The sound of the closing door stirred her. It sounded louder inside her head than it actually was. She felt a slight head ache starting or was it the one continuing from the night before, she was not sure.
Preethi contemplated going back to sleep, closing her eyes and pulling the sheets closer. Almost immediately she realized sleep was not an option. She grabbed her phone from under the pillow. It was 8:30 a.m. The closing door was her husband Vikram leaving for work.
He didn’t even say goodbye. She told herself.
Staying almost still and moving just her fingers, she ran through the notifications on her phone dismissing the few from WhatsApp groups. She was not in the mood for rosy good mornings and cheerful images teasing a nice day ahead. She was sure she was having neither. Usually she checked her to-do list first thing in the morning but not today. Not yet. Putting the phone back under the pillow she shut her eyes one last time. Giving up again, she clicked her tongue and sat up on the bed with her feet touching the floor. Rubbing her eyes, she walked towards the bathroom door almost creeping towards it.
Few minutes later, she came out of the bathroom a little more awake and put her phone on charge on the bedroom desk where she noticed the cup of coffee gone cold. She thought about throwing it in the sink and making herself a fresh cup but instead threw it in the oven to reheat it.
Taking the cup to the dining table, she sat at her usual place. The chair was pulled back where Vikki, as she called him, had sat with an empty plate and cup in front. A casserole was placed at the centre of the table. She sneaked a peak at the sandwiches and closed the lid. The coffee seemed to be helping though.
After the coffee, she took a bath and changed into a t-shirt and track pants. She opened her laptop and checked her mail and official WhatsApp. She had some enquiries which she moved to her to-do list to be dealt with later. She deleted the spam mails and moved to her social media pages checking for messages and updates. This took up a considerable amount of time on a daily basis and was the mundane but necessary part of her job. Opening her to-do list, she noted she was supposed to start work on the cake to be delivered tomorrow evening.
Preethi had quit her job in marketing to become a home baker more than a year ago. It seemed like a great idea back then. All their decisions seemed like great ideas then, till things stopped going according to the plan. She envied Vikki. She missed having a job, the need to be at an office at a specific time, being answerable to a boss and sometimes showing off to colleagues. She shut the device, there was no going back.
Not in the mood to cook, she ate the sandwich, dumped the plates into the sink and sat herself in front of the TV. It was 1 pm. Browsing through content on Netflix she stole a glance at her phone. There was no call or text from Vikki. He used to call her during lunch every day. Sometimes she used to beat him to it and then bicker childishly. Change was inevitable and she knew that, but she had always believed that the net result of all change was positive, you gain more than you lose. Maybe she was wrong. Unable to decide on what to watch and sensing the headache coming back, she switched off the TV and slid down to lie flat on the couch. She fell asleep immediately.
She woke up at 3:40 pm to her ringing phone, it was her mother. She ignored it, making a mental note to call her back later. She sat up and felt like her brain had put on 2 kilos while she was asleep. Her headache had got worse. She had reminded Vikki last night to buy her regular medicines prescribed by Dr. Poornima on the way home but she was not sure if there was Dart, tablets for migraine, in the prescription. She walked to her bedroom desk and opened the drawer praying they had some left and was relieved to see that they had. She took one and drank water from the bottle on the desk as her phone gave a buzz. It was a single ring from Vikki. She wasn’t going to call back.
She made some coffee and sat with it in front of her laptop, intending to respond to those queries and then start work on tomorrow’s cake with some research. Her desktop wall paper was a photo from their holiday in Mumbai 2 years ago. This was from their second trip after their honeymoon and 6 months into their marriage but in many ways it was more memorable. They were in a bar by the beach. Preethi was laughing into her right hand while holding a glass of wine in her left. Vikki had a glass of beer on the table in front of him and a 2 year old Bryan on his lap. He was smiling, saying something funny to Bryan and that had triggered her laughter. The photo was clicked by Jane, Preethi’s best friend and Bryan’s mother whom they had gone to visit. She browsed through other pictures taken during that trip. They had visited Bandra fort, the Gateway of India and a hundred cafes in between. She missed the food and missed the way they were in those pics. Like best friends.
When she was done, it was 6:30 and she was hungry. She cooked some Maggi noodles and washed the dishes at the same time. Vikki usually arrived by 7, so she made some for him too. She finished her portion and was washing her plate when Vikki arrived half an hour later than usual. He placed her medicines on the dining table and went into the bedroom to freshen up and change.
He joined Preethi on the couch in front of the TV, noodles in hand.
“Jumanji just released on Amazon I think,” he said
“Didn’t you see that movie with your friends?,” she retorted without looking away from the TV.
“Yeah, but it is a really good movie. I can watch it again.”
“I don’t feel like watching it now,” she said
“Are you ok? You saw the medicines kept on the table?”
“Yup. I’m fine. Just a head ache.”
“You took dart?” He asked, scooping some more noodles into his mouth.
“Yes. I think I’m gonna sleep early tonight.”
With this she got off the couch and went into the bed room. She brushed her teeth and washed her face. She took her tablets, switched on the AC and switched off the lights before getting into bed. Pulling up her blanket she turned away from Vikki’s side of the bed and lay like that for almost an hour at which point Vikki came into the room. She heard him brushing his teeth and then flushing the toilet. She felt the bed sinking on his side as he lay down.
She felt anger. She felt frustration at the fact that he didn’t realize she was angry. Maybe it was intentional because he didn’t want to go through the argument that would follow. The argument that would eventually end with him saying that it was not his fault. It wasn’t his fault things didn’t go according to plan. It wasn’t his fault that she had a mis carriage 6 months into her pregnancy. None of it was his fault but none of it was her fault either, still it was she who took the damage. Life was back to normal for Vikki, maybe better than before. Maybe the doctor’s advice not to try again for a child immediately was just what Vikki wanted to hear. The abortion had shown him a Preethi that he had never seen before. They say that a friend that sticks with you during your lowest point in life become your best friend for life. What about the best friends that suddenly see you at your worst?
Vikki was still awake and on his phone. Preethi suspected he was texting. She had spied on his phone on occasion and found some texts to women who were his friends or colleagues. Some of their texts did seem borderline flirty but not enough to win a point when an argument is drawn. So it never came up. She half wished she could turn around to snatch his phone and start blowing off some steam, but she felt too tired and sleepy. She dozed off cursing herself for not working on that cake.
Bryan was standing in the bar, lost and panicked. He was shouting her name, “PREETHI!! PREETHI!!!” she opened her eyes fully awake. It was Vikki standing by the desk.
“Preethi, here’s your coffee honey,” he said, smiling
She smiled back, at which point he came forward and kissed her on her lips. She tasted a bit of the coffee now waiting for her on the desk. He went into the bathroom. She checked the time, it was 7 am. She got up to grab her coffee and took it into the kitchen. She had her to-do list by heart. She started preparing upma, their common favourite breakfast. After a quick visit to the bathroom, she made a call to her client and clarified a few things about today’s cake. She browsed through some google images for cake ideas as she finished up the upma and took it to the dining table.
He joined her at the table well dressed and looking sharp.
“Wow!” he exclaimed at the upma.
“Wow yourself!” she replied. “All dressed up. Big date?”
“Ha ha! You can say that. I’m getting my official promotion papers today.”
“Ah yes! Congratulations again dear,” she said smiling, touching his hands on the table.
He smiled back. That same smile from the bar in Mumbai. They finished the upma clean and he kissed her lips again before leaving for work. She had held him in that kiss for a second longer.
She put the plates away and immediately started on the cake. After making the mixture for the cake base and putting it in the oven, she decided on the design and started work on the frosting. Soon the mixture was ready and the oven needed a few more minutes to catch up with her. She responded to the new enquiries and some new once received on WhatsApp and Instagram. She was sure to get the orders. She was a good baker and she knew it. She had a good number of regular customers and new customers trickling in from her social media. If orders increased at the pace they were, she may need to employ a full time help by next month. She was picturing the spare fridge for ready-made and ready-for-delivery cakes placed near the dining table when the microwave oven dinged. She spent the next hour preparing the cake and placed it in the fridge and took out the Biriyani from 2 days back to heat it up. Work always made her hungry.
During lunch she caught up with her mom and then got in touch with the customer to arrange pick up of the cake. She proceed to call Vikki.
“Hey! new boss,” She said
“Hey sexy.” He replied
“Got those papers?”
“Yup, right here on my new desk”
“Calls for a party.”
“Your choice, my treat.” He said
“I’ll book the table. 8 pm ok?”
“Perfect honey. I’ll fill you in during dinner. I’m still upset you didn’t call me back yesterday”
“It rang just once. I thought you called me by mistake,” she said, faking innocence.
“Really? You know I gave a missed call in case you were asleep.”
“Ok. My bad.”
“I’ll see you in the evening honey, Love you,” he said
“Me too dear,” she cut the call
Vikki’s energy was contagious and was the thing that attracted her during their first meetings arranged through their parents. If her life was a book, Vikki was the book review that assured her everything was going to be alright and there was a happy ending. She loved him and knew deep within her that he loved her just the same. He made the mountains into hurdles that she could jump over. The mountains that were the last few months, with her mis-carriage and subsequent sessions with her psychiatrist, Dr. Poornima. As she was thinking about what to wear for the evening, she reminded herself to take the afternoon medication. She didn’t think the experimental new drugs made any difference. In fact, she secretly believed she was part of the control group taking the placebo medicines. Maybe she could skip it today…