He picked up the phone just as Kashi was about to hang up.
“I told you not to call; what if I was with someone?” Himanshu hissed.
“Please, don’t do this to me, I’ve been sitting here all alone waiting for you, what could I do?” Kashi pleaded. She was clutching her handbag, sitting at a corner table. She had driven 18 kilometres to this Barista in Lokhandwala, with the hope that no one here would recognize her. But 20 minutes later, he hadn’t shown up.
“I’m just leaving, I told you, this goddamn meeting. You’re so paranoid, always picking such god-forsaken places to meet,” his voice rose. Then he became softer. “I’ll be there soon. Just hang on, okay baby?” He hung up.
She put her phone in her bag, and looked about. No one she knew. The waiter approached her again but she shook her head and he turned away, eyebrows raised wearily. She looked out the window. Her legs shook with the adrenaline rush coursing through her, and she sat at the edge of her chair, nervous, poised for flight.
It wasn't cheating, she kept telling herself. And even if it was, it was okay. Her husband couldn't love her the way other men could. He wasn't there for her when she needed him. He was so distant, so indifferent to her feelings and needs. Marrying him was a mistake. She should have stayed divorced. But it was a chronic ache for her: Her inability to support herself. She hated work, oh, how she hated the grind of going to a stuffy office day after day. How she hated the competition, gossip, politics, the other bitches who talked in whispers when she was around. It was better to be married, to have her basic needs taken care of. Even if she didn't have any feelings for the men she was married to.
Oh when would Himanshu arrive. With his smoke-filled breath that turned her on. With his cold eyes that filled her with a heat she could not control. With his rough, hard hands that would do things to her even when she was asleep.
He wasn't the first one, but would he be the last? No, he would never leave his wife, that too when she was pregnant. No, Kashi had no future with him. It would last a few months at most. But it was better than the last. The last had left a bitter taste in her mouth, besides some bruises all over her legs. She'd let him hurt her, because she needed to be hurt. She wanted to feel pain, anything but the numbness that had set into her marriage.
But now she was wiser. She wouldn't let them leave marks. Everything else, she was game.
The phone rang, and she jumped. Hurriedly retrieving it from her bag, her heart lurched when she saw his number. "Hey baby, sorry I can't make it. I can't be away from office so long," went his voice. Her heart sank like a ton of steel into her feet.
"Forget all this coffee business," he went on, when she didn't reply. "Just come to the guesthouse. It's closer for me."
"But we never sit together and just talk!" she whined, almost in tears.
"What's to talk?" he replied. "You and I are best with our mouths busy. See you in 20." The call ended.
The sickness in her stomach made her giddy, so much that she couldn't stand up. He treated her like dirt, seriously! He treated her like a bloody slut. He treated her like his personal property.
Without looking back, she rushed out of the coffee shop as if she was drunk, down the stairs, towards her car, her phone still in her hand, her bag flying open.
At this time of the afternoon, it would probably only take her 15 minutes if she drove fast.