In Continuation of The Contract
Warning: Smoking is injurious to health. It causes cancer.
But, he won’t ever love you, the same ugly voice shouted at her. Sneha had developed a headache because of the constant hammering inside her head; the chaos was too much to bear. Though, she had been sure she would opt for marriage without having second thoughts, she now needed time to choose.
Of course, Ajay had not been expecting her to answer immediately.
“Do you want to add something?” he asked, once again breaking her chain of thoughts.
“No.” was her prompt reply.
“But”, she continued, “I wanted to change something in what you have written. About the job, I really cannot quit. And, if I do – I would not accept your monetary compensation. That would make me feel..”
Like a whore, the ugly voice finished the sentence for her
“I would prefer to find a different source of income if need be.” Sneha explained. Ajay nodded. “I understand. We will think about this. What about the rest of the points? Do you want to involve an attorney?” Ajay finished saying and was waiting for her reply.
Oh no, he is expecting a prompt reply, another voice spoke up this time. Sneha closed her eyes. Would she need a psychiatrist before all of this was over, or before all of this even begun? She wondered.
Misunderstanding her reaction Ajay quickly added that she could take time to decide. Sneha said she would tell him soon. Though Ajay said she could take her time, they both knew that they did not have much time. They had to bring Shreya into picture soon. Getting married was a huge step and though her first reaction was a yes, she was not really sure now, especially after the little discussion she had with the voices in her head.
“Do we have to finalize everything before Shreya is brought into picture?” Sneha asked, hoping that the answer would be a No. She did not want to take the decision so soon. All this while, since she had first seen Ajay, she had been guided by unnatural forces and right now, she was hoping to get a sign of some sort that would help her make the right choice. But, the chaos in her head was blocking her senses.
“No.” Ajay replied. “All this paper work is basically to make you feel comfortable about the whole thing. If you are okay with going ahead without finalizing then I have no problem with it.” Ajay said taking the file from her hand.
Sneha looked at her wrist watch. Taking the hint, Ajay said that he would drop her home. It was cold outside and only when they stepped out of the house, did Sneha realize how cozy it was inside. She wrapped her arms around herself and started walking. Ajay looked at her and walked back to the house only to return with a jacket. Sneha could not help but laugh.
“What?” Ajay asked and then a smile spread across his face.
Sneha took the jacket from him and put it on. There were no cabs around and they had to walk for quite some distance. Finally Sneha got into a cab. Though at first she wanted to handover the jacket soon after climbing in, later she decided to pretend to have forgotten about it and as the cab started moving, she simply smiled and wished him good night.
On his way back home, Ajay thought about Sneha. He had lot of time to do the thinking. The moment Sneha’s cab drove away; he pulled out the Marlboro packet and placed a cigarette in between his lips and lit it. He started walking. Lot of things had happened in just a few days. He had lost his Smriti. Obviously, that had hurt him tremendously. Though, he had been preparing himself for this day, he could not take it when it actually happened.
The conversation with Smriti’s father was still fresh in his mind when he had walked out of the I.C.U. floor. He had decided to get some fresh air; instead he had found himself walking towards the cafeteria. He was sure that the girl would offer him peace he so desperately needed. Lots of bad things had already happened to him and now he was looking for something that would relax him. The deterioration in Smriti’s health condition had scared him. He was not ready to let go. He had almost made up his mind to agree with the old man’s condition of allowing him to keep Smriti alive in a different hospital while Sneha was introduced to Shreya. He had felt guilty momentarily for thinking the way he did. Introducing Sneha to Shreya for the sake of his daughter and then pushing Sneha out of their lives after Smriti was back to normal had seemed wrong. But, what was he supposed to do?
When he had spent time with Sneha, talking to her, he had felt good being with her. On one hand he did not want to lose his wife and on the other hand he felt that Sneha deserved more than he could offer. Perhaps, he should let her go. Forget about the plan and let Shreya face the truth. The frustration was so evident on his face that Sneha had understood his pain and had suggested that he should go for a walk.
Though he had hesitated for a moment, he had finally gone for a walk and when he was back, Smriti was already dead. To force out frustration from his system, he had wanted to blame Sneha for depriving him of the last special moments with his wife but when he had seen her, he had been sure that Sneha would not be able to handle more guilt than what she was already dealing with.
Whenever he had needed someone, he had turned to this girl and now, he felt it was his turn to make her feel less guilty about what had happened.
Though finding Sneha in Smriti’s father’s I.C.U. room was the least thing Ajay had expected he was glad that she was there. Breaking the news of Smriti’s death had been easier than he had thought. Something had changed in the old man. It seemed as if he had already known. His acceptance of Sneha in their lives meant a lot to Ajay.
At the funeral site, when he had seen Sneha and the old man sitting together, he would have easily believed that it was Smriti who was talking with her father, had the fire not kept reminding him that his Smriti was turning to ashes in front of his eyes.
Suddenly exhausted, Ajay stopped walking. He walked to the side of the road and sat under a tree, using his almost finished cigarette he lit the other one and continued smoking. He closed his eyes for a while and saw Smriti. Her deep blue eyes staring back at him. The sound of her laughter echoed in his ears and his heart filled with joy. The next moment she took the jacket from his hand and put it on. Ajay opened his eyes, shocked. The image formed by his mind was not that of Smriti but that of Sneha. He found himself in a state where one was not sure of what was a dream and what was reality. He found it difficult to separate Sneha from Smriti. He knew he had to find at least one differentiating point between the two. So far, everything that Sneha did or said reminded him of Smriti. Her behavior, how she made him feel, it was Smriti and not Sneha.
He was confused. He knew it was injustice to the girl he was using for his own personal benefit. He had to learn to see her as Sneha and not Smriti.
Though he had done a lot of thinking before making the draft of the contract, now, as he sat under the tree, he wondered whether he had missed some point. Had he been fair with Sneha? Though he had added the point of marriage he was not sure whether he was ready for it. Somehow, he knew that Sneha would opt for marriage. He knew that he affected her. The way she behaved when he was around suggested that his presence influenced her actions. He hoped she was not in love with him. That was something he would not be able to handle, not yet when he was still mourning Smriti.
He was thankful when Sneha had asked for some time to take the decision. He wondered whether she would opt for signing a legal document instead. Perhaps that would be the right thing. Whatever it was, he had left the decision to her. He owed her the free will after all that she had done and she was doing for him. He would forever remember her phone call to Shreya. Seeing Sneha becoming so emotional in front of his eyes, he had felt the urge to rush to her and hug her. When Shreya had called her ‘mom’ he had noticed the change in her face. Shreya’s acceptance of her had filled her heart with tremendous joy and Ajay had wondered how anyone could be so happy helping others. His respect for Sneha had increased many-fold.
Ajay got up and started walking back home. The new day would soon begin and he did not know what it had in store for him, what he expected from the day after losing his Smriti. All he knew was that Smriti was not alive anymore and he had to learn to live without her. He wanted to see his daughter soon and hold her in his arms. He wanted happiness for his daughter even if it meant that every day he would have to face the woman who reminded him of his dead wife.
.. The Lover