10:30 pm, Wednesday.
“Make sure you have a taste of the risotto.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I hope you enjoyed how the opening has gone.”
“Fabulous. Couldn’t be happier.”
They engaged in some small talk, and then the man excused himself. Jatin Godbole was happy. He had been invited to Ahmedabad. The invitation was from his boss, with whom he was chatting moments ago.
Boss owned the restaurant chain he worked at in Bandra. Tonight was the opening of their branch in Ahmedabad. Despite having new chefs, boss had asked him to be present. Jatin, ever ready to please him, had agreed.
He could take a break now, he guessed. He asked one of the new chefs to look after the food. He went inside the staff restroom, took off his apron and cap, and put them on the shelf. The restroom was empty. He put his hands on the counter, and looked at himself in the mirror.
“Looking good, Jay-G,” he said to himself.
He was closing in on the end of his fourth decade on earth. Life had been good so far to him, he thought. Good looks, good money, and good body too. He chuckled as he pictured himself without a shirt. And a great girlfriend. So what if she was 8 years older?
He took a leak, washed his face, dabbed at it with the tissue paper, and walked out of the loo, throwing the crumpled paper into the half-open metal waste bin. He ventured to the balcony of the restaurant. It provided a stunning night view of the city. He took out his cellphone.
“30 WhatsApp messages from 3 chats.” The notification panel informed him.
He unlocked the screen to discover that his suspicion was right. 26 of the 30 messages were from Nina.
Nina, the love of his life. He recalled their last meeting, and immediately felt blood rush to odd places inside his body. He pictured the way her touch had sent goosebumps over his whole body. She’d been as hungry as a tigress, and as arresting as Aphrodite Herself. Being with her, in her, was the most fulfilling thing even after three years of courtship. It’d been an instant connect, right from the day they’d met at that old superstar’s party. And now, between endless talks and incredible sex, they needed to look at the next step. Settling down.
That was where trouble started.
11:45 pm, Monday
The room was dark except for the diffuse lighting around the ceiling. They were lying side by side on the bed when he popped the question.
“You sure you’ll retire at 50?” She was an event manager.
“What makes you so sure?”
“I know myself.”
“Why do you need to work those parties though?”
“Jatin, don’t start again.”
“I don’t want you managing those parties. Those actors, their hangers-on, God! They look at you like you’re little more than meat.”
She was calm, he noticed.
“Why would I be jealous? I’m worried for your safety.”
“You’re jealous of my fame.”
“Oh fuck off.”
“You fuck off. Why is it any of your concern how I make my money? I’m doing it of my own will. For God’s sake, I’m not sleeping with any of them.”
“But you could make good money even in other functions. And I’m earning too.” He tried a reconciliatory tone.
“That’s your money, not mine!”
“What do you need the extra money for? You want to drown in that?”
“I want to make as much money as I can, whenever and wherever I like. Suck it up.”
“Or else you won’t know what hit you.”
“You fucking…”He jumped towards her.
“Stop right there.” She pointed a knife at him. He hadn’t noticed when she’d pulled that out.
“Stay where you are.” She declared, getting out on her side of the bed. “Get dressed. And get the fuck out of here.”
He gathered his shirt. His breath was coming in short spurts now, chest heaving, the same as hers. He realised he was shaking. It was tough for him to say what had caused this – the anger or the humiliation.
She kept the knife pointed at him. They were on either side of the bed, in various states of undress. Her hair was dishevelled. She didn’t bother covering herself.
Her eyes were boring holes in his body.
He fumbled with the shirt’s buttons, gritting his teeth and growling obscenities.
When he got to the door, he turned around and glared at her. The anger had settled deep in his gut, layered over by something frigid.
“I’m going to fucking kill you one day,” he barked before banging the door close after him.
10:55 pm, Thursday
She’d sent him pictures of the villa they were going to stay at. She’d also sent some selfies in beachwear, keen to make sure he didn’t back out at this stage of the plan.
8:15 am, Wednesday
She’d called. He was still sleeping.
“Hello,” he groaned.
“I’m sorry baby. I shouldn’t have said those things to you.” All her earnestness was at her disposal now.
“Monday night, babe, I don’t know what got into me. I mean…”
For the most part, he’d stayed silent. But the tough exterior had given in when she’d started bawling her guts out, hysteric for a long while. In the end, he’d agreed to a Goa trip over the weekend. They were to leave on Friday night.
11:05 pm, Thursday
That was yesterday. Now, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go. He wasn’t sure whether he even wanted to meet her. Hell, why should he even reply to her text? Instead, why shouldn’t he grab her head and ram it into her dressing table mirror? That’d do a world of good to her “youthful looks.”
He visualized the scene, feeling a darkness rise inside and take hold. He shook his head, blinking and exhaling through his nose.
He took three quick drags on the cigarette. Then he stubbed it on the balcony glass, and went back inside.