CHAPTER THIRTY: LIFE'S SURPRISES
His eyes bored into her head. They were sharp eyes, demanding answers. She moved back in shock. She’d never seen him this angry before. His eyes were hard and unflinching, they were focused on her and with every second, they were becoming more intense, till the blue of his eyes became a cold, hard gray. His lips were tight and he was taking steps towards her.
“Charles?” she murmured, uncomprehendingly. That did not seem to have any effect on him. He continued advancing on her, his eyes focused on her, accusing her.
“What have I done? Why are you angry with me?” she asked suddenly. Still no answer but he stopped and the guilt he was inflicting on her was enormous. His lips trembled lightly when he finally spoke.
“Why?” was all he said. With that, he thrust a brown packet into her hands and moved past her into the bedroom.
With shaking hands, she undid it carefully and brought out a photograph and a letter. She recognized it immediately. It was the letter she’d almost sent and there was a photograph of him and her with their arms on each other’s shoulders, staring into each other’s eyes with a bright smile on their lips. He was looking down at her and their expressions said it all. They were a couple in love. And though she knew the letter word by word, still, she was overpowered with an impulse to read it. She unfolded it and gazed at her own handwriting.
Dear Rahul, (it said)
This will be the last letter I write to you. I don’t know how to continue after I’ve told you this. It is true, Rahul, that for a while I thought you were a lot more than just a friend. You too displayed interest in me at the time. I had some beautiful times with you Rahul. I love writing and saying your name as much as I did back then. I remember how you used to make me laugh and have a good time and just be happy when I was with you. I remember the way you spoke to me when you finally told me about your feelings towards me. I will admit, Rahul, that you completely swayed me. I was standing there looking into your light brown eyes and all the world simply melted. I loved you Rahul and a part of me will continue to do so but not just as a lover, I will love you as something more. You are my friend and that no one can ever take away. Rahul, I dearly hope that this does not pain you too much. I wasn’t good enough for you. There are lots of things that happened suddenly. I only wanted to accept your love because my own wouldn’t accept me at the time and yes, I considered a relationship with you but now I can see that it would have been nothing more than a passing thing. I was infatuated by you, Rahul and I am sorry if I led you on. I was spiteful and mean and only wanted to be with you because I wasn’t being treated well by my own love. But now, I am going to be married to the man I truly love. I know this comes as a shock to you but you would surely have heard rumours about everything. If not, I am truly sorry. I did not tell you straightaway that I wasn’t completely in love with you because the best part of my heart belonged to someone else. I despised everyone who wrote ‘a dear John’ letter and this is what it has come today. Today, I too am writing one and of all the people, to one whom I would lastly send it to, I hope it didn’t have to come to this Rahul. I am really and truly sorry and understand if you never want to have to do anything with me today. What I did was despicable, in my opinion, at least. To give false hope, to love just because there wasn’t any other person to love is all very wrong and I have done it. I am very much in your debt if you choose to be a gentleman and forgive me for it but it will make you no less if you choose not to. I am sorry again, my dear Rahul, and hope that sometime in the future you will forgive me and find love again.
She clutched the letter with tears to her heart and then the guilt in her chest seemed to wrack her as she put her hand inside the parcel again to take a newer letter. The one she’d written after two months of marriage. The one she’d almost sent.
I lied when I told you my last letter was the last letter. I am not that strong. If you have despised me so far, you will have more reason to after you read what I have to say. Rahul, I love you. You are my one true love. I have never loved any other. The person whom I just married is old enough to be my father and treats me like one. I am pathetic, I know, Rahul. I should have had sense, I should have seen what I had towards him was nothing more than a fixation caused by some unhealthy events in my past. On my wedding day, I woke up to the realization that I’d doomed myself. My own husband of forty two doesn’t love me, he doesn’t even like me. He treats me with contempt and disregard. He thinks I am an emotional wreck so I cannot even cry when he is around. He has absolutely no feelings for me except a mingled pity and scorn. This whole marriage is a disaster, a failure and nothing more. He will grow to hate me every day. This letter begs you to show compassion, if you can spare any for a person like me. Rahul, I love you. I cannot say anymore. I feel stifled here. I am no longer the same person. If you still feel anything for me, do please save me. Yes, save me, Rahul. I can’t take this sinking realization anymore. I have humiliated myself in front of everyone I know. I have destroyed the peace of my parents, destroyed my career and my studies and lastly, I have destroyed my one true love. The love I had for you. Rahul, I beg you to talk sense into me before I go mad with this realization. You were once everything to me. My day began and ended with you. If you still think of the times we’ve shared together like I still did, please find it in your heart to forgive me and come back, my dearest.
That ache in her chest had made it pound so fast that now it had gone completely cold. She felt as cold as the fingers clutching her letters. Her heart was sinking. The tears in her eyes wouldn’t fall, they were burning into her. Memories seared her and she realized everything in an instant. Though she’d definitely broken up with one man in a letter, a piece of her had kept some memories behind. She remembered how she’d tenderly put this photograph into this very parcel. She remembered sending the first letter and then receiving it back by post without any reply at all. She remembered adding another memory to the parcel and then the letter she’d almost sent and kept back. Now, she remembered where it had been. She remembered pressing them down between the leaves of some book and just that morning, she remembered him searching through the shelves and taking some books to read in his college. Everything had fallen into place but everything had been shattered. She dreaded the sight of him. She remained where she was, frozen and breathing hard for almost two hours. She saw the lights go out in the neighbouring houses. Heard the quiet that night brought at last. And in the corner, she leaned against the wall thinking about everything that had gone wrong.
“Go to bed” said a voice behind her and she knew it was him. She turned around slowly, her eyes flooding with tears. They blurred as soon as they met his and she broke down there, on the floor, with her face on her knees and soon she felt steady fingers stealing over her shoulders and firmly lifting her up to a sitting position.
“It is much too late to discuss anything. I over reacted. The shock was too much for me. The thing is my fault, I should have handled it better. Now, you’ll listen to me and you’ll go to bed” he told her firmly and certain lines impressed themselves on her memory. “The person whom I just married is old enough to be my father and treats me like one.” But just this second, she was grateful for it and trembling all over and supported by his firm hands, she was led into the bedroom. He let her lie down, watching her carefully and then, slowly, conscious not to frighten her, he came nearer, nearer till he did what she did not expect. He leaned down and brushed his lips gently against her forehead in a kiss.
“Good night Jennifer” he said and left the room.