Hello everyone, sorry for the long silence. My health has taken a big step back and I am dealing with a lot of things right now. I was just unable to write anything. Hope this phase will pass over soon. Fingers crossed. My updates may be as frequent as it used to be. So, please bear with me. I am updating two parts now trying to make up for the long delay. Cheers.
Part 97 A
laughter filled the dining room, the whole ambience relaxed and the food excellent.
Even in her state of mind, Prachi couldn't help appreciating it though she had
no apetite. The conversation centred on Vicky and his return to India and Shreya
fussed over him ignoring his protests. Prachi looked at Milind seated next to
her from the corner of her eyes. Earlier in Vicky's room, he hadn't questioned either
her or Vicky regarding her obvious distress but swiftly got on with the
packing. Prachi had stood their watching him nervously but soon relaxed
realising that he wasn't going to ask them anything. They were soon interrupted
by Shweta and Shreya and there was no time for anything at all after that. Now
he sat there, picking at his food but politely joining in the conversation. She
could feel the tension in him. Her mind replayed Vicky's words over and over.
He had told her not to judge Milind without giving him a chance to explain. But
was she really ready to ask him for an explanation? She sighed and pushed her
plate away and murmured an apology for her lack of apetite. She reached for her
glass of water and stilled when her hand brushed Milind's. She looked up
meeting his unreadable eyes and with a muttered apology, he moved away. She
closed her eyes and took a deep breathe to compose herself. Catching Vicky's
eye, she managed a small smile.
laughed as he clicked away last minute photographs of his family. Anything to
keep his mother smiling, he thought fondly. She had looked so distressed and
teary eyed that he had felt guilty about leaving home. He put his arm around
her, "Come on, Mom, Don't look so upset. You will be coming to India in a
couple of months anyway and I will keep visiting frequently", he said.
sniffed, "How would you know what it is like when you are not at home?" she
said. Vicky sighed feeling guiltier than before.
his shoulder, "Milind and Prachi would be leaving in a few weeks as well. It is
going to be so quiet without you all", she said, looking dangerously close to
handling his crying mom alone would be hardwork and now his Mausi too! He put
his other arm around her, "Don't worry, Mausi. You both are going to be so busy
planning my engagement and wedding that the next year will be gone in a jiffy.
I want it to be even bigger than Milind's", he winked at her and relaxed as the
two women smiled.
smacked his head, "You don't have to tell us, Vicky. We will manage all that.
Now, after you get back to Chennai, get some work done as well apart from
spending time with Pooja", she smiled.
Vicky grinned sheepishly. Of course, he will
get some work done as well…….when he can.
Shweta laughed at his expression and ruffled
his hair. "I have seen that look in Milind's eyes, Vicky. Go on and have fun.
And give my love to Pooja", she kissed his forehead and his smile grew wider.
looked at his Uncle thoughtfully. Seated in Anand's office, it was hard to
believe that he should be at the airport within the next hour. He had been
whisked from the emotional family atmosphere to business talks behind Anand's
closed office doors in a matter of minutes. Shreya's loud compliants were
easily ignored by his Dad and Uncle when they decide to make the detour via
their office. Milind too had looked displeased but agreed to meet them at the
airport. Vicky nodded in response to Anand's questioning gaze. "I like the
idea, Uncle but both Dad and Milind seem to be unimpressed. Are you sure you
want me to work on it?" he asked with misgivings. That seemed to be good
business venture but if Milind had shown disinterest…….
smiled, "No pressure, Son. Think it over. Rakesh and Milind didn't dismiss it
outright. I think Milind sees no challenge in it. But sometimes, it is good to
get involved in a neat and uncomplicated project", he said.
Rakesh nodded, "No one will be overriding the
other's decision, Vicky. This is business. We won't stop you if you want to go
ahead with it as Anand also approves", he added.
nodded again. "Alright, Dad, give me a couple of weeks, Uncle. For now, I am
okay with it. If anything changes, I will let you know" he said and got up.
getting late and the last thing he wanted was his mother and mausi complaining
about his carelessness. As Anand and Rakesh continued their discussion,
reminding them to meet him near their car, Vicky walked out. He stopped to chat
with a few of the staff on his way and his footsteps slowed as he neared
Sally's cabin. She was in the middle of a meeting when he had arrived. Had she
finished? Wondering to himself, he peered through the half open door. Seeing
her busy in conversation over the phone, he walked in and leaned against the
wound up the call with a promise to discuss the business over lunch tomorrow.
She turned and her jaw dropped seeing a smiling Vicky. "What the hell are you
doing here? I was going to call you shortly and wish you a happy journey. Have
you changed your mind about leaving?" she asked with disbelief.
grinned and walked towards her, "Yeah, My heart was breaking over the thought
of leaving you, my darling", he said naughtily and winked at her.
eyebrows rose higher, "What a nerve, Mehra! The first thing I will do after you
leave is to get on the phone to Pooja and tell all", she threatened.
smirked, "That smug look on your face tells a different story", he teased.
Seeing her glare at him, he stepped back, "Alright, I was dragged to the office
by dad and uncle enroute to the airport and didn't want to miss the chance to
say proper goodbye", he said softly.
eyes softened, "I am glad you did, Vicky. It was just like old times being with
you all. I am going to miss you", she said.
Vicky opened his arms, "Same here, Sal. Now
come here and give me a proper hug", and engulfed her in a bear hug. Holding
her close, he remembered the look on her face at Milind's wedding. What a fool
he had been to not have understood! "Oh Sal, I wish I would never have to
choose between friendship and family", he murmured almost to himself.
Moving away, Sally looked at him curiously.
"What do you mean, Vicky?" she asked.
shook his head and smiled, "Nothing, Sal. Tell me, is your idiot boyfriend back
in his senses?" he asked.
rolled her eyes, "He has called me five times in the last two hours and I am
fed up of telling him that he is forgiven. He is too scared to call Prachi but
I am sure he will do it sometime today", she said. When Vicky didn't answer,
she asked again, "How is Prachi, by the way? She looked very upset last night".
looked at her, "I am glad to see that you are worried about her. She cares for
you too, you know. It's weird but then WOMEN……..I have given up trying to
understand them a long time ago", he said, his eyes speaking volumes.
smile froze and she stared at him. When she spoke, her voice trembled, "What
did she tell you, Vicky?" she asked harshly.
you think she told me?" he asked back.
stayed silent. "No, she wouldn't have", she said. "Not much, anyway", she said
sighed, "Why didn't you tell me, Sal?" he asked. Sally closed her eyes and
remained quiet. He touched her head, "What took you so long to come home, Sal?",
he asked, his voice breaking.
filled Sally's eyes, "I have asked that question to myself a million times,
Vicky", she said huskily and moved back when he tried to give her a hug. "So,
what would you do if you have to choose between me and her?" she asked.
eyes held hers, "My loyalty is where Milind's heart is and even you know that
it rests with Prachi. I have also formed a precious bond with Prachi, Sal. I
feel very protective of her", he said softly.
gave a sad smile, "I understand, Vicky. You actually came here to warn me", she
shook his head and put his arm around her, "No Sal, its more of an advice than
warning. I can't see either you or Prachi in pain, dear. You both mean a lot to
me. But today, I came here to ask you to forgive me, …………for being blind and
not seeing what I should have, for being a lousy friend, for not doing enough
for you, my friend", he said way too softly.
rolled down her cheeks as she leaned against him, "I don't blame you, Mehra. I
was blind myself and when I could see it all so clearly, it was too late………way
too late", she sniffed.
god, what a mess! Vicky thought to himself, "I only want you to understand that
this will only cause you more heartache. We don't get everything we want in
life, Sal. Milind's life is with Prachi and nothing or no one can ever change
that. I am not heartless to demand that you forget everything this instant and
move on. But just promise me that you would try, for your sake and for
everyone's as well", he said.
Sally moved away from him and wiped her tears,
"So, what now? Are you going to tell him?" she asked.
gave a small smile, "It's not my position to tell him, Sal and neither
Prachi's. And you know better than me that she won't. But one day, you will
tell him yourself. You need a proper closure Sal….and Milind too" he said
softly. And when that time comes he would be there for his brother. Who else
but him knows that the guilt will rip Milind apart?
stayed silent and he squeezed her hand, "Till then, take care of yourself and
be happy. Atleast promise me that you would try", he said.
nodded, "TRY……..that has become the motto of my life, Vicky. And I am tired of
trying, you know", she said pitifully.
closed his eyes, trying to get a grip on himself, "You have your friends to
hold your hand, Sal. You have always been a fighter, my friend and I have
always adored that about you. Aren't you the only girl who has ever punched
me?" he said softly.
Sally punched his arm, "I loved punching you,
you know", she smiled through her tears.
He smiled at her, "Only because I let you. Just
keep up that smile and that spirit, Sal. You will come out of this heartache very
soon. Just remember that we all love you and always had", he said and before
she could say anything, he squeezed her hand again and walked out of her cabin.
Sally slowly walked back to her chair and sat down heavily. She sat there
staring at the closed door for a very long time.
relieved to reach the airport well ahead of time and before the rest of his
family arrived. Inspite of refusing, the whole family was keen on giving him a
proper send off and he was getting restless already. Milind on his own would
have been fine to see him off but his mother had been adamant. His ears were
ringing with business talks as his Dad and Uncle had discussed nothing but that
all the way. He smiled with relief spotting his family walking towards them and
waved at them. While his mother started fussing over him again, his Dad was
getting restless. Both he and Anand were due to attend another
meeting shortly and their goodbyes were hurried.
glared at her husband, "Why did you even bother to come to the airport,
Rakesh?", she asked angrily.
laughed at the helpless look on his Dad's face and put his arm around his
mother, "Mom, don't be too harsh on Dad. He is busy and I have had enough time
to say a proper goodbye. But even you and mausi are off to meet friends for
dinner. So, you get going and Milind will sort out my checking in", he pacified
Taking cue, Milind started walking towards the
VIP check in and within seconds, Vicky joined him. "Gosh, goodbyes are getting
longer now-a-days. Where did the good old days go when we just picked up our
backpacks and whizzed off?" he sighed.
gave a small smile, "Unfortunately we have grown up and become more responsible
and at the moment I am regretting that more than ever" he said.
touched his shoulder and pointed to the coffee shop, "Lets grab a cup", he said
and walked towards it.
Sipping his coffee, Milind leaned against
the wall. "So, what was it all about, Vicky? What have I done wrong?" he asked.
raised his eyebrows, "So, you know that you have done something wrong. Now
that's a start", he said.
Milind ran his fingers through his hair, "She was in a terrible state last
night, Vicky. I have never felt so helpless and clueless before. She even said
that I had eyes only for Sally last evening", he said.
"And did you have eyes only for Sally?", Vicky
Milind looked stunned, "What the hell
do you mean?", he asked through clenched teeth.
touched his shoulder, "Relax, bro. The venue for last night's party was a bad
choice from the start. It is always a bad idea to mix the past and the present
together, especially bringing wives and ex-girlfriends together in a place
which screams of your past. If Mark could react why couldn't Prachi?", he asked.
sighed, "Is it the dance, Vicky? Was she upset over it?" he asked again.
dance was only one of many things that she was upset about, Milind. You guys
did go a bit overboard with that dance though", he said softly.
the confused look in Milind's eyes, Vicky continued, "I know Sally is still a
close friend, Milind but you seem to have forgotten that she was also your
ex-girlfriend. Unfortunately, none of the others present there had forgotten.
People talk, you know and Prachi seemed to have heard things", he said.
Milind's clenched his fist, "What did she
hear? Why did she not ask me outright?" he bit out angrily.
think she is scared of what she might hear from you. She is hearing snippets
from others and putting together a picture of her own making. It is a dangerous
mistake, Milind. No wonder she is utterly shaken. What I don't understand is
her fascination with your past with Sally?" Vicky asked.
Milind stared at a distance. "But she has always been, Vicky. Even I
fail to understand why. One minute she will question me about Sally and then
react strongly to whatever I said. That always made me hesitant to discuss it.
She had always been insecure about Sally. But I thought our marriage would have
settled all that. Now I realise how wrong I had been", he said in a distant
shook his head in annoyance, "If Prachi was always that insecure, then you
should have been more careful when Sally was around. You should have handled
things better, Milind. There is no excuse for that. She is fascinated about
your past because you closed up whenever she asked you about it. I am not
surprised at all. You are the one at fault here, Milind", he said.
Milind stared at him, "What do you want me to tell her, Vicky? Do you
want me to give her a day-to-day account of what all happened between us? Don't
be ridiculous", he bit out angrily.
Vicky's eyes flashed, "That attitude is what has got you into big
trouble now. She doesn't have to know what you did every minute together,
Milind. She needs to know what you felt for Sally and what you feel for her now.
That poor girl is a complete mess. She is even wondering if she came between
you and Sally….If you would have been happier with her", he said sharply.
Milind's eyes narrowed into mere slits as anger coursed through him, "Wow,
is that what she thinks now? She, of all people, should know me better than
that. How wrong I had been?" his voice trembled with suppressed anger. He
shrugged off Vicky's hand on his shoulder and leaned closer to him, "So, she
thinks that I am still holding a candle for Sally. Am I that sort of a man who
would be married to a woman but secretly pinning for another?" he gave a harsh
laugh. He gripped Vicky's shoulders, "What a fool I had been, Vicky? A
blissfully happy fool! I thought I had the perfect marriage but what a joke. My
wife doesn't trust me, never had. My marriage lacks the basic foundation,
Vicky, …..TRUST……What am I going to build my life on?" his voice reduced to a
closed his eyes feeling the pain in his voice and for a minute anger gripped
him. How could you do this to my brother,
Prachi? I can't forgive you for this. He took a deep breathe to calm down
and touched Milind's shoulder, "Get a grip over yourself, Milind. Your anger is
not wrong but try to put yourself in Prachi's shoes. You must see it from her
point of view. She is scared, Milind and confused. Her problem is that she
loves you way too much. That is what making her prone to all these
insecurities. I think she is way too jealous and possessive of you that she
lets herself or you know. You both need to talk it over. Show your anger,
question her but also answer her questions. For once, let go of your pride and
tell her all that she wants to know and more. It's your marriage, your
happiness at stake here, Milind. Sort this out before it wrecks your
relationship", he said firmly.
Milind stared ahead, "Why, Vicky? Why this? Where did I go wrong?" he
squeezed his shoulder, "You should have seen it coming, Milind. That's where
you went wrong", he said softly.
Milind gave a sad smile, "Now what, bro? Do you have questions too? If
you do, ask me now" he said bitterly.
Vicky gave a small smile, "Cut it, bro. I never had to ask you
questions, mate. In some ways I know you better than you know yourself", he
Milind's eyes grew moist, "Then why not Prachi? I thought that she was
the only one who knew me well as you do", he said.
Vicky nodded, "She does, Milind. But this, she is not thinking straight
and she needs your help to see it clearly. She wasn't there, remember. She
didn't know you then. Whatever you do, just talk to her first. Trust me, by
tomorrow morning, you both will realise how silly it all had been" he said
Another announcement indicated that it was time for him to go. He turned
to walk towards the gate with a very quiet Milind behind him. Before going through
the gate, he turned towards Milind, "You know I have to go now, bro. I will
call you tomorrow and I want you to sound better than you do now" he said.
Milind nodded and hugged him, "Take care of
yourself, bro. I am going to miss you" he said softly.
Vicky slapped his back, "Same here, mate. That
place is going to feel strange without you. Just come back soon" he said and
walked away swiftly.
Walking back into the lounge, Shweta's eyes
swept the foyer impatiently. What is keeping Milind so long? She wondered
silently. She didn't know if Prachi was going home or if Milind had other
plans. She was due to meet some friends shortly and would be late if she didn't
leave now. She frowned, spotting Milind in one of the corner chairs. Coffee cup
in hand, he was staring into a distance obviously lost in thoughts. She walked
up to him and laid her hand on his arm. He looked up blankly and her frown
what's wrong?" she asked softly, sitting down next to him.
gave a dry smile, "Why should anything be wrong, Mom?" he asked back.
Shweta smiled, "You are my baby. I
know and understand every expression on your face, Milind. You never had to
tell me when you were hungry and when you were in pain. I have been watching
you all afternoon but didn't want to ask anything in front of others. What's
wrong?" she asked again.
sighed and took her hand in his. "Mom, have you ever wished that I was
different, that I was better?" he asked.
touched his face, "My son is perfect in every way and I love him the way he is.
Why would I want him any different?" she asked softly.
kissed her hand, "Why doesn't everyone love me the way you do, Mom?" he asked
smiled again, "Not everyone is your mother, Milind. And everyone else loves you
for what you are too. Instead of moping in self pity, go there and talk it out
with Prachi", she said.
Milind looked surprised, "How do you know it's
Prachi?" he asked.
laughed softly, "Neither me nor Anand told you off for anything. Vicky wouldn't
do anything to cause you any distress. So, the only other person who holds that
power is Prachi. I have been watching her all afternoon too. She doesn't look
any better than you do. So, don't waste time sitting here. Every relationship
faces small ripples now and then, my child. There is nothing to be disheartened
about. All you both need is some time together. Get away from the house for a
couple of days. Switch your phone off. We know where to find you if the need
arises. Now get up and come with me. I am getting late already", she said
firmly. Pulling at his arm, she walked towards the car.