At his penthouse in the Amber Residential Tower in Berlin, Don arranged for a room to be decorated as suited for a 4 year old. Maya was almost 5, actually, and she was old enough to realize her mother was definitely missing,but she seemed to enjoy being with
“Don uncle” immensely.
Don sat with her in the new room he’d had quickly arranged for her. His men had ensured there was anything a little girl would desire to play with.
Don sat on the floor, next to Maya, watching her happily inspecting all her new toys. Whenever she’d look at him or talk to him, his eyes would lit up and a smile would make way to his lips. But as soon as she was back to her toys, his gaze would get lost in space and his smile would fade immediately.
Don had taken Maya away from Sam, and it hadn’t even occurred to him tod o it out of revenge. He was doing it to protect Maya, first and foremost. And if it meant breaking Sam’s heart, very well then.He was doing it to protect his sanity, actually.
He couldn’t stand being alone. He needed a distraction, he needed a purpose and a reason to carry on and Maya was the perfect candidate. He loved her unconditionally, he’d loved her ever since she was born. He’d been there for every little milestone in her life, and she was like the daughter he never had. And never will have, he added to his own trail of thoughts.Swara was gone.It still hadn’t begun to sink in.
‘Wanna be the prince?’ Maya came running towards him with a doll that had to be Prince Charming, while she held Cinderella in her other hand
‘Sure, sweetheart’ he smiled at her, taking the doll reluctantly. Who was he kidding, he had no clue how to play with dolls.She then pulled Don by the hand towards the toy castle in the opposite corner ofthe room.Maya then took her doll’s shoe off and placed it on one of the stairs, and told Don
‘Look, she lost her glass shoe!’
‘Mhm’ Don stared at Maya, not knowing what to do with that piece of information
‘Go get it, silly!’ Maya pushed him playfully
Don crawled on his hands and knees towards thetoy castle, and retrieved the lost shoe.Maya slapped her forehead playfully ‘Prince Charming has to take it!’
‘Oh, aren’t I Prince Charming?’
Maya laughed whole-heartedly ‘You can’t be Prince Charming! Prince charming has blonde hair and blue eyes!’ she kept laughing,throwing her head back.
Don couldn’t help but smile, seeing her so unaware of everything and carefree. He wished he could play with her forever, keeping his mind off the gruesome reality.
Maya came and took his doll and using it’s hand she picked up the shoe again. Don frowned smilingly,she was so sweet.
‘Oh, ok’ he retrieved the doll and the shoe ‘What next?’
‘Now you come and look for Cinderella’
‘Where is she?’ he asked after a small pause
‘She ran away’
‘Because she’s not a princess anymore’ Maya kept looking for places to hide her doll while replying to Don’s questions
‘She’s not?’ Don furrowed his brows slightly
‘Ya. At midnight, she turned from a princess into normal girl’
‘ ‘Cause she only wanted to be princess to meet Prince Charming. But it was a spell. Now she has to be normal. The carriage turned into pumpkin and dress turned into rags’
she explained slowly as she undressed Cinderella from the beautiful princess gown and started dressing it into torn, old-looking clothes.Don stared into space as he asked Maya
‘Why did she lie to him?’
‘ ‘Cause Prince Charming only falls in love with a princess’
‘But why didn’t she tell him the truth after he fell in love with her?’
Maya shrugged ‘Dunno. Mommy says that men are stupid’
Don couldn’t help but chuckle
‘When is mommy coming?’ Maya then asked
Don avoided her gaze ‘Don’t you like playing with me?’
‘Ya, but mommy could play with us too’Don cleared his throat
‘Ok, let’s see where Cinderella went’
Swara put on her sunglasses as she got off the train. It hadn’t been exactly the comfortable private-jet ride she had become so used to. But then, nothing would ever be the same again. She had to keep that in mind. She made her way to an taxi and told the driver the address of the real estate agency she had contacted via mail.
As she reached her destination, she looked at the façade of the agency and took a deep breath. This was the beginning of her new life. She prayed that everything went well with all her heart, or whatever little was left of it.
1 year and 7 months later
‘See you on Wednesday’ she said after blowing her whistle ‘Go hit the lockers’
The kids said their good byes and did as instructed, while she began stretching, preparing for her next class. She was teaching self-defense classes along with tae kwon do.
‘Excuse me, are you the self-defense instructor?’Swara turned slightly to see a man standing with a little girl, near the entrance
‘Yes, come in’ she gestured ‘I’m Swara D’Souza. Are you interested in taking self-defense classes?’ she looked at the man.
He seemed well built, but she’d seen stranger candidates.He chuckled, extending his arm to shake her
‘Arjun Khanna. No,I’m here for my daughter actually. This is Rebecca’
swara half smiled. She tried to seem friendly while greeting the children for the first time. But she remained 100% professional and not so friendly throughout the courses, despite the first impression she portrayed. She wanted to instill respect and discipline into the children, but also let them know that she wasn’t made out of stone
‘Hi there, Rebecca’ she then regained her stern look ‘Mr. Khanna, I’m sorry, but the self defense classes are only addressed to adults. Children can learn from a small age to defend themselves through martial arts. I am also a tae kwon do instructor, I’d advise you to sign her up for that’
Arjun seemed to remain pensive fora moment
‘Rebecca, why don’t you wait for daddy in the hallway?’ he looked at his daughter
She obliged and he turned to swara‘I’m actually thinking it’s a bit too late for that… Maybe you could help me with some advice?’she crossed her arms over her chest.
Somehow it made her uncomfortable to be speaking to any male person for more than a couple of minutes at a time. But she had to act professional
‘Certainly, if I can be of any help. What is the matter?’
‘You see… she’s being bullied at school. And I want her to learn to solve her own issues. But I don’t want things to get out of hand. If anything more than a few nudges and playful hair pulling were to happen, I’m kinda scared I’d get arrested for injuring her colleagues quite badly’ he chuckled, scratching his left earlobe slightly ‘I’m quite protective about her’
‘Naturally’ she cleared her throat.This all sounded very familiar, and she wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible
‘You see, I’m getting the feeling that these older boys are picking on her because they like her. She’s totally unaware of that, she’s just 14. But those boys are a couple of years older and probably looking for a way to get her attention. I’d like for her to know how to take care of herself when I’m not around. You know how teenage boys can get… I’m afraid they’ll cross the line one day. If she learns how to break their bones a bit, maybe I won’t have to break their necks’
he chuckled again and swara eventually let out a small laughter.She stopped immediately. She couldn’t believe this man had made her not even smile but actually… giggle? What the hell. She needed to get him out of there.
‘You can still sign her up for martial arts and I’ll personally make sure I teach her a few key moves . But I can’t have her come and be the only girl amongst adults. It’d be weird for her’
‘That would be great… Uhm, you don’t think I’m mad for doing this, na?’ he grinned nervously
‘Not at all. I think it’s great that you want her to keep her sense of independence while still ensuring she’s safe. She shouldn’t have to be afraid of hormonal teenage boys’ she smiled firmly and politely,telling him the schedule for the classes.
Don got out of the Bentley and circled the car to open the door and help Maya out. He held her hand protectively as they headed towards the school. She kept trying to slow him down, and eventually he crouched in front of her. He knew better than to try and pick her up in public, she didn’t like that. She was a big girl now.
‘What’s the matter?’ he showed her his dimples as he removed his sunglasses
She bit her lower lip looking towards the imposing building ahead. Her first day of school was proving to be more frightening than expected
‘All summer you’ve kept telling me how you can’t wait to start school. Now you’re chickening out?’She raised an eyebrow at him. She’d adopted many of his mannerisms, as well as learnt the very situations in which to use them.‘Then what?’ he straightened, placing his palms on his hips
She lowered her gaze ‘I know you said she couldn’t make it… but I really wish mommy could be here today’
Don inhaled sharply. He’d beenafraid of that. As much as he’d triedall this time to win her over completely, Maya still needed and missed her mom.
He’d arrange for Yana to come see her frequently. At first he wanted to cut her out of Maya’s life completely, but pretty soon he understood that it was too cruel to separate the little girl from her mother. He could’ve easily lied to her, told her that her parents had died or something. But he just couldn’t get himself to do that to Maya. So, he decided to have Yana over on weekends. He’d warned her not to ever tell Maya what had happened, and especially to never mention her father. Don had let it up to Yana to find an excuse for Sam’s absence. Yana always kept hope alive that one day Don would come around, and so she told her daughter that her father was away on an extended business trip. Don also warned her that she would have to answer to Maya’s questions about her father, and she couldn’t keep lying to her forever.
“He should be dead to her” he’d told her coldly. But Yana couldn’t do that. She simply couldn’t. She kept telling her daughter how her daddy loved and missed her, and how he’d be coming to see her one day, soon.Sam was the one to always remind Yana not to ever even think of doing anything foolish. He insisted that they were lucky as it was that Don had agreed to let Yana spend the weekends in his London posh duplex. Any wrong move and Don could easily break off any contact with their daughter. Sam was happy that at least his daughter got to be with her mother. He missed her terribly. But he also knew that Don really loved Maya. He knew she was very well taken care of.
Don thought about it. Maya should have her mother there for her on her first day of school, even if it were a Monday. He eventually picked her up, and as always, when she was sad, she didn’t protest even if it was in public. He looked into her eyes and asked her
‘Would you be happy if mommy came to drop you off on your first day as well?’
Maya nodded, a big pout on her face ‘But I know she can’t… she’s at work in Berlin, she won’t be here until Friday…’Don kissed her cheek affectionately and told her to go sit in the car for a moment.
He made a phone call and a very enthusiastic Yana was already shouting at her husband to call a cab for her. Don’s jaw tightened upon hearing that traitor’s voice, even over the phone, but he tried to keep a good mood for Maya’s sake.
In a matter of minutes, Yana’s taxi pulled over and she came running towards the Bentley. She’d obviously just pulled a trench coat on top of whatever she’d been wearing around the house to come be there for her daughter as soon as Don had told her she could come.Don opened the car door
‘Sweetheart, guess who’s here?’Maya looked over his shoulder to see her mother.
She jumped out of the car and straight into her mother’s arms ‘Mommy, you came! I’m so happy!’Yana hugged her daughter tight, tears rolling down her cheek
‘I couldn’t miss my baby’s first day of school, could I?’Maya turned to Don
‘You tricked me!’ she giggled then turned back to her mother ‘Don uncle always makes such great surprises!’Yana hugged her daughter tight again and mouthed a heartfelt
“thank you” to Don. He nodded and then gestured for them to proceed. He didn’t want Maya being late on her first day.
When Yana returned home, she showed Sam a short video she took with her phone of their daughter walking into the private (and very expensive) school,waving back at them happily. Sam cried seeing his little girl, who wasn’t that little anymore. She was starting school. And he wasn’t there to see her off…
Don had strictly forbade Yana to show Maya any videos or photos of her father. He wanted her to forget him. But Yana kept telling her daughter about how her daddy loved and missed her all the time. She took videos of her without her realizing, because she feared that Don would find out somehow and be angry with her. But that day he’d seemed to turn a blind eye to her filming her daughter’s first day at school. She tried to be discreet, but she knew there was no fooling Don. Had he wanted her to put her phone away, he’d have told her so.
Later that day, Sam had been busy making some phonecalls. Yana asked him what they were about and he sighed
‘I got a job in Delhi. I should be flying in tomorrow’
Yana sighed ‘Sam… you know what she asked you…’
‘I know, I know… but I really wanna check if she’s alright, you know. It’s been so long. Haven’t heard from her in over a year’
‘Ya, and last time she specifically asked you to never look for her again…’
Sam gave her a look ‘I can’t just erase her from our lives like that, ok?’
Yana snapped ‘You know what, maybe if you cared less about her you would be able to see your own daughter!’
Sam just stared at his wife ‘How can you even say that?’
Yana ran her fingers through her hair, angrily, and looked away ‘Just forget it’Sam walked into another room and then came back again ‘I know you blame me for everything but don’t you think I’m being punished enough as it is?’Yana squinted at him
‘Don’t you dare talk to me about punishment. What about my punishment? What fault did I have in all this? Huh?’
Their argument continued for a long while, as usual. Ever since the incident, their marriage was crumbling and was only going downhill. Deep down, Yana knew that Sam wasn’t to blame. But she also knew that had Don never been a part of their lives, Maya would’ve been with them. She knew that if Sam had not gone to meet Don that day in Berlin and lied to her about his whereabouts, they would’ve been a happy, regular family.
Don took his reading glasses off and rubbed hiseyelids slightly. He glanced at his Tag Heuer watch. He’d given up trying to sleep at reasonable hours long ago. Lying in bed was simply not going to cut it for him. He’d might as well put that time to good use, working.And work was better than ever.
But he was managing it on his own now, which meant he had to put in long hours to make sure everything was being taken care of. He could never trust another man with anything, not after… He suddenly stood and walked to the bar in the opposite corner of his study.
He had mastered the exact timing on which he had to have his whiskey before letting his thoughts crawl their way in. It wasa slippery slope, but he now knew how to avert it.
Being Asia’s underworld king was time-consuming. But taking monopole over Europe as well had proven to be quite a full-time job. He wasn’t trusting anyone to handle any important aspect of the business, so he had quite literally drowned himself into work.
Being there for Maya had proven to be quite challenging, as well. There was never a moment when she’d needed him and he hadn’t been there. But he was happy to have taken the decision to let her mother come over during the weekends.
He used that time to travel. For business, as well. He’d cut down on his courses at the university, and was now only holding lectures once a week. He’d also kept the antique jewelry business, but it was more of a façade than anything. He was actually wondering why he had not realized how easily he could use this as a cover-up for drug-dealing sooner.
He took another sip. The ice cubes hadn’t even melted when they reached his lips. He poured himself some more then drank it all up in one gulp. The truth was, he’d never thought of resuming his illegal activities while he was venturing into precious stones.He tried to fight the impulse, but he eventually succumbed to it once more.
He grabbed his jacket and after checking up on Maya carefully to make sure she was sound asleep, he stepped out of the duplex and into his Mercedes. He wasn’t nowhere near drunk, but the following day was Friday and he knew that Yana would be there to get Maya ready for school in the morning. So he intended getting as close as he could to unconscious.
Making her way through a very crowded Mall, Swara barely dragged her feet through the stores. She hated shopping for jeans. But she needed to buy a new pair quite desperately. Wearing a belt wasn’t helping any longer, she needed a smaller size. It had happened twice already. She’d always been the same size for as long as she could remember, but she’d lost considerable weight over the year.
“1 year and 7 months” she corrected herself, in her mind. She wished she could kill that voice inside her head reminding her of… things. Luckily the mall was crowded enough to at least muffle it.She grabbed a few pairs that didn’t seem too horrible, and headed for the dressing rooms. She hated the mirrors in dressing rooms. She really didn’t want to see her bones showing in all of them, staring right back at her. Her ripped muscles seemed even more tense in that lightning.
She despised her figure, there was nothing feminine about it anymore. Well toned abs weren’t exactly her idea of female aesthetics.She allowed herself another long hard look in the mirrors. She touched her hair reluctantly. Maybe the fact that she’d cut it all the way to her shoulders also made her look less feminine. She stared at her reflection even more closely.
When had she used conditioner last? When had she worn makeup the last time? She wondered whether her mascara tube was all dried up at home or if she could still get a couple more uses out of it. She didn’t remember the last time she’d put on mascara, or where the tube even was for that matter.She suddenly flinched and backed away from the mirror slightly. Why was she even thinking about all this?
She quickly tried on the jeans she’d selected and after a quick glance she decided they’d have to do. After all, at least they fitted her.As she made her way towards the cash register, she realized why such thoughts were going through her mind. Hearts, flowers and
“Love”were virtually plastered everywhere around her. She furrowed her brows in disdain as she felt there was no escaping the Valentine’s Day craze. How stupid of her to step out of the house on such a day. She’d thought she’d avoid it being too crowded, going shopping later in the evening, but it turned out that everyone was out and about on this corny day.
Trying hard to just look straight ahead, she made her way out of the mall. Her shopping spree had lasted roughly 20 minutes, but she couldn’t bare a minute longer. She was about to hop into an cab when she suddenly remembered the previous year’s Valentine’s Day.
When she stayed at home, in bed, only to be constantly reminded of what she’d done on a different Valentine’s Day in bed, all day long, as per his view on how Valentine’s Day should be spent.
She squeezed her eyes shut, as if to block those thoughts from entering her mind, and in result was almost hit by a scooter. She was definitely not going home, and risk repeating the previous year’s torture. She needed a distraction.
Silence.That’s what hit him every time he entered the mansion, just outside Switzerland. The air was heavy,dust sitting everywhere, and somehow it always seemed to be raining every time he went there.This was not the first time he’d gone into the place that he’d once thought of as “home”.
He almost mocked himself for having had such ideas once. A man like him could never have a home. He should’ve known that. He should’ve known. There were so many things that he should’ve known.
Before letting the surroundings sink in, he made his way upstairs, towards his old study. Just before he put back down the bottle of whiskey, he noticed something on the tray. He picked it up, almost with shaky hands. It’d been a while since he’d last went there, and that’s when he’d left his watch there, after he’d starkly realized what he’d been wearing all that time without even realizing it. He turned it over, the writing engraved standing out in the dimmed light:
“No matter what we speak, or do,
The moments in sweet silence fly…”
He stared at it for long, his eyes burning into the steel. He murmured the whole poem he’d written for her, out of which she’d had those lines engraved on the very watch she’d gifted him long back
“Already from the day we met
Was my freedom mortal shot?
She’s but a girl as they, and yet
There’s something more,
I don’t know what.
No matter what we speak, or do,
The moments in sweet silence fly,
For somehow there is music too
When she is mute,I don’t know why.”
Hearing himself whisper those lines enraged him in an escalating manner. Staring at the watch, he watched as he slowly dipped it into the whiskey he’d just poured himself, as if it wasn’t him performing the very action.
He even grabbed the bottle again and poured some more, filling the crystal glass and trying to drown the wrist watch in whiskey completely.Then, as if possessed, he fished the lighter out of his pocket. He lit it, dragging it along the surface of the glass, burning himself slightly as the alcohol caught fire.
He watched it closely, as if desperately hoping it would destroy the watch somehow, or at least melt the words that were engraved on it. As the fire began dying down, he felt his pulse picking up. He grabbed the glass and threw it against a wall. His very own Molotov Cocktail. He didn’t look in the direction he’d thrown it, as he rapidly realized why he’d thrown it at that particular wall.
He knew there was a framed photo on it. He’d heard glass shattering, but he couldn’t be sure if it’d been only the crystal.He sat on the armchair that was facing away from that wall.It didn’t make any difference. He knew that photo all too well. It was much more engraved in his memory than those lines could ever be on the back of that wrist watch.He glanced over his shoulder.
The wall was now empty, his gaze lowering to the floor. The frame’s glass was broken but the photo was very much intact. As if mimicking his own posture, Swara was looking over her bare shoulder at him. Her eyes big, innocent yet enticing, her lips pouting slightly, her ruffled hair pulled in the front, exposing her flawless back, her arm barely covering the profile of her br*ast. It was a photo he’d taken of her in the spur of the moment and he’d insisted on having it framed. He used to sit in his study staring at it for longer than he cared to remember.
He squinted at the photo with what would seem to anyone looking as pure hatred. But there was such a fine line between hatred and passionate love, longing, lust.
Swara finally decided to go train. Because that’s just what she needed, the voice in her head snapped sarcastically. Afterall, it’s not as if she was basically training everyday, during her courses. But it was the only thingthat kept her mindoff things. And she needed that just then, at a ridiculous hour late at night, in the only 24/7 gym in her area. She pushed herself to the limit. She decided to take it out on the punching bag. Seemed very appropriate for V Day.
“See? I can be sarcastic too”
she talked to herself between her teeth while giving the punching bag her best shot.Immediately she realized someone had come into her visual field. She stopped, holding the punching bag, fearing it might hurt the respective person
‘I thought I recognized you!’ he said with a grinIt took a few moments for Swara to realize who it was and why he was standing in her way.
‘Are you alright?’ his smile slowly faded ‘I thought I heard you say something earlier while I was trying to figure out whether it was you or not’
She resumed her position after giving him a fun my look. What’s this guy’s problem? she thought.
‘Uhm… I’m Arjun Khanna. You must not remember’
‘I know who you are’ she stated, and started kicking the bag again.
He was a grown man, he would have to get out of the way if he didn’t want to get hurt
And so he did, but just slightly ‘Uhm. My daughter is very excited about her tae kwon do classes, you know’ he slowly raised his voice so she could hear him between all the grunts and kicking noises
‘She says you’re really good’ he added
She glanced at him, her eyebrows furrowed. Couldn’the tell she was busy?
‘She told me you were way tougher than you seem. I believe her now’ he said with a hint of amusement
Swara blinked slowly, annoyed ‘If there is something you’d like to discuss regarding your daughter’s activityin my courses, you are welcome to address to me- after-classes’
Arjun looked at her for a few moments then said ‘Alright’
She almost sighed in relief, seeing him slowly turn back towards where he’d probably come from.
‘Oh, by the way’
She rolled her eyes, but tried to hide it
‘I haven’t seen you training here before’
‘I don’t normally train’Arjun stared at her, then finally found his words
‘Are you seriously telling me you got those abs just through tae kwon do?’
Swara blinked at him ‘Uh, yes?’
‘Wow. Are you a personal trainer too, by any chance?’
Swara stared at him. Had she heard that line from someone else, she might have felt it was flirting. But he’d asked her on the most casual tone.
‘Too bad. Mine are starting to fade’ he lifted his tank top and showed her his (not so faded) abs for a split second before covering himself back up ‘I don’t really get the time to hit the gym the way I used to’
Swara felt very uncomfortable suddenly, having seen him half naked almost. It wasn’t an awkward conversation for a gym, but she still wanted to end it right there and then
‘Ask your daughter to teach you some moves, then’ she smiled politely then turned her back and started punching the bag from a different angle so he would hopefully take the hint.
After finishing up whatever whiskey there was in his former study, Don slowly walked towards the master bedroom. He knew that he was intoxicated enough to face it, and he also knew that the smell of her perfume still lingering around was probably just his imagination.
He opened the door, pushing it slowly. When they’d left the mansion, they hadn’t packed much. They never got the chance to come and collect more of what they might be needing since they had all the necessities in their other places as well.
As he turned on the lights, the first thing that caught his eye was the sapphire bracelet he’d gifted her long back. It was casually placed on the dressing table,as if waiting for her to come put it back on at any given time.He then noticed her favorite perfume, right next to the bracelet. He remembered how she was so frustrated that he’d never let her know what cologne he was using. He looked away.
But everywhere he looked there was something to remind him of her.Hell, the very room oozed her presence. It was as if she had just been there.
Why had he come here? Why did he put himself through this every now and then?Why couldn’t he get her out of his head?Why couldn’t he get her out of his…heart?
Don had cursed the day he’d met her, cursed the day he’d first started feeling something for her.It had caught him unawares. He was a grown man when he fell for her, had had his fair share of women and thought that nothing could possibly make him… feel.
He walked into the dressing and seeing her side disorganized and slightly cluttered, as compared to his, he almost felt like calling out for her as he would have before
’One of these days I’m going to break my neck over your blo*dy stilettos!’She’d appear in the doorframe, giggling
‘Wow. I can already imagine it, breaking news’ and would add, in her best news anchor voice
‘ “The highly dangerous criminal, Don, wanted in 11 countries, finds his death in a pathetic domestic accident, tripping over his wife’s stilettos. Talk about henpecked!” ‘
She’d then burst out laughing and run away before he’d “finally” catch her just as she’d be passing by the bed. He’d show her henpecked.
He glanced over at the king size bed. His jaw tightened. Everytime he’d imagine themselves together, he’d rapidly remember how he’d caught her and Karan speeding from that filthy hostel to reach the penthouse in time,before he did.
He remembered how short her skirt was, how high her heels were, how deliberately provocative she’d dressed. It made him sick everytime.
Everytime he’d come to the mansion, it was with one plan in the back of his mind. He would go, get as drunk as possible, and then have a very desirable woman come over. He had his pick. All he had to do was make a short phonecall. He’d then take her to the master bedroom, slowly undress her and throw her onto the bed he’d shared with Swara.
He stared at the bed, his phone in his hand. He even contemplated making her wear the blo*dy bracelet, put on her blo*dy perfume and even those ridiculous stilettos.Nothing was stopping him. Nothing.
Then why did he always end up just staring at the bed?Why didn’t he dial the call?
He clenched his teeth. He was so done with this nonsense. He scrolled through his contacts and dialed the first number that caught his eye.
It was drizzling outside, but Don stood by the fountain waiting for his driver to escort the one he’d chosen to keep him company for the night. His dress shirt was sticking onto him, his longish hair was hand combed back and the cold wasn’t bothering him one bit, in fact he was glad to realize just how intoxicated he must’ve been to just be standing in rain like that.
He’d called up Claudia. He remembered her, out of the many faceless names written in his phonebook, because she’d reminded him slightly of her.He’d sold jewelry to her brother, and she’d been there for the business meeting. The jewelry was for her, so she showed up to handpick something personally.
Don hadn’t noticed her in particular until he realized she was picking out the simplest of whatever he had brought to show them. Her brother was doing other business with Don as well, but thought of doing a nice gesture for his sister
‘Pick something more special, Claudia. It’s one of a kind, you know’ her brother had insisted
‘You know I don’t fancy ostentatious accessories’ she said quietly
Don raised an eyebrow and really looked at her for the first time. There was something strikingly familiar about her, but he couldn’t pinpoint what at the time.
Later he’d realize that she was a natural beauty, a little shy but only when she allowed herself to be, and definitely only appeared vulnerable by choice.
‘I’d like this one’ she said picking the thinnest white gold necklace, with a solitaire diamond no bigger than a sewing pin that fell right in between her collarbones.
Unwillingly, the first thing that came to Don’s mind was that only Swara would’ve picked something so exquisite out of the selection.Just as he’d come to that realization, Claudia had turned to him and stared deep into his eyes
‘What do you think?’The intensity with which she was piercing his eyes made it clear to him that there was so much more hidden behind those big, apparently innocent eyes. Something very enticing.
‘That’s for me to know’ he’d replied gravely, staring back into her eyes
Her brother had cleared his voice and they resumed business while she’d walked out of the room, giving
Don one last glance over her shoulder.It hadn’t surprised him that she’d agreed to meet him immediately. He knew she’d wanted him from the moment she’d walked into her brother’s office.
His driver finally approached the fountain-centered round about, and he walked over to open the door for her himself.
She took his hand and elegantly stepped out of the car, undisturbed by the slight rain. He walked her to the entrance and opened the door for her.
Silently, he took off her fur coat and disposed of it.He slowly took in her appearance, and the diamond necklace stood out right away in the dark. She was wearing an otherwise simple strappy black dress, her long hair cascading over her shoulders.
As he made his way back to her eyes, again her gaze surprised him with its intensity.
‘Nice place’ she said in a delicate voice, walking away slowly while looking around.He watched her from a far. This was going to be so easy, he thought. Not that he’d been concerned. He knew his way around women better than the palm of his hand. But he’d had a feeling he’d have to talk himself into going through with it.
Surely, with such a beautiful woman there was nothing to worry about. He was more than eager to take her to bed.
‘Would you like something to drink?’ he asked her
She then sat on an armchair, the one facing the fireplace ‘Disaronno’
He almost winced.That was swara’,s favorite liqueur. He shrugged the thought off rapidly, and turned to the bar. As he turned back around, she tantalizingly crossed her legs, the light of the fire dancing hypnotically across her bare skin.
He handed her the glass and just stood in front of her‘Aren’t you going to have a drink?’
‘Can’t you tell I’ve had quite a bit to drink already?’She smirked
‘I thought that lascivious gait of your was natural’
‘Should your alluring deep voice be giving it away, then?’ she raised an eyebrow
‘No, that comes naturally as well’
She slowly bent forward, exposing just a hint of her generous cleavage ‘What is it then? Your leery gaze?’
He smirked and sat across from her ‘I take it you’re used to men phoning you over for no apparent reason in the middle of the night, then?’
‘I’m used to it. But the reason has always been hardly unapparent. Your sis the first I am curious about’
‘Is this curiosity born out of lack of conviction or … anticipation?’
‘A little bit of both’ she bit her lower lip He frowned seeing her do that.It wasn’t an uncommon gesture, but the way she’d done it reminded him painfully so of swara.
He raised an eyebrow and went to pour himself some whiskey after all.She stood up and walked towards him, placing her hands over his shoulders, facing his back
‘My brother warned me about you’
Don smirked and sipped on his whiskey, not turning to face her yet
‘He wouldn’t want me here, with you’
‘Then why did you come?’
‘It’s hard to just name one reason’ she whispered into his ear
She walked away again, and began walking up the stairs. She wasn’t wasting any time.He downed another drink and followed her to the master bedroom. She was sitting on the edge of the bed
‘Aren’t you concerned that your lover will find out?’He raised an eyebrow and she smirked looking around
‘I’d even go as far as saying that you might be a cheating husband,Don’
Somehow her words sunk in agonizingly slowly.‘Whatever works up your appetite’ he said, pointing out how she’d seemed particularly pleased of her realization
She sat up and walked towards him ‘I’d never imagined you to be married. Adds an interesting twist to your intriguing persona’
He stared at her full lips as she whispered those last few words and bent to kiss her. The unfamiliar response somehow left him hanging. He just wanted to get it over and done with, now that the first step had been taken.
As he kept kissing her, hoping for it to ignite some reaction in him, he grabbed her dress straps and pulled them over her shoulders, the garment falling to her feet.
As she began unbuttoning his shirt, he pulled away slightly to take in her appearance, and was left again unaffected.He led her hands down to his belt as he pulled on her hair, exposing her neck. He didn’t care for her perfume and was disappointed with the way she seemed to be already melting in his arms. Her strong, poised façade was crumbling quicker than a sandcastle.
He didn’t care for her kisses either. But he stalled, hoping that his lack of reaction was only due to Swara’s memory constantly nagging him, as if she were right there in the room, watching them. He’d want her to watch, want her to suffer. He thoughtthat if he’d continue imagining her there, he’d be more eager to have his way with Claudia, but he wasn’t. He tried to push that thought away, realizing it was more of an impediment than a vengeful turn-on,but even after undressing Claudia completely he felt no desire to sleep with her.
In fact, it was becoming increasingly aggravating to keep kissing her, and her attempts at undressing him were always interrupted by him. He kept hoping he’d snap out of it, wondering if maybe he’d had way too much to drink, although that’d never gone in the way of his ability to perform before.
He was becoming more and more enraged. Surely there had to be something to get his blood flowing.Claudia was very desirable. She was a gorgeous woman and didn’t disappoint his otherwise appreciative gaze upon her.
But somehow it was as if his own body wasn’t responding to his mental approval.She was becoming increasingly desperate for his touch, and he couldn’t keep on stalling forever. The last thing he wanted was for her to realize the reason behind his extensive foreplay.
Realizing that he had no control over the situation, he channeled all his frustration into a very convincing act. He feigned having heard the entrance door and quickly had her throw on her dress and grab her other clothes and run out the balcony. He instructed her on how to get to the foyer where his driver would be waiting for her, not before stealing
kiss from her.She’d seemed completely disheartened and desperately pleading him with her eyes to call her up the moment he would be able to get away from his wife in order to pick up from where they’d left off.
Don suddenly flinched, covering his eyes. Unwelcomed rays of sun were bothering his eyes.
‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’
Don looked up to the person talking.He wasn’t concerned. He wasn’t going straight for his gun. Mostly because he was still intoxicated, but at that point it could’ve been anyone and he wouldn’t have cared. Well, not anyone.
He sighed heavily, raising his head from his desk and leaning back into his directorial chair.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked, irritatedly in a hoarse voice
Yana looked at him, visibly affected to see him in this state. She looked around, able to see his study better now that she’d pulled the curtains apart. She saw Swara’,s photo smashed on the floor, crystal glass everywhere, the wall was stained and the whole room reeked of alcohol and tobacco.
Don was in the most miserable state she’d ever seen a man. He saw her pitiful look and sighed again
‘I asked you a question’
‘It’s Monday. You never missed getting Maya ready for school before. Your men allowed me to take her to school today since they couldn’t reach you…’
After a long silence during which Don stared at a point in space he asked
‘How did you know where to find me?’
Yana slowly walked towards him and sat on the chair opposite of him
‘You miss her a lot, don’t you?’
Don looked at her with visible hatred. But Yana knew that what he hated was the fact that it was so visible that he did.
‘Don… please listen to me… I’ve wanted to tell you this all along…’
‘What, Yana?’ he rubbed his face annoyedly
‘I may be still drunk but I’m very much aware of what has happened. You won’t be able to convince me that your husband didn’t screw my wife,so that you could take Maya back’
he stated matter of factly Yana stared at him in shock. She’d never seen such a reaction from him before. For the first time, Don had seemed as close to human as he ever had. It was a reaction born out of frustration, jealousy, hurt and despair. She saw it clearly now.
‘Don, this is no attempt of mine to get her Maya back… I’m as it is thankful that you’re letting me spend the weekends with her. Uptil now I’d thought you are a cruel man’
she paused ‘Keeping an innocent child away from her father. But now I see. You’re really convinced Sam and Swara had an affair’
Don looked at her coldly ‘Either you’re incredibly stupid or plain in coherent. Or are we both just stating facts?’
he snapped‘Do you honestly think that I’d still be with Sam? After all, we’ve lost our daughter in the process, why on earth would I still be with him if I knew that something he’d done led to this?’
‘Women are foolish like that’ he said coldly ‘You are sharing the roof with a lowlife cheater, Yana’
Yana replied ‘I know for a fact that I’m not. And you know why I’m so sure of that? I would’ve seen him hate himself if he were what you think him to be. He is blaming himself, but not for the reason you think he is. He only regrets having worked for you ever’
Don raised an eyebrow as she went on ‘If it hadn’t been for you, we’d still have our daughter with us. That’s his only regret. But he hasn’t seen his Maya for so long. He’d have gone crazy had he known it was because of something he’d done to deserve it.He’d have broken down by now. The only thing that keeps him going is the conviction that he’s done nothing to deserve this. And he knows that you’re only doing it because you love Maya enough to want to protect her from what you wrongly think her father is. He knows how good you’ve been to her’
Don mockingly began clapping his hands slowly ‘Spectacular. Has he trained you extensively for this moment?’ he chuckled nervously ‘Do you honestly think I’m that gullible? I admit I’m a f**king mess right now, but don’t you forget who you’re talking to!’
he slammed his hands on the desk, startling her He stood up and paced the room and suddenly turned to her, a hint of amusement on his lips
‘Actually, while you’re here praising the sanctity of your beloved husband, do you know where he is?’
Yana wanted to reply but he went on, placing his hands on each handles of the chair she was seating on, caging her
‘I’ll tell you. Brace yourself’ he chuckled
He smelled of distillery and Yana had to make a real effort not to feel sick
‘Darling Karan is in Delhi, meeting my lawfully faithful wife’ he batted his eyelashes for added effect ‘How’s that for a shocker? Even after all this time they still meet up. They must really be in love! Either that or Sam is a real stallion! ‘Cause I know why he’s going back to her time and time again. No offence to you, but I suspect there was no real going back after he’d gotten his taste of her’
he gritted his teeth towards the end, his eyes turning more and more filled with hatred as he spoke
Don was expecting Yana to start crying or something of the sort, instead she was smiling. She was infuriating him
‘You’re a fool, Yana’ he said looking at her in disdain and then walked to the window, opening it to get some fresh air so that he could get some air‘You’re keeping track of her’ she said eventually, happiness in her voice ‘What else do you know?’
Don didn’t reply. She needed to get out of there, fast, he concluded. Or else he’d make her leave the hard way.
‘Surely you also know she’s living in a humble flat. She barely earns enough to support herself. Because she only works to be able to pay her bills. She barely eats. She only goes out for work and grocery shopping-‘
‘-Enough! Get out’ he interrupted her,in a grave voice
‘Why? What explanation do you have for this, Don? Sam earns enough as a programmer. Why isn’t he pampering her if she’s his mistress? We’ve both of feared to help, she wouldn’t take it. She doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want anything. She’s asked Sam time and time again to stop getting in touch. She wants to leave it all behind and never look back. She’s never once asked about you-‘
‘-GET OUT!’ he shouted at the top of his lungs
Yana had never seen Don shout. He was imposing enough and didn’t need to do anything as dramatic to gather attention. Again, a human reaction. She was surprised. That’s why she didn’t feel scared.
Finally she knew that Don was human, and not the monster she’d thought him to be all this time.
‘You’re the fool, Don. And I’m not afraid to say it’ she said before leaving.
She was worried she’d never see her daughter again after this day. But she had the strongest feeling that she’d done the right thing. And that she’d actually get Maya back for good because of her courageous confrontation.