Read part 1: The Lover, here.
Read part 2: The Ex-husband, here.
Read part 3: The Reporter, here.
Read part 4: Cousin Pari, here.
Read part 5: Before The Inquest, here.
Friday. 8:45 am.
Nina Daruwalla was happy.
It was a bright morning. Her bowel movement had been clean. “Pa ra rum, phoosh,” in her words. Tea was perfect too. Plus it was her cheat-eat day, which she was going to start with locho^. The maid had brought it in.
“A day to live for,” she mused.
She walked over the windows and separated the purple curtains. Sunlight streamed in. Peppy Bollywood numbers were playing on her Bluetooth speaker. The maid was wiping the floor. The locho was in a plate on the table surrounded by the sofas. Her salivary glands had started working overtime.
She settled on her sofa and opened her MacBook Pro. Work for next week’s “movie success party” was unfinished, and she didn’t want to slack. She had to finalise the arrangements before the day ended. But first, the locho.
“How the fuck do you decide that a free short film on YouTube is a success?” She shook her head and giggled, chomping on her breakfast. “Money for me though. Why should I complain?”
Breakfast and an hour of solid work later, Nina picked up her phone. She dialled a number.
It was picked on the sixth ring.
“Hi darling,” Jatin Godbole replied.
“Where are you?”
“Leaving the airport now. Going to go home and sleep.”
“Yeah. Impromptu party after the restaurant closed. Didn’t even get to sleep for two hours.”
“Sleep well, baby. We have a night of travelling to do, remember?”
He sighed before speaking, the voice growing tired, “Yeah.”
“What happened, honey?”
“Nothing. I guess I’m tired.”
“Get some sleep. Meet me later. I’ve got the right medicine for your tiredness,” she chuckled.
“Yes, baby.” Jatin sounded like he was forcing a smile. Nina felt a pang of worry.
“Jatin, baby, we will have a great time in Goa. I’ve booked the same hotel as the last time. You remember the beach, don’t you?”
“I do, Nina. Um, listen, I’ll see you at 10 pm. What say?”
“What about dinner?”
“We’ll grab something to eat enroute.”
“Okay. Love you, baby.”
“Love you, too.”
Nina smiled. Despite the whiff of dodginess, the call had gone well. She imagined both of them on the beach, frolicking in the waves.
There were other calls to make next, the schedule for a Sunday night party to be fixed. Her assistant, Clive, was to handle the program while she’d be in Goa. She got busy with that.
In the afternoon, after she’d finished lunch, she went inside the bedroom and lied down on the bed. She was dithering between watching Netflix and having a nap when her phone rang again. It was her mother.
“Su ke ma? Su chaale?*”
“Baddu shanti beta. Tu ke?**”
“I’m good too, ma. Working from home today.”
It wasn’t unusual for Nina to conduct all the work from home on days when she felt like it.
“Jatin’s coming over tonight, ma. We’re going to Goa.”
“Wow. I think you should marry him and have kids, settle down. It’s not too late, yet.”
“Ma! I’m settled. I have my own business. You have a grandson too, remember?”
“Yes, but it hurts me to see you alone, dear. Jatin is sweet. You should consider marrying him…”
“…and stopping this business?” Nina finished her sentence.
“Okay, let’s change the topic.”
“Ma, ma, listen. I want to retire too. I want to roam the world with him. But I need money to do that. You remember what happened with Dharmesh. Do you want to face the same condition again?”
“No, Ninu, I didn’t mean to say that.”
Nina mulled over what she was going to say next, and started. “I’ll talk with him tonight, ma, I promise. I want to be done with everything by 50. But till then, I want him to support me without question. I don’t want him to tell me what to do. I am not jumping headlong into a dark hole again. Okay?”
“Atta mom,” she giggled.
They talked for a few more minutes. The image of Dharmesh growling at her on the phone came to her mind as she cut the call. What a dick, she thought! He felt she’d shut up because she’d lost a court case. Fucking A she will. “Dharmesh Bhide, your shady deals and your son, I’ll take everything away from you.”
It was 4:30 pm when she went to have a bath. On days when she worked from home, she didn’t worry about bathing in the morning. She kept the towel on the hanger and undressed, pausing to take a look at herself in the reflection from the glass wall that separated the bath tub from the rest of the bathroom.
She was 47, but she knew she could stand side-by-side with women half her age. This gave her immense joy. The fight against time was getting tougher with each year, but she wasn’t going to lay down her arms. As long as she remained in the glamour business, she wanted to both work and look the best.
She turned to her left to look at herself in the mirror. She picked up the comb from the shelf and ran it through her hair, observing the locks shine in the mirror in the light coming in from the ventilator. “Her mane,” isn’t that what Karanjit used to call it? Her thoughts ran through vignettes of their steamy time together. A tingle ran through her body as she recalled his touch, his voice, his eyes – Nina felt as if she was transported back to his villa in Goa to that most forbidden of times.
With an equal speed, thoughts of how it’d all ended crashed through the sweet memories.
His wife had caught them in bed.
“Choose an actress, if this is what you want to do,” she’d said to their face. He’d cut all contacts, as if she didn’t even exist.
“And now he thinks he can intimidate me into silence, after all these years. Bastard,” she thought! “No one threatens me. No one.”
She knew the kind of professional danger she was taking, but with the right spin, she was confident of pinning it all on him. She’d told him as much on the phone that day.
“Ignore me? You’ll see, Karanjit Kapoor.”
Blood rose to her cheeks. Once this reporter gave her the money, she was going to pull down the façade Kapoor had built up all his life.
Less than 3 hours later, she’d be dead.
^ A kind of Gujarati snack.
* “What’s up, mom?”
** “All good, kid. You say, what’s going on?”