzed. She sat up to go downstairs when suddenly the wave of dizziness passed through her. She steadied herself and slowly walked downstairs with wall support. She saw Tanveer had come. Gautam looked at her and immediately rushed to help her. She was shivering a little. He put his jacket around her. She hugged him sideways… as they walked downstairs. As always his strength seeped in through her body. She sat on the couch and Narmada served her coffee. The coffee aroma usually freshened her but now she was being repulsed by it. Somehow she tried to take in a few sips. Gradually her stomach settled as the others finished their tea/coffee and she settled on the couch as well. Gautam joined her on the couch and held her hand. Her grip instantly tightening with the impending gloomy news she anticipated. He covered her hand with his and gave her an assuring look.
“Er…Gautam and Preeti… Yash has admitted to everything…right from that incident twelve years ago till the kidnapping two days ago… He is being evaluated by the department psychiatrist as we speak. But he has given up and I think we can make a strong case. He kept crying all the time for Vikram. He had some misguided version about a treasure which by the way doesn’t exist…”
Preeti gasped… “That means… all that happened…was for nothing?” She was glad about her decision regarding the fort.
Tanveer nodded. “Yes Preeti… Because though you have inherited the fort, you can only transfer it to your husband or your offspring. But the fort can’t be sold. It’s a heritage site. You can renovate it but can’t use it for any commercial purpose. All this was clearly written in the pertaining documents. Romila Devi has been released for want of evidence and since there actually was no complaint registered against her…”
Gaurang held Narmada close as she started to tear up. She was moving into the second trimester of her pregnancy and was crying at the drop of a hat. Preeti vowed to give her all the support that was expected from a maternal home during her pregnancy.
“But Tanveer where did Yash get the rifle from?” Gautam asked
“Oh that… he had purchased an exact replica couple of years ago and taught himself to shoot.”
The room was silent as they waited for Tanveer to reveal the main reason for his visit.
“Uh…Gautam… I tried my best for your case but there has been a murder… however given the circumstances the charges have been reduced and the jail term as well… its cut down to six months. I am sorry…but I couldn’t… do anything beyond this…” He rubbed a hand over his fatigued face.
“NO…” Preeti yelled standing. “…THIS IS UNFAIR… HE DID EVERYTHING FOR ME…IF HE HADN’T KILLED VIKRAM THEN I WOULD BE DEAD…” She was panting…
Gautam held her close and made her sit. He sat on his haunches in front of her holding her hands. “Preeti look at me dear… we have waited for twelve years…sweetheart, these six months shall pass too… and then that’s it…”
Preeti sobbed her heart out. “…No Gautam…. I can’t do this… no…”
“Please Preeti… don’t make this difficult for me. I need all your support now… If you break down then my resolve shall break too. Narmada also needs you. Six months will pass in a jiffy… Meanwhile you can also connect with your family again….”
Preeti wasn’t getting convinced at all… her heart was shattering. She couldn’t stop weeping. Tanveer came up to her and said. “Preeti I promise you I will see to it that he is taken care of well. You can visit him as well…”
Eventually he left asking Gautam to be ready the next morning.
Preeti was a nervous wreck and couldn’t sleep all night. She lay in Gautam’s arms facing him. They didn’t speak anything that night but their silence said it all. In between she would wail and he held her close. She barely slept. It was in the morning that she calmed down with a resolve to make it easy for him.
Tanveer arrived early that morning. Narmada had prepared a scrupulous breakfast which he also shared with the family.
Gautam stood and announced. “There is something I have wanted to tell you all…Uh… Preeti, Narmada…I don’t want any of you visiting me in jail…”
“WHAT?” Preeti and Narmada said together.
“Please…both of you hear me out. Seeing you both will weaken my resolve… Don’t worry about me. But I would be worried about you travelling all the way to the location. I want you both to stay back and take care of yourselves. Narmada and Gaurang are moving here till the baby comes along and I will be back on time for welcoming my nephew or niece… So please darlings… don’t come to meet me. I promise to speak with you once a while and you can give me updates…”
Preeti folded her hands and walked back to her room without replying. She stood staring outside the window tears flowing down her cheeks. Moments later she felt his hands around her. He kissed her head. “Please Preeti… I have to leave now… please smile …I want to memorise that beautiful smiling face…it will pull me through the next six months. Look at me darling….” Preeti didn’t turn. She stood sniffling. He continued to hold her and said, “…I want this Charade to end on all fronts Preeti… everything has been a huge charade. Our relationship with our respective families, me trying to… fulfil my obligation to Romila Devi, my flawed sense of sexual gratification… in fact the base of our relationship with all its ups and downs was itself a charade.” He sighed. “Preeti I want a fresh beginning with you. Leaving all the rotten past behind. That’s why I don’t want us seeing each other in these six months… for my own contriteness. I want you to get a breather as well…free from all kinds of outlandish experiences you have had so far….”
Preeti turned and hugged him tightly crying into his chest. He held her tightly. They stood like that for a while till Tanveer called him out. He released her gradually and wiped her eyes.
Preeti held his hands and went on her toes to kiss him. He kissed her back with everything he had pouring every ounce of emotion into the contact… she smiled and held his face. “I will be waiting right here…just remember that. Take care of yourself Gautam… for me… for US. ”
He nodded and then they left the room hand in hand.
Minutes later the police vehicles left their premises… with Gautam in tow, Gaurang following him to complete legal formalities, leaving behind a miserable Preeti who’s breakfast was pushing itself out of the food pipe. She threw up on the lawn. Narmada helped her up and back into the house.
Narmada was now experienced enough to see the signs… was it possible? She thought happily.
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