Chapter 13 - Kindred Spirits? (Feb 16-17)
The cup of coffee sat untouched in front of Zoya. She was back to her hotel room with Aditya. It was close to 11pm. Ever since they got from the Arora house (a couple of hours back), he had been with her, not saying anything but providing company.
She welcomed both- the silence and the company. She needed the silence to reflect upon her life especially the part she had spent with Yash. 1 year of togetherness, 1 year of supposed love yet Yash had lied to her, blatantly. She wondered how many times he must have been dishonest to her in the past and she, like a fool, couldn't even comprehend. She had trusted Yash; she had fought with her father for him and he...
A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it with the back of her hand, sniffling. Aditya sat still, on a chair adjacent to hers, giving her all the time she needed. A small part of her was glad that he was with her. A stranger, whom she had met by chance on the airplane, had provided her with support when her own boyfriend was ditching her.
Her mind wandered off to what Yash was hiding? The simplest answer was an affair. He was cheating on her. He must be... Why else would he concoct such an elaborate plan to fool her? But a small part of her mind reasoned something else- what if he was in trouble, where he couldn't tell anyone and hence had to lie to everyone. It could be possible... maybe he was dealing with something and he didn't want to involve anyone else...
"Zoya," Aditya's voice was soft yet it startled her, "you should eat something.
She shook her head, "I am not hungry."
"You should-," Aditya was suggesting when she interrupted.
"Please," there was frustration and exhaustion in her voice, "Just please stop telling me what to do."
She had tried Yash's phone again, this time from the landline in her room as she had broken her iPhone earlier. He was not receiving her calls. If he was in India, it would be late in the night and maybe he was asleep.
She stood up and paced the length of the room, "I can't keep sitting idly. I need to find Yash and what he is up to. He won't pick up the damn phone and I don't even know where he is."
"What phone does Yash have?" Aditya asked abruptly.
Zoya's face scrunched in confusion, yet she answered, "An iPhone. Same as mine."
"Do you happen to know his apple id and password?" there was a tint of hope in his voice.
She nodded, "Yeah. I bought both the phones together. I set up his account."
Aditya jumped to his feet and rushed to the side table where his handbag was kept. He took out his laptop and turned it on. Zoya was puzzled and intrigued at the same time. She walked over and sat next to him.
He answered her unspoken query, "There's a 'find my phone' feature which lets the user track his mobile. Here," he turned the laptop to her, "type in the id and password." Zoya did as she was asked, internally grateful that Yash never bothered to change the account details.
Once they had logged in to Yash's icloud account, Aditya clicked on an app titled 'Find my iPhone.' A small colorful spinning wheel appeared at the center of the screen indicating that the map was being loaded. Zoya counted the seconds, her heartbeat rising with each number. Finally the page finished loading and the expanse of a city was displayed. A small green dot indicated Yash's phone.
"Yash is here," Aditya pointed to the dot on the screen, "In Mumbai."
"Mumbai..." she repeated. Why would he be there? In her time with him, he had never mentioned Mumbai to her. He had gone to other cities citing business but never Mumbai. Was it on purpose that he his this city? -Because he never wanted her to have any inkling...
"I have to go to Mumbai," she announced, walking over to her suitcase, the one Aditya had gifted her. It lay on a table with the contents still packed. She lifted it off and put in on the floor and picked up her handbag "I can't keep waiting here anymore. It's driving me crazy. I have to find out what Yash is hiding."
Aditya nodded, "I'll book us a flight."
Zoya stopped in her tracks. "Us?"
He nodded again, "I'll come with you. Mumbai is my hometown. I can help you around."
"Don't you have work here?"
Aditya placed his laptop inside his handbag and zipped it. He hung the leather bag on his shoulder and looked at her. "It can wait."
There were a thousand thoughts swirling in her mind- mainly to do with Yash. Aditya's generous offer of accompanying her on a 9-hour flight from Dublin to Mumbai should have been surprising. But having spent a better part of the week with him, she had come to expect such surprises from him.
He always kept surprising her, she had told him earlier. Tonight, she simply nodded at him and headed for the exit, with him in tow.
Aditya was able to secure 2 business-class seats on a 4am flight to Mumbai. Almost a week back, in a similarly timed flight, he had met Zoya and after that, things were never the same again.
He couldn't believe the way she had affected him, so much so that he was leaving his work and going with her back to India. He correctly explained to himself that he couldn't just abandon her in such troubling times. But a part of him knew that there was another reason- deny it as much as he could, fight it as much as he could but he was falling for her. Hopelessly.
He stuffed their handbags in the overhead bin and took his aisle seat, adjacent to Zoya's window seat. She was looking out the window, lost in thought. The airline crew was preparing for take off.
He fished in his pocket and took out a small bottle of pills that he had hurriedly purchased at the airport pharmacy. He extended the orange bottle to her. She eyed his palm curiously.
"It's a mild tranquilizer," he informed her, "It'll help you with your flight anxiety."
She lifted the bottle off his palm and studied it.
"It'll help you rest but won't knock you out," he assuaged any doubts that she might have.
She nodded and unscrewed the cap of a small bottle of water.
"You need to take the med after food," he interjected. "You haven't eaten anything in over 12 hours. Food will be served in the flight only after takeoff..." he fished in the seat pocket in front of him and took out a can of pringles, "Here, this should do."
"How do you always whip up a can of chips whenever we need to eat?" she spoke after a long time.
Aditya spotted a hint of smile tugging her lips. This was good. This was better than the worry that had casted a shadow on her face for the entire night.
She ripped open the silver foil and munched on a few pieces, handing him the rest. She ingested the pill and rested her head against the backrest. The flight was almost about to take off, with the captain letting the passengers know that they were just waiting for takeoff clearance.
"What am I going to do?" she asked timidly. Her eyes were closed but she was not sleeping. "I don't even know what I will do or say once I see him..."
"Do you want to let your family know?" he asked.
She slowly shook her head, "I can't. Abbu will blow his lid off and the situation will get worse. I want to talk to Yash first. I wonder what he is hiding."
Aditya pursed his lips before responding in a rhetoric, "Isn't it obvious?"
Zoya's eyes flung open and her eyebrows knitted in puzzle. "What is so obvious?"
He bit his lip, about to answer but refrained. "Nothing."
"No," she swiveled her body to face him, "Tell me."
He ran his hand through his hair, "All signs point to only one conclusion- he is cheating on you."
Her mouth hung open slightly but he reckoned it was not from the shock of accusation rather that he voiced aloud what she had been contemplating. "You have thought the same, haven't you?" He asked her.
"I don't..." she replied, "It could be anything." The defence in her voice was so weak that even he could hear the lie in her words.
"You are so like my mother," he scoffed, unintentionally. He felt bad the moment those words left his mouth but it was too late.
Her ears had perked up, "You think I am trying to justify Yash's lie? Like your mother had done for your father?"
"I didn't mean to-"" he was saying when she cut in with a shaky voice, "You meant it. Look, I am sorry for what happened to your mother, I feel sorry for what she put you and your brother through but I am not like her. You don't know what I am going through. Unless you have walked in my shoes, don't make snap judgments. Please."
"Actually I have." He replied somberly, "I have walked in your shoes."
The declaration took Zoya by surprise. He was no longer talking about the relationship between his mother and father. This was personal. This was about him.
"One would think being cheated on runs in my family," he scoffed at himself.
For some moments, she forgot her own troubles. "I... I am sorry."
"Her name was Pooja," Aditya spoke with disdain, "She was my childhood best-friend, the love of my life, my everything. We were with each other through thick and thin. I cried on her shoulder when I found out about my father's affair. Slowly, at least for me, the feeling of friendship was replaced by love. Our families were friends so we got engaged. I didn't know what was in her mind. I didn't have any suspicion since she agreed to the alliance without objection. But-," Aditya paused as the PA system filled with the captain's voice. They were ready to take off. The screen in front of them displayed the safety rules video.
Aditya sighed and pressed his eyes close for a second, "But she never loved me. She only considered me a friend. She didn't say no to the wedding because she was being considerate of her family and my feelings. She thought she would, in time, come to love me, like people do in arranged marriages."
"How did you... find out?" Zoya asked a sporadic question.
"Remember I told you my parents host an annual Valentine's Day party. It was 2 years back. Pooja and I had just gotten engaged and were to tie the knot in a few months. Every year she would accompany me to that sham of a party- be my support, but that year, she said she was not well. I went to the party alone but 30 minutes into it I just couldn't stand it any more. So I decided to go to her house, be by her side and take care of her rather than waste another minute in that circus."
A slight jerk interrupted Zoya's attention. The flight was starting to gain speed to take off. The medicine must have been working because she found herself much calmer than usual. She didn't have sweaty palms and her heartbeat wasn't ridiculously abnormal. Also, she was so engrossed in his story that she had barely paid attention to anything else.
Aditya cleared his throat, "Any way, I go to her house with flowers and chocolate because it was Valentine's day and I was trying to get into this new role of a fianc. Her family was at our party. There shouldn't have been anyone else in the house other than Pooja and a couple of staff. I straightaway head to her room to surprise her and-," he paused again, "and there she is, in some man's arms, making out like there was no tomorrow."
Zoya could sense the hurt in his voice even though he was masking it with indifference.
"Needless to say we broke off the engagement. I couldn't bring myself to tell my family the true reason and neither could she. As usual my father was disappointed in me!" he sneered before continuing, "My mother may have a frail idea but she acted like it was all okay, her usual response to problems."
Zoya placed her hand on Aditya's and gave a light squeeze, "I am sorry."
He offered a weak smile and shook his head, "That was 2 years back. I am over her."
That explained his behavior during 14th Feb, why he was so on edge. This day brought nothing but bad memories for him. Earlier Zoya presumed it was because of his parents but know she knew the truth.
He resumed, "After that night, I tried to never see her again. It was difficult since we had the same social circle, so I started taking hotel projects away from Mumbai- be it anywhere else in India or abroad."
He wiped his face with a hot towel that the air hostess had given earlier; "It's all water under the bridge now... So whenever I see something like this happen, the alarm in my head goes off and as an instinct I feel that lies are due to cheating."
He took a moment to compose himself, "You were right. I was projecting my situation on you. I shouldn't have done that. For all we know, Yash could be hiding something completely different. We'll find out once we land in Mumbai."
He rested his back on the seat and closed his eyes. Zoya did the same. Aditya was right; Yash could be hiding a completely different issue. But a voice in her head, which was growing louder as time flew, told her a different story- the one that Aditya had assumed, the one that she had denied.
---------Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2018-09-23T08:09:29Z
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