The light falling on their eyes woke them up as they lay in a heap of tangled limbs. KB moved her stray lock of hair, interfering in her vision and she chuckled as he bent and kissed her forehead.
Kajal had never felt so revered before. Though she had been scared out of her wits, she had the best night of her life. More than anything, she confessed her love to him. She didn’t know what future held, but she wanted to revel in the newfound bliss at the moment. For once KB was relaxed too as he stared into her eyes with hooded expressions, his face gruff with a day-old stubble but she found it way too endearing.
“…yeah…” He lazily drawled as he lay on his back, pulling her close to him, as she rested her head on his chest, her hand spread across his chest.
“Last night… it was terrifying… why do you think… I mean who do you think is after you? First the accident, which I doubt was one. Then that man in the hospital and now this… I shudder to think what would have happened if Mr. Mehta wouldn’t have been vigilant…” She hugged him tighter.
He rubbed her hand and paused for a while.
“Kajal… I am not sure about anything now, but it looks like my past is coming to haunt me. So unfortunately you are caught in this crap…” he spoke softly.
“KB stop that already. We are in this together… whatever it is. Last night you also had nightmares…. Want to talk about it? Then there are these injuries…unaccounted for…”
The moment the words were out she regretted it. KB slipped out and moved away. He sat up and picked up his shorts. She put on her robe quickly and rushed to him.
“Wait KB. I won’t insist if you aren’t comfortable. Just remember… I am here… right here. You can tell me anything, however bad it is.”
“Kajal… you won’t like what you hear… my past is dark. You may even despise me for it, and I wont be able to live with your hatred… so.”
“Krish, we all have pasts, alright? As far as you are concerned, I love you for the man you are right now. You are a man of integrity; you are the epitome of commitment. You are pure-hearted… and that matters to me. I know you care about me, and I am happy with that. I haven’t forgotten the truth of our marriage but I know in my heart that you are a genuine person, KB….”
“…kajal I… I don’t deserve all this. I don’t deserve you in my life.” He rubbed his face looking at the rain from their attached balcony.
“Krish, look at me…” She held his arm and turned him to face her. The distraught look on his face broke her heart. She palmed his face. “…Krish, just listen to me. You don’t know what you mean to me… when I said I love you, I meant every word of it. Something is intriguing about you, and I want to peel of those layers to reach your heart. You’re nothing that the media has portrayed you and I guess I know the reason to keep up a public image. Krish… I can see you are in pain and I only want to share it with you… But if you don’t want to talk about it I understand…”
“…It’s fine Krish… if it hurts to talk about it I understand. Just remember I am here anytime you want to…”
Before she could complete her statement, he hugged her, digging his head into her head breathing heavily. She hugged him back, patting him hoping to reduce his pain. If only he would reveal things to her. In one corner of her heart, she was scared about what he had hidden in his past but knew she loved him too much to let it affect anything.
They stood like that for a while after which they ordered room service. Then, after a heavy brunch, and ni respite in the rain, they sat next to each other in the little balcony enjoying the sprinkling of drops coming they way as it rained cats and dogs.
“Krish… I texted Mr. Mehta that we would start for Mumbai, after the rains subside a bit. Your driver has gone visiting his friends in the nearby village while mine is available. So we can leave together…” she knew she was rambling. “…You wont have to drive… don’t worry…”
“…Ten years ago…” KB interrupted. “…ten years ago I was in a major accident… I …I lost my friends and was the lone survivor. We were drunk to oblivion. That’s why I stay off alcohol, and I can’t… drive.” He spoke in a breath and bent forward, resting his elbows on his knees as he held his face in his palms.
She rubbed his back and felt him shudder. She knew there was a lot more than an accident.
“were their names Gyan and Ruhaan?” She asked.
He suddenly turned and looked up at her. “How… how do you know?”
“You took their names last night…”
There was silence again. “Kajal… it was that time of my life I want to forget. But…it seems my past doesn’t want to let go off me…”
“you mean to say there was something more to that accident?”
“I don’t know anything, Kajal… I was too sloshed… but it’s the period before that… before I came to live with my grandparents. My dad….” He rubbed his face and looked away.
There was a while of silence. She knew he needed time to compose himself.
“Kajal… let’s go inside, please?”
They sat inside on the couch, next to each other but he didn’t say a word. He just interlocked his fingers with her, lost in thought. She sat next to him, trying her best to stay calm, but the storm brewing in her to know more was driving her crazy.
They ordered food and spoke about mundane matters for a while, both aware of the elephant in the room. Finally, it was night and the rains, which had subsided a bit began lashing again. Kajal could see KB getting restless.
He started to pace the area. “Kajal… my father, I recently got to know… he wasn’t what I thought he was. I only thought he was busy and couldn’t give me time… but … he was a monster…” he rubbed his face for the nth time, and Kajal’s heart went out to him.
“…But Kajal I never had any doubt about his nefarious activities…. I swear… I loved him Kajal… he was my father after all. Mom had left us ages ago… He had a stream of women after that, but it never affected my feelings for that man. But now… I know what he was, and I can’t help but hate him…. Kajal, am I a monster too?” he turned towards her, his face stricken.
“Krish, you aren’t. If you were, then I wouldn’t be here with you. So far from it, you are an awesome and a caring human….”
Suddenly there was thunder bombarding the area and the power went off, plunging their room into darkness.
“Wait a moment Kajal… don’t get up. You may hurt yourself.”
She waited as she heard KB scampering and scrouging something in the dark. Before she could ask, there was a flick sound and she heard that music as the room filled with the glow of the lighter’s flame. KB came next to her and held up the ornately carved lighter.
“Krish this lighter…”
“…This is the only souvenir I have left of my dad… I don’t even have a picture since I had to leave the place immediately, and my grandfather saw to it that I had a clean break from my past… as if bonds could break that easily…”
“Krish, this lighter…” Kajal looked into his eyes. “…Did your father… um … I don’t know if I should ask this…”
“What…what is it, Kajal?”
“…I don’t know if it makes sense, but I think I have seen this lighter before…of course, there may be so many having this…”
“…No Kajal… only my dad had this… it was a gift to him from my mom, and she had designed it exclusively for him. For all his flaws, my dad had loved my mom, and he went berserk once she passed…” he suddenly looked back into her eyes. “…But where did you see this?”
“I only saw his hands. He had different rings on four of his fingers, and just below his sleeve, there was…this …” She gestured something.
“…Swatika tattoo?” he completed, and she nodded.
They looked at each other in the light of the lighter as he held it up.
“That means… Kajal…”
“… It was your dad… I saw that day years ago…. Krish, he was talking to my mother… and barely a week later, she disappeared…”
“Your mother…. She hasn’t been found?”
Kajal shook her head as she teared up. “Nothing… my dad passed away too after living a vegetative life for a decade… but he was already dead to the world after aai left us and… he lost it after he got the proof of her so-called infidelity….” She wiped the tears away and continued. “…So you see, Krish, we all have skeletons in our closet.”
He pulled her close to him as she dug his head into his chest. He shut the lighter, darkening the room as they sat next to each other with only the thunder and lightning for company.
“I promise you, Kajal, I shall do everything in my capacity to find out about your mom and also the connection between her and my dad…”
Suddenly Kajal stiffened and moved behind. The lights were restored and she held up her hand, covering her mouth as she gasped.
“What…? What’s wrong Kajal?” A surprised KB asked.
“That accident ten years ago… were you coming from a party?”
She saw the blood drain out of KB’s face. “Ye… yes… it was my birthday party in a club.”
“Was that… accident… at a highway intersection… with the roof ….” She chocked
KB held her shoulders, tightening his grip. “…What… what do you know, Kajal?” His voice was hoarse and his eyes were filled with unshed tears.
“Krish… we have to meet Ganpat Kaka… my father’s subordinate when he was in the police. He said… my father wanted revenge… on your father… they were investigating him. I don’t know details or even if this is all true….It’s such a mess Krish…” she wailed.
“…and…?” KB’s grip on her shoulders tightened.
“…And I think my father… may have spiked your drinks that night….”
Ramanrao Pradhan angrily paced along the huge expanse of his Mumbai Bungalow. He had just arrived a couple of weeks ago after retirement from the force. His wife was now busy in her online work and that’s what he wanted. For what he had in mind he couldn’t have her snooping around.
Everything was working just fine when the news of the copy of the old ledgers being with KB had sprung up. So far KB hadn’t acted up but it wouldn’t be long before he found his dad had been murdered. Ramanrao hadn’t reached this position by leaving loose ends. He had eliminated even a trace of suspicious being and here KB was the living proof of his old nemesis.
KB had already escaped two attempts on his life, and this third one was well planned and foolproof. But that bafoon Rafiq goofed up again. The security agency he had indirectly hired also had their men caught. But the police wouldn’t be able to do anything because the idiots were clueless and transactions were in cash directed through different ponzy accounts. So nothing would be traced back to him.
His phone buzzed. It was Rafiq. It looked like he had a clean escape.
“WHAT…?” He yelled into the speaker.
“Saabji… it was all fine. Just two minutes more and KB would have been dead and washed away….”
“…Then what the hell happened? Why did you fail?”
“Saabji, his wife landed up from nowhere…. It took me by surprise, and she had brought police along, so I had to run…”
“Come back to Mumbai and stay low….”
“Saabji, there is something you have to know.”
“KB’s wife Kajal…”
“…What about her besides the fact that she had a one-up over you?” He was irritated.
“Saabji… she is Kajal Shinde. Manohar Shinde’s daughter…”
WHAT ?? He was stunned to silence. How could this happen?
The call ended, and he paced in the dark confines of the house, and as the grandfather’s clock chimed, he smiled wickedly as a plan formed in his mind. Why didn’t he think of this earlier?
He could kill two birds with a stone. So he decided to call Ganpat the first thing in the morning. His wife would be only too thrilled to hear from her old friend’s daughter. A friend who had ‘run away’ left her family and friend to be with another man and never returned.
What better way to know the enemy than by keeping it close…? He chuckled. Kajal would soon be coming home.