In continuation of The Argument
Sneha stared down at her dish to hide her smile from others and finished her meals in silence. After meals she carried the plates to the kitchen and put them in the sink, knowing fully well that Smriti’s mother would not allow her to wash them. She noticed the hesitation and then the suppressed frustration when she was indirectly proved wrong by Ajay.
When she walked to the living room she saw that Ajay had brought Shreya’s luggage from her room and they were ready to leave. The silence in the living room was awkward and even Ajay could not think of anything to say. Finally, Sneha hugged Smriti’s mother and said, “Goodbye mom!” The old woman, though she wrapped her arms around Sneha, did not really hug her back.
Ajay kept the luggage in the car and then after a few more goodbyes they were on their way back home. Shreya sat on the back seat while Sneha sat next to Ajay in the front. She looked at Shreya through the rearview mirror and noticed that Shreya was reading something from her diary. The girl looked up and their eyes met and Shreya smiled. The smile filled Sneha’s heart with love and joy. She loved the girl more than she loved Ajay and it hurt her to know that she was messing around with the innocence of the girl. Lying was not good, she thought.
Ajay stopped the car at a food joint for refreshments and when they returned back to the car, Sneha opted to sit on the backseat, with Shreya instead of next to Ajay. She had seen Shreya yawning and almost dozing off before stopping at the food joint. The moment Sneha got in, Shreya put her arm around Sneha’s and rested her head on Sneha’s shoulder and within moments she was asleep.
It was late when they reached home. Sneha was tired herself, her arm was numb. She shifted away from Shreya without waking her up and got down. She then picked up Shreya in her arms and walked towards the main door of the house, which Ajay had opened for them. Carrying Shreya in her arms, Sneha walked to Shreya’s room and placed her on the bed and removed her shoes. She tucked Shreya in bed and walked out of the room, leaving the door slightly open just like Ajay had told her Smriti did.
For the first time, since she had come to this house, she walked towards the master bedroom and knocked. Ajay opened the door for her and with her heart beating in her throat, Sneha entered the room. The room was huge! Sneha looked around. It was a little smaller than her entire flat. The bed placed in the center of the room was huge enough for three people to sleep in, comfortably. To the right of the door, in a corner, was a couch, a lot more comfortable than the one in her house! To the left was another door and further away, exactly to the left of the bed was a full length window which opened out into a balcony. The huge window was open, letting in the cold night breeze and the beige satin curtains swayed in the breeze. Mesmerized, Sneha walked towards the window and stepped onto the balcony. She wrapped her arms around herself and stood there for some time. When she walked in Ajay was sitting comfortably on the couch, looking at her.
She walked in and closed the window and then pulled the curtains close.
“That’s Smriti’s wardrobe” Ajay said pointing towards the wardrobe on the left of the bed.
“You can choose something comfortable to wear to sleep.” He said as he eased out on the couch and closed his eyes.
That’s it. Ajay seemed to be so relaxed about the entire situation. Sneha being in the room did not make much difference to him other than the fact that he had to sleep on the couch instead of the huge bed. Sneha opened the wardrobe and picked out a decent night dress. She looked around, searching for the bathroom and walked towards the door she had seen earlier on the left of the bedroom door but when she opened it she realized that it was storage space. Blankets, pillows and other stuff were neatly placed on shelves. When she closed the door and turned around she saw that Ajay was watching her. He smiled and pointed towards a door across the room. She walked towards the bathroom and closed the door behind her.
Ajay closed his eyes and thought about the happenings of the day. Smriti’s parents were not happy with the turn of events. Even he was not, he reminded himself. Their approach towards Sneha was biased and he could feel their hostility when they were in their living room. Thankfully, Shreya had not been so observant. Though Ajay could not hear the conversation going on between Sneha and Smriti’s mother in the kitchen he knew, after seeing Sneha’s face that it was nothing pleasant. He had expected that much. He had to admit that Sneha showed a lot of patience when they were at Smriti’s maternal house. Smriti’s mother’s hostility was the most palpable even at the dining table. Hence, he had made up his mind to leave as soon as they finished the meals.
Sneha’s behavior while around Shreya was really comforting. When he saw them both together climbing down the steps from Shreya’s room, he knew that his decision and the sacrifice all was worth it.
When Sneha had opted to sit on the backseat next to Shreya and when Shreya had wrapped her arm around Sneha’s and placed her head on Sneha’s shoulder, he had wanted to thank Sneha. Watching them both through the rearview mirror had brought back memories and tears had gathered in his eyes momentarily blurring his vision.
Seeing Sneha carry his daughter to the bedroom had reminded him of how Smriti often carried Shreya to the room. Whatever Sneha had done so far, was exactly what Smriti would have done. It was the little things that mattered and most importantly – he had not shared these minute details with her. The woman in Sneha helped her be a mother to Shreya and for that Ajay was thankful to her.
Seeing Sneha in his bedroom was not easy on him, especially when she had walked to the balcony. He had watched her standing at the balcony, her arms wrapped around herself and her hair dancing with the soft breeze. Had she been wearing a night dress like Smriti did when she stood at the balcony, it would have been really difficult for Ajay to find the difference. Thankfully, Sneha’s attire reminded him that it was Sneha that stood at the balcony. Before he could look away, Sneha had turned around and caught him staring. He had to remain calm and pretend that her being in the room did not make much difference to him. He pointed out Smriti’s wardrobe to her and then eased out on the couch.
When Sneha walked out of the bathroom Ajay was still awake. Sneha walked towards the bed, conscious of his presence. Then, she took a deep breath and told herself that she had to get used to this as soon as she could.
“Good Night” Ajay said.
“Is it ok if I leave the lights on?” Sneha asked and Ajay said yes.
“Good Night” Sneha said as she slid into the huge bed and pulled up the cover up to her chest. She spent some time lying on her back, staring at the ceiling. Then she turned right facing the curtain covered windows and tried to sleep. Still unable to sleep, she turned and tossed in bed, finally turning to her left, facing the couch. Ajay seemed to have fallen asleep. She watched his peaceful face as he slept and she forgot about sleep.
.. The Lies