"And then we all are just travelers, out on a journey. You meet some, and you lose some in this span"
"I am hungry", Pratham said, breaking the ice.
Akanksha smiled and nodded as she got the dinner ready and served it. It was after ages that they were having dinner together.
They sat silently and finished their meal.
"Coffee?", Akanksha offered as she wrapped up all the chores.
"Barista?", Pratham suggested.
Akanksha looked at him, stunned. She was lost in her thoughts, and a pleasant interruption brought a smile on her face. This time it was a happy smile.
"Ok", she replied, "5 minutes", she said.
Akanksha, gave up the idea of changing her clothes, but quickly applied kohl and gloss. She brushed her hair, and held them with a clip.
She came out after a few minutes, and saw Pratham playing with the keys, lost in thoughts. He did not notice her.
"Shall we go?", Akanksha asked.
"Yes", Pratham replied as he leaped out of his thoughts, held his keys tightly and left.
They remained quiet while Pratham drove 4 kms to Barista.
"Which college were you in?", Akanksha asked.
"Don't you know?", Pratham asked.
"You never told me. All I know is you are a Master in Commerce", she replied.
"Well, now why do you ask that?", Pratham questioned.
"We can find out details about Jennifer and get in touch with her", she came up with a suggestion.
Pratham was least expecting that his wife would be this serious about what she had said sometime ago.He simply looked at her to find a reaffirmation about the talks that they were getting into.
"Can't we?", Akanksha added giving him a look - comforting and non-deceptive, at the same time.
"What would you like to have. Coffee? Tea?" Pratham changed the topic, still analysing the quandary he was in, unsure whether he wanted Akanksha to help him out.
"I'll have a Chocolate muffin with chocolate sauce and Vanila icecream", Akanksha
sounded very sure about her order.
"Right", Pratham looked surprised. He had never been so sure about anything in his life. Akanksha's order sounded clear and outright. He wondered why couldn't he ever decide on things as fast as some of the other people did.
"Yes we can find out about Jenny from the college", Pratham found his comfort zone
and got back talking about Jennifer.
"Are there any common friends?", Akanksha asked.
"No", Pratham replied, realising he had no friends apart from Jen.
"Any place that she stayed, neighbours, house owners", Akanksha asked.
"Her family shifted to Delhi when we were in the final year, Graduation. She stayed in Mumbai until we graduated", Pratham said.
"Where?", asked Akanksha.
"Kalyan. As a PG, for about 7 months", Pratham recollected.
"Do you know that place?", she asked.
"Yes. I used to pick and drop her almost every day.", Pratham said, sounding a bit apologetic.
"Let's go there now", Akanksha said.
"Now?", he asked.
"Yes. Once I finish my muffin", Akanksha joked and smiled.
Pratham smiled back too. She had never been so open before. She felt lighter. Akanksha's attitude put Pratham in guilt. He had never seen Akshu this way. He wondered what strength this lady must have, to help her husband find his lost love.
Pratham kept looking at her.
"What?", Akanksha asked.
"Nothing", Pratham replied.
"We'll go there right now, take a look at the place and come back incase everyone's sleeping. Else we'll knock and find out", Akanksha said.
"Right", Pratham surrendered.
"This is the house. I don't believe it is still the same. They haven't changed the colour either", Pratham keenly observed the house.
He recollected how he used to kiss Jen good night, how he used to honk his horn in a particular way to signal that he was there to pick her up.
All the memories stood fresh and new fangled.
"Pratham", Akanksha called out.
"There are a few girls there. Why don't we talk to them?", she said.
Pratham was actually living a dream. He wouldn't have been able to find out about Jennifer, had he embarked upon the journey all alone. He would have left it to destiny, he would have sulked wondering why is he so aimless, he would have lost another chance to know about something which he always wanted to know. With Akanksha, he realised, he got the push he was always wanting to have. Just that he surrendered too late.
Akanksha got out of the car and went across the street to a group of girls who were standing in front of the gate.
"Hi.. I wanted to know whether there's any PG facility around", Akanksha asked one of the girls.
"Right here. But I guess there isn't any room", one of the girls replied.
"That's alright. Whom do I need to talk to?", Akanksha asked, as she signalled Pratham to come out.
"You can ask Mrs.Khandelwal. She is the owner. She'll guide you through", replied the girl.
"Thank you. Is this a good time to..", Akanksha started her question, immediately then the girl replied ,"Sure, you can go now and talk."
Akanksha and Pratham went inside. Pratham was very reluctant. He blindly followed Akanksha as if she was the one who was desperately seeking Jennifer.
"Mrs.Khandelwal?", Akanksha asked the lady who attended them at the door.
"Yes Please?", the lady replied in a very English tone. She must have been in her 60s.
"I wonder if you remember Jennifer. Jennifer...", Akanksha looked at Pratham.
"Peterson. Jennifer Peterson", Pratham added.
"Ofcourse, I do. She stayed with us for a while", Mrs. Khandelwal replied.
"We were actually looking for her. Could you please give us any information about her?", Akanksha sounded polite, whereas Pratham simply participated in the conversation physically his mind weaving intense thoughts.
"I am sorry, but I don't have her contact details now. I must have sold the record register too. It was around 7-8 years back", she said, "Long time", she sounded strangely nostalgic.
"Why don't you come in?", she offered.
Pratham and Akanksha took a seat each and waited for Mrs. Khandelwal to find some details about Jennifer.
"Wait, Children. I have her card.", said Mrs.Khandelwal, "She never forgot to give me one. She made sure I came to Delhi.", she added.
Akanksha and Pratham smiled and nodded, waiting for the lady to give them some information.
Mrs.Khandelwal pulled out a card and handed it to Pratham.
"Isn't it a beautiful. She made sure she had a perfect wedding.", the lady gave Jenny's wedding card to Pratham and added "This was 7 years back."
"I see", Pratham finally spoke.
"This is her father's address, and inside, is Nathan's", she said, pointing on the address written on wedding card.
Pratham went numb. He was married, had kids, but he was expecting Jen to be still available. Something hurt him inside. He was finally facing all his fears.
"Thank you so much, Mrs. Khandelwal. This is indeed a great help", Akanksha replied.
"One minute, and.... y'all.... are???", she asked.
"Her college friends", Akanksha replied, lying effortlessly.
"Mighty nice. Good night children. Be safe", the lady wished.
Pratham held the wedding card and looked at the name "Jennifer" followed by the words "weds Nathan".
He looked at Akanksha, said nothing and finally concluded, sometimes you get just one chance, and you can never have another.
That one chance, for him, was Jenny, which he had lost forever.
...to be contd..
Onto Chapter 11: In-Validity
Back to Chapter 9: Knowing the truth