The next morning Preeti woke up to a buzzing sound, pain and exhaustion. But she was held protectively against his chest. The last she remembered, she was crying and had drifted to sleep in his warmth surrounding her. He stirred and shifted slowly to avoid hurting her. His phone was ringing in the vibrator mode. He moved towards the end of his side and picked the phone from the nightstand. He cursed as he saw the caller ID. He looked at her and rushed to the washroom to answer the call.
Why did he want to hide from her? Who was it? The way he looked at her she knew the call had something to do with her. Was it about the shooting? But why was she shot? She didn’t know anyone here? She didn’t even know why she had come here in the first place. Suddenly she was alert. There was something about that shot… she had heard that sound…it was familiar. What was that?
The door to the washroom opened and Gautam stepped out. He rubbed his hand over his face. He walked to her bed side and helped her stand. She slowly removed his hand supporting her better arm. “Um…I am fine… I can walk and use the washroom on my own…”
She shuffled towards the washroom. Finishing her chore was difficult with only the use of her non dominant hand. Somehow she managed and wrapped the robe tightly around her as she walked outside, into the room. She heard him ordering breakfast. She was wondering how she could take a bath. It was as if Gautam had a direct telepathy with her… he walked towards her with two bath towels and handing them to her he said, “I shall fill a bucket of hot water for you and have asked for a plastic chair that will be arriving shortly. You can sit on it and take a quick bath. I have…er… ordered a robe as well. I will… customise it for you once the doctor visits. Alright?”
She nodded and watched him make the arrangements. The chair also arrived and he placed it in the bathroom next to the bucket. He kept a stool on which he placed the body wash. He looked at her his expressions asking if she needed help. She nodded her thanks and went inside the washroom locking the door from inside. She took a while to clean and felt much better. She dried herself but couldn’t wrap the towels. She had to take his help. Suddenly embarrassed she unlocked the door and peeped out. He was there in an instant. She walked out just holding the towel in her better hand. She handed the towel to him and looked down turning red and she turned her back towards him. She was surprised at her show of modesty now when she had shamelessly surrendered to him just couple of days ago…
She felt him come close and place a robe on her. He then turned her around and slid another part of the robe under her sling and diagonally tied it to the part on her shoulder. She saw he had cut off some part of the right side. He had got her a pair of new panties. He sat on his haunches before her and held it. She put her feet through and he slid it up in place. Next came a black cotton long skirt. Which he helped her into. Finally taking a stole he covered her exposed shoulder as well. She wondered from where he procured the clothes. But knowing him she didn’t have to ask. He was very resourceful.
They had their breakfast comprising of parathas and he insisted she have milk before taking her medication. Soon the doctor arrived as well. Unlike yesterday she didn’t have any issues before him. He checked the wound dressing it again. He said she was free to travel back home but had to rest for a couple of days and follow orders of the local doctor. She agreed and Gautam walked the doctor to the door thanking him. He turned towards her rubbing his hand down his face …for the umpteenth time. What had got him so tied up in knots?
“Preeti…uh… I have to make a couple of phone calls… will you be alright for a few minutes alone? I will be right outside in the corridor…”
She wanted to shout out to him… that she wouldn’t be disturbed…he was free to make his calls inside where she could see him…
He didn’t wait for her reply. He gave her phone and left the room.
She had to talk to Tanveer Raisingh. She switched on her phone and saw a stream of incoming messages. Almost all were from the inspector. She didn’t want anyone to know about them so immediately selected all of them and deleted from her phone. She place the call. He answered on the first ring.
“Ms. Sengar… are you OK?”
“Besides the fact that I was shot at and have no clue why …. I am alright…” she hated sounding sarcastic but that was just her mood now…
“We heard about the shooting. The local police has been trying to find out the person but he seems to have escaped in mid air…”
“Sir… I was there to sign some documents… I don’t know what it held”
“That was a transfer deed… Of the Gagorn fort…. In the name of your …husband Ms. Sengar.”
She was shocked and couldn’t utter a word.
“Ms. Sengar…are you there…?”
“…Um…Yes sir… but why MY signature is needed?”
“Because of the law of the land that applies to Jhalawar district heritage structures. Gagorn fort is one of them.”
“…ok… but where do I come in the picture?”
“Ms. Sengar… do you know about your family history? I mean about the Sengar family history?”
“um…No…I don’t think so.”
“It’s a long story Ms. Sengar. But to cut it short, there was a pact made about half a century ago with the land owners who happen to be ancestor of the existing Sengar Rajput community in Bhopal. That’s where you guys are from. There was some feud for generations between Sengars , Rathores and some other communities of Bhopal before they settled in Rajasthan and it ended with a pact which stated that the Gagorn fort and the land around it belongs to the Sengar family of a particular lineage. On completion of fifty years it will automatically be bequeathed to the first daughter of the family who is unmarried and under thirty years of age. A few months back the fifty years were up. So that fort is now automatically in your name since your family is of the lineage….”
It was too much to process.
“But sir, I am married isn’t it?”
“Your marriage certificate is not registered as yet. And you have the right to transfer it to to your husband and he can do what he seems fit… I think Ms. Sengar this was the marriage clause. Rewa chose to run away from it. She had a registered marriage a couple of months ago…”
“Yes Ms. Sengar we just found out yesterday. The crowd there was the local tribe who were protesting against the transfer of the land to Vikram Singh.”
Preeti’s head was reeling from information overload.
“Ms. Sengar, I know you are married to Gautam… Everything is a mystery. But be careful and take care. Call me if there is anything you have to tell us or need help with…”
She disconnected the call… so this was the reason he had wanted to marry Rewa and then her? For a mere fort? That’s why the interest in Sengar family? All that care and concern was a show? Of course, she thought and tears streamed down her face. He wanted her signatures as fast as possible. So she was a backup? Did Gautam always know about the fort history? So her feelings for him were indeed one sided?
Was that the reason for his Jekyll and Hyde personality….In one moment he cared for her as if she meant the world to him. Next moment he shunned her off. He was closed up to her… She knew nothing about him…
She kept the phone aside as her head was throbbing and rested back on the headboard. Would Gautam not want her anymore after the signatures? Was that show of passion… all that happened till some time ago a charade?
Her heart refused to believe her head.
She must have slept off and was woken up with a pat on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to see Gautam looking at her with a worried look. “Are you OK to travel? I had called Bhim Singh early today morning. The driver come security. He will be reaching in sometime. We can leave immediately.” She only stared at him trying to read his handsome rugged face which now had a couple of days old stubble that she longed to touch. She looked away blinking back tears.
He sat next to her on the bed. “Hey… are you alright? Is this hurting you? Do you want painkillers?” he asked her in the soft tone pointing towards her sling. His baritone threatened to melt her insides. She shook her head and got off the bed to use the washroom once more before leaving.
Soon they left Kota in the SUV driven by Bhim Singh. She sat with Gautam right behind. The journey was back breaking considering her condition. Her hand and head both ready to blow off. Gautam urged her to come closer to him and rest. Though she didn’t want to, she knew she had to recover soon and for that she had to avoid the excitement. She gave in to his pull and rested her head on his chest on her left side. He held her close to him taking care not to hurt her hand. She soon dozed off. The pain medicines were making her sleep more.They took a brief break for lunch and reached Bhiwadi by evening. He helped her dazed body to her room and tucked her in since she didn’t want any dinner. He said he would return later with a glass of warm milk to give her medicines. She watched him leave her room shutting the door behind him and she burst into tears. The emotions she had been trying to hold up in her heart began to flow.
In the last few days her life had been unravelled in a way she couldn’t ever imagine.
Her sister apologised to her for something she didn’t know, she was forced in a way…to stay married for six months to a man she loved more than anything. And now she found out the clause because of which the marriage happened in the first place. Not to mention someone shot her for just being there….
She drifted off to sleep again remembering Gautam’s words on her first day back in Bhiwadi…
‘…Everything here is a charade…’
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