Prachi took a deep breathe to
compose herself. It's been less than an hour since she arrived and she was
already feeling the strain. Desperate for a break she had excused herself and
found refuge in the loo. It was an all-women's group and outwardly all appeared
well. The smiles, the hugs and the casual talks were very properly done and the
more Prachi tried to ease in, the more apprehensive she felt. For, she could
clearly see the underlying sarcasm and the malicious glints in their eyes. Not
everyone was bad. There were a few women she had already met and seemed
friendly enough. But Prachi felt the strain of Shweta's absence. For the first
time, she realised how dependent she was of her family and how low her
confidence level really was. Shweta had been way too careful in accepting
invitations selecting the right and easy group for Prachi's sake and that
afternoon she had the taste of the real elite world. She reapplied her lipstick
and looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes betrayed her nervousness. She
jumped when the door opened and Sally walked in.
Raising her eyebrows at Prachi, Sally
touched her makeup, ignoring Prachi's eyes on her. A small smile played on her
lips as she turned to Prachi, "You are a complete disaster, Prachi. Do you know
that?", she asked sarcastically.
Prachi glared at her, "Thank you, Sally. Trust
you to make me feel worser than I already am", she bit back and glared even
more when Sally laughed. "I thought you were here to help me or have you
forgotten?" she asked her haughtily.
Sally cocked her head to one side, "What do
you want me to do, Prachi? Jump in and fight your battles?" she said with a
smirk and leaned back, her eyes slowly assessing an agitated looking Prachi.
"Don't tell me I didn't warn you, Prachi. But you were too sure of yourself
then. Welcome to the real world. Milind and his family has been treating you
with kid gloves all this time and for once, face the sharks. If you think your
shy, innocent eyes and your cute smiles will help you win them over, then you
are wrong. People are blood-thirsty, my darling. The more you shrink away, the
more they will bite. Till now, I have only seen you make it too easy for them.
Forget about fighting back, you are not even facing them, honey", she said
softly. The girl had looked lost, terrified and had cut such a sorry figure
that for a minute, even Sally had felt sorry for her.
Sighing, Prachi sat down on the
plush looking sofa in the rest room. She knew that Sally was right but didn't
know what to do. "So, you are not going to help me?", she asked dejectedly.
Sally smiled sweetly, "I will but
only if you ask me nicely", she said and laughed as Prachi's eyes shot daggers
at her. She sat down comfortably, "Save those looks for the girls out there,
honey. Now lets get down to business and get this afternoon over and done
with", she said firmly.
Knowing that she can't stay there for long and
have to go back to the dining area, Prachi nodded and listened carefully as
Sally rattled off quick backgrounds about the women they were dining with.
Prachi sighed realising as the most bitchiest were the most important people in
the society and she surely didn't want to lose face.
"It's only that spanish girl who you
should be a little bit careful about. I can't stand her myself. So, I am taking
myself out of that", Sally said firmly.
Prachi frowned, "Yes, and she is a
top model as well. I have never met her before and I don't know why but she was
a bit too ferocious in her attacks. She was not even subtle", she complained.
Sally smiled, "She was the last girl who
Milind dated before jetting off to India and she was left high and dry. Is it
any wonder that she has her claws out today?", she said sarcastically.
Prachi's eyes hardened. Well, that explains
it. She looked at Sally, "So, she has same issues as you", she said equally
sarcastically and immediately wished she hadn't as Sally's face hardened
Sally leaned closer, her voice tight
with anger, "Don't you dare compare me with that girl. Unlike me, she would
have meant nothing to Milind", she bit out.
Prachi held her eyes. Of course,
unlike Sally, none of the other girls Milind had dated would have meant
anything to him. "You are right, Sally. I shouldn't have said that", Prachi
Sally's eyes widened in surprise
before hardening again. "Good", she said and got up immediately. They walked
out together in silence.
Prachi was dying for another coffee
when they left the club. It was almost 5 pm and the afternoon sun was warm.
Such a beautiful afternoon and she had spent it indoors, she sighed. Atleast it
had gone on much better than expected. After her initial silence, Sally had
surprisingly been very helpful. And she had been way too subtle that only
Prachi knew that she was actually covering up for her. Whenever Prachi was at a
loss of words, when she struggled to open a conversation……..and Sally even
covered up Prachi's failed attempt to snub the spanish model. Prachi leaned
back contently in the cool confines of the car and smiled at Sally, thanking
Sally smiled back, "You weren't as
bad as I had expected", she said.
Prachi's smile widened, "So, I was
not a complete disaster then", she asked.
Sally laughed, "Not a complete
disaster, but almost close. And let me warn you that you have made a few
enemies today", she said.
Prachi shrugged, "I honestly don't
give a damn. Those enemies certainly haven't earned my respect. So, who
cares?", she said haughtily.
Sally studied her. She didn't know
whether she was that nave or simply stupid. She smiled softly, "You will learn
to care, Prachi. The Mishra name is your only protection. Even then they can
still hurt you. A lot of women would give anything to be in your place, honey. You
are the new comer here, Prachi…….with no big family name, no money or status of
your own……..a complete misfit. And believe me, sometimes money and family name
are also not enough to protect you from vicious tongues", her voice trailed
Prachi remained silent, knowing
that Sally was very correct. She was a nobody in this circle, if not for her
husband and his family. Looking up at Sally, Prachi felt her heart constrict
suddenly at the far away look in Sally's eyes. Was she talking about herself just now? Who had hurt her and how? What
did they say? Did they talk about her parent's failed marriage? Did they mock
her for her mother's many affairs? Or have they even smirked at her mother's
death? Prachi's eyes searched her face. She had learned bits and pieces
from both Anand and Shweta about Sally's past. Not much but enough to know that
Sally was victimised by both her parents' failed marriage and her mother's
death. "I am sorry about your mother,
Sally", she said softly.
Sally stubbornly stared ahead, "I
still miss her, you know. She was not a bad person, just lost after moving away
from Dad. I still wonder how their marriage could have failed. They loved
eachother so much. Mom did till the day she died and Dad still does. But they
also hurt eachother so much. I think love makes you do a lot of things", she
said almost to herself.
Feeling her throat thicken, Prachi looked
away. Sally still has so much anger, pain and helplessness in her. Is that what
made Sally react so strongly towards her? Prachi wondered silently.
Pulling herself together, Sally brought
the car to a halt and frowned irritatedly. "You wanted a coffee, didn't you? I
need one too. Let's quickly grab one and I will drop you wherever you want to
go. We have spent enough time together", she said.
Suppressing a smile, Prachi got
off. People had opted for outdoors and Starbuck's looked surprising empty.
Grabbing a coffee, they sat at a corner table, looking over the river.
"I will take a walk along the river and I will
get Anna to send me a car, Sally. I don't want to impose on you too much",
Prachi said softly.
Sally nodded curtly and her
fingers drummed impatiently on the table. Her eyes studied the black pearl
bracelet around Prachi's wrist. "That is a beautiful piece of jewellery", she
Prachi's finger traced ther bracelet and she
smiled, "Milind's choice. He bought it for me in Tahiti", she said softly, her
eyes glazing over with memories.
inhaled a sharp breathe, "Don't gloat over it, Prachi", she bit out harshly and
Prachi looked startled.
Oh shit! She blew the truce
herself. She sighed at Sally's blazing eyes.
"Honeymoon days are over, my
darling. Reality is here. Get over those dreamy looks and face it, Prachi. And I
can't believe I am sitting at a coffee shop with you of all people", she said
Prachi rushed to finish her coffee, "I think
we are done for the day, Sally. The truce can only lost so long. I am not going
to push it. Let's go", she said firmly and got up.
Sally walked out in silence. She
stood near her car and looked at Prachi, "I can't say I enjoyed the afternoon,
Prachi. But it wasn't as bad as expected", she said.
Prachi smiled, "On the contrary,
I had a great time, Sally. I think we should do it again", she said sweetly and
struggled to keep herself from laughing out aloud on seeing Sally's angry eyes.
As she turned to walk away,
Sally's voice stopped her, "Milind was in a rotten mood in the meeting
yesterday afternoon, you know. I am sure it would have been a relief for him to
get away atleast for a couple of days", she smirked.
Prachi stiffened. Was he really in a rotten mood? "He had
a lot on his mind……business and problems you know. And he will back by tomorrow
afternoon", she said stiffly.
Back in her safe territory, Sally
leaned on her car casually, "You can't be more wrong, Prachi. First of all, the
business is doing great. No problems at all. Actually, Milind is planning to
get a lot of new ventures underway. The office gossip yesterday was that there
were problems at home…… May be the wife was getting all demanding and nagging……
It wasn't even two months and if he is feeling the pressure already……….and so
on. Secondly, he will not come back tomorrow. The meetings are well under way
and it will keep him busy all day tomorrow and the day after as well. He is a
busy man, honey. He can't be following you around like a lovesick puppy all
day, can he? After all, you are not on your honeymoon anymore? What is it,
Prachi? Are you too whinning…….too nagging? Or can you not keep him interested
anymore? Is he bored already?", she asked way too mockingly and Prachi turned
She took a deep breathe trying
to compose herself. After the relaxed time they had spent together, Sally's
comeback was vicious and Prachi reeled, especially after the misunderstanding She
and Milind had yesterday fresh in her mind. "You can't be more wrong either,
Sally. Everything is as good as it was before", she said softly and excusing
herself, turned away.
Smiling in victory, Sally called
cheerfully, "See you at Micky's party, Prachi. Milind should be back that day.
And you did insist that we should spend some time together again, didn't you?
We can catch up that evening. Take care till then, honey", she said sweetly and
Lost in thoughts, Prachi walked
slowly and sat on a bench. Only Sally could have spoiled such a good afternoon.
They had almost seemed comfortable with eachother when just one word about
Milind tipped her off. Prachi sighed. Was
there really such gossip in his office or was Sally just making trouble? Was
she being demanding and nagging? Oh stop it!!! She chided herself. No, she
was not nagging. "Or can you not keep him
interested anymore? Is he bored already" Sally's mocking voice came back to
her and reminded her again of the day before. How angry he had been when she
asked him that and rightfully so. She just didn't know what she was saying. Was he still angry with her? He did say
he was not over the phone last night. Did
he just say it to make her feel better?
A sudden laughter broke her
thoughts and she turned to see a young couple behind her kissing. A sudden
longing rocked her to the core. Oh god, she missed him! Last night was torture
enough……..alone in their bed. Their first night away from eachother since they
got married. Another night to endure and if Sally was right, two more
nights……..oh no, it is going to kill her. She swallowed a sob. She was so used
to going to sleep in his arms…….resting her head on his chest, hearing the
steady beat of his heart, the soft rise and fall of his rhythmic breathing,
feeling safe and protected in his embrace. Last night, the luxury of the silk
sheets, the beauty of the room did not even register in her mind and both her
body and mind longed for his warmth. She hugged her arms around her body. She
felt cold suddenly. She quickly called Anna to send a car to collect her. There
would be no one at home today. Even Shweta was away along with Shreya. She
would be all alone in the big house, apart from the servants. Of course, it was
very well guarded but that was not of any comfort to her. All she wanted was
him by her side.
Milind looked out of window in his
hotel room. The view was as breathtaking as always. The lit up Eiffel tower and
glistening dome of Les Invalides added to the charm of the night. Prachi would
have loved to see Paris. He thought with a smile. He would bring her soon. It
was almost 11 pm and dinner was again full of business talks. Vicky was in the
bar with a few other men and Milind had just excused himself. The meetings were
going on fine but it meant that he has to stay on for a day longer. He hadn't
told Prachi yet. She had sounded so upset yesterday and he didn't know how to
tell her that he would be away for two more days. It wasn't easy for him. It
was the first time they were away from eachother and he missed her immensely.
He wanted to tell her so much after yesterday's little argument and he hadn't
had the chance or the time. If she had reacted badly, he hadn't handled things very
well either. He knew how shy she can be and still is and his enthusiasm at the
lingerie shop was sure to undo her and it had. But then the whole week had been
so busy and he hadn't even kissed her properly for days. All that hadn't helped
and his mind was too occupied with his little fantasies that he hadn't even
noted her discomfort. How was she coping without him? He knew that she would be
all alone at home tonight and her first time as well. His mom had been really
worried but then she didn't have a choice either. His Dad was also with him but
atleast he was going back to London tomorrow. Was she missing him as much as he
did? Of course, she would have. He thought to himself longingly. That's why he
had sent her a little something to cheer her up. She should have received it by
now. He looked at the phone waiting for it to ring.
Prachi took a relaxed hot shower,
missing him even more. Nothing was helping. She had called her parents and
Neev, spoke to her friends, chatted with Anna and Eva, had dinner watching TV
and still time was moving so slowly. She stood in the walk-in wardrobe, looking
at the clothes she had bought the day before. Should she wear any of those tonight? But who for? She pouted
sadly. After all the fuss she put up yesterday, now she couldn't wait to wear
it for him. She bit her lip shyly. Two nights away from him and it had turned
her wanton. She shook her mind to clear her thoughts and ran her hand though
his wardrobe, relishing the feel of his clothes. The faint smell of his cologne
still lingered in the air. She sighed and stopped at his t-shirts. With a shy
smile, she pulled one over her head. She pulled the sleeves up and looked at
herself in the mirror and giggled. She looked like a child dressing up. His t-shirt
was too big for her and she hugged it closer around her feeling a sudden
warmth. The intercom buzzed and frowning at the sudden interruption, she
answered it irrtiatedly. Her face broke into a smile, pulling a robe on her
quickly, she rushed to the door and gasped in surprise as Eva handed the huge
bouquet of flowers and a fluffy brown teddy bear, wearing a small heart shapped
note around his neck. Thanking her, she rushed back to her bedroom and
impatiently peeled the note from the bear's neck. It was a typed note from
"Sending him as my replacement. Trusting him
to keep you warm" It said.
The huge bouquet of red roses had a miss you
note on it. Her eyes filled up and she hugged the bear closer and buried her
face in the fur.
Milind picked up his phone on the
first ring. "I need my own teddy bear. Nothing can replace him", said a soft
voice and he smile.
"Not warm enough?" he asked huskily.
"No, not cuddly enough either and
he feels too soft", she complained again. "I want my own……..I want you", she
said way too softly.
Milind drew a harsh breathe in. "I
miss you too, sweetheart. The cushions are not warm enough either", he said
Prachi sighed, "Why did you spoil
me so much? Now I can't even go to sleep without you", she complained.
Milind laughed, "Just two more
nights, sweetheart. Sorry I have to stay a bit longer. But I will spoil you
even more when I come back. But I can't promise to let you go to sleep. On the
contrary, you might lose an entire night's sleep", he said softly.
"I can't wait", Prachi said softly, surprised
at her own boldness. Equally surprised, Milind groaned her name. "Milind, you
are not angry with me, are you?" she asked softly.
Milind sighed, "No, darling. Trust
me. It was my fault too", he said.
"No, Milind. It was not", she said
quickly. Ingoring his protest, she continued, "You know, I was waiting for you
last night, dressed in what you wanted to see me in. But you never came", she
Milind closed his eyes, "Prachi,
you don't have to do anything you didn't want to", he reassured softly.
"But I wanted to. And I want you
to see me now. Do you know what I am wearing?" she asked softly, realising it
was easier to tell him all that over the phone.
Milind shook his head as if trying
to clear the images his mind was conjuring up and sighed.
"Your t-shirt is too big for me", Prachi
Milind groaned out aloud, "What
colour?" his voice was way too husky.
"Red,… the colour you like against
my skin", she purred in a seductive voice.
Milind almost swore under his
breathe. "If you keep talking like this, I will fly back home straight away",
he raked his fingers through his hair.
"What is keeping you then, Milind
Mishra?", she asked flirtatiously.
"Prachiiiiii, don't do this to me?"
his voice was hoarse.
"Come home soon, Milind", her voice
Milind lay back on his bed, "I will,
sweetheart. Very soon. Just wait for me", he promised softly.
They spoke for a long time. She told him about
her day and if he was surprised to hear that she went with Sally, he didn't say
anything. Half sleepy, they whispered sweet nothings to eachother and with a
contented sigh, Milind hung up. Sleep came to him easily, falling into sensual
Prachi buried her face in the soft
fur of the bear. How easy it was to say all that to him! How easy it would be
to do it all for him! Why had she held back for so long! She chided herself.
Two more nights……..and she will make up for everything in her own way. She
promised herself shyly and slowly fell asleep.