Suparna had told Rhea that Siddhartha was exceptionally handsome and it wouldn’t take any effort to recognize him in a crowd. Suparna was right. Rhea could spot Siddhartha from across the street. He was wearing a white shirt and denim trousers. He was fair; about 25-26 years old, almost 6 feet tall, athletic but had a boyish innocent face with sharp features. Rhea crossed the road and went straight up to him. Siddhartha recognised her instantly. He smiled at Rhea and she noticed he had a beautiful smile.
Rhea and Siddhartha went to a nearby cafe. Once inside the cafe they sat opposite each other in a corner table. Rhea started narrating her ordeal. Rhea had got married through a matrimonial website two months back. Her husband was working with the same IT Company that Siddhartha worked with. Rhea’s husband Ambarish was posted onsite in USA. He was supposed to take Rhea within a month to USA. However after the wedding he went back to USA and neither he nor his parents were contacting Rhea and her family. His parents lived in Delhi and each time Rhea was calling them they were not picking up the phone.
Precisely then Suparna gave Siddhartha’s number and asked Rhea to ask him for help. After listening to Rhea’s agony Siddhartha compassionately said he would do whatever he could to help her out of this ordeal.
Next day when Rhea was getting ready for her college Siddhartha called. He said he had spoken to his HR department and they wanted to meet Rhea. He also suggested that it would be good if she wrote a detailed mail to the HR department. Siddhartha gave her the email id and phone number of the HR head.
Rhea wrote a mail to them. Within couple of days she received a call from Ambarish. He was furious and screaming at Rhea over the phone for her audacity to contact his HR head. He said that if she further pressurised him he would file a divorce.
The next morning Rhea’s phone was ringing. She saw Siddhartha’s name on her mobile screen. She was still in her bed. She had been crying endlessly following the phone call of Ambarish and not slept properly at night. Reluctantly she picked up the phone. Siddhartha was talking slowly and in a soft tone. Rhea felt he was hesitating to tell her something. However after sometime he said “Rhea, I have a friend in USA who is working at the same client site as Ambarish. I had personally contacted him to know about Ambarish. He gave me a bad news.” Siddhartha paused for a moment. Rhea’s heart had almost stopped beating and she was holding her breath to hear the news. Siddhartha said “My friend said that Ambarish is in a live-in relationship with a Mexican single mom. He wanted to marry that lady but his family strictly objected and literally forced him into marrying you.”
Rhea didn’t know how to react. She stayed silent. Siddhartha asked “Are you okay Rhea?”
She nodded. Her voice was inaudible to Siddhartha. He asked again “You okay?”
Rhea said slowly “Yes.”
Siddhartha breathed a sigh of relief and said “If you don’t mind can we meet today evening?”
Rhea was not in a mood to meet him but she also felt an eagerness to know in detail about Ambarish. Rhea felt Siddhartha wanted to tell her something more which he was unable to tell her over the phone. She agreed to meet him.
In the evening Rhea met Siddhartha. Rhea was looking very tired, her eyes were swollen and her hair was unkempt. She was wearing a salwar kameez with mismatched dupatta. Siddhartha took her to a nearby garden instead of a cafe or restaurant. He deliberately chose an open space. The park they were sitting was almost empty as it was quite late in the evening. They looked like those usual couples who came to this park after sun down for some privacy.
Siddhartha sat next to Rhea on a concrete bench. The bench was in the farthest corner of the park. Siddhartha looked into Rhea’s eyes and said “Rhea I couldn’t say this to you over phone. There is something more that I wish to tell you.” He paused and looked at Rhea’s reaction. He then continued “ Ambarish told my friend that he has no intentions to take you to USA. He just married you for the sake of his parents. He would be very happy if you initiate a divorce.”
Rhea didn’t know how to react to this news. She kept staring at Siddhartha blankly. Siddhartha felt sad looking at her face. He hurriedly held her right hand which was placed on her lap. Siddhartha said he would drop her home. They took a taxi. Rhea was in a sense of shock. Throughout their way home Siddhartha held her hand. Even in her grief Rhea felt his touch comforting and tender.
Rhea’s parents decided that they would file cases against Ambarish and his family. However Rhea just wanted a divorce and move ahead in life. She hardly knew Ambarish and thankfully the two days that she spent with Ambarish her marriage was not consummated. She had no emotional attachment with him either. Rhea wanted to finish her education and look for good job and settle in life.
In the mean time, Siddhartha started calling Rhea regularly. Rhea started enjoying his calls. Initially they used to discuss only about Ambarish and the fate of her marriage and different strategies to nail Amabarish. However gradually they started discussing other things. Rhea started feeling good whenever he called. Siddhartha started calling Rhea as Ri and she started calling him Sid.
Rhea started spending a lot of time talking to Sid on the phone. She started sharing a lot with him. She started taking his opinion in everything. He became a pillar of support for her in this distressed time. Eventually they started going out for movies and dinners almost every alternate day. One day while on their way back from a movie they were sitting inside a taxi. Sid was wearing a strong perfume which Rhea was finding very intoxicating. She couldn’t control her desire and turned her head and kissed him. This was the first time that Rhea kissed any boy. Sid got startled. Rhea felt embarrassed after kissing him. They both sat silently for some time and then Sid turned around and kissed her back passionately.
However, after that day Sid started distancing himself from Rhea. He stopped meeting her. Frequency of his calls reduced. Whenever Rhea called he used to not talk much. Rhea felt indifference in his attitude and then she also stopped calling him or meeting him.
After few months Rhea received a call from Sid. He said “Ri, I want to come to your house today evening. I have a surprise for you.”
Rhea felt excited that Sid was coming to meet her after such a long time and she was eagerly waiting for the surprise. Sid came in the evening and gave his wedding card to Rhea. Rhea was definitely not expecting this ‘surprise’. However she maintained a calm composure and congratulated him.
After handing over the card to Rhea, Sid sat next to her. Both of them were not talking to each other. Rhea broke the uncomfortable silence and said “I am happy for you Sid.”
Sid said “Thanks Ri, I would also like to see you married soon. Forget Ambarish, he was foolish. You deserve a better guy.” Rhea nodded her head and smiled a bit wryly. Sid said “I would definitely want you to attend my wedding. You will be my chief guest.”
Rhea nodded once again. She tried to smile but felt an unexpected sadness. Sid suddenly hugged Rhea tight and said “Ri, I will miss you.” Rhea could see a small teardrop at the corner of his eyes.
7 years later
Rhea was sitting inside the room in her wedding gown. She was looking beautiful. Suparna was helping her with the last minute touches. Rhea’s mom came inside the room and gave her a parcel that had just arrived through courier. Rhea kept the parcel aside and concentrated on the final touch to her eye shadow.
After Suparna went down Rhea’s attention fell on the parcel. She took the parcel and saw the name of the sender. It was Siddhartha Dutta. She felt her heart jumped to her throat. She couldn’t hold her curiosity and opened the parcel. It had a set of Hugo Boss perfume and a letter. She opened the letter and read:
I am so happy that you finally decided to get married. I do not have words to express my happiness. I am sure you are looking fabulous in your wedding dress. You are a beautiful woman at heart as well. I wish I had understood your beauty when you were near me. I wish I had realised my love for you earlier. I wish I hadn’t lost you. I miss you a lot Ri. May you find happiness in your new life. Love you always.
Rhea read the letter again and again. She then folded and tore it into pieces, crumpled the torn pieces and threw them into the litter bin. The letter made no sense to her after so many years. She looked at herself in the mirror for one final time and walked out of the room.