"Hello", she picked up the phone, balancing the puja thaal on the left palm, as it started vibrating in the corridor, her voice breaking the stillness of the floor.
"Ha Jo", Moti's voice reached her ear through the phone, "I've reached hospital. Salim is still asleep. Doctor said it's coz of all those painkillers and sedatives that has been given to him."
"Okay", Jodha's voice again cut through the silence of the floor, "When will he be awake?"
"It will take time", Moti continued in the other end, "May be within tomorrow morning. It may take more hours also. But he's out of danger at this moment."
"Hmm", Jodha hummed hearing the answer.
"Jo", Moti spoke again, this time slowly and carefully, "Where are you? At least tell me that."
Jodha could sense the fear lurking behind those words of her friend. Moti was a friend, who had been more than a sister to her, in the worst phase of her life. She was person, who had sheltered her in the time when she was in need of a shelter, a strong shoulder the most. She understood Moti's fears, her unsaid words.
"Don't worry about me Moti. I'm fine and I'll be fine. I'll soon be in the hospital", Jodha tried to sooth her friend, "Bye for now. I'll tell everything in detail later."
With a small beep she disconnected her phone, in the process cutting every external ties before facing her past again.
She hated hiding the fact of her coming to meet with Jalal from Moti. But she knew she had to hide it, otherwise Moti would never have left her alone and given the situation that she was in, she needed to talk with Jalal alone.
It was thought of Jalal that made her nostrils grasp the strong smell of kerosene again.
She walked down the large corridor, now dimly lit by the mild, soft rays of the setting sun coming from the open windows.
She came to stand by the only door in the sixth floor. She took some time to collect herself before knocking on the door, in the process collecting all the small pieces of her heart to break them again.
The day had been a long one with Salim coming to his senses and then his calling her as "maa" for the first time.
But the main exhaustion came from standing in the long queue outside the Shree Siddhivinayak Mandir in the afternoon heat.
Her head pounded as the headache came back again. Jodha knew that she was not in the condition to discuss anything with Jalal at the moment but the confusion which was created in her mind due to Salim calling her as "Maa", made retreat an impossible affair for her. So, there she stood, in front of the door, which was closed ruthlessly in front of her a decade ago.
A thousand thoughts crossed her mind standing before the intricately designed teakwood door. Removing everything from her mind, Jodha pressed the calling bell and a shrill sound immediately pierced the stillness around.
"Excuse me", hearing the male voice Moti's head snapped up instantly.
"Yes", she replied trying hard to identify the man in front of her.
"I heard Salim, I mean, Jalaluddin's son is admitted here", he acted as if divulging a large secret, "Can you tell me where is Jalal.. I'm his friend."
"Yes, Salim is admitted here. But Jalal is not at the hospital now. You are telling , that you're his friend, so you must know where he is", Moti inspected the man standing in front of him, while getting up herself to stand in front of him, "Because he has been unavailable since last night. We tried to call his cell, but that's even switched off!"
"We?", the man asked looking perturbed, "and who are you? I don't think I saw you before".
"Is it required that you'll meet each and everyone that your friend is acquainted with?", Moti asked scrunching up her brows.
"No, I didn"t mean that.. Actually I was out of station for the last two months due to my work schedule", the man replied after extending his right hand for a shake, "By the way I'm Abdul".
Moti looked judgingly at the hand before meeting it with her own, "I'm Moti, Jodha's friend."
The room was almost dark except for the last rays of the setting sun coming from the west window, when Jodha opened the door at last after a lot of self-contemplation. The smell of burnt fabric hit her nostrils and panicking at the wanted smell, she kept the puja thaal on the center table and made for the source. Fumbling through the switchboard to hit the right one to light up the room, she kept on hitting all the buttons. At last when the light came, the sight she met with made her freeze on the spot.
Red drops of blood lay on the floor, slightly smeared by the steps that had fallen on them. Glass splinters lay scattered on those drops taking in the crimson hue from the liquid.
Jodha followed the blood trails, managing to avoid the glass pieces to reach the kitchen only to receive another bone-chilling view.
Hands covered in black soot, some of which were smeared on his rough, devilishly handsome face and his dress from the last evening's party, Jalal sat huddled, like a frightened child, in front of the kitchen slab. The floor in front of him was laden with the half burnt pictures of Ruquaiya, and her dresses, places of which the fire had forgotten to lick. Bottles of perfume, deodorants and powders and all sorts of makeup products lay scattered and unclaimed.
But the fact that frightened Jodha most was the expression on Jalal's face. A scared child, afraid of the cruel world, sat there, with his knees drawn up to his chest. His head rested lifelessly on the top of the joined knees. Full body tensed and legs covered with the mixture of soot and blood.
"Jalal", Jodha muttered softly in disbelief before rushing to him.
"Jalal", she screamed this time, letting the tension and fear take over her.
Her hands shaked while touching him after the long decade but she didn't stop herself from reaching out to him.
"What have you done to yourself?", she gasped on seeing the small glass pieces still pierced in his feet.
"Get up Jalal", she urged him to listen to her, letting her mind forget the past pains that she had received because of the man she was trying so desperately to save.
After the shouts and screams of her fell on deaf ears, she left him alone to find a piece of clean cloth to clean his wounds.
Rummaging through the cupboards, forgetting her manners of not touching others goods completely, Jodha at last found out a long piece of white cloth. Rushing to the kitchen, she filled a bowl with water and crouched down in front of the lost man.
She dropped the cloth in water and proceeded to clean his wounds. Slowly touching his feet to facilitate in the process of cleaning, she gasped slightly as her fingers grazed a wound formed by the piercing glass.
But the man whose feet were subjected to the pain, didn't even flinch from the pain.
"Jalal, please talk to me", Jodha urged slowly while removing a small glass piece from his heel, tears making her vision hazy.
She wiped her eyes with the left hand while keeping her right hand busy in cleaning the wounds.
After removing the splinters from his feet and cleaning the wounds properly, she went in search of the first aid kit.
Retrieving the kit from the washroom, Jodha went on dressing Jalal's wounds.
"Nothing has happenned to you. See you are still fit", Jodha shook him violently, "Please talk to me".
It seemed her shaking brought some sense in him as his dark, clouded eyes met hers. But the view of those pain stricken black orbs managed to shook Jodha's heart.
"Jalal", she smiled softly, "Why are you doing these? Talk to me. Share with me anything you want."
"I know you are broken over Ruquaiya's deeds, but please don't torture yourself for her crimes", Jodha urged Jalal while unknowingly running her fingers through the long brown tresses of the latter.
Her long dainty fingers sliding through his hairs, the caresses of her soft fingertips on his hard scalp, brought about lost forgotten feelings in Jalal. Suddenly he lost his senses of the outer world. The world around him had only his Jo, her soft murmurings of letting the past go. Jalal looked up at the soft pink lips, slightly trembling from it's owner's murmurings, the doe shaped hazel orbs filled with her tears.
He looked on as a drop of the salty liquid slipped from her left eye and followed the path made by it's predecessors down her soft pink left cheek. Overwhelmed by the old resurfacing feelings, Jalal raised his hand and slowly collected the drop as if collecting a rare jewel.
Being busy in her mumblings and her worry over Jalal's present state, Jodha didn't see the latter watching her. So she was a bit shocked when the rough tip of his index finger collected her tear drop.
In her astonished state, she gasped when she found him watching her at such close quarters, "Jalal".
The reply she got managed to disnerve her, "Don't drop these. These are as precious as their owner."
Not wanting to show what his words did with her nerves Jodha hastily tried to get up and move away from his scorching nearness. In her haste to distance herself from him, she didn't notice the large puddle of water just behind her formed by the wet cloth.
And so the inevitable happened! In her hurry to get away from him, her feet landed on the cloth and as the cloth slipped away from the couple, Jodha lost her balance and landed on the person from whom she had tried to move away. Her upper body completely on him and her face just a few inches away from him, with his strong bandaged hands on her waist touching her skin directly through the gap of her red saree.
This much for today..
I could write this during the puja holidays..
Hope you all will like this though it's boring!
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Barnali aka Sonai..