“Your cafe serves the best breakfast in the entire Goa.” Joe declared.
“Joe, when did you have breakfast in the entire Goa?” demanded Dev.
“It is called the art of appreciation, my friend.”
“Well, thank you then,” Said Yuvika.
They were sitting in a large balcony of Yuvika’s room. The atmosphere was cloudy.
The table was arranged near the sliding door which led to her room. The room was painted white. This colour was accompanied by the ivory coloured carpet floored in the entire room. Facing the balcony door, there was a bed. On the left of the bed, the side table contained a lamp shade, a kettle, a couple of books and a pair of her spectacles. The left wall had a window which had the view of the beach and a road. The window had a one sided glass sliders. The walls were decorated with wooden and glass cabinets and shelves. Over them, the paintings were arranged. The size of the furniture and paintings varied with the space on the walls. Near the side table, there was a large wardrobe with the blurred glass sliding doors. Facing the balcony, a long table with the foam seat was arranged to adjoin the bed which was the perfect place to enjoy the sea from the room.
On the right wall, near the entrance door of the room, the tallest cupboard was arranged with glass door. It had Yuvika’s personalized collection of books. Near that cupboard, there was a set of two chairs and a round table. And on the table, an adjustable lamp was placed providing enough light to read. She often used it as the reading table. On the opposite wall, near the window, the dressing table was arranged. A small stool was placed in front of it. The dressing table had some regular cosmetic material, bottles of perfume, and a brush. The door in the corner opened into the washroom.
A chandelier was enough to enlighten the entire room, but she liked the antique shades in the corners. The lights made the room even brighter. In the mornings, the room radiated like rays-stricken water crystal of the sea.
The entire house spoke of Yuvika’s keen eye with the personal touch and specific choice of every single detail.
From the balcony, they could see the activity on the beach. The railing was not so high. It made easy to spot the sea from the room too. Tourists had started roaming. People were coming in the cafe for the breakfast. Kids were playing on the beach and some were making the sand castles. Joe watched them in admiration while Dev and Yuvika were busy talking business. Dev noticed him. “I am sure you want to join them, don’t you?” He teased Joe.
Joe broke the gaze and raised his eyebrows. Dev and Yuvika started laughing. She gave Dev a slight push on his right shoulder. Joe said, “Yes. Why not? I am still a kid at heart.”
“Oh! And seeing you this time, I was thinking of getting you married before you go back to the US.” Yuvika added in the laughter.
“No matter how much you grow up, the kid in you always wants to hop out whenever given a chance,” argued Joe.
“No. I don’t believe that.” Yuvika differed.
Dev and Joe looked at her. She continued, “I don’t believe that there is any kid in you who want to pop out every now and then. It is just you who wants to behave like a kid, not daring to show enough maturity.”
“Yuvika, that’s what they say.” Dev tried to explain the old phrase.
“That is why they have to say it. Logically, your mind is grown up with your age. That’s where you think from and that’s what decides which words would flow out. It tells you to act and react in a certain manner. It helps you to take decisions. So where is that kid they talk about? I see no logic in there.”
“Gosh! You are so practical. That’s so boring,” protested Joe.
“That’s how she is; a bore with super intelligence.” Dev put his arm around her neck and gently pulled her.
Putting the cup on the table, Joe asked, “So Yuvika, what have you thought about your future?”
She pulled herself back from Dev’s clasp and asked, “What future?”
“I mean, what would you do further? Where are you seeing yourself in the future?” Joe elaborated.
“Is there any better place than this?”
Dev chose to hear them silently.
“Yes, but, there are things in life, you know? You need to explore more, meet more people, and…” Joe faltered. Yuvika glanced at him. He continued, “and have your family around you?”
Dev sniggered. He took a sip from his cup to hide his smile.
Yuvika cleared her throat and said, “Well, some of the things which you can never have control over. Till now, many things were not under my control. The biggest factor which was controlling it was the time. It has also graced me with strength and clarity of mind. And it has also taken those things away for some time. But I don’t complain. It was just a wrong time. But I decided to take charge of these. Today where I am living and what I am doing, is totally my decision. Yes, of course, the time has to be right to make everything fall into the right place. But I am happy.” The last few words faded away. But they could hear them. They both were staring at her. She gave them a quick look and went back to the tea.
Now take the charge and accept me. Joe wanted to confront.
Joe’s phone rang. It was a conference call which he had arranged and forgot. So he sprang out of his chair and left the room. He had to go back to the resort and get the call arranged there.
Dev and Yuvika were standing on the balcony now.
“You know, this place is amazing. How did you find it?” asked Dev.
“When I came to Goa, I was visiting the sea facing villas or places. And I liked it the most. Mr Joseph Christian, the owner of the place is a very cheerful man. The house was not used for years. It was the palace of spider-webs, just like they show it in the movies; that old heritage haveli. So I worked on it and made it an ideal place to live. And now, it is my address.”
“So are you going to buy it?” asked Dev.
“I want to; one day for sure.”
“There was one more thing I wanted to talk about,” said Dev. He turned to her and asked, “Since when have you been drinking?”
She glanced at him wryly. Looking back at the sea, she said, “It helps you sometimes.”
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sometimes when all these people and the staff go back and the house is empty, it scares you; sometimes when the silence of the night is filled with beautiful roars of these giant waves, it scares you; sometimes. Not always.
“Sometimes when this sky is too happy and is roaring with its laughter down at you, it frightens you; when the wind dances insanely and these windows, and doors join it crashing with each other fiercely, it makes you skip your heartbeat; when you fear of someone or something break into your house and take everything you have away from you, it panics you. The fear of your world being destroyed tears you apart; it shivers you inside out.” She was still piercing the sea with her eyes filled with tears. They didn’t roll down but chose to stay at the edge of her beautiful eyes.
A person who lived a happy life, her inner-self was scared. She was constantly fighting with a fear; fear of some invisible element who she thought would touch her fair world and harm it. She was armed to fight that evil element. This had made her even tougher and more rational.
Was there anything or anyone who could comfort her, give her assurance of a secure life? She was an intelligently efficient person who never needed anyone to back her. But why was she vulnerable now? Or was she even actually vulnerable? Can it be true?
What can I do for her? Dev was tangled in his thoughts. He was subconsciously gawking at her.
“Hey,” screamed Yuvika. Dev felt a jolt and woke up. She squawked again, “Hey, you. Go away.” There were some men on the other side of the wall of the house. There seemed to be moving the bougainvillaea plant from the wall. “I said go away.”
She rushed down stairs, opening all the doors with thuds. Dev ran after her but could not pace up with her speed. She went out the gate and started shouting again, “Hey, you have come again. Just go away. Get lost you, scoundrels. You son of a b…” Dev reached her and grabbed her by her waist. He lifted her and took her away from those men. Those men were stunned and quiet.
“Leave me Dev. I will kill them if they don’t go away.” She managed to leave herself from his grip. She took the pebbles in both her hands from the bed which she was preparing to plant more trees. She threw the pebbles at those men.
“Hey hey, you can’t do that. Stop it. What are you doing?” Dev again reached her and held her hands when she again tried to pick up other pebbles.
“Dev, just kick them away or I will call the police. Or I will kick them in their arse.” She reached those men and pushed one of them on his shoulder. The push was so hard that that man almost fell. None of them was shouting back or raising their voice. It seemed like they were used to it.
Dev pulled Yuvika’s left hand and pulled her back. “You should not do that. Why are you doing this? Let’s just all talk.”
Meanwhile, Joe came back. He parked the car and joined them. He was puzzled. “What is going on? Dev, what happened? Who are they?”
Dev gave him will-explain-later look as he could not risk leaving Yuvika’s hand. But she was uncontrollable. She somehow lost the grip and screamed at those men again. All the people at the cafe also gathered on the porch.
Dev said, “Yuvika, just talk to them quietly. Everybody is watching us.”
“I don’t care, Dev. They just can’t touch the property. They are removing the trees. Trees are supposed to be here; and not these morons. Why have they come?”
“Joe, just be here,” said Dev and he went near those men. “Look, I am sorry about everything. I would suggest you come back and we would have a talk later.”
“Dev,” yelled Yuvika. “Don’t talk to them. Just tell them to get the hell out of here.” Joe stared at her in aghast. It was completely different Yuvika for Joe and Dev.
Dev managed to send those men back. Yuvika glared at them. Dev turned back and saw her. She gave him a brief look, turned back and stepped in the bungalow. Customers were on the porch, looking disturbed. They gave her way while she went in without stopping, followed by Joe and Dev. Dev heard an old man murmuring, “They keep coming back.”
Who are they?
Yuvika rushed into the room and opened the cupboards and drawers. She seemed to be looking for something recklessly. There was a clear restlessness on her face. Joe stopped at the door when Dev went straight into the room.
“What are you doing? And who were they?” Dev asked. He had so many questions. But she was not hearing him at all. “Yuvika, look at me.” He almost scolded her.
She kept opening and closing the doors of cupboards and every drawer. “I am not finding anything.”
“What are you looking for?”
“The bottles. My bottles.” She looked at Dev. The restlessness was turned into a craving. It was not a good sign.
She went back to the cupboards and opened it. While searching, many of the things fell down from the shelves as she could not hold them back. Ignoring it, she searched in drawers. She walked to every corner of the room and opened all the drawers and cabinets. She looked in already searched places too.
She came back to the table where Dev was standing. She faltered, “I—it must be here.” She was about to open the drawer again when Dev stopped her, “Stop it. You have already looked into this. It’s not there. I am telling you.” When he pulled her hand, he felt it cold.
“So get them, for me. I need it.” She was not looking at him. She was breathing heavily. Her eyes were constantly flickering. Her trembling fingers spread an annoying sound in the while quiet room. Her tingling shoulders showed as if something was itching her. Her expressions spoke of her uneasiness.
“Dev, please close the door,” she said pointing to the balcony door. “I am cold.”
“It’s humid, not cold,” said Dev, closing the door.
“Yes, but that jacketed man will come again. Just close it.”
Dev turned back and stared at her, terrified. “Who is that? Who wears a jacket?” He went close to her. He raised his voice, “Who is that, Yuvika? Tell me.”
She was already lost in a void. She stared into the blank. She again started walking to all the cupboards and drawers. She was repeating herself all again; this time, more hastily. Dev stood there, watching her with his hand on his mouth. His eyes were wide open.
She was living in constant fear. She was so lost. Yuvika was lost.
Joe was petrified. He could not understand how to help Dev and how to calm Yuvika down.
“You won’t find them,” Dev spoke loudly.
“What?” She was panting. Her eyes were literally urging.
“The bottles are not there,” Dev repeated in s a steady voice.
“But why? I had just… wait, you, you have touched them. Have you?” She reached him. “Why did you come to my room? Where have you put them? Tell me now.” She screamed. She pushed him.
“I cannot.” He tried to stand stiff.
“Dev, please, please don’t do this.” She burst into tears. She felt vulnerable. “Get them back. Are you listening? Just get them back. NOW.”
Joe didn’t move. His eyes were shuffling between Dev and Yuvika. He felt tears in his eyes. He had never seen her so miserable.
“Look at you, Yuvika.” Dev held her by her shoulders and jolted her. “What have you done? Why are you like this?”
She didn’t have any answer. Her swollen, tearful eyes stared straight into his eyes. He looked away as if his eyes were not able to meet hers. He felt a sense of guilt.
He flashed at Joe. He was silently telling him to break the news. But Joe stood expressionlessly.
“Hey, we can talk. There must be something which can make you feel good. What about some strong coffee?” Dev tried to change the subject.
“Let’s not talk. I really need my bottles. You don’t understand anything. Please don’t do this to me. I am not in the state of explaining things. What do you want me to do? Drugs?”
“Alright. This is enough.” Joe spoke for the first time and walked forward. He reached to Yuvika and said, “Sit here and listen to me.” He made her sit on the edge of the bed. Dev walked to the balcony. He stood there for a couple of seconds so that nobody could notice his tears. He wiped them and turned back. He stood at the door keeping it open. He leaned against the door frame, with arms crossed against his chest. He was relaxed that Joe had gained Yuvika’s concentration.
Joe sat on his knees, facing Yuvika. “I know that you got angry. You didn’t like those people who tried to intrude your house. I am with you in that. You did right. But let’s all have the fighting spirit. Why are you torturing yourself like this? And what about alcohol? This would be the last thing I could expect from you. Why have you changed yourself so much? What scares you?”
Yuvika started getting restless. Noticing that, Joe tried harder to keep her focus on his conversation, “I was a super scared kid when I had to spend my childhood on my own.” Her eyes were on him, again. It worked. He knew that it would trigger. “When there was no family around, I was extremely afraid of almost every person around me; teachers, warden, students, even friends. There was no home. The place turned into the haunted house in the nights. A monster lived under my bed. I had spent many sleepless nights due to fear. I could not focus on my studies too.
“But one night, when the lights went off, I decided to face the evil. With a broom in one hand and a torch in the other, I kneeled down and torched under my bed. I had prepared the broom to hit if anyone comes out. But my happiness seemed no boundary when I found no one there; not even an insect. I was so relaxed. I tried to see the darkness as a sign of hope. I told my mind that this darkness would bring the sunshine in just a few hours. And you know what? I started liking the darkness too. As if it is just a phase, like a morning, noon and evening. So I let myself enjoy the dark phase too. After all, I was always taught to welcome all the phases, good or bad, with open arms.
“Now, the light outs or darkness don’t scare me anymore. I embrace everything that comes across. And I have learnt not to have any regrets. They are sickening.”
Her eyes were still glued to him as if she owned the story. He got up and sat beside her and said, “I have always missed my family, very much. I really wanted to run back and give them the tightest embrace.”
“Then why didn’t you?” She spoke softly.
Joe sighed and looked down, “I don’t know. Something was stopping me. I feared that before giving them a hug, I would have to say sorry. And I didn’t even know that they would accept me again.”
She was aghast. He still could not say it clearly. Dev sensed Joe’s hesitation. He was still afraid of confronting her directly. He was afraid that he would lose her all over again.
Yuvika seemed completely lost in Joe’s story. At least she forgot her bottles.
“But, how could they not accept you? You seem to be a nice man.” She murmured.
“Huh?” asked Joe.
“Had you run away? But, you seem to be a good kid.”
Joe laughed and said, “No. I didn’t. In fact, I was a good kid. But, I had one complaint; my name. That’s why I changed it to Joe.”
“Is it not your real name?”
There you go! Dev beamed.
“No,” Joe whispered.
“What’s your name, then?”
“Jogendra. Jogendra Shroff. Sounds fun!”
She was stunned. She was gazing at him; expressionless. Neither Joe nor Dev could anticipate about her reaction. She looked away. She leaned her face on her folded hands.
“You had recognized me, hadn’t you?” She finally spoke.
“That’s why you wanted the painting.”
“It was me who sent it.”
“Really? It was beautiful. Now I know why it was so keen.” Her eyes glared. Joe smiled.
“But why didn’t you say anything? Why did you go back?” questioned Yuvika.
“I have no excuse. But I was afraid of losing you again, even as a friend.” Joe kept his gaze down.
There came a long period of silence again when Yuvika finally said, “It was me who lost you.”
Both Joe and Dev were surprised and puzzled.
Looking straight into a distance, she continued, “It was my fault and I knew it. For years, I didn’t come to meet you and when I came, you were gone. They didn’t know where you were. I tried to search you on social platforms but failed. I wanted to meet you; see you if you were doing fine. I wanted to apologise to you for keeping you away and making you spend your childhood all alone, on your own. We both have a family but still were unfortunate to have it by our sides. I have constantly lived in guilt.” Her voice became weak. Joe starred her. He was too emotional to speak anything. Dev’s eyes were also moist.
She continued, “I told you not to look back again. But since when had you become so obedient? Why didn’t you just force me to take care of you? It was my duty when our parents were not around. I don’t hate anyone, Joe. I can’t. Yes, our parents’ death had pushed me into desolation, but you had also gone through the same. You also wanted the warmth of the family. I was supposed to be your godparent. But I failed miserably. The agony had blinded me. It kills me now. It has been killing me down all these years. I don’t deserve a family and maybe that’s why I happen to live here, all by myself. I deserve this.” She broke down by the last words. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She buried her face into her palms. She was sobbing.
Joe put his arms around her, embracing her in a tight hug. She was still sobbing. Her ultimate grief was burst in front of her family after years. “I am sorry. I am so sorry.” She murmured for a number of times.
“Shh…Don’t say that. Don’t say anything. Just cry your heart out, my dear.” Joe wasn’t even trying to hold back his tears. He let it flow out. His family was with him now.
Dev wiped his tears before they could be seen. His heart was heavy. He had never seen Yuvika weak.
Yuvika got up and said, “I don’t know how to make up this. But please, forgive me, Joe. Please don’t disappear. Can you do it?”
Joe compressed his lips. His eyes overflowed with tears. He said with broken words, “On one condition; if try to go, you will call me back.”
“Yes. Yes, I will. I will.” She hugged him. “And not only that, I will scold you if you try to go anyway without telling me.”
“And yes,” she said, losing the grip of her embrace, “Do look back.”
Three of them burst out laughing.
Yuvika looked at Dev. She reached him. He became more conscious. He smiled at her. “Hey!”
“You knew it?” asked her.
He nodded. “Joe told me before coming to Goa.”
“Would you ask why I never told you about my brother?”
She gave him a warm hug.
The next day, Dev and Yuvika were leisurely walking towards the beach along a narrow road opposite her house. The entire area was beautifully covered by coconut palm trees. The road had lamp posts on both the sides.
Yuvika was busy on her phone. She was talking to an employee at the Mumbai office after finishing the conference call from home. Ever since he had come in Goa, Dev had not even touched his work. But Yuvika had to spare enough time to be virtually present in the Mumbai office.
After she finished the call, Dev said, “Really Yuvika, I am not surprised by your venture. But it is definitely not easy what you have done and proven. I am really proud of you.”
“Well, thanks. But I did nothing which was impossible and nothing was to be proven for sure. We had always dreamt big, remember?”
“Yes. It was always a big dream; our dream.”
His words faded away in the air with his gaze. He said, “I thought that when I would meet you again, what I would say; probably apologise and then would request you to come back. But here you are, doing exceptionally well in your profession. But all I am worried about the distance we are having which I felt when I met you here. I am scared that I have lost my only buddy.”
She smiled and said, “Things are changed. And it is perfectly fine. They had to change. So let’s accept it. And nobody has lost anybody. Please don’t complicate it. We should keep going because that’s how life works. All I know is I am happy to see you both. And thank you. Joe told me that you had encouraged him enough to confront and come up as my brother.
“And I am sorry I messed up yesterday. Sometimes I am out of my mind especially when they show up. I just don’t want anyone to intrude this beautiful house. And when these men come, it really annoys me.”
Dev asked worriedly, “Who does send them?”
She said, “The owner, Mr Joseph Luis’s son.”
They were on the beach by now. They found a place under a slanting tree to sit. They sat facing the sea. The cold but moist wind was relaxing.
Dev chuckled, “Yuvika, he is the owner. He can do anything with it.”
She argued, “Yes, but they are planning to destruct it and then will rebuild. And where was he when the house was nothing but a box of spider webs. It looked haunted when I saw it first. I made it a home. I made habitable.”
He laughed, “Well, that’s true. The house, I mean, the home is beautiful now. But still, ultimately if they want it back from you, you have to agree with it.”
“I told you that I am ready to buy it. In fact, I offered more than the actual price. I just don’t want them to destroy this beautiful place at any cost. But that stubborn son is not willing to give up. Mr Joseph says that his son wants to build another as per his grandfather’s wish.” Yuvika said in a complaining tone.
“Who is this son?” asked Dev.
“Some Loan or Leo, I don’t know. He doesn’t even live here.”
“So where does he live?” He asked curiously.
She freaked out, “How would I know, Dev? It doesn’t matter where that bastard lives. All I know is I won’t let him break this house. That’s it.”
He said widening his eyes, “Yuvika, watch your language, will you?. What’s wrong with you? Just wait for some time or ask Mr Joseph when his son will come. Arrange a meeting and talk to him; CALMLY.” She frowned.
They got up to walk ahead.
“I will need to go back,” said Dev.
“Yes, of course. @ink must be waiting for you.”
“Actually there is something else which is waiting for me too.” Dev blushed.
“Wait a minute, are you blushing?” asked Yuvika, stopping him.
“I am about to get married. The families are meeting for deciding the date once I go back.”
Yuvika, widening her eyes, said, “Wow, that’s just great. Congratulations! So, who is she?”
“Her name is Richa. She is a nice girl. I want her to meet you.”
“Sure. I would like to. So, many plans ahead now?”
“Yes. Meeting the families, deciding the big date, getting married, getting the deals done,” while speaking, he lost the breath.
Yuvika stopped walking, so did Dev. She narrowed her eyes looking at him. He didn’t speak anything and waited for her to say.
“What?” she asked suspiciously.
“Yes, you heard it right.” Dev declared, nodding.
“Dev, what are you doing?” Yuvika’s voice had enough worries. It made Dev feel good as it was the first time she had shown enough concern ever since he had met her again.
“Whatever you are thinking is right. But I know Richa. I feel that I will be happy with her. It’s not only for the sake of a business deal.” Dev tried to explain but Yuvika still looked disturbed.
Dev again said, “I have met her a few times. I am happy to have met her. She is a nice girl.”
“I am sure she is. But that’s not the point here. But I am sorry I reacted, okay. I just didn’t believe it for real. We watch it in movies and read in books. But this is happening for real and it’s with you, so I didn’t understand how to react on this. But if you are happy and you are sure that you will keep her and yourself happy, then just go ahead with whatever you feel is right.”
Dev smiled. He put his right arm around her neck and said teasingly, “Thanks a lot. And anyway, you are going to be the first person whom I would call to get better ideas of arguments whenever she fights with me.”
“Oh no. Not at all. Please keep me out of this. I already have enough to sort out.” She released herself from the grip and started walking faster. Dev almost ran after her, “Hey, you can’t do this. After all, you are going to be the Aunt Yuvika to my kids.”
“First get married.”
They reached the house. Stepping into the garden, Dev said, “Really, I want you to be my best man at my wedding. I mean the best girl or best woman. Oh, whatever. I just want you to be there and have the best time.”
She chuckled, “I will try.” He frowned. She continued, “You first go back and decide everything. Enjoy your wedding shopping and have a great time with your fiancée.”
“I have something else to do too,” Dev said with a wrinkled forehead.
“What?” asked Yuvika, taking a chair on the porch. Dev sat on her left, leaning back on the chair.
“I have something unanswered,” said Dev, looking to the sea at distance. “You know that my mother is a homemaker. I have always seen her at home or accompanying my father in various functions or events. She left her glorious career after marriage. All these years, I have not understood why? How could my father allow it? How could my grandfather let it go unseen? They themselves are progressive people. Ever since you had left the magazine, Yuvika, the only person who could connect with me was my mother. We didn’t talk much about this, but I could see the sorrow in her eyes which I had seen in your eyes when you left the magazine. She could have been a totally different person if she had not quit her career. She could have been even happier.”
Yuvika was staring at him. She said, “I appreciate your sensitivity. But you are late. You should have talked about it earlier, at least to your mother.”
He looked down and said, “I know. I could have brought the change.”
She said softly, “But anyway, at least you are speaking your heart. So don’t delay in speaking for your partner now.”
Read the consecutive story here: https://faceoffiction.wordpress.com/consecutive-story/
The story is a complete fiction. Any resemblance to the real world is a pure coincidence.