"Choking, coughing and sputtering, I gasp for air as my eyes flutter open. I realize that I was dreaming a horrid dream. I wake up shakily and wipe the sweat off my brow, trying to calm myself that it was just a disturbing night(day)mare. I glance at my alarm clock – 2:45 pm. I cannot sleep anymore. I have been in this room for an entire day – such peace. I suddenly feel a spurt of joy that may be – just may be – I will get out of this shit I had chosen once for myself. After all, everyone has a choice, don’t they? Once I had made a choice to get into this and now I have a choice to step out. I will step out.
It’s not so easy Ira. People will remember your face, if not your body.
My heart speaks the dreaded truth. When I will step into the real world as me – there would be people who know me, as Rhea but yes, who will take the risk to identify an escort? Won’t their credentials be at stake too? If they keep quiet, I keep quiet. I have had managed to get few contacts who would help me and I could call them my friends. They include men who didn’t sleep with me, just shared their sentiments and let me go. I had heard their stories and made them feel better. There’s always a time for payback and I know I have some solid grounding.
Thinking all of this, I get up to get dressed. Standing in front of the full length mirror – I take in my reflection. With no trace of make up on my face, I look like myself – like Ira. My big eyes covered with dark lashes look innocent and frightful – which I actually am. My hair, black and straight was rolled in a loose bun – giving me a nerdy-messy look which made me smile; I used to look like that during exams.
I choose a simple outfit – trying my best to remove all the tell tale signs of my slut like demeanor. I put light kohl coloring my eyes and just plain Vaseline on my lips. Pairing a black ironed puffed sleeve shirt with blue trousers and ballet flats – I look like a writer I would have been. Clamping the wrist watch on my right hand, I take a deep centering breath and text Abeer –
‘I’m leaving. Will c u @park.’
‘Oh cool, I’m almost done. Will be there in 15.’
Location: Vyas Park. Time: 5:50 PM
I fidget nervously on the cold iron bench – my heart thumping loudly as the hands of my watch tick close to 6. The nightmarish dream keeps replaying before my eyes and I take in large gulps of breaths. Okay, there’s no point in hyperventilating Ira, you are just making things more complicated.
Yea, I already know that. I close my eyes and rub my brow, trying to throw away the pain that was slowly building up in my head.
“A Coffee would surely help you with that headache.”
I let out a surprised “Uh” as I turn around in the direction of the voice. A stranger stands before me. A woman – a beautiful one at that. I fail to hide my surprise when I see Abeer walking towards us, right behind the woman. Oh, I should have thought about this before. Abeer is married now. I get up, my palms sweating profusely as Abeer comes over.
“Hi Ira.” He holds out his hand, in a formal handshake as I still try to recover desperately from the shock I get from the woman standing there in a pink embroidered saree.
“Hi Abeer…um…” I try to smile but I don’t remember how to while the lady takes charge.
“Hi Ira, I am Nalini, Abeer’s co-author for his recent book The Cherry Tree.” The beautiful woman holds my hand smiling as I lose all my sense of conversation.
“Hey, let’s go there, so that we can talk in a better setting.” Abeer says, smiling at the lady, pointing towards his left. His eyes fall over me and I see nothing in them. Nalini smiles – oh, how beautiful can someone be? Her pink lips turn up causing two dimples to appear.
It burns my insides with some unknown animosity. Okay, I admit. I was acting like a teen, being jealous. He was in love with this woman, it was so obvious in his eyes. I ignore the jabbing pins in my heart as I nod in their general direction, walking towards the canopied coffee shop sitting like a comfortable duck in the corner of the park."
Ira's life is about to change...