KB had just changed into his track pants and a loose striped sleeveless t-shirt. The latter reminded him of the moment shared with Kajal in the vanity van. He rubbed his face… he had let his feelings and emotions get the better of him.
He didn’t know what got over him. Whether it was the engagement blues or the innocent smile on her round face or the beautiful, expressive eyes as she laughed at his funny anecdotes or her imaginative play on the board game… he couldn’t point his finger yet, but he had lost control, and when Kajal had melted in his arms he was a goner. He would do anything to relive that moment. From the go, he knew she was a virgin. It had taken all his self-control to stop what they had going back in that bedroom.
Later in the evening, she had been a pro before the photographers. He had drowned in her excitement and her beauty further enhanced by the saree as if it was designed for her. He had been sept away in the intoxicating aura emitted by Kajal, and nothing mattered. He had put on a show before the photographers, which he could do in his sleep, but in reality, he was enamored by the beautiful Kajal, who was now his fiancé.
And then that asshole had asked him a question about Hetal, and it was like someone had poured a bucket of ice water on his head. Everything had been ruined. In the flow of things, he had forgotten about Hetal and his ‘arrangement’ with her. He had forgotten his vow to himself… Kajal did that to him. She made him forget everything obnoxious or painful and made him want to live his life.
He had blocked her out almost immediately, and the poor woman must have been confused by his fire and ice attitude.
The doorbell rang, startling him out of his reverie. He knew who it was if his constantly buzzing phone was of any indication. He had been avoiding Hetal ever since he had come back after dropping Kajal at her place. He had wanted nothing more than to hug Kajal goodbye and kiss her before the world marking her as his…
He walked to the door and unlocked the alarm. Hetal barged in like a mad cat, huffing and panting with hands on her hips.
“Goddamn it… Goddammn it all… bloody hell, you are engaged? What the fuck is going on, KB?” she screamed, her high pitch screech echoing through the house.
“Calm down, Hetal…”
“The fuck I will calm down… what did you do, KB? And why?”
“Don’t… cross your boundaries, Hetal…” KB warned.
“Boundaries? Fuck the boundaries. So, you mean, what we shared was only me?”
“It isn’t like that…” he had a splitting headache and not to mention the ache in his heart.
“…cut the crap KB. We had such a great arrangement. I broke up with Rugved, and now all you have to say to me is ‘calm down’?” Hetal was panting in anger.
“Hetal, you wouldn’t have lasted with Rugved anyways. What we shared was mutual, and I agree I should have broken up officially with you before the engagement…”
“…Broken-fucking-up? You talk as if we were a couple romantically involved. I had been clear I only wanted a no-strings relationship… You seemed to be fine, and it was all going great… an open relationship where we were free to date and sleep with whomever we wanted but eventually had each other’s backs. Now that you have messed this up, my parents will pressure me to marry some nerd they choose for me….not to mention the huge embarrassment before the press. You are so damn selfish KB…”
“Hetal, just hear me out, OK?” A sudden brainwave hit him.
He spoke to Hetal, explaining the reason for his sudden engagement and upcoming marriage. He then proceeded to tell her his plan and her role in the same.
“What the hell KB, do you think she is an idiot?”
“Hetal, I don’t have a choice. This is a win-win situation for both of us. As you see, I can’t ruin her life…”
“Don’t you think by marrying you and agreeing to the contract, she is ruining it on her own?” Hetal stood with hands on her hips.
“She has her reasons, and I don’t want to be an obstruction for her in reaching her goals…” he rubbed his face for the nth time.
“Goddammit KB, had you not helped me out during my rock-bottom, I would have kicked your ass before the world. I am so angry though… you put me in a soup… big soup.”
“Nothing changes, Hetal…” he said softly, his head was now pounding with rising intensity.
“Of course, it does, just… just look at you, man… you are a mess. Do you think you can retain your sanity in this year?”
“I will need your help, Hetal and under no circumstances should Kajal ever know the truth…”
“…You love her, don’t you…?”
At that moment, he could only hear the wall clock ticking away to glory in its rhythmic manner as if it had no care in the world. But, of course, time waited for no one.
“There is nothing of the sorts, Hetal… it’s just a contract marriage.”
“Don’t fool yourself KB. The last two times we met up for sex, you just couldn’t get it up, and now I know why… but then how long can you keep up the façade? I have my options outside. But what about you? I know you have a huuugee appetite… Will you only resort to that room upstairs?”
“I will cross the bridge when I come to it… but our arrangement continues in name…” he wanted to drug himself to sleep away from the mess he called life.
“KB… I know it’s not my place to tell you, and I would want it for my selfish motives, but still, don’t do this to yourself… It’s ten years already…”
“Hetal don’t…you won’t understand…”
“Come on KB… you know how I felt about Ruhaan… he was the only guy I ever loved. You are aware we were childhood sweethearts. He ruined me for everyone else… I do cry for him once in a while, but he isn’t going to come back. Neither will Gyan. I wonder if I didn’t have a fever that night, I would be gone as well. But we are here… living. So let the past go KB…Officially declare we are done and set me up with some actor colleague of yours who is ready for my terms…”
“…No, Hetal… we need to continue this for a year at least… please…”
“Fine …. Fine… OK… so when is the wedding? And when do I come in?”
The following morning, he woke up with a mother of all headaches. He couldn’t sleep that night. The nightmares had diligently kept their date with him. His friends’ gore-filled black and white headless visuals haunted him as if blaming him for enjoying life while permanently depriving them. After hitting the gym, he had sat to look through his scripts that Mr. Mehta and his team had worked around and filtered.
But every time he tried to read, he had only seen Kajal, and her infectious laughter played into his ears. Finally, he shut the unread first page he had held open for the last half an hour and picked up his phone. He had almost called her at least ten times. What would he say? That he was a screwed-up guy and was screwing up her life as well? That she was marrying a ruthless monster? A murderer?
Even after a couple of hours of not being able to do anything constructive, he gave up. From tomorrow he had an outdoor shoot for the next week, following which he had back-to-back shoots for a couple of ads, and then he had taken a break for his ‘marriage’. So that left him only with today where he could see Kajal.
He picked up the car key and texted her. He didn’t even bother to wait for her response and rushed out of the house.
Kajal stood outside Sharanya productions waiting for an auto. She had to rush home and get to her studies. With a newfound goal in life, she could finally move ahead.
Right then, she received a text. Her heart skipped a beat to see it was from KB.
‘Come to Passions immediately. Here’s the address…’
What the hell was this? Though she was excited at the prospects of meeting him, her conflicted brain refused to give in. He was switched off last evening and all of a sudden he now wanted to see her. She knew the restaurant. It was close to where she was. But how could he just order her around like that? She had to make it clear to him; she had her studies. She would just meet him for a while and leave… yes, that she could do.
Nodding, she looked for an auto to take her to the restaurant.
Kajal reached Passions within twenty minutes given the light traffic, but KB hadn’t come as yet. She didn’t want to order anything given the exorbitant rates, and revealing that she was KB’s fiancé would call for unwanted attention. So she waited outside, covering her face with a stole and sunglasses. But for almost half an hour, KB didn’t turn up. She had texted him she had reached, but he hadn’t seen the message as yet. Was he driving so he couldn’t check his phone? Of course, but he usually had a driver. Did he forget his phone back home? No… his phone was his life.
She decided to call him. His phone rang for a while, and finally, he answered with a whisper and cracked voice.
“Hello KB…? Where are you? I have been waiting here…”
“Ka… Kajal… I … I …. Can’t….” there was a disturbance as if there was traffic around. She got worried.
“hello? KB? What’s happening? I can’t hear you…”
Her heart fell, and she was now worried. Something was wrong.
“Ok…KB, tell me where you are… I will come there…”
“Right across that lane… high… highway…” the call abruptly disconnected.
He would have been on his way here, which meant the opposite side of the highway. She hailed an auto, and as it stuttered through the empty afternoon highway, the heat hitting her hard, she struggled to check the road in the opposite direction. Then, somewhere between the rushing vehicles that side, she spotted him… next to his familiar white car. He was bent over the bonnet…
She stopped the auto, and it took her another five minutes to cross the highway, the other half being busy. The zebra crossing was a little away from where he was, and no wonder no one recognized him in the daily rush. He was in casuals…
She rushed towards him. “KB…KB…” She screamed as she struggled to sprint in her heels. What was wrong with him?
He looked up and started running towards her… what on earth?
They met somewhere in between, and he slammed his body into hers as he pulled her into an embrace. Then, holding her close, he dug his head into her hair. She felt him shudder in her arms and reflexively began to rub his back.
“KB… it’s fine… whatever it is… it’s going to be alright.” She was trying to be strong, but at that moment, standing on the side of a busy highway under the hot scalding sun, she was terrified. Was he ok?
She felt him relax and release his hold on her and move away. He rubbed his face, and at that juncture, he looked like a small kid lost in the forest without his guardian. He gripped her hand.
“Let’s… let’s take a cab back to my house… can you come along, please? I… I… will drop you back later…” he looked at her with eyes full of expectation shining in their depths. How could she refuse? She realized she had missed him. She only nodded, and he was already pulling her towards the car to lock it. He then called for a cab which arrived in about ten minutes. Even as it cruised towards his house, his grip on her hand remained while he stared outside the passenger window watching the zooming scenery.
She sighed… a mixed bag of emotions engulfing her. She was thrilled to be going to his house… the place where she would be staying for a year. Yet, she knew something was troubling him… would she ever know what it was?
The gamut of his emotions surpassing the stormy upheaval
Her rock-solid support beneath his rocky foundation gets critical